Greener Pastures Farm - Current News

Jon kneels down to let the pregnant Cascade Farmstead ewes check him out. Visit our website to learn more about these great little low-maintenance, no-shear, meat sheep!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gates, Alleyways, Hog Panels and our Apple Tree Security System

Fencing and gates are an ongoing topic on any farm, and I’m asked a lot how we do things here at Greener Pastures Farm. We’ve learned a lot over the years about what has worked well, and what has not. Often, the most valuable lessons are what has not worked, and any farmer worth their salt will be willing to share their mistakes as well as their successes.

Today I’ll start with a couple successes, and I promise that mistakes will be forthcoming!

Alleyways are crucial for a farm. I try to explain over the phone how these work, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. This alleyway is a bit wider than we would have made it, but an old driveway was there first, and pounding posts into 80 years of gravel lasted about a minute, and then we revised our plan to include a 10 foot wide alleyway. You work with what you’ve got! Ten years later, here is a photo of what we did.

Before putting fence posts in, we planned ahead to have the gates the same width as the alleyway, and placed the posts accordingly, so that open or closed, the gate can latch securely. This is handy when rotating sheep from one pasture to another. Each alleyway on our farm has access to a barn, and gates like this make it easy to allow sheep access to one pasture, allowing the other pastures to regrow. Our sheep are accustomed to this system and don’t need to be herded from one to another; they know that an opened gate means fresh grass on the other side and race each other to get through it! The gate above is latched in the "open" position, with the top photo shown from the alleyway, and the lower photo shown from the pasture.

These photos are of my Young Apple Tree Security System. Some of our small pastures have little or no afternoon shade, so I planted 5 varieties of “standard” apple trees in five different pastures. Full sized (aka “standard”) fruit trees are not easy to find now that so many people are demanding dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit trees; Gurney’s is the only source that I’m aware of. Granted, mine are not providing shade yet, but they will eventually, and a smart farmer plans ahead.

If planted out in a pasture with sheep, your lovely apple tree will become an apple stick in a matter of moments. Protection is needed. I placed each tree about 6 feet from a fence, and then overlapped 2 hog panels together and pulled them into a horseshoe shape, attaching each end to the fence on either side. Here is a 3 year old tree, and you can see how the sheep have grazed right up to the hog panel, but have not breeched it to get at the tree.

This photo shows the back side of the system. No, your eyes are not deceiving you; there is no tree in this photo. It didn’t survive for some unknown reason (weather? disease?) and needs to be replaced, but you can see more clearly how the hog panels are attached to each other and to the fence. We used metal fasteners called hog rings. They weren’t as sturdy as I’d been told, so I used 2 in each space, and clamped them tightly. After 3 years, they are kind of rusty, but still holding together.

One more item is a good idea. A few days after we planted the trees and placed the hog panels, my husband brought back a stick and said “Here’s your Granny Smith tree.” A couple metal t-posts were then pounded into the ground in strategic locations to prevent eager sheep from breaching the Apple Tree Security System.

Because we’ve seen llamas and sheep “bark” and eventually kill fruit trees in the past, I’ll keep these in place no matter how old the trees get. Hopefully they will outlive me!

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