- Published on Thursday, 21 February 2013 23:05
- Written by Mark Steel
- Hits: 512
Wild animals are not dumb, just hungry – all the time. Why chew on an old root when delicious, soft, tender, and tasty vegetables await in a walk through paradise?
People have been growing food for thousands of years and battling the wild animals that want that food. They attack from underground, above ground, and in the air; they are as big, like elephants and tiny like viruses. It is a wonder that mankind has survived
There had been no deer in these parts for over a hundred years, so the old timers tell me, until the Wildlife Administrators introduced breeding pairs some 25 or so years back. Now they are like flies – everywhere and still eating. Some hunters delight in the massive size of Whitetails, and their big racks; no doubt from the rich minerals.
Before the white man came to be the indigenous people did plant cornfields and they had their problems too. Old paintings illustrate that towers were erected wherein small boys spent the night – and day too, to scare off the deer and other predators. Corn attracts not only deer, but also raccoons, and crows as a mainstay predator.
Although the humongous acreage now employed to grow corn as far as the eye can see, tilled, seeded and harvested by GPS guided John Deere tractors there is no fencing. The losses following tasseling time must be enormous while the hunters shout with glee.
Gardeners like me try all sorts of barrier fences to keep out deer, so this is a footnote in this farm’s history of my progress to accomplish this goal.
Twenty five years back my gardens thrived and rarely viewed a deer print. I planted openly in the fields along the creek. There were no deer, raccoons or groundhogs to be seen. I assume though that I, and hundreds of other gardeners who planted delicious corn and other fruits encouraged reproduction since where there is food, everything multiplies.
My first experiment was with an electric three-strand fence. I laboriously CUT POLES, BOUGHT POLES AND SALVAGED POLES, DUG HOLES AND SET THEM IN THE GROUND. I BOUGHT YELLOW PLASTIC INSULATORS AND NAILED THEM TO THE POLES. I STRUNG ELECTRIC SMOOTH WIRE IN A GIANT SERIES CIRCUIT AROUND AND AROUND THE AREA. I BOUGHT AN ELECFTRIC FENCE CHARGER.
The deer, like goats with their thick insulating hair just slid under the bottom wire or found a higher hillock and jumped over. Grass and weeds of biblical proportions grew under the wire and grounded out the weak current. Lightning took out the charger. It was time to rethink this.
Several years later I decided that I needed a combination barrier and electric fence that was jump proof, wiggle through proof (fawns can slip through a six inch square cattle fence wire hole) and it had to be rot proof and at least eight to ten feet high.
Here is the pay off, the money spent in a deer proof/raccoon proof fence that will last 40 years vs.: the money regained in produce is in favor of the garden. Tomatoes this year at the farmers market were selling at $1.00 a lb. Food prices are going up, and up and usually account for 30% of the family budget. Income is dropping and interest rates going up. That 30% is getting very tight. So by insuring a good security fence for my food production amortizes very quickly outweighing the cost of materials. I do not count my labor.
I measured off the rough area of a 1/4 acre or 10,000 feet. I bought a post hole digger with a six inch auger bit from HarborFreight.com , a new gas can and proper 2 cycle cans of oil additive for the gasoline. I bought yellow bag, ready mix 80 lb. bags of concrete from Lowes. (I made several trips.) I bought 12’ long 4” x 4” TREATED poles.
I ordered several rolls of 1” Dura Mesh coated chicken wire fence rolls 10’ wide. Each was 100’ in length. I already had a Paslode electric staple gun and two boxes of staples to secure the wire to the poles. In addition I had several rolls of green plastic snow fence plastic material, at 4’ high in rolls, from http://www.gemplers.com/
Good wife made no comments, but was content I was out of her hair.
Now, Virginia law says that border fences (usually cattle) are not to be over 6’ in height. So my garden plot is inside the property line. Punching holes every 8 feet is easy with a hand powered posthole digger. Sometimes you hit a rock and might have to move the hole a few inches left or right. Another good tool to have for this hole digging is a clam shell type hand operated post hole digger to scoop out the loose dirt down deep in the two foot hole. I wanted my poles to be 10’ height. The concrete in the yellow 80 lb. bag requires a wheelbarrow or motor mixer with water to mix it to a consistency of liquid plastic- not too wet- not too dry. You set your pole in the hole and pour in the concrete, or shovel it in.
Another option that is more expensive is the 50 lb. Red bag of ready mix cement that you can pour the bag into the hole with the pole in it; and hand level along a long string for straightness. I did not touch them for a week. Then you pour 1 gallon of water over the dry cement-it absorbs and is less work. The second advantage of the concrete with the poles is that it seals the poles from rot. Yes treated poles will rot. Donning my eye protection (must have), gloves and old ragged throw away clothing I spray away from me on to the pole end, and 6” above the concrete Black Flag wood rot and termite coating. This stuff used to sell as Copper Brown or Copper Green but is now the same chemical under the Black Flag label sold in the paint section of Lowes.
Once all the poles are up and rock hard it is time to hang the fence wire. Now this fence encircles my vegetable, herb and fruit garden behind the garden. It also encompasses my chicken house. This fence keeps the chickens in the garden in the late fall when I want to clean up bugs, larva and anything else they can find. There is nothing as efficient as a chicken in finding a bug, I did have one chicken come out of the chicken house one day with a big fat mouse half way down it’s throat. Yum! You cannot run chickens in a garden plot when growing veggies, as they will tear everything down. So I have separate runs for them adjacent to the big enclosure. Chicks are OK early, then put them up for the summer, or run them outside the fenced in area for range feeding. Big chickens do the best job in the late fall and by being enclosed in the large fenced area they are safe from coyotes.
