A Farming Anecdote: The Electric Fence and the Guinea Hog

by Jeremey Weeks

I met a pig named Pork Chop in my ramblings across the country a few years ago. Pork Chop was the first American Guinea Hog I had seen in real life. He was an interesting looking pig, living underneath an orange tree in Sacramento, CA.

pork_chop

Something about Pork Chop’s enclosure surprised me. It was electric poultry netting. It touched the orange tree, sagging everywhere, especially along the bottom of the netting. Obviously, Pork Chop wasn’t getting out, so it worked.

I couldn’t imagine that netting holding my pigs in.

I took a closer look at the fence charger. It didn’t produce a constant charge. I could hear it. Zzzt. Pause. Zzzt. Pause. Zzzt. I took a deep breath and looked around…

Now, there are precautions to take before you attempt to gauge an unfamiliar electric fence.

1. Make sure that your tongue is well away from your teeth in case you bite down from the pain.

2. Don’t lean forward–you want to fall away from the fence if you lose your balance.

3.  Don’t grab the fence, touch it with the back of your hand. Electric shock can lock your muscles. It’s a bad thing if your hand is locked on the fence.

Some of you are shaking your heads. Bumping an electric fence isn’t a big deal you say.

WRONG!

Here is an extremely accurate tool you can use to determine how “hot” a fence is:

Huckleberry Press ZapI knew the dangers of electric fencing from personal experience!

It was the summer between my seventh grade and eighth grade year. I had my first job, moving handline at a farm/dairy. This is handline:

handline

My job was to move the line of pipes to the next valve. I did this in alfalfa and barley fields as well as pasture for the dairy cows. The pasture was surrounded by electric fence.

One night I was working in the pasture. Technically, it was morning, but it was pitch black. I was galumphing around in my irrigation boots, moving handline.

irrigation-boots

So, it’s dark, cold and I’m soaked from the sprinklers. This leads to the inevitable; I have to pee. In the country, it’s okay to pee outside. The problem was that the farmer had lots of kids and some of them were daughters. Cute ones. I wanted to make sure no one saw me. I sidled up to the tall grass. Remember, I’m already wet from the sprinklers. I might be wearing rubber boots but they’re covered in water. I’m soaked. I’m conductive.

My stream hit the electric fence that I hadn’t seen. People thought I got a perm that summer. Well, maybe I did (see cute daughters above), but I always had a curl in my hair after that.

It was a defining moment for me. I had just experienced the most painful moment of my life to that point.  I’m a seventh grade boy. Things could have tipped either way; I could have become a burden to society. But I didn’t. I manned up and continued to work, with a grimace on my face that has never gone away. You can understand why I’m careful around electric fencing.

So, I reached out to Pork Chop’s fencing and pressed the back of my hand against it and waited for the Zzzt after the Pause.

Nothing. Zero. Zip.  Nada. The fence charger wasn’t even hooked up to the fence. Pork Chop was good-natured and didn’t challenge his fence.

Beautiful Nazareth Farms 2x3 022516 2

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