An Affair of Plain Living II


I received inspiration recently from a book titled “Foxfire” to document some of the tasks unique to rural living which I occasionally perform. “Foxfire” was first published in 1972 and included instructions from old-timers on how to render lard, raise a log cabin or even make moonshine; these
activities were called “affairs of plain living.” Last fall, I
explained how to cover a septic tank with straw-which proved to be as
boring a read as the subject matter promised . This week I want to
explain how to build a fence corner. I will talk about something else if I notice your eyes begin to glaze over-or maybe I’ll just juggle.

First off, I like round posts for the corner and a nice railroad tie
to support the corner from the direction of each tensioned wire. If you do not
have the fortitude to dig a proper hole for all posts, you should
hire someone to do it for you-or move back into town. I dig all of my holes to four feet
deep, if you don’t then frost will heave your corner posts and you
will have shamed yourself (that may be a bit strong.) I dig the first
foot of the hole with a shovel then the rest of the way I used a
post hole digger. You should only dig the opening about one foot in
diameter, any wider and it will be difficult to make the surface of
the hole firm-this is important because most of the strength of the
post hole comes from the top foot or so.

After holes are dug, you can simply throw the wider end of your post
into the hole and plumb with a level (or by eye if you’re old-school)
then fill the hole around the post. Do not use the original dirt,
clay or sand that you dug out, use something solid-I like pea rock.
Pea rock is small and fills every crevice around the post and inside
the hole. The portion of soil around the hole that is undisturbed will
be solid, however using the soil you recently disturbed to fill the
hole is short-sighted and will allow the post to tilt under the pressure of the wire when
tightened. Use the black dirt to fill flower pots, the sand for your child’s play area and throw the clay into your neighbor’s field. You should also dig your hole a few inches deeper than four feet so that you can add
a few inches of pea rock on the bottom for drainage.

You must mount a cross-piece between the corner post and each bracing
post. I prefer those extendable steel posts people use to support
basement joists-you can adjust them to any distance and they’re very
strong. Please don’t nail a board on for the cross-piece, it won’t work and, with the final result, you will once again have shamed yourself (still too strong?) The final act of good corners is one of fairly simple engineering. You must wrap a wire from the bottom of the corner post up around the
top of the bracing post and back down to the bottom of the corner
where you splice the wire together. You can then thread a stick in
between the two lengths of wire and twist the stick until the wire
draws together tightly-not tight enough to break but tight enough to make the
corner successful. If you are obsessive about tightening you will break the wire, instead use a little common sense and realize you can only increase the tightness later if you haven’t broken the cross-wire during the initial tightening process.

There you go, how to build a fence corner-an affair of plain living; or content just boring enough to make excellent bedtime reading.

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