THE RIDE THAT WASN'T, ELECTRIC FENCE BLUES, BROKEN GLASS AND THE DELUGE THAT'S COMING
We have a huge cold front coming in, just sitting off the West Coast, and are scrambling to get ready for the gale-force winds, torrential downpours, cold and hail forecast to go on for the better part of four days. The gales arrived this morning, the deluge is coming overnight. Brett and I finished some outdoors chores and then hauled in fallen dry banksia and eucalyptus branches to saw up into firewood. We got four large bags, all sizes from kindling to logs, sitting in the carport for what's coming, and also stuck a wheelbarrow load extra into the well-stocked woodshed. (It's just a chance to grab dry wood that's still out there, before the winter wet really sets in - very belatedly, I might add - we've had less than 150mm so far this year, which is about a third of normal precipitation to the end of May...)
Brett had an extra work shift this afternoon, on his usual day off, because a colleague was on holiday. We had a lovely lunch of T-bone steaks, mashed potato and pumpkin from the garden, and carrots with our own kale. Stewed peaches and cream for afters - our own peaches. I'm liking this F&V self-sufficiency quest.
My afternoon plans were: To fix up the section of fencing around our solar bore pump the cattle had broken, and then to take Sunsmart for a ride in the shelter of our bushland before the wet sets in. This was his exercise day - I aim to ride at least every second day - and it looked like it would be difficult until the middle of next week to go out on a trail.
The reason the fencing was broken is because we needed the little unit that normally runs that little fence as backup when a fence fault developed in our main fence over summer. And I could-not-find-the-fault!!! So I had to run the fence in two sections, in sort of limp mode, until I did. The cheapest battery-operated energiser units in local retail outlet are $170
and I wasn't keen to spend that sort of money to get another unit, while we were borrowing the backup unit for the main fence.
I found the fault this week. It wasn't in the fence itself, it was in the way it was wired to earth - initially it had been set up correctly, but for some reason, the splice line that connected both earth wires to earth had disappeared. I'd not paid attention to this, because I was looking for a hard fault, and because how does a splice line disappear? Anyway, because both earth lines are insulated, and connected to a proper earth point, this meant the earth peg was attached to an unearthed
earth wire. And this upset the fence energiser. so that the fence tester read as if we had a huge hard fault somewhere.
Huge sigh of relief, after five months of looking - and I was able to collect the backup unit, for re-installing at the solar bore. The cattle had broken through that fence several times, and turned off the bore several times. I was sweating that they would begin to eat electronics, and things would get expensive. So it was with a spring in my step that I pushed my wheelbarrow filled with fencing gear, solar panel, car battery and energiser unit towards the solar bore which is about 800m from the house, while playing soccer with Jess the Kelpie, for whom just walking is never enough.
I spent around 40 minutes taking out wonky star pickets, repositioning them, replacing half-eaten polybraid (cattle think that stuff is lollies when it's not electric), and tightening everything up. I placed the car battery and solar panel in a good spot inside the enclosure, got the fence energiser unit, connected it up, and started dreaming of riding the horse. The lights were showing as they should on the energiser panel. I tested the polybraid - nothing. I tested the clips against each other - no spark. I checked both sides of the clip connections before opening up the unit - which was hard to do, because I had no flat edge on me, so had to improvise with fence pliers.
These Gallagher units aren't sealed properly, and ants get in and make havoc unless you coat the units in residual insecticide every three months, and sometimes they still get in anyway.
Death unto electronic equipment-invading ants!
We've had both the main and the backup repaired for ant damage several times already since 2010, at never under $100 per repair - despite increasingly assiduous spraying with ever-more-horrible surface sprays. And ants had gotten into the unit again recently, I'd evicted them, and thought the unit was still working because all the appropriate lights were flashing. Only it wasn't. The speedo was going, but the car was stationary, so to speak.
And I find this out when I've already spent nearly an hour reconstructing a fence that's going to get mauled within a week unless I have a working unit to energise it.
I spend time trying to fix the unit out in the field, and I see my ride slipping away... a while later, I find the problem and realise I can't fix it myself. My mood as I was packing the defective unit and fencing tools back onto the wheelbarrow was very black indeed.
At home, I phoned the local supplier of agricultural equipment to see if he had a micro-unit in stock. He didn't; his cheapest energiser was $170. I'd seen tiny units good enough to run the 10m of fence around the bore for $40 on the Internet, so thence I repaired, hunting direct, more affordable solutions. I bought a reasonable, properly sealed unit online for under $80 which they assured me would get here Wednesday the latest - and three 500m reels of turbo braid, at under $60 each with free postage, which is about half what the agricultural suppliers charge. So good news, while I've had to spend money, I've also found an outlet that saves us money in the process.
And it wasn't dark yet, so I pulled on my riding tights, and told the dog we could at least ride the short loop before feeding the horses. Cue excited dog. On the way out, I noticed the fire in our wood heater had burnt down, so I fetched some logs from the carport and stocked the heater. I turned and walked away - then heard a thump and a crack. I turned to face the heater and discovered that the glass front was in smithereens.
And now I was panicking and calling the shop where we bought the heater. I just managed to get them before closing time. With four days of horrible weather coming up, I really didn't want to have our sole source of backup water heating out of commission, nor have to forego a cosy fire when the rain is pouring down outside. Yvonne at the other end of the line was cheerful and chirpy. They would replace the glass for us tomorrow: Take off the door and bring it in, we'll see you right for the upcoming deluge!
I could have kissed her. I've never had broken glass on a heater before and had no idea how long that was going to take to fix up...
But I could also kiss my ride goodbye, because you can't leave a heater full of red-hot logs with a shattered glass front unattended unless you're interested in a house fire, and we really aren't...
The horse ride that wasn't, and a trying afternoon. Have to say though, after more steak and vegetables, and more peaches and cream, and a good rant here, I feel much better. (There were other things to eat, of course, but I enjoyed lunch so much I wanted an exact replica!)
Tomorrow I'll see if I can't don rain gear to plant some peas out, and perhaps dig a ditch that needs digging. And I'll be looking out for an opportunity to sneak in a ride if the weather gets half bearable. For now, I'm headed for an appalling episode of classic Dr Who with Colin Baker. I know it's appalling because we've started it, and Brett told
me it was going to be appalling. But, I'm watching because I'm a completist and we're watching the whole classic series from start to end. To save my sanity, I shall be pitting cherries for a Blackforest Trifle.