Fence Machine

One day on the forums at permies.com, I came upon a post inquiring about how to make what's commonly called snow fence, beach fence, or sand fence. You've probably seen it before - it comes in a roll and is made out of thin pickets of wood held together with several strands of wire. 

Further down in the thread, someone posted a video of a simple machine for making such a fence. It's pretty brilliant: https://youtu.be/PhzXu9pk2co Apparently these machines were quite popular in the latter half of the 19th century, before multi-strand woven wire fencing was invented. 

So I saw that video and figured I could make the same thing, but scaled up for 8 foot tall pickets, so as to keep the whitetail deer out of my tree plantings. So I got on nitrochain.com and ordered some sprockets, idlers, and chain, and I went to my local steel supplier for some square tubing. A short while later, I had put together a super duper fence machine. 

Fence machine
And it worked quite well.
Fence machine in action
I worked out a deal with a local lumber mill for them to drop off their off-cuts at my place every so often. When squaring up logs they generated a lot of barky thin long pieces, which were easily cut down to acceptable dimensions using a table saw. After doing a few sections, I realized that lighter thinner pickets worked better than heavy ones, so I started cutting the pickets down to 1 inch by 1 inch. 
Two years and four dead table saws later, I finished fencing off my entire five acre parcel. I figure I pushed approximately 15 miles worth of sticks through the table saw. 
huge beach fence
The fence has held up quite well so far. One day we had 100mph winds and a few sections blew down, but they were pretty easy to wire back up. Also, quite satisfying, I've witnessed deer try to jump over it on multiple occasions - they can't make it over and they just sort of bounce off. 

"Fencing for one year is like planting for ten." - ancient Chinese proverb

The effect of fencing the field was pretty dramatic. Previously the deer had eaten off all the newly sprouting woody plants. Now every year among the grass I find new wild seedlings of things like apples, asparagus, daisies, chokecherries, and more.

When putting cages around individual trees, there comes a point where the amount of fencing used for the tree cages surpasses the amount it would take to fence the entire area. For my 5 acre parcel, the length of the perimeter is 1998 feet, which is the equivalent of 212 three foot diameter tree cages. That might sound like a lot of trees (it is), but it's a drop in the bucket compared to how many trees I want to have when I'm old. And in fact, across the various orchard rows and hedgerow plantings, I've planted thousands.

So... the moral of the story is to paraphrase the memorable line from the movie Field of Dreams: "If you fence it, the trees will come."