For a couple of years now I’ve been singing the praises of what we called hog panels and cattle panels— heavy wire (3/16th inch) fencing panels that come in 16 ft. lengths, some 48 inches high, some 56 inches high. Most of you know about them, I’m sure. As fencing, these panels will last about forever, and so, though sort of expensive (about $20 each now), I wouldn’t hesitate to use them for field fence instead of woven wire. You don’t need special equipment for stretching like you do with woven wire, and you don’t have to erect it in perfectly straight lines to do the stretching. Anytime you want through anywhere along the fence line, you can take down a panel and go. Nor do you need well-braced corner posts sunk half way to China.

These panels make great fences where trees are involved. If a tree or limb falls on the fence, you have only to contend with one 16 foot length and you can bend it back straight if the tree has smashed it. With woven wire you are looking at major repair and re-stretching. In woodland, or along the edge of woodland, you can just go from tree to tree with the panels, using the tree trunks for fence posts. I have found the panels perfect for replacing the crumbling woven wire fence that runs under my hedgerows of cedar trees. I need only clip away a few low branches and slide the panels, one at a time, in place against the tree trunks. The amazing thing is, as I wrote earlier, now that the trees have grown thickly up and high over the fence, with the new panels in place, the deer won’t jump over.

Instead of having to replace the whole fence at one time, I can stick a panel in here or there when and where the old woven wire fence has rusted through. So far, I have had to install only three or four panels a year— easy on the pocketbook, not to mention the back.

The panels have all kinds of uses as temporary enclosures. You can wire them together at the ends to form a three-sided or four-sided sheep or calf pen, or an enclosure around trees, or even a two-sided, V-shaped enclosure up against a barn wall, or to make a temporary cattle chute. You can now buy little wire hinge thingies to fasten the panels together. A triangular shape or square shape will actually stand alone without posts. You can install them two high around garden plots that you want to keep the deer out of. You can make grow tunnels with them.

I also use the panels bent in a circle to form up my little haystacks. I don’t have the skill to shape up the sides nice and straight on a free standing stack. And that’s how I learned about the dark side of this fencing.

I went out to check the sheep a few mornings ago—- wanted to know how much of the stack was still left. I had installed a wooden rick around it for the sheep to eat through so they wouldn’t waste much hay. The rick fit only around about three fourths of the stack because I was too lazy to make it bigger. On the other fourth, I left the wire panel.

Sure enough, one of the ewes thrust her head through the panel (the mesh is about six inches square) and was stuck there. She could have pulled herself back out, but if you know sheep, they rarely think of that but bullheadedly keep pushing forward. The harder I tried to push her head back out of the panel, the more solidly she planted her feet and pushed forward. In younger years I would have freed her with sheer muscle power, but now I had to buy a bolt cutter to nip out a horizontal section of the panel so the stupid thing could extricate herself. I found a cheap one in the hardware store— $18 which will cut a 5/16 bolt of soft steel, so plenty good enough for wire panels.

My brother-in-law, Brad (my hero shepherd) tells me of another solution. He says that a sheep hates the smell of its manure so much that if you pick up a fresh handful of the stuff and press it against her nose, she will back out of anything.

Why does my life these days keeping coming back to defecation