Where perfection has to settle for practical: Ready, Set, …no??

Evening all,

       Apologies for the absence in posting but as we all know, life just keeps on happening. Darnedest thing, that. So…the short of it is that we’ve done quite a great many projects over the past months and I am at least three months behind in writing this.

Moving on! …or is it forward? Let’s settle for onward!

(See…I just -knew- there had to be a compromise there.)

For those of you that may have forgotten my rough canvas, and I use that word very very very …very literally, here it is once more, what I had to work with:

The easement along the side of our barn. Please note: My glorious throne still remained at this point in time. Let us have a moment of silence for its relocation.

The to-do list: (does anyone else make like a zillion of these a year? #guilty)

  1. Determine primary material for stall walls / front.
  2. Determine stall size.
  3. Reinforce existing wooden beam structures.
  4. Determine preferential material for proper footing and drainage.
  5. Level out area for new footing.
  6. Assemble!

Man, …why is it to-do lists make it seem so bloody simple? I ALWAYS think it’ll be just that simple. I delude myself every time. #characterflaw And yet, …we press onward!

As you may recall, one gelding that absolutely requires being stalled during the day throughout the Spring and Summer seasons is Gambit. Gambit is also the same gelding that hates being stalled. Hate being an entirely appropriate word in this situation as he once thrashed about in a steel frame stall lined with oak beams until it broke. Case and point, he hates stalls.

Exhibit A. Meet Gambit, he looks so deceptively calm and yet he is the “contain me if you can” gelding of nightmares.

SO THEN, how to keep him in one? And that was it, that was the moment when that glorious light bulb goes off in your head, when you know it may all go sideways but hey, it’s something, so you just go with it! That’s what I did.

The round pen.
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Ironically it originally served as a temporary enclosure for Lilah and her foal until Ember was old enough to be weaned.

For example, I’ve noticed that he’s never held any hesitation, discomfort, or issue of any kind with the round pen I use to ride him in whenever he needs a refresher under saddle. With that, I had my starting point. So I left him in the round pen all day / night and fed him there / moved a water trough inside. So far, so good, aside from him whinnying back and forth at our other paint, Finnegan, of which the pair are a touch inseparable. The following day I added Finnegan to the round pen with him. (It’s 60′ in diameter so plenty of room for the two chaps for one day.) The whinnying came to an abrupt halt and the two hung out leisurely for the remainder of the day.

Task one completed. Gambit was willing to respect the lightweight corral panels that comprise our round pen. My best guess is that due to how open they are, that he can still see everything around him, is still outdoors, and not cooped up inside he accepts that the shade is quite lovely.

Next up was figuring out how to fit stalls into our very unique space. Ideally I wanted to create three 12’x12′ stalls which would require an overall 12′ (D) x 36′ (L) space to work with. Instead, what I had was 12′ (D) x 38′ (L). You would be amazed at just what a pain those silly little two feet can be…

Corral panels come in three sizes at our local TSC store. Either 10′, 12′, or 16′ options. Already, my extra 2′ were becoming a nuisance. Better yet, corral panels are not produced as ‘stall fronts’ so in order to have corral ‘gates’ to use as mock stall fronts, I had the option of 4′ or 6′ wide gates. I cannot even begin to tell you how many different strange shapes and configurations we jotted down trying to be the most efficient with materials from both a cost standpoint and a means of making everything fit beneath that shabby little easement but at last we decided on the following:

(Psst, here’s where perfect meets practical)

Back row of stalls: 12′ panel – 10′ panel & 4′ gate – 12′ panel
Sides / Dividers of stalls: 12′ panel – 12′ panel – 12′ panel – 12′ panel
Front row of stalls: 10′ panel & 4′ gate – 10′ panel & 4′ gate – 4′ gate & 10′ panel

I’ll be honest, the only stall that is a perfect square is the center stall measuring at 14’x14′. I had to waste a 4′ corral gate on the back row of stalls to accomplish this…but, while not as cosmetically appealing as I’d like I try to remember the bigger picture here: these are temporary stalls while I rebuild the inside of the barn and fix the ventilation issues next spring and I need to be able to reuse all of the materials I’ve purchased so far. So all in all, a 14’x12′ – 14’x14′ – 14’x12′ setup.

