I’ve never installed an electric fence before, and it showed. Sometimes watching YouTube can’t replace trial and error.
I have had the supplies on hand to install the electric fence for months, but I was always busy working on something else. We had the welded wire fence and two gates, so I wasn’t in a big hurry to complete it. I set a goal to the electric fence up and running by September 1 to prevent any bears that might find my beehives a tasty treat before hibernation.
Bears can destroy beehives. While cartoons and storybooks have led us to believe that bear like honey, they also eat brood, or the eggs, larva and pupae of bees which provide protein.
We added two raised beds as we continue to build infrastructure to support a more self-sufficient lifestyle.
I just finished building the two raised beds we planned for this year. We plan to use this next spring and then build more, incorporating any improvements we think of after our first year of use. We still need to fill these, which should take about 160 cubic feet of dirt. More on that below.
The cost of wood is still so high that we used 2-foot by 8-foot sheets of corrugated galvanized steel for the sides and ends of the beds. I built the roof of the chicken coop from the same material.
Inside each bed are 4×4 posts in each corner and at 4-foot intervals. The corrugated roofing panels are screwed into the wood. I used the table saw to cut away parts of the wood, allowing the corrugated steel to next flush against the wood. This worked well and prevents any sharp corners. The wood protects us from getting cut while working in or around the bed. On the top, I added 2x6s and screwed them into the 4x4s posts. This resulted in a very stable platform you can sit on and lean over. Like the wood in the corners, the wooden ledge will also protect us from the sharp edge of the metal.
Now that the beehives are set up, we need to get our fencing up before the bears sniff them out and come for a visit.
After spending a good part of the day installing our fence, I feel like I need a horse and a cowboy hat.
There are seven sections of fence to pull. First, to surround the garden and the beehives. Then I will subdivide the big rectangular area to create a chicken run around the chicken coop. I’ve pulled three of the seven sections and I have at least another day’s worth of work before we even get to the electric fence. But it’s going faster as I gain experience. The biggest challenge is pulling fence in the area where the ground is uneven, and since our lot slopes, there are multiple areas where it is uneven.
Right now, I am pulling a 5-foot-high 2” x 4” welded wire fence. Around the chicken coop we are adding half-inch welded wire with a foot or two lying on the ground to prevent predators from digging under the fence. After I finish installing the welded wire fence, I’ll pull a multiple single-strand wires for the electric fence. I will cover the electric fence design and install in a future post.
With the weather improving and the sun shining again, we embark on a host of gardening and other outdoor activities
Now that the last frost date is behind us, our gardening activities have stepped up a notch. For example, the tomatoes and peppers are on the deck hardening off.
While in town the other day, we bought mulch, compost, pots for the container garden, and checked out plants, from herbs to bushes, including annuals and perennials for the pollinator garden. We’re getting to know the folks at the general store, where we go for our soil amendments, garden supplies, and chicken feed, so it’s nice to see them and chat for a few minutes.
We also ate our first post-mask mandate lunch. As soon as we walked in, we noted that the restaurant had added a chunk of its tables back to what had been a sparsely populated room just a few weeks ago. I would guess they were somewhere close to 75 percent of their “normal” tables present, a big increase. About half the wait staff were wearing masks and about half were not.
Warm, dry weather means its time to work outdoors, so we recently picked up where we had left off with the garden fencing project.
Work on our fencing project, the bee yard, and the chicken coop continues. We have installed H-braces for our fence corners and gateposts, as you can see above. We also seeded both white and crimson clover to provide a nectar flow for the bees. This will be in addition to flowers we will plant later. Because we live in a heavily wood area, I expect the bees will collect most of the pollen and nectar from the trees.
Installing the H-braces was pretty easy. I measured the distance between the posts and cut the bar to fit. Then I drilled one post, stuck a 10-inch long nail through it and into a hole in the end of the brace. This serves to hold one end of the brace in place while I leveled the post and marked the point to drill on the opposite post. Then we drive another big nail through that post and into the horizontal brace. This looks nice, but doesn’t accomplish anything until you use fencing wire to add some tension to the H structure with some fencing wire and a ratchet.
I watched at least half a dozen YouTube videos on how to do this, including videos sponsored by fence companies and by random homesteaders and farmers. I then proceeded, and it went pretty smoothly. We’re ready to pull fencing, but I’m going to wait until the chicken coop is finished.
