This past summer I decided to build concrete fence posts tall enough to keep deer and elk out of our orchard and vineyard. Last year in just one night they did havoc; stripping fruit ready for the picking and breaking down our vineyards trellis posts and wire. Nancy and I had already decided to invest in a protective fence but hadn’t decided what materials we would use. The kind of fence we needed would not be cheap to build or without serious sweat equity. In the end I decided to form my own concrete posts for reasons I feel important to explain. It took me most of the summer to pour them, set them in hard sun backed ground and finally, stretch mesh wiring on them. It was a work intensive undertaking no question, but I did it and now see it as being more than a fence but as a testimony of wanting to build something that would last for future generations. In the next few blog entries I will share the particulars of the project itself and what I learned in the process of construction, but before I do I need to explain the motives that inspired us to start the undertaking in the first place.
In May of this year Nancy and I traveled to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail of St. James. [See our journal entries and pictorial record of the Camino walk at:http://trirobinson.org/?tag=tri-robinson] One of the things that struck me while passing through so many old villages and farmlands in that beautiful country were all the structures we encountered that had been built with a mentality of permanency. Farmhouses, barns and animal shelters, walls and fences, inns and churches were built out of rock and mortar in such a caring and thoughtful way that they have stood up against the test of time. Many had clearly been functional for literally hundreds of years. We were struck by the attitudes of those early builders who had not only used what was natural, available and, for the most part, free for the taking, but by the sense of pride and beauty their structures displayed. After days of walking through farms and villages I began to question my own motives for much of what I had built in my life on Timber Butte Homestead and on the previous places Nancy and I had built up. I reflected back on an old statement I remembered saying while purchasing some treated wooden fence posts for some project I had been doing. The words echoed in my mind; “these posts only need to last for twenty years”, thinking because I was in my 60’s I would be too old to care if they rotted and fell down after I was gone. My old idea of “building to last” was now feeling short sighted realizing that it meant things only had to last for me. I hadn’t considered I might leave something of substance behind for others to use and enjoy after I had long left this earth. I had fallen into the mindset of so many of my generation who had become satisfied with what was quick, inexpensive and temporary. I remembered something my great-grandfather and grandfather had done many years before I was born, clear back in the 1920’s and 30’s when they had established our old family ranch on Mt. Liebre. They too had built homemade wooden forms and poured hundreds of concrete fence posts to fence about 500 acres of land. To this day I don’t know where they got the idea to take on such a project, especially considering that in those days concrete had to be mixed by hand, but they did it and their fence line is still functional to this day, standing as a monument to their tenacity and long range vision. It was because of this that I decided to build my own wooden forms and begin constructing my own concrete posts. It was a project that required some innovative thinking and experimentation; some successes and failures worth passing on to whoever might desire to give it a try. This will be the focus of my coming blogs.