We recently took on a part share of a smallholding with a couple of friends who like us fancied a bit of rural life and more importantly it had a flowing stream through pond on the edge of a wood - ideal for braai's (BBQ) over the weekends.

The plot came with a substantial barn and a group of old stone buildings that we have re-roofed and converted into chook pens with a substantial run outside including a couple of trees. As none of us would be living on the plot we had to make this secure. The opening has been connected to a timer to open at 11.00 and close at 18.00. The food has been similarly connected to stop the supply of feed at 09.00 and recommence at 17.30. The idea is that the birds will learn that fresh food is on offer just before closing, they will be hungry so will be indoors and safely locked in overnight. The free-range yard is now protected by a very tall 145 cm electrified poultry netting enclosure an a strong 3 joule energiser that will put any fox onto his backside.

At this early juncture it took a good week before the birds learnt the sequence but those that were left out tended to roost in the trees.

We have also gone in for purchasing some fattening steers to grow out on the grass. With minimum inputs and little supervision they should supply us with an acceptable income. We've bought 25 weaners with a Friesian cross Simmental breeding. By allowing them access to good grass and a little carbohydrates/urea mix they will grow out for slaughter in about 18 months.

There was no real cow proof boundary fencing when we got here and to put that sort of fencing in requires serious money. Proper fencing requires long term vision and planning as well. You have to think of all the possible ways you might want it set up, not just how you want it set up today. Once it is in it is expensive and time consuming to change. Electric fencing is pretty good as long as you stay on top of it and has one real benefit that fits in with my perma-culture principles.

Perma-culture has a theory that you learn with the land. That is the longer you are on a piece of land, the more you understand the most effective way to work it and make it work for you. Electric fencing is fantastic for this because it is really easy to re-configure. Just pull out and bash in some star pickets and give that way a try. I think I have reconfigured the 'home paddock' about ten times already to get the best out of the set up.

I re-laid the fences so that there is a little buffer between the new grass and the grass they are currently grazing on. This will be changed on a daily basis so the steers will have fresh grass 365 days of the year. Fortunately Electric Fencing is so versatile it is a simple operation to bring this into effect and takes 20 minutes to set up tomorrows move.

The next bit of re-fencing was around the tree and tank above the house. I have a little paddock there that is too steep for the ride on and I extended it round the big fig and second tank. This little slope is a pain to slash, so getting the steers to do the work for me seems like a smart thing to do. It also means they can come down and say hello when we are on the deck or in the spa.

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