How to Make a Driveway Fence to Keep Your Basketball Out of The Street

Allison and Alex working on Gates
Our relatively flat driveway opens to the street smack in the middle of a big hill. To give you some sense of scale, if you were to go to the top of the hill and sit on a skateboard you'd be going 80 miles an hour when you passed our house and close to breaking the sound barrier when you reached the bottom.

The problem with this topography is that playing with a ball in the driveway lasts about 5 seconds before fate drags it into the street and gravity pulls the ball down the hill like a gerbil being sucked into a black hole. In both cases, by the time the gerbil/ball has passed the event horizon, the end of the driveway in our case, there's no hope of retrieving it any time soon. Even worse, the kids desire to chase the balls and small rodents into black holes is palpable.

The Solution
Driveway Gates
It was clear we needed a fence to block the back hole. My criteria for a driveway fence was as follows. It must...

  1. Cover the entire driveway entrance
  2. Stop a basketball, any ball kicked, bricked, hurled or rolled towards it
  3. Be easy to move
  4. Be weather resistant 365 days a year
  5. Cost less than $100

There are a number of commercially available options, but most of them either got crappy reviews or cost at least a thousand dollars. So we went the home made route and came up with a perfect 3 fence solution for ~$80.

How To Build Driveway Fences

IMG_4801The first thing you're going to want to do is enlist some child labor. I was going to build these myself, but the kids were so eager to help I was able to pretty much sit there and watch while they worked.

Each Fence is made up of:
  1. 3  10’ x 1¼” PVC pipe. (This is a standard length at Lowes)
  2. ~ 2 feet of extra PVC
  3. 8  1¼” PVC T connectors
  4. 2  1¼” PVC elbows
  5. 4  1¼” PVC end caps
  6. ~50  8” Zip Ties
  7. Orange Construction Barrier Mesh (I have a lot left over if you need some)

What to do:
  1. Have a child cut a 10’ pipe into 3 equal lengths
  2. Repeat step 1 again. Your child just made the top and bottom lengths of the fence.
  3. Remind the child how much fun they are having. It helps to sound excited.
  4. Have the child cut the 3rd 10’ pipe into four 2’ lengths. He/She just made the vertical posts.
  5. Tell the child they have entered the bonus round!!!
  6. Have the child make four 9” lengths out of the remaining PVC. These will be the feet.
  7. Lay all the parts so they look like this. Cute little girl optional.


8. Give the child a mallet and either let them do what comes naturally or give them explicit instructions to put the pieces together. It should look something like this.


and this...


9. Praise your child on both their technique and a job well done. Seriously, while you were sitting there having a beer they just built a driveway fence that retails for $120.


10. Cut a single length of orange barrier mesh and use the zip ties to attach it to the fence frame. I put the ties on all corners and every 4 mesh loops. Seems to have worked. Note 3 year olds do not understand this task and can put 10 zip ties on the fence and not actually attach anything to anything. Even so, let them help. Zip ties are cheap and fun and the 3 year old will be thrilled to be helping.

11. Put the fence at the end of a driveway or top of a hill and throw some balls or gerbils at it. Watch how they bounce right back! Black hole averted!

photo (5)

Note: There is absolutely no need to put a car at the end of the driveway for these fences to work. At the time of this picture I had 9 freshly painted doors hanging in my garage so the car had to go somewhere.

Lessons in Easter Tradition and Zombies

Saturday night Alex asked me to read him the Bible. In our house this means reading from The Brick Testament because the kids love the pictures. Since it was Easter-eve I figured I'd read him the traditional holiday stories.

We started with the Last Supper, and covered Passover dinner, the example washing of feet, the bread, the wine, the nameless apostle sitting next to Jesus who seems way too physically familiar with Jesus to have been a guy, and Peter's eagerness to suss out the person that was going to betray Jesus. We read how Peter chops off a soldiers ear trying to stop him from arresting Jesus and prepares to dismember a few other soldiers before Jesus talks him down and goes peacefully. We read through the crucifixion where I deftly edited out the more gruesome bits so Alex would still be able to sleep that night. And we read about Mary Magdalene's discovery of the empty tomb and the resurrection.

Alex asked few questions and I did my best to explain the details of the story as we read. I thought I had done a pretty good job. Alex went to bed happy, woke up and made it through most of the morning before he came to me with this question.

If Jesus was dead and he came back to life wouldn't he be a zombie and try to take over the world?

Clearly I missed an important point in the story.

