Mystery Fence Tool on South Side

Mystery Tool

Can you identify this mystery fence tool and what it is used for?

Fence Tool
Mystery fence tool.

I wonder what part this tool plays in the process of fence building?

Rolling-out 150 feet of wire fencing can be hard on your body. Don’t let anyone ever tell you it’s easy. First, my legs get tired from rolling out the wire. Then, biceps get a good workout from lifting it up so it is vertical with the posts. Honestly, how many times can you walk up and down a fenceline in a day before your legs wear out? I learned how to straighten the wire. It is required that you pull with all you got, then pull again. Following this, my hands, arms, shoulders, abs and legs are talking to me all night long.

Say hello to my little friend!

Wire Tensioner 01
Wire Tensioner on top wire south fenceline

The Fence Tensioner

I think I am in love. It is an old tool from Pete’s secret stash in the garage. A basic block and tackle assembly with a cogged clamp on one end that grabs the wire, and a dual hook chain on the other side. Pete showed me how to slip the chain around one fencepost, then hook the clamp end to the top wire of the wire and pull the rope. Yahoo! Nail the top in, then repeat for the bottom. This tensioner takes a wobbly crooked fence to a straight line. Sweeeeet!

South Fence
First posts in garden south side fence.
South Garden Fence
Posts for half of the south fence

Now all that is left is to staple the wire three times per post. The south side of the garden is about 150 feet long, with 15 fenceposts.

Loose Wire
Wire loose on fenceline

You can see how the wire is drooping down on the top row of wire before we used the wire tensioner.

Potassium or Potash Soil Testing

soil potassium test supplies
potassium test supplies

A garden’s need for potassium is not so simple to describe. It seems that clay soils “fix” or hold onto potassium, whereas, sandy soils tend to experience severe leaching of their potassium levels. So, the type of soil you have greatly affects the levels you may have. It is important for all kinds of reasons including larger fruit, strong stalks, disease resistance, less wilting and much more.

The potassium soil test is a little more complicated to run. It starts the same with some measured extracting solution in the test tube. Shaken not stirred, then soil settled. Use of an eyedropper to put liquid into a second test tube for the “before” color on the card. Next we count how many drops it takes of the other solution to match the “after” color on the chart. It says to add two drops at a time, then shake and see if it matches but we actually started with eight because our

Out of 10 areas of soil tested all had over 10 drops to even come close to match. For instance, 12 drops equals a “medium-high level” of potassium and we had two of those. 14 drops equals a “medium level” which we had 4 of. A couple 15 drop guys, which are “medium-low” potassium levels and a couple 188 drop results showing “low”.

soil potassium test 02
potassium test 02
soil potassium test 03
potassium soil test 03
soil potassium test 04
soil test potassium 04
potassium test result 05
potassium test result 05

Phosphorus Soil Test

Phosphorous test supplies
Phosphorous test supplies

Phosphorus encourages root development increasing crop yield and resistance to disease. It is important stuff.

Phosphorous soil test 02
Phosphorous soil test 02

This test begins the same as the others with a solution put in the test tube to mix a little of the soil in and shake. Then, after the soil is settled, the liquid is drawn up by eyedropper and put into another clean test tube.

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A different chemical tablet is added and then, the test tube is shaken till the tablet dissolves, making a blue color appear.

Phosphorous soil test 06
Phosphorous soil test 06
Phosphorous soil test 07
Phosphorous soil test 07

We compare the resulting blue liquid to a chart to see what the result is. Results can be anywhere from trace to high levels of Phosphorus.

Phosphorous soil test 08
Phosphorous soil test 08

Nitrogen Test of Soil

"soil

Photosynthesis

The nitrogen soil test reveals information about a most vital link in the world’s food supply. Nitrogen is an integral part of the photosynthesis process. It’s presence in proper levels promotes healthy green “above-ground” growth in plants. Testing for nitrogen helps to determine how much decomposed organic matter, or fertilizers need to be added.

Nitrogen is an element that needs to be replenished in our gardens as it is depleted when we harvest, or rain leaches levels down and when some of it is simply returned to the atmosphere.

soil nitrogen level test trace
soil nitrogen level test trace
soil nitrogen level test zero
soil nitrogen level test zero

Our test results on all ten soil samples showed trace or zero levels of nitrogen in our soil. Consequently, we had to lookup how much nitrogen is needed to be added to the garden for the different crops we have selected. We are glad that LaMotte test kits have little booklets on how to figure all of this stuff out.

pH test of soil samples

pH Level Test Supplies

soil pH test supplies
pH test supplies

Testing for the pH levels shows if the soil is more acid (sour) or alkaline (sweet). Testing involves measuring an amount of test solution into the test tube, then adding soil and shaking. Allow sediment to settle before comparing color to chart.

