Yesterday I worked for four hours to weedwhack the barn paddock fence to raise the charge so the sheep would be safely contained. Here they are, outside again at last.
It took me so long because my plastic weedwhacker blades, normally perfect for heavy raspberries and blackberries, were brittle in the cold and repeatedly snapped off after touching anything heavier than grass.
The cattle were fascinated by the sideshow. I had to shoo off Flora, my Angus, who followed at my heels bucking and corkscrewing in excitement. Though I did not believe she would hurt me, turning my back on eight hundred pounds of explosive energy felt a bit chancy.
Here is Red, my Shorthorn/Jersey bullock, investigating the weedwhacker when I stopped to replace broken blades.
Here is Flora. Her attention is invariably transfixed by food. The weedwhacker and I were indeed interesting but the hay much more so.
(See the chain on her neck? She is so shy I haven’t been able to get it off. This winter when I’m not so busy I will make it a priority to tame her and remove it.)
Finally … finally … I had the entire fence clear and a charge of 4000 volts. This should be enough. A perfect charge is 6000 but to get that I’d need to replace the worn lines. I will, eventually, but not on this day. This day I wanted to get the sheep out of the barn.
See Red eyeing them? Out of the frame, my Jersey steer Ikey was doing the same. Moments later they both ran at the sheep, bucking.
An electric fence is not a hard stop. It only works if the fear of a shock is greater than the desire to get out. Chased by the calves, the sheep stampeded through — putting their heads under the bottom line and heaving — letting the shock roll over their backs insulated by 3 inches of wool. I gathered them back in the barn and tightened the fence.
Once, twice. On the third try, the sheep stayed in. I don’t have a lot of faith in their containment, however, so I will turn them out early this morning and see how it goes. If they are chased through the fence before I leave for work, I’ll have to bring them back into the barn for the day and make a new plan.
Maybe the most reliable bit of progress made yesterday was the eye bolt I drilled through the gate. After about five years of propping the gate open against the wind for the animals to come into the barn, a few years ago it occurred to me to install a hook and eye to hold it. Unfortunately the gate (built for me by my friend Greg in 2004) is semi-rotten. It still functions perfectly but the screw eyes kept pulling out of the weak wood. I had bought a four-inch bolt six months ago but as so often happens in my life, it had been rattling around the truck ever since.
Yesterday I drilled it in. The gate is ready for the wind!
At least for the moment. I don’t need to tell you that next the hook will be ripped out of the post.