With few urgent tasks on the farm at the moment we’re on the prowl for small projects to fill our weekends. One such project was born of our vigilance for ridding the place of clutter; in this instance a crappy old wire fence that served no purpose and screamed to be put out of its misery. So this weekend we happily obliged.
It appears that the fence once bordered a paddock, but now the back of the barn acts in its stead. The fence looks very old (perhaps the oldest among all the fences around the farm), and because of the placement of the barn it is now redundant. It was starting to become an eyesore whenever we went past, what with its rusted barbs and batons rotted through. Sure, you could say things like this have a certain rural charm… but only up until they look like the web of some mechanical arachnid that might ensnare young children.
Well, it wasn’t quite that unsightly, but it gave us something to do and we were quietly excited about rebuilding a portion of it in post-and-rail. First we donned some protective eyewear (can never be too careful with sharp ends of wire flinging around) and went to war with the wiry mess, yanking out fencing staples and arm wrestling with some undersized wire cutters.
After hauling the wire and batons of the beaten fence to our ever-growing trash heap, only the posts remained in the ground. Most pulled free with minimal effort but a couple were stubborn and one even decided to break off at ground-height, which proved a real nuisance to get out. In fact we didn’t get it out at all. We covered it up… Shh.
Once the old posts were out we decided to repurpose the best two for our makeshift post-and-rail fence that we needed to build to close the space we’d opened up between the barn and paddock gate. We should probably have used half-rounds but had none on hand and the posts we’d be using weren’t thick enough to split down the middle. We measured out the length, which was just less than three metres, and plotted where we’d sink the posts.
We’d come prepared for the job, equipped with post hole digger and rammer. We were dubious about the capabilities of the chopstick-like digger but it worked a treat. I don’t think those fibreglass handles will hold up for very long though (they were out of steel ones at the hardware store). If you’re not familiar with these devices, they work kind of like long tongs that pinch loads of soil, leaving you with a perfectly sized cylindrical hole for your typical fence post. (Probably a bit tougher to work with in clay – wink, wink.)
After the holes were dug (painstakingly) deep enough (about eighty centimetres) we levelled the posts in them as best we could, compromising between gravity and how it looked to the eye. The cast iron rammer worked well, too, punching down the loose soil around each post. Once jammed in, the posts looked a bit off, so we constructed a brace for one of them and slugged the other with the rammer until it lined up before nailing the rails on. Did the trick.
Once complete, we stood back and admired our handy work with hungry bellies and the feeling of accomplishment settling over us, however simple the task had been. This was, after all, our first construction on the farm. As temporary and makeshift as it is, it’s the humble activity of these little projects that remind us how much we’ve yearned for this lifestyle, soon to fill our days.