Or it is nearly complete so we have officially marked this task off of our “To Do” list. We finished everything except installing gate latches on December 18th, but we have chained the gates closed, and are THANKFUL that we are officially keeping the deer from accessing an additional 2 acres of farmland. We are looking forward to adding this field back into our rotation plan and believe it will be a big help in improving our soil fertility. It has been 6 years since we have grown anything the deer find tasty in this area so are excited about once again growing crops such as greens, corn, peppers and winter squash in these fields. The last we remember, it grew those crops well, and so we will keep you readers posted as to how it does in our 2013 growing season.
We divided our deer fence project into 6 phases and used this guide for instructions in installing this type of fence.
- Phase 1: Planning and acquiring all the supplies
- Phase 2: Clearing the fence line and setting the posts
- Phase 3: Installing the corner and line braces
- Phase 4: Pulling the 8 foot woven high tensile wire, tying off the corners and splicing where needed
- Phase 5: Driving and attaching 11 Foot T-Posts
- Phase 6: Hanging the gates
One would think that Phase 1 of our project is very quick, but THANK GOODNESS Carl is one to analyze the situation to death, so this phase took a bit longer than expected. When using equipment and dealing with a deer fence, one must leave room to get equipment in and out of the fields, and for us that means being able to get the tractor into a bed midpoint in the field with crops growing in all the other locations. We debated if we should move our driveway a bit so that we could include as much growing area within the fence as is possible. However, moving our driveway would have meant installing an additional culvert pipe because fortunately we have a little branch meandering along the driveway feeding into Meadow Fork Creek. We decided that moving the driveway would be “Scope Creep” and that we would sacrifice a bit of production area because of the cost. Once we decided the area to be fenced, we measured the area, then Carl calculated the supplies needed: how many feet of the 8 foot high tensile wire was required, number of 11 foot T-Posts, quantity of crimps, the size of gates, the gate hardware, wire for constructing braced corners, number of posts and braces. We ordered all of our supplies, except our wood posts/braces, from Kencove Fence because they supplied us with our fencing materials for the last deer fence project and were very knowledgeable and informative. We purchased our 6x6x14 foot round posts from Southern States early Spring, and since they are a local company, we didn’t need to pay shipping except our fuel costs! Our 4x6x12 foot braces were purchased from Summit Building Supply.
Phase 2 of the project began with the assistance of Alvin and his equipment. We had plans on fencing along our old fence line, which we had let grown up in trees, so needed not only to cut the trees, but also remove the old barb wire and locust posts. Click here to read our journal entry with photographs of us clearing our fence line!
Once our fence line was cleared, we partly used a tractor mounted auger to dig our post holes, but mostly dug our holes manually using a digging bar and post hole digger because our auger can’t dig through rocks and our fields are loaded with rocks. For any corner or brace posts, we must dig these post holes 4 foot deep, and add a bag of quickrite to the bottom of the hole so that the posts have an “anchor” keeping it strong and upright because our high tensile wire can put a lot of force on the post. Carl bought us a new post hole digger that works incredibly well for 4 foot deep holes. Most post hole diggers require the handles to be pulled apart, then closed around loose dirt, just to remove the dirt. Our old post hole handles couldn’t easily be pulled apart to remove dirt after our hole was about 3 feet deep.
Once our posts are concreted and the concrete cured we began Phase 3 of this project in constructing the corner braces! This is probably the most complicated part of the project and we have a total of 11 braces to build. Most braces are built for the corners; however, we have one section of the field that slightly changes direction so that required a brace. It is recommend that if the inside angle is 120 degree or less (Of coarse, you don’t have to brace for 0 degrees!) then normally a brace is needed. The braces 4x6x16 feet long, so for each braced corner we were careful when setting our brace and end posts, making sure that they were spaced no further than 15 feet 11 inches apart. We were required to cut a bit off the brace so that it would fit snugly in between the end post and brace post securing them together.
Once all the corner braces were complete, we transitioned into Phase 4 stretching and tying off the high tensile wire, and during this phase of the project we spent most of our time stripping and straightening the 20 strands of wire for the ends that were tied off around posts. Also, it was during this phase of the project when we would wake up in the middle of the night with numb hands. The wire is 8 foot high and made with 12.5 gauge wire which is very STRONG and hard to bend. We must learn how those folks who install this type of fencing for a paid gig can handle this. We figure they must have special tools for stripping and straitening the wire. Perhaps their hands become very strong dealing with this heavy wire so they don’t have to work as hard.
Once all the wire was hung, we began Phase 5 of this project, installing 11 foot T-Posts, which felt like the light was at the end of the tunnel on this project. This phase is probably not OSHA approved but is much safer than using a ladder on our unlevel ground. We hook up our carry all to the tractor, containing our generator and air compressor, so that we can use our air powered T-Post driver. We had 42 T-Posts to install because we placed one approximately every 16 to 20 feet between corner/line posts. The T-Post holds the wire along the ground keeping the deer from going underneath. We also put additional T-Posts in if the contour of the ground changed so that we could pull the wire to the ground.
Phase 6, hanging the gates, went rather smoothly because Carl made a jig with pre-drilled holes marking the spacing of the gate hinges. He then plumbed and leveled the jig to the post so that it was rather easy to figure the spacing and the position of the holes on the face of the post. We had 5 gates to hang: One eight foot gate for access when irrigating and near where our irrigation lines enter the field, one 16 foot gate, and two twelve foot gates that create a 24 foot entrance into the field for large equipment such as our disc harrow. We skimped on spending money for gates with our first deer fence, and have regretted that because now when we are irrigating, one must walk a good distance to get into the field to unclog the rainbird nozzles. This go around, we spent the money for an access gate when irrigating.
Tips and Tricks that we learned from this project and should remember should we ever install another fence of this type:
- For a run of wire: Before tying off the first end, strip all 20 runs of wire. We used 36 inches to strip and straightened wire to wrap around the post and have enough work space. That way we had 24 inches of wire extending out from the post and another 12 inches to go around the post.
- Before tying off the first end, unroll the wire the length of the first run, then use bungee cords to tie up the wire so that it is somewhat level and one can judge easier in lining up line 14 from the bottom so it can be stretched with the fence stretcher. Line 1, 14 and 120 from the bottom are all larger gauge wire.
- Use a fence stretcher, with the ratchet, to pull the wire tight when tying off the ends just to easily get them all even.
- While one person is tying off an end, another can be stripping the opposite end to save time with the project. All crimps can be slid on ahead of time, duct taping the ends of the wire, just so it is ready for tying off.
- Our homemade oak “Fence Stretcher Board” should be positioned so that the carriage bolt heads are against the brace so that the tractor can pull the high tensile wire tight. The nuts should be away from the brace.
- When stripping and straightening the wire, roll out the entire line of wire, then strip/straighten while the wire is lying on the ground.
- Don’t forget that when the tractor is set with the front end loader pulling the wire, we will have leakage with the hydraulic system, so just check the tightness and alignment every once and a while.
- T-Post Driving. Lift Carl up in the front end loader so that he can put on the air T-Post driver, then lower him before we begin driving the post in, and after he is lowered turn off the tractor. Once the T-Post is driven, with Carl still in the front end loader, have him put on the top two wire clips.
- Measure 104 inches from the top of the T-Post and mark a line that is used to know how deep the T-Post should be driven.
- Use a jig to install the gate hinges with pre-drilled holes.