Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Surveying my Fencing Needs with Google Earth

Fencing is no fun. The sheep are incredibly voracious. They almost rival the pigs. In less than a week, they've blown through about 2000 square feet of pasture, leaving it absolutely down to the ground. Luckily, they're enclosed in temporary electric mesh fencing ("electronet") which can be moved around.

And the cow and the goats have eaten all they have too. So we decided to try to put them together. That was not a good idea. The cow, mild mannered as she usually is, flipped out and chased the hysterical sheep around the paddock. The sheep were so scared they hurled themselves against the gates trying to get out.

So, we decided maybe they needed to be near each other without being totally together. We enclosed two areas side by side so they could graze near each other without being able to scare or be scared.

Sunday morning I found one of the goats in with the sheep (little whippersnapper) and two of the sheep out of the fence in the middle of the field. Not good. Even worse when our dog started to chase them around.

First job was to get the dog in the barn. Then, I moved the fences all around once more so that everyone had lots of new grass (which will probably pacify the sheep) and they are still next to each other so they can get used to each other before winter's closer quarters.

But the cow and goats don't really have enough room, so I want to think about getting more permanent fencing. But if you look at fencing web sites, they are impossible to understand. There are as many kinds of fencing as there are tools for making gourds :)

I called a local fencing dealer and they offered to give me recommendations and an estimate if I could provide a map of the area that I want to enclose. I had recently visited Kevin's Classroom and seen his YouTube video explaining how to use Google Earth's measuring tools.

GoogleEarth seemed like a perfect tool for measuring my fencing needs. Sure, I've used it to zoom around the earth, look at my house and those of my friends, but it can be used for so much more than that.

So first, I went on to Google Earth and typed in my address. Then I zoomed in on my field. One thing I can never remember is to how to stop it from zooming in and out. Just click in the middle of the map once the field is at the right magnification (e.g., as big as it can be while still fitting in your screen).

To use the measuring tools, click the Ruler in the toolbar. These screenshots are from the Mac version, but I can't imagine the Windows version is much different (comments welcome).

Google Earth's ruler tool

The Ruler box lets you choose between measuring a single straight line ("Line") or a path of connected straight lines ("Path"). You can see the results in a number of units, both metric and English, and even including smoots.

Google Earth's Ruler dialog box

To measure my prospective fencing, I use Path and Feet.

While the Ruler dialog box is active, there is also a cross-hairs icon in your map. Place it where you want to start measuring and click:

Google Earth icon

Click on the next point in the map to create the first leg of your path. In the Ruler box, you will begin to see the length of your path (201.55 feet in this example).

Google Earth path

Keep clicking around the field until you finish your path. If you need to move a point, hover over it with the mouse until it changes into a hand. Then drag it to the new desired position. You can Control-click a point to remove it (I suspect it's right-click on Windows).

Google Earth select point

Once you have the whole field encircled, check the path to see how much fencing you need (about 2024 feet in this example).

Google Earth measure

Cool, huh?

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