An Hour’s Worth of Sunday

I needed to fill the cow’s water tanks. I couldn’t do this early in the morning when I do my normal chores because (sigh) my hoses were frozen. It takes about 40 minutes to fill three tanks if I use different hydrants to fill two at once. What can I do with that time? Stare at the cows?


The cows are grazing in strips. I lay out a north-south strip roughly 40 paces wide and give them access to roughly 20 paces worth of pasture each day until we get through it. In addition to that, I maintain a corridor at the south fence line so the cows have access to mineral and water in a place that is fairly convenient to Julie and me as long as we keep the hoses well-drained on a slope. Which I didn’t do on Saturday. Anyway…


So I have most of an hour to kill. Cows are going to need a new strip. That’s not Julie’s favorite job but I think it’s fun. I start at the north end of the property because I want my spool at the south end. That allows for the ever-growing corridor to water and mineral. I stepped 40 paces off of the current fence to find my starting position.


I didn’t bring my fence remote with me so I can’t attach the fence at this time. But I don’t really need to yet.


Then I looked in the distance to try to find a target that looked roughly 40 paces from the other end of the current fence.


If you start at the thicket on the left and count over a few trees to the right you’ll come to a rounded cluster of sassafrass trees way over ther together. There’s a dark one in the center of the clump I’ll shoot for.


Let’s pause for a moment. I know a pace is not a standard unit of measure. It’s only marginally helpful to the reader for me to say that. I have a bakers dozen cows on pasture and I’m giving them an additional 60×120 each day. But the cows aren’t out there with a tape measure or a transit. The precision comes by watching the animals. Are they full? Are they clean? Are they calling out for dinner or are they grunting and burping? What are they leaving behind? Is the ground scalped or did they leave a protective blanket on the soil? That’s how you measure. It happens that I carry my feet with me so I use those to help guide me.


So I walked through hill and dale, leaving a string behind me. Always aiming for the tree in the distance…a tree I couldn’t always see.


Once I arrived at the southern fence I stepped off the gap between old and new…45 paces. Not bad. I mean, horrible from a percentage perspective but cows don’t calculate percentages. Good enough is good enough.


So I checked my water tank. A few minutes remaining.


With 15 posts in hand I headed off to the north placing a post every 12th pace. Well, 12 or so. I wasn’t really placing the posts, I was just spearing them into the ground. I’ll come back later with a hammer to drive them into the frozen earth.


15 got me halfway so I went back for more. While I was up there I moved the hose to the other trough.


It’s important to fence the ditches to contain the cattle. I do want the cows to cross the ditches, pushing earth around so the ditch becomes wide and shallow, rather than steep and deep. I want the water to meander slowly on its way, not cut into the earth violently. I could do this with a bulldozer but the cows are here so…


I’m a little particular about placing my insulators at ditches. I always want both forks of the insulator to touch the wire. That’s not possible in the dip but at the edges it’s no big whoop. I’m sorry if that is unclear. See how the insulators on each side of the creek face opposite directions? If they were turned the other way, on each side the wire would only be held by one hook. So any passing deer could easily knock my fence off of the insulator. After that the whole fence would short out as the wire rests against the metal post. This one small change ensures that the insulator will hang on to the wire as the deer bends the post, stretches the fence wire then releases somewhat magically as the string tension launches the insulator through the air to be found some time in the spring.


I stepped off the remaining pasture. If the weather holds we’ll finish up that pasture in mid-February. Then I’ll take the cows north of the hog building. There’s not a lot of pasture back there but I really want to clean that field up and I need the cows to help me find saplings, stumps and odd bits of junk.


Anyway, for now we are going from over there to over here.


By this time all of my tanks were full. I disconnected my hoses and left the posts speared in the ground until later in the afternoon. I like the cows to go to bed with full water tanks so I came back around 4:00 with the kids to top things off and drive the posts.


The kids needed to go outside and play. Barn cats are valid playmates.


We left mom at home though. After about 20 minutes the hoses were drained again, the chickens were watered, the eggs collected, the fence completed, the cows had hay and we made monster shadows.


The cows stayed on the hill.


We crossed the old bridge and ran up the hill.


I mean we ran. The kids were pretending to be in Minecraft and imagined that the darkening skies would soon allow skeletons and zombies and giant spiders to spawn. It helps to play through our day.

8 thoughts on “An Hour’s Worth of Sunday

  1. a master multi-tasker- while filling water troughs you set up the next paddock, AND take pictures to then share this process with us! I like the measuring and monitoring of paces and spaces by the cows’ behaviors “calling out for dinner or are they grunting and burping?” I am learning so much from your sharing! Thank you! And I was going to ask how you get those posts in frozen ground, can you drive them in throughout the winter, even when it gets extremely cold?

    • Getting posts into the ground is easy. Pulling them out of the frozen ground is hard.

      We usually cross fence with pigtail posts. Julie steps those in early in the afternoon when the top inch or so of ground has thawed. If it hasn’t…well…we have methods. Usually a little tap or two on the side of a pigtail is all you need. Rebar posts though, those have to thaw out.

    • I handed the camera to the kids for the second half of the adventure. They honestly take the most amazing pictures. I don’t know how to use most of their pictures. I usually write the blog post in my head as I take pictures. I don’t have a story for their pictures. Kinda weird I guess.

  2. The reader should note that the cat held by child number 4 is probably the nicest barn cat we have ever had. Also, where is the concrete culvert? I don’t recognize it, at least from this angle, but I am not especially familiar with this part of the pasture.

  3. I got lost somewhere in that field – why is there a red circle in photo #9? And what remote? Love the barn cat – who looks pretty big and soppy to be a lean mean fighting machine…we used to play shadow tag – the aim being to stomp on the other person’s shadow head. I like shadow monsters. No Minecraft when my kids were that age, and even Twilight and the whole vampire thing had yet to hit the teen lit scene. Just as well, doesn’t anyone get creeped out by the imagined zombies etc in the dusk? I certainly would. There’s a plastic skeleton hanging in my barn which has been there for about 10 years, and I still jump if it sways in a breeze when I’m in there at night.

  4. Is that corridor and water trough location more or less a constant location so if you would be able to trench in a water line below your frost line and add an auto watering bowl (with bulb to keep from freezing)? In case you were wondering what to get Julie for Valentines Day – lol !

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