My living fence experiment....so far

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My living fence experiment....so far

Postby matt walker » Sat Jul 26, 2014 3:21 am

I've been playing with the living fence thingy for a few years now with small successes but overall not much headway. Until this year. This winter I noticed a willow that had fallen over a couple years ago, and had sprouted vertical sprouts that now are 20' tall and 2" around each. Those "shoots" form a picket type fence the length of the fallen log. It inspired me to try to create that same situation, and when I woke up one morning in March with my cows in the road, I found my motivation!

So, I came up with an idea, that I would lay willows over by making a back cut about halfway through the tree and pushing it over. Basically forcing a barber chair type felling situation, so the tree would stay connected to the roots on one side. Well, I did that to some areas I was struggling with fencing, and for a while just the laying down logs were enough to contain the animals. The cows and sheep loved to graze all the new shoots, so the inner parts are pretty leafless at the moment. Due to their foraging I added a little woven wire to this section to keep them out of it. I think in a couple years this is going to impenetrable!

Here's a couple photos. All of the little green shoots you see in the near background are new in the last few months. The future fence.

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Re: My living fence experiment....so far

Postby GrahamB » Sun Jul 27, 2014 5:11 am

Man that takes me back to my childhood. All, and I mean every roadside hedgerow in the district was layered. It was looked after by one man who worked for the district council. He used to get around the district on an old bicycle with all his tools strapped tot the frame.That included a staff hook, sickle, bow saw, and a billhook. He constantly had a hand rolled cigarette stuck to his bottom lip. Every mile of hedgerow was beautiful to look at. He could tell you how old the hedgerow was by what trees were growing there. He'd work around a birds nest.

When he retired the council replaced him with a team of tractors fitted with hedge flayers that tore the top of the hedge off. A lot of the hedgerows were ripped out completely to make two small fields into one big one. The roads were widened and the hedges ripped out and replaced with barbed wire fence. It's sad what we do in the name of progress.

Stay with it Matt, It will look beautiful one day and the livestock will not want to get out.
No matter how many mistakes you make or how slow you progress, you are still way ahead of everyone who isn’t trying.
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Re: My living fence experiment....so far

Postby matt walker » Sun Jul 27, 2014 2:27 pm

Thanks Graham, I love the idea of hedgerows and billhooks and the whole thing. I'm definitely sticking with it, I can see it working so well here. Some day that will be me, puttering along the hedgerow with a billhook.
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Re: My living fence experiment....so far

Postby Jenny-the-Bear (grr) » Mon Oct 27, 2014 4:52 am

Matt, would you please describe what your earlier efforts were like? Did you interweave or criss-crossed diagonal willow sticks, for instance? I'm very interested in this myself, and I'd love to hear what you and others have tried, what worked and what didn't.

I remember hearing about people using cottonwood for fence posts, and how they'd re-root and grow, unless they were put in upside down. Personally, I thought the posts growing into new trees sounded like it had more interesting possibilities than plain ol' fence posts, but, I tend to be an oddball that way.

Bois D'arc (Rhymes with glow spark) AKA Osage Orange, has similar properties to cottonwood, growth-wise, but the wood is extremely hard and durable, and rot resistant.
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Re: My living fence experiment....so far

Postby matt walker » Mon Oct 27, 2014 5:04 am

Jenny, my earlier efforts were pretty minor. I didn't really ever give them a chance, so I don't have much feedback to give you. I just poked fresh willow sticks in the ground along my garden fence line. Some of them are still alive, actually, and growing well. But, I didn't keep the cows and sheep off of them and for the most part they were eaten. I've watched quite a few videos at this point and know it can be done, but for me the hard part is I have to fence the animals away from the fence so it can grow into a fence that will hold the animals.... :| So, yeah, if I need to build a fence, then I don't need to build a fence. See? Ha, anyway, this attempt has a chance. There's one spot the cows kept getting to that is pretty well eaten down now, but a lot of it is looking good. If I can keep them off of it out into June or so, I imagine it will have a good head start on the animals. We will see.
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Re: My living fence experiment....so far

Postby matt walker » Mon Oct 27, 2014 5:05 am

Oh, and I forgot to add, I've laid some cottonwood logs down as edging in my yard, and sure enough it's been throwing up new growth all along the length of the logs all summer. I imagine that would be a great way to get a living fence going as well.
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