The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Setting up the goat electric fence

Goats in the garden

We finally hooked up the temporary electric fencing as a way of leaving the goats alone in the garden unattended. Okay, so I sat with the herd for an hour first while Lamb Chop learned that the fence bites (this took four tries and he finally ended up lying in the middle of the temporary pasture with a very glum  look on his face). And even after that, I checked in every five minutes just in case. But both Artemesia and Abigail came from electric-fence-friendly households and gave the netting a wide berth. No need to re-up any training there.

Fence charger

When Daddy "lent" us this electric fence system, he included a solar charger. I'm no sure if the battery had died in his charger while it had been sitting in his shed for a few years or what, but we had no luck getting the solar charger to work. A new plug-in charger won't let us fence the goats as far afield, but it worked like a charm (even though Mark had to test the wire with his fingers since our fence tester apparently doesn't work either).

Figuring out grounding rods was the other part of the endeavor that left us scratching our heads for a while. The instructions suggested pounding in three grounding rods six feet deep and ten feet apart. We instead settled for one grounding rod pushed about 18 inches into the ground so it will be easy to move to the next location, which seems to be quite sufficient in our wet ground.

Goat learning an electric fence

The electric fence will definitely have a niche in our goat-grazing campaign, but I have to admit that I find tethering simpler to set up and easier to manage. Sure, Lamb Chop can't nurse while he's tethered, and it would be tougher to tether goats in areas with high weeds or brush, but for grazing little corners of our core homestead, the tethers seem to be the way to go. After all, I don't trust our girls alone in the garden even with an electric shock standing between them and my cabbages, so I might as well just let them graze while I weed and keep my blood pressure low.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Peace of mind (and lower blood pressure) with electric fencing comes with a dedicated "hub" with the two deep ground rods in a permanent location with a plug-in or battery powered energizer. Then you run a single wire to your temporary location for electrifying your net. If I had to move my energizer and a ground rod every time I moved fence I would not be using electric fence every day. In areas near the garden where we walk or need to move a wheelbarrow through I put the wire up in the highest tab in the step-in post, otherwise my electrifying wire is about 3' high so it doesn't keep the dogs from chasing the deer away from the garden. It does work...all these years of doing daily electric fence and I haven't bought a fence tester yet.
Comment by Nita Thu Apr 23 09:15:50 2015

Hi Anna and Mark and all,

Sometimes it can be helpful to connect the wires on a multiple wire portable electric fence alternately to the high voltage wire and to ground with the top wire the charged one.

That is carry two wires voltage and ground from the charger to the fence.

This is particularly helpful if the ground is not highly conductive or the animals have learned how to 'cheat' the fence.

Also quite useful are high voltage switches near remote portions of your fence system so you don't get zapped when working there and don't have to turn off the whole system :).

Comment by John Thu Apr 23 12:45:20 2015

Nita --- You're totally right. And I suspect we'll get to a stage where we have real pastures to fence the right way some day! In the meantime, I'm just feeding the goats grassy weeds in all the little corners of our core homestead amid trees, berries, and vegetable garden, which is why I like the tethers --- I can put Abigail in a tiny space, let her eat it all the way down, then move her in an hour to "mow" the next bit of lawn. My "pastures" so far are far too spotty to be worth using the electric fence on.

John --- Thanks for the tips!

Comment by anna Thu Apr 23 15:59:01 2015

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