Make Pasture Gates From Scrap Materials

A pair of cash-constrained West Virginia shepherds found that leftover wood and wire made perfectly good pasture gates.

| May/June 1981

When my partner and I first brought sheep to our farmstead, we soon discovered that the woolly wanderers loved to visit our hayfield for an occasional snack. We had to install fences, but by the time my friend and I had finished enclosing the critters in our pastures and out of the young hay, we'd purchased thousands of feet of woven wire and used up all of our spare cash in the process. What's worse, the gaping hole in our bank account was matched by equally gaping holes in our fencing, spaces where pasture gates should have been.

In an attempt to solve the problem, we checked out some sturdy metal gates available at our local feed store, and we immediately realized that—at $60 apiece—they'd have to remain right there! Next we looked into the possibility of constructing our own wooden entryways. The cost of the 1 X 6 lumber required to complete the project was also beyond the capacity of our sorely depleted funds.

Eventually we did find a practical (and affordable!) alternative, however, and now our farmstead has openers as handy and strong as the shiny hardware-store kind. And best of all, our gates were free!

We had numerous scraps of woven wire, you see, left over from the 11 rolls it took to enclose our acreage. And the seasoned locust posts that supported the fence had been cut from the larger ends of medium-sized trees, while the branches and smaller tops remained unused.

So my resourceful friend figured out a way to turn the scrap materials into beautiful, rustic gates. To make each closure, he first cut two locust poles (from the branches and treetops), each just a few inches shorter than the width of the opening in the fence. These limbs would soon become the gate's top and bottom framing pieces. Next, he cut three sticks to a length of almost four feet apiece, which was the height of the fence and of the soon-to-be-swinging door.

My friend then notched both ends of all five locust limbs by making a ripsaw cut a few inches deep down the center of each tip, and a second cut to meet this slice at a 90° angle. Together we set the longer branches on the ground—parallel—with the notches up. We next put two of the short sticks on top of the longer ones, notches down, so that the cut-outs on the vertical sticks were resting on those of the horizontal ones. We fastened the joints with very long, heavy nails and, since the points of the spikes usually came through on the other side of the posts, hammered the metal back against the wood.

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