Publisher’s Letter: My Top 10 Rules of Fencing

Putting up fence is one of the most important passages of spring on a farm. Right now I am looking out my bay window at 3 feet of snow and a temperature of 3 degrees above zero with a wind chill at 12 degrees below zero. It is hard to think about fencing. Snow has drifted over some of the wire, but I can see cedar posts peeking up through the white snow blanket inviting a change in season. In another month or two, there will be beautiful cows grazing in the pasture contained within that fence.

Growing up, I always helped my Dad put up fencing. I learned at a very early age where to hold a cedar post so there wasn’t too much vibration when Dad pounded it. He always used an iron bar that also dug the fence holes. He taught me how to take a nail out of a broken insulator, set it on top of a fence post, and hammer it just right to reuse. I still fix fence today.

I laugh at my shortcuts and wonder what my friend David Kennard of Wellscroft Fence would think if he saw me wedging a rock at the bottom of the fence post to keep it standing upright – not straight, just upright. Some days I just don’t feel like taking that iron bar and digging a new fence hole and pounding that cedar post into the ground. I do have to admit that those plastic fence posts really help when I am in a hurry. Today, there are so many tools available for simple to complicated fencing. However, some things never change. Here are my top 10 rules of fencing.

  1. If the neighbor calls you at 5:30 in the morning, it isn’t to say hi, it is to tell you that your heifers just ran (not walked) down the road in front of her house.
  2. If the fence needs fixing, it is always going to take longer than expected.
  3. If you have little farming boys they will try IT just once. They won’t tell their moms, but they tell their fathers because daddies just laugh at stunts like that. And they will talk their buddies into trying it, too.
  4. If there is old barbwire any place in the pasture, horses will surely find it and wrap it around their legs.
  5. If moose want to walk through that electric wire they will no matter how strong the current, and tear down at least three posts as they bulldoze their way through that fence.
  6. If the tester shows no juice going through a section of fence, grab it between the next two posts, and I guarantee you will get zapped.
  7. If you are too old to jump the fence, swallow your pride and crawl underneath it or walk to the next gate handle.
  8. If there is one weak spot in that fence, that same cow will find it time after time.
  9. If someone leaves the fence gate open by mistake and the cows get out, nobody claims responsibility.
  10. If a neighbor calls and says, “I think your cows are out,” there is no need to think about it. They are out!

We have all heard the saying, good fences make good neighbors, but I think a really good neighbor will be out there helping you chase those cows, sheep or horses that broke through the fence again.

Photo: Jessica Sweet