Good Ideas

The weekend after Thanksgiving we took the family up to Waco to a harvest festival put on by a group of anababtists who farm using traditional (non-mechanized) methods, teach traditional crafts, and generally do things a bit slower than the general population.  Along with selling their wares, they teach a series of seminars on self sufficiency, skills like blacksmithing and beekeeping, animal husbandry, etc…  It’s interesting and fun to spend a few days wandering, watching, and listening.  This year, Liz came home with a few “good ideas.”  Good ideas generally mean work… lots of it.

We’ve been meaning to put in a garden since we got here, but the holdup has been putting up enough fence to keep critters ranging from chickens to deer and wild pig from eating the fruits of our labor.  In preparation to put in the garden and with her interest to learn new methods for gardening and natural pest control Liz attended a seminar that piqued her interest.  That’s where the work comes in.

Apparently, grasshoppers and similar pests don’t fly or jump nearly as far or as often as they crawl.    One suggestion for ways to minimize damage due to bugs was to surround the garden with an eight-foot wide chicken run.  Chickens LOVE bugs, and will scratch and peck their run down to nothing but dirt, leaving a barren wasteland of death for any bugs brave enough to attempt to cross it.  I guess the odds of a bug getting across an eight-foot wide no-man’s-land filled with ravenous predators are pretty bleak.   Sounded great… until I did the math.

Something I learned a while ago is that most of the work putting in fences goes into getting the corner posts and braces in.  For every corner I have to dig three post holes (2 1/2 feet deep into hard clay) and tie in two braces.  Given how hard the clay is once you dig down more than about six inches, it can take up to an hour to dig a single hole, and in the end you end up with a gloppy mess because the only way to get through it is to use a combination of water and a 16lb digging bar to break up the clay before scooping it out with a post-hole digger.  That pile of goopy glue sticks to my shoes, gloves, tools, etc… making everything about 5-10 lbs heavier than it would normally be.  Then you get the pleasure of putting the post in the hole, backfilling the dirt you just took out, and using that 16lb bar to tamp and pack the dirt down by repeatedly pounding the flat end of it against the ground.  Building fencing sucks…  But it’s a great workout for your upper back.

When we put the fence around the 1.2 acre “yard” I ended up with about 30 wood posts including posts and braces for three gates.  The rest were T-posts that are quick, cheap, and easy.  It took me several weekends to get it done.  With that in mind, consider the following:

chicken_yard If you subtract the six posts that are already there from the earlier fencing effort, that still leaves 27 posts if I did the arithmetic correctly.

The holes are done, posts in the ground, and now I get to finish bracing and stringing the fence fabric.  I guess I’d better quit writing about it and get busy doing it.

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