Electric Fence Up

Alexis was away this weekend for a medical conference, so I took the dogs to Maine to get some work done on the orchard. In two days of hard work, Dave, Emily, and I got the site enclosed with an 8-wire electric fence. We started by sinking the final post at the southeast corner, guying it back to trees, and attaching plastic corner insulators to the posts with wire loops. We then trimmed off the top of one of the gateposts to make it even with the other gate post (trying to cut a 6×6 off square to a line ten feet off the ground on a stepladder using a chainsaw is not the easiest thing in the world), grunted a 6×6 cross timber up to the tops of the posts, and spiked it down using foot-long bridge timber spikes. We braced the cross timber to the posts with 2×6 and mounted insulated eye bolts to the outside of each gatepost.

We then strung 8 loops of wire around the perimeter – in total, very nearly 1 mile of 14 gage galvanized wire. One end terminated at an insulator on the west gate post, and the other end terminated in a ratcheting tensioner at the east gate post. We started to crank up the tension, and found that the metal core in the insulated eye loops did not extend fully around the loop – the plastic simply snapped off under tension. We quickly regrouped using some porcelain insulators my dad had lying around to terminate the cables, only to find that the spool-like plastic corner insulators also failed under moderate tension, indicating that our morning’s work of attaching plastic insulators to corner posts had been wasted.

We called Brooks Feed and Farm in Brunswick, and found that they had 4 boxes of porcelain corner insulators, so we went up to town and got there about 30 minutes before closing. We got the corner insulators and also two boxes of porcelain termination insulators, which made a much cleaner job at the gate posts. All in all a big win for the old fashioned components and two thumbs down for TSC’s crappy modern plastic junk. Also decided it would have been worth paying 3 times more for the tensioners with square-drive spools cast in, rather than tightening the cheap ones with vice grips.

Anyway, Sunday morning we got the corners swapped and the rest of the wire run, and we cranked up the tension, this time without blowing any insulators. As expected, it turned out that the runs (about 150 feet each) were not quite straight, so the wires touched the ground on the south side and stood too far above on the north side. After lunch I ripped a bunch of used PT decking in half to make intermediate fence posts, and we drove these into the ground as needed at multiples of 10 feet on the inside of the wires, then attached plastic insulators to these the appropriate distance from the ground and snapped the wires into place. Dave scrounged up a used copper-clad grounding rod which we pounded into the ground, then we screwed the Zareba solar charger to the gate post pointing south, hooked up the wires, and let her rip. The fence gives a pretty good zap even wearing rubber soled shoes, so hopefully it will keep the deer and moose at bay – the lowest wire is at 8″, and the highest is at 80″. When time permits we will fill in more intermediate posts on the 10′ spacing we established today, and attach some plastic deer fence to the inside of the posts, to provide extra security for the winter months when the electric fence won’t be so effective.

We’ve picked the weekend for the big transplanting party, so I’ll be putting preparations in place for that, and hopefully the site will dry out some more – the perimeter drain is clearly effective as there’s a steady stream of several gallons per minute running through the culvert, but snow is still melting off the shady parts of the orchard so the ground is still quite damp and soft.

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