Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chasing cows, fencing and neighbors

Courtesy of google maps
I've been working hard on the farm for the last 6 months; and it's been quite the project.  This is an aerial view of my farm, with the house and barns in the lower left corner, to the east of the "a".  This particular picture is a couple of years old, but it's the latest that google maps has.  In this picture most of the land is planted in corn; I'm going to guess that this is probably August.  

Working here for the last week
What I've been working on is the fence along the north property line.  That's marked in red in the photo above.  From this distance it looks pretty small, but it's actually a pretty big distance.  What happened on this farm for the last 50 or 60 years is that someone would go out every 10 years or so and look at the fence line and think "man, this area needs a fence" and they'd build one.  and then another 10 years would go by, and the blackberries and bushes would cover that fence, and then someone else would look at it and say "man, this area needs a fence" and they'd build one.  

With my survey in hand, I started clearing along the property line so that I could run a fence, and also so that I could reclaim about 5 acres of land that got covered by blackberries.  
The fenceline
If you look carefully in the picture above, you'll see Taylor walking a high-tensile wire to the brace at the other end of this span.  It's about 1300' for this particular run, and you really can't see the far end.  it's just too far.  For reference I've put a blue dot were I took this photo from, and I'm facing west.  
There are three property owners along that property line.  I haven't heard from one of them, but the other two were very concerned when I began to clear the property line, preparing to fence.  Which was a bit of a surprise, actually, and it took a few days and some phone calls and in-person meetings to smooth things over.  Basically their concern was that I was fencing in the correct place, and that I wasn't trying to do some sort of land-grab.   My survey helped, and also the department of natural resources monument (survey marker) that had been put there a long time ago and they all knew about.  So unlike other property lines there wasn't much controversy about where the property line was, or who owned what.  I put a gate in the fence for each of the property owners in question.  
Garret and Taylor contemplating a post hole near the river

Which may seem odd, but I think that while fences make good neighbors, a fence with a gate makes an even better one.  

My Errant cows
When you have livestock, no matter how good your fences or intentions are, you're going to have a day where your critters get out.  Maybe a tree knocks your fence flat, or someone leaves a gate open, or maybe you have a cow genius that figures out how to defeat it, it's going to happen.  Having a gate for each property allows me to quickly retrieve any livestock that ends up on their property.  It also helps to concentrate access to your property; people tend to use the gate, and so if there is a security concern, you can focus on the gate area instead of trying to secure the entire property line.

I had an object lesson on this yesterday.  While I had the old barbed wire fences down, my cows did get out, and did make it about a half-mile onto a neighbors property.  It took 2 hours to chase them down and convince them to return.   I'm looking forward to completing the fence and knowing that it's secure.  Here's what I've fenced so far in red, and where a neighbors fence is suitable in blue.  Um, "suitable" - means that there is a fence there that will do for a while, but I'll probably run a better fence against it next year.
The river has a relatively high bank, so I don't have an immediate plan to fence it, but will do so before I run grazers on the new forage I planted.  The next stretch I fence will be along the south property line, extending the diagonal line near the house and barns to the back corner of the property.  That's a little over twice the distance that I just fenced, but it's easier terrain.

The high-tensile fence really lends itself to large fence spans.  It is much easier to construct than barbed wire, mostly because you can walk the smooth wire from the spool to the far end of the fence; it just slips through and doesn't usually catch on anything.  Barbed wire means that I usually have to carry the (100lb) spool to the far end, which is much, much harder.  Line post spacing is random, usually based on terrain.  I'll do a post about high tensile fencing later this week.


Hector B said...

Hmmm, looks like you have very good access to the river. Just this week I was reading about break-ins by the Oso boat launch, where many people leave their cars to fish. Maybe you should start offering parking to friends of the blog...

Bruce King said...

Where did you read about the breakins?

I have 3/4 mile of.river frontage but it's all high bank, 12-15' feet. There's a couple of trails to the water but nothing that would works as a boat launch

Hector B said...

Several reports of breakins in the area here: http://www.washingtonflyfishing.com/forum/index.php?threads/tweeker-encounter-and-stilly-report.93779/