progress is made!

I realize it is hard to tell from this not-very-good photo, but what you see here is definite progress! This shot is taken from up the road, close to the cabin, looking down as the dam when we were down there on Sunday. The dam in the green part. Where the brown part meets the green part is where the overflow spillway is, and for the last year and a half, it had been washing away. As recently as last week a gouge seven feet deep had been creeping further westward across the spillway toward the lake. If it reached the lake, and there was another high-water event, the dam would be breached and the lake would wash away.

I cropped the photo to give you a (little) better look at the part in question. Just before the green you can see lots of tracks from the big machines that came in last week to fill the gouge and smooth the surface in preparation for an eventual concrete slab atop the spillway. (This washout has happened several times in the 10+ years that the lake has been here. I’m after a permanent fix.)

On the left you can see where they got the dirt for all of this fill. Also on the left you can see a vertical black object. That is the remains of a tree that the original dam builder had left perched up there. With so much of its root structure cut away, the tree soon died, and then last year it came down in a storm. Courteously it did not fall into the spillway. You will also see a black dot out on the dam. More about that later.

I sent a text to the contractor after I saw that the work was (finally) done, telling him I was pleased, and he then called me back. We discussed what he’d done and what was left to be done and roughed out a timetable for doing it. (The wonderfully warm days this week — in the 80s down there — may have been ideal for him to pour the slab, but so far he hasn’t told me he’s done so.) I also asked about the load of gravel I’ve been waiting on, and he explained that the nearby quarry has closed and that he must go into the next county for gravel, which is part of the delay. We also talked about him coming out later in the summer (when it’s hot and most of all dry) to do some work on my road through the trees. It’s been wet so far this season, and his big trucks, along with my little truck, have plowed the road marvelously. I need some ditch work done along the northern part to help with drainage so the road isn’t always soft and muddy. And some fresh gravel to improve the base will be good too.

So this was happy news on our visit. But regarding that black dot, here is a closer look at it:

I don’t have any cattle, and yet here this was. It happens that my 80 acres was part of a cattle ranch a half century ago, and cattle ranching is still common in the area (since most of the land is not suited for the plow). My neighbor to the east has a large spread with lots of cattle, and several times in the past they have found their way through the fence and onto my land. I don’t know what is so appealing about my property that they would find or make a breach in the fence to get on it, but it seems that when they have the chance, they do.

While my wife and the smaller dog retreated to the cabin to enjoy some quality time in the comfy chairs on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake, Flike and I decided to track the cattle to see if we could find out how they got in (and apparently out since we didn’t see any cattle on our visit that day). It wasn’t hard to do. They had heavily fertilized among the pecans, and stomped around quite a bit. Yet their trail was visible, thanks in large part to the still-wet ground but also to the copious fertilizer.

This turned out to be a longer hike than I expected. I thought there would be a breach in the eastern fence since this is how they’d gotten in before. But as I followed the track, I began to realize where/how they had gotten in, and it was my fault in part.

In my northeast corner there is a kind of gate in the fence. It’s a rigged arrangement, and I suspect it’s not uncommon. Basically it is a panel of three strands of barbed wire affixed in the middle to a post that rests on the ground (rather than in the ground) and attached to another post that is held against a permanent post with a loop of barbed wire. As long as the tension is maintained, the strands make an effective fence barrier to cattle. In theory, and my neighbor’s cattle hadn’t heard of this theory apparently. Their trail lead directly to/from it and my lake.

I don’t know what happened, whether some interloper had dropped this gate while passing through (my Private Property sign normally affixed to the permanent post was on the ground twenty feet into my neighbor’s land) or if the cattle just rubbed against the temporary gate enuf to knock it down. However it happened. the gate was on the ground. That told the tale.

I resurrected the gate as well as I could, but it certainly wouldn’t prevent the cattle from knocking it down again if they wished. The fact that their trail went directly from the gate to my lake, though more than a quarter mild of forest, suggests they know where they wanted to go then and likely in the future.

So my plan is to do something more permanent on my next visit. I like the gate being there. On my side of the gate is the remnant of an old road that went the length of my northern property line. When we first arrived on this land, some horse riders would come through that gate and proceed west (across our property, but that was fine). And while I doubt there are any easements on this old road, it may be that my neighbor has a right to use it. (That would be tough going given all of the trees that have grown up in it.) So leaving a gate there isn’t a bad idea.

I have two steel fence posts I could use to replace the old wooden ones holding the gate together. I also have the clips I would need to affix the wire to the posts. And with a little muscle I can even restore the “latching” mechanism. Will it be cattle proof? Let’s find out!

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One Comment on “progress is made!”

  1. Dean Says:

    Good luck keeping cattle out. When they want to go somewhere, they often find ways to get through fences.

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