Sunday, March 1, 2009


The goats needed a fence. We tried chicken wire and metal posts at first but they didn't notice. We built various barricades while we planned a good-enough fence, then passed out when we saw the price of what we'd planned.

The idea was to give them enough space - we had plenty of it - to keep them from destroying the grass they were housed with, and to keep manure from piling up. (Yes, we will talk about Manure. Soon. And we will talk about Flies.)

We started out with electric fence, the cheapest alternative we could find. After much reading we thought that three strands would do, one for each level of a goat.

One important aspect of goats is their ability to be where they want to be, and they definitely adhere to the philosophy that the grass is always greener in the other fellow's yard. So the first strand had to be above goat level by a couple of feet.

Then because it is not too hard for a goat to flatten herself against the ground, one had to be quite low.

And then we put one in the middle to keep her from stepping on through without noticing a fence at all.

Electric fences consist of the wire, fairly heavy guage, insulators to attach the wires to, and an electrical box. This is plugged into house current and keeps the fence in a low level of sizzle that the goats don't like. They seem to be able to feel it about 8-12" away, so they don't actually get a chance to lean against the fence.

The only problem for us with this simple apparatus is that we had no house current near where we wanted the goat fence. Another way of putting it is that we didn't want the goat fence up against the house.

The electric fence also needed to be penetrable by humans. For us that meant a gate that we could walk through that was not electrified.

The solution to the electricity problem was fairly simple. We gouged the earth, which fortunately was still unfrozen, down several inches, and buried an extension cord. As low-tech and possibly illegal as it was, this simple electrical conduit served us the whole time we lived there.

The cord needed to travel the 100-plus feet to the area where we were building the fence and to where we were going to build the barn. And it needed to terminate at the box that would charge up the fence. We buried the cord, but didn't yet have a place for the box.

And to this day we can't remember what we did to protect the box before the barn was built!

The real lesson here is to get the fence before the goats!

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