Makin’ Bacon: Part 8: Fencing With Politicans And Marines

Let’s discuss “Politicians”:

This is a cheap plastic fence insulator meant for nailing to a wooden fencepost. I didn't take this picture, I found it somewhere but it's about what I've got. Note; most insulators are meant for metal posts instead of wood. Buy the right kind.

A “Politician” insulator. I found this photo randomly on the web but it’s about what I’ve got.

The photo above is of a plastic fence insulator. Note that it’s meant for nailing to a wooden fencepost. Most insulators are meant to “snap on” to metal posts instead of wood. Buy the right kind. They come 25 to a bag (or more) with or without nails included. They’re cheap.

These sorts of insulators are dirt simple to install. All they really do is hold the wire away from the post so it doesn’t touch and short out. Wire, when strung with decent tension along a basically straight line, can more or less hold itself up. The “insulator” just maintains the position a little more precisely.

These kinds of insulators aren’t strong enough to hold wire at the ends where the  tension is created. They just sit fat and lazy in the middle of a long run; keeping the wire from flopping around and not doing much else.

These insulators are garish yellow, look more important than they are, only support a wire doing basically what the wire wanted to do anyway, and they’re hollow. Therefore I call this kind of insulator “the Politician”. I have no idea what they’re really called.


Lets discuss “Marines”:

This is the ultimate in old school. Hoorah!

This is the ultimate in old school. Oorah!

What you see there is a porcelain insulator that’s nailed to a post. (Not my post, I found the photo on the ‘net, but it’s about the same as mine.)

Notice a few things, first of all it’s goddamn stout! Wherever you nail it is where it’s going to stay. I used this for ends of some straight runs. I’d nail the son of a bitch in the wood, wrap wire around it, reef it tight and voila… that section  is done.

Because this is old school technology that’s fifty times tougher than the cheap plastic shit, and because it is plenty strong enough to make the damn wire go wherever the hell you want it to go and stay put, I call these insulators “Marines”.

“Marines” cost far more than “Politicians”. I think I was dropping $15 for a box of them? I can’t quite remember and the pigs ate the cardboard box.

Marines are plain colored, unobtrusive, won’t flex, and stay put. You can build an entire fence from anywhere to anywhere with “Marines”. If you try the same thing with Politicians it’ll collapse at the corners. That’s not an analogy, that’s physics.

Note these were relatively short straight runs. My corral has about a zillion gates and at each gate I had to break tension. For longer continuous runs the amassed tension increases at a rate that’s probably in a calculus book somewhere. At some point you have to go from hammering in a porcelain insulator to anchoring the wire with something more elaborate. It wasn’t needed in my situation.

One other note, I went out in my woods and pried some “Marines” out of old oak trees. I don’t know how long they’d been there but I suspect a well installed porcelain insulator will last roughly ten thousand years. Also in my forest were some “Politicians”, maybe I could have used them but I tossed them. Over time “Politicians” fade and it looks like they become brittle and useless. See why I gave them their nicknames?


Redneck Gates:

Grab the handle to remove the wire, grab the handle to return it. It severs the line's circuit.

Grab the handle to remove the wire, grab the handle to return it. Duh!

I never knew what these were called but I always hated them as a kid. The Internet says they’re called Spring Gates. The insulated handle has a spring so you can grab the wire, unhook it from a loop (thus severing the circuit on one side), step through, and then rehook. As a kid I called them “Redneck Gates” because I aways got tangled in them and once caught one in the gears of my bicycle.

As a kid I thought all awesome people had real pipe (tubing) gates and only losers used these. I haven’t changed my mind. Sadly I now have six spring gates stealthinly hovering 6″ above the ground beneath the shiny overpriced gates I truly wanted.

I’ve never seen these things strung beneath a regular tubing gate but it seems to work. I can unhook to drive stuff (like the pig delivery trailer) right in the corral and then rehook when I leave. Also when one pig tried to burrow under the tubing gate he got zapped and let out a squeal like I’d just walloped him with a sledge.

They learned and keep careful distance from the wire now. Money (and time) well spent.



Electric fences need… you guessed it, electricity. The means to supply this is a transformer.

I know someone’s going to ask so here goes. I installed an AC transformer. It runs on AC power delivered by smoke belching coal burning factories that deliver glorious voltage hundreds of miles on huge transmission lines all the way to my little homestead. All this  just so I can have bacon? Fabulous! Isn’t the modern world wonderful?

If’ you’re off grid you can get battery powered transformers or setups with solar panels and possibly mini-windmills and for all I know unicorn power. They sell all sorts of innovative stuff that seems a bit weird to me. Wouldn’t an off grid situation merit a non-electric fence? To me, an electric fence is an artifact of cheap plentiful electricity and a truly excellent infrastructure. If I were off grid I’d use barbed wire, boards, rocks, posts, hog panels, a sheepdog, etc… It seemed to work for the last few thousand years. Then again what do I know?

As for transformers, they’re not cheap and they come in a million sizes. The appropriate voltage is “as much as you can get” and the right transformer is “the biggest one you can afford”. Remember Jurassic Park!

