Trees as fence posts

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by livinzoo, Sep 22, 2008.

  1. livinzoo

    livinzoo HeritageSpotsAndFeathers

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    I'm a city girl trying to have a farm, so I need lots of help.

    I am building a fence. It will have to contain both meat goats and pigs. I'm planning on using Red Brand Goat Fence off the ground about 2 inches. With a strand of barb wire 1 inch from the ground. Will probably put a strand on the top too. I'm trying to save some money as we are going to try to slowly fence 5 acres into sever padocks. We have found old telephone poles to use as corners. But the line posts are pretty expensive nowadays. We have lots of woods on the 5 acres so plenty of hardwood trees. We are thinking about running a line of hot wire inside the fence to help keep the animals off it. But worry about trees and what not breaking the line if they fall.

    Can we use live or fresh cut trees to staple the fence to? What diameter do you recommend? Is there anything we have to do to preserve the wood? Is there any type of tree that we shouldn't use?

    We have an old tractor auger to dig the holes (if it still works).

    Thank you so much!
     
  2. Alice In TX/MO

    Alice In TX/MO More dharma, less drama. Supporter

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    Fence posts made from fresh cut trees won't last as long because they haven't been treated with preservative. The treated posts that you buy are *pressure* treated, and the chemical is throughout the wood.

    If you paint the outside of a freshly cut post with something, it will have very little effect.

    That said, you do what you have to do to make your situation work. If you MUST use your own posts, then make them at least five inch diameter.

    Do not staple into live trees if you can avoid it. Years from now, someone will be cutting that tree with a chain saw and the embedded staple can ruin her equipment and possibly cause physical harm if the saw jumps.
     

  3. Oxankle

    Oxankle Well-Known Member

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    City Girl:
    Without knowing what kind of trees you have on your land the question cannot be answered definitively.

    Let's start by saying that some treeks make good posts, some do not. I will say this; If you staple a fence to a live tree, the tree will either die and fall over or it will grow out over your staples and wires so that you cannot ever again tighten, move, or work with that piece of fence. You can nail a treated board to a live tree and then staple fence to the board, but that too is just a temporary thing.

    Now as to cutting posts from trees: There is a variety of oak called "post oak", so named because posts split from it last fairly well in the ground. Old timers sharpened the ends of the posts and drove them with sledge hammers.

    Black Locust makes good posts if you cut trees that have much heartwood or split the white wood off. (When you put a post in the ground the white wood quickly rots off or is attacked by termites; it is the black heartwood that lasts 50 years in the ground.

    Osage orange makes great posts, but the wood is so hard that you almost have to drill staple holes in a dried post. You can staple them when green, but hardly ever again. I'd prefer Osage orange to any--by the way, Osage orange and Bois D'arc are the same tree. One disadvantage is that you can hardly ever find a straight post. Farmers use even the crooked ones, turning the post to get the straightest possible side toward the fence.

    Texas hill country cedar (juniper) posts have been used for as long as Texas has had fences. Again, the white wood rots off; it is the heartwood that lasts. If you have cedar, check the heartwood. Here they grow so quickly that it takes a very large tree to have an acceptable heart post.

    If you have scrub black walnut on your place the heartwood makes excellent posts. Indians in OK used them in the early days as the scrub walnut in the hills here is not timber quality. My old injun friend told me they split posts out of the trees.

    There is one variety of Catalpa that makes good posts, but I have never seen the tree nor do I know anyone who has used catalpa posts. I'm told that the good post tree (Catalpa) grows well in Kansas.

    The Dept of Ag. has a brochure on posts made from trees, including the ranking for longevity in the ground. Call your local agent.
    Ox
     
  4. Ramblin Wreck

    Ramblin Wreck Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Post Oak, locust, and red cedar are used for posts in our area (NW GA), and they hold up pretty well. You can nail to a live tree with some success (but the problems noted above too). If this is going to be your permanent home/farm, I'd recommend putting up a temporary, low cost (well as low as you can make it) fence for now and then search Craig's List/e-bay or other sources in your area for the right materials. Utility polls and solid cross ties make great corner/pull posts. Metal posts are now very expensive, but they were just $2 each not that long ago. Sometimes you can find bargains on these, and they last a long time. Good luck and best wishes.

    Edited to add: I try not to use treated material near fresh water sources, especially a well if that is applicable to you.
     
  5. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

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    Don't cut the trees down... use the living trees as fenceposts.

    If it weren't for living trees, I'd be in trouble, and have to buy thousands in fence posts each year. Any tree that grows near my fence is going to get staples in it. If, for some reason, I need to harvest that tree later, I cut it at the five foot level, above any potential wire or nails.

