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Saturday, April 17, 2010

The joys of electric fencing

I finished it, finally, the electric fence that's been troubling me since the snow melted away.  First there was the zap from the ground wire, with a corresponding lack of jolt from the hot terminal.  Hmm.  Ground pole is too close to the water source.  Move it, buy 14 gauge wire for ground, straighten all the fence wires, and plug it in.  A good charge!  YES!  That, of course, took care of 30 feet of wire, just to the gate.  There was still an entire length of pasture fence to go.

Now came the hard part.  The way the fence was set up previously, the fence line ran just below a little ridge, making a clean fence line almost an impossibility.  Do you know how hard it is to take a mower or string trimmer down an incline?  Neither a fun nor an easy job, particularly in the area where wild raspberries grow thickly.  I determined to move the T-posts to the top of the rise, not only making it easier to trim the fence line, but allowing the goats easy access to one of their favorite foods and my least favorite bramble patch.  That meant, though, that the fence line would no longer be straight.  I had to jog it first to go around a plum tree, and again to encompass the raspberry patch.

Taking my trusty snippers, I lopped down the raspberry canes one by one and threw them in a heap, right on top of the fence wire that I'd taken from the T-posts. Silly me.  I thought laying the wire down where I'd removed it would make it easy to restring.  That may have worked if the raspberry canes hadn't tangled themselves--probably with intent--among the wires.  Of course, there were two kinds of wire, too; 17 gauge electric wire (4 strands) and heavy barbless twisted wire (2 strands).  The wind blew, the rain came, various critters ran through the pile, I walked in and out, and it all became hopelessly entangled.  One by one I removed the wires, cutting here and snipping there, and enlisting the aid of my strong son to wrap up the twisted wire.  For those who don't know, twisted wire is just like barbed wire in thickness and weight, but without the barbs.  It's very heavy, and doesn't want to bend once it's been on a fence for a year or three.  I was very grateful for his help. 

Two days later I moved all the dried canes away from the fence line and proceeded to reset the T-posts and restring the electric wire.  After I'd finished, I looked at the fence with a critical eye, and didn't like the corners.  There had to be a better way to string corners.  As I drove down a local road later that day, I passed a newly erected post and wire fence--and screeched to a stop, ran and looked, and saw exactly what I was looking for, except that they used wood posts rather than T-posts.  No matter, I could adapt the design.

Off I went to my local Aubuchon's Hardware store and there they were, the hard rubber corner insulators I'd been looking for.  I grabbed a package, drove back to the farm, cut them in half, and proceeded to thread the wire through them.  They worked beautifully!  Off I went again and got another package, and a package of wire tensioners as well.  After two more trips (you'd think I would know ahead what I needed, wouldn't you?), I had completed the fence, hooked the wired together, stretched fence tape across the gate to connect the newly completed fence line to the one that tested hot, and plugged in the charger.  Take a breath, check the voltage, and...the moment of truth...5000 volts on all wires.  Hurrah!  Smiling, I let the goats out.  They were still in when I left.

When I returned later, two were in and one was out.  Ah, sweet Sanuba, how did you do that?  Did you jump through the wires and get zapped on the way through?  I grabbed her collar and led her back to the fence.  She fought me a bit, which lent credence to my idea, but when I led her up to the fence and then stopped, she stuck her nose out, touched that hot wire, and jumped straight into the air, letting out a bleat of shock.  I think she knows it's there now.

I was gone all day today, but none of the goats got out.  I love electric fences.  I can hardly wait to do the next one--next week.

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