Fences, Neighbors, and Potential Productivity for the Homestead


Yesterday I built our first fence. I spent about 90 minutes pounding in 7/8-inch fiberglass posts and stringing it with polywire to create two paddocks along either side of our driveway. In total it’s about 2.5 acres.

Over the past year, during my internship at a farm in Alabama, I strung a lot of polywire.

If there’s anything I’m good at right now, it’s putting up portable electric fencing. So this was not difficult work. It was just a matter of doing it.

homestead fence

Honestly, the reason I did it yesterday was for aesthetics and to please the neighbors, because we don’t have anything to put in the pasture yet. I don’t know if it will actually please them … but my goal was to make it look like I’m intentionally not mowing most of our front yard. Just so they know. I will mow the borders and a few other patches.

The previous owner was a big-time mower. He had a zero-turn and cut about four acres. This is insane to me—that’s perfectly good pasture! So I haven’t been cutting it—both because I plan to turn it into pasture and because I didn’t have a mower for a few weeks—and it’s starting to look like … well, pasture. Which is what I want, but to people who are used to seeing it mowed like a golf course, it probably looks like neglect.

What I was surprised by, though, after putting up just a few hundred dollars worth of portable fencing materials, was that what was once a large suburban lawn now sort of does look like a pasture. It feels a whole lot more like a working homestead—like a place where the land is going to be used productively to provide for our family.

This won’t actually be true for nine months or so, which is when we plan to get a milk cow (although I probably will electrify it soon, in order to start scaring deer). But right now, when we still have unpacked boxes everywhere and everything seems chaotic, having an identifiable pasture helps us feel a bit more like we’re going to make it as homesteaders.

The fence I put up is very temporary. I thought about investing straight off in permanent fence (we’ll probably do a number of strands of electrified high-tensile wire on Timeless Fence posts, in order to make sheep a possibility), but I quickly realized that this was unnecessary. I’ll be able to use all of the temporary material I just installed—7/8” fiberglass posts, tread-in posts, Gallagher polywire, and a large Gallagher geared reel—for creating smaller sub-paddocks once I do put in permanent fence. 

The other advantage of using temporary fence is that I can move it. I’m almost positive this will happen—even if it’s only by a few feet here or there. There’s no way I won’t realize, after grazing for a few months, that the fence would be better someplace slightly different.

Robert Frost was probably right about fences making good neighbors—I can’t say for sure, because it hasn’t been long enough—but I do know that a fence makes a place look and feel more productive.

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