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How to put up a good fence - Going Postal!

Putting up fences should be a simple task. Put the post in the ground and hammer the fencing to it. While that sounds easy, there's just a little more to it. So, we are going to give you step-by-step instructions to make your fencing adventure go a little smoother.

Step 1. Prepare the Path

Clear out any brush, stumps, tall grass, weeds, and debris that's in the path of your proposed fence. Cut trees, bushes, weeds and grasses as close to the ground as you can. If you have a lot of weeds and are fencing in an area for pasture, go ahead and kill the weed stumps or pull them out of the ground. (See our upcoming blog on pasture maintenance for weed killing ideas.)

Step 2. Pick Your Posts and Fencing

There are a few kinds of posts to choose from, so use these guidelines to help pick the best fencing and posts for your needs.

Wooden posts are strong and can last many years, but be sure they are treated wood. Don't use posts made from trees you have cut off your land. Untreated posts will rot in just a few years and then you'll be out there replacing them. Treated posts can be purchased at most feed and seed stores and lumber yards. Use 6 or 8 inch diameter and 8-10 feet long posts for your corners. Corner posts bear the bulk of the pressure from the fencing so you want them strong. You will also need two 3 or 4 inch diameter and 5-6 feet long wooden posts for your supports.

The rest of your fence can be smaller wooden posts or metal T-posts. T-posts are preformed metal stakes that can be pounded /pushed into the ground an don't require digging. They are cheaper than wood most of the time and last indefinitely. More on installing t-posts below.

Step 3. Start with a Corner

Dig a hole for your large corner post about 3-4 feet deep using post-hole diggers. To use diggers, put the handles together so the shovels are open. Life the diggers into the air above the hole, and forcefully drop them into the spot you want your hole. While they are in the hole, open the handles which closes the shovels, lift out of the hole and deposit the soil to the side of the hole. Repeat until the hole is the desired depth.

Set your post using a level if you want it to be straight. Use quick set cement to fill in the first foot (or more) of your hole. Have a buddy hold it and watch the level while you fill in the hole. You can fill the rest of the hole with cement or dirt. Every 6 inches or so, pack dirt by tamping using the top of your shovel or an old broom stick as a tamper. If your soil is sandy, use cement for the entire hole. When you are done, don't try to wiggle the post to see if it's steady - you'll just be opening your hole again. Instead, if you're using dirt, sprinkle with water to help the dirt settle up next to your post. Top off the hole at the surface with a little extra dirt. If you use cement, top the hole off level with the ground so your fence will reach the ground if needed.

Use one of the small posts to measure the distance from your corner post along the fence line in each direction you plan to add fence. Dig a hole and set one of the smaller posts at the end of the measurement. Use the same methods to fill these holes. Lift Your measuring post to about 5 inches from the top of the supporting post on one side and the corner post on the other side and nail it in place. Use big nails at an angle for this as you want the corner to be well supported.

Step 4. Setting the Rest of the Posts

Decide how much distance you want from post to post along your fence line. Most farmers set their posts 6 feet apart, some use 8 feet for economical reasons. If you plan to have large animals like cattle, goats, sheep, etc. you might prefer a 6-foot distance especially if you are going to use barbed wire. Lay out your posts at these distances (you can measure these distances with a tape measure or with a 6-foot post).

To keep your fence line straight use a long role of twine. Tie one end to the corner post, stretch the twine out to the next corner post (or a temporarily placed t-post). Pull the twine tight and you have your fence line. If you are using wooden posts use the dirt and tamping method without the cement. If you are using t-posts, use a t-post pounder or tractor to set them (see next).

Whether you use a pounder or tractor, you'll need a buddy to hold the posts level while they are placed. If you use a t-post pounder, make sure your buddy has on gloves and holds the post lower than the length of the pounder. Pounded fingers aren't fun. You should also use gloves to avoid blisters. The pounder is placed over the top of the t-post, then lifted to nearly off the post followed by a forceful downward motion. The t-post will inch its way into the ground. If you have a tractor with a front-end loader (and can get it to the fence location), carefully set the post using the loader to slowly push the post into the ground. This is much quicker and a lot less work. Your buddy will still need to watch the post for straightness and tell you when to stop.

Anytime your fence changes direction (even just a little), put in a corner post. Remember to leave space for your gates and their larger posts. One rule of thumb, you can't have too many gates. Think about how you will enter and leave your field from a variety of directions.

Before you begin, consider where and how you might want a "working chute." Working chutes are used to gather the stock into a smaller area for maintenance (shots, deworming, etc.). It is so much easier to gather stock directly from the pasture to the chute area than to try to move them through more open areas (including the barn yard where they can make a mess) then trying to get them into a chute system that is free-standing. We'll discuss chute systems in another blog, but a corner is a great place to put a chute gate in your field fence.

We hope these suggestion are helpful!

Our Top Picks for Setting Posts

ARIFARO 24 Inch Fence Post Driver 18LB T Post Driver with Handle Heavy Duty Hand Post Pounder with Handle for U Fence Post Wooden Post. Heavy enough to get the job done and reasonably priced.

Jake Sales 4inches Exterior Hot Dipped Galvanized Common Framing Nail (20d) 5 Pound Box ~145 Nails. These nails are a staple on a farm. You will use them for everything!

WORKPRO Claw Hammer, 20 Oz, One-piece Forged Framing Hammer with Magnetic Nail Holder, Nailing Hammer, Air Cushion Handle for Antivibration. This hammer saves fingers and thumbs!

STRINGLINER Company 25406 Twisted 540-Feet Reloadable Line Reel, Fluorescent Orange. This is such a useful tool! The string is easy to see and it comes with a roller for when you are done.

AMES 2701600 Post Hole Digger with Hardwood Measurement Handle, 68-Inch. This is the type of digger that most farmers use.

Gas Powered, 52cc 2.4 HP 2 Stroke Engine Earth Auger with 8" Drill Bit, EPA Compliant Post Hole Auger. Don't have a tractor? Here's the next best thing!

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