Deer-proof Fence for the Garden


Now that this garden is getting going it’s time to protect its precious contents!

We are putting up the same sort of fencing we had at our previous farm, hopefully with some improvements to make it more durable.

We first purchased 10 ft sections of 3/4 inch and 1 inch electrical metal tubing.  The 1 inch conduit is cut into 2 ft lengths with an angle grinder with a thin cutting wheel.  The wood shown above will be used for construction of the gate.

Below you can see a useful tool we purchased for installation of some of the posts for our sheep fencing.  It has helped make this garden fence project much easier compared to our last attempt in CT!  It works like a T post driver, but instead creates a hole.  Beside it is the 1 inch diameter piece that will serve as a sleeve to accept and hold the 10 ft 3/4 inch post.


Here We have the posts and sleeves in their approximate position along the back of the garden, waiting to be installed.  The large post in the grass will be part of the sheep fencing – no space wasted!  High tensile wire will be brought to that post from the system in the background at the far end of the garden where you can see the gate.  We need the deer fencing to supplement this electric fence, as the deer would still be able to jump over the electric fencing from the sheep side.


Here Roy is ready to start digging the hole to accept the 1 inch diameter sleeve.


The sleeve will accumulate a core of dirt inside.  Use a piece of wood so that your hammer doesn’t damage the top of the sleeve when you pound.  You will then have to pull the sleeve back out and remove the dirt core.  This may need to be done a couple of times before you can finally position the sleeve.


Below shows the dirt core that must be removed to create the hole.


The sleeve is pounded down into place, and the 10 ft post is easily slid into the sleeve.


An improvement this time around is that corners will have 2 adjacent posts for added strength when the fence is connected to the posts.


Here it is!  One side is complete!  A gate will be installed close to the center of this side.  We will also have a place where we can easily open up the fence large enough for the tractor to get back in for rototilling next year.


Lastly will come the actual deer netting.  We will install 7 ft deer netting with cable ties on these posts.  Just a note – there are different qualities of this netting.  Buy the cheap stuff, and you’ll be replacing it more frequently.  We have found that bunnies still find their way through the deer netting, so we will probably put chicken wire on the outside of that at the base for added protection.  The blueberries will be within this fencing, but I somehow think it will NOT be enough protection should the local bears discover them some day!  But that will be another story!

Build it and they will come!

The title, as some of you might recognize, is a misquote from the famous 1989 Movie Field of Dreams where the lead charater, played by Kevin Costner, hears a voice say, as he stares off into his cornfield, “If you build it, he will come.”  In our case, we are gazing into our meadows and referring to our future flock of sheep, not any ghosts from the past!

Barn building, as you see, is proceeding rapidly, despite sub-zero temperatures, snow, and now, as the ground warms up, a bountious and incredibly tacky layer of mud and boot-clinging clay.  Much kudos is due to our tireless builders who persevere despite all of the above that Old Man Winter has been hurling at them.  I am NOT a cold weather person, having been brought up in the tropics of Australia, and am in awe of those who shrug off frozen extremities and potential frostbite without complaining!

Below you can see our intrepid building team installing the metal roof.  We hope to harvest rainwater from this in the future to supply the barn with water. According to data from the internet, we can collect many tens of thousands of gallons from a roof of this size should we have sufficient storage capacity.


As well as three large doors for vehicle and stock use, we also have a smaller “people door” installed so that we can access or egress easily.  Behind this door we will build a heatable office/sleeping quarters/storage room/sheep NICU!


Well, roof installed, large doors in and now they are making a platform for the cupola that the builder has fabricated, that will transform this large shed into a bona fide barn!  Apart from aesthetics, a cupola actually has a function, working as a large roof vent, keeping the barn well ventilated.  This will be important when we have a lot of animals inside, such as during lambing season, though this may require supplemental fans at some point.  Note also the tranlucent sheets spaced evenly across the roof to allow natural light into the barn and decrease the need for electric illumination.


Something that we did not have in our previous barn was electric power.  We dealt with this in a variety of ways, using gas generators and bringing power by heavy extension cords from almost 200 yards away.  But this time we promised ourselves that we would have power installed, as you see below.


Running conduit to the junction box

And although we will have the power company and local electrician install the major facets of the system in the barn, we are intending to have a very good friend and retired electrician (also a Deacon, ex-submarine commander, builder, and overall nice guy!) help us to plan the majority of lighting and electrical outlet placement within the structure.


Electrical conduit ready for wiring

This inside view gives a nice impression of how well the roof and window lighting works.  There is lots of space now, but I imagine this will fill up rapidly!


Lots of room…for now!

Here is a time-lapse of the installation of the cupola today!