Next task on the agenda, repairing the existing wooden beam structures. Ironically enough, as they look pretty darn pitiful in that photo above. Structurally, they were sound, no wood rot, no insect damage, I literally only had to scrub away years of cobwebs, re-hammer in one nail, and knock down a few vacant wasp nests. HUZZAH! Sometimes it really is the little things…like not having to tear down the barn easement and rebuild a new one. Phew!

So where does that leave us? Right, footing. Here in the south we have this very pretty but essentially useless red clay soil. With our stalls being kept just alongside the barn we wanted to ensure we had solid footing to avoid any lameness issues as well as proper drainage for the all too common flash flood type rain we get here. To this end, it was quite easy as we pulled a few notes from one fencing post adventure.

One of our neighbors, who is an exceptionally kind and incredibly generous human being, found out about our predicament and offered his assistance. He drove over, in his Bobcat no less, and promptly began digging out the 12′ x 38′ rectangular space 1′ deep.

Once we’d evened out the freshly dug out pit, we spread out 6″ of large “drainage” gravel to help with heavy rain. This layer was then topped with a mixture of 80% sand and 20% finely broken up gravel which we then packed down tightly and smoothed out.

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Final layer completed and half of the stall mats laid out.
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The one and only stall mat that refused to lay flat…though to be fair, this was due to the fact it is resting atop the edge of the concrete block the existing wooden beam was cemented into.
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All 18 stall mats finally laid out and ready for stalls to go up!

Once the ground was prepped and ready, we carefully laid out our rubber stall mats across the entirety of the space to help keep the sand from shifting as well as prevent sand from mixing in amongst cedar shavings. It should be noted, never ever…ever underestimate just how painfully awkward it is to carry a 4’x6′ rubber stall mat, let alone how HEAVY they are! We used 18 total, 6 per stall, and it was sheer agony trying to carry those suckers approximately 40′ from where we’d had the pallet stored to where the stalls were being built.

No one who has not laid rubber stall mats before can understand the struggle. The struggle is real folks.

Finally the moment had come, assembly of the stalls. This truly was the unspoken champion of the material we selected for when I say lightweight, I mean it. We could easily lift and put each panel in place in a matter of minutes by ourselves. The flourishing touches were merely added after which included: slow-feed hay bags for each stall, cedar shavings to coat the mats, black rubber water troughs, and a fly trap hung amongst the rafters between each stall.

It should be noted, they worked like a charm too! I was able to go the remainder of summer without masks on any of the stalled horses.

In conclusion, do they look beautiful, the way I envisioned the stalls would be when I got ’round to designing them? Sure don’t. Not even a lick. However, they function beautifully for what I needed. Our two sunburn prone paints had healthy unblemished skin in just a week’s time of being stalled during the day, we had no further issues with overheating, and while Gambit and Finnegan in particular tend to get overweight in the summer, their weight was maintained easily while kept stalled during the days.

Practical isn’t always the perfection we hope for or expect to see, but seeing how much more comfortable our boys were…how much happier they were? Worth it.




When southern weather puts a damper in your plans: I smell revisions!

Afternoon everyone! For those that aren’t aware, here at our farm we have somewhat of a menagerie of horses.

When it comes to horses, I look for a sound mind, good legs, dependable track record, and seasoned under saddle. Unusual coloration (grullo, buckskin, palomino, oh my!) and coveted bloodlines (I’ve always been a sucker for Poco Bueno and Hancock bred horses personally) are always a nice bonus, but picking your companions on looks alone has…let’s face it, never really worked out for anyone, am I right or am I right?

As such, we’ve wound up with a Standardbred, AQHA (American Quarter Horse), as well as a couple paint crosses and the like. Now I will admit, while I am a bit partial, despite picking personality over appearance, we lucked out with some absolutely gorgeous horses. Now I say this now so that you will remember it because as I get into the nitty gritty of this post, you may question my love for paint horses…if only just a lil’ bit.

Enter our two overo paints, Gambit and Finnegan. Key word: OVERO.

