Monday, April 10, 2023

Why Fence Builders Don't Look Up!


Many of the Texas State Parks already came fenced.

They used to be ranches and ranchers need to manage their livestock. In fact in some of the parks there's a number of abandoned cross-fences that, since the livestock is gone, are no longer needed.

Of course fences are expensive so getting by with just enough to do the job made sense. 

In the case above three feet of rather flimsy goat-netting topped with a couple strands of barbed wire on locally harvested cedar sticks, some pretty skinny, with an occasional metal post thrown in for extra support. 

Or sometimes no metal posts at all, just utilization of what was already there.

But when the Texas Parks and Wildlife people take over a property they want to be good stewards of the land and they usually put up their own fences built to their own standards.

That means 5 foot of high-quality goat-netting bracketed top and bottom with a single strand of barbed wire laced along the goat-netting, (A cost-effective way to stabilize the netting between posts.) with metal fence posts driven every 20 feet and 2" cedar posts every 4 feet in between.

It's there, not so much to keep people out, which makes sense considering that most of the adjoining land is pretty damn remote so where the hell would the people come from? Rather the intent is to ensure that park visitors are encouraged to respect the adjacent private property. (OK. and let's face it. Also a little placation of the surrounding landowners who are suddenly faced with a whole lot more people hanging around than they are used to.)

Another purpose of these fences is that many of the state parks are also wildlife refuges and keeping livestock out helps protect the resources of those refuges.


Here I'm standing somewhere along the southern boundary of South Llano State Park. The short side, which is about a mile and a half across.

That arrow out there marks the southwest corner,

And when I turn around, that arrow pointing to a little spot up on that hill marks the southeast corner.

Between those two corners, in addition to a mile and a half of heavy-duty goat-netting and two strands of spiky barbed wire, are approximately 2000 fence-posts, nearly 400 of those being metal posts that must be driven, properly spaced, in line, and vertical, into the hard, rocky ground. Typically the fencing is wired to each post at 5 points. That's about 10,000 individual wire ties that have to be wrapped in place on both ends by hand with fencing pliers.

And, like I already mentioned, this is the short side. The east and west boundaries of this park are more than twice as long as the north and south.

That's a lot of fence to build!

I know if I was out there in the Texas sun building these things the last thing I'd want to do in the middle of the afternoon when lunch is nothing but a weary memory and the evening beer is still a long ways off is look up and be reminded of just how much farther I have to go!

Here at South Llano when the TPWD took over this place they commissioned a fresh survey to make sure they put the fences up in the right place.

If you pay attention when you're out and about you might spot remnants of an old fence line,

20 to 30 feet to the east of the new eastern boundary fence. And this holds true along the entire eastern edge of the park.

Apparently an old survey, or maybe it was the original fence-builder, missed the mark. So suddenly the landowner to the east had a few more acres than they thought. Which they may not be as happy about as you might expect because, unlike the TPWD, they have to pay taxes on those extra acres.

Anyway - - - time to get to the chores. And no, I'm not going to look up!

Monday, April 3, 2023

The Violence of Courtship

Courting can be a nasty business across all species.

This whole evolutionary driven need to prove oneself bigger and better than the next is not a gentle thing.

It’s that time of year and these two were at mating-driven battle right in the middle of one of my trails. 

Clearly, as the bared ground shows, the pushing and shoving has been going on a while. In fact they were still at it 20 minutes later when I came back around on the second pass of my laps.

Lunges that result in the clashing of shells, biting at any soft parts within reach, and shoving matches resulting in the clawing of ground.  The battered veteran trying to hold his own on the left, the young upstart struggling to carve out his place in the world on the right.

Meanwhile, she’s just standing around a few feet away, or at least she was standing around until my proximity made her suck everything in, (The males didn't give a crap whether I was there or not, they just kept right at it.) waiting to see which of the two is worthy of her.

The next morning the evidence of this struggle was just a puff of breeze away from disappearing altogether. At least until the resulting clutch does it's thing and the hatchlings grow up, then the whole  cycle starts all over again.

Speaking of cycles! All of this means spring is about to morph into summer so it’s time to set up the summer house for the season!