Since the poles are mostly ten feet up I get a helper, and we unroll part of the fence roll and lift the corner up high so that it is about two feet off the ground. We continue unrolling and stapling the fence wire up about two feet off the ground. This leaves a big open gap.
On my west end adjacent to the fence is my asparagus and herb beds. This has a 2”x10” treated planks run along the soil level and nailed with treated wood nails (common metal nails will rust out in treated wood) to the upright posts. This area is enclosed in a boxed 4’ wide bed. The east side big gap is not planked.
Now what we do is to attach the plastic snow fence to the coated wire in a long run. I use black electric cable ties every couple of feet and the gap is covered and the remainder two feet of snow fence lays flat outside the enclosure. Weeds and roots quickly bind this to through soil and it makes an impenetrable barrier against fox and digging animals (except groundhogs that are persistent), the gap is closed. I wanted one back door to the garden so I had a 5’x5’ chainlike fence door and used that. My entrance to the garden plot is thorough the barn and I have two wide farm gates covered in fence wire and hung in place. I think it looks nice, especially when the wild grapes and kudzu grows up.
This is now into my third year of fence testing. I located two holes that the deer were slipping through, mostly small fawns. I had one ground hog slip in by tunneling under the asparagus patch and he had a grand time cleaning out my cabbage, lettuce, broccoli and other goodies. He had to go.
I could not find my Have-A-Heart trap so I was left with sitting in the barn all night with my .22 night vision rifle. That I did not went to do.
I took 5 saucers and placed 3 almonds (a delight) on each saucer and coated it with a dab of peanut butter. I placed these along the log retaining wall of the second tiered plot where he was making a home. He became addicted. After reducing the treats after 4 days I substituted peanut butter rat killer chunks. Yes, I know I was heartless but it is a toss up. He or she would have more groundhogs and my labors would be for naught. I placed more almonds out in saucers as a test and there was no response.
Next predator on my list was the Raccoons who climb like squirrels; take a bite out of the corn and just move on to bite more until your corn patch of sweet corn is trampled down.
I did learn from an old timer that my smooth electric wire was no good with hairy animals. He recommended barbed wire for electric fence stringing. This is a lightweight two-strand wire with 4 point sharp wires that get under the hair and allows the shock to scare the raccoon away.
In the old days I followed the electric fence charger instructions. Principally what this does is allow the moist earth to act as a conductor back to the fence charger and saves miles and, miles of wire that can be costly. The question arises when you have absolutely DRY soil conditions down to the core of the earth there is no conductance.
What I do is to purchase two new solar powered 3 mile fence chargers. This means that it will effect an electric shock up to 3 miles on a single series line. If you branch off the line into a parallel circuit you will have a big voltage DROP. If grass, which contains moisture, touches the wire, it will become a direct path to ground and voltage drops.
So the secret is to place the wire insulators above the weed growth. In my case I run a single wire 6’ above the ground and loop it at the end, continuing the series circuit back to the fence charger. At this point I have two strands of wire about 18” apart. I now take a separate wire, the ground wire and run it in-between the two “Hot” strands and connect it to the ground on the fence charger. The theory is as the raccoon, or even a deer places one ear or foot on the bottom wire and touches the center wire he or she will get a shock. The top wire is a safety net for me, as the feet have to climb on something. They will get a shock – but not lethal. Wild animals will remember to stay away. But they think and will try other avenues to which you must be diligent; after rains go look for tracks.
I caution the wire stringing gardener NOT to attach the end of the wire to a building structure as lightning may follow that wire and jump the insulator causing a fire. You can always set in an extra pole adjacent to the building and run the plastic insulated snow fence as a deer barrier between the pole and building. Make it two or three feet – lightning jumps.
UPDATE 2013 – almost spring.
With the winter hanging on, a garden may look bleak and forlorn, perhaps as my beds are covered in winter’s tenacious growth. This will all be smooth tilled off, the sides raked up, and from the solar greenhouse I will be setting out plants for early cold weather planting. Early set outs of lettuce, cabbages, broccoli and related brassica is for this zone 5 is important since by May it turns hot. Maybe it will be hot in March, this is the Gardeners gamble so always have extra plants on hand.
In the three underground watered beds I will have a boundary of radishes on the left side adjacent to the asparagus/compost loaded with tiny snails. These gastapods do not like radish and it acts as a barrier defense. Next I will have Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium planting which is the natural herb of pyrethrin. Marigolds will abound too. Plants do not care to be organized in a straight line that seems from my observations to be a growth enhancer for insects. I am moving more and more to a scattered look. To accomplish this I may take a handful of beat, turnip, and rutabaga seed, and scatter it, setting in the started plants after the seed sprouts look strong. As we move into the hot season we can set out squashes and such hither and yon. The long vining squash can be planted in the walk areas between the beds. Some vining plants like to climb so I will have a few on the retaining wall.
I have an idea I may try this year is to make a video of the garden’s growth plus in the upper level make deep furrows, each fertilized differently and set with corn and potatoes to conserve space. If I can get the ancient wheat seeds I will harvest a sample of wheat and video that. I am trying to avoid GMO seeds that now predominate our breads.
Of course this is the gardener’s dream; weather storms, health, meteors, or such might change all these plans. But it is good to have dreams and plans.
All of this, measured over years of doing may seem ridiculous to the apartment dweller or city dweller in general, but why do you read it, if not for that innate biological drive to grow food? Once you learn how to garden in your area, which is probably different, you will have healthy physical exercise, multitasking exercise for the mind, teaching children with gardening is a form of respect for the planet that gives us so much potential, structuring out time to the glory of God.
Good Luck, More soon.
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