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From left to right: Gambit & Finnegan

By APHA (American Paint Horse Association) standards, an overo is classified by the following:

  • The white usually will not cross the back of the horse between its withers and its tail.
  • Generally, at least one and often all four legs are dark.
  • Generally, the white is irregular, and is rather scattered or splashy.
  • Head markings are distinctive, often bald-faced, apron-faced or bonnet-faced.
  • An overo may be either predominately dark or white.
  • The tail is usually one color.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Now then, what does it all really mean? It’s just one particular type of coat pattern found in paint horses right? Let me #realtalk you for a moment and re-phrase a few of those key points…

  • All white sections of your horse’s coat will be subject to easily sunburn, bordering from mild to severe.
  • White legs in overos are uncommon but when they occur they bring with them the increased likelihood of other skin ailments such as Mud Fever, Scratches, and the like. Thhhhhhat’s right, your horse is just that much more genetically pre-disposed to catching “all the things” as I’ve fondly (or not so fondly) nicknamed it.
  • Bald-faced with light eyes and a pale muzzle are 50% striking features and 50% endless headache. Why? The sad reality is that these features typically require fly masks with higher rated UV protection up to 9 months out of the year to prevent chronic conjunctivitis, blistering, and first to second degree sunburns to name a few. (Yes…there’s more, oh so much more…)

(Note: They do sell legitimate sunblock for horses. I purchase mine in a powdered form that you moisten and wipe on comprised of Zinc Oxide. It was created by an equine veterinarian in Arizona, you know, the state of endless heat and torment. So while I’m just speculating, I feel like she knows what she’s about, you know? SO! To any fellow sufferers, “My Pony Sunblock” changes lives! You can find it on Facebook.)

Now then, despite Kensington fly masks with high UV reduction ratings, that my Standardbred likes to pull off of his siblings …and then proceed to drown said fly masks in the pasture water trough, sunblock applied daily to their muzzles and around their faces, and having access to two large walnut trees to stand beneath for shade, I was still finding new blood blisters along their skin and even peeling about their necks and over their backs near daily.

You really start to hate yourself and feel the guilt just wash over you as you walk out to the pasture each morning and see that your horses are uncomfortable / suffering, knowing that you’re doing all you can, or at least, for what we had available, I certainly felt I was.

But that was it, that was my breaking point – that gut wrenching feeling morning after morning. I simply couldn’t stand it anymore. #thisiswherethebudgetgoesoutthewindow

After a month of fighting against the painstaking heat and relentless summer sun I decided to nix my current project of creating cross-ties beneath the easement of our barn to instead create three temporary 12×12 stalls.

Washrack and Crossties
My original intention for the area under the barn easement, what was supposed to become my outdoor covered cross-ties. (Courtesy of Pinterest)

It seemed easy enough, I mean…I’ve built stalls at a previous ranch before and I’m not feint-hearted when it comes to a new vision on the fly but there were a few key factors that I realized immediately were going to make this a struggle and a half:

  1. Gambit absolutely, positively, HATES being stalled. He’s near broken down a stall front made of oak in the past, to say it “isn’t his thing” is the understatement of the year.
  2. The space available to build stalls beneath wasn’t going to produce 12×12′ stalls but more of an awkward 13×15′ stall size.
  3. The positioning of the barn on our property doesn’t allow for much air-flow to the extent that the easement on the eastern side gets little in the way of a passing breeze. In the south with 95+ degree days and 85%+ humidity daily…that’s a big problemo.
My VERY rough canvas of what I have to work with…

The solution? Well…that’s an adventure in itself.

Stay tuned!


Horse Fencing 101: Not Another Horse Fencing Post

Afternoon all!

I think the title pretty much sums this one just right on up. Yet another…horse -fencing- post. *dramatic music ensues*

We opted for 5″ CenFlex horse fencing with CA (Copper Azole) treated lumber.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I am happy to report that our fence is FINALLY finished. Let me just get that out of my system one more time, I repeat, our fence…is FINALLY FINISHED!!! Where is a rooftop that I can shout this from? …that isn’t ours, as I am PRETTY confident that is the next thing on our ol’ farmhouse that’s going to kick the bucket.

The northwestern corner of our pasture leading to the barn.

ANYWAYS… after two months, twenty-three days, sixteen hours, and give or take forty-five minutes or so…our pasture fence is done. How best to express the joy the Mr. and I felt in that moment? It was champagne toasting type worthy, if we were not scrounging pennies, and if I drank…but still! It was a glorious moment of realization, driving home that day to find the fence crew gone and our pasture in all of its splendor just waiting for horses to settle within its borders.

