At the beginning of October, Damon and I began putting up fence posts for a sheep pen behind the barn.
I had bought all the materials at this time last year, but before we could start the project Damon had landed in the hospital for the first of many operations that culminated in him losing his leg just after Christmas. Depressed and in constant pain, he told me for many months that I would have to find someone else to do the job. “I’ll wait until you’re ready,” I always replied.
Now was the time. He was still in great discomfort but he was determined to work off some money he owed me.
My long-time dream has been to have a small hard-fenced area in which my lambs can safely go outside in late winter/early spring when snow has shorted the electric fences. A separate area alongside the main barn paddock would also be helpful at calving time, as a heavily pregnant cow could be within close sight of the rest of the herd but not disturbed by teenaged bulls. Finally, now that my land is stalked by a rogue coyote in broad daylight, a hard-fenced pen would keep my chickens and geese safe from harm.
As the wire panels are sixteen feet long, we spaced the treated posts on sixteen-foot centers. Naturally, this being my farm, as Damon dug each four-foot-deep hole we encountered plenty of big rocks.
Straddling giant holes with a roaring bucket at my shoulder is so deeply familiar; it always makes me happy. At one point a post slipped out of my hands and conked me on the head. “Goddamn it!” I yelled. I rarely swear. Damon said primly, “I am not accustomed to hearing such language!” His own speech is unprintable. We both laughed.
Some were boulders too big to move, so our line of 4x4s had to meander a bit.
The back line of posts was particularly wonky.
After three hours of work on the first afternoon, Damon was tired, in pain, and ready to be driven home. However he looked at the back line in disgust. “We’ll fix it tomorrow.” After I finished teaching the next day I picked him up in town and we buckled down again. The first thing he did was dig out the worst post. We reset it. The back line still isn’t straight, but it doesn’t wander quite so badly.
Then we continued around the other half of the future enclosure. Of course we found more rocks, most of which Damon buried.
We left one for the lambs to frolic on.
At last we were done. Here is Damon’s smile of satisfaction.
Yes, Damon’s smile can look a lot like a scowl. I was afraid of him for years before I realized that beneath the scowl and terrible language is a kind and generous person, almost as sweet as his father, Allen.
Early the next morning before work I spent an hour hurrying to re-set the electric fence around the posts so the cattle could be turned out.
And there the project has sat, stalled, for a month. I came down with a bad cold which developed into two weeks of bronchitis.
Damon called occasionally. “Got them panels up yet?”
“Damon, I’m very sick!”
A laugh. “I know, I’m just givin’ you shit.”
I am feeling pressed by the number of big projects I’m juggling (sheep pen, paneling the mudroom, building doors for the garden shed and sheep addition, planting replacement trees), most of which are time sensitive, not to mention continuing to unpack the house, moving the heavy piles of extra building supplies out of the reach of plows, plus the long list of work to button up the farm before winter. Deep bedding mucked out of both sheep stalls. Temporary fencing gathered and tied and stored. Summer water troughs collected. Shelters put away. Mowers parked under cover. Water heaters wired and taped. Hay deliveries stacked in the barn.
We are due for a week of rain, turning to snow by the end of the week. Hurry, hurry, hurry!
The answer, I know from experience, is to keep on doggedly forging ahead. Infinitesimal progress is still progress. I always remember Allen’s advice: “Don’t look up!”
My goal for the sheep pen is two panels a day.