The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space


Inca, the Min Pin prisoner

Inca, the Min Pin prisoner

This was the subject matter of the email that Anne Mary sent Danny yesterday morning. He forwarded it to me. The combination of FWD and fences made my heart sink. The high winds that we had last week had clearly taken their toll.

Most of our fences are over 30 years old. John and I replaced 7 fencing panels about 4 years ago. It was such a palaver that it put me off replacing the rest of the panels, even though the other stretch looked dodgy back then. The lengths that bordered the *human graves had not stood up to the weight of the earth pressing against them. Several times Inca had escaped into AM’s garden and her exit holes had been stopped by bits and bobs that I’d found knocking about in the garden.

Over the past year or so the escape holes have been increasing at an alarming rate. In fact I’ve heard Inca attacking the fencing with her teeth. She is on steroids after all and is now a muscular, toned and rounded Min Pin missile. With enough Vorsprung Durch to forced her nose through the sort of elderly fence that might be examined carefully on Antiques Road Show.

Anne Mary was alerted to the fact that our fences were down when one of her Labradors escaped into our garden and refused to come back. AM mentioned that Poppy smelt a bit fishy on her return. Ah yes! That was the pack of fish flakes that must have been dashed to the ground during the storms. Later that night I braved the rain with a torch to retrieve our oldest Min Pin lady. She is now blind and suspecting that she was in trouble I searched for her for some time. I eventually found her feasting on the same fish flakes. She was furious when I scooped her up to take her to a place of safety.

Danny went out to investigate the fence situation. This is quite a palaver as it means removing lace up shoes and pulling on the nearly new Wellington boots that’s he’s had for the past twelve years. He came up to the bedroom to report. Lace up shoes to the fore.
“Well the damage is quite bad. At least three panels are down.”
“I have a plan. We’ve got that six foot pallet in the drive it’ll be a good prop.”
“It may need a bit more than that.”

Luckily I had a roll of chicken wire in the shed, along with sturdy staples. It took me about an hour to temporarily secure the gap and make it Min Pin/Labrador proof.

There is a good side to this story. With the fences down, far more light streamed into the garden. As we have hedges along most of the fence line we’ve decided to replace the stretch of old fencing with one made of chicken wire. The old fencing posts were set in concrete so I’m going to burn/scrape the rotten wood out so that I can hopefully just slide new posts into the old holes. I’m also going to soak the base of the new posts in wood preservative for a few days to give them a longer life.

Meanwhile the Min Pin escapee is not impressed with my endeavours. Within a day we have moved from a canine version of Ford Open Prison to Alcatraz.

*human graves
These are vast piles of earth that were dug out of the garden to make the large 28’ pond.


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  1. A cheap and easy fence preserver is old used engine oil, removed from the car when it gets an oil change. I get it in drums from the local garage for free and it last way longer than wood preserver and doesn’t fade. My posts have been up and still standing for over 20 years now.

  2. Vagabondic

    Rather than trying to burn or scrape out the holes use a metal repair spur – rather than a central spike it has two sides which slide between the wood in the hole and the concrete, they normally hold pretty tight and the new post is above ground level so shouldn’t rot. They may cost £10 a time ( cheaper on ebay) but save hours of trying to dig out a post

  3. I don`t know if you`ve chased this project up any further yet, but I came across this today, and as it seems a “good” bargain (for 6 ready treated)posts I thought I would pass the link on to you to check out!

  4. Try some “deer fencing” as a semi permanent “repair”. Having recently acquired a lab puppy, I added this to our existing post and rail fence. Dead cheap and almost invisible. I’m sure he can chew through it, but better plastic than damaged mouth from chewing wire.

    Also got river frontage, but he’s not learnt to swim yet!

  5. Mark Willis

    Last week I was more than ever thankful that a large part of my garden is protected by a brick wall!
    Keeping pets within your property is like trying to store water in a colander.

  6. When I was a child, our garden had a 200 yard river frontage and it was impossible to fence it in. The dogs simply swam down to a neighbour’s slipway!

  7. Fences! Urgh! We have a fine selection of propped and guy roped fence posts, all rotted through at the concrete level, all held up by the panels… thinking of using metal post bases in the same holes, to avoid re-rot. Oh joy!

  8. I am planning on doing something similar with one of my fences that has more or less come down in the recent storms. My posts are fine – they are in concrete with no earth around them, so I am going to put up chicken wire too, and train climbers along from the ends.

  9. Sue Burton

    Human graves – love the dark humour!

  10. Just a tip I learnt from a fencer, he said the reason the posts rot in concrete isn’t because the wood isn’t protected its because the soil is piled on top round the posts and usually the concrete dips down into the middle where the post is, creating a reservoir for water to sit and rot the wood quicker. When replacing new posts into old holes get a bucket of quite thick made up concrete/mortar mix and smear it round all sides of the posts in a downward direction blending into the existing old concrete, so water runs away from the post in the middle. They can take up to 10 yrs to rot like this he told me :)saving money and effort cos everyone hates digging out old posts :S

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