Wednesday, May 25, 2011

#14 - Fences Gone Wild!

Living in a suburb just outside of a major metropolitan area means that we have cedar fencing for our backyards. The cedar fence must be built with marine grade runners and posts with galvanized screws to hold it together. We can't have chain link fences, nor picket fences, only wood cedar fencing at the approved width and height according to neighborhood association rules.

City backyard with the fence built to neighborhood regulations.
We're tucked inside suburbia.
My husband is here with his grand-nephew and his Aunt
who is visiting from the Washington D.C. area.
We have a relatively nice sized backyard for our area, but when we go to our spacious acreage, I always come back to our home feeling boxed in. My opinion may be disagreed with by many neighbors in the city, but it seems to me that our large home sometimes looks a tad ridiculous sitting on this tiny bit of land, fairly close to the house next door. Often, I have to laugh at the absurdity of convenience.

Actually, I'd rather have sprawling land with a tiny house on it.

As a city person, I can tell you that, very often, my fellow city people (and I've been included in this bunch) feel incredibly independent and cutting edge in their character, yet the truth is that they are crammed together like sardines with full dependency on purchased resources for survival. Life is commercialized to the hilt and you don't have to think too much about fencing because it is usually taken care of for you due to your closed-in environment.

But, for us, having acreage has prompted us contemplate the need for fencing. Eventually, I would like to have a few goats. I must have been a closet farmer all along because I've been fascinated with chickens and goats and other farm animals for longer than I can remember. But, after I study different fencing for different kinds of animals, I walk away feeling more confused than ever. To add to the confusion is each person's differing opinion on fencing materials.

A picture I took while visiting a farm.
I'm terrified of electrified fencing lines, but so many people who farm say they are necessary. I guess I'd learn everything necessary to keep all of us safe, but I have these awful mental daydream moments when I can see myself stumbling right into the electric fencing and being entangled so that I hang there frying until someone finds me. Have I mentioned that I am not the most graceful person on the planet? Or, I can picture company coming to visit and someone's little child wandering over to an electrical line and ZAP, the kid is a part of my electrocution nightmarish daydreams.

What about bad weather, mud puddles and electricity or a grounding system that goes awry? What about a snapped wire that needs repair?

I took this picture going thru a small two-acre farm outside of Houston.
This area is for the chickens and that is electrical fencing.
We saw several chickens zapped while standing there.
On the other hand, I've heard that a low line of electrical fencing can also help to keep predators out of the fenced area. Zap, get back, you funky bobcat!

I am learning about cross-fencing and different areas that will need to be cordoned off to separate the babies from the regular adult population of animals. Fences. Fences. Fences.

At a farm checking it out...picture taken as I was walking through the baby-pen.
It appears that we'll need a tractor with an attachment for post-hole digging. I believe Deputy Dave will appreciate not having to use a hand-held post hole digger. Just a thought.

I love this look - the fence seems to be very sturdy. (Photo from goating site).
For perimeter fencing, the Texas Forestry Division recommends a "Fire Break" which is land cleared for several feet to prevent a fire jumping from the neighbor's land to yours. But, I also like the look of a strategic natural perimeter, a barrier of lush greenery to provide added privacy and sound buffering.

This fence is supposed to be good for goats. (Photo from goating site).
Once the main house is built, I'd like to put a nice, attractive fence around the perimeter of the house to keep farm animals from accidentally getting into our "personal space." I still expect to do some regular gardening around the house itself and would like to keep the wildlife and farm-life out of that area, as much as possible. My cousin's farm, on over 50 acres, is set up this way. The house has its own fencing around it and there are cattle grates for the driveway entry. It works.

One of our concerns are the creeks that run through the property. Since the creeks, bluffs, etc., do break up our land in places, we'll have to fence more sections to avoid the creeks. But, we will be fortunate enough to be able to run a pump from the Spring fed creek to a trough for watering. I think.

We have so many trees on our land that we'll need to incorporate them into our fencing. Learning how to do this will be the challenge. More importantly, we have an area of land that we are dedicating to grow pine trees for farm usage. As time passes, we'll figure out all the ways that pine trees can be utilized, but we've been trying to get opinions on rustic fencing made partly with pine tree posts. I've heard that they do not last long, but since we have abundant pines, it is a free resource from the land.

I like this fence - I took this picture last month at a babyshower we attended.

I didn't ask, but am interested in the kind of wood they used
and the way they attached it.

