Fencing Lesson


Yesterday, under sprinkling clouds, I undertook a new adventure. A lot of fencing has gone on here at Sassafras Farm in the past year. When I arrived here, most of the fields were fenced, but most also needed repairs and in some cases, new fencing entirely. Some completely new fields were also created and fenced.

One field went by the wayside in the fencing palooza. The second upper pasture.

BP, standing near the gate of the first upper pasture that leads into the second.
This field is every bit as big as the first upper pasture, if not bigger.
There are a few points of interest far back in this field. A decrepit deer stand, from which Ross shot his first deer last Thanksgiving. (And the ladder he brought out there….and left there.)
Apple trees possibly planted to attract deer near that stand.
A nice patch of wild red raspberries.
And a really great spring.
This field has been fenced in the past, but the fencing has mostly fallen down. Opening this field means far more pasture, and it’s important also just to keep this field from growing up and becoming unusable. I could make do without this extra pasture, but letting a large pasture fall into disuse isn’t a good idea overall.

When I discussed fencing this field with Adam, I told him, “I want to fence it with you. I want to learn how.”

He stared at me for a long moment. “You DO?” He looked either shocked or scared, I’m not sure which.

But he’s a good teacher, always patient with me, and he knows how to use little words to help me understand things. I want to learn to fence because I need to be able to make my own fencing repair sometimes. I don’t think I really want to go into business fencing large fields all by myself in the future, but a storm or deer can break down fences and I can’t always get help right away. I’m uncomfortable with fencing, and I know I need to get comfortable so I can feel good about making repairs on my own if I need to. And nearly a year and a half into my life as a single farmer, with much of the overwhelming work of just learning to manage on my own behind me, it’s time for me to take the time to start learning some basic skills.

So off to the field we went!
We were using barb wire, nailed to trees. Trees make more solid support for barb wire, though it’s not exactly ideal for other reasons. Adam said he never nails fence to a fruit or nut tree, or other particularly valuable tree. Since there had been fence around this field before, we used the same trees that had been used previously to negate abusing any “new” trees.

Fencing with barb wire doesn’t take much. A hammer to nail in the staples that hold the wire, and a pair of pliers to stretch the wire.
To stretch the wire while nailing it, you just grasp a bit of wire in the pliers, push the pliers up against the tree for support while pulling on the wire, then pound in the staple. We put up three strands, which is enough for large animals, and took turns stretching and nailing. He also showed me how to do both if you’re doing it alone.

Then he showed me how to repair wire that’s been shoved down, either by a fallen limb or a deer. You take the wire in the pliers and curl it around until the wire is stretched tight again.
It was simple, which I knew on some level in my mind that it would be, and yet it was a mystery just because I’d never done it. It’s a repetitive task, but I stayed out there all day because I learn by repetition. We talked and laughed and Adam stood by patiently while I took twenty swings to nail in a staple sometimes that he could have pounded in with three. I’m sure we got half the fencing done in twice the time that it would have taken him alone, but….
I was crazy proud of myself. I can fence!


  1. Senny says:

    Good job. Fencing is quite a job. My husband said, he put up enough fencing for me to go around the world twice. Think I have used every kind of fencing material there was. 🙂 But those were the good days. I love reading your writings. We are now old and live in town and you bring back many happy memories. I miss our farm. 🙁 Keep up writing you do great.

  2. lattelady says:

    Atta girl. I had wondered if you knew about barbed wire.
    Loving your adventures in learning experiences. My late mother said if a day goes by without learning something new, it is a day wasted.

  3. outbackfarm says:

    Good for you!! It always helps to know what to do in case you can’t find someone to help. And it’s really not too hard. I have to do most of the fencing here myself. Which is what I’ll be doing later today and tomorrow. My lambs have been getting out of the fence near the raod so I have to put up some field fence along the barbed wire. Then some more fence up around the garden so I can get them to the bottom lot past the garden. Which didn’t go well this morning because there is no fence there yet. And they took a 10 second detour through the garden and ate half the cabbage. Darn sheep! But I’ll get a fence up there to keep that from happening again. You’ll have fences up all over your farm now.

  4. brookdale says:

    Good for you, Suzanne! Another farmer skill under your belt!
    I just wanted to mention, that my farmer grandfather always would tie something (colored surveyor’s tape or even a rag) onto the fence wire at intervals, just in case an animal or person didn’t see the wire, they might run into it and get hurt. Just for safety’s sake. Barbed wire is sharp as you know.
    I noticed it and asked him about it and that is what he told me many years ago.

