Fencing, Fencing of the Farming Kind: August 17, 2008

Kathy & Bruce fencing

It’s the strangest thing. When we tell people that we just took a weekend fencing course, they look at us strangely with raised or furrowed brows, give us the once over, and immediately I can tell that they think we’ve taken a sport fencing course. “No, no,” I say. “Not that kind of fencing. We did fencing fencing, as in farm fencing!” Duh. We are city folk who are living on a rural block – we need to know how to build and maintain our fences, especially in light of the cow trespass we had a few weeks ago where a couple of cows traipsed over our front fence and mucked up our whole yard. Big, heavy, bad beasties!

So off to school we went. Given by the same company and same instructor that taught my Chainsaw Chicks course, Matt from Agribusiness Training came out on Saturday and Sunday and instructed us four students on everything we needed to know about electric and non-electric fence building and fence maintenance. Six hours of theory on Saturday and seven hours of practical training on Sunday.

The novice city person might think that there’s nothing to fencing. You just put up some posts and string up some wire, eh? Ah, not so little grasshopper. Different posts for different strokes. There’s your strainer post, line post, angle post, rise & foot posts, running posts, stay posts, your rails, your battens, and your standards or waratahs as they call ‘em here. Each one having a specific purpose. Then there’s all the types of fences such as boundary fences, internal fences, deer fences, cow fences, horse fences, sheep fences, etc, all of which call for different types of design and/or materials. There’s your netting wire fence (for sheep and deer but of differing heights), your high-tensile wire fence (for cow and horses, also differing heights); and perhaps your # 8 wire fence (good for coastal boundary fences as the wire is thicker and does better in the salt air). And the tools! Chain wire strainers, staples, a “jenny” wire dispenser, and the ol’ rammer were just some of the tools I’d not heard of before. And who out there knows what a gudgeon is?

Electric fences are a whole other ballgame. There’s the energizer, the earth stakes, the pigtail posts, treadin posts, post insulators, cut-out switches, strainers, and the earth return. There’s temporary and permanent electric fences, which are used depending on your situation. Perhaps you might be break feeding or strip grazing your stock…… Yeah, that’s what we said. “What are you saying Mr. Instructor??” So we got a little side lesson about how one feeds out stock in a paddock. And there’s different kind of wire like your single wire, multi wire, flat wire, or tape, all used for specific types of stock.

It was all really quite fascinating. After Day 1, on our ride back to Wainui, we keenly observed all the different fences we passed, noting particularly the farmers’ fences who’s stock happened to be on the wrong side of the fence (sheep always seem to find a way out!) and we also spent some time looking at what we had on our property.

On Sunday, we had to actually demonstrate our skill in fence building. We gathered at a nearby farm where we were going to put up a 25 foot long fence. Luckily, we did not have to dig in the posts as the farmer had a giant hydraulic post-hole borer attached to his tractor which he demonstrated for us. He was able to whack a 7-foot post about 3 ½ feet into the ground in approximately five minutes! We like them machines!

Tractor and post hole borer

Before stringing the wire, we practiced our tie-ons (wrapping and tying off high tensile wire at the end posts). Holy canoly, the teacher made it look so easy! But it requires quite a bit of strength and technique to maneuver high-tensile wire into a knot and then wrapping it around a few times. I had a particularly hard time and was almost in tears until Matt showed me a few tricks. We each got to try a number of times along with practicing our figure-8 knots which comes in handy when repairing fences. Here’s some photos of my work!

Kathy & tie-onsKathy frustratedTie-on complete!

Next we got to the actual fence where we had to strain up seven rows of wire. First we marked off on each of the seven posts where the wires were going; then we each had to tie on a row and nail up the wire. Finally, using the chain strainers (a very strange tool) we had to tighten up the fence by inserting a strainer, tying some knots, and then tightening up the fence. Hard work! But we did a swell job and our fence came out mighty fine!

Instructor Matt showing us the StaysAttaching the wireFinished Fence

We also had to put up a temporary electric fence, which was running 5000 volts through it, and had to test it using a volt meter. Or in lieu of a volt meter, you can touch the wire with a piece of grass which will send little shocks into your hand. And did you know this little tidbit: “It takes as little as 12 hours and at most 48 hours to train your stock to NOT go near the electric fence. And what if you have a persistent jumper? It will need to be culled (ie: sent to the meatworks).” I swear, that’s what it said in my training papers.

Bruce fencingKathy & Bruce wire fenceBruce & Ken

Kidding aside, I really learned so much and have quite a bit of respect for farmers. It’s not something I’d want to do as it is tough work. Now, rural lifestyle living is another thing, and I’m eager and happy to absorb as much as I can in order to maintain our property.

“Agribusiness: Rural Training for Rural People.”

I like their motto.

Next class? Maybe ATV or Tractor Maintenance/Safety? Yeah!