The Fence-Line

The Fence-Line

Sore and sunburnt, I stopped at the back of the field to survey the fence-line. Pride and gratitude swelled within me, even as my arm muscles burned from prolonged use of the weed-whacker. That line of electric fencing is a thing of beauty to this farmer. It’s an ordeal to bring the electric fences online every Spring, but what they bring to the table is undeniable. The ability to keep animals in or out, is an absolute necessity when you’re trying to grow your own food. Through trial and error, I’ve learned the hard way that a good fence is worth the investment of money, time, and energy.

the fence-line
The fence-line.

The Story Behind the Fence-Line

Putting an electric fence around the garden to keep the deer (and dogs) out, was a no-brainer. I’ve both inherited, and been gifted, several electric fence chargers along my journey into farming. I like the semi-permanence of the t-post-and-wire system, which offers a lot of flexibility and isn’t as expensive to establish as some fences. Personally, I feel like t-posts are so versatile they are always a good investment.

For the sheep, however, I was using solar chargers and electric net fencing. These systems had been a big investment for the farm when I initially bought the property. I remember being so excited to have them. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long before I realized they just weren’t strong enough to keep the sheep contained. You hear a lot about how difficult it is to contain goats, but no one mentions how wiley sheep can be─and did you know sheep can jump!?

sheep fence
Wiley sheep!

The sheep were breaking out left and right. I was having to chase and round up animals, put fences back to rights, morning, noon, and night. That went on until I woke at 4am one Saturday morning to “baaaaaaa-ing” coming from the road below my bedroom window─about 400 yards from where the sound “should” have been coming from… Next thing I know, I’m chasing sheep on the field in nothing but my nightgown and rubber boots─no bra─so my boobs are bouncing and slapping around as I’m bounding through the tall grasses, wet with early morning dew, trying to round up my livestock.

As I walked back to the house following that chaos, the idea for the fence-line came to me. If I could run a line of reliable AC-powered current up through the middle of the field, I could then attach my net-fences to that and maintain a strong enough charge on them to keep the sheep where I want them. Theoretically speaking….

Deron took me to Tractor Supply that very morning to buy $500 worth of t-posts (yknow…back when we were still together…). We spent the rest of that day pounding a line of 60 posts up through the middle of the field, installing the insulators and running the wire. He ran an electric line all the way out to the field for me, and installed an outlet there to plug a charger into, thereby powering the fence. That was a game-changer for Runamuk.

Bringing the Fences Online

Down to our last few bales of hay, and the sheep crying at us for access to the growing grass, last week was all about bringing our electric fences online for the season. There was no option but to work through the rains. I put in some pretty long hours, removing the broken insulators and replacing them with new, patching breaks in the lines, resetting t-posts, and making any modifications to the system that I’d come up with over the course of the year.

I’m not too proud to admit that there was a moment of despair Sunday night, when I had to question myself, doubt creeping in about my purpose (and sanity). I had been pushing hard all weekend to bring the fences online, driving at turning the sheep out Sunday afternoon. I was sore. My ankles hurt, my hips and knees ached, I was scraped here and there, bruised, and just plain exhausted from the week-long ordeal. I had a great charge on the fence that surrounds the larger of our 2 gardens, but for the life of me, I couldn’t get my net-fences to carry the current. It was six-thirty in the evening when I reluctantly called it quits for the day, leaving the ewes and lambs in their winter pen for another night. If I couldn’t get the net-fences to work, what would I do??? It was a terrifying, and disheartening thought.

sheep farm fencing
Who can say no to an adorable lamb!?

These sheep are not pets. Nor are they merely food for my family and yours. These sheep have a job to do, and they are a big part of our conservation efforts here at Runamuk Acres. By employing rotational grazing on our 10 acre field, we are using our sheep to create a bountiful habitat for wildlife, both above and below ground, and also allowing our field to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They allow me to maintain the field without the use of a tractor.