There is an old saying amongst folks that own horses and it goes as follows: “If you want to make a small fortune in the horse industry…start with a large one.”

My bleeding savings account endorses that belief wholeheartedly.

Why? Despite careful planning and placing a ridiculously high “in case of: X” fund aside, for all the little hiccups one -always- runs into whilst doing any sort of DIY / home renovation project, we went over budget (understatement of the year) …and then some, not to mention we were a month and a half behind schedule.

Regardless, the finished project was worth all of the headaches, sleepless nights, budget constraints, and overall stress (Is that a gray hair?). From the moment our horses were brought home, they settled in without any fuss, choosing to enjoy the Bermuda grass rather than explore or kick up their heels.

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From left to right, Gambit and Finnegan.

Our geldings have never felt more comfortable as we often find them laying on their side napping during the day. My rescued Standardbred, Remington, who suffers from anxiety and is extremely skittish, lounges about day after day and whinnies in excitement whenever anyone approaches the pasture.

Lilah and our miracle foal, lil’ Ember.

Lilah, our rescued Quarter Horse mare, was pacing in place on the trailer in anticipation as we went to unfasten her lead rope. She forget her filly, Ember, as she tugged me along to their separate temporary pasture in our 60′ round pen. Lil’ Ember chasing after mom was a spectacle all in itself.

Like I said, for all of the heartache and hardship, having our horses home at last…worth every moment.


Our Little Miracle – Ember

I know it has been forever since I posted about our fence progress but I live, sweat, and bleed that pasture fencing right now and tonight I’ve decided after a day spent laboring in the unforgiving southern sun…I’m taking the night off!

Now I realized a short while ago that whilst I litter my Instagram and Snapchat with photos and information about her, I haven’t mentioned our little Ember -once- on here!

Prepare yourself for the cuteness overload slideshow…

Two days after we closed on our farmhouse, a friend and I drove out to pick up an emaciated mare that we’d fallen in love with a month prior. She has the sweetest disposition and simply enjoyed being groomed. After trailering her home and taking her to the barn we kept reminding how her much better her life was going to be now, that she wouldn’t have to fight for feed, would receive proper hoof care, and loads of TLC …something that has been horribly lacking in her life these past fifteen years. Sweet ol’ Lilah didn’t even know what a treat was! She does now, I’m happy to report and will sniff every single pocket you have to find one. Food oriented – ahhh…just like her new momma.

After settling her in with our geldings I headed home and off to an early shift at work the following day. Everything seemed like your run of the mill Monday until I received a text, “Congratulations Mom, it’s a girl!” Following said text was this picture:

Ember at 3 hours old! Lilah is the best mama!

That’s right…the emaciated mare we’d rescued was skin and bones with no muscle left on her to speak of…and was pregnant, though her former owner claims she had no idea of her condition but we won’t go there, it’ll just get me riled up again.

Shock was our first initial feeling, how could we have missed it? How could a mare her age, in the condition she was in when we brought her home have gotten with foal let alone carry to term?? And on top of everything else, this sweet mare foaled by herself with no one there to help had any complications arose. So there I was, staring blankly at my mobile screen trying to figure out what had just happened.

We hadn’t signed up for two but…I mean, look at her! She was sweet as the day and born without complications from a mare that had endured the worst of conditions. I can only assume she looked as pitiful as she did as she was giving everything she had to support growing little Ember.

Fast forward a few weeks, Ember just turned one month old this past Monday. She is sassy as the day, heavily muscled, and endlessly curious. Watching her grow stronger everyday only makes me more excited to have her home and placing her foal-sized halter on for the first time gave my heart a little leap.

Foals are 50% precious, 50% mischievous.

Ember at one week old.
Nearly three weeks old!

As I’m feeling nostalgic looking over her growth-progression photos, I’m leaning towards the precious side right now.

Ember at one month old. Lilah has put on another 5lbs, we’re now at 40lbs put on in 30 days!

Not for nothing, Lilah (or Mama), has packed on around 30-40lbs over the past month on her new feeding regime. She and Ember have an acre to themselves, whereas she came from a barn where 40 horses shared 10 acres. She willingly hurries to the gate when she sees you approaching and no longer dreads being haltered. Grooming is something she’d never previously experienced and you can watch her physically relax as she begins to yawn and those eyes start drooping when currying her withers and hips.