When the fall warms up, we call it Indian Summer. What’s it called when we get a preview of spring? I call it time to get a jump on outside projects.
We just spend the better part of a week with my daughter, her fiancé, and our new granddaughter. It was the first time we met the baby, and the first time they had been to our new house. My future son-in-law helped a great deal with the fence post installation. Being young and strong is a big help, of course, but having a strong work ethic is just as important.
It’s been more than 25 years since I last spent any significant time around a baby. I am amazed at how much stuff you “need” today to have for your baby. It’s clear consumerism gone crazy, spurred on by supposed experts and Instagram moms marketing the latest “must have” products. For example, today there is something called “tummy time” where you stick your baby on their belly and let them squirm to strengthen their neck muscles. But to do it correctly, you apparently need special tummy time pads. In the old days, we just stuck them on the floor, carpeted or not. If they bonked their little heads, well, that would teach them to keep their head up.
I have to admit that the Keurig-like device that dispenses warm water to mix with formula is pretty neat. And the new bottles that have some interior mechanism designed to prevent babies from sucking in air seems to minimize burping. Toys controlled by apps on your phone seems a bit much to me. Must we computerize everything?
After drilling our holes earlier in the week and picking up gravel and concrete yesterday, we are ready to continue installing our fence posts.
Construction of the garden fence and the posts to hold up the chicken coop continued after picking up gravel and bags of fast-setting concrete.
Our first step was to use the posthole digger to remove any dirt that had fallen back into the hole which was the case in most holes. We then picked the appropriate fence post for each hole and used it to tamp the dirt down. Posts on corners or that will be a gate post got the thicker six-to-seven-inch posts. The remaining posts were four-to-five inches.
We then removed the post and scooped in a few shovel loads of gravel. We wanted to get gravel at least four inches deep. The gravel at the bottom of the hole will allow water to drain from the hole rather than accumulating there and rotting the end of the post. We also used the gravel to level out our holes by adding extra gravel to any of the holes that were so deep they would not allow five feet or more of the pole to stick up above ground.
After evaluating a number of power augers, we decided to go with a powerful option to dig our 25 fence post holes.
After watching several videos about post hole digging using one-man and two-man augers to drill fence post holes, I started to second guess my decision about using the two-man auger to drill 25 fence-post holes. When you use the two-man auger, you have to bend all the way down to the ground as the auger drills in and then lift the auger, its engine, and all the dirt stuck to the auger out of the hole. That looked like it would be tough on my back, which has been giving me intermittent problems for at least 20 years.
So I got up early, drove to the rental place, rented the Vermeer mini skid steer with a posthole digger that you in the photo above, and towed it back home. This is a heavy track-powered device with a 35 horsepower diesel engine that provides far more torque than the two-man systems with have 2.5 to 5 horsepower engines. I expected it would do a much faster job and be easier on my back.
Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. We learned that our topography isn’t quite as neat and square as the graph paper we plotted our garden on.
Earlier today, the neat planning work I had done on the computer to layout the garden went from theoretical to physical. In other words, we adapted our lines on a paper to stakes in the ground and mason string in between them.
The first time I went out there and took rough measurements, it looked like we could fit a 50’ x 40’ garden. What I didn’t realize is that the property line we are following (the fence is going to be about a foot inside it) is not exactly square. So we are going to end up with a trapezoidal garden.
The 40-foot length stayed the same at the top of the garden (which is what I had measured the first time). The 50-foot “side” of the garden would have been fine, but after consulting with my wife, we made it 60 feet. It was the bottom of the garden where we lot space, as it turned out to be 35 feet across instead of 40. That’s where the square became a quadrilateral, or a four-sided shape in which no sides are the same length.
We get some professional advice regarding our chicken coop design and garden layout.
After having a zoom call with our friend who raises chickens and also works as a county extension agent, we have changed our chicken coop plans somewhat and changed the layout of our raised beds to help eliminate erosion by offsetting the beds.
My planned coop was originally 4’x8’, the size of a standard sheet of plywood (32 square feet). I have enlarged it to be 4×12 (48 square feet). I am building it with a divider so that we can split it in two if we raise chicks next year, want to introduce new chickens to the flock, or offer a broody hen raising eggs or chicks a private location we can do so. This could also be useful if we want to raise a batch of meat birds at some point.
I mentioned this plan to a friend who raises chickens, and he heartily endorsed the idea, saying that he had to add such a partition a year or two after building his coop and that it would have been easier building it in from scratch.