How to Make Your Own Fence and Gate for Free

by: EJ on 12/13/2012
Posted in: Gardening

Today's preparedness post is excerpted from the upcoming Plowing with Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions by Oscar H. Will III and Karen K. Will.  Plowing with Pigs will be off press in February 2013 but if you keep a careful eye out, there will be some sneak peaks available from Grit MagazineOscar is a farmer, scientist, author and the editor-in-chief of Grit Magazine.  He is known for seeking and implementing creative farmstead solutions. His commercial agricultural production experience includes alfalfa sprouts, hay, beef cattle, free-range poultry (meat and eggs), native perennial plants, trees, cut flowers and vegetables. Karen is editor of The Heirloom Gardener magazine, freelance writer, photographer, author and blogger.  This talented farming couple operates Prairie Turnip Farm in Osage County, Kansas.

Whether or not your plans for the future include livestock, good fences are always needed.  It may be you only need to protect your veggie garden from marauding wild animals or it may be that you need to contain some stubborn sheep.  Either way, fences are an integral part of any food production project. Hank and Karen explain how to make a good fence and equally useful gate at next to no cost.

Our homesteading friends, Eric and Wendy Slatt, are no strangers to making do around their place, so when it came time to fence the critters out of the kitchen garden, they took  a good look at their wooded acreage for ideas. In the end, the Slatts decided to create a  picket-type fence using rot resistant species for post material, seedlings of lighter  scantling for the two rails, and even lighter material to make the pickets. Almost no metal  fasteners were used for this project — Eric lashed the rails to the posts and the pickets  to the rails first with baler twine and later with nylon mason’s line once the twine began  to rot away. Later, they installed welded wire to the inside of the pickets to help with  rabbit control. The project took some time, but the end result is as lovely as it is functional.

Lovely rustic picketstyle fence even keeps out the rabbits when reinforced with wire mesh along the  bottom.
Credit: Wendy Slatt

Our sheep have a stubborn streak that makes it tough to move them to greener pastures  without a fight, especially when the pasture gates aren’t tough and tight. Recently, we  had the bright idea to move the flock to the east pasture for a spell of late-season  grazing. Less than two hours into the experiment, half the flock discovered that the ancient barbed wire-and-batten gate separating our backyard from their pasture was  loose enough to squirm right under. 

When challenged, the girls slipped back into their pasture without incident, and a  judiciously placed welded-wire stock panel kept the lambs off the lam for the immediate future, but we really needed a better solution. Wincing at the notion of spending more  than 120 hard-earned bucks for a 14-foot pipe gate, we decided to build a rustic version  instead. The following morning, after a bit of measuring and figuring, we headed off to  the woodlot and cut sufficient Osage orange and hackberry saplings to make a pair of  five-bar pasture gates that would collectively span 14 feet, meeting in the middle. We chose decay-resistant Osage orange for the gate’s vertical standards and the top and  bottom rails; hackberry made do for the inside rails because it is lighter (and we had  more of it).

The first step was to cut a pair of standards for each gate — ours are about 5½ feet long  on the hinge edge and 4½ feet long on the latch edge. Next, we trimmed the top and bottom rails to length, shaped their ends with a hatchet, and nailed them to the standards with 16-penny nails. Once assembled, we racked the gate frames until diagonal measurements were within ¼ inch of one another and called them square.

Next, we peeled the bark from several hackberry poles using a drawknife (bark-on  hackberry poles rot quickly), then shaped and nailed them to the squared frames. With two hackberry rails installed, we noted that the gates were getting heavy,  so we  substituted twisted barbed wire in place of the planned fifth rail, which keeps the cattle from poking their heads through the gap. We hung the gates using a time-honored  method of planting the long end of the hinge standard in a hole next to the fence post to serve as the bottom hinge and wrapping a double loop of smooth wire around the post  and standard for the top hinge. Here in Kansas, Osage orange poles stuck in the ground should last for about 25 years  before rotting away, at which point we can install proper forged hinges if we wish.

Shortly after hanging the second gate, the sheep came bleating up to visit. I don’t know whether it was the heavy-duty look of the gates or that the spaces between the rails were sufficiently narrow, but the entire flock went back to grazing without even giving our homemade pasture gate a test.

This homemade pasture gate is still on the job several years after its construction and installation.
Credit: Karen K. Will


Links to the rest of the series:

Day One: It's the End of the World as we Know it...or is it?  New Society Publishers

Day Two: It'll all turn out in the end.  Or will it?   Ellen LaConte

Day Three: Collecting Rainwater  Albert Bates

Day Four: Building Awareness of your Surroundings  Eric Brown

Day Five: The Beginning of the Gaian Calendar  Gaia Trust

Day Six: Conversation Skills You Needed Yesterday  Cecile Andrews

Day Seven: Permaculture: How I'm Preparing for a Local Future  Peter Bane

Day Eight: Peak Oil Advice from German Poets  John Michael Greer

Day Nine: Try Something New for a Sunday Night Dinner  John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist

Day Ten: Resiliency: It's Not Just a Catch Phrase, It's a Way of Life  Wendy Brown

Day Eleven: On the Eve of the Prophecy, from a Squat in the Woods  Miles Olsen

Day Twelve: A Woman, a Plan and a Canard... Sharon Astyk



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