Fencing the Grapes

Fencing the Grapes

One morning I woke up to see some deer munching on my grapes. Last year, the deer absolutely destroyed my muscadine crop right as they began ripening. This year, a combination of birds and high winds left us with only enough apples to make a little bit of apple sauce and two cobblers. I was determined to protect the few grapes I have this year and the large number of muscadines from the deer.

My mind immediately went to some impenetrable fortress. Specifically, I was thinking about posts eight feet above the ground with woven wire fencing and bird netting stretched across the top to complete the stronghold. After price checking some woven wire fencing, I ruled that out pretty quickly. My next ideas were barbed wire or electric. Deer don't really mind barbed wire fence, so it would need to be really tall. I didn't have any experience running electric fence, so I wasn't terribly sure if I wanted to go that route.

The previous owner left quite a bit of electric fence ribbon and barbed wire rolls in the shop, so I really just needed to buy T posts and connectors. If I decided to go the electric route, i would also need to purchase a fence energizer and determine how to get a power source there. I ended up deciding on an electric fence, because I've read that if the deer aren't terribly deterred by the fence itself you can smear some peanut butter on a pie tin and wrap that around the ribbon. The scent will attract them, they'll lick the pie tin, and they'll decide electric fences aren't for them after all.

We headed to store to pick up T posts, connectors, and a fence energizer. At the first store, we asked an employee where the T posts were. He looked at us with a blank expression and said he didn't know what those were. He asked me to describe them, because he was sure he might know them by another name. I told him they were standard metal fence posts for barbed wire, and he did know where they were. I never found out what he called them, but the tag on the rack also called it a T post.

We had to go to a different store to pick up the fence energizer and fence insulators to snap on the posts. There are three types of fence energizers available. One is a standard AC plug that goes into a wall. I wasn't big on this choice since it would require running an extension cord across the yard. Another uses DC power, so you can hook up a battery to it. If you go this route, you're supposed to build a little house for the battery and energizer to keep them out of the weather. It also requires recharging the battery occasionally. The last kind is solar charged. I've heard pretty bad things about solar powered devices as far as charge capacity and battery life, but I decided to look up reviews of this particular device. I saw many people praising it for reliability and strength. Quite a few people were using it 24/7 for animals as large as hogs. I decided if it could keep hogs in, it should be able to keep deer out. Letting the sun recharge the battery for me and not needing to build a cabinet for the energizer was a big selling point.

Back home, the first step was getting the posts in the ground. Luckily one side of the area I was fencing was on the fence line with the hay field, so I just had to run posts on the end and the other side. I put the two end posts in the ground at the correct location. Then I ran baling twine from one end to the other. This would be my line to keep the fence straight as I put the rest in the ground.

T posts

With the T posts securely in the ground, I made a lap around the enclosed area to snap on the T post insulators. Next, I made another lap around running the ribbon through the insulators. Finally one more lap to run the second strand of ribbon.

Ribbon installed

With the ribbon secured, the only thing left was to install and connect the fence energizer. This step wasn't too difficult. After I turned the device on, I tested it with a fence tester that we purchased. I tested multiple spots on the fence, but it never lit up. I crouched down to test the bottom strand to see if I got any better results. I had the tester hooked around the ribbon, but the ground post started falling out of my hand so I reached out to catch it. Unfortunately I grabbed the ground post by the metal tip and found out the fence was indeed working. I guess in a way the fence tester did let me know the fence was on, but I was hoping it would do so through a light on the screen not by shocking me. I later learned that testing with a blade of grass is a much more reliable (and economical!) way to test an electric fence.

Later that evening, Bailey was intrigued by the fence. I told her no multiple times, but she couldn't resist putting her nose on it. When she got the shock, she ran forward instead of backing away and got shocked on the back as she went under. Now she was trapped inside the fence. I had to coax her out, and when she finally decided to come out she got on her belly and crawled under. I figure each dog will need to get shocked once before deciding to stay away, but I also decided it wasn't very fair that I left an almost dog sized gap between the ground and the lowest strand, so the next day I decided to run a third run to deter the dogs a little bit more.

The next morning, I came out to see the deer come up to the fence and decide the grapes weren't worth the risk. I realize that I may have to get a little more clever if the deer get a little more ambitious, but I'm happy the grapes and muscadines are safe for now!