St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fencing the South Forty $1000

2003 Cousin Arne and his grandson on the old Hansson farm
in Skee Sweden.  Arne has fences around his property too, but
the family having lived there since the 1820s know their property
lines well.  One corner is a pile of stones; another the creek, and
no land piece is square at all--more like pie slices.  Arne was the
last relative in our Hanson family in Sweden or the USA to
be a full time farmer.  At 83, he still keeps a few cattle.   
A few weeks ago, I complained about my neighbor who started building a new fenceline between our adjacent farms.  He bought the land from a long-time neighbor, had a survey done that showed the old fencelines (there since the 1880s) sometimes matched and sometimes were off from the new survey.

I complained to him because he didn't approach the matter like a good neighbor; first tell me that he was going to put cattle into the pasture and that our fences needed looking at.  Instead, he stuck in all new corner posts on the new survey line and was about to begin fencing on these new lines.

I reminded him that boundary fences in existence over 20 years, by Wisconsin fence law, were more important than a new survey unless both landowners agreed to abide by the new survey.  That is because every time a survey is made, as the surveying technology improves, lines change some.  In our case some were OK, and some were as far as 45 feet off (neither of us would have gained or lost property, just the lines would shift).  I insisted on a face-to-face meeting to discuss our common fence boundary.

Eventually that happened.  First, Margo and I spent some time studying the old fenceline. Twenty years of neglect had  pretty much destroyed it.  Trees had fallen, wood posts had rotted off, and wires were rusty beyond reuse.  We realized that we would have to put in an all new fence (our half would cost about $1000).  The old fenceline was choked with brush, fallen trees from many storms and would need a lot of work to clean out and replace.  Moving away from it to the new survey line (which put part of our fenceline through the cleared edge of the neighbor's alfalfa field) would be.very easy to put it!

 However, the fence from the creek to the field was through a real mess--even though it was 45 feet into my woods from the old one.  And, this line had not been fully surveyed, just one corner showing the old fence was off--so I wouldn't really know where to put in the new fence (the right half looking to the neighbor's farm from mine).  My side of the boundary is part of my maple tapping woods--at one time our cow pasture, but now a few trails through to the maples.

  The neighbor stopped by last week with a copy of the survey.  After studying it, we accepted that it was accurate, and after visiting a while, agreed to each do our fencelines yet this year.  We agreed to hire a surveyor together to finish surveying the fenceline and to make the division into halves--probably to happen in May.  Margo and I headed to the Co-op to buy posts, wire and a gate.  Good neighbors have a gate between farms so when the cattle get out (they always do), there is a place to drive them back through easily.

Studying a survey map is an interesting historical lesson.  The surveyors in our area went through with measuring chains in 1847 and attempted to put in markers on each corner of each section and half section.  They left notes of their efforts ( surveyor notes for our section south boundary ).  They did a moderately good job considering they were measuring through wilderness.  Rarely is a section really a mile by a mile, and rarely is a half section marked exactly right.  However, the corners, accurate or not, are used still today and thus can create situations where people think they are being treated unfairly.   To read more about this, take a look at survey problems -- look at the very bottom to see the ideal and actual survey examples!  The original survey plat map of our section 11 is at Map

    My next step is to get the 1948 Cletrac AG6 Crawler running (had the gas tank off it and lined with sealer to stop the rust--but haven't put it back together yet).  The dozer blade should help me clear the fenceline.  Then we get the survey done and fencing begins.

   My nephew who we sold 10 acres along Hwy 87 also has the fence problem.  He has been clearing the fencelines of trees and brush and will also have to divide the already surveyed fence with his neighbor.  He works for a landscaping place and two years ago was driving in some steel fenceposts with a fence post driver (heavy tube with handles) and it rebounded somehow and knocked him unconscious.  He said the emergency room doctor told him that happened too often--that a hard had was a necessity driving posts.  I have made a trip to Menards and got a hard hat and spray painted it pink so Margo will feel stylish as she drives in her share of the posts!

 My neighbor and I are on good terms now.   Advice to you--if you plan to do something along your property boundaries, be sure and first contact your neighbor.  Things go better that way most of the time.