The correct pH level is the most essential building block for having good crop production. Where the soil is on the pH scale, greatly affects how the microbiology activity (fertilizers) can function. Therefore, we must initially have the pH level right before any thought of other nutrients is even beneficial.

soil pH level 6.0
pH level 6.0

This is the lowest neutral pH range test we had in this testing series at 6.0

soil pH level 7.0
pH level 7.0

This is one of the highest neutral pH ranges in our test batch. All ten test areas fell into the neutral pH range in our garden. It is probably because over the years, we have composted and put lime down as needed.

A pH test measures the acid and alkaline levels and then assigns a corresponding number somewhere between 3.0 to 11.0 as the results.

Neutral pH or Slightly Acidic pH

There are two basic plant groups. One prefers a “neutral range” of pH levels anywhere between 6.0 to 8.0. The other group prefers a “slightly acid soil” in the range between 5.0-6.0.

If soil test results reveal numbers out of these two acceptable ranges, then application of either limestone or alum will be needed to correct it. Remember, to get the pH range right before adding any fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorus, potash).

Testing Garden Soil

LaMotte Garden Guide Kit, EL
LaMotte Soil Sample Test Kit 5670-01

Testing our garden soil is very important to us. If you have never done this you may find it really interesting and helpful. We purchased a LaMotte Soil Testing Kit discovered on the Burpee.com seed website one afternoon. This is a good soil test set for us. It allows multiple tests and comes with absolutely everything you need to get started. Additionally, it includes “how-to” booklets explaining exactly how to perform soil tests correctly.

  • Garden Guide Manual
  • Soil Handbook
  • A Study of Soil Science

When our garden got bigger the “single-use” test kits were not very helpful. Because we needed to be able to test more than a single area. Using this kit is similar to doing an experiment in chemistry class. It is a lot of fun but requires careful observance of instructions to be safe. The chemicals in this kit are available for purchase to restock the kit after you use up what’s in the kit. Check out www.forestry-suppliers.com for more information on supplies.

Getting Soil Samples

soil sample 10
gathering soil sample 10
soil sample 7
gathering soil sample 7
soil sample 06
gathering soil sample 6

After reading the instruction booklets, we labelled 10 zip lock baggies to put soil in. Then marked 10 popsicle sticks with the numbers from 1-10. Out to the garden, we collected 10 soil samples from different areas, leaving a popsicle stick marking where we took what samples.

Testing Preparations

dry soil samples
drying soil samples

Afterwards, laying out 10 paper towels (1-10) so the damp soil samples could dry out overnight.

Look at how much lighter the soil looked the next morning. Next, we smashed any lumps and clumps in the soil with a large glass, also removing any organic matter we noticed. The soil samples are ready to test, so we re-read all the information about how to do it before we began.

By the way, don’t underestimate the time required to do the test on the soil samples. We had anticipated spending about half a day running tests on the ten soil samples but, it actually took us all day long.

Putting New Fenceposts

clear SW fenceline
clearing south and west fenceline

Good Fences

We shift into new fence routine, starting with ground work including tree and stump clearing. Then on to moving any other obstacles, like gargantuan boulders. The tractor easily flattens-out the grade once the obstacles are clear. This grade work was done by-hand using shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows prior to buying our brother and sister’s tractor. Whew! Those were not the good ole days.

Last week we completed the rock retaining wall located along the asparagus patch. This wall holds an entry corridor open on the lower level for secondary tractor access. About 4 feet of bank is there between the upper and lower portion of the garden.

W new fence posts
West new fence posts

Slowly But Surely

Yesterday, we completed the west side (5 fenceposts) located on the south side of the garage.

fence south side begin
fence south side begin

Today we started on the longest straight line of fence which is the south side of the garden. You can see the first group of posts in ground starting at the lowest elevation down by the garage. This length of fence is approximately 150 feet with a walk-in gate in the center and a duplex equipment gate up at the top for equipment. You may be able to notice the two tree stumps laying on the right side of the picture. These are from two dead trees that used to stand right where the new fence is going in.

We were picking up one pole at a time and taking them to the appropriate post hole to install. Lining-up the tractor and dropping the post into the hole. Then, adjusting to make sure it is straight, followed up with upside-down-shovel tamping. Then on to the next posthole using the post hole digger on the back of the tractor. Once the hole is ready we drive back over to the fencepost pile for a post, chain it up and come back to put the next posthole in.

Pete is Working & Tractor Is Slacking

This animation brought a smile to my face when I noticed how Pete was loading up fenceposts on the tractor. Pete says, “This way saved a lot of time transporting poles.” I tend to want to use machinery if at all possible, instead of my back. My back hurts just watching him pick up those heavy beasts. What do you think?

 

Demo Old & Begin New Fence

fence top rail removal
fence top rail removal

Demolition

Our demo construction experience “kicks-in” for both of us as we prepare to build a new garden fence. With all the new posts painted and stacked to dry, the demolition of the old fence begins with Pete taking down all of the top rails on the existing fence. Demo of old fence hardware and posts, requires determination of what is in good enough for reuse and what is not. We sort and stack supplies, then burn debris in the fire. Then, we do it again. Next, we remove wire staples taking down and rolling-up wire for reuse.

