Sunday, February 11, 2018

Fence Improvements

The fence improvements are almost complete. We still have 3 gates to be put up. They  were  out of stock and are back ordered. They will be put up when they come in - this week. 

This drawing is kind of busy, but we hope it gives you an idea of what has been done. The line to the right is pointing upward to north. Nothing was done down into the woods. That is still unfenced, the ground is too rough for anything but hand work, limiting the quality and strength of fence that could be put up and increasing the cost. 
Looking southward toward the woods, we have a large paddock on the left (eastward side - our right). There are two paddocks to the west of that (our left). Above that is another paddock. Above that is the south garden. And then the barn.

On our right is that large paddock mentioned above, then above it is a hay paddock, and then a livestock paddock. To the right of the barn is the corral and then the apple orchard.

Between the left side and the right side is a lane way going from the corral back to paddocks at the back of the property.

There is a catch all area between the barn and the house. There are two gates between it and the house. One is for vehicles and deliveries. The other is for pedestrians, like me.

To the right of the house is the east garden - the kitchen garden.

To the left of the house is the herb garden - the kitchen overflow and herb area.

To the left of that in the enclosed area, is the west garden and orchard. This is for the fruit trees, berries, grapes, etc. This is also where the spring and fall gardens are to be. A spring garden will be planted, grown, and harvested here. For the fall, a separate area in here will be tilled and planted for a fall/winter garden. There will be no overlap between them. The planting areas will be rotated. Unplanted areas are to be cover cropped for mulch harvest. This mulch is for between the rows of vegetables and around them and for around the berries, etc.

To the south of the barn, toward the bottom of the drawing, is the south garden. This is for summer crops like corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplant, etc. There are no cool weather crops in here. There will be cover crops for mulch in the garden. It is large enough for rotating the garden plots. The bovines are in there right now mowing and fertilizing in preparation for May planting. 

The Arrival of the equipment was exciting, the start of our biggest project and perhaps the most important.

 The Start of our much awaited Fence Project.

The fences taken out were old and in bad shape. There were broken wires and posts. There were briers and vines on them. Larry and his son James did the fence work. They took out the old fencing first. Then the entire area was bush hogged clear of weeds and debris. They had the equipment to make it easier. It is a $100,000.00 plus setup.

Byler's Machine.

They could disconnect the post pounder and put on forks for a forklift or a bucket for dirt work. They took off the old wire and rolled it up for trashing. The bucket was used for a lot of the clearing work. They then put the post pounder back on and hooked up. That post pounder has about 120,000 to 130,000 pounds of pressure. It pulled the old posts out without any problems. They took a chainsaw and cut off the end of the post. They took that end and put it back into the hole and pushed it down below soil level. There was now no hole for anyone nor animal to step in and get hurt. It cost us $800.00 for them to do all of the work in the fence removal. I had to dispose of the wire. 
The old fences gone and the bush hogging done.

They were really conscientious about their work. They  were here for five weeks. They would ask me what my intentions were or how I wanted things to work. Then they would do the work. But, many times, they saw a better way and would explain it to me. Most times, we went their way. Sometimes, I had a different direction I was looking at. Most times, though, their way was a better way. They had the knowledge and experience to make things better. And, I hope, I had enough sense to listen to them and evaluate what they had to say. I feel I am lucky to have had them doing the work. They did an excellent job. They have a reputation for being the best in the area. I feel that reputation is well deserved. My way was good and would have worked fine, but their way was usually neater and more functional, and cheaper!

As a case in point: I had a "T" lane way in the back with gates off of the top of the lane way.. He suggested that we leave the paddocks a little larger and put like a bulb at the end of the lane way going back there with gates into each of the paddocks back there. A small, compact area. This enables us to drive the livestock back to the bulb. We then open the gate for the paddock we want them to go into. This is smoother and easier. There are no turns. I never even thought of this. He suggested it. It is much better. 
  The red lines indicate gate positions.

After he had the fences removed, he laid out posts for the perimeter fencing. He then went back and pounded them in and ran the wire. The perimeter is high tensile and energized against fence crawlers and predators. In the back is over the hill and we can't see there unless we go back there. This covers daytime issues when there are fewer predators. At night, we intend to bring the livestock in. 
Early stages of the lane way, paddock fences in view.

The laneway as we see it come together.

Back to Larry's suggestions. He suggested using the paddock up next to the south garden as a safety area. If we have sheep lambing, cow's calving, or we need to go away for a couple of days, this would be a safety area for the livestock to stay. This was high dollar fixed knot wire. It cost us $3500.00, but we think that it was worth it to have the extra peace of mind.

The lane way is energized high tensile. The gardens are fixed knot with hot wire. The entire perimeter is hot, along with most of the interior lines. Some of this is to keep poultry and others out of the garden, orchard, etc. Other parts are to hold poultry and livestock in an area.

An example of the Hot wire set up on corner posts. There is a high tensile hot wire above every section of new fence.

The farm is 15 acres. The energizer is 60 miles or 240 acres. I don't have an exact figure, but I believe we have over 6,000 feet of fence line. I wanted a larger energizer to cover grass loading. I started to go with a smaller and cheaper energizer, but I stepped up to this one because it has a remote that you carry with you. If you have a problem, you can cut the power from in the back or where ever, do your thing, turn it back on, and go your way without having to go back to the energizer. If there is a problem with a line, it will tell you whether it is to the left or right. I think I will like this energizer. And remote! 

