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Home   »   Articles   »   To Fence or Not to Fence
To Fence or Not to Fence
by Deb Andrews  |  10th Sep 2012  |  Green Living, Property

To fence or not to fence your Caribbean island property; is a question whose answer is dictated by several criteria. One of the more surprising ones is to check into the animal tethering laws of your particular island nation.

Tortola, British Virgin Islands -  Caribbean Fence AlternativesThe BVI for example, legislates in favour of the owner of the goat or cow that has invaded your beautiful garden, and is at present eating the new shoots on your prize hibiscus. So you cannot complain to the animal owner and you had better make sure that the animal is not damaged by your garden, or you may be in trouble!

A friend of mine some years ago, found a dead cow on the front lawn of her new villa in Hodges Creek, Tortola. It became her problem to find the cow's owner,  call the local abbatoir and pay for its removal and disposal. Having a group of careless guys arrive in a large truck with ropes and pulleys, and drag a huge dead weight carcase across her garden and lawn was a hard lesson for her.  And she put a fence up within a week!

On some of the other islands such as Dominica, the reverse is true. The tethering laws place the onus of responsibility on the animal owner, who can be prosecuted if his animal is found wandering on private or public places. You will often see cows, goats or even horses tied to a tree or a stake in the ground along the roadside. Because of this it is not so customary to see fences around local people's property, but that is not the only reason to consider erecting a fence as there are other aspects to be thought through.

On our four acres in Dominica, agoutis and manicous run through the property freely but the agouti is hunted by man and his dogs. Sadly dogs are no respecters of boundaries unless there is an insurmountable barrier there, such as wire mesh fence.  Caribbean Fence Alternatives - AgouteAnd the agouti  cares even less,  nice though it is to see a wild agouti hopping through one's property, it really is'nt so good to see them living the high life on one's lettuces and cabbages!   We grew cauliflowers too, and I had my eye on a particular one for a couple of days that was just ripening perfectly, but when I arrived to cut it for dinner one night, small kitchen knife in hand, an agouti had been there before me and neatly bitten off the whole central flower leaving the leaves intact!  Suffice it to say there was no cauliflower cheese for dinner that night!  

Should you buy land that has never been fenced and has been used to graze animals or farm in anyway even by the local kids who know where the best ginnip or grafted mango tree is, its best to place a firm visible boundary around the property. Otherwise you will be woken up or disturbed at any hour by kids stripping the best trees. You can still give them the excess but break them of the habit which may go back decades of them treating it as their own.

Acquiring legal property title in the islands, especially the old British ones is a drawn out, costly inefficient business. People will tell you that this is their land because its been owned and passed down for generations. But often there is no legal paperwork substantiating this because the “owner” has not gone through the registration process.

At the time of purchase for a new owner,  its a savvy move to engage a surveyor who will check and mark the boundaries and confirm this with all the neighbouring properties. As soon as this is done my advice it to turn your boundary markers, which will be anything from rocks with marks on them, to upturned beer bottles, into a fence within the first year. Should the boundary become visibly blurred with undergrowth and the beer bottles disappear, its amazing how quickly your nice neighbour's memory dims and his land expands into yours.  And nobody wants an argument with a neighbour.

Green Living Boundary Fence -  Caribbean Fence Alternatives

If you don't want to go to the expense and un-environmentally friendly statement of a concrete and metal fence, then there are alternatives.

Oleander is poisonous and even goats wont touch it, the downside is that its poisonous to everyone. But it can make a dense and pretty barrier with white, pink and red flowers. Bougainvillea can also make a thick prickly but colourful hedge and most animals and people would be deterred from breaking through.

A makeshift 12 V electric single strand fence around your boundary at about 18 ins off the ground to keep goats and smaller dogs out, will also work, but to deter bigger animals like cows and donkeys, you need something much more robust. A friend of ours hooked up one of these, and one of the local canine visitors obviously hopped over it, and he and his wife came home from work one day to find a large dog swimming around in the jacuzzi!

For those with very long boundaries on the more lush islands its possible to plant a 'living fence' . Using certain types of trees like Glory Cedar or the African Tulip (see picture) which grow easily and very quickly from posts cut from an original tree. You should plant these at least 15 ft apart, and then put in intermediary posts to carry the wire fence.

Wire can then be stretched between trees and posts to form a complete barrier. On a large property your property is now bordered by a continuous line of yellow and red flowering trees which defines it colourfully but also naturally against the mountains and surrounding farms and homesteads.

Commercially cut wooden posts from a local timber merchants must be properly treated and secured into concrete footings to provide a long term boundary. Problems with rot, termites and even bush fires mean that concrete and wire combined with the living trees makes the best type of boundary fence in the rainforest and mountainous areas.

Of course if the property is big enough, a ditch or ha-ha filled with spiny plants such as razor grass, cactus or bougainvillea make a good visible and insurmountable boundary deterrent. But drainage is problem with such a solution. Any water collecting cannot be left to breed mosquitoes and must be drained quickly.

 



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