Catherine Snyder, a featured artist at the Potter County Artisan Center, specializes in making baskets, machine knitting and woodcraft. So the idea of making a wattle fence was not far from her areas of expertise.
Wattle fences are attractive and functional, created by weaving thin branches through upright stakes to form a permeable wall. Wattle fencing has been in use since the 16th century for enclosing ground and handling livestock. Sections, called hurdles, are movable since they are lightweight.
Snyder gives the credit for design and heavy construction to her daughter, industrial designer Christalyn Duff, and to Catherine’s husband Paul.
“Chris gathered the materials and she and Paul placed the stakes,” Snyder said. The group assembled the creation over three weekends.
“Chris incorporated modern materials (steel posts and treated lumber) into the design to make a strong, durable, and attractive fence,” she said.
Snyder has been working in collaboration with Bonnie Wood. These two women share an enthusiasm for growing plants. Wood is a Master Gardener who volunteers at Sweden Valley Manor and earned congressional recognition for her perennial flower gardens and for demonstrating how mobility-impaired persons can grow plants.
Wood plans on setting up shop at the Snyder farm to educate people about gardening. She wants to make enabling horticulture accessible to all.
Raised wooden beds, earth boxes, smart pots and huge pots on turntables make it possible for a person in a wheelchair or with a walker to be able to mix soil, plant, weed and harvest. Tools can be adapted too.
“Gardening is an enabling activity,” Wood said. “It fortifies the mind, body and spirit. Since COVID-19, the residents have not been able to do much gardening at the Manor, but we will get back to it as soon as possible.”
The wattle fence is just the beginning. It will, in the future, showcase different types of daffodils and daylilies, enabling structures, and a woodland garden. The woodland garden will demonstrate plants that thrive in total shade.
A building nearby, affectionately named Wilbur, is designated for an office where individual plants will be featured and available for donation to support enabling gardens at Sweden Valley Manor and in the community. Reference materials will also be available. The goal is to show the public alternative ways of gardening.
The website www.backwoodartisans.com will provide more information on enabling gardens as well as baskets and basket classes.