Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘maintaining fence

Fence Maintenance

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I’ve tried a number of methods in dealing with fence posts that get pushed up by the freezing and thawing cycles that occur in our location. Our land has areas where the level of ground water sits just below the surface. It will drop during extended drought, but otherwise it doesn’t take much digging to reach moisture.

Every time it freezes, the water expands and the pressure slowly but surely pushes fence posts toward the sky.

Upon consultation with the owner of the company that originally installed our fencing, I learned that they would likely use a skid-steer tractor and press down with the hydraulic bucket. He suggested I save their time and my money and use the same method with my diesel tractor.

So, I did, and was amazed at how easily that pushed posts down. Almost too easy. It requires painstaking control and mental focus to avoid wreaking total havoc by overtaxing the limits of the posts or cross planks. One wrong slip and I risk doing much more damage than improvement.

There is one other complication with that method that pretty much stops me from even driving up to the fence. The ground in many of the areas of pushed up posts is so wet that my big tractor would sink into the mud and create an even messier problem to be solved.

That led me to desperately trying to simplify the task by just pounding down on the most obvious posts that had pushed up. Several different techniques to protect the post from damage and get the right angle and leverage all brought minimal results.

Yesterday spawned a new insight. I had a hand tool with a square steel pad for tamping soil that I figured would work to pound the top of the posts without damaging them. I also thought it wouldn’t hurt to add my 170 pounds of pressure to stand on a plank when slamming down on the top of a post.



The thing is, I couldn’t feel if it was doing any good. I enlisted Cyndie’s help to watch for progress, which ended up providing great encouragement when she would report how much it was working.

I was thrilled. Right up to the point the steel tamper began to shatter under the mis-use. I tried to carry on, but the loss of weight in the tool seemed to diminish progress. Another tool was needed. We don’t have a specific sledge hammer, but I contemplated rigging something to use the wood splitting maul for the purpose.

That’s when the next inspiration struck. I could modify the broken tamper to make it the handle of a weighty block of wood that would match the fence posts I was pounding.


Look out fence posts. Here I come.



Avoiding Failure

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We are wet today, but before the precipitation arrived yesterday, I had a chance to dig the back-blade out of the depths of the shop garage and play around in scraping the paddocks. The blade was parked all the way in the back of the garage because I haven’t used it since the first couple of years here to clear snow.

It dawned on me that I should be making better use of the equipment we have, instead of just storing it. I’m not strongly skilled with the blade, so I haven’t been inclined to hook it up and do anything with it. I must have felt adventurous yesterday, because I didn’t really have a master plan about what I was hoping to achieve.

Things went so surprisingly well, rearranging equipment so I could get at the blade in the first place, and managing all the 3-point hitch connections so I could then maneuver around obstacles to get out of the garage, it inspired my further earth-grading experimentations.

Starting with the gravel driveway around the barn, I made a few practice pulls, dragging the surface to pull settled material back uphill. That went well enough, I felt confident to try doing some of the same inside the paddock fence.

I was on a roll. As long as that was progressing nicely, I temporarily changed focus and worked on pressing down on fence posts with the loader bucket to push them back to the level they originally were, before the freeze/thaw cycles pushed them six or eight inches up.

That’s a delicate process of working in increments across a series of many posts.

All along the way there are opportunities for epic failure. On this day, I succeeding in avoiding all of them.

The fence is still standing, with all boards attached, and looking like its old self again. The paddock is also in pretty good shape now. I even took an extra step and scooped some new lyme screenings onto the round high spot we are building in the large paddock.

Before I could get everything smoothed out, the rain started, so it looks a little like a project half-finished, but I’m okay with that.

We have received a steady rain for about 20 hours. Steady is good, because we don’t get it all at once and suffer all the problems of instant rivers of runoff, but the freshly moved lyme screenings are like wet cement. If the horses walk on it now, it will make a big mess.

If they will stay off it until it dries, it can get almost as hard as concrete.

I wonder if they will pick up on my momentum of avoiding failure…