After we moved into the barn, one of our next big projects was a fence to protect the dogs from predators. BamBam is 11lbs, blind, and not bear aware. He’s hardly a match for coyotes or neighbors’ roaming dogs.
Another important reason we wanted a fence by the barn is that the septic field is near the driveway. A fence is a foolproof way to keep someone from crushing the piping and trenches of the septic system with a car or linemen’s truck.
Choosing a Fence Style
As always, our first step was to get 3 quotes from contractors. We don’t only want multiple prices, we want different perspectives on how the job can be done. My first call was to a local fencing company with a phone number on a nice split-rail fence down the road. The other 2 quotes came from Lowe’s Pro-Services and a fencing company from a neighboring county.
The contractors walked the proposed fence line with wheels to measure the length: 350’. They shared pictures of recent projects on their phones and offered different options for materials and designs. We talked gate sizes and post depths. After meeting with all of them, we understood a lot more about fencing.
Prices were harder to understand. They were all over the map. The local guy was the cheapest, at $3,600. Lowe’s came in at $5,000. The company from the next county was out of their mind at $8,600. We were taken aback by that one.
Beth and I regrouped. Even the lowest quote was too much, and Beth wasn’t all that happy with any of the proposed designs. The contractors were offering 4’ – 5’ high, 3-rail poplar wood fences with wire stapled along the inside. Beth wanted something lighter and more see-through with fewer pieces to maintain.
My job takes me all over the countryside through the heart of Tennessee farmland, where you see every kind of fence you can think of, from super expensive vinyl PVC to barbwire stapled on trees. Between that and the meetings with the contractors, my wheels were turning.
Beth’s favorite was a simple design of wood posts and 5’ tall, 2×4” welded wire, almost completely see-through so we could still look out the barn windows and see turkeys and coyotes walking up the driveway. It’s a rustic look that fits the simplicity of the barn. I started researching it and realized we could do it ourselves. It would just take us stretching 350’ of wire…and driving about 60 posts into the ground. If you’ve used a post-hole digger before, you know why we were stressing about getting all those posts in the ground, especially with all the rocks here.
Our go-to guy Zach had just put new fencing on his 80 acres, so I called him for advice. I asked if we should buy an auger for the back of the tractor to drill post holes. He immediately said, “Forget that! Rent a post driver from the co-op.”
If you haven’t heard of this thing, prepare to be amazed. This hydraulic machine not only holds posts level; it repeatedly slams a 750lb weight down from 20’ to drive fence posts into the ground like a nail.
It hooks to the back of the tractor to be easily pulled down the fence line, slamming in post after post.
I lined up a weekend rental at the county farm co-op. We like renting equipment over the weekend because most rental places are closed on Sunday and give you 2 days for the price of one. In this case, the cost was $150, a lot less than an auger. I could tow it behind my 4runner, so delivery was just the price of gas.
When we picked up the driver, the co-op told us which posts to use, too. Perfect Posts are the same diameter all the way down the post, making them stable enough to withstand the driving process. If a post is tapered or bent at all, it will break under the pressure. I picked up a load of posts with Black Sunshine and we were ready to get started.
Making a Fence
We started by staking the outline and pulling string to show the future fence line. I marked every 8’ with lawn paint to indicate where the posts should go. For the straight-aways, we used 4” x 8’ tall Perfect Posts.
Corner posts were 6” x 8’ tall. Corner posts hold the majority of the wire tension so they need to be stronger. I would later add an extra 4″ post 4′ on each side of the corner posts for H-Bracing. H-Bracing is horizontal bracing between corner posts to add even more stability.
After figuring out the machine and how to get the posts level, the driving went well. It’s really a one-person job, so I took this part while Beth took pictures and video and did other projects. She kind of kept her distance for safety’s sake. Where the ground was too hard or rocky, posts splintered in dramatic fashion. The top of one post broke off and shot right past my head. Other than that, it went great.
One thing I’ll note is it’s better to do this when the ground is moist. We were at the end of a dry summer and the ground was hard. The driver obviously worked, but it would have gone faster and easier with wet soil. It took a day and a half to drive all the posts in.
Pulling wire is just what it sounds like and is definitely easier with 2 people. Especially when that other person is Beth. We tacked wire onto the first post with crazy sharp, barbed fencing U-nails and started tugging. Beth pulled each section of the wire tight, and I tacked it to the posts.
It took a few hours over a couple days to pull all of the wire and enclose the area. Despite our best efforts, the wire bowed out in some places. YouTube taught us how to crimp the wire with linemen pliers to tighten and flatten the fence.
Finally, we attached 2 Tractor Supply gates to the gate posts, and we were done. We used through bolts for the gates, not the screw-in gate fasteners that the gates came with. The through bolts are much stronger and prevent the gate from sagging over time.
After the gates were installed, we took a step back to admire our work. We couldn’t be happier with it, or with the final pricetag. Gates and all, we came in under $1,500.
It’s rustic, low maintenance, and see-through. Maybe most importantly, it let us know we can definitely continue to take on more of these projects than we’ve given ourselves credit for.
This is important because we need fencing in other places. The success with the dog fence inspired me to take on chicken fencing. I even made a custom gate. It’s one of the first features you see when you drive up (now that the sinkhole is gone), so we wanted it to look nice.
We did outsource the more time-consuming carpentry of the chicken coop. Beth found a local carpenter who makes custom chicken tractors at reasonable prices, and ours will be delivered later this month. More on the chickens in upcoming posts.
This project was big and scary, but after following the rule of getting 3 quotes and feeling the sticker shock, we were motivated to try it ourselves. We exceeded our own expectations and were reminded once again that not knowing what we’re doing is no excuse for not giving it a try.