Hotwires, insulators, and sheep

Connect the yellow dots: extension insulators on steel fenceposts that will support a hotwire 20 inches above ground level. Will this fencing prevent sheep from escaping the Ewe Pasture? I will find out. As you can see, Abbey is unimpressed.

Strange weather the past few days. The skies wouldn’t quite rain, and won’t quite stop raining. There are weeks when you concede that working in the mud is the only option.

The task was erecting a hotwire to front the four-strand barbed wire fencing that encloses the four-acre hillside tract we call the Ewe Pasture. Can a hotwire 20 inches above ground level keep escape-artist sheep confined? This summer, I will find out.

Degree of difficulty:
1) installing the plastic insulators and hotwire on the posts – easy, Olympic fencing rating 1.5;
2) mowing the weeds and brome along the fence line’s north side – moderate, Olympic fencing rating 2.0;
3) clearing brush along the fence line’s wooded east and south sides – difficult, Olympic fencing rating 4.8.
4) keeping my birddog Abbey out of the tangles of beggars tick and gooseberry – impossible, Olympic fencing rating 95.7.

Preparing for springtime fencing jobs becomes easier each year. I toss all the fencing supplies and tools into the box of the pickup and venture forth. Yesterday, I only had to return to the shed twice to get something I forgot. That’s a new record.

Fencing tools: fence post driver, shovel, various screw drivers and pliers, wire cutter, brush lopper, bow saw, machete, 20-inch wooden measuring stick, leather gloves and a three-pound hammer. Almost inevitably, there will be an unforeseen use for the hammer. I decided not to take the chainsaw on this drizzly day. Consequently, a thick-trunked buckthorn tree is still standing, but on the other hand so am I.

Fencing supplies: three steel posts (turns out, I needed four), a couple dozen T-post fence clips, three quarter-mile spools of 17-gauge electric fence wire, 150 plastic insulators for steel posts and 25 insulators for wooden posts, two gate connectors, and about 10yards of tangled and rusty old barbed wire. Plus a spare hammer.

The supplies were manufactured in Magill, Oklahoma, Lititz, Pennsylvania, and Chicago, Illinois. Some hunting is necessary to find and purchase stuff not made in China or elsewhere outside the United States, but it can be done.

At the end of the two-day job, I had become proficient at attaching five-inch extension insulators to steel posts and nailing easy-to-break plastic insulators to wooden posts and trees. That’s how it always is with me; I learn the best techniques about an hour before the job is finished. But at some chores I have modest skills; driving steel posts, clipping wire onto them, and mending barbed wire – hey, I got those jobs down pat.

About 3:30 it began to seriously rain. Didn’t quite complete the project. Came home muddy, scratched, and tired with brambles in my beard. Shaved off the beard, then had to clean up Abbey.

Two more days of rain are forecast. The sheep will have to wait a while before they move into their new home. And start escaping.


About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Former teacher, coach, mentor. Novelist and short story writer. Husband, father, grandfather.
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