Donʼt Fence Me In…

This is an old song, actually written by a poet/engineer with the Montana Department of Highways (Robert Fletcher) who sold the song to Cole Porter for a whopping $250.

Mr. Porter re-worked it a bit:

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in!
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don’t fence me in!

Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever, but I ask you please
Don’t fence me in!

Just turn me loose
Let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the Western skies

On my Cayuse
Let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise

I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can’t look at hobbles and I can’t stand fences
Don’t fence me in!

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don’t fence me in!
Let me ride through the wide country that I love
Don’t fence me in!

Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don’t fence me in!

Just turn me loose
Let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the Western skies
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo

On my Cayuse
Let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise
Ba, ba, ba, ba, ba

I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences
And gaze at the moon ’til I lose my senses
I can’t look at hobbles and I can’t stand fences
Don’t fence me in!

No, Papa, don’t you fence me in!

Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter, 1934
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Well, the thing with hogs is… unfortunately… you have to fence them in… these days anyway.  I visited old Andy Jackson’s Hermitage on one of my jaunts to Tennessee a couple years back and was amazed to learn how pigs were left free to roam the sizable compound.

Perhaps if we had such a spread carved from the wilderness, devoid of neighbors we could get away with this – they should always come back at feeding time anyways… right?  But I can’t imagine that we would enjoy much success with this strategy and these rascal Berkshires… we actually have a sow aptly named “Miss Jay’s Rascal”… and what a complete rascal she is… and her pigs and her pigs’ pigs.  Rascals one and all…

I think itʼs a game that they play with me… ʻletʼs see who can upend old Randyʼs latest addition to our domain firstʼ… huts, water barrels, hog panels, gates, inferior fencing… you name it.  And of course old Randy himself if he holds onto the feed bucket too long or makes the errant move to try to infiltrate a group with one or two too many large feeder pigs in it.  But you know, we love our Berks!

Fencing
Fencing

So… fencing is a must.  Good fencing is rudimentary.  And the kind of fence that would be a detriment to a D4 caterpillar is much preferred if one hopes to contain our porcine friends over the long run.  Because really thatʼs what these guys are… a herd of D4 caterpillars that are plenty motivated to remove all obstacles in their path… and well below their path actually.

Now Iʼve been building some manner of fence every day for the past three years… well, it seems like every day anyway.  I donʼt think there is a spot anywhere on my body that hasnʼt felt the magical touch of my hammer.  Not to mention the 3/8 drill bit I put through my hand one hot August day… and had to pull it back out!  Canʼt remember if I put the drill in reverse or not… thankfully Zack was nearby to take the old guy to town to get fixed up.

Thanks to the animal husbandry experiences of my youth, I basically build fortresses.  Hog fortresses.  Heritage Berkshire fortresses.  And the rascals are at bay.

You see, I grew up on a little farm/ranch in northern California and like Noah himself, I think we had about two of everything. Certainly a few too many of everything.  Now my Pop, God love him, he didnʼt like to spend money on anything, especially fencing.  So young Randy cut his teeth on a dead run… chasing one form of Noahʼs creatures or another… and had to suffer the embarrassment many times of chasing a steer through a neighbors garden, geese off the county road, pigs off the other neighbors beautiful pastures.  My older brothers were grown up and gone, so it was typically just me and the lone prairie… on a dead run.

So, these days I pay particular attention to the fences. Now, Iʼm just a dirtball biologist, not a carpenter, so just about everything I build is a bit, shall we say, whimsical, but they hold these black/white rascals… after all, Iʼm getting too old for those dead runs through the woods.

Hot Wire Energizer
Hot Wire Energizer

You know the old saying… If you talk to 30 different farmers about a subject, you’ll get 30 different answers… with conviction!  So, these are just My ways to go about putting up fence to contain hogs.  If you have better ideas… by all means use them!  But if you think you can just put up a couple strands of loose hot wire to hold these wonderful creatures weʼre so blessed to share space on the landscape with… please at the very least have a good perimeter fence!  Unless you owe the neighbors some favors…

Corner and gate bracing is key.  Strong livestock gates are a must.  Only use Red Brand field wire (please send endorsement money to the address in the contact section of this site… you see, weʼre small farmers and really could use it!)… the way itʼs wound is far superior to anything else Iʼve used.  You can get ahold of it and stretch it good and tight.

 
Hotwire in and out

Hot wire is a must.  Along the bottom of the fence, and since we live on a landscape with plenty of predators (it is Wilderness Farms after all), we also run a strand about 18 inches off the ground along the outside of the pens.  This keeps all creatures great and small out of trouble.  

Hog and cattle panels are great, but very expensive.  But hog panels are essential to have around to build quick enclosures for young pigs.

We have a post pounder to use with our tractor to drive the wooden posts for braces.  You can rent these things as well.  By all means be careful using these contraptions.  Donʼt go at post pounding with something else on your mind.

 

Cedar Sticks

Smooth horse wire works well for bracing wire and you can use pieces of lumber, or as we do here, cut up stout cedar limbs for winders to tighten the wire.  Use heavy 10 inch nails to fasten the horizontal blunt brace posts. Stretch the 4 ft Red Brand field wire between brace posts and use 6 ft metal T posts every 8 ft in between.  Attach the hot wire, turn it on and youʼre ready to sleep well at night with a reasonable assurance that you can be sparred those midnight dead runs…

Enjoy your hogs.  Scratch their ears.  Talk to them.  They have quite the vocabulary themselves!  Hogs are special.
 

Cheers,
Randy