Surveyor's Footsteps: Thoughts from a Surveyor on Animals and Fences
Yesterday, I was following up on a survey where the field person was having trouble finding monuments. While looking for points and walking in other yards for the adjoining properties, it struck me to share some of my thoughts on fences and animals. Here in Pennsylvania surveyors do not have rights of access when surveying, so we must use diplomacy and be on our best behavior, especially when dealing with adjoining property owners.
Several of the front property corners had been located but nothing in the rear. Corner pins would be required at the back of the property to establish a good direction to use when rotating the field points to attempt to match the deed bearings. After arriving at the site, I put wire flags by some of the traverse points and walked to the back of our site. There were tall wooden fences along the three property lines that make up our client’s rectangular lot. I first looked at the rear of the site with a metal locator. Without any signals, I poked around with the shovel before moving into the neighbor’s back yard, where I found nothing.
To get to the rear of the property, I walked to the intersection and up the street to the first lot on that road and knocked on the door. A dog barked loudly so I knew that had anyone been home it would have alerted them to my presence. I imagined a large German Shepherd on the couch and was concerned. Nobody came to the door, so I decided to proceed to the backyard for a look.
Standing at the gate, I then made visual observations about the yard and probably whistled. Why the whistle? To bring Rex the wonder dog out from hiding. I would rather not let sleeping dogs lie if they could wake up while I am inside a fenced area. Been there, done that. No need for a cage match between an out-of-shape surveyor and a four-legged biting machine.
I noted the gate was in poor condition but latched. I then looked at the other lot lines that made up the back yard and I did not see fences for the other sidelines, just the tall wooden fence running along the rear of our project. Opening the gate, I entered the yard and looked back to see that they did not have a doggie door. Then I saw some massive dog droppings and quickly reassessed the situation. I could clearly see the rear yard was definitely not fully enclosed. This did not ensure that the Baskervilles had not installed an invisible fence to keep their hound on the property. I made a mental note that I should walk softly and remembered I was carrying a big pointed stick.
I suggest that every survey crew carry the items necessary to mend an invisible fence. If you try to dig up a pin, there is a possibility one of the property owners buried a wire for the fence a few inches deep. The supplies I suggest would be a pair of wire strippers, electrical tape and several 12-inch pieces of single strand electric wire. Using these, you can splice the broken wire for the invisible fence and all will be well again.
When you first enter a property, look for the telltale saw cut and sealer crossing the blacktop driveway. That is how they installed the underground wire for the fence. If you see that, there is probably a fence – and a dog.
Last week, on a different suburban topographic survey, a client asked me to be sure to shut the gates so the dog did not escape. I was tempted to explain to her that I always leave gates as I find them and if a gate is open, I leave it open – if closed then closed – but I resisted the long answer and said, “Yes, of course.” Clients always want to know they have been heard and understood. After I close a gate, I always pull to double check that it’s latched securely. Should the homeowner be watching you, overacting the test will impress them that you are a careful and thoughtful person. If you always do this, you can say you always double check. None of us wants to know the true cost of that doggie in the window.
There are times when I open a gate and it is so old and rickety that it needs some level of repair to secure it. Although it is a nuisance, it is in my best interest not to risk Bowser – or a child – getting out.
At a “gentlemen’s farm” down the road, while preparing a partial topographic survey, I noted the donkeys were fenced in, but the gate’s latch was broken. The wind could have blown it wide open. When I left that day, a wire flag secured the entrance. The pink rectangular top waved to call the owner to fix his fence.
Getting back to our survey, at the left rear corner I had a slight signal and dug to find a buried pin. Setting on the traverse point in our rear yard, I was able to locate that pin using the rod’s highest height. I am keenly aware of the condition of my prism rods. For rough work, I use the old ones, whereas for accurate surveys I retain one in prime condition. If you want to prove your point, one way would be to shoot a pin and then rotate the rod 180 degrees and locate it a second time. Once you download the points and look closely, you can see they are the same point or, if a few hundredths apart, split the distance to find the pin’s true location. In your mind, you will decide if it is close enough, or if you need to traverse around the fence for a short rod location.
In my experience, not all rods were created equal. At the last place where I was an employee, they had an odd, tall prism pole. None of the crews wanted to use this pole because it was so hard to hold steady. They felt something was wrong with the pole rather than that they were shaky. I gladly took that pole and used it to help me achieve great traverse closures. If you find a pole and it is difficult to keep the bubble in the middle, then it is the pole you want to have. The more precise the bubble, the harder it seems to be to keep it level, but that is because it is closer to being directly over the point.
At the right rear corner, my apprentice had been fooled by appearances. The place where you would expect to find the corner had three intersecting fences and was the perfect place to look. I found the pin when I approached what appeared to be the corner 2 feet further. Locating the pin would be more difficult due to a tree in the backyard that grew up over the fence. It blocked any hope of a location.
Stepping back, I appraised the fence and saw it was severely rotted. The horizontal board joining the vertical boards was missing, leaving the middle and bottom horizontal boards. I was able to gently wiggle a vertical board loose from the middle board and pushed it into our lot and wedged it on an electric box on the nearby telephone pole. This left a small slot under the tree limbs and through the fence where I could take two offset locations. One shot was 1.10 feet from the pin while the second location was 0.73 feet. This would allow me to create two circles in the CAD drawing so that I could place a third circle at the intersection of the two for my corner pin location. We need to be creative when locating pins.
Had I gone around the back of the fence with a traverse, it would take me another two hours and give me no greater accuracy. It is important that either the person using offset locations draft their fieldwork, or, they make good notes because the two-circle intersection has two possible solutions but only one true location.
There were no incidents that day with four-footed friends, but one can never be too careful or trusting when it comes to dogs you do not know.