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Fence Fixing

In the unlikely event you ever get a farm that doesn't take a sizable part of your life to keep up with, just buy a few cattle and run pasture fences around the place that border long stretches of woods. For extra measure, cross a creek or two with the fence. Then wait for storm season and see what develops. If things are still quiet, add some horses or restless heifers bought at an auction so you don't know any animal's history. Oh, and make sure that your fence is all that separates your cattle from those of your neighbors.  

To mend such barbed wire fences along tree lines in the Spring is to know thick gloves, muddy feet and how heavy rolled barbed wire and fence tools (such as saw, long pry bar and axe) are when a portion of the fence is not reachable by vehicle. When you and several neighbors have animals of the same breed and age, you had best invest in some cattle tags or other bovine ID. (I used to like the brass tags and chains because the tinkling helped find the heard or separated animals; and the sound was kind of nice when the whole herd was grazing.) I wonder if Robert Frost had experience with cattle when he penned "Good fences make good neighbors." In more modern times, they sure make safer rural highways. 

On our farm we seldom used electric fences - but enough for me to vividly remember that they were as unforgiving of careless two leggers as of animals with twice the struts. Another attention getter is the danger inherent to stretching sections of new fence with a tractor. Some would never do it this way for safety reasons, and stretching in any fashion is not a safe job for the inexperienced. The goal is not to stretch any defective wire. Then you pray that if there is a missed flaw, it will be close to you so that any broken strands fly in the opposite direction when they break. Of course, this advice is about as helpful as that to pick your parents carefully, because you likely will not see any flaws on the roll. All the fence I have stretched tractor-tight was new and of good quality, but one hears unsettling stories. 

If it is at times troublesome, fence mending is not without its rewards. A good tight fence job is satisfying and usually effective. And it's a lot easier to fix fence than chase after loose animals. If you check all your fences regularly and after every big storm and don't overgraze, you can raise livestock with a lot less trouble and get the best value out of many acres unsuitable for row crop farming. I got to like fencing far more when I learned how to do it well with less work.


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