Cupola installed!  As you can see, it gives a nice agrarian feel to the structure.  Zooming in, the second picture shows the weathervane adorned with a ewe and her lamb!



And until our flock of sheep arrives, our adopted herd of deer (viewed indistinctly below from our front door) continue to enjoy the pastures, even under quite a few inches of snow.  In fact this model of ruminants grazing pastures in the snow will be a model to emulate as we attempt to continue to pasture sheep on the fields for as much of the winter as we can.


Our first pastured herd!

And finally, I leave you with a distant view of the house at the top of our hill in the midst of our pastures, taken from an adjacent property on an even higher hill!  We thought that we had a good view of the adjacent Laurel Ridge and Ligonier Valley, but this view really “takes the cake”!

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An Eventful Week!

This is Roy writing the blog this time.  I wanted to add my $0.02 at the beginning of this adventure in Pennsylvania, although in full disclosure, there are numerous spousal additions and improvements to my somewhat pedestrian penmanship!

Beginnings are often fraught with discoveries, excitement and starting new things.  This week was no different at Morning Star Meadows Farm, as we shifted our focus away from the tedium of unpacking and more towards turning this beautiful acreage into a productive farm.

Luckily, we have one of the world’s foremost fencing companies close by, and today took a trip over to their warehouse and began accumulating the posts, wires, spacers and the other requisite paraphernalia necessary to initiate our first major project ….. fencing our farm!  Although we have put up a lot of fencing in Connecticut, as those who have followed us previously on this blog can attest to, this place will take it to a whole new level with the perimeter boundary fence alone totaling almost a mile, and internal dividing fences likely to amount to a lot more!


And just to confirm our concern about the necessity of our fencing being secure enough to  protect our stock as well as to contain them,  driving home from shopping a couple days ago we were astounded to see a large black bear bounding across the road about 35 yards in front of the van!  It was so quick and agile as it slithered under the roadside guard rail, making us very aware of how much we need to protect animals (and humans!) on the farm.


The other major (and a little bit scary) discovery we made while cruising around the pastures on the UTV was that our fields, from a distance, pure and verdant, upon closer inspection (with a bit of Googled plant identification) is rampant with toxic plants!  We have a very toxic weed called dogbane (a hemp plant that would be great if we needed to make rope, and would be awesome if we had an apiary, as pollinators love the flowers, but gets its name because it poisoned dogs!) as well as enough milkweed to feed Pennsylvania’s entire population of monarch butterflies!


Incidentally, and as an aside, I have always thought that the person who named “butterflies” was dyslexic.  Butterflies do not look like flies (although they do fly), and they have little to do with, as far as I can tell, in appearance, smell, or predilection towards, butter!  So my contention is that our naming expert really intended to call them “Flutter-byes”, as I contend that this is much more apt name, that actually has some relationship with their penchant for “fluttering by”…. but I digress!

So, now we have to find out how to rid ourselves of these toxic plants without disrupting the growth of all the other lush, safe-to-eat plants already there.

And in addition to these adventures and discoveries, we are trying to fall into a rhythm at the homestead.

Firstly, we had our struggle to get enough water.  After a great deal of time, patience, and $$, we now have a much deeper well and 3 cisterns in our basement to provide for the water demand of our family.

Our family’s wifi demand is still unmet, with rural DSL being extremely slow and unreliable!  I guess Verizon figures us country folk don’t need true high speed internet, so they run the signal way out to the boonies on copper until there is only a trickle of internet coming into our modem.

The boys and I began to erect an Amish style clothesline so that we don’t have to burn through electricity to achieve what God already provided for with all the lovely sunny and breezy days we are experiencing.  Although it sounds nice and tame, this is no tidy suburban clothesline!  This is a 125 foot line spanning two 12 foot posts sunk four feet into the shale and clay of the Pennsylvania hills!  We will wait to post photos of this until completion, and perhaps until the recovery of myself and three of our boys, who are now using muscles not tested for a few months, but will need to be honed for the upcoming fence work.

All in all, though, we are all feeling more at home.  The sauerkraut is fermenting in the crock, its frequent “burping” providing a familiar background sound intermixed with the chime of the old clock, running once again after a lengthy time in storage.  We have had our first real dinner party – only one guest, but it still counts!  School is humming along for the children at full speed.  And there is also a continuing education for Robin and me as this weekend we will be attending (after a Saturday morning stop for freshly made Amish donuts just down the street from our house!) the Mother Earth News Fair at a nearby conference center, and next week will be doing a pasture walk at a nearby cattle farm with the county conservation district people.  Lots of learning and networking, planning and hard work.  The awesome beginnings of something great!