Monday, October 26, 2015


I took advantage of the extremely dry October weather to complete one of the larger items that has been cluttering up my list of necessary projects, construction of fence along about 1500 feet of open property line.  I don’t mind building fence, but it is a time consuming process that crowds out all other activities on my agenda.  The task of fencing is made easier if you have several people helping.  Fortunately, besides myself, I had the help of the property owner, the land manager, the maintenance supervisor, the strategic planner and the ground crew.  The downside to that is the fact that I hold all of those positions, so the total people working on the fence remained at a constant one.

The fence consisted of multiple strands of single high tensile wire.  This is a fairly easy type of fence to construct and is ideal for rough terrain or wooded areas.  The wire will withstand the impact of a falling tree and can be retensioned once the tree is removed.  If a wire does break, it is easily repaired with the use of a slip-on splice.  Fence building would be simple if the entire line were as level and open as this short stretch.

But, obstacles abound at Blue Jay Barrens.  High tensile wire can be stretched for a considerable distances without the need for posts or spacers, so you can easily span a section of creek.  Unless we set a new record rainfall, the bottom wire of the fence should stay clear of the highest flood water.

At the opposite end of the scale from level is Not Level.  The back portion of Blue Jay Barrens jumps the ridge and catches a small portion of a neighboring watershed.  The fence line plunges down a steep grade, crosses a short span of floodplain, and then climbs an even steeper grade on the other side of the creek.  The grade was steep enough on this side that it was difficult to establish footing that kept me from sliding slowly downhill.  Rather than try to negotiate that slope with a fence post slung over my shoulder, I launched the posts Caber Toss style over the edge and let gravity do the work.

On the far side of the creek, I used a rope to pull the wire up the steepest part of the slope.  After attaching the wire to a loop made in the center of the length of rope, I took a more circuitous route to the summit where I proceeded to haul up the wire.  The rope was long enough that the downhill end always stayed close to the creek bank, so I could grab the end and pull the loop back down to the creek in preparation for the next stretch of wire. 

A large oak that once sat astride the property line, was taken down by the 2012 derecho winds.  The pile of rubble to the left of the fence is what I had to remove from the tree’s root mass in order to clear the line for the fence.  The rock is full of fractures resulting from the prehistoric meteor strike, so trimming it back was not impossible for someone using only a metal spud bar.  The rock was much more difficult to deal with while digging post holes.

I managed a few brief breaks in the work to observe some of the interesting things going on around me.  Newly installed wire became a highway for insect life.  Caterpillars, ants and beetles seemed almost magnetically drawn to the wire.

Stick insects found the newly placed wire to be an ideal mating structure.

The female seemed intent on chewing through the strange material.

Newly installed wood posts became instant hunting grounds for Red Velvet Mites.  These two are feeding on a caterpillar that is still quite alive.

The mites were still at it the next day.  At the tail end of the caterpillar are the remains of its shed exoskeleton.  The mites may have come across the caterpillar in the vulnerable condition of completing its molt.

This caterpillar was hurrying up the trunk of a tree, unaware of the fact that it was unlikely to survive to adulthood.

Parasitic wasps are most likely introducing their eggs into the body of the caterpillar.  The wasp larvae will feed inside the caterpillar until time to pupate.  The caterpillar is unlikely to survive the encounter.

Caterpillars were everywhere.  This one fell into my lunch bag and I moved it onto the trunk of a small Pawpaw.  I believe it is an Eclipsed Oak Dagger.

Mornings were cool, but things warmed nicely in the afternoon.  Buck Moths in flight were a regular sight during the past week.  My photos of Buck Moths in flight are almost identical to my photos of woodland scenes.  I know a moth was there, but I can’t find it.

This Imperial Moth caterpillar was feeding on a Redbud growing near the creek bank at the base of a steep hill.  At 15 feet away, the caterpillar was at my eye level.  If I stood at the base of the tree, the caterpillar was about 12 feet above my head.  Many of the Redbuds are already leafless.  This caterpillar is fortunate to have something left to eat.  I hope he gets his fill and pupates before he runs out of food.

At a glance, I thought this was a large snake.

But, it’s just the remnants of a vine climbing up the tree.

I was pushing hard to complete the fence before wet weather returned.  In a three week period I was able to complete the 1500 feet of new fence and make minor repairs to about 1800 feet of old fence.  The weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful, but I’m really glad to be moving on to something else.