Monday, March 11, 2013

Constructing a sound barrier

The boys who live next door try very, very hard to be good neighbors, but they are young, and keep young people's hours. To them, one o'clock in the morning is a perfectly appropriate time of night to sit outside in the back yard, smoking a cigarette, and talking and laughing--right next to my bedroom window. They aren't being egregiously noisy, but it is loud enough to wake me, and as anyone my age can tell you, once I am awake, it is all over for the night. This would be fine if I were a) constitutionally capable of "sleeping in," or b) could afford to lie around all weekend doing nothing while I recovered from my lack of sleep.

But I do think there are certain things you should be able to get away with when you are young. Sitting in your backyard in the middle of the night during pleasant weather, visiting quietly with friends is one of these. So because they are good neighbors (and they do try), I have decided to see if there is something I can do on my end to ameliorate the situation.

To start, I've decided to have a look at the fence that separates the two backyards. It is just a regular fence, and the section that is across from our bedroom window doesn't have any plant material to deaden the noise. This is mainly because it is in a part of the backyard in which it is hard to grow things. It is hot, shady, and dry, and any seasoned gardener will tell you that taken individually, these are three big challenges to overcome. Taken collectively...well.

Also, because it is hot, shady, and dry, it is unpleasant to sit there, and coupled with the fact that it is largely out of sight, I've seen no reason to bother planting anything. Unfortunately, though, that means that there is is no sound barrier, either. However, even if I were to plant something this year, it wouldn't grown in enough to be effective for at least a couple of years...and I'd like to start getting some sleep now.

So I've decided to create some instant buffering by constructing two panels, insulated by the bags, and bags, and bags...and bags of leaves that my neighbors' lawn services contribute each year to my front garden. They do this by blowing them out into the street so that they will be carried away by the wind, only to be captured by my garden. What a concept! Instead of the lawn services taking the time to rake them up, they let the wind do the first part of their work for them, and then I get to do the second part! Qeulle efficiency! Quelle brilliance! Thanks, neighbors!

These panels lets me solve a couple of problems right off the bat: Reducing the noise from next door, and what to do with all those 30 some-odd bags-worth of damn donated leaves. Over the weekend, I got started by hiring Matt McEwen to dig the post holes and set some posts for me:

I'll use poultry staples to attach construction wire on either side of the posts, fill the bottom third with river rock to make gabions, and pack leaves into the top two thirds. Then I'll put galvanized corrugate sheet metal panels on the very top so that they will tie in aesthetically with other decorative panels in the back garden (as seen at the edge of the bottom photo).

It will be fabulous.

Today I'll start attaching the construction wire and raking leaves. Tomorrow the rocks are being delivered, and after that I'm hoping the construction will go fairly quickly. The boys are out of town for spring break, though, so I'll probably have to wait a bit to test it out. (And actually, I guess the only way I'll know is if I start sleeping through Friday and Saturday nights...) Even if it doesn't work well as a sound buffer, at least that part of the garden will finally have something visually interesting. And the best part is that it will be heat, shade, and drought tolerant.


  1. Clever on all counts! I can't wait to see it, AND hear that it's been a resounding (or should that be UN-sounding?) success.

  2. I am excited to see if this works! I do believe that your neighbors and mine have the same generous spirit when it comes to sharing leaves! gail

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