An interesting fence with a mix of modern steel and rustic wood.
I wonder how long the wood pickets will last and what equipment we'll
need to do this on our land? Also, would pine tree slabs be
workable for fencing? We have plenty
of pine wood on our land, so I'd like to utilize it in every way possible.
As we get closer to the time when we'll be moving to our land full-time, our fencing questions are becoming more detailed. We will start with getting the area around the house fenced and then an area fenced for the goats I will be getting. I'd like for us to have goat milk to make goat milk products.

Since goats are notorious for being escape artists, we'll need to make sure the fencing is nicely built, sturdy enough to withstand their bumping and rubbing against it and the fence should help discourage climbing. I've heard that putting a running board along the fence will serve as a buffer for their rubbing and bumping so that the actual fence can be spared.

We have a lot to consider and fencing systems are definitely a part of our farm-land master plan. I'm sure it'll be another area of trial and error for our Farm Life Lessons. However, I hope that we have lots of successful trials and minimal error due to good research and solid advice from others experienced in good fencing.

So, feel free to give your personal opinions on fencing. We have cleaned out our ears and are listening closely!


Rae said...

I'm a big fan of non-climb, though it is expensive. It looks nice, is fairly easy to stretch, and critters can't get their heads through it. Well, our geese can, but I'm talking bigger critters. Hotwire isn't all that bad. I hate getting shocked, hate hate hate, but it's actually not that strong a shock (at least ours aren't). Just strong enough to make our pigs AND our dogs respect the fencing. :) Animals taught to repect hotwire will definitely stay away from the fence.

Oh, almost forgot... Don't know that I'm going to do a blackberry post soon, so here's the lowdown. Our pigs do a good job rooting up the roots, and goats supposedly do a great job browsing the brambles, but nothing beats a good tractor or clearing saw (we have a Stihl FS550). We have to mow them down regularly, as we don't want poisons on our property if we can help it. Supposedly, if you can keep them mowed down for 3 years, their roots are exhausted and the plant dies. Don't know how much truth is in that, but sure would be nice. :)

LindaG said...

See, I just learned something, though I'm not sure I read it right. Is Rae talking about killing off blackberries in 3 years? Given our property, I immediately thought poison ivy.

I've been interested in all the fence types, too, and not too hot on electrical because I too am klutzy. I've seen more and more places in Eastern NC with electrical if they have animals, but I'm still not sold. Would a gator even notice? And yes, rain and electricity, I have always been taught, is BAD.

Right now the farm has mostly 3 strand barbed wire. Been that way for years. It will need something more when we have animals. Well, birds anyway. Part of it still has an overlay of what I think is poultry fencing, but I'm not sure. I know it has square mesh at the bottom and rectangular mesh at the top and it's made that way.

Hubby didn't want a post hole digger, either, but is very happy now that I talked him into buying it. We used it to set the posts for the porch my brother built for us; we used it to put in the mail box post and we've used it to plant all but the first 3 trees we planted - when he thought he was still a 20 something country boy instead of 50 something city dweller with diabetes and bad feet.
Get the post hole digger.
And while we have a Cub Cadet Yanmar Sc2400 that we bought when BIL said we could buy the farm. If you can afford it, in hindsight I would get something a little larger because most attachments are too heavy for it - though we have a bush hog, a blade, a furrow digging thing that we are doing plumbing with, and the post hole digger; we have a little trouble finding the smaller attachments. 6 foot is standard so if you can afford it, get a tractor that can handle those. (We recently got what is called suitcase weights to help keep the front of the tractor on the ground, but all tractors can use those.)
Also, get a front loader with it. I wish we had, but he can do a lot with his blade attachment thanks to a neighbor showing him how to use one to it's full potential. :)

And now my mind is blank, so I'll stop here. Good luck! :)

Rae said...

Linda, I was talking blackberries. The 3 year rule is just something I've read and been told. Even if true, I doubt it is exact. Given that we don't want to use chemicals, repeated mowing is our main option. At least until surrounding trees get big enough to shade out the blackberries.

Lana C. said...

Thank you both for being so informative, I even get emails from others who have trouble leaving a comment and they read your comments and are just as happy as I am to get such great bits of information. Never hold back, just share whatever you want and can - it doesn't matter how long it takes. This kind of feels like a new spin on the old-fashioned networking of farmers...we want to help each other out and it is the way of a good-hearted person who loves being on their land. Thanks for every visit and for every comment. I even take notes for my hard-copy notebook for these suggestions and advice.

It does matter. Thanks!!