The way Larry hooked everything up, parts of the fencing can be de-energized while the rest is still hot. This way, fence work or whatever, can be done while the animals are still protected.

Back to the fencing job. After Larry did the perimeter, he laid out posts for the cross fencing. He then drove them in and put the wire up. He worked his way from south to north or bottom (or back) toward the top (or front). Corner posts were heavy and long. I think they were 8 inch in diameter and 9 feet long. He pounded them in 3 feet. They were solid and he braced them. The line posts were 6 inch in diameter and 8 feet long. He pounded them in 2 feet. They were solid, also. The line posts had no pressure on them. The corner posts had lots of pressure. He used the post pounder to stretch the wire. The wire was almost like a guitar string. It was tight. The high tensile and the woven wire were both stretched like this. And straight? He was always sighting down the fence to make sure it was straight. It didn't matter if it was up front in sight of the highway or hidden over the hill out of sight. This was HIS fence and it was going to be done right. And it was. 

Paddocks taking shape.

I went almost $5000.00 over budget. Not because of him, but due to me. I had the west garden and the south garden fenced. I had the rest of the pasture perimeter fenced. I went with the best wiring. And I had a grape arbor built! That thing has 8 inch posts 3 feet into the ground. It has anchor posts 4 feet into the ground. And it has high tensile wire strung tight across it. There are 3 runs in a leaning "Z" shape (due to location) for a total of about 12 grape vines. There are Niagara, Concord, and Catawba grapes. The birds, bees and us will have a feast.

I didn't want to spend the extra money, but I thought: "I  only have one shot at this and need to go for it". So, I did. I didn't want to let go of that money, but I can't say I have regrets. It was the right thing to do. Now, I have to save a new for the greenhouse. And the new deck. And the...

I give God thanks for Larry and James and the great job they did. His work helps us towards our dreams. Piece by piece, with God's help, we're getting it done. There is still lots to do. May God help you toward your dreams.

Ralph and Fiona

PS: Larry and James were here for 5 weeks because of the weather. The post pounder doesn't work too well when the temperature is below 15 degrees F. They do most of their fence building in the summer. The hydraulic fluid they use is for extreme heat, not cold.The cost to change over to winter grade hydraulic fluid is not feasible. We also had snow and lots of rain. So, he had lots of home time to cut firewood, etc.


I left out the info on usage of the paddocks.

As I said, the south garden is large. A large portion of it is in grass. We have a Jersey cow, Jersey calf (not hers), and a Holstein/Angus calf in it mowing the grass and fertilizing the garden. This garden will be on a four or five year rotation. The part not being gardened will be used for hay/grass. Most of the grass/hay harvested will be used to mulch the vegetables and enrich the soil for the gardens. This mulch will hold the soil temperature down and will help retain moisture and at the same time, it will keep weed pressure down.

As spring comes and the grass starts growing, we'll let it get some height on it and then start grazing. We'll start at paddock 1 right after it starts growing and before it gets much height on it. After they eat it down, we'll move them to paddock 2, then 3, 4, 5, and back to 1, etc. all over again. After they are moved to the next paddock, we'll go in and mow the paddock they just came out of to keep weed growth down and help keep grass dominant.

The hay paddock can be grazed, if and when it is needed. It has good grass and lots of it, so we set it aside for hay. I may cut the hay, let the grass grow some, put the livestock on it to eat and fertilize, then take them off to let it grow for hay. This will be barn hay for winter use.

As winter approaches, we will run the livestock through all the paddocks (including the hay paddock). Their purpose will be to eat the grass down low, but not to the soil or to the point where it will winter kill. We want to get use out of it, but not to hurt it. It will take up well into winter to run them through all the paddocks. Then, they will go into the south garden to mow and fertilize it. After they have completed all of the paddocks and garden, it is time to go out onto the hayfield/pasture for the rest of the winter. This will be like standing hay for them. It will be free choice. The will be no mowing/haying after August 1 (that is our plans, anyway). So, the pastures and paddocks should have good growth going into winter for them to feed on all winter. We want to use barn hay as little as possible.

We have 3 bovines. We may get 2,3, or 4 calves/yearlings for butchering. We have 2 female bovines out of the 3 now. We hope to get calves from them. We want to get some sheep to help eat the grass and to provide meat for us. But, we need to go slow and not overpopulate. We need to have enough grass for them. We would rather have more grass than what we need than too many animals for the grass we have.

The August 1 cutoff for mowing seems to let a good growth get on before it goes dormant for the winter. This results in a good stand of standing hay for winter grazing. This way, we don't have to put out rolls or bales of hay for winter feed. It's standing in the field, they can just go get it. The barn is a backup. In a year plus, we'll know how this works out.

 Mischief seems to say it looks mighty fine! Its pretty awesome to see the cows along such a beautiful fence.

Monday, February 5, 2018


Well we think he is going to live. The sight of this thin little jersey calf nearly falling out of the stock trailer will haunt me though. He had been through a lot. Now, with milk fresh from the cow, nursed naturally. A calf ration that has a lot going for it and good hay when ever he wants it, Ben is starting to look good. Best of all he is starting to feel good. When we let him out to suck, he runs and bucks, then heads for his side of Kate. We have trained him to nurse from the side I don't milk from.

He is going to be fine and we are so pleased to have this character as part of our bovine adventure. The sight of his healthy wet nose looking under his stall door makes me smile every time I see it. He knows whats  up and lets us know he is waiting for his meal.

Be safe and God Bless...may you all have a "Ben" in your life.