Our local electric company, WOE (West Oregon Electric) employees local people. Since we are such a small community, we are familiar with many who work on the various crews that work the lines, clear the power corridors and do repairs through all storms.
One of the crews currently checking the lines is a contractor that is in charge of inventorying the line, each pole and the connected wires for a future project that needs exact measurements for each section of the line.
In an effort to save time and money when the lines around the farm were put in the 1960’s, the line was cut through the farm in a couple of spots rather than following along the road that meanders along the natural cut of the river. Getting to these spots off the road are not easy so we were able to put the Gator to use hauling the 2-man crew with their equipment across the river and into the fields so they could do their required inventory. It was a good chance to see the guys at work and to catch up on how they have been keeping busy.
We got an unexpected and very welcome bit of information a day later when they stopped by after work to let us know that they had noticed a broken electric fence line in an area beneath the power lines. They spotted it as they were walking the line when they heard the electricity snapping at the weeds the fence was touching. From their description, I was able to walk right to the spot, turn the power off and fix the break quickly before getting the fence charged back up. This bit of information saved us hours of walking the fence lines trying to find the broken wire.
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I am delighted to announce that the new book by MaryJane Nordgren, Nandria’s War, is available to the public and can be purchased through my website, SchmidlinAngusFarms.com!
Just before our week of rain, we finally got down to getting that temporary fence put up around the barnyard of the barn across the river. I had taken the fence down during the end of summer when the small field needed to be open for the main herd to use the area for grazing. We were supposed to replace the temporary fence in the fall before the wet weather came but it was one of those things that got put on the back burner until the forecast demanded we get the area blocked off before the really wet week would cause the ground to get chewed up by hoof prints of the herd.
The poly tape has many advantages. It is very flexible and can be repaired easily by simply tying a knot and hooks to metal t-posts by plastic insulators. The whole fence can be set up or removed without too much work or hassle. The white tape is easily seen so the herd does not mess with it once they know it carries an electric charge. It is also easy to see if the elk have stormed through and created downed or broken wires that need repair. Putting up the fence or taking down the fence and storing the pieces does not require heavy gloves or fencing pliers.
The disadvantage is that the wire is not very heavy and does not last for decades as does barb wire.
With a day filled with a lot of small jobs, the fence got the t-posts replaced, insulators clipped, the poly wire restrung and the gate closed with the portable solar electric fence unit charging up the wire. The herd was not upset at all that they could no longer cut through the small field to get to the outdoor round feeders. After the first couple of hours all the cows including the three nearing weaning age were walking the rocked road as the path around the blocked area.
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A couple of days ago, the story about the electric fence dangers and handy tips, was not what I had planned to write. Somehow, the story took a direction of its own and you heard all about the all the ups and downs of using electric fencing. Then we had the first snowfall of the season and the story for the next day revolved about all that entails, now I think it is time to get back to the original story that I had planned to write…
It begins with the small, solar powered electric fence unit attached to the barn across the river. Since it is on the other side from our power grid, there are no electric services on that side of the river, that is why we use solar power to heat up the fences where they are needed. Anyway, this one unit charges the fences in this area. Continue reading
There are good ways and bad ways to test the zapping strength of an electric fence. Many of the bad ways are found out the hard way by trial and error or by slipping as you are stepping over the said fence.
I vividly remember using a shovel handle to hold the wire down while stepping over a fence, the wooden handle doesn’t conduct electricity and all should have been good. Except for the wire slipping down to the metal cuff near the blade that was touching the ground and I got the full shock of the fence several times before the realization of my error. Continue reading
Fencing has been the big priority over the last couple of weeks. Elk damage, storm related breaks from falling tree debris, and basic maintenance has been keeping us busy. Anytime that it is not raining, we are out along the lines securing areas for the cattle.
This temporary electrified fence across the back of the hay field has several purposes,
- Creates a barrier to keep the main herd out of the hay field until the grass is ripe enough to cut for hay in June (the hay field is on the left, grazing area on the right).
- The sweeping curve of the fence cuts off the more challenging terrain of the field including old stumps, deep impressions from decaying root systems and a large swamp/swale area (avoiding obstacles that damage or sink hay equipment).
- Gives an extra five acres of forage area for the main herd while the hay field is out of commission for forage.
Once the hay has been taken off the field, the cattle will once again have access to the area and will be in charge of cleaning up the corners and any hay bits that remain after harvest. I call them my four-legged gleaning crew.
