The Mile Long, 8 ft High, Electric Deer / Predator Fence!
I don't know if it's actually a mile. Total ft is something like 4700 ft. It is definitely the largest thing I have ever decided to build. Lucky for me I have my trusty sidekick Mynor and his crew taking charge of the majority of repetitive back-breaking tasks. Pounding posts, stretching the fence, and digging trenches.
I started the fence, figured out what we needed to do and once that was set in stone, Mynor has been charging ahead, while I prepared for the next task (designing and gathering materials for the wood gates).
Of course we live in the heart of the wine county, which means rows and rows of grapes but not a lot of fences. For some reason, vineyards don’t really use fences to protect their fields. I guess there isn’t a real need. Which is great for the wildlife. They can just stroll from vineyard to vineyard.
For us, that could be a big problem. Or at least I would think so. Don't get me wrong, I love wildlife. I wish we had 40,000 acres or at least 500 with wildlife everywhere. But when you have a small 24 acre farm with a gang of animals calling it home, including 30 ducks, 50 chickens, 6 sheep and a few pigs, you need to protect them and your crops from hungry critters of all sizes.
A few of our neighbors who do keep chickens on their vineyards, have stories of losing 10 or 20 at a time to foxes. Basically, if they are not locked away, you're going to lose them!
This is why we are building an 8 ft high deer fence around the entire farm. And that would be hard enough, but I have also decided to build an additional smaller predator fence under the ground. This fence made of a weld mesh hardware cloth, in 4 ft x 100ft rolls. It goes up 1 ft., down 1 ft and 2 ft out. This means you need to dig a trench. A mile - long trench!
The idea is that when a fox, coyote, or pig, comes up to the bottom of the fence and decides to dig under it, they can’t. They run into this curved fence under the ground and don’t know how to get under it. It seemed to work in our small garden back in L.A. but that fence was like 40ft long. Not a mile.
My neighbor Doug, who has lived here for 20 years and owns a very cool place called The Shed in town, thought I was crazy. He said, "They will just climb through the fence or over it. You don't need an underground fence!"
This made me rethink my fence plans and I decided to also add a layer of electric strands to surprise anything looking to climb through or over. I added 3 electric strands near the bottom of the fence and one at the top. It’s all powered by a solar charger which gives off a 1.5 joule shock when touched. If a person touched it, it would feel like a 9v battery on your tongue. It’s un-comfortable, not fatal. But for an animal it's enough of a shock that they don’t want to touch it twice.
Deer, from what I read, they can't jump over anything over 7 ft. We should be ok on the height.
The first task was to just figure out how in the hell are we going to build this thing and how long will it take. First, I thought we could use an auger on the back of the tractor. Dig out the 4ft deep holes and slide in the 12 ft poles. But after figuring out it would take us a month just to dig the holes, I decided to find a better way. That is when I found the Danseur Hammer on youtube. A hydraulic powered hammer which grabs the poles and pounds them straight into the ground. Allowing us to pound all the 300 or so poles in the ground in less than 2 weeks. The hammer made it cost effective and saved us from a massive amount of work.
Here is a breakdown of what we used to build the fence.
- A Hydraulic Hammer - Danseur Hammer LM40 ( goes on the tractor lift arms) - You actually pick up the posts and pound them into the ground. We started off by pounding them in with a flat bottom and decided quickly decided to point the ends like a dart. We used a chainsaw. Didn't take long. Few posts split at the top, once we had a pointed end going into the ground.
- 12 ft and 10ft round 5" Wood Pine Post to support a 6 1/2 foot welded wire deer fence.
- 10 ft wood pine post for bracing
- 6 1/2 ft high x 350 long Welded Wire Deer Fence - we had to buy 4700 ft of fencing.
- Fence Wire - We bought a heavy gauge fence wire to finish the top of the fence, bring it to a total of 8ft. Plus the same wire was used to brace the post. See photos below…
- Electric Wire Insulators
- Turbo Wire Fence - which is a high quality polywire fence. It has strands of metal to deliver the shock.
- Gallagher B200 12-volt Portable Solar Fencer, 90 Acre/15-Mile - Stored energy: 1.45 Joules
It's early December now and we are still not done. The rains are not helping. We can't use our drills in the rain and its just difficult to move in all this mud. I am guessing we should be finished by the end of next week if all goes well. All of the posts are up, as well as the 8 ft wire fence, but we are still working on the electric fence and the predator fence.
What is this costing? Because we are doing everything ourselves (hired my own crew) and we purchased the hydraulic hammer to pound the post into the ground, I think we will end up saving $40,000. The bids I got from some local fence companies, to build just the 8 ft deer fence, came in around $50k. We will end up spending around $25 to $28k for the whole thing. I can't imagine what it would have cost to do everything we have ended up doing, if I hired someone. Maybe $80 to 100K? And the real point to doing as much as possible ourselves, is so that we actually get to know the land and how to be a farm. This is our first go-around and we have a lot to learn.
But wait, I have come up with yet another idea, in the middle of building this fence. We need water and power on the farm and there is only one source for both of them, which is in the very back of the farm, near the creek. We have a 150 gallon a minute pump in our well and we have a power pole right next to the well.
Why waste this trench, it was a pain in the ass to dig. Believe me, I dug it with a digger for over a week, and the guys have been cleaning it up by hand for a few weeks beyond that. So, we are going to put in a 4" water pipe and a 1" electric pvc pipe. This way we can have the electric and water follow the edge of the farm (safe from being dug up by the tractor) and we can easily pull water or power anywhere on the farm. The entire farm is only 550 ft across. It's a long and narrow lot. Should be great. But getting the pipes in will delay closing up the trench by another week I am sure.
I have to say, now that the fence is up and almost done, the farm feels different. It finally feels like a place, our place. A farm, not just an empty field between some fields of grapes.