Broad Valley Orchard

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One Day in the Life of Thom Denisovitch

Hello All,

Whew, am I beat!  Thursday and Friday I slogged thru my annual Sisyphean task,  replacing fence posts around our 1+acre (0.4 HA) goat pasture.  I have been doing this for 28 years, since we first built the fence, and started raising the creatures.  Now, I do like goats; they are great weed, brush, and grass eaters.  Their manure turns into a good compost, with few weed seeds surviving the trip thru their 4 part stomach.  Goats also kid easily, and the little ones are sort of cute in a mindless sort of way.  But goats have a habit of walking up field in a line, along the fence, currying their rotund sides, and pushing on the fence, real hard.  Couple this with the intense biological activity of our soil, and I end up replacing black locust fence posts every 10-12 years.

Fortunately our ‘East Ditch’, has dozens of black locust trees, which we cut down, on a staggered schedule, every 12-15 years or so, to make new fence posts out of.  We cure them for a year, and then de-bark them, air dry them, and take out the weak and broken posts, and replace them with new ones.  {the locust stumps then sprout again, and the main shoot will turn into a new post tree in a dozen years or so).

After I staple up the woven wire fence onto the posts,  as close to plumb and in line as I can, I then start sawing up Hemlock 2×4’s, from a local mill, and turning them into corner braces, and for for gate post braces.  The diagonal supports ties the three posts of a corner together, and also stabilizes the two posts at each gate against the action of opening and closing the gate.  Hemlock doesn’t last too long in ground contact, so I keep the low points at least 6 inches (15cm) above the soil.  I do enjoy seeing how nice a re-built fence looks, but each year my back hurts a little bit more.

It is not a perfect system for fencing repair, but it keeps the herd in its pasture.    We have come up with a good use for the extracted fence posts, too.  Our north barn run-off goes downhill via the “goat path” which winds thru our orchard.  This path is 8′ (2.3m) wide, and protects our fruit  and gardens from the all devouring herd.  But, the wet soil erodes badly under their sharp hoofs.  So all the extracted posts end up as being sort of a ‘corduroy’ road that slows down the runoff, damming up the silt, and grass grows on it.  We find that the old posts we put down in this completely decompose in about 8 years.

Oh, yesterday we drove to Freeland, Maryland, to go for a ride on their bikepath.  We rode north to New Freedom, to have a good brunch at the Station Cafe.  Then we went up to Heathcote community, where they were hosting an open house for their new straw bale house.  Wow, I was impressed.  Now, that is a well-insulated, and architecturally pleasing, abode!  I also helped them with their new pole building hillside green house.  My biggest contribution was to share a ‘sneaky old farmer’s trick’  for erecting a tall and heavy locust pole by hand(use gravity = it is free).


Well, up to work.  Groan!


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