A farm, a fence post, and a few spent walnuts
This image was recorded in May and is one of the last taken at the farm. Perhaps showing it to you, along with a bit of prose, will be good for me? I’m in an unusual place, you see. We left the farm in August and, save the fact that it is currently without a family to take our place, it hasn’t been much on my mind. Perhaps I’ve come to terms with leaving. Perhaps I haven’t begun to do so? We worked the farm all the years the girls were growing up. I was about to say we left behind memories, but that is not the case for we all take with us many fond memories of life there. So how does one say goodbye to such a life? To such a place? I don’t know. Perhaps telling stories will help?
The image shows the top of a wooden fence post. Construction of pasture fences began at the farm in 1995, occurred in stages as we increased the number of animals we had, and ended no less than a decade later. One of the things I have always liked about learning to do things, like build livestock fence, is the joy of coming to know the tricks that allow you to do things more efficiently and effectively. I want to tell you about one trick I learned about building a high-tensile fence. But before I do, let me hint at an even earlier lesson I learned as a fence builder. Consider how you might install a fixed loop onto one or the other end of this heavy compression spring. A spring such as this is used, at the beginning and end of long stretches of wire, to maintain tension and to allow the fence to absorb impact, such as may be experienced when an animal or farm implement pushes up against it. A solution to this problem eluded me for a time (weeks, if we’re being honest) and the dilemma presented itself like one of those Tavern Puzzles one often sees. I eventually stumbled upon the solution to my spring-problem in one of those why-didn’t-I-think-of-that-earlier moments. I won’t give away the answer but there’s a hint here if you care to know it. So, the trick to building a high-tensile fence is to use massive posts for ends and for corners, and to bury them as deeply as you can. This is because the individual wires which make up the fence are under more than 250 pounds of tension. Most livestock enclosures are of the 8-wire-type and pressure at the corners is enormous. To be sure that the wires remain tight, you have to ensure that end and corner posts don’t move. Using massive posts to anchor your fence goes a long way to keeping those elements in place and under tension for very long periods of time. A friend down the road raises bucking bulls, has appropriate fences to do so, and has amassed a supply of gently-used telephone poles. These could be cut into pieces and then used as line and corner posts. He was always willing to part with as many as I needed but never passed up an opportunity to joke a bit by asking what sort of sheep was it that I was raising such that fencing them required such strong and sturdy anchors. He knew that Joanna and I raised Shetland sheep and that stout fences were not so much intended to keep our animals in as they were to keep other animals, including predatory ones, out. Nonetheless, he would ask every time we met. Anyway, I was doing chores one morning in May when I noticed the spoils of a meal taken by one of our local squirrels. The remains lay atop a corner fence post. I like the image for its colorful mosaic of lichen and for the look of the shell fragments, reminding me of scattered bits of a puzzle waiting to be pieced together.