Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Fencing Lessons

Three cheers to fantastic neighbors who are willing to share their knowledge, time, and grandsons who need to learn how to build a fence! And here's a lovely silver lining to the pandemic stay and home situation: actual time to accomplish goals on the farm. In this case, we built a fence around the new pasture space that we created last autumn. 

Planning: a profoundly useful stage. We spent a beautiful and cold Saturday in early May measuring out the space and discussing the pros and cons of placing the fence in a variety of ways.

Once we measured it all out, our neighbor's grandsons got to work pounding rebar in all the spots where we planned to place the fence posts. The white bucket in the foreground has a hole in the middle. It gets placed over the rebar, and someone else then takes a spade and cuts a line all around. To finish off, about a foot of grass and dirt is removed to prepare the next step.

 Well, actually, first there was shopping for supplies! Fence posts, fencing, barbed wire, steeples, fence clamps, and 2500 pounds of concrete.

THEN it got very exciting! Just enjoy those alpacas ogling the tractor with the augur! I giggle a little bit every time I look at this picture! The aforementioned holes were used to guide the augur to the correct spot to dig the post hole.

The grandsons are waiting for perfect tractor placement and holding wood blocks used to stop the tractor wheels from rolling during the drilling.

All great tools have their short-comings, and the augur needed some human guidance in order to drill a straight hole. Each hole is about three feet deep.

Behind the augur-guidance team, we had to clear the dirt that fell back into the hole with the post-hole digger. This amazing college student caught up with the high-tech augur team. Except for the last hole...

After the auguring was complete, one of the grandsons got to drive the tractor home. I love that someone so young has already been given such an important responsibility. Our young people are capable of so much more than we often expect of them. This young man is an excellent driver already!

This next step caused my OCD to go into high gear. (Actually, who am I kidding! The precision I desired with the somewhat nebulous outcomes were already making me a little too crazy for my liking! Ha!) We decided that the fence post needed to be 60 inches above the ground, which meant that the hole had to have a very precise depth. The amount of time it took for us to take dirt out of the hole and dump it back in to get the post to sit 60 inches above ground is almost comical in retrospect! Fortunately, we did eventually get better at the process. A high water table and super soggy earth in the area where we placed the last few posts tried our patience once again. 

Once the post was the correct height, we started filling the hole with quick-crete and water, mixing it up, and then repeating. Most of the posts needed 4-5 bags of quick-crete, before the very top was re-covered with dirt. 

First post complete! It was a major victory, in spite of looking crooked with all other posts! We learned to check the long distance lines after that.

We made the horizontal brace posts one inch longer than the space between the posts so that the pressure between the posts did some of the holding.

Small pieces of wood screwed into the vertical posts provide a ledge that the brace post rests on.

All the posts are in, and all the braces are attached between the posts. Next up: barbed wire.

Next we strung the barbed wire between the posts. The grandsons are using this contraption to stretch the wire to increase the tautness. Once it no longer budged, we steepled the wire to the posts.

The barbed wire was used to make a straight line between the wooden posts and show us where to place the metal posts. The metal posts were placed +/- 8 feet apart. I don't have a picture of us pounding in the metal posts since I was the post holder. Post pounding had its own set of issues, including going in crooked, going in too far, being placed too far away from the wire... But we established a pretty good rhythm after a while. The Farmer attached the barbed wire to the post with fence clamps.

Similar to stretching the barbed wire, we had to stretch the fencing also. One of the reasons we chose such heavy duty wooden posts held in concrete was to increase the amount of pressure the corners of the fence could handle. I can't begin to explain the mechanics of this more elaborate stretcher that included a tree because I was off doing another task. It was fun to see the fence get more and more taut.  

First side of the fence is complete, with the exception of added the rest of the fence clamps to the metal posts. While it seemed like so many things were going to end up looking crooked or lacking in right angles, this turned out so much better than I imagined. Everyone really did a great job maintaining high standards! Fun fencing fact: you will notice the fencing attached on the outside of the wooden posts for strength and on the inside of the metal posts so animals have a harder time pushing it down. I don't think alpacas will be ornery enough to challenge the fence, but who knows what type of animal might live our here in the future. (Did someone say llama? My dream!)

The alpacas love their new space and are often romping around between bites of grass.  

We rearranged the move-able fences to create an easy transition between the barn and the pasture. The new paddock area also serves to make them easier to collect in a small space at the end of the day.

Our neighbor had many stories about how long (or short) the period of time is from when you finish a fence to the day that you must repair it. In our case, it was a mere 18 DAYS! (Insert sad face here.) We had a rough windy day last week and one of the dead Ash trees from the neighbor's farm fell.

Fortunately, it did not take too much time to clean up the mess, uncrimp the fallen fence, and re-attach it to the posts. The barbed wire broke, and so we are awaiting a lesson in splicing it together.

This experience was an amazing learning process. I got more detailed than I had planned in this post so that I could remember the details for the future. The fence is beautiful, and we could not be happier! Many, many thanks to the crew that helped make our dream come true! You are truly THE BEST!<3 p="">

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