I'm pleased to say that I set the last post and cross-piece of the garden enclosure frame yesterday. Most of the posts are set 2' deep in clay and gravel (and the soil around them is tamped down hard), so they should stay secure.
The framing is 1" PVC pipe, but I put metal conduit pipes inside them for strength.
I got the basic structure from a website HERE but I had to make some improvements. First, there are some parts of the site's plans that seem to require at least 2 people. Second, mine is larger. Third (and forgive me) but I couldn't make PVC connectors fit onto metal conduit like the site suggested. Fourth, the site hung the chicken wire horizontally and that seems harder. I am draping the chicken wire over the top and down the sides to use the frame as a support while I work.
Yes, I could hire someone to help, but part of the point of doing this is doing it myself. I could have just hired a crew to build the whole thing. A big part of my life has been "Mark Do", LOL!*
Today I made sure all the posts were as level as possible as I tamped the clay soil around the posts with a piece of 4"x4" post (checking with a post level all the way around).
BTW, I just grabbed that image now. I had had some difficulty attaching the level to the PVC pipes conveniently with a bungee cord. When I saw the rubber band in the image it was "slap forehead time". DOH! Live and learn...
So today I went and checked the posts for solid footings. They CAN move; it will take weeks for the clay soil to settle and harden. I've done that with other uprights (like birdfeeder poles and trellis support 4"x4"s) and it is strong/solid eventually. But I'm going to be throwing and dragging heavy rolls of 4'x5-' chicken wire over the tops and pulling it tight, so I wanted some temporary bracing.
I considered screwing some 12' boards diagonal across the posts (leftovers from building the fence years ago), but decided rope would do. Pounding some 3' metal bars into the corners, I tied ropes along all the diagonals until the whole structure seemed solid enough for some pushing.
I'd show a picture of that, but my long ropes are camo colored and simply don't show up. So just trust me they are there.
But before I can cover the structure completely with the chicken wire, I have to build a door. The website I based the design on was going for "cheap" (under $100) and used gifted old window screens. I'm not trying to waste money, but "better" is more important that "cheap". The original design site is several years old; I wonder how solid the structure is now? I need this to last 20 years.
Instead, I think I will buy a good screen door, build a frame for it, then mount that in line with one of the paths between the framed beds. That way I can get a wheelbarrow inside the enclosure.
I haven't decided on how to build the screen door frame and attach it to the general structure, so I will probably over-build it so it can stand on its own. "Over-building" is my fall-back position when I'm not sure how well things will work out. I'm thinking a frame of 4"x4" posts to attach the screen door with 8" flat metal braces on all corners and on both sides and some 8" lag screws in each corner both ways for peace of mind.
Did I mention I "over-build"? Well, it's better than "under-building". Have you ever heard a bridge-builder say "I think I'll under-build this one? Would you want one to? LOL!
Getting the rolls of chicken wire over the structure is going to be a bit tricky. I have 3 stepladders (8', 6', and 4'**), so I can set one up at each post across the frame. The balancing of them across the top baffled me for days, but last night I envisioned laying some of those old 12' boards across the 10' spans like railroads. Is THAT cool or what?
So the chicken wire rolls will unroll across the top on the boards and down both sides. And I will leave an extra foot of chicken wire at the bottoms to fold outwards to thwart squirrels or groundhogs digging under the edges to get into the garden.
I am slightly dreading the effort to cover the whole structure with the chicken wire. It isn't going to be easy. I expect some frustrating moments. But I expected (and had) some frustrating moments setting the posts in place and getting the cross pieces attached. So I'll get the chicken wire rolls laid across one way or another.
Pictures of that as it goes next time...
* "Mark Do" comes from childhood where I demanded to tie my own shoes when Mom tried to do it for me. I didn't do it well at first (she told me years later), but my shoelaces were never loose. My adult guess is that Mom had a challenging and independent child. I don't remember it.
** My box black oil sunflowers seed bird-feeder is up on an 8' pole. The 8' stepladder is heavy and awkward. So I bought a 4' one. It was too short to reach above the box for refilling. So I bought a 6' one. As Goldilocks might have said: "Ah, just right"! So I have 3 stepladders...