Saturday, September 07, 2019

Bull Strong, Terrier Tight, and Horse High

640 acres to a sq. mile.  Barbed wire fencing is about 8,000 for a mile of installed 5-strand.

I put up a fence this Spring that had to be "terrier tight," which is an order of magnitude beyond the "bull strong, pig tight, horse high" that has defined the very best of American livestock fencing.

The new fence is not only solid and six-feet tall, it has mesh running across the bottom foot of the fence and then rolled out flat over the ground and lawn-stapled.  On top of the law staples there is stone, concrete, dirt, and mulch.  A wooden cleat nailed along the entire bottom of the fence works to keep the fencing tight in two directions -- up the fence and down along the ground.

I have written a bit about the American Enclosure Movement and the history of barbed wire in the past, but I recently found this piece in a 1973 edition of The New York Times:

Bull strong, pig tight and horse high, are simple specifications for a good fence that have been credited to some sage old Westerner. Few readers of these pages may have bulls, pigs or even horses to contend, with these days, but that same formula is still effective against all kinds of fence climbers, fence squeezers and fence jumpers.

Two of the earliest forms of fencing in this country -- the stump and the stone fence -- may not have met the old Westerner's requirements, but did fill a two‐fold need of the times.

The stump fence, once often encountered in such states as Vermont and New Hampshire, is now almost extinct because of the wear of time and weather. As the farmer cleared his land for cultivation, he felled the trees, using the trunks for timber and the limbs for firewood. This still left the stumps and roots, which made plowing impossible. After the prodigious task of removal, he placed them along the borders of his fields, forming a barrier of sorts between the crops and pastureland, and solving his disposal problem.

Much the same needs inspired the stone fence, so common in New England and other areas where stones of all shapes and sizes were, and still are, a big problem in using the land. According to my own definition, a barrier of natural stones piled helter-skelter is a “fence.” Stones held together by cement, or split and chiseled into flat and regular pieces which can be stacked neatly, are a “wall.”

Another early type of fencing was the original split rail, sometimes called the “crooked” or “snake‐rail,” widely used in the days when both timber and land were plentiful. It was held in place by the weight of the rails, which were cut into even lengths, laid alternately and at an angle at each intersection. Many still are seen in various parts of the country, zigzagging their way across the landscape or lining back roads in such places as the Southern Appalachians.

The split‐rail fence had a side benefit which today's nature lovers would strongly approve. Bushes and grass were permitted to grow up within the angles, where space was not used anyway, providing excellent cover for small wildlife such as rabbit and quail.

As wood and land became more valuable, the split‐rail fence was “straightened out” by using posts at the joints to eliminate the angles and reduce the number of rails required. The original split rail can be called the grand daddy of several present‐day types, including the popular post‐and‐rail fence that surrounds so many suburban homes.

Barbed wire was produced in 1867 and quickly became a favorite fencing material. The wire and posts were easy and inexpensive to transport and erect. Painful wire barbs every few inches were an effective deterrent to trespassing, as any small boy who ever tried to steal a pumpkin from a farmer's field could testify. (In the South we preferred water melons.)

Moving up a few years, came the plank fence, one style of which I prefer to call the “paddock” because it seems more descriptive. This type, painted white, is used in Central Kentucky and other areas where thorough bred horses are raised and trained. It consists of three or four wide boards placed parallel to the ground, with spaces between, and sup ported by posts every eight feet or so.

Designed to protect the lively thoroughbreds as they frolic about their pastures, many special features in construction are available. Regular wire is taboo, of course, because a horse may trap his foot in the strands. Some farms, however, are now using diamond mesh wire fencing, which has openings too small to admit a horse's hoof. Posts can be placed outside rather than inside the boards, to prevent the horse from sideswiping them as he gal lops by. Inside corners may be blocked off or rounded to save a horse from being cornered if he is attacked by a rambunctious member of the group. Gates open outward so a horse will not get jammed if he tries to sneak through partially open gate.

A snow white paddock fence, stretching across the green landscape, is a beautiful sight and costs a pretty price. There are more than 250 thoroughbred farms in the Lexington, Ky. vicinity alone. Some require as much as 25 miles of fence.

Among the first forms of purely decorative fences was the picket, and even that may have had a subtle usefulness. In colonial days the pickets invariably had pointed tops. Imagine the number of pants (and even a few pantaloons) left hanging there when the wearer made a hasty exit upon the unexpected return of the master or mistress of the house.

Today there are about as many kinds of fences as there are needs for fencing. There's the security fence — some times high wire with metal posts, and perhaps a few strands of barbed wire along the top. If you have an out door swimming pool, a safety fence is required by law in many areas, to protect small children who might come unexpectedly for a dip, or simply fall in while playing about.

Should you want to give children fresh air, sun and romping room without risking street dangers, a suitable fence is the answer. Then a screening fence, such as the grape-stake, lattice or basket weave, around the back yard provides a comfortable sense of privacy in crowded residential sections. And several of the more open and decorative types, the post‐and rail or picket for example, make charming “picture frames” to set off the house. Many pickets today, by the way, have rounded or even flat tops, somewhat reducing one of the hazards of colonial times.

“Good fences do good neighbors make,” wrote Robert Frost. I will second that. When we moved into our present home, a low, board fence marked one side of our property. Just inside was a row of nice rosebushes. I reasoned that the fence could never keep anything in or out, looked unneighborly and made our little lot appear even smaller, so I took it out.

The following summer, the pleasant Scotch couple who lived next door left to visit relatives. Other relatives, in Scotland, were invited to use the house for a visit to this country. Canny! That way nobody paid a hotel bill.

All went well until I noticed that our rosebushes; though producing a bumper crop of buds, showed relatively few full blooms. The visitors next door, thinking the bushes to be on that property, were diligently cutting the roses and taking them inside to admire.

Then just last spring, I was surprised one morning to discover that those same rose bushes all had been carefully, if inexpertly, pruned. Another zealous visitor next door had stepped across the unmarked lot line. I asked her if she would like to do all of our shrubs as well, but she knew I was only kidding.   I hope.


Rick said...

I've built miles of barbed wire fencing in the past. And probably a mile or two, all told, of various types of commercial and residential fencing. I've even built a few dog proof fences. But one type I don't offer my clients is an "Owner proof" fence, because they may not secure the gate, and the dogs will get out!

tuffy said...

living fences are wonderful too, and have an incredible amount of uses in addition to keeping animals in or out.
osage orange and other thick, strong, close-growing, thorned hardwoods work great. Hawthorn, Sea Buckthorn...
multiple species planted at once--ie, raspberry/blackberry with willow, privet, and kiwi vine interplanted and stacked, work concurrently as groundbird habitat-quail and pheasant habitat, other bird habitat-hummers/warblers/towhees, small mammal habitat, protection from larger predators, food for humans, ruminants, and chickens, and ruminant (but not goats) fencing. a dog or coyote would have a really hard, if not impossible time of getting through that. the long thick roots keep the coyote from digging under. (though a terrier might;)
a big plus is this kind of fencing does not need to be replaced.

this is an example of a cattle fence
living fences: