The cow fence extends from the main house and encloses the pool and a bit of the yard. It was built throughout March, April, and May 2023 as a prerequisite to the rotational grazing program with Cabin. The fence was needed to keep the cows from falling into the pool. While a minimal fence would suffice, the fence was extended quite a ways to avoid the septic drainfield and to keep it mostly out of sight from the living room of the main house.
The fence was primarily built by Andrew and Kasey, who came to town to lend her fence expertise. It was inspired by this fence seen on YouTube.
The first morning Andrew laid out the corners of the fence with stakes, following months of consideration. He also dug a test hole to make sure we wouldn't hit the septic drainfield. Immediately after the corners were laid out guests from Cabin next door came over to help. We started by placing the corner posts. This involved using the auger to dig a hole, placing and leveling the post, pouring dry concrete into the hole, and finally filling it with water.
After the corners were placed we decided to fill in the shortest run between corners. The boards we bought were eight feet so we measured the run, divided by 7.5, rounded up to the nearest post, and then divided the length by the number of posts. We placed flags at each location and then began digging holes.
Once the holes were dug Kasey showed us how to set and use a string line. The string line was offset from the end poles with little spacers. The same spacers were held next to each post as they were being placed and leveled. After placing the posts we all called it a day.
In the following days we worked on the eastern edge of the fence. We first placed the posts that would mark the gate and the Path to Cabin. Then we dug all the holes and placed the posts.
We made good time on this section because the soil was soft and it was easy to dig the holes. If only we had realized how good we had it at the time!
The fence was designed to be 49 inches tall to match the property's exterior fence. We experimented with the board placement and decided to use a gap of nine inches between the boards. Little hill country foxes would still be able to sneak under the fence to drink from the pool but cows would be kept out.
Initially we used a circular saw to cut the boards directly on the posts, but that required retracting the safety guard and the saw would often get stuck. Eventually we decided to try a chopsaw which worked much better.
As we installed more of the boards we found a good groove and got more and more efficient. Andrew carried, held, and swapped the boards while Kasey measured, cut, and screwed. Andrew was the muscle and Kasey the finesse.
Throughout March the bluebonnets continued to grow and bloom marking the passage of time.
After making good progress on the east side we began to hit setbacks.
The fence encloses the pool equipment which has a propane line that previously supplied a pool heater. The heater is gone but the line remains. Andrew checked the propane valve and sure enough it was still full of propane.
After an initial attempt to find the buried propane line Andrew gave in and bought a metal detector which made quick work of it. Once the line was identified we were able to start digging but soon hit another issue: shallow hard rock. Unlike the caliche elsewhere the rock couldn't be broken through with a San Angelo bar.
We bought a Ryobi rotary hammer but it was insufficiently powered and quickly ran through batteries. Fortunately one of Andrew's friends offered to lend him a powerful Bosch hammer drill.
The hammering process was slow and Kasey had to return to Seattle, so we decided to prioritize finishing the south side of the fence. Before she left we installed the rest of the boards including the challenging 45 degree turns.
Progress was slow through April because all of the drilling needed to break through rock. Nate and Ben came out to help accelerate the process but it was still tiring and back-breaking labor. Eventually we finished drilling all the holes, placing the posts, and setting them with concrete, which was a huge relief. By mid-May Andrew had finished placing all the boards and cut off the top of the posts. At this point only the gates remain.