All in all, we are so happy to have these special gals in our lives.



Horse Fencing 101: Post Edition

Hello again! Whose ready to talk fence posts? I can feel your excitement already…I mean after all, who WOULDN’T get jazzed up over such a sensational topic! Right?

But seriously, after the hassle of deciding which type of fencing material would be best for our needs and the safety of our horses we were left with the realization that fencing materials did not come with the inclusion of fence posts. Naturally, after a few minutes of, “But why though?!”, it made perfect sense yet those few minutes were quite a sad realization.

Never one to turn down a challenge, the research began again. I don’t know if it’s possible but IF it is, I may have actually tired out the Google ‘search’ option. Now we had the option to go with metal T-Posts, Vinyl, or Wood posts to serve as the framework for our new CenFlex fence. Once again, I placed my primary need on strength and durability. as I didn’t want to have to do this again ANYTIME in the near future. Installing fence posts is a MAJOR undertaking and terribly tedious process…but I digress! Metal posts are incompatible with the particular type of Centaur fencing we chose as well as vinyl which brings us to our remaining option – wood -.

Now it IS strong and depending on the species or the treatment used can be exceptionally durable. What isn’t to love? Well… it IS the most expensive option and no one treatment type is created equal.

You have two options:

  1. Natural – Osage Orange, White Oak, Redwood, or Red Oak are the best native species in the U.S. that require no chemical or pressurized treatment. I’ve listed them in order beginning with the most superior to rot, insect, mildew, and mold resistance.

Pro: No treatment necessary, each species natural resistances can offer from 15-40+ years of life before replacing.

Con: Hard to come by, expensive, and you will lose the uniform look of your fence as most are cut ‘roughly’.

2. Chemical – You have your choice of more Eco-Friendly options that are formed from water-based treatments such as CA-Preserve (Copper Azole) or more cost-effective options are that oil-based such as Creosote, CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate), or Pentachlorophenol.

Pro: Much more cost effective than naturally resistant wood species and with certain treatments can last from 3-15 years.

Con: All chemical treatment types carry a measure of risk via handling, disposal, and how they affect the environment. Certain treatments are not suitable for residential and agricultural use -at all-.

Let me tell you, Osage Orange is near impossible to find. It’s like a wild goose chase in which you need to prepare yourself for endless circles with no answers, anywhere. I sought out white oak next. Lumber yards would not return my messages, forum posts looking for sellers went unanswered…it was a dark time in my research process. Eventually I had to consider that our only feasible option in our time crunch, would be going the chemically treated route. I feel I could write a small novel on the do’s and don’t’s of “treated wood” and its proper usages but I will spare you the essay and apply what was relevant to our situation:

Our farm is set up on well water and is used to not only irrigate the land but is our drinking and bathing water as well. When choosing a treatment for our posts I had to be certain that it would not ‘ooze’ over time (think sap dripping from tree bark) and pool about the base of our post, contaminated the soil and poisoning our horses. While ours are not cribbers or wood chewers, I had to consider the possibility they might try at some point and so the toxicity level, if ingested, came under consideration as well. Lastly, I had to be 100% certain that it would not risk the integrity of our underground fresh water source that we all count on.

That left one feasible option, which I also called and spoke with our county agricultural official on just to be safe, which was CA-Preserve or the Copper Azole treatment.

Please keep in mind, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is constantly running new studies and tests on the efficiency and safety of various treatments. For example, twenty years ago Creosote was a widely accepted form of treatment based primarily around coal tar extracts, now it has been banned in nearly half of the U.S. As of right now, CA-Preserve is considered to be one of the most eco-friendly treatments available.

Once again I find myself saying, ‘You get what you paid for.’ The posts treated with CA-Preserve were over double that of any other treatment available but… not willing to risk our water source or run the potential of poisoning our soil (and consequently the acreage the horses graze on) we trimmed our budget elsewhere and went for this treatment.

