We decided to test whether or not frost in the ground had abated enough to dig some post holes. Plans are to build a paddock where our horse Tilly can have a small pasture to romp in when we are away. She hates being confined in the small corral attached to her loafing shed and has begun to gnaw on the poles when we don’t turn her out. Our first step was to plant two ancient cedar posts for a man gate where we will re-use an old gate and some ancient technology.
This old aluminum milk pail filled with rocks served the previous gate for as long as I can remember. The pail was chained on the downside of the gate and the gravitational pull kept the gate closed, even in Wyoming winds! Since the old path from the barn to the house drops down a steep bank to the creek bottom, the milk pail anchor swung freely whenever the gate was opened, banging the gate shut after you had passed through it.
We have tried digging post holes in our barnyard by hand and learned that beneath a foot of topsoil is a plate of hard-pan gumbo that will cause your shovel to bounce and your arms to tremble. We cannot even penetrate it with the tractor-driven post hole digger without filling the hole with water, letting it soak overnight and drilling it out next day. At this rate, Tilly has a long wait for a paddock fence!
The plan is to re-use the old wooden gate leaning against the fence post. It is fairly sturdy for a 50-year-old gate, give or take ten to a dozen years, and fits the personality of the old cedar posts, that are likely as old. The part I don’t remember is how the milk pail gate anchor is chained to the gate, and what was used as a “stop” lever so the pull of the anchor doesn’t drag the gate open on the downside. This part will require some heavy thinking. Another problem is how to remove the bent rusty nails that hold the hinges onto an old post that needs to be detached.
The beautiful patina, ancient scars and timeless character of the old cedar posts salvaged from piles of Dad’s abandoned poles and lumber scraps have a story to tell. It seemed fitting to mount them where the former gate once stood, and swing another old salvaged gate between them. Now if we can sort out the milk pail anchor technology, we’ll be back in business.
Mother must be looking down on us, remembering how many times she walked that steep path to the barn to milk Nancy and Doodle, our milk cows. I loved walking to the barn with her and can clearly remember one day after a torrential rain we had to sit on the bank, watching the water rush by and fretting over the bawling of anxious cows waiting to be milked. All these old memories come to mind as we build Tilly’s fence.