The Farm Report: Chicken Man Goes Jungle Whacking … Again

See that nice line of fence posts in the picture below, just waiting for some cattle panels to be attached?

Nah, we couldn’t see them either, but we knew they were in there somewhere.

When we first bought the farm, there were t-posts and barbed wire all over the place.  Take a look.

Wow, hard to believe that’s now a grassy field – also the fairway for hole #8 on my disc-golf course.

Anyway, one of the first things we did after moving in was get rid of most of the barbed-wire fences.  They looked awful, and with two rambunctious girls running around the property, rusty barbed wire seemed like a bad idea.

Later we discovered another barbed-wire fence running along a dry creek-bed at the edge of our side pasture (same pasture in the first picture above).  We didn’t attempt to dismantle that one because it was surrounded on both sides by one of those @#$%ing briar jungles that surrounded and crisscrossed our property.  We figured we’d take care of that one when we paid someone to install a nice wooden fence around the land.

I’ve since changed my mind about the fence.  I’d still like a nice wooden fence for the two front pastures.  Pretty much all the fences in this area are either dark wood or iron, and I don’t want to own the one property with an ugly wire fence facing the road.  (I’m guessing the neighbors were none too pleased with the previous owner of our land, with her chest-high weeds and rusty barbed wire everywhere.)

But after seeing estimates for a wooden fence surrounding the entire six-acre property, we decided we can go with cattle panels for the side pasture and the land behind the house.  Nobody can see those areas except us anyway, and we’d rather put the considerable savings towards a tractor or something else useful.

We’d like to have the option of raising sheep next year, and we’d also like the dogs to have more room to run around.  Rather than hire a fencing company, Chareva suggested we just jump in and start fencing off the side pasture and the back of the land ourselves.  I agreed enthusiastically.  As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, I now look forward to those outdoor labor projects.

Step one was to remove the jungle that had grown up around the barbed-wire fence in the side pasture, then cut away the barbed wire.  The t-posts are fine (most of them, anyway), so we’ll keep those and attach cattle panels to them.

Man, those jungles are wicked.  Here’s a close-up of what we had to clear.

Believe it or not, there are some nice trees behind all that mess.  You’ll see them in the pictures below.

Defeating the jungle required a multi-pronged attack.  For each section, I had to start by walking in there with a chainsaw and swinging it back and forth like a slow-motion machete.  The briar counter-attacked ferociously, and my arms got shredded even though I was wearing sleeves.

After I hacked my way up to the fence line with the chainsaw, Chareva stepped in to snip away the barbed wire, fold it up, and stuff it in a garbage can.  Here’s what each section looked like with the jungle cleared just up to the t-posts.

We don’t want the jungle to grow back up through our eventual fence, so after Chareva snipped away the barbed wire, I stepped back in with the chainsaw and cleared a few more feet behind the fence line.  When all that was done, I mowed down whatever was left with our Predator brush mower (a process we called “Feeding The Beast.”)

Between the density of the jungle and my protective facemask, it was sometimes tough to see exactly what I was cutting when I reached in there with the chainsaw.  So even though I was trying to be careful, I caught some barbed wire on my second day out there, which caused the chain to fly off the bar.  I’m no longer Chicken Man when it comes to working with dangerous power tools, but trust me, seeing a loose chain whipping around in front of you will wake you up in a hurry.

When I opened the chainsaw, I noticed some little part had gone flying off as well, forever lost in the jungle.  I took the chainsaw to the Stihl dealer and was told the repair expert (a nice older fella I refer to as “Pepperidge Fahm” because of his thick New England accent) wouldn’t be back until Monday.

Well, what the heck, I thought to myself.  Truth is, this 20-inch Farm Boss is great for cutting logs, but it’s a bit of a load to swing around in a briar jungle all day, and it’s extreme overkill anyway.  Kind of like carrying a bazooka to hunt squirrels.  So I bought a small chainsaw and left the big one behind for the repair.

Depending on where each section was located, we ended up whacking down somewhere between six and 10 feet of jungle to clear the fence line.  In the picture below, the brown area was all jungle.

At first, I thought one of our biggest chores would be dragging all the saplings and vines we cut down to a new and massive burn pile.  But then I hacked my way well past the fence line and nearly stumbled into a wide and very dry creek-bed.  Two thoughts occurred to me:  1) When we get sheep, that dry creek-bed would serve as a convenient superhighway for any coyotes who decide to come down from the hills and sniff around, and 2) that looks like a convenient place to dump all the briar I’m cutting down … which would discourage coyotes from treating the creek-bed as a superhighway.

So I cleared a path to the creek in a few places, and that’s where we dragged the jungle-whackings.  In the picture below, the creek curves pretty close to the fence line.  If you look towards the right, you can see the creek-bed filled with briar.

