Saturday, July 16, 2011

Great Gates


Do you have a fence on your property? We have a lot of fences on Locust Hill.  The upper and lower sheep pastures are fenced, as well as the cow pasture and the vegetable garden. How to get over, under or through all those fences requires a variety of solutions.

The gate pictured above is two-sided so it is wide enough to accommodate a truck or tractor.  It has good hinges and opens and shuts with ease.  The other gates wide enough for a truck or tractor to go through are another matter.  We call them Texas gates.  A Texas gate is just a continuation of the barbed wire fence that encloses a pasture, its end post slipped through loops at top and bottom of the gate post.  It’s awkward and difficult to shut as the barbs get tangled together and the poles sag, making it hard to reach the loops. Much to my amusement, I recently discovered that in Texas this sloppy gate is known as a Yankee gate. In Maine it’s a Canuck gate, and in Bavaria a Prussian gate.  Obviously no one wants to take credit for this lazy man’s gate. 

The cow pasture is very large and its barbed wire fence has four different gates, but the section that stretches between our house and daughter Bridget’s cottage on the other side of the meadow has no gate, having been put up long before there was a need for one.  In the first few years after Bridget and John’s little house was built we crawled under this fence every time we went back and forth, all too often catching our rumps on a barb.
It took Hank a while, but he finally found the perfect way to solve this problem. From the old house foundation in the upper cow pasture, he found a large flat rock about a foot and a half high.  He maneuvered it onto the stone boat and dragged it over to the fence. Once he’d positioned it half way under the bottom barbwire, it became a stile.  Step up on the rock, swing a leg over the top strand of barb and step down on the other side.  Since grabbing hold of the wire could be nasty, Hank slit pieces of black plastic tubing and slipped them over the wires to make a pleasant handhold.

The gate to the vegetable garden is the one I really want to tell you about.  We call it the “No Wait Gate.”  I probably go through it twenty times a day in the summer, and even when I’m pulling the garden cart, carrying a bushel basket of compost, or balancing a grandchild on my hip, I can open and shut this gate with my foot.

The No Wait Gate consists of a light wooden frame 4 ½ feet wide and 3 feet high.  It has a diagonal support and is covered with light fencing.  Instead of hinges it has screw eyes, screws with circles at their ends. The gatepost has a matching pair of screw eyes, so that a piece of doweling can be slipped through the top and bottom pairs to create a loose hinge.  The lower pair are placed 3 inches above the ground so the gate hangs clear of the ground.  The gate is easily removed in the fall before snow can block it. 

The edge of the gate opposite the “hinged” side rests on the latch, a notched piece of wood rounded on the end and nailed to the fence post. Because the doweling hinge has enough “give,” it allows me to lift the gate up and over the notch with my foot to open the gate, or slide it over the rounded end to slip back into the notch when closing it.  “Look, Ma! No Hands”

Anyone could build the No Wait Gate, so I’ve tried to give you very clear directions.  Neither our dogs nor our sheep can figure out how to open it, but our grandchildren learned to lift it with their hands at about the same time that they learned how important it is to SHUT THE GATE, and how they delighted in slamming it.!


  1. So clever, Hatsy. I'm always amazed at the different approaches there are for passage through a fence. In Scotland we saw fences that simply ended, with an overlapping section a foot or two away for the continuation of a fence (hard to describe, can't draw here, I think). _____________________________
    Rather like the above. People are clever enough to to dosi-do through, but the cows and sheep are not. At least they're not meant to be...
    (Not sure if my clever line drawing will survive transmission)

  2. Nope, it didn't - just slide that bottom line over to the right about 25 spaces...

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