Much like a line of demarcation, the space between here and there should be straight. Or at least that concepts that our minds are comfortable with. Straight arrows, fence posts smooth as clock ticks to the cars that drive by, gardens growing in formation, the list can go on and on.
On the farm, the landscape changes between dry areas, low wetlands, razor-edged embankments, steeply grooved canyons with river banks, with slopes, dips and curves everywhere. Yet, there are times when a straight line would work well. It seems that at just that moment, the direct route can be lost in the shuffle of trying to accomplish just that task.
I happened to notice our “straight” temporary electric fence that runs through the pasture that will be our hay field in a couple of weeks.
The cows munched all the foliage as they walked from the barnyard to the other pasture area and our straight fence just isn’t what I thought it was.
I blame it on the terrain.
With the assistance of our right hand helper, Mike and Jackson set steel t-posts through the field for the temporary electric fence.
The fence will keep the herd from wandering through the grass that is growing for hay scheduled for late June and July.
The steel posts were the hardest part of putting up the fence. The wires that will be hooked to a small solar power unit are smaller round than a shoe string. The white string is plastic with thin, electricity conductive wires woven in. The herd is familiar with electrified boundaries and these strings are enough to keep the animals where they are supposed to be.
The wires are easy to drop to the ground in case the Gator is needed to travel cross-ways to the other side of the field for mole and gopher trap setting while the grass is still short enough for that task.
The path between the fence posts is wide enough to drive the Gator through. When we open the gate by the barn the cows run down the new path to the next pasture. When I use the word run, I mean it. I had to really scamper along to keep ahead of the herd in order to open the gate at the bottom of the path. They could easily break it down in an attempt to get at the next batch of fast growing grass.
We had gotten the fence put up in the back of the big hay field. This temporary electric fence is used to allow the main herd to graze in the small field in the back of the big field. This small field gives the herd a water source for drinking, a pasture area with grass growing for grazing and access to the hillside where they can meander under the tall firs during inclement weather.
We have to electrify the fence to keep the herd out of what was the nursery field so the grass can grow and be harvested for hay in late June.
There is no access to commercially supplied electricity so we use these portable solar units to charge the fence. However, after sitting all winter in storage, this unit did not work. The problem was the battery, it would not take a charge.
The batteries from these units are recycled, the purchaser pays a ‘core charge’ for the battery when bought. We took in the battery from this unit to get the ‘core charge’ of $12. that was used to purchase the new battery. It cost seems a little excessive, but it guarantees that the batteries are returned for recycling rather than landing up in a landfill.
Once the new battery was installed, the fence was checked and there was a good current flowing through the fence. Not anything strong enough to hurt and animal, but strong enough to deter them grazing on the wrong side of the fence.
That old adage about good fences making for good neighbors seemed very appropriate for this rare day of sunshine.
Chex #27, hung around the fence line as we worked to check out our progress.
Our fence has a mixture of wooden posts, metal t-posts, woven wire and barbed wire. It it a conglomeration that has been accumulating over the years to ensure the neighbors animals and our animals stick to the boundary lines.
The job for today was to add an electrified wire on the far side of the fence, we already have one strung on our side. The line on the far side will help keep the neighbor cows from rubbing on the posts which works up our cattle while bending and breaking the fence.
The extra electric line is just a bit more insurance for when we have our herd sire in this pasture with our cows. It is much easier to add a line now than to chase after a love-sick bull later.
Although the weather was cooperating this day, we only were able to get about a third of the line installed along the easiest part of the fence. After this line corners across the back of our property, there is a lot of leaf woods like wild cherry, hazelnuts, alders and scrub brush that needs to be cut out with a chainsaw to have a space clear to run the electric fence.
Since there have been many repairs over the years and minimal tree pruning, the vegetation has grown through the wires requiring patience and time to extract the growth from the line. We will be coming back to this job several times in order to complete the clean-out and electric strand.
In an effort to clear back vegetation so the electric fence does not short out, I have made my way down along the outside of the bull pen over the last couple of weeks. It’s been a slow go as I hacked and wacked buckbrush, wild blackberry vines, maple saplings, wild cherry saplings and dead ferns higher than my head. Most of it was done with clippers (long handled lompers), but the saplings needed my little chainsaw to fall them before hauling off the line. Continue reading