    Ox is right... the wood will grow over the wire. But, I've never had problem tightening the wire... no tightening needed if the trees are close enough... they stay tight... whenever they 'do' get loose, I simply staple the wire onto the tree a few inches off to the side. Nailing into pines is risky... if beetles are present, the tree will die.

    Only fresh wood I'd use would be cedar
     
  6. ErinP

    ErinP Too many fat quarters... Supporter

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    In my part of the world they're called "hedge posts" and you tie the fence on with wire. It's more expensive than staples, but hedge posts are cheaper than creosote or even steel, in most cases.
    But I've seen a lot of fences made of hedge posts that have lasted for over 50 years... (and many that were probably closer to 75 years or better)


    So far as other trees, cedar is good, obviously.
    Cottonwood is fun. So long as there's a bit of water on a regular basis in that spot, it's quite common for a cottonwood post to be "planted" and turn into a new tree! lol
     
  7. Oggie

    Oggie Waste of bandwidth Supporter

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    The trouble with using live trees as fenceposts is that, as the tree grown, your fence will end up 20 feet off the ground.:D
     
  8. sungirl

    sungirl Well-Known Member

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    Cedar fence posts will last 10 years for us. I have talked to some old dairy farmers who had had fences in cedar poles even longer. They are great since they are so cheap. We paid $100 to get 100 cedar poles for our new riding ring.

    Good luck! Congrats on wanting meat goats, what breed do you plan to buy?

    Patty.
     
  9. poorboy

    poorboy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I can show you fence here in Mo. that has been stapled into oak for over 60years and none of it has raised up, trees grow out from the fence level and grow over the wire, but they don't raise it.:rotfl:
     
  10. Oggie

    Oggie Waste of bandwidth Supporter

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    Shhhhhhhhh.

    She said that she was a city girl.:D
     
  11. ninny

    ninny Well-Known Member

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    That shouldn't be a problem. When it grows up, you just add a strand of barbed wire at the bottom, pretty soon you have a twenty foot high fence. You can now stock giraffes.:p

    .
     
  12. livinzoo

    livinzoo HeritageSpotsAndFeathers

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    It is mostly hardwoods. So now I have to learn what all these trees look like to see if we have any. I know we have a few different types of oak, sweet gums, a few types of maples, and some black walnuts.

    In a living tree could I keep the stable a little loose and be able to pull it out a bit every so often?

    I know the fence does not grow up. In fact there are many trees that I will have to cut the barb wire off from each side as the tree has grown over the old fence many years ago.

    I'm planning on getting some Kiko crosses I have heard they do much better in this Georgia Climate.
     
  13. plowjockey

    plowjockey Well-Known Member

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    Why not really save some money and put up a 5 or 6 wire high-tensile electric fence arround the land perimeter? It will cost less than using panels and you can save a lot of money on posts, buy using used "t" post for the line posts. We can still get them here for about $1.50 each.

    This electric fence will keep hogs/goats in and most predators out, plus no chance of injury from barbed wire.

    Once your permiter fence is set (which should be done first), paddocks are easy to create, using either temporary electric fence, or goat panels.

    If the fence is installed right, the only maintenance is to keep the weeds cleared from the lowest wire. It should last 30 years or more. Setting the corner posts is the hardest part of installing the fence. The "t" posts are driven with a hand-held post driver.

    There is plenty of on-line help and instructions to make the job easier.

    Marty
     
  14. Oxankle

    Oxankle Well-Known Member

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    LOL Oggie; the girl must have been exposed to the country somewhere if she knows you were pulling her leg.

    I would not suggest making a permanent perimeter electric fence unless it was made of high tensile wire and put together in the New Zealand style. No matter how conscientious you are, the fence is bound to require more maintenance than you are willing to give it. I have such fences and every so often I find the meter in the danger zone and have to go find the place where a deer has hooked a wire and pulled it off the insulator, grounding it. Cattle push against the barbed wire and tangle the stand-off, grounding it.

    Baby calves know no better and run thru the wire--sometimes mama follows if she is young and anxious. Hot wires are fine for interior paddocks, but they have their limitations. I have some single-wire fences that hold cattle just fine, but deer and calves still cause trouble for me. I would not want to have to maintain 25 miles of electric fence.

    I am now in the process of pulling posts, moving wire and mowing fencerows, deferred maintenance. In contrast, barbed wire fences are generally left to grow up in weeds and brush, the fence rows being cleared only when the fence has to be replaced. Only rarely do you find a rancher who sprays his fencerows.
    Ox
     
  15. MELOC

    MELOC Master Of My Domain

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    sometimes fences do grow up with the trees. i have seen it.