Rocky Ground

by J Stansley
(Erath County, Texas)

The ranch this pen needed to be built on was severely rocky. White chalk mostly, layer after layer of the stuff interspersed with chalk boulders.

Digging post holes was way too much work. Learned that by digging two for the gate. Scraping the chosen site was a must to get rid of all the loose rocks and stones. Luckily we had a tractor with a box scraper. Later we had to add dirt and cedar mulch to get a decent surface for the horses. The cedar mulch came from smallish trees that grow all over the property.

With two posts holes, a big pile of rocks and a blunted rock chisel we decided on above ground construction from that point on.

We got some hardware cloth with about 2" squares and rolled it into cylinders about 18" wide and the width of the roll. We made each cylinder with three layers of the wire. Two would probably have done. We placed each cylinder about eight feet apart but we also put one at each end of the gate.

While the gate posts, 3" galvanized steel, were setting in their cement footings we filled each cylinder with loose rocks and little boulders. The first pile of rocks ran low before we were done so the tractor with the box scraper was sent to ˜improve" a nearby pasture and gather more.

After the posts were filled we connected them with more of the hardware cloth lashed to each cylinder in four places with heavy bailing wire. The cylinders were all to the outside as were any wire ends. The last two were lashed to the gate posts after the concrete set.

We hung a five foot pre-fab, galvanized gate to finish it off although we could have knocked one together with wood. (There was this gate panel already sittin' in the barn.) Some diagonal wire bracing from the top of each post to the bottom of the adjacent posts helped to stabilize the structure. Turnbuckles did the job of getting those taut.

It wasn't pretty but it worked.

A couple months later some planks were added along the top edge to give two legged critters something better to lean on.

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