See that thing that looks sort of like a snake hanging down in the picture above?   That’s a vine that grew up and around a tree.  We pulled down quite a few of them, but some — like that one — wouldn’t budge.  So I just cut them as high up as I could safely reach with the chainsaw.

The job took three weekends, but the t-posts are now exposed and waiting for cattle panels.  (Hey, look — trees!  They’re a pretty sight when they’re not being strangled by a briar jungle.)

My camera doesn’t have a wide-angle lens, so I can’t snap a picture of the whole side pasture.  This picture shows about half of the area we had to clear.

The good news is that the side pasture is done.  The better news (now that I’m a fan of working myself into a state of Dog-Tired Satisfied on weekends) is that we still have the entire back of the property to go.  Heaven forbid I run out of work.


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36 thoughts on “The Farm Report: Chicken Man Goes Jungle Whacking … Again

  1. Brianna

    You should think about hiring some goats to come in and eat all of that stuff. Yes this is some thing that you can actually do..

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      The goats Sara raised for 4-H were pretty effect weed-eaters. But I think it would take a big herd to clear that jungle. It was some dense, nasty stuff.

      Reply
  2. Jeff Ballard

    Not sure what kind of cell phone you have – you may not even need one – I suspect there’s software to do it, but you can take a series of shots and stitch them together as one for a nice, wide angle shot. If you really want to. And boy, that first sentence was bad.

    That’s a lot of hard work. Well done.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      I have a basic cellphone that doesn’t take pictures. It sits on my desk unless I leave town. I could probably stitch together photos from my camera in Photoshop, but I’m not that ambitious.

      Reply
  3. Tami

    As a ‘lifestyle’ farmer myself, I can tell you the work never runs out. Either you do it, or you pay someone to do it.

    Reply
  4. Brianna

    You should think about hiring some goats to come in and eat all of that stuff. Yes this is some thing that you can actually do..

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      The goats Sara raised for 4-H were pretty effect weed-eaters. But I think it would take a big herd to clear that jungle. It was some dense, nasty stuff.

      Reply
  5. Jeff Ballard

    Not sure what kind of cell phone you have – you may not even need one – I suspect there’s software to do it, but you can take a series of shots and stitch them together as one for a nice, wide angle shot. If you really want to. And boy, that first sentence was bad.

    That’s a lot of hard work. Well done.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I have a basic cellphone that doesn’t take pictures. It sits on my desk unless I leave town. I could probably stitch together photos from my camera in Photoshop, but I’m not that ambitious.

      Reply
  6. Stephen

    Props for supplying the labour on your projects! You’ll always be proud of the product. All I can claim is that I clean my own bathrooms in my condo 🙂

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton

      That was the extent of my labor before we moved here. I didn’t even mow the lawn when we rented a house because it was boring. Hacking through a jungle isn’t boring, partly because the jungle fights back.

      Reply
  7. Stephen

    Props for supplying the labour on your projects! You’ll always be proud of the product. All I can claim is that I clean my own bathrooms in my condo 🙂

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      That was the extent of my labor before we moved here. I didn’t even mow the lawn when we rented a house because it was boring. Hacking through a jungle isn’t boring, partly because the jungle fights back.

      Reply
      1. BrunoT

        Tom, instead of wasting time “jogging” or walking for hours during the week, consider doing your own yard maintenance and getting a workout that way. If you think of it as a workout, it’s less boring.

        Reply
  8. Debra Graff

    Nice job! Having done the same kind of work at my previous home, I really understand what’s involved. And I think it’s a great idea to use cattle panels as your fencing. Very tough and durable, and easy to move around or replace sections crushed by falling trees. Some people might think this weird, but I really miss being able to do that kind of hard labor!

    Reply
  9. Debra Graff

    Nice job! Having done the same kind of work at my previous home, I really understand what’s involved. And I think it’s a great idea to use cattle panels as your fencing. Very tough and durable, and easy to move around or replace sections crushed by falling trees. Some people might think this weird, but I really miss being able to do that kind of hard labor!

