Sunday Homestead Update – Mending Fences

The main focus this week was mending fences…and not in the relational sense – in the physical sense.  We still have snow on the ground from before Thanksgiving, and it is not great working-outside weather – pretty darn cold.  But we saw a 5-day break in the weather where we would be in the 40s-50s F and we knew we needed to take the opportunity to get some stuff done.

Fences

Last year, when our ram, Fergus, went totally crazy due to testosterone rage, he did quite a bit of damage to the barnyard (not to mention to me and the ram lamb).  He bent a lot of the wire on the fencing, as well as breaking a 4×4 post, and a couple of 2×6 rails.  The original fence was a 2-rail wood fence with 2x4inch welded-wire sandwiched between the rails and post and stapled to the rails.

After the incident, we used some scrap wood and did our best to patch up the fence “good enough” to hold temporarily.  It meant adding 2 more “rails” to the bottom sections to try to hold the bent and mangled wire in place.  The fence was holding up the broken 4×4 and the non-broken 4x4s were helping hold up the fence.  It worked, but needed to be fixed.  Over time, the gnarly wire from his head ramming and bending it has broken in some spots, leaving sharp wires sticking out.  It was time to take care of it, before someone got hurt.

It is somewhat hard to see in the photos, but the extra rails are pieced together and not cut to length.  The wire is stretched and broken, and there are a lot of gnarly broken wires sticking out – along the bottom especially.  You can’t “see” that a 4×4 is broken, but one of the posts in the photo is broken and just being held up by everything else.

We originally were hopeful we could mend it without completely re-building it.  But as we really started looking at it, there was no way.  The wire was way too damaged, and to replace the wire the whole fence had to come apart.  So we took it all apart, saving the good wood pieces to re-use, and replaced the broken 4×4 post.

Then we got new wire and re-built the wire and rails.  We decided to go with 4 rails instead of just 2, the bottom 3 rails being closer together down at sheep head height, like the way we had temporarily secured it.  And we decided to add in the vertical supports between posts permanently as well.  We had previously just done that to hold it all together until we could fix it, but it really adds a lot of strength.  This fence is the ram pen, and we wanted it to be as “ram tough” as we could get it.  It looks SO much better now and we are very happy we re-did it.  It is safer and more secure to be our ram pen long-term.

In addition to fixing the ram-pen fencing, we had an issue with some bulging wire on the main barnyard fence because Freya, our very large Wensleydale ewe, decided it was a good spot to scratch her back on the rail, thus bulging the wire.

We put a third rail in the two sections where she did that to support the wire and prevent the stretching.

Sheep

Speaking of Freya, it was time to shear her this week.

Wensleydales are generally shorn twice a year because their fleece grows so quickly.  Our mill equipment can’t handle a staple length longer than about 10 inches, and she was already at 6 inches.  Looking ahead to winter and her lambs being due in February, and us not wanting to shear her in the dead of winter, we decided now was the best time.  We saw a 5-day period with warmer weather and so we did her shearing right at the beginning of that to try to limit the stress on her from the cold.

Matilda is settled in very well with the flock now.  She is still not sure about us humans, because she came from a flock that was much larger than ours and she isn’t used to humans petting her and such.  But we are hopeful she will warm up to us more and more as she watches the rest of them always come to us for scratches and petting.

It was interesting to see how the flock reacted as we were doing all the demo and re-building of the fence.  They are so used to our loud construction project noises and such that they didn’t even care.  They were laying about 10 feet from where we were working and didn’t even get up at the sound of the chainsaw.  And during the project they were often in our way and sniffing everything.

Ducks & Chickens

As I shared previously, all 4 ducklings were drakes.  This week it was time to butcher them.  We kept one as a possible breeding drake, and the other three will feed us this winter.

So we only have one more butchering left this year.  The 4 cockerels that Dahlia hatched and raised will be ready next week.  Then we will hopefully have a nice long break from butchering.

Shearing…butchering…fences…busy homestead week!

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