SW new fenceline
SW new fenceline

Ground Prep

The ground is graded after clearing the old fence away. This allowed easy and accurate measurement for South and Southwest corner posts locations. We stretch bale twine line to use as a guide to help make the fence straight. Consequentially, by the end of the day the first 5 fence posts are set on the southwest side of the garage.

Temporary Fence

Since this is not a one day affair, we must construct temporary fencing each evening as we work. Why? Because, Bambi is always a threat in our area. If you look at the middle of the dirt expanse in this picture you can see how we placed temporary fencing for this evening.

apple blossoms
apple blossoms

We have a total of 10 fruit trees in our orchard. It has taken years to get them all healthy and happy and they are beginning to bloom. It is so beautiful and fragrant. If we want any fruit this year we must not leave them out in the open for the deer to eat up. We hope that the weather doesn’t decide to freeze up and snow again before summer gets here. Just another thing that we are crossing our fingers for. Unfortunately, it is all over if those beautiful little flowers get frosted.

cherry blossoms
cherry blossoms

Delapidated Garden Fenceline

garden fence
garden fence from house

Realization

The garden fence became delapidated with the accumulated snow weight this winter. When the snow melted it became obvious. There is no way around it, we had to replace the fence. Dang!  This is a view of the 1/4 acre garden that we plant every year.

north side garden
north side garden fence

Over the winter our garden fence started to sag and lean everywhere, till we had placed just as many braces to prop it up as there were fenceposts. Here is a before picture of the North side fence with all of it’s braces. You can see how saggy it all is. Guess it really is needing some help isn’t it?

fence turns
fence turns

Evidence

This image illustrates how over the years, we have added fence as the garden expanded by simply going around big rocks or trees. There was no long term plan. Laying out fence in any kind of straight line was not a concern so much as simply keeping the deer out of the garden. It is a good thing we are not competing in any Home and Garden contest because comically, in the existing leaning lines of fence, there is not even a single 90 degree corner in it. Hmmmm. We tried to lay it out with 90 degree corners and just finally gave up and are aligning focus on straight runs with removal of all possible obstacles. Thank goodness for the Kubota…. thank you Dan and Ann!

south side garden
south side garden

The south border of the garden is the longest continuous stretch of fence at approximately 150 feet long. It is going to also be the straightest stretch of fence in the new. You have seen all of the “before” pictures in our garden fence line replacement project. Now, you know what the Woelk’s in Elk do during quarantine, letting the ultra violet rays kill all the Covid 19 virus cells as we sweat.

Fence Replacement Prep

exist south fenceline
exist south fenceline

One of the first concerns with any project prep is the cost of getting all of the necessary supplies. But, luckily Pete had already thought ahead by stacking a deck of logs to dry that we could use to make new fenceposts with. Thank goodness, the man is always thinking. A couple of years ago, wild turkeys decided our garden was a local delicatessen, so we installed new wire. So, we knew that if we are careful with demo, we’d be able to reuse a lot of the wire. Our material costs will be low. Mainly it is going to be a lot of sweat equity.

We are well aware that it is not going to be an easy task!

But, what the heck. What else are we going to do with the hours at the home front during quarantine?

Prep

SW corner Tree Removal
SW corner Tree Removal

Pete and I set a corner post at the southeast corner discovering obstacles at the southwest corner. Two large trees with broken tops and a large rock which he removed.

Next, He cut the logs into 14 foot lengths and peeled the bark. Then began to split the larger logs by using 3 simple tools and his muscles. Splitting fenceposts (an informative article), used to be a common yearly deed for Peter on his family dairy farm, but I found it to be an amazing thing to see in modern day life. A maul and two wedges, combined with lots of strength (sweat) and determination produced our 50+ fenceposts.

Truthfully, old age is not for wimps. Increased energy expense requires aspirin consumption at night. Honestly, we both have had to make use of our jetted bathtub to ease sore muscles during the evenings of this project.

Preserving Fencepost Bases

fencepost painting area
fencepost painting area

I mixed all of the enamel paints we had together coming up with a yucky purplish brown mix. Luckily, it blends in well with the color of dirt. Painting the post bases helps provides some protection for the wood. As the logs were split, they were moved to the painting area (pictured above). Afterwards, they were again stacked to dry and await being put into the ground.

Val painting fenceposts
Val painting fenceposts

Pete is amazing to watch as he moves the posts from one area to the other. He also alternates between removed top rails of the old fenceline, and clearing and/or leveling the grade where we want to put the new fence.

fenceposts 12
fenceposts begin
fenceposts
fwnceposts progress

Our goal was to do the best job we could. After all, we don’t want to be doing this fencing replacement project on a yearly basis, just because we were too lazy to do it right.