Last Sunday I began putting up 16-foot welded wire panels to build the sheep paddock. I meant to start this project six weeks ago. Unfortunately due to other commitments it kept rolling off the bottom of the list.
The first task was to carry each of the fourteen heavy, wobbly panels two hundred yards to the future paddock. Next I had to assemble my tools: pickaxe, shovel, hammer, bucket of fence staples, level, string, nails, steel t-posts, post slammer, wire post clips, and clip tightener. By the time I got it all to the site I was sweating and could remove my wool hat.
If you look at the top picture you can see that the ground is very uneven. This continues to greater and lesser degrees entirely around the future enclosure.
To erect each panel I pull a string tight between the two treated posts, and sink a t-post at the midpoint. Then I smooth the path for the panel, digging out the high humps with my pickaxe and filling in the low points with my shovel.
Last Sunday the ground was half frozen, coming up in chunks fanged with hoar frost, but I could still work it. I got my first two panels up.
I had realized belatedly (while Damon and I were setting posts) that this corner would be problematic, as it backs up to a stone wall. It was too late to do anything then, with Damon in pain and two posts already laboriously set. I imagine I will put extensions on those posts and run electric lines or barbed wire across the top. It will look a bit strange, but with my budget I can’t worry about looks, only effectiveness.
I had meant to get the rest of the panels up over the course of last week. I had printed out a schedule with two hours of fencing written into each day. Unfortunately, issues with my real job suddenly rose up to take over my life.
Every spare minute and ounce of energy was burned.
Now it’s a week later. Yesterday afternoon, after writing (late) student reports most of the day, I managed to put up two more panels before dark. Each panel takes an hour. The ground is now frozen solid three inches down.
As I chopped with my pickaxe, chips of ice sprayed my glasses. My numb hands were bleeding from the barbs on the fence staples I pulled out of my pockets. Typical! I smiled to myself, remembering Allen’s scolding. Blood from my cut hands dripped down on him from my perch on a ladder in the snow as we put up metal roofing on the homemade sauna. “How come you always do this shit in the winter time?” However I knew he would respect that I was out there trying. No skills, maybe no wisdom, but I could work. In one of our last conversations on the phone, Allen laughed hearing my list and said affectionately, “You are a busy bee.”
Today’s list, with times attached to each chore, is 10.5 hours long. Only one of those hours is devoted to fencing. Tonight the temperature is due to fall to 14° F and by Wednesday it will be below zero. I think in my one hour I will need to pull all my lines, sink all my posts, and do my best with the pickaxe. The ground will soon be iron.
* * *
This morning there was a large pile of coyote scat in the middle of the driveway in the bend by the birches. He was right under my window.