My father is gone for the month to our other farm on the opposite side of the state. My brother and I are picking up the slack while he’s away. First order of business was to find and “repair” the hole in the fence that the cows were getting out of. Easier said than done: there is about 2 miles of fence to check. So, out we go, brother and I, to check the fence and mark that item off our list.
RIGHT. Two days in and we’re in a bigger mess than we started with. Well, that’s not really true. It would be more fair to say that we just didn’t know the size of the mess to begin with.
Technically, my father runs the farm, but it’s never that simple. My grandfather (who is a practicing lawyer at nearly 80) is a bit of a busybody and likes to think he’s still in charge of everything. My uncle has been in politics for 10 years, but likes to be a weekend farmer. Myy brother is a jack-of-most-trades farm hand and I run my own little poultry business. It’s a bit crazy.
You’d think that will all these people “working” on the farm, things would get done in a timely manner and everything would be in tip-top shape. You’d be sadly mistaken. That saying “too many cooks in the kitchen” always springs to mind when I think about our situation. And it’s really true: it seems to take a committee to get a fence fixed.
That stupid fence has been patched together so much that it’s laughable. Too many MEN thinking “I’ll just fix this section right here with this bit of wire I have handy and then I’ll come back and fix it correctly later.” But later never comes.
There was one stretch of fence about 50 yards long that had at least 6 crimps in it (a crimp sleeve is used to connect 2 pieces of fence wire). And each of those crimps is a potential weak spot. Now, you can’t really build a seriously long fence without using crimps, but they should be used judiciously so that your fence stays nice and strong. When you use them to patch the fence over and over and over, you end up with a fence that snaps whenever an unruly cow decides to run into it, which is exactly what’s been happening here.
There was gate where someone had obviously cut the wire a bit too short. Instead of fixing it correctly, they had used two fence handles, connected together, to bridge the gap. Which was really not sufficient. There was one place where a tree had grown into the fence, basically grounding out the electric current.
When I see a problem I want to fix it correctly and attractively and right then. And the guys roll their eyes at me and groan and wander off to tinker with something else. But then they are back patching that same stupid fence a month later. If, instead, they would just fix the problem correctly instead of making it “good enough for now” then it’s taken care of and you don’t have to think about it again for a good long while.
So, what are we doing for the next few days? We’re fixing the fences correctly. And what does that entail? Just cutting down a few trees that are threatening to fall, restranding an entire section, putting in about 15 new posts, checking every fence insulator, fixing two gates that are broken, adding fence strainers to tighten existing wire, and buying a new fence energizer because the old one WASN’T EVEN WORKING.
I started thinking that all those problems were really generational, that my brother was a bit more like me in just wanting to fix what needs fixing. But, alas, he’s got a lot of man ideas too. He got all stroppy with me this afternoon because I asked him to cut down a thick sapling that had grown up through a gate. He argued with me for at least 15 minutes, saying that gate was never opened so we shouldn’t bother. He’s mostly right, the gate never does get opened, but that’s no reason to let a tree grow through it when you can cut it down in one minute with the chainsaw. Especially when you are standing right there with the chainsaw…
At the end of the work day today, we had a completely ridiculous argument about our fencing equipment, which was all in the bed of his truck. It went something like this:
Brother: Help me clean all this stuff out of my truck.
Me: But we’re going to need it all tomorrow morning.
Brother: But I don’t want my truck to be messy. I’m taking my fiance out tonight.
Me: Fine, whatever. [Helps him drag everything into the garage. He goes in to get a drink. I find a handy 5-gallon bucket and neatly arrange all our fencing odds and ends so they aren’t just strewn about the truck tomorrow. I go to put it in the bed of his truck.]
Brother: [coming out of the house] What are you doing with that bucket?
Me: I arranged all our fencing stuff so we can just grab this bucket and have everything at our fingertips! It’s great. And now it won’t make your truck look messy. [huge grin, thinking I’m a genius.]
Brother: Brilliant. So now I’ve got to keep a bucket of junk in the truck.
Me: But it’s so handy…
Brother: Just leave it in the garage.
So off I go, muttering something like “Thanks Sis! That’s a great idea. It will make life so much easier. We’ll be fencing at great speeds because of your wonderful ingenuity.” And then I found out he was the one with the brilliant idea to hook the two fence handles together!
I don’t mean to make all the men in my family sound like lazy idiots. I know that they have a lot of things to do other than worry about one fence being perfect. They do lots and lots of things I can’t do, like fix the tractor. And I appreciate a fixed tractor, I really do. But there are things that I think I might be much better suited to than they are and fence management might just be one of those things.