    Reply
  10. Don in Arkansas

    If you use your chain saw a lot you know that a sharp chain is indispensable. I don’t know if you do your own or have it done but I use mine a lot and I found that a Dremel tool does a great job. I ran across this video and followed his lead. It works great. Twice as fast as the method I was using. Takes me about 5 minutes or less in the shop to sharpen an 18″ chain and I don’t have to take it off the saw which is a plus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcOqbkMQjYI

    Reply
  11. Don in Arkansas

    If you use your chain saw a lot you know that a sharp chain is indispensable. I don’t know if you do your own or have it done but I use mine a lot and I found that a Dremel tool does a great job. I ran across this video and followed his lead. It works great. Twice as fast as the method I was using. Takes me about 5 minutes or less in the shop to sharpen an 18″ chain and I don’t have to take it off the saw which is a plus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcOqbkMQjYI

    Reply
    1. BrunoT

      Around here the farmers put one donkey in each herd. Apparently donkeys are bad arse little guys and protect the cattle instinctively. They say it’s cheaper than a bull and less trouble. We frequently hear the squealing howls of coyotes during an attack on calves, followed by a big long YELP! and no more noise. Donkey has kicked the bejesus out of one and they’ve been deterred.

      Reply
    1. BrunoT

      Around here the farmers put one donkey in each herd. Apparently donkeys are bad arse little guys and protect the cattle instinctively. They say it’s cheaper than a bull and less trouble. We frequently hear the squealing howls of coyotes during an attack on calves, followed by a big long YELP! and no more noise. Donkey has kicked the bejesus out of one and they’ve been deterred.

      Reply
  12. BrunoT

    Just so you’ll know in the future. A chainsaw is a BAD tool for clearing scrub brush and briars. It’s also fairly dangerous, as it tends to “grab” on small items. And you really want to be as far from the working ends as possible in unpredictable terrain like near a metal fence.

    Consider the following if you have serious work to do.

    1. A straight shaft string trimmer equipped with a brush blade (looks like a circular saw blade) and safety harness to keep it away from your feet and legs. This will handle small limbs and trees. It will also of course trim your grass for years to come, and turned on end, will, with practice, but a nice edge on drives, walks, curbs, and planting beds.

    2. A shaft-mounted hedge trimmer. This will make easy work of briars while again letting you stand back out of the way. It also is easier to see what you’re doing from the end of the pole, rather than 1′ away. You can buy just the head and mount it in lieu of the trimmer head with two screws in about 2 minutes.

    3. A shaft-mounted “pole pruner”. Which is a mini-chainsaw that mounts on the end of a shaft, for larger tougher items. Its little teeth mean it will handle small scrub trees and not “grab” at vines and such. Again, just mount it to the string trimmer pole. Most of this stuff is industry-standard when it comes to drive shafts and pole diameters.

    You can buy one power head for all this and individual attachments for the other parts, to keep the cost down. Get commercial quality, the homeowner stuff will just break.

    Figure $350 for the power head with string trimmer, then $200 for a hedge head to attach in lieu of the trimmer head (two screws), then another $200 for a chainsaw head, and maybe $30 for a brush blade (your trimmer should have instructions on how to add one, or see your dealer). For under $800 you have a lifelong tool that can handle anything.

    I would avoid the split boom stuff made to attach mid-shaft, as in my experience it is overly heavy, complex, and tends to break more often.

    22 years in landscaping. Enjoyed the movie.

    Reply
  13. BrunoT

    Just so you’ll know in the future. A chainsaw is a BAD tool for clearing scrub brush and briars. It’s also fairly dangerous, as it tends to “grab” on small items. And you really want to be as far from the working ends as possible in unpredictable terrain like near a metal fence.

    Consider the following if you have serious work to do.

    1. A straight shaft string trimmer equipped with a brush blade (looks like a circular saw blade) and safety harness to keep it away from your feet and legs. This will handle small limbs and trees. It will also of course trim your grass for years to come, and turned on end, will, with practice, but a nice edge on drives, walks, curbs, and planting beds.

    2. A shaft-mounted hedge trimmer. This will make easy work of briars while again letting you stand back out of the way. It also is easier to see what you’re doing from the end of the pole, rather than 1′ away. You can buy just the head and mount it in lieu of the trimmer head with two screws in about 2 minutes.

    3. A shaft-mounted “pole pruner”. Which is a mini-chainsaw that mounts on the end of a shaft, for larger tougher items. Its little teeth mean it will handle small scrub trees and not “grab” at vines and such. Again, just mount it to the string trimmer pole. Most of this stuff is industry-standard when it comes to drive shafts and pole diameters.

    You can buy one power head for all this and individual attachments for the other parts, to keep the cost down. Get commercial quality, the homeowner stuff will just break.

    Figure $350 for the power head with string trimmer, then $200 for a hedge head to attach in lieu of the trimmer head (two screws), then another $200 for a chainsaw head, and maybe $30 for a brush blade (your trimmer should have instructions on how to add one, or see your dealer). For under $800 you have a lifelong tool that can handle anything.

    I would avoid the split boom stuff made to attach mid-shaft, as in my experience it is overly heavy, complex, and tends to break more often.

    22 years in landscaping. Enjoyed the movie.

    Reply

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