When we moved a significant portion of fence line at our remote Texas County outpost a couple of weeks ago, the result was everything we had hoped for and more.

Never mind that it probably should have been done years ago, just the fact that it’s done is cool. And that point is echoed by all three horses and all three donkeys who have reaped the benefits.

Basically, I have for a long time been looking at this one section of land to the west of our house, wondering why in the heck it was in the “mow zone,” and why on Earth the fairly lengthy list of previous residents left it that way. It’s probably between a third and a half-an-acre in size, and features a few young walnut trees, a random cedar or two, and a couple of other trees whose species I’ve identified in the past (thanks to a Missouri Department of Conservation booklet I picked up at the local ranger station) but have since forgotten.

It’s a pretty area, and the view of the adjacent pastures, forest and ridges is beautiful. But it just doesn’t make any sense (to me) to have to navigate a riding mower around it every eight or nine days during more than half of each year.

Especially if the property’s owners keep quadruped herbivores.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

But wondering aside, I’m just glad the change has been made. And thanks to lots of valuable help from a buddy who’s in way better shape than most 50-something guys (including me) and who has a definite spirit of servant-hood and a youthful acquaintance with plenty of endurance, it’s now not uncommon to come home, reach the top of the driveway, and be greeted by six quadruped herbivores with 12 erect ears and jaws in motion.

The Three Amigos (you remember them – donkeys that split time being comedians and escape artists) have in particular made this new section a favorite hang-out. They wasted no time in identifying the area with the thinnest layer of grass and creating a drop-and-roll area where they can enjoy taking nice dust baths in the sweltering, um, spring heat.

I knew going in that the fence line move was going to cause the loss of a couple of bushes that previous residents planted as landscaping beautification, as they would surely be sacrificed to the appetites of a trio of Ozark burros. And sure enough, the John-Boys enjoy sampling the out-of-the-ordinary flavors of the sacrificial shrubs.

But the trade-off is well worth it, because moving the fence also allowed easier access to a few volunteer multi-floral rose bushes, and the donkey patrol has been doing plenty of munching on the multi-branch annoyances (I can’t believe anyone ever planted those things on purpose, but that’s a whole other story).

Of course, the horses aren’t allowing the Amigos complete control of the new territory. To the contrary, when they feel led to occupy the zone, they do just that. They don’t chase their smaller subordinates away, but if they feel one is standing where it shouldn’t, they’re quick to offer a reminder of their superiority.

When we did the move, we reused the t-posts from the existing four-strand barbed wire fence, but use a three-strand electric set up rather than go again with the barbed variety. It worked like a charm.

My buddy came up with an ingenius way to connect the new section to an already existing section of electric fence on our property, so it can be “hot” if need be. But as we suspected, all six of our animals respect the boundary even when it’s cold, no doubt because they have all in the past felt electricity surge through their skin by unsuspectingly leaning against a hot wire and getting zapped.

One of the trees in our equine tenants’ new world is an apple tree that has millions of apples on it this year (must be the mild winter – more bugs, but more fruit, too). In a few months, the horses will probably be greatly concerned with protecting that resource – even though the donkeys won’t be able to reach most of the prizes hanging on the low branches.

But I suppose if you’re a horse, it’s a matter of principal.

“No donkey is getting no apple of mine.”

Fortunately, there’s enough fruit appearing on the higher branches that my trusty ladder should allow me to secure plenty for us humans. Chalk up another advantage to having thumbs.

We still have a significant piece of real estate that requires mowing (maybe not require, but looks better from it), but a change to just how much is in the offing. I’ve had my eye on another section of fence that’s about 25 yards too far to the south.

Its days where it is are numbered, and the equine bunch will soon know what the grass tastes like in another former mow zone.

More for horses and donkeys to eat, less for humans to to mow. Now that makes sense.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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