Of course, I really enjoy the sheep. With their quirky personalities and friendly manners, sheep have won my heart. (And, tell me, who can say no to an adorable baby lamb???) They may be a lot of work, but I am not ready to give them up just yet. Without the net-fences, though, I wouldn’t be able to keep them, and there’s no money in the budget to buy alternative fencing. Neither is there money to buy in more hay. Life was looking dismal indeed… I knew, though, that things would likely look better in the morning, after a good night’s rest.

In fact, I did come up with a solution the next morning. The dawning realization that I could call Premier 1 Supplies to troubleshoot the issue with a pro (That’s what they’re there for!) came to me over coffee. I had to wait until their offices opened, but in the end I was able to take their insight, and bring the fence online. Late on Monday morning, I finally turned the ewes and lambs out.

Me and the Universe

Watching them greedily devouring mouthfuls of grass in the morning sun, I knew they were as elated as their farmer. Overcome with emotion, I stood with them for a while. It’s been a rough spring for this farmer, in the wake of my recent break-up. We’d lived separately anyway─in fact, it’s been years since I’ve had a live-in partner. Lol, you’d think I would be used to farming solo. Hell, even when I was married my homesteading and farming pursuits were largely performed alone.

Until now, I’d always yearned for someone to share special moments like this one with. I craved a partner who, like me, found meaning in this sort of existence. There’s still a part of me who wants that, if I’m being honest, but I’m less optimistic now about finding him. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. I’ll be 43 this year. Mostly, I think it’s just that I’ve lost faith in men.

Even if I were able to locate a man who would want such a life, the chances of his being a suitable partner (yknow…honest, hardworking, respectful, non-controlling, able─and willing─to communicate *appropriately*, to make compromises for the good of our mutual relationship…little things like that…) are slim.

I admit, I have not had good luck with men. My counselor says my “picker is broken”, lol. I don’t pick good men.

fencing sheep
Turn-out day 2023!

The worst part of it is that every time I get involved with a guy it’s a detriment to the farm. I cannot count the number of mistakes I have made because I have allowed a man to sway my decisions. Trying to build trust in a relationship, I will go against my own better judgement, and the farm suffers for it every time. Ultimately, I only have myself to blame for ignoring my gut-instinct, for allowing myself to be persuaded by men who may or may not have a firm grasp on the concept they are offering advice on, or the impact it will have on my business.

If you’ve been following along with my story for a while, no doubt you’ve read my words about how “I will do this with or without a man.” When I say that, it’s not because I want to be able to do everything for myself. On the contrary, it would be a blessing and relief to have someone to share the burden of the farm. Yet, while there are exceptions, men have generally proven themselves unreliable to me. Thus, if I want to farm, I have to be willing to do what needs to be done.

So, yes, there’s still a part of me that wants the fairy tale, but now there’s this bigger part who says: “….maybe it’s just meant to be you and the Universe…”

This thing that has ahold of me─this burning desire to nurture and protect some small piece of the natural world, coupled with this insane drive to grow/raise/make real food─this is my journey. Maybe it’s not right to expect someone else to have that same sense of responsibility that I feel duty-bound to act upon.

I Got This

Standing there watching the sheep eating the grass with gusto, I lifted my face to the sun and gave thanks to the Universe for the opportunity to live this life. I am so thankful to own my own farm, and to be a farmer. It’s a precious gift, to be able to work outside on a Monday morning in Spring. To be able to keep the sheep, and witness the transformation they’ve brought about on the field is another. I gave thanks, too, for my own resilience and determination. Those 2 traits have served me well along this journey, and the fence-line is living proof that, even though it can be overwhelming and scary at times─I got this. I really do. I’m doing okay on my own….just me and the Universe.

Thank you for following along with the story of this female-farmer! It truly is a privilege to live this life, serve my family and community, and protect wildlife through agricultural conservation. Check back soon for more updates from the farm, and be sure to follow @RunamukAcres on Instagram or Facebook! Much love to you and yours, my friends!

Share your thoughts, comments or questions!

Runamuk Acres Conservation Farm