As you can see from the photo below, as big as my garden seems to me sometimes, it still only takes up about a quarter of our unused land. Maybe less.
I really hate waste. Wasted energy, wasted potential, wasted resources. I’m not too fond of paying property taxes on a piece of land I’m only using half of, either. Currently the chickens are pastured through the winter in my garden and through the hot summer months in a paddock of about the same size in the woods.
Originally, I was going to divide the woods into paddocks and rotate pigs, dairy goats, and poultry. But the ticks on our property put a bit of a kink in my plans when they made me allergic to mammalian meat and dairy, and I stalled.
Recently I realized that I could still have goats in there even if I can’t use them for meat or dairy; they could just be brushcutters, or pets, or someone else’s hosted 4H project. Trying to come up with other ideas to use the space, I’ve pondered turkeys. At the very least I’d really like to let the chickens out to use the entire space instead of just a small area. I’m also becoming enamored of the idea of a secret food forest, colonizing the woods with useful perennials, and running the chickens in there wouldn’t hurt with the fertilizing.
But any animal use of the land requires a fence, and there lies the problem; how do you set fenceposts into swamp? We aren’t rich enough to just plan on replacing them every few years. All wood rots, even pressure treated (concrete just acts like a sponge and hold water against the wood) so I’d thought I’d use steel Tposts but the farmers in the forum I subscribe to told me they would just rust off at the ground in maybe 2-3 years. I thought about making concrete posts, but the cost of concrete for that big (and so many) posts was astronomical. So again, plans stalled.
How could I get the sturdiness and rust-proofness of a concrete post & solid footing, with the easy replaceability and low cost of a Tpost? I think I may have come up with a solution. Maybe.
First I thought, what if I sunk a 4″ pvc pipe deep into the soil, filled it with concrete, and set the Tpost above ground level into that? I then remembered that concrete wicks water and it would rust out the Tpost eventually anyway – though hopefully slower than if it were underground. So if replacing the Tpost is inevitable, how to make it easier? The ridges and flanges of a Tpost make removing it from concrete impossible. So… what if I sunk it into something standard-sized and meant to be thrown away along with the rusty Tpost, and sunk that into the 4″ pipe instead?
What better place to set up an experiment than in the swampy berry patch area, where my poor thornless blackberries are crying out for a trellis? I found all the materials on hand already.
plastic wrap, vaseline, 1 1/2″ pvc scrap about 14″ long, 6′ heavy duty Tpost, 3’6″ of 4″ pvc drain pipe scrap, post hole digger, a level, 2/3 leftover bag of ready-mix concrete.
I dug a 6″ post hole, sunk the 4″ pvc 2’6″ down into the ground, leveled it, and poured in a bunch of dry ready-mix around the outside base to act as a horizontal “foot” underground. (Because my ground is so wet, I do not have to mix ready-mix with water before use.) I then backfilled the hole with soil and poured the dry ready-mix down into the 4″ pipe until the 1 1/2″ pipe protruded only about 1/4″ from the top when inserted.
1 1/2″ pipe set into 4″ pipe. Note ground water already filling the post hole.
I greased up the 14″ long 1 1/2″ pipe with vaseline, wrapped it in plastic wrap and greased it again. I didn’t want any chance of the hardened concrete getting a good grip on that thing. I covered the bottom of the pipe with plastic as well, so that the concrete in it wouldn’t contact-bind with the concrete in the 4″ pipe. (Poke lots of drainage holes in this plastic bottom, otherwise you might as well set your Tpost into a plastic cup. Don’t do what I did, and forget to perforate the bottom for easy drainage, and then have to go find a very long steel wire to awkwardly poke holes in it at the very end!)
(Edit: I should have just wrapped the 1 1/2″ pipe & bottom in paper. That would have created a barrier that would have held the pieces separate through curing, and then simply disappeared after a few months.)
I finished filling the 4″ pipe with ready-mix, then inserted the bottom of the Tpost into the empty 1 1/2″ pipe. The post part of the Tpost fit snugly into the pvc, though the bottom flanges stopped it about 9″ down. I left it like this, though if you wanted it more deeply connected you could simply flip the Tpost and insert the top instead to the depth you desired. For my purposes, these measurements left the top of the trellis post level with the top of my fence posts. And I’m thinking, since the post is integrally connected to 14″ of 1 1/2″ pipe sunk in concrete, it’s sunk plenty deep enough, no? …Only time will tell.
Total height 7′, level with surrounding fenceposts. Obviously the height of the 4″ pipe can be lowered to ground level if you want; these were just the pieces I had on hand and they ended up working out for me.
I carefully filled the 1 1/2″ pipe with ready-mix, banging on both pipes with my trowel the whole time to settle the dust in there well. Mound up the cement piled on top and slope it away from the Tpost, and I was finished.
So the idea is to have it raised up off the ground far enough that water has a harder time getting to it; and that when it inevitably does rust, it is easy to yank out and replace without having to reset the deep concrete pipe and footing. (This design has worked well for me in much smaller scale with a sign I erect at fairs set in milk jugs of plaster; but that is neither under pressure/tension, nor exposed to constant rainfall/groundwater.) The 1 1/2″ pvc tube fits nice and snug inside its concrete sleeve, but does seem to slide when I pull up on it, which is promising.
I still need to create a diagonal brace for the trellis before stringing my wires (it may have a deep concrete footing, but the ground is so muddy I don’t expect that to provide much lateral pressure against a wire tugging at the top. I’m afraid it would just slump over). But in the mean time I’m pretty optimistic. I may have found a solution for our fenceposts – though obviously I wouldn’t have the 4″ bases stick so high out of the ground for that. It’s been raining for days and shows no signs of stopping, so the concrete should be good and wet and cured by the time it gets sunny again, and I can go test it a bit.