Last December, a large thunderstorm with powerful winds swept across my farm and left a significant trail of damage in its wake. Coniferous trees were hit the hardest, with approximately two dozen uprooted across the farm. The winds even toppled a few hardwoods.
But the biggest blow was delivered to the 8-foot-tall perimeter deer fence surrounding my orchard. The front section is constructed of wooden 4x4s placed in the ground at intervals of 10 feet, with 2x6s running from post to post across the top to tie everything together and present a tidy appearance. Rolls of welded wire run between the 4x4s, creating a formidable barrier to keep deer from snacking on my fruit trees.
Failing of a Fence
Unfortunately, the barrier wasn’t quite formidable enough to withstand the thunderstorm. The freakish blast of wind that felled so many conifers also took down a section of the fence. Seven of the 4x4s snapped off at ground level, while a couple others tipped out of alignment.
Essentially, a large section of fence folded over into the orchard and will now require repair. It settled down on top of a couple slumbering garden beds.
Some of the 2×6 top boards broke loose from the 4x4s during the fall. The welded wire (attached to the posts and top boards with fencing staples), however, more or less kept the fence in one piece during its fall.
The latter point is worth explaining in greater detail, because only a few of the posts are lying flat. The rest precariously balance at semi-upright angles. These are unable to fall further since the welded wire is clinging to standing posts on either side of the broken section.
The welded wire can’t stretch enough for all the broken posts to fall completely.
Time for a Safe Fence Repair
I’m explaining this in detail as I currently ponder the best way to approach the fence repair this spring. Obviously I could tear everything down and start over from scratch. But that’s far from ideal.
I want to salvage as much as I can, particularly the welded wire, which shouldn’t be badly bent out of shape. But no matter what approach I take, I’ll need to be careful. The fencing materials are heavy and the half-collapsed portions surely eager to concede to gravity and fall further.
Dealing with Deer
There’s another important factor in play here: keeping deer out of the orchard while I repair the fence, which is bound to take several days. Back in December, I put up a temporary fence using T-posts and lengths of 6-foot welded wire. This has been a suitable barrier, since the collapsed fence itself is an obstacle deer have no desire to cross.
But once I start deconstructing the damaged fence, I may have to set up a more formidable temporary barrier. A single 6-foot fence will most likely not stop deer from jumping over if they have the desire.
So where do I begin with the main repairs? As soon as the snow melts this spring, I’m going to examine the fence in greater detail and figure out how many of the 2×6 top boards are salvageable.
Did the boards themselves break when the fence collapsed? Did the screws holding everything together give way? This will determine how much replacement lumber I need.
Plan for Putting Things Right
Once I’ve purchased replacement 4x4s and 2x6s to repair broken ones, I’ll aim to carefully remove the welded wire from the injured fence frame. A claw hammer and flathead screwdriver should be sufficient to remove the fencing staples.
Since the fence collapsed inward (with the welded wire sitting on top), I should be able to carefully remove the welded wire and allow the wooden pieces to gently fall away, one by one. Thus, nothing should come crashing down unexpectedly.
Much of the wood will still be usable for other projects. For example, I can cut off the broken ends of the 4x4s and still have healthy 7-foot sections left.
After removing the welded wire from the broken fence frame, I’ll carefully fold the wire out of the way and start installing replacement posts. This will require waiting for dry weather. The broken section of fence crosses a lowland spot that holds a lot of water in spring. The post holes are apt to fill with water and mud if I start too soon.
But once the ground dries out, I’ll aim to remove the broken post stubs and reuse the holes, which are already dug to a suitable depth.
Measuring and trimming the new posts to a uniform height will take some time, as will cutting replacement 2x6s to span across the tops of the posts. I’ll have to haul a circular saw, jigsaw and portable generator out to the job site, just like I did when originally constructing the fence.
But once the new frame is complete, I’ll pull the welded wire back into place, pin it to the frame with fencing staples, and celebrate the successful repair of my orchard fence.
Wish me luck!