Any voltage low enough that it doesn’t actually kill livestock (or me) is just fine. I read a lot of stuff on the Internet about the correct voltage for specific animals and ignored it all. If there was a transformer that could send a bolt of lightning from Zeus’s hand to a pigs ass I’d probably go for it. Make it hurt! Ideally, the critter gets zapped a few times and learns to avoid the fence.

In practice it’s working. Pigs, unlike humans, seem to learn pretty quickly. A few zaps and the critter knows the score. From then on further zapping is unnecessary because it has learned and it stops doing stupid shit. This proves that critters are often smarter than people.

I’m pretty sure by now I could turn the system off and my pigs wouldn’t dig out. Your mileage may vary. If your critters have been zapped a few times and still try to get out they may be more aggressive than mine (my pigs like me!) or possibly they understand electrical theory and are testing for a power outage when they can rebel against your despotic rule.

About Adaptive Curmudgeon

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12 Responses to Makin’ Bacon: Part 8: Fencing With Politicans And Marines

  1. Wolfman says:

    Often the little solar/12V battery fencers are quite useful for temporary or transitional fences. It saves trying to run 3/8ths of a mile of extension cord. Voltage and fencer size, spot on!

  2. DoninSacto says:

    Pigs do stupid shit and get zapped and learn not to do stupid shit and then you eat them. People do stupid shit you zap them so that they learn and they sue you. phuck lawyers. we’d be better off without them and people can learn.

  3. Wisner says:

    For a grin, listen to “Cows With Guns”

  4. MaxDamage says:

    Growing up on the farm we raised Duroc and Hampshire pigs. They are both as inbred as a bulldog and as a result once in a while the recessive genes gang up on the rest of them and you get a mutant. One of the Duroc sows weighed in at near-as-much-as-makes-no-difference a quarter of a ton. She was huge. Gentle, polite, a great mother unless she happened to roll over on a piglet. We let the sows roam the ditches so they could nibble on the grass, with just an electric fence to keep them in. Keep them fed and they’ll dig only for amusement. Toss in a bowling ball or something else for amusement and they won’t dig under your fences.

    This sow decided the mud in the ditch on the other side of the road was to her liking, so every afternoon shortly after dinner I could hear her cross the road. as she low-crawled under the fence, getting zapped the entire way. Along about supper-time when we’d start evening chores the same sounds could be heard as she crawled back under the fence and trotted to the farrowing pens for her meal.

    One day as we were just starting dinner and the orchestra had subsided I heard the sound of a car coming over the hill on the gravel road, followed by a bit of skidding and a sound that was sort of like stepping on a pop can. Sure enough, in one ditch was a ’62 Ford Fairlane. In the other was the sow. I gave the driver a lift to town (car was not going anywhere without some front-end work, a radiator and a grill), and for the pig I put some cracked corn and water in a couple of pans and figured she’d simply die there, which being next to the road would be a lot easier for the dead truck to pick up. Took about a week before she got up, and a few days later she went back to the pens. She lived another two years beyond that with a great scar-tissue imprint of a Ford Fairlane grill in her side.

    They’re tough as nails, they’re smarter than most critters, they stink to high heaven and they exist to move earth. You have no idea how much fun you have just signed up for. Also, they’ve no fur per se, they’ll need warm bedding for a Minnesota winter. Find a supply of straw now, before demand rises in September.

    – Max

    • Bedding? Winter?

      You misinterpret me. These pigs will be spending winter in the freezer.

      • MaxDamage says:

        Pigs were generally sold in the 120lbs range for market. Market consists of your local meat counter where they want chops, ribs, etc… and pay for fairly lean meat. When they need to add fat like in sausage they can trim it from anywhere and add it to the grinder.

        But you’re after bacon. Do a little research, bacon in its historically accepted form is what powered Westward Expansion. Lewis and Clark, French traders, the Donner party, even that poor guy in To Build A Fire ate bacon and prior to all the inbreeding and help from the Pork Council, it all came from pigs in the 400-700lbs range.

        Keep one over the winter, let it get a couple of years old with some fat on it. Try that for bacon and sausage. You will not be disappointed. Besides, you already built the fence.

        – Max

  5. says:

    I’ve heard that one can keep cows in by stringing an electric fence and a white ribbon. After a few zaps you remove the fence and keep the ribbon.

    But cows are stupid.

  6. Cloudbuster says:

    Even in an off-the-grid situation, electric fences (and portable solar or 12-volt chargers) are great for some things:

    1. Temporary fences — lots of times you want to confine livestock to graze in a certain area for just a short time. A couple strands of wire and some fiberglass step-down posts go up and down a lot faster than even t-posts. They even make bundled electric netting with the posts built right in, because goats are too damn smart to be intimidated by a mere wire.

    2. Reducing wear and tear on your permanent fences. Horses and cattle will decide that your barb wire or woven wire fence looks like a dandy scratching post. Horses will lean right over a four-foot tall woven wire fence to graze on the always-greener grass on the other side. A single strand of electric running along your permanent fence (or electrifying just one wire in a barb wire fence, will make them think twice about testing it and rubbing on it.

  7. Pingback: Bacon Update: Part 1 | The Adaptive Curmudgeon's Blog

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