Friday, November 16, 2012

Fence Building 101

So before you can put cattle (or any other animal) in the pasture, you have to have good fences.  The only "fence building" I had ever done was helping my dad build a fence around our yard.  That fence would blow down every time the wind blew and we would have to set it back up (and yes - my dad says the same thing and we all laugh about it now!).  Obviously that would not be a good way to start this fence building.  Fortunately my spouse had helped his granddad build fence and had been around barbed wire most of his life.  The goal was a new 5 strand barbed wire fence around the back of the pasture to keep the cows out of the creek and to keep them in our pasture and repairs to other fences as needed.

The first lesson was in cleaning out the fences and repairs to areas that needed them.  My spouse had me start pulling trees and brush out of the fence line so we could see where repairs were needed.  In s addition to branches and just brush "trash", we also have a wicked vine known as greenbriar!!!  Yep - it is absolutely wicked as it grows and winds through trees, grass, brush, and even itself, creating a tangled, woven mess!  The briars on it attach to anything they touch and they stick, tearing as you pull through.  Clothes, hair, skin - you name it, the briars rip it!  Causes major falls as well when the vines catch your pants or shoes as you are walking through and trip you!  So clearing out the fence line is an ongoing process to keep the briars out.

We did get a portion of the north fence line cleared and repaired in one afternoon.  I would hold the barbed wire (which was a 4 barb and painful when it caught the skin) as my spouse would unwind it to the length needed.  We replaced several areas of wire where the water had washed through (yep creeks rise here!) and where tree branches had pulled the wire down.  My spouse had the hardest part as he had to carry the roll of barbed wire to unroll the length needed.  The rolls are probably 75-100 lbs each and you have to unroll them and hopefully keep everything untangled as you go.  Eventually I even got to nail the staples into the posts to hold the wire in place.  When I started hammering - it would take me about 50 hits per staple just to get them in but as I went along (days later) I got a little better at it.  My spouse, on the other hand, took about a dozen hits or less to get the darn staples nailed.  Truly irritating when you have a competitive spirit and one that just want to prove she can hold her own at this fence building thing!  But we are working on this together and getting it done so that is most important right now.

Once we got the one fence cleared and repaired, the next step was to build the fence back along the creek (reference beginning of this post).  My spouse got things started by digging post holes and driving t-posts at the first leg of the fence.  He said the ground was about like concrete as he dug the hole for the first couple of posts!  Fortunately, our son-in-law came in one weekend to help.  The two of them set posts and drove the t-posts for the entire rest of the fence!  We are very blessed and thankful for his help.  We had gotten the first section's bottom wire set and they got the bottom wire started for the next section.  We were both gone for a week so fence building took a rest.

When we got back, my spouse had gotten the bottom wire strung all the way around.  We spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday getting the other 4 wires strung.  We also had to build a couple of gates in areas that would need to have access to the back pasture - one across the bridge and one to allow the cattle to cross when we want to move them to the back.  My spouse explained what type of "gates" we would be constructing.  His granddad called them "poor man's gate".  Let me explain - you use corner posts with loops of barbed wire at the top and at the bottom on one end; add a swing post to be used to open the gate and use posts in the middle (called stays)  that are not set in the ground but have the barbed wire secured to them.  This keeps the wire up and secure but can be rolled back to open the area to travel through.  We found the stays in the trees we have.  Make use of everything available - without running to the store!

Now to get to securing the wires to the t-posts.  I had watched and held wire as my spouse "tied" the wires to the posts.  A portion of the pasture needed to be shredded so I told him I could tie the wire to the posts, if he wanted to start shredding.  He agreed and away he went.  I worked on those 4 wires securing at every post for a couple of hours.  The first few times, I wore my gloves but it was awkward for me using the pliers to twist the ties around the post so I took them off.  "BIG MISTAKE"!  I'm sure those of you who know about barbed wire fencing are laughing at me right now!  Yep - after pinching my fingers for the 4th time and leaving bruises - I put my gloves back on!  It took me about 3 turns for each side of the tie to get it twisted and secured.  (Remember there are 4 wires per t-post that have to be secured.)  We even had a visitor "drop in" while we were out there.  He was on the top wire so we figure he must have dropped out of the trees.  I don't think the hammering was to his liking though, as he made it to a post, crawled down it to the ground and went on his way! (I googled it - believe this is a Rough Green Snake. Rough green snakes can be found in a variety of habitats but are most common in open forests and edge habitats. They can be particularly abundant along the margins of wetlands and rivers, where they search overhanging vegetation for insects.
Habits: Rough Green Snakes are probably the most arboreal snakes in our region and spend the majority of their time hunting for insects, spiders, and other invertebrates in vegetation well above the ground. When encountered, green snakes often freeze, relying on their green coloration for camouflage. At night, Green Snakes can often be found sleeping coiled in shrubs, vine tangles, or thick vegetation. During cool weather Green Snakes often take refuge on the ground and can sometimes be found hiding beneath logs, rocks, or debris. (Courtesy of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory website))

My spouse came back around to the area and suggested we trade - I drive the tractor (which will be another post) and he works on the fence for a while.  I made one round and knew then why he wanted us to trade.  He was probably a good 3 times faster at getting those ties secured than I was!  He got a lot further a lot faster and I just drove around the pasture shredding.

We had some work being done at the house on Tuesday morning so I didn't get to go back out, but my spouse went out and late on Tuesday afternoon sent me this picture with this message - "The one I've been looking for!".  I was completely baffled until he got home and explained - the last t-post on the fence we had built!  Yep - all tied up and cattle are in the pasture eating that grass even as we speak!

I told a friend that as we were out building that fence that I honestly loved doing it.  The weather was great, it was peaceful, cows were grazing, and I was completely loving being there.  I talked to the Lord, giving Him thanks for allowing us to do this, for guiding us through 30 years of marriage to get to this place, and for providing for us every step of our lives!  My only regret - that we didn't do this a lot sooner!!!

A few pictures of the cows in the new pasture ...

Next up - Tractor driving school - Oh yeah!

1 comment:

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