Deer diary, vol. 1

Fuckin' Deer 04 sml

Looks sweet and gentle. Can do thousands of dollars in damage.

See this graceful, elegant creature? It, along with hundreds of its friends, wants to eat everything on our land. So we had to build a game fence.

Game Fence 01 sml

The first load of fencing materials stacked in our tractor shed.

Ample food and a lack of apex predators means the deer population is entirely out of control in our area. Two seasons ago, farmer friends here had their entire season’s vegetable crop wiped out in one night by a marauding band of hungry deer. Their dire warnings, plus regularly seeing dozens of the mangy creatures on our own property, showed us that we too would have to keep the deer out if we wanted to grow anything at all. We learned that Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers commercial properties like ours game fencing materials for free, so we immediately applied for the program. (CPW supplied our bear-proof beehive enclosure, too.)

EPSON MFP image

N’s original rendering of our game fence.

Building this game fence is by far the largest project we’ve undertaken in our nine months on Quiet Farm. We had a number of local fencing companies come out to provide estimates; once they started dropping numbers north of $10K, we started thinking seriously about building it ourselves. Did we have any fence-building experience? We did not. But we do now.

Game Fence 06 sml

Moving rocks with an excavator.

Our initial plan was to run game fencing around our entire ten acres, linking with our orchard neighbors’ fence on our west and north lines. We revised that plan because of some serious rock walls we’d have to cross, and decided to fence roughly an acre; this meant about 360 total linear feet of fencing, again connecting to the orchards’ existing fence. We started, of course, by moving lots and lots of rocks.

Game Fence 07 sml

Drilling fence post holes with a nine-inch auger.

Once we removed (most of) the rocks, we drilled our fence post holes. Our fence posts are twelve feet tall and ideally should have four feet buried. Drilling these holes on our rocky land turned out to be far more challenging than we’d anticipated; in many places, we’d drop the auger a foot in only to hit solid rock with no chance of proceeding. We’d pick the auger up, move it slightly, and drop it again. In some places, the pasture looked like Swiss cheese because we peppered it with holes, desperately trying to find a workable depth. As a result, our fence perhaps doesn’t follow the straightest line, but we were obligated to work with what we had; it’s more important that the post holes have strong depth than be perfectly lined up.

Game Fence 09 sml

This stuff has got to be one of the world’s greatest modern inventions.

Game Fence 10 sml

It’s just like making bread dough!

Post holes are finally dug – albeit a little wobbly and maybe not always four feet deep – and now it’s time to set the posts in concrete. We ordered pallets of Quikrete and mixed it, one bag at a time, in our wheelbarrow. For the record, we used fifty-six 80-pound bags of concrete to set our posts, each bag hauled and mixed by hand – well over two tons in all. Why yes, we do work out. Thanks for noticing.

Game Fence 11 sml

Here you can see the 1×1 posts we built into modified supports for the posts as the concrete set.

Once each post was firmly set in concrete, we let them cure…for much longer than we’d anticipated. A two-week stretch of wet, mucky weather meant that we couldn’t get much work done on the fence, and drew out an already-overlong project. But please stay tuned, friends, because next week we’ll show you how it all came together – and how proud we are of the results!

 

 

5 thoughts on “Deer diary, vol. 1

  1. Deer are why we needed to fence the farm before we started growing camellias. Prior to that, we grew them only in camellia ‘prisons’. I would prefer to just grow rhododendrons and azaleas like we had done since 1974, and do without camellias. I dislike the fences.

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  2. Pingback: Deer diary, vol. 2 | Finding Quiet Farm

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