For want of a nail…

A little neglect may breed mischief …
for want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
for want of a shoe the horse was lost;

and for want of a horse the rider was lost. -Benjamin Franklin, from Poor Richard’s Almanac

I have been thinking of this proverb for all the years that I’ve been a country bumpkin.  Substitute “nail” with “fence” and you’ll see what I am getting at:  many country problems are solved (magically) by fences.

However, I have…commitment issues with fences!  I just hate them.  I hate erecting  them, I hate maintaining them, I hate negotiating them, and I hate looking at them.  Would that I could let my poultry truly free-range.  They’d be happier, surely.  Happier, and probably dead.  My garden would be decimated, though, by digging chicken feet.  I would never harvest a ripe tomato without a peck mark in it.

Fences, however, aren’t all bad!  Containment helps; one of the reasons we didn’t get our dairy goats this year is we hadn’t a fenced-in area  in which to pen them.  I would be able to find *all* eggs should the girls be enclosed in a chicken-proof run.  And our turkey could sit on her eggs unmolested had her pen’s fence been tighter.  And the geese:  well.  The secret with them is to simply build something so high they can’t fly out of it.

But back to the proverb.  It’s not a fence I have been missing for all these years, it’s a post-hole auger! (smacks forehead.)

img_1154Beast, in repose

14 responses to “For want of a nail…

  1. So, you have the auger, when do the goats arrive?

    • Pamela, you remind me of a joke I heard as a child about the difference between a pessimist and an optimist. The pessimist came downstairs on Christmas morning and found horsesh*t in his stocking. The optimist came down and saw the same thing in hers. The pessimist whined and said this proves that he had been horrible and that Santa, indeed, could see everything. The optimist said, “Well, where’s my horse?”

      • I heard one similar: There once was a little girl. All she ever wanted was a pony and she told her parents that over and over again, for years. They always told her “Maybe one day.” Her parents decided one year to throw her a big birthday party. On the day of her party, she played and opened presents and had such fun, but always seemed to be looking for something. After the party was over, a dump truck came to deliver a load of manure for the garden and dumped it right in the yard. The little girl went crazy, jumping right in the middle of the pile of manure and started digging like crazy. Her parents were horrified! They asked her what she thought she was doing!?! She replied “With all this manure, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”

        I love saying that “there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere”!

  2. Having just done 80 fence posts last week (well, Mike did) – an auger is an invaluable tool. So when do you get the goats?

  3. Fences are key, indeed. Ours was a bear to put up, but the rest of the gardeners in our community garden say that the animals can be brutal around here. We just used the green metal fence posts from Home Depot, pounded them into the ground with a sledgehammer (which is easier said than done in our rocky, New England soil). The fence makes me happy… in a community garden, it, too, keeps out the two legged beasts as much as the 4 legged.

    That’s a heck of a nice piece of machinery, we could have used that when putting in our gate for the garden (sinking two 4x4s 18″ into the ground). I do wonder how it would deal with our rocky soil, though.

  4. Put them up, take them down, move them every year, and fix them every time there is a windstorm…I relate to your dislike of fences. My very first garden plot was built without a fence, I went on a camping trip and when I came back deer and whatever else had pretty much finished off the garden…foolish me.:) Definitely a love hate relationship with the fence.


  5. The post hole auger is a magical thing. If I remember right, it takes two to operate. At least ours did. I was going to recommend Laura’s blog for the latest on fences. Can’t wait for the goats. I think the Times recently did a piece on the surging demand for goat. Yum. And just think of the cheese.

  6. Oooh…that is an awful purty auger there!

    Does this mean we can anticipate many cute photos of goats soon?

  7. That augers well!
    I think you’re in for some changes.

  8. We’ve been expanding our gardening into the back field, away from the house and deeper into deer country. So, this spring I have been working on a deer fence. We will be using high tensile new zealand wire charged with a six joule charger. And I will probably hang that black plastic deer netting on it to keep the chickens out of the garden.

    I have been posting it for an eight foot top wire. I don’t have any cedar, so I went with enormous 18 – 24 inch diameter corner posts in order to get some longevity out of them.. And to keep those posts upright I am sinking them 5 – 7 feet deep, depending where I hit bedrock.

    I have a nice hand auger, but it will only dig a 10″ diamter hole about 48″ deep at max. I have the corner, gate and most of the line posts and brace posts in. It is a big job, but a good fence is a wonderful thing.


  9. I *love* my oh-so-optimistic readers! Goats, next year! Unless my husband has a change of heart, which is doubtful.

    Pamela, Task #1 was to fence in the chickens. The posts are in and are setting; next comes the netting. They are very happily wandering all over the place now, and I am not finding all the eggs! Little sneaks.

    Laura, Cody is so cute. You must be so happy! And: can I say I am jealous of his poop? (There, I said it.)

    Hi Nate. It HATES rocks. And roots. So, it went like this: Tom drilled, I stood by with lopping shears and a soil knife to cut roots and retrieve stones. But, dang, it works better than the manual post-hole digger we have been using for years. But yeah: fences DO help, even in places where people outnumber critters. Sigh.

    Mike, yep. The only time I don’t mind fence work is in those first “warm” days of February, you know, when the temperature goes above 30 and the sun is shining. Otherwise, it’s a constant battle. Of course, better fences make happier farmers but man. Time and money are in short supply around here. I would rather spend my time, and dough, on green things.

    Ed, yeah, we’ve rented the two-person things; once they’re tall enough (say, to dig a 36″ hole) it kind of takes two. This one is certainly not puny but can be managed by one person. YES, goats, waah. Next year. They need a shed too, did I mention that? Man! Never ending.

    Christy, well. I can post pics of cute chicks soon enough!

    CC, well, the only lives that’ll soon be changing will be the chickens’. That is, excepting Pauline who flies out of everything, with impunity. The bantam babies are getting big so they need to go live with The Big Girls soon; gotta get a rush on the fence.

    MMP, a good fence IS a wonderful thing! Here’s my problem with permanently installing fences, like around your garden: what if (always a possibility here) you want a BIGGER garden? Then what? An 18″ diameter pole bean pole is what. But hey: good luck with the fencing project! That electric zapper should really help you out.

  10. El, you just have post envy. Our current garden is fenced and yes, sometimes it is a pain. But without the fence I never had broccali survive the groundhogs long enough to head up etc. Someday the new half acre garden may not be enough. If that day comes, well, a fella will have to yank those ugly posts out and dig new holes. It would be a lot of work, but it beats feeding the deer in the meantime. And we’ll also get dual use out of it. Areas that are not in use for the garden are a protected area for raising vulnerable animals. And there is a ring of goat pasture around the outside of the garden using the garden fence as one edge and giving a further buffer aginst the deer.

  11. MMP, I have post AND goat envy! But no, you’re right; most of this stuff is a matter of management, and if you want a harvest and/or critters at all you have to go through the steps to make that happen. Groundhogs! Ack. Seriously, my foes were ones I brought here (the chickens) that were the biggest obstacle to harvesting. But it sounds like you’ve got the garden figured out. I always think I do then I change my mind…and that’s why I have the easy fence around it. The permanent fences are going around the critters. And, if I add more critters I will simply need to add more permanent fencing, which is why this tool was a great investment for us.

  12. I’m on a run to build fences for my yard. Those darling chickens are MAKEING a mess of everything! It’s either that or they NEVER get to get out of the house and chicken run. (Which doesn’t sound like too bad of an idea) Except they will get rather bored. Oh the struggles of livestock.


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