Next up is setting all those t-posts. I know many people set them 16' apart, but I am more comfortable with them 8' apart. Even though I'm "just" keeping in sheep, goats, and dogs, I like having the extra insurance of more posts to keep the fence from sagging, or bowing when the beasties decide to rub against it to scratch an itch. Driving the posts went relatively easy except for the five of them that hit solid limestone less than 6" below the soil. That was too shallow to keep the post stable, so we brought out the hammer drill and rock-breaking bits. We also needed the generator to run the hammer drill because there's no electricity out in the pasture! Of the three bits (large spade, small spade, and point), the small spade worked the best. We were able to get three of the posts fully driven into the ground, and the last two were not driven all the way in, but were stuck tight in the gravel we created.
Unrolling the fence was quite the chore. I watched a YouTube video on fence installation after I unrolled it by hand (uphill, of course!) and discovered I could have popped the fence roll on the tractor spear and unrolled it a much easier way. I will remember that for the next fence! After wrapping the wires around the wood post and securing that end, it was time for the fence stretcher bar, come-along, and some chains. Another "after the fact" bit of knowledge – I could have saved the money I spent buying the stretcher bar and made my own with some bolts and 2 2x4s. But the purchased stretcher bar has two attachment points to run a chain through, so that is quite helpful. This part is much easier with at least two people! Husband wrapped a chain around a post (you can also use the tractor for this), attached the come-along, and secured another chain to the attachment points. As he cranked the come-along, I moved up and down the fence line adjusting the fence. Eventually, there was enough tension to lift the fence up against the t-posts and finish the stretching process. While it was still under tension, we wired the top fence wire to the t-posts, cut the excess fence off, and wrapped the fence around the other end post. After a heated fight with the come-along, which got stuck and didn't want to release the tension, we removed the stretcher bar.
I needed a break after all that! I came back later to finish wiring the fence to the t-posts. I'm not a fan of the pre-cut fence pins/clips (I think they are too short to effectively secure the wire), so I have a roll of wire to cut my own. These wrap around 3-4 times on each side to anchor the fence to the post. I also learned that if you can wire the fence with one of the verticals up against the post, it won't slide around as much. It's not always possible, but the more, the better.
Now the flock has a brand new pasture added to their rotation and are contentedly munching the grass and "weeds." After I had let them in, I found quite a large patch of cockleburrs, which meant I was pulling them all as fast as I could before the sheep could discover them. Sometimes I think they have burr-seeking radar! I went over the area three times, so fingers crossed that I got all of them, but I most likely didn't. That means I will be catching sheep and checking them over to make sure they are cockleburr-free. Burdock burrs are soft and will disintegrate, but cockleburrs stay sharp even when they dry out. If they get some on their bellies, this could lead to hotspots and pain as they move around with the burr rubbing against their skin.
All in all, I'm content with how this fence turned out. It took about a week to complete, working on it 2-3 hours a day. The fenceposts aren't quite straight, but the fence itself is taut and stable. I still prefer using 16' cattle panels, but this wasn't as bad of a project as I was expecting – and it was good practice for the very long dividing fence we need to install next!
What are your tips for stretched fence installation?