The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Building a Perimeter Fence

May 12th, 2013 · 8 Comments · Posted in farming, Sustainability

Pounding pine fence posts into the ground

Pounding pine fence posts into the ground

In three years of scouring Washington County, NY, for a farm property, we found very little that even approached the kind of home we had in mind. There’s a reason why dairy country does not necessarily lend itself to a small, integrated family farm. But that’s a story for another day. We thought our search had ended more than a year ago with a 90-acre parcel with broad pastures, an old house and barns outside Greenwich. The deal fell through, and now that I know what livestock fencing costs, I’m glad it did.

I think it’s fair to say that most of Washington County is unfenced because farmers mainly grow three things here: hay, corn and milking cows. The cows are kept in confinement lots (those CAFOs you’ve heard so much about), and there is no need to fence in hay and corn. But if you are going to raise livestock such as beef cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens and do it on pasture–as opposed to in a confined feed lot–then you need a fence around your property. The fence keeps your animals from wandering around the neighborhood, and hopefully deters four-legged predators such as coyotes, foxes and stray dogs.

You can count the cost of fencing as one more reason young people can’t afford their own farms. We chose to build an electrified fence with eight strands of wire, five feet tall. The price for that: $3.25 per foot. Our 20 acres of pasture measures 4,200 feet around, about 80 percent of a mile. You do the math. And electric fencing is actually cheaper than the non-electric alternative, woven wire. But you do have the added hassle of maintaining an electric charger, grounding system and lightning arresters. And if you get a big snow, you have to turn off the lower strands so they don’t short out.

But once a coyote gets a taste of 7,500 volts, it will think twice about trying to get inside. Or so they say.

Placing posts around the perimeter

Placing posts around the perimeter

Conversations with the local extension service led us to Tim Marbot, a fencing contractor out of nearby Hoosick Falls, NY (home of Grandma Moses, by the way). Tim came out and measured, drew up a plan and gave us a price. Good thing, too, since I was unable to find another contractor to provide an estimate. “People around here mostly do their own fences,” we were told. Me, I did not intend to spend the rest of my days wrestling with 4,200 feet of fence. I’d rather skip right to the farming part.

Recently, Tim dropped off some big stacks of pressure-treated pine fence posts and went to work with his tractor clearing a path through the brush, bramble and fallen trees around the edge of the property. This week he came back and started pounding the posts into the ground with a hydraulic pounding attachment. Amazingly, he doesn’t even have to drill a hole first, except when he hits stone. He knocked off early Friday when he realized his old auger bit was too dull and not making any progress in one particular stoney area. He has to wait for delivery of a new bit.

A path through brush and timber

A path cleared through brush and timber

After the posts are installed, Tim will string wire and eventually hooking it all up to a charger powered by our main electrical line. At that point, we’re hoping to take delivery of some sheep. But will the vegetable garden be safe enough from local deer? That remains to be seen.

 

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  • Katie

    May was such a whirlwind that I missed your move! Congratulations! ( I thought I was just stopping by to plan some recipes to make with my kids.)
    Earlier in this spring, my daughter and I were able to spend the night on a sheep farm in hopes of seeing lambing in the middle of the night. No lambs were born that night, but I gained even more appreciation for the amount of time and money it takes to start and maintain a livestock farm. I can’t wait to read even more about it. All the best!

  • Ed Bruske

    Katie, thanks for stopping by. The recipes are all still here, but indeed the focus of the blog has shifted. I hope you’ll continue to be a reader. It will probably be some time before we have lambs (spring 2015?), and if all goes well, they will be born on pasture, not in a January “hothouse” lambing environment. Please do come for the ride.

  • Katie

    Thanks, Ed. I do enjoy following along with each new adventure you take us on.
    We did a “Lambing Slumber Party” at Owens Farm in Sunbury, PA. Perhaps something to consider down the road…

  • Ed Bruske

    Katie, what time of year was that lambing?

  • Katie

    We went in late March, but the slumber parties are usually scheduled mid-February through mid-March.
    http://www.owensfarm.com/html/lambing_slumber_parties.htm

  • Ed Bruske

    Great idea for making income for the farm, Katie. I was wondering whether these were “hot house” lambs, born indoors during winter, or whether they were spring lambs born on pasture as the grass was greening. We are more interested in the latter, which means we miss the Easter crash and deal more in older lambs or mutton.

  • Emily A. Freed

    It’s good that you finally installed your fence. I’m sure Tim was pretty excited about the whole thing. I think by now, you have already finished the fence and how are the vegetable garden doing? Safe from the local deer?

  • Ed Bruske

    Deer can easily jump over our perimeter fence, Emily, but they don’t seem to want to. However, we have one momma dear and her fawn who live on the property for the moment. We’ve ordered some electric deer fencing to place around the garden until we build a permanent garden, when we plan a more permanent interior fence to protect our vegetables. The deer also like to munch on the leaves and buds of our fruit trees in the orchard.