Disking and Setting Posts for Deer Fence 1

It was in late February when Amanda and I started setting the posts for our deer fence. This post is about how we did it.

The preceding post, called Early Prep of Veg Hill for Deer Fence, describes the process we went through to decide where to place posts along the deer fence line. I realized as I read it today that we never described why we did it that way. The metal hexagrid fence we are installing from McGregor Fence Co. is 7 1/2 feet tall, with the bottom six inches of it designed to fold out toward the deer. So the fence line is designed to be 7 feet tall. If you’ve ever seen a deer jump a fence as he or she runs for cover, you know that with a good running start a deer could probably jump a seven foot fence.

Fortunately for struggling organic subsistence farmers like us, what deer can’t do is see well. Deer have lousy depth perception. The McGregor fence is designed to take advantage of that. All the components are black, and we’re told the deer don’t see the black components nearly as clearly as we humans do. And each panel of the fence will be waving a white flag, to a deer a sign of danger because it mimics the white tail of another deer. So if the deer senses danger and can’t see the top of the fence he or she is facing, our hope and expectation is that the deer will simply avoid the fence and wander off.

In fact, McGregor says the primary risk for penetration of the deer fence comes not from jumping but from deer nosing underneath it. That’s why we will be staking it down every few feet. But that’s a subject for another post.

Once you understand that principle, you begin to understand why it makes sense to use trees whenever you can to support the deer fence. Using trees makes the fence line merge visually into the branches of the tree, and it also forces some zigging and zagging of the fence line, which also helps to make the top of the fence line harder for the deer to see.

So as we laid out the line, we tried to use existing trees wherever we could, using round metal posts only where needed. The metal hexagrid fence is heavy and needs to be supported at least every 15 feet, so we used the metal posts only where the distance between trees exceeded 15 feet. We ended up setting 20 round metal posts plus two posts each to support a walk-through gate and a drive-through gate. We also set two diagonal braces with a dead man where the metal post would be under tension from the monofilament line. That’s a total of 24 posts we set.

The video doesn’t mention or show this, but we used small rocks in each hole, with sizes ranging from that of a golf ball to that of a tennis ball. We used the rocks for two reasons: first, it helped the concrete mix go further; I think we used seven 80-pound bags of Sakrete and one 80-pound bag of high-strength concrete. Second, we believe the rocks really help the concrete hold the post in place. As we tamped the rocks in each hole, Amanda could feel the post firm up, so basically the concrete was just there to hold the rocks together.

I’m guessing we used about 15 five-gallon buckets of rocks in the process of setting the 24 posts. Where did we get all those rocks, you ask? Amanda collected them, mostly from the surface of Veg Hill. Did I marry well, or what?

Another thing the video doesn’t show is the division of labor. Neither of us could hold the video camera to record this, because we each had our hands full, but our process was that once we knew the hole was the right depth and the brace band was facing the right direction, Amanda focused only on keeping the post level, while I focused only on firming it up with rocks, concrete mix, tamping, and water. The process worked well.

There’s a little sequence at the beginning of the video showing Tractor’s final disking of Veg Hill. Now that it’s complete, Tractor has graciously accepted what we hope is his permanent banishment from Veg Hill. We want to minimize compacting the soil from this point forward. Not only will we avoid driving Tractor on it; it’s also our hope to confine all foot traffic to the two-foot aisles that will run between the four-foot rows, but that too is a subject for another post.

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