Some basic rules to follow when looking to install posts for a horse fence:

  1. Ideal post size/length: 4x4x8.
  2. For proper strength you should have a minimum of 4″ posts though 5″ is preferable and 6″ is recommended for any corners and posts surrounding gates.
  3. Your fence should be at least 5′ tall above ground and 3′ below ground for a total of 8′.
  4. Posts should ideally be no more than 12′ apart. We went with 10′ for our fence. (The closer together, the stronger the fence.)
  5. All end posts and posts surrounding gates should be set in concrete for stability.
  6. If possible, every third post should have 2 feet of packed soil, 6″ of concrete, and 6″ of packed soil on top.
  7. All other posts should be packed down tightly with soil.

I hope this helped some! Now to patiently await our lumber delivery… I can be patient, I hope…


Horse Fencing 101: Choosing the Right Fence

As you all know, the Mr. and I left our cozy suburban lifestyle behind when the chance to own our very own farmhouse became a viable choice for us.

Now then, first things first… we have acres of rolling pasture surrounding our home but only semi cross-fenced sections with barbed wire and wobbly splintered posts. Yeah, …not going to work for my horses.

So… while I could spend the day complaining about the serious hazards of barbed wire fencing and animals, let’s just leave it at I do not like it and do not permit it to be -anywhere- on my property…at all. That being said, it was time to look over our options and devise a plan. Generally speaking you need a minimum of 1 acre per horse if you keep them in a pasture setting, in an ideal world you would have at least 2 acres per horse.

Fun fact: One horse will eat approximately 100lbs of forage per day.

Onto the fun part, we have four horses at present but as I also supplement their diet with hay and grain, in addition to pasture grazing, for the time being we’ve elected to fence off 4 acres total. In a few years when we’ve had a chance to put away some funds towards expanding the pasture, I would like to fence the 4 acres alongside the current pasture to allow for rotating them seasonally to give our grass a break.

When it comes to fencing you will find pros and cons with each different type.

The Primary 4:

  • Wood
  • Vinyl
  • Wire
  • Electric Tape/Wire

The Brief Rundown…

Wood is both sturdy and attractive to look at but unfriendly towards your pocket book. It also requires the most upkeep and is the most labor-intensive to install. Vinyl will give you that picture perfect look all year round with minimum upkeep but is easily broken by excessive strain especially if you have large fence leaners like our boys! Wire is practical on cost, installation, and upkeep but be forewarned, if fencing in horses I would steer VERY VERY clear of this pitfall. The cost in potential, and I really mean eventual, vet bills will quickly exceed the initial savings on materials. Electric tape along smooth wire is a less invasive version of your barbed wire fence but still comes with a variety of potential dangers. It is also easier on the pocket book but there is that age old saying, ‘You get what you paid for.’

Our needs were very clear. I needed strength and durability, something that would last me at least 10-15 years ideally, that was also horse friendly, NON-wire, budget friendly (if possible!), and as we live in the south, something that could withstand constant temperature fluctuations and endless humidity. …oh yeah, and every pest known to mankind. That to…

My research led me to CenFlex 5″, a Centaur Fencing product. CenFlex 5″ is comprised of 3 steel cables all coated in polymer and then suspended evenly within a polymer-coated sheath to give the appearance of a wood panel. The difference? Equal strength to wood fencing, if not better, and then there is its flexibility, as well as wood/rot/mildew/mold/weather resistant. You never need to paint/stain it, horses will not chew it, and pests won’t bother it! And yes, it actually gets better… it is lightweight and only requires tightening on corner posts once a year. Top that with a 30 year limited lifetime warranty and we were sold.

CenFlex Black Fencing
An example of CenFlex installed. We also chose the ‘Classic Black’ for our farm.

All of my fears of a slat breaking and impaling a horse, splinters breaking off, wire tangling about a leg, horses beginning to crib and/or chew my fence, pests destroying the integrity of a plank, constantly repairing or replacing damaged planks…gone, poof! Just like that.

Now remember I did mention, you get what you paid for. I would place CenFlex beneath wood fencing on cost but only just and I will admit… it is quite a deal more upfront than wire, electric, or vinyl options. After weighing our options, we decided the additional up front cost greatly outweighed the long-term investment of repairs and routine maintenance to a wood fence.

Update: After patiently waiting, our CenFlex arrived today. We won’t talk about the fact my post holes aren’t all dug yet or the fact the treated posts we chose for our fence haven’t been shipped from the lumber yard. For now…I’m just going to revel in the excitement that the fence materials themselves are here.