I had no time to deal with Dog Wars. In a few hours my good friends Brett and Diane would be here from their respective homesteads to help me install 300 feet of fencing. It was past time for this work. The pasture needed expanding as soon as possible, since the half acre I did myself was eaten down to putting-green status and would be nothing but clay without some space and seed. So I bought all the t-posts and fence I could afford and Brett offered to bring his strong back and a come along. Diane offered the same, for her it was going to be as much a lesson in Fence 101 as it would be an opportunity to help a friend. I was armed, ready, excited for the day off work and in the field.
Brett showed up first, and within 45 minutes we had slammed in all the t-posts, and were (well, I) was huffing like mad. 83 degrees, full sun, heavy things to carry...I was feeling more out of shape than I felt all year. When we finished with the first phases, Brett said he wanted to pace out the perimeter to see how far we could go with the remaining supplies. As he hiked off into the waist-high raspberries and phlox, I tried not to throw up. 20-pounded posts and a half-mile uphill hike into the mountain forest wasn't exactly Jillian Michael's 20-Minute Shred. Jillian would've be ready to throw up too.
Brett came back with equally jarring and exciting news. "If you had another roll of wire, and another 20-or-so posts we could fence in this entire thing, the whole thing" he said, gesturing to every scrap of pasture I had left on my property. I looked up the hill at the acre and a half of open land, wild and un-grazed.
You're kidding me.
"Are you sure about that?" I asked, not really comprehending the work or land. We didn't have a tractor, or an ATV to haul things. Hell, I don't even own a garden cart yet. I thought we'd do a few hours of work, grill, clink beers and head back to our own farms. The sheep would have a little more grass, Jasper a little more room. But he was sure. he said in a month I'd be right back to where I started, and doing this all over. Why not just get it all done now?
He convinced me. With varying level of excitement we headed back in the Dodge to Tractor Supply for double the gear, my savings taking quite a hit. His motto was Buy Once Cry once—suck it up and get it all done while you had the people and plan to do half of it anyway. A little more money, a little more work, and the entire CAF pasture would be fenced. Two and a half acres for a dozen sheep and a pony to roam. Hot dang.
From 11AM till 6:30PM we ran over 650-feet of fence around an acre and a half of new pasture. I sweated in places I didn't realize could sweat, like between my fingers and the sides of my nose. Walking around was a test of endurance, since it is a brushy opening carved into a mountain side. Everyone worked hard, without complaint, and tempers remained calm and pleasant. I was amazed at their charity, and their kindness. If any of them ever need a fence, I will be there in a homesteader flash (meaning so as I find someone to watch the animals). The day was long. Between the work, heat, and landscape all of us were ravaged, Brett especially, who by default of size and woodland education was the one doing the hardest work of us all. My hero.
When we were done, we didn't release the flock and Jasper just yet. We discovered dumps of old nails, hardware, and long-forgotten projects and trash amongst the new grazing space. These had to be fenced off from the sheep and pony, less they die of punctures and tetanus. So that project was put on hold for my own time, and the three of us headed down the mountain back to the farm house. Dinner was well earned. I was so hungry I shook.
We ate grass-fed burgers, milkshakes, and I clinked those wonderful dark ales. Brett stretched out under the sun. I strummed a few clumsy banjo tunes and Diane enjoyed her shake. I couldn't pay them, but I did give her one of my roosters for her own flock, an Ameraucana named Upset. Brett would go home with a large Bourbon Red poult. I now live a life where farm birds are well-received gifts of thanks.
Diane and Upset drove off, and Brett and I headed up to give the herd a shot at their new world. After some fencing work around the danger zones, we opened the gate and Jasper trotted up, almost shocked at his luck.
He galloped as fast as he could, throwing his head. I had never seen a pony so damn happy. Brett and I watched him, both with joy and worry. We had all found a few trip-ups out there, and I had done my best to note and cover holes, but it wasn't perfect. But Jasper was fine, more than fine. He ran with such perfect pace he looked like a wild mustang in the Rockies. "This looks like some wild horse running around Montana?!" Smiled Brett, both of us looking at the wide space, and how much more now belonged to the farm. The sheep all around us ate mouthfuls with bliss, and would continue to do so for another hour before they returned to their pen to save them from bloat or lameness from gopher holes. I lead them all back to their night keep, swelling with tired pride. This place, was becoming more and more to be. More than a farm, more than Montana.
It was becoming home.