Thursday 21 April 2016

Planning for fence removal at the orchard

A couple of years ago we had a hedging professional on the orchard site re-laying the boundary hedge between our plot and the adjoining field. Previous owners had neglected the hedge over the years and had allowed the Blackthorn to run wild. At 11 GBP per metre it was not an insignificant investment. We needed to protect hedge from hungry sheep in its early stages of regrowing. We also needed to fill in some gaps to keep marauding sheep away from the young fruit trees. There was a real risk of damage by sheep to both the fruit trees and the relaid hedge as an earlier Blog post can attest. 

To provide this protection we installed a semi-permanent electric fence just inside in the boundary of the neighbouring field. It had driven wooden fence posts, with insulators screwed into them. The fence part was constructed with four strands of high tensile electric fence wire. The top strand was polypropylene rope with stainless steel strands interwoven. There's almost one kilometre of wiring.

The electric fence has worked out well and the hedge no longer needs any protection. The fruit trees could be damaged by the sheep, but the regrown hedge, plus some wire stockfence, is now providing an effective barrier.

The time has come to remove the electric fence. This should be a simple task were it not for the high tensile fence wire. The wire is very springy and easily tangles if not managed carefully. When delivered it was just a coil of wire contained by some soft iron wire wrapped around the coils. We had to carefully unwind the coils to avoid tangles as we laid the fence.

To help manage the recovery of the fence wire we've been busy in the workshop fabricating wooden drums/bobbins to receive the recovered fence wire. They are about one foot (30 cm) in diameter and about six inches (15 cm) wide. We've recently taken delivery of a large bandsaw in the workshop. This machine made the process of cutting circular disks of plywood for the bobbins an easy task. Air powered nail guns improved the accuracy and speed of nailing the bits together. While it is possible to buy old used plastic cable bobbins or use some old electric power cable cardboard bobbins it is quite satisfying to just build them from scrap bits of wood. It certainly is much more fun than commuting to a city office and spending the time doing boring paperwork and tedious phone conferences.

Soon we'll be drawing back the wire from the electric fences. We'll recover the gripples we used to tension the wire. The fence posts will be lifted and reused for wooden fence building further down in the orchard in the part we've yet to recover from the scrub land. The fence insulators will be recovered and stored for later use.

One lesson from all of this is that if you are considering buying a plot of land for an orchard be sure to check the state of the boundary fences. Estimate the cost of restoring the fences, hedges and walls to a good condition. It takes time and money to fix them. Sometimes your neighbours will show no interest in funding long term fixes for the fences.

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