e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

How to Build a Fence to Contain Goats

As near as I can make it, this is how I heard it from one of the old men who used to sit on a bench outside the grocery (no bench there now) and chat by the hour with the other old men.  You have to imagine a lean, sunburnt-for-years, old man with the wrinkles of both a hard life and sense of humor, and twinkling eyes set under exuberant eyebrows.

"Now if you want to keep goats in, you need a right good goat fence.  Those critters'll get out of any normal fence--yeah, including that woven wire like you got down there at your place.   Here's how you build a goat fence.

"First you take your stobs (posts), and you set 'em deep and closer than you would for horses or cattle--say maybe ten feet or so, and make those corners good and strong.  Now you're gonna use at least eight strands of wire, good and tight.   They're not like hogs, so you don't need to set a line of barb down in the dirt.  Then you take your cedar staves, and you weave 'em into the fence, side by side, not a finger-width between 'em, and you twist every strand of  that wire between every stave so them goats can't push through." (demonstrates with his hands.)   And when you got your whole fence, all good and tight and strong  and you can't see through it, and it's as high as your head--"  Long pause, and he looked at me sideways.

"Youi're done?" I asked, since he clearly wanted a response.

"One last thing.  You take you a bucket of water, and you throw it at the fence, hard as you can."   Another pause, and he started that silent chuckle thing that old country folk can do.  Beside him on the bench, another old guy's shoulders were shaking with the silent laughter, knowing what was coming.

 "And if the water goes through...so will a goat."

Hilarity on the bench, and of course I was laughing too.  "The thing about goats," one of the other men said, "is like with some horses.  You want to keep goats, you got to be smarter than they are, and most people aren't." 

From the same group, later, I got the following livestock insights:

Sheep are born looking for a way to die.
Horses are born looking for a way to get hurt.
Goats are born looking for a way out (alternate: to cause trouble)

*stobs was the old name for posts or stumps
*cedar staves--the small limbs of cedar (actually juniper) a local tree, cut and trimmed to make stakes (staves) to use for both goat fencing and regular fencing to hold wires apart between posts--strengthens the fence.  Also used in the notorious "gap gates"  in a fence--no proper gate is needed if you just use a fence section, put a skinny cedar pole at the active end, and two loops of wire on the next post...one to stick the foot of the pole into and one at the top to loop over the pole's top.  These wobbly unstable miserable things are a pain to work with, especially if the fence wire is barb (which it usually is)  We have one gap gate left that's about to become a real gate.  (Real gates cost.)
*steeples is the old local pronunciation of staples, what you use to attach the wire to a post.  The first fence builder I hired years back told me I'd need x-number of stobs and steeples and I was totally confused.  We hadn't been here long enough.  They don't come into the goat fence story, but they're local color.

Tags: fencebuilding, goats, life in the country
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