Thursday, May 31, 2007

Building fences

Over the last thirteen years, since settling down at Gamone, I've planted hundreds of chestnut posts in the rocky soil to build wire-mesh sheep fences. If the donkey leans against such a fence, or a sheep runs into it at full speed, it won't survive for long. [I'm talking of the fence, not the donkey or sheep.] So, I often recycle old posts and even previously-used wire mesh to build new sections of fencing. At a Gamone level, that's the sustainability concept.

I've repainted the pointed ends of these posts with bitumen (sold in cans in hardware stores), to minimize rotting in damp soil.

In the above photo, I'm holding the heavy steel spike used to create post holes. The general idea is that you stand with your feet apart at the spot where you intend to make a post hole, and you raise and then hurl this spike into the ground. To produce a hole that's deep enough for a post (about thirty to forty centimeters), you might have to raise and drop the spike a dozen or more times.

This photo also shows how I'm using a pulley device (a steel block and tackle), attached to a linden tree, to stretch the wire mesh so that it lies flat up against the chestnut posts. At that stage of the fence building, all I have to do is to hammer in U-shaped nails (I don't know what they're called in English) to fix the mesh to the posts.

Back in South Grafton, when I was a child, my father often talked about fencing. I seem to recall that local farmers and graziers used eucalyptus posts and barbed wire, but I don't know how they dug holes. Probably with a spade and shovel...

Fencing is a primordial rural preoccupation. My neighbor Madeleine once told me that, after their marriage, Dédé said that, either they would go on a honeymoon, or they would use this time and money to build a fence around their future property at Choranche. Their splendid fence is still there, as solid as their marital union.


  1. Hi Dad
    It's funny to see the fence we were buildng together (you with a little of my help), via Internet. I could say as people do when they write their names on a wall or a tree, "I was here". Signée Manya

  2. Oui, Manya, j'ai complètement oublié de signaler que c'était toi, la photographe. Je me dépêchais de publier cet article de blog car, comme toi, j'étais préoccupé par l'obligation de déposer (au dernier moment) ma déclaration fiscale. Finalement, j'ai pu faire les deux : le blog et les impôts. Et toi ?