Art of Proprietation

Sunday, June 22, 2008

End Post

I've been working on adding new paddocks for the goats. My goal is to have four paddocks down near the house for our milking does. The idea is to be able rotate the goats to prevent parasites from building up. I've been adding a new paddock each month since March. This is the last new one to fence down by the house. The other two were just temporary poly wire and snow fence on fiberglass rods. But today's work is on a permanent high tension 6 wire fence. It's actually an extra wire, I am trying to make it a little more kid proof. No strand fence is going to be completely kid proof, but I want a little more in my favor next time we have little ones.

I like cedar post fences. I was looking over someone Else's blog today and they talked about putting up a fence about this length in a day. I have about four days into this fence now and I was feeling a little self conscious about it. But I realized theirs was on T posts that go up a little quicker than cedar posts.

For an endpost or corner post, I use an outrigger, diagonal and horizontal to make a strong enough anchor to resist the tension of my fence when it is tight. I use two sizes of post, 8-12" end posts for the actual end post and 4-6" diameter line posts for the outrigger, diagonals, horizontals and any intermediary line posts.

This is the diagonal. I angle the ends to match the vertical posts. There's a four inch re bar peg sticking out of it there. I'll drill a mating 1/2" hole in the posts and then fit the peg from the diagonal member. I over size the holes in the post to make it a little easier to get the diagonal in place. Since the diagonal is under compression, the peg doesn't need to be a force fit. I also make the diagonal about 2" longer than the post spacing suggests. Partly that's because it's a lot easier to cut a little more off than put a little back on. But I also want this to be a nice snug fit.

Believe or not, that's an eight foot post, but fully half of it is in the ground. I want it to stay put when I tighten up the wires. When I am taking my time (and when I have enough meat in the post) I like to notch the posts to make sure I get good contact between them and limit the shear put on the connecting pins. Here's the end post with an horizontal notch to match with an opposing notch.

To make the notches, I use a bow saw to cut the ends of the notch, then cut a series of closely spaced cuts the depth of the notch. This helps deal with any knots or twisting grain.

To get the rest out, I use a machete, inserting it into the saw cut and twisting the blade to break out the wood. That gets me most of the way there.

Then a couple of whacks to true up the bottom of the notch.

Here's the horizontal getting pegged to the endpost. That's another re bar peg in there.

A nice heavy hammer with a broad head actually does less damage beating the members together than a framing hammer would. That's an old 8lb mall head on a 24" handle. It can be a lot to handle with one hand, but it packs a wallop and means a lot less swings.

When I fit the horizontal, I fit it with about a 2" interference. I want to use the horizontal to pull the diagonal into place and firm up the structure.

I set up a quick manual winch to pull the outrigger post in that two inches to fit it with the horizontal. I double up a thick rope from the outrigger around the endpost to a strong lever. Using the tension snugs up the diagonal and takes any slack out of the structure. The fence would compress the structure anyway, but that would move the end post and possibly change it's set angle.

That's the finished end post.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Who knew? Goats like Bamboo!

Japanese Knotweed, an aggressive invasive plant common in raparian areas, sprout eternal in some areas of our land. Japanese Knotweed, originally imported from eastern asia as an ornamental, is now generally thought of as a pest in this area. Last year I knoticed that my goats really like it, so I did a little research to make sure it wasn't poisonous to goats. Contrary to common beliefs, goats can be very picky eaters and can't eat everything including the kitchen sink. Here is a pretty long list of plants goats should not eat. Mostly, I found that my resources said maybe goats could eat Japanese Knottweed, but nobody said it was poisonous. It was also noted that the young shoots were edible to humans and a potential alternate to rhubarb.

So, Last year, I gently and slowly allowed the goats access to Japanese Knotweed, watching for ill effects. I didn't find any, and I have come to the decision that it is OK for the goats to eat it. And that's a good thing, as I have a bunch of it I don't want and the goats really like it, particularly on a hot day.

Our Knotweed (also called Japanese or Mexican Bamboo) grows along a drainage ditch and is relatively compact. Given the invasive nature of Bamboo, I would not want to cultivate or allow it to spread. I have eradicated one small colony, and it was very labor intensive. I actually dug out all the soil down to about about 24 inches, sifting it for the rhizomes. And even after that, I have to go back and pull a few shoots every year to prevent a rhizomes from a nearby colony from reastablishing.

This is what's left when they get done, bare stalks. The goats are after the the foliage only. So, Every day, I cut a bundle of knotweed and bring it to the goats. They looked forward to the treat enthusiastically. Their next paddock rotation backs up against the knotweed and they will be self serving. I bet they run out pretty quick, though, at the rate they can eat it. It will be very interesting to see the goats impact on the colony. Will they eat it sustainably or will their impact damage the colony? I think if they had continuous access to it, they with impact the colony. But since I will rotate them out of the paddock after a month, the knotweed will have two or three months to recover. And since the goats only eat the foliage and the stalks also provide surface area for photosynthesis, the plant will probably survive.

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