The Bryce Powershift HD180, the first fencepost-driving machine of its type to be used in America, awaits rollout by Jock Bryce, the inventor who accompanied his device to Whallonsburgh from Edinburgh, Scotland.
ESSEX — A mist rolled across the lush landscape, languid tendrils that slithered between the hedgerows and drenched the morning in weariness.
Jock Bryce sipped his coffee as a pair of border collies danced underfoot and admired the landscape from the gently-lit farmhouse.
The Scotsman arrived at dawn after journeying across a lake where monsters dwelled.
“Perfect Scottish weather,” he said.
His host was exuberant. Sandy Lewis’ pale blue eyes shone as he verbally bounced from walkie talkie to mobile phone to landlines, speaking multiple languages and radiating an aura of quivering joy.
The cattle farmer had received confirmation that the Bryce Powershift HD180, a revolutionary new fencepost-driving machine, had just touched down on American soil.
Delivered by Sandro Galasso, a Québécois truck driver, the HD180 waited quietly in a dark shipping crate under a bruise-colored sky on Route 22.
“This is an offer to help farmers across the region,” said Lewis.
“It’s a technical innovation,” added Bryce, who ticked off a list of accolades nabbed by the unit, including several LAMMA Awards — that’s the jewel in the United Kingdom’s farm machinery crown — and top honors at the Royal Welsh, Europe’s largest agricultural show.
Necessity is the mother of invention, said the Edinburgh resident, who was clad in traditional attire, including a tartan kilt, flowing sporran and sharp black ghillie brogues paired with a violet polo shirt.
Laborers can put up twice as much fencing with the machine.
Most units are hinged to the back of tractors and require three men to drive posts:
One to drive the tractor, another to operate the device and a third to hand over the posts.
The HD180 saves time, labor and fuel, Bryce explained, three scarce commodities for the modern agricultural worker that are rare in the developed world.
Lewis, who runs the first USDA-certified grass fed beef operation in the country, previously expressed dismay at an inability to attract qualified labor to his sprawling farm.
“This is a great recruiting tool,” he said. “Give them the best equipment. Make it more about intelligence and less about backbreaking work.”
Lewis said one of the region’s most pressing agricultural deficiencies is fencing.
He took on a scholarly air as he laced up his boots. His words flowed in fully-formed erudite sentences.
“No self-respecting cattle farmer can exist without fencing,” he said while trudging through the dew-dropped grass.
“Fencing allows the relationship between cattle and grass to benefit both. When you move from area to area at just the right time, animals will eat the grass when it is at its most nutritious. It’s a win-win for cattle and grass. Grazing is the only way for this planet to reverse desertification. We’re replacing cattle with fencing. By getting the best fencing we have here, we can whip in and help — we can learn the best ways to enhance cattle and grass, a symbiotic relationship.”
Lewis grew silent as he entered his truck, started the engine and put it in reverse.
“Maybe we can help others,” he stressed. “This will lead to a stronger community. And it will keep the cattle off the road.”
Lewis beckoned two of his grandchildren close as a worker used a Caterpillar to level the gravel so that the truck could line up to the cargo ramp.
“For days on end, this traveled across the North Atlantic at 22 knots…”
George and James’ eyes grew wide.
“... it was delivered to Montreal, not New York,” he bellowed.
After several moments, a small crowd gathered as Bryce disappeared into the vessel.
A machine whirred from the interior and he emerged at the wheel of a handsome-looking orange-yellow device, a marriage between an oil rig and a tank.
“Driving the posts fast and straight, that’s the key,” said Bryce after gingerly steering the rubber-treaded unit out of the shipping crate, down the ramp and onto the packed gravel below.
He demonstrated the HD180 — the machine has the flexibility of a human wrist, he said, and can drive posts while sitting on an incline, it swivels, hence the 180 — to Lewis, who appeared delighted.
The sky let out a cheer and it began pouring.
ON THE ROAD
Lewis gestured here and there across his vast acreage, some 1,200 acres sprawling across Whallonsburg and Essex, as cars lined up impatiently behind his Ford Superduty as it purred down the center of this country road.
As summer progresses, fences will start materializing on the horizon. Black split locust wood, oilfield cast iron pipe welded. Stung with high tensile steel wire. Galvanized steel, hot and strong, he said.
The wood must be split to prevent rot and will be purchased by the truckload.
A crew of four fencers set out from Wisconsin on Sunday, said Lewis, and interior fencing is scheduled to start the following day.
The farmer plans on 60,000 feet to begin with, more as September fades to fall.
He concedes that others might not accept his offer to make use of the unit’s services.
“They’ll waffle on it,” he said. “But we hope they’ll come around.”