Julia Child's Got Nothin On Me

The other day between bouts of explosive sickness the kids asked me to make some popcorn. Being the master chef that I am I fired up the stove. A bit of oil, just enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pot... It was a work of popcorn preparation brilliance.  I gave the pot a masterful shake as the kernels slowly absorbed the heat from the fire.   Julia Child's got nothing on me...

The screaming came shortly after the the first kernel popped. As I sprinted toward the sound of my crying daughter the walls of the house echoed out with the words of Isaiah 28:8.

"For all the tables are full of filthy vomit, without a single clean place." 

I arrived to witness Allison's best impression of misplaced biblical revenge. Puke buckets should really come with back-flow preventers. But I digress... The cleanup required a change of clothes for Allison, the installation of a floor drain in our living room, and an act involving one of our cats and a wet-vac that I'm pretty sure is illegal in Alabama.  Not a short list of tasks by any means.

By the time I was done all of my effort was going into scrubbing the entire experience from my memory.  So it was with a fair bit of surprise, when I made my way back to the kitchen, that  I discovered someone had started cooking something resembling ash in our popcorn pot. I lifted the lid on the pot and smoke billowed out in a way that suggested that immediate action was required to avoid damage to the kitchen.

Alex chose this time to poke his head in the kitchen to check on the status of his popcorn request.  "DADDY, is that the popcorn?!?" His surprise wasn't lost on his siblings who, shockingly not vomiting at that moment, ran into the room.  Squinting through the smoke filled haze they saw enough to render their standard constructive criticism.  "DADDY! YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!!!"

I ran the pot out to the back deck and put a fan in the window to vent the residual smoke. The kids made due with SmartFood brand popcorn and I declared another culinary victory. That was a few days ago...

Tonight at dinner we noticed that my cooking has not gone completely unappreciated.  I'm glad to see someone around here has the taste buds for my delicately refined talents.

We named him Sam the Squirrel. The kids lined their chairs up at the back window and joyfully watched him feast on my popcorn masterpiece.

Mr. Mom Meets Tropic Thunder - Chunder Edition

This week I'm playing the role of Mr. Mom while Christine is out of town. I had elaborate plans show the kids a great time and do a little work at night, but Conner and Allison have decided, instead, to start a vomit contest. They're competing on volume, frequency and creativity.

Conner is taking the competition very seriously and went as far as to wake up at least once every 4 hours last night to add to his totals. Allison is taking a more measured approach, sleeping through the night to lull the judges into a false sense of finality before reentering the competition with all the vigor of an Olympian flu sufferer.

Last Night's Bedtime Ritual With A Twist

Around 7:30 last night Conner, in his most pathetic voice, asked me to read him a story in bed. Allison climbed next to him and Alex looked over my shoulder as I read Transformers Origins. For the first time all day there was quiet and everyone seemed at peace. But that peace would not last. What happened next happened in a span of 6 seconds. 

I turned the final page of the book and read "The End." Conner chose this moment to break the mood by hurling into a bucket with such volume and force that bits of partially digested crackers splashed back onto him. I instantly attempted to pick him up and head for the bathroom, but gave up as I realized there was no way to move him without increasing his blast zone. Then things got interesting...  

Allison started screaming. OK, I can deal with screaming I thought. Then the she added gagging. Scream-Gag-Scream-Gag-Scream-Gag. That's when the moment transformed before my eyes into a scene out of Mr. Mom meets Tropic Thunder. Voices in my head were simultaneously yelling "Irv, Clean up on aisle five!!!" and "Man Down! Man Down!!!" 

Still holding a retching Conner I executed an immediate field promotion. "Alex, Grab your sister and get her out of here!" But it didn't take. "W-W-What!?!" he yelled back in shock.

I swear there were sounds of gunfire and the acrid smell of smoke. Or was that the puke? Alex's desperate look of confusion was only surpassed by the increasing loud gagging sounds coming from his sister. The situation was moments away from turning into vomit duet that had the potential to cover not just Conner's bed but possible the entire room. 

"LIFT YOUR SISTER OUT OF THE BED AND GET HER OUT OF THIS ROOM!!!" I shouted. The fog apparently cleared because he jumped into action and carried his screaming, gagging sister out of the room. That was the last I saw of them until Conner was cleaned up. 

A few minutes later, I found Alex on the couch reading a book to his laughing sister. She didn't throw up until the next morning.

Conner and Allison. Buckets At The Ready.

Needless to say, we canceled our big outing plans and I didn't get to any work the first night. Today the kids have spent most of the day passed out except when they were actively adding to their vomit totals. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.