Wednesday, August 18, 2010
If I could go back in time, there are a lot of things I would do differently here on the farm. Well, yes, of course, seriously, there are a LOT of things I would do differently in many areas of my life, but I'm not going there (yes, I mean you, Bad Boyfriend 1994-1997)
But let's just talk about fences. First off, I might actually have paid more attention to real estate listings that listed "fenced and cross-fenced" among the assets of the property. I had no freaking idea how expensive fencing is - and you probably don't either. This property had no fences at all when we moved onto it. I wanted to make three pastures so I could rotate, which added up to about 2,500 linear feet, plus four gates.
I went to the local professional fencing place and talked about my options. Since I wanted goats, I looked at really secure fences like five foot chain link, or five foot split rail with field fencing tacked on. As soon as I discovered that those options would run me somewhere between 9 and 14 dollars per linear foot, I coughed spasmodically and exited the building, pretending to have something caught in my throat.
Even cheap welded field fencing costs about $1/linear foot, and the six foot t-posts cost six bucks apiece. Then you have to buy wooden posts and set them in cement on every corner and everywhere there is a break in the fenceline, like at gates. This is just materials cost, you understand. So of course, that's what we decided to go with.
Turns out, there was still a lot we didn't know about fencing. Like, for example, you really really need to have some way of pulling the field fencing very very tight between t-posts. Something with superhuman strength, like a tractor. If you just have a couple of guys, one pulling and the other clipping the fence onto the post, in a few months what you have is droopy wobbly fences. And if you further try to skimp on manpower and money by just using t-posts at your corners instead of posts set in cement, what you get is this:
A fence that looks like it was constructed by a couple of dumb monkeys. Which, in fact, it was. Clearly, as anyone who knows goats can see, this fence is not much of an obstacle. What you can't see in this picture is that our young orchard is right on the other side of this fence. So far, we have lost five trees to the goats, and several others are hanging on by the skin of their teeth (so to speak).
If I could go back in time, I would have spent more money on the fence in the first place. But I didn't and I can't so now I have to re-do. After going back to the professional fencing store to price the cost of fencing in just the one pasture closest to the fruit trees, and again being blown right back out the door by the sheer audacity of asking ten thousand dollars to fence in one 100 x 100 foot pasture, I decided on cattle panels.
Cattle panels are stiff welded fence panels that come in a variety of heights and gauges and lengths. The ones I bought are 4.5 feet high and sixteen feet long. The advantage of them is that they will (probably) contain both the goats and the horses; that we can use the existing t-posts to fasten them to; that they do not need to be professionally installed; and that the cost is about one sixth that of chain link. That is, they are still expensive - just to fence in that one pasture will be about $1,800 - but not absolutely prohibitively so.
As for the other 1,900 linear feet of fences - I haven't the vaguest notion. I'm hoping that if I have one really really secure pasture, I can keep the goats in it most of the time, and then when I put them in the other pastures - which are quite a bit larger - they will be so happy they won't try to escape. Hey, it might work.
And before you suggest electric fences, I have to admit that we have tried. We have tried and tried. We have not been able to keep an electric fence functional for more than a couple of weeks. Initially, it is intensely gratifying to watch a troublesome goat get the shit shocked out of him, but the charge gets progressively weaker until you can grasp the wire in your bare hand and feel only a semi-unpleasant thrumming.
We are a couple of dumb monkeys, remember?