  5. shirley T says:

    Thanks for sharing your life on a farm with us. I enjoy all your writings. Been hooked on your blog since you moved into the slanted house. Can’t wait to get your book!! Bravo on learning how to fence. :ladybug:

  6. Claudia W says:

    WOW! I’m impressed! That would freak me out, trying to do barbed wire fencing. I get all nervous just running welded wire fencing around a little six by six enclosure for my chickens…which I need to get going on, because I am leaving for four days and they need to be totally enclosed while I am gone. Thanks for sharing your courage and determination. I love coming here and seeing what you are up to!

  7. stacey3940 says:

    Ok, I’m going to try to comment again… I keep getting disconnected every time I try.

    Awesome for you to learn a new farm task. I’ve been making my husband teach me how to fence incase of a break or something when he isn’t around. I’m not sure if you plan on putting horses or cows in that newly fenced pasture but barbed wire isn’t recommended for horses because they are more likely to get cut by it or run through it, especially in pastures where visibility isn’t clear as in yours with trees and such. If you do decide to put horses in there, you may want to use colored flags or something so they can easily tell where the fence is until they learn…. but I’m sure you already thought of that.

  8. cabynfevr says:

    Good for you for continuing your quest as a single farmer! I hope my fellow readers don’t tar and feather me for asking but did you check with the rescue you got your horses from before using barbed wire? I ask because barbed wire is a deal breaker with our rescue. Not judging folks, just concerned :wave:

  9. willsahna says:

    I’d be concerned about the horses and barb wire too. I know lots of people do it, but “horse people”, who raise, train, sell, and yes even rescues, are usually adamantly against it. I’d check with the rescue just to be sure it’s okay with them, then do what you can to prevent injury. I don’t have horses now, but have for a lot of my life. I love them, but I think they are kind of stupid. Lol. And if there is a way to get hurt, they will find it. I worked for a vet too and have seen some horrific barbed wire injuries. Horses panic when caught in stuff and it can get ugly fast. Please understand, I’m not criticizing or trying to tell you what to do. I’m just agreeing with the other commenter and based on what I have personal experience with. I think she brought up a good point. Sometimes with rescued animals you are forced to be held to a higher standard than what is generally done.

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      This is not a primary field for the horses. There is barb wire in various places all over my farm, however. I can write honestly about what I do on my farm, or I can just not write. Yes, sometimes I do get a little frustrated……. This is a post about learning to put up fencing.

  10. willsahna says:

    Oh. Now I see your reply. Must have been posting at the same time. Sorry.

  11. Dawn says:

    good for you – always difficult to tackle something that makes you uncomfortable but you are right – important that you can manage in times of need. never lived on a farm but I make jewelry out of wire – the “repair” of turning it into a bunch of curls was an eye opener. I have seen miles and miles of barbed wire but never touched any. interesting as always – thank you for the bright spots you give my days.

  12. UlrikeDG says:

    Fencing lessons? Is that foil, épée, or sabre? 😆

    Isn’t it funny how simple things can be so intimidating when we haven’t done them before?

  13. NancyL says:

    You are truly amazing! Of course I think of you every day when I check your blog, but I also think of you at other times during the day. I’m retired, content to be at home now, and watch a lot of TV shows and movies on Netflix (streaming – don’t do the dvds). I know you don’t have time for this, but I started watching McLeod’s Daughters a few days ago. It’s an Australian show about 5 women, 2 of them the sisters who inherited the farm/ranch, working it by themselves. There are cattle, horses and sheep. The ladies can fix most things that go wrong, from fencing to fixing the tractor. I love it, and I can picture you in that scenario!

    Nancy in Iowa

  14. holstein woman says:

    I thought I knew how to fence when I married DH, then I found out how HE fences. He would have had a fit and fell in it if he heard you put wire on a tree of any kind. I’ll not tell him.
    I’m very glad to hear you can now do your own. CONGRATS!

  15. EightPondFarm says:

    I had to nod at holstein woman’s comments since I learned not to fence using trees either. But it is so convenient at times. An alternative is to nail a piece of 2×4 onto the tree vertically and attach the fence to that. That way, as the tree grows in girth, it will not struggle against the fence wires (which will inevitably become embedded in the tree and hurt it’s growth). FWIW, I don’t use barbed wire around my horses either — they are too crazy.

  16. MousE says:

    “I can write honestly about what I do on my farm, or I can just not write.”…. Suzanne, please always write honestly! As you always do! We love you just the way you are….

    And I am proud for you too! That’s a heck of a skill you have learned. :dancingmonster:

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