Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mending Fences

There is a saying about good fences making good neighbors. This time, no issues with human neighbors are involved, just the confinement of our critters and the control of our wild neighbors. But I think, being a farmer, that I would modify that saying to “well mended fences make good neighbors” as it seems fence mending is a constant chore on the farm, regardless of the type of fence involved.

For some time we have been having one, or a handful, of hens on the loose each day. I had assumed that the one Aracana who appears to be the ringleader was literally flying the coop, that she managed, somehow... possibly starting from a perch on top of their “camping tent”... to clear the “no fly” mesh that bring the height of their inclosure to nearly 7 vertical feet. We had added some mesh to the top of the shelter, hopefully to discourage roosting there and slow down the outward migration. Yet, still, one or more hens was on the loose each day.

This was not a matter of major concern, as they follow me willingly back into the pen each evening. At first I would herd them around the outside perimeter, in the tramped down grass, which made a great runway between the shoulder high grass beyond and the snow fence boundary of their pen. I opened the gate prior to the circumnavigation and when they got back to that point, in they would go and immediately attack the layer pellet dispenser. Now, however, I just leave the gate open when I go to check on them in the evening to collect eggs and everyone comes in. Since the loose hens have not been getting into the garden, it was not a big issue.

However, when I was out there the other evening I noticed first one... then MANY ... breaches in the orange fence! Actually my attention was drawn to it when I was in the coop hunting eggs and prodded a hen who appeared to be actively looking for an escape route. She flapped up and went straight THROUGH the mesh! I am not sure if she made that hole at that moment, or merely exploited an existing one. However, at that point I began to see places where the mesh was broken... at one point I found a gap of several feet in length at the bottom of the fence.. which provided an immediate explanation for my having found more hens outside the fence than in it.
Holes in the chicken fence and orange bailing twine repair.

I grabbed a knife and some bits of bailing twine and set to repairing the holes.

Next morning I found a few more... not sure if they were missed or recently made, but I will continue to monitor the fence morning and evening to see what happens.

On the same vein, and on about the same day, I found that deer had breached the monofilament deer fence around the garden and attacked the peas. They did not do as much damage as they could have... we will still have a few peas for Independence Day, some shelled and some snap, and the vines are already plotting to make new growth from nodes below where they were bitten off. Since I am using lighter weight fishing line this year (finally got a HUGE roll at Mardens!) I added a third strand when I repaired the broken place and hoped for the best.

Yesterday, though, I found more evidence that the critters had been in the garden and no broken line.

In an attempt to make it easier for K to do his tractor work, I had set the fence 10+ feet back from the tilled field this year. This allows him to make his turns on the grass and come back for the next tillage pass. However, it put the south boundary fence right up against the brushy vegetation in the ditch by the road. Since we have been thus far unable to mow (K will be working to attach our new brush cutter to Fergie, the big tractor, this week!!) the grass was also lifting the fence strings in multiple places.
My guess was that the deer were possibly leaping the ditch and clearing the fence at the same time, so I decided to move that boundary in a bit in a temporary fashion. I set extra posts on the east and west side, to allow the strands to double back as I moved the south perimeter in. This should allow us to somewhat more easily move it back to the brush line (too steep to mow, and we are encouraging woody growth there as an eventual privacy screen) on the days tillage in planned. At the end of the work day, I'll just move it back into its current position, which gives 8 feet or so of flat ground – flattened grass for now, eventually to be mowed – for the deer to more easily walk INTO the fishing line to get freaked and run.

I also took the scythe to the entire perimeter, taking down the tall grass under and to both sides of the perimeter fence, allowing the strands to maintain their proper positions.

It was hot and tiring work; I haven't used my scythe since early last year, and in fact at the end of last season I was sure I would never scythe again. The weakness and fatigue I was feeling then were so severe and, I though, permanent, that I could not imagine having the minimal strength or the stamina required to swing my wonderful tool. It was with great joy, then, that I sweated in the 80+ degree weather yesterday, scything my 400+ foot garden perimeter! I am not terribly sore today, but will not be surprised if tomorrow brings a bit more complaint from my arms.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hail, Frigga! (TGIF in the common vernacular ...)

It's Friday, the first day of my "weekend" from work in town... which means extra time in the garden. Still planting, transplanting and of course weeding! We've had a good rain of late, though cooler nights than typical. Still, the tomatoes and peppers seem happy. I direct seeded winter squash and melons, which I have not done before here. I missed the seeding indoors date due to much work on the schedule, both in town and here abouts... with painting hex signs and other farm chores.

Potted up a couple of baby maple trees I gathered yesterday, to let them grow up a year or so before planting out, also potted up one of three weeping willows, ditto. They will go outside for the summer, get dug in to the garden this fall and hopefully be ready for the permanent homes next spring. another thought to implement in the chicken pen to keep Pheasant from perching on the roof of their "tent" and flying out. Also have to find and catch her again, as she was no where to be seen at chicken bedtime last night. The last of the hens are in isolation to see if they are laying and should be ready to be banded before the weekend is up. The less successful layers will be offered to a new home with one of the roos and then an order will be placed for turkey poults and a few new layers.

This is also Frigga's day, and a day in which I give special attention to the "hearth" and heart of my home... the kitchen. Kitchen currently serves as potting shed as well as for food prep and the favorite sleeping place for the two large dogs as the weather warms, so the floors and counters always need more attention than they get on a daily basis. As I do a bit of extra "deep cleaning," and make sure to clean the stove, I keep Frigga in mind, honor her and thank her for her blessings and the guidance she and her Handmaidens give me each day.

Tomorrow, I will be attending Fiber Frolic, a local gathering of spinners, weavers and others who have their hands in fiber work of some sort. There are classes, demos, vendors and camaraderie! I have signed up for a drop spindling class, and learn this craft not only to produce yarn to use to make things to keep my family warm in the winter, but also to honor Frigga, so she is much in my awareness these days.