Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘electric fence

Concrete Lifted

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I successfully avoided titling this post, “Apron Lifted” but that is what happened yesterday in front of our garage. We have a plan of fixing our driveway this summer and in preparation for that, the first thing that needed to be completed was to solve the sunken concrete apron in front of our garage.

On my side of the garage, the apron has fallen almost three inches. We were warned by the company doing the work to be careful moving our cars back into the garage because the old habit of revving the accelerator to get over the bump will no longer be necessary.

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The company we chose uses polymeric sand to seal the gap between the apron and the main garage slab. This was my first exposure to the material and leaves me intrigued to consider using it in other applications in the future.

The rest of the day for us was almost as productive as it was for the rapid and efficient concrete lifting crew. (They were in and out within about one hour.) I got some power trimming done down by the road at our driveway entrance, we received a visit from the farrier to trim the horses’ hooves, and I pulled out the diesel tractor to mow the back pasture.

It took me longer than one hour but I’m focused on how smoothly the whole mowing project went, all the way from getting the tractor out for the first time in months, finding the ground wasn’t too wet and soft for the weight of the big machine, and finally, finishing all the cutting without incident.

I’m always nervous about operating the heavy equipment around our fences. It will be much easier to wield the power trimmer to clean up the last remains of tall grass that is growing underneath the fence, especially after I remember to turn off the electric jolt pulsing down the wires.

I don’t know why it is so hard for me to remember to shut that off in advance.

When I was all done mowing the back pasture I discovered a bumper crop of dandelion seeds had piled up on the brush cutter behind me.

Better they landed there, I guess than out on the ground. Not that there wasn’t an equal amount blowing around every which way around me as I mowed.

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Brilliant Day

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The weather yesterday was perfect for a September outdoor event. A lot like the day 40-years ago today when Cyndie and I were married in a garden on the shore of Lake Minnetonka. Blue skies, warm sunshine, and tree leaves turning colors right before our eyes.

I took Delilah for a walk in anticipation of the arrival of Hays family visitors and paused on the first hill of our driveway to enjoy the fresh breeze and take in the panoramic view of the horses peacefully grazing in the hayfield. The beginnings of the rainbow of fall colors are noticeable along the horizon.

Throughout the day of visiting and gorging on delicious food, we took time for walks in the woods and visits with the horses. The herd is growing more welcoming of human presence and they all made very obvious movements to approach us as we arrived near the areas they were grazing.

I had turned off the electric fence for the day to remove that concern while larger numbers of people come around, but that change is a little confusing for the horses. We try to have our greetings happen at one of the gates to give the horses consistency but the spontaneity of yesterday’s connections had us at unusual locations along the fenceline.

At one point, a group of us made our way up to the barn overhang, hoping the horses might follow along, despite them being over the rise on the far side of the hayfield. Initially, only Light decided to make the journey back and she was rewarded with some hand-offered treats.

After a time, Mia came into view as she returned as far as the waterer before deciding to reverse direction and head back out. The two chestnuts looked as though the distance of separation between them and the other two horses was something they preferred to minimize.

Their bond with each other is still stronger than any bond with us humans.

The bond with my family is as strong as ever and we enjoyed catching up on a few details and comparing experiences and perspectives. We share a lot of traits and laughed over how much our lives and behaviors tend to resemble our parents.

After the first couple had departed, we realized our neglect in capturing a group portrait. By the end of the day, we never got around to posing for any specific group pictures. I guess we will need to get together again soon so we can make up for that oversight.

The only picture I took included the spread of scrumptious delights available for human grazing presented on the center island of the kitchen.

Today, we hop from one family gathering to another as this day of Cyndie’s and my wedding anniversary is also the day of Julian’s birth. Cyndie’s mom and brother will be joining us for a brunch date in St. Paul at Holman’s Table in a renovated control tower of St. Paul’s downtown airport to celebrate the occasions.

Happy birthday, Julian!

Happy September 19th, everyone!

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Written by johnwhays

September 19, 2021 at 8:24 am

Posts Pounded

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We made our way around the entire loop of our fencing yesterday, pounding posts back down that our winter freeze had pushed up. Two years ago, after we no longer kept horses inside the fence, I loosened some fence lines to see if that would reduce how much the corner posts appeared to come up.

I don’t think it made any positive difference, but before tightening the wires back up in preparation of turning the electricity on, I wanted to get all the corner posts back down. Most of them moved down multiple inches easily, but a few hardly budged.

We didn’t fuss over those.

If nothing more than psychologically satisfying, it felt like a worthy effort. We rewarded ourselves after all the work by immediately turning on the electricity to the fence wires.

The familiar “click-click-click” came on and the display ramped up to a respectable 12Kvolts energy. Mission Accomplished.

Almost.

I still need to walk the length and verify voltage is present on all sections.

Cyndie already identified three locations where some arcing is occurring, so I want to look into those in hope of solving the causes.

That situation is no different than what we dealt with regularly back when we previously had horses, so it feels perfectly acceptable for welcoming the arrival of our new 4-horse herd.

We are stoked! We’re expecting to receive delivery on Friday. Hopefully, that can be confirmed after today’s visit from This Old Horse.

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Written by johnwhays

April 12, 2021 at 6:00 am

Complicated Water

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We have water in the paddocks again, but it took far more than simply opening a valve. Friday morning brought constant drizzle with few, if any, breaks. Only periods where it leaned toward actual rain that succeeded in changing the state of our clothes from merely damp to becoming downright wet.

Our guy, Mike, from the excavation company that originally installed our paddock water fixture showed up prepared to do battle, but the circumstances of the cracked valve and seized fittings forced a suspension of work to visit the hardware store in River Falls for an altered solution.

Multiple times, the buried column beneath the waterer needed to be bailed out to allow Mike to see what he was doing. The complication of our setup involves the freeze/thaw cycles that our having turned off the water for two winters fouled up.

Unlike the spigot inside the barn, where the water shutoff is down below the frost level, the line to the waterer is a different situation. There is insulation wrapped around the line and a length of heat tape along the top section of hardware to because there is water in the line all the time.

When temperatures drop, I turn on the electricity and the fixture doesn’t freeze. When we shut the valve two years ago, I flipped the circuit breaker off and forgot about it. We’ve now learned that in the ensuing winters, the water in the line froze and cracked the shutoff valve.

Turns out, the easiest solution is to just leave it on. We’ve got it running now and ready for the return of horses. If we don’t keep horses over winter (still an unknown at this point) we’ll need to make a decision about what we’ll do with the waterer next fall.

I had no idea it could be so complicated to have an automatic water source in the paddocks. Obviously, the fact we experience severe cold temperatures adds one level of complexity, but the fact our location is so wet seems to be a compounding factor.

Yesterday, Cyndie and I finished cleaning up the barn to a degree I didn’t think possible. It looks fabulous and reminds me of the impression we got when we first walked in to see it nine years ago. The four stalls still look almost new.

The final exercise I want to finish today involves pounding down a few more fence posts and tightening up all the wires before turning on the electricity to see where there might be arcing. With that complete, we will feel entirely prepared to host a visit tomorrow from a representative of This Old Horse who will confirm our facility as suitable.

More important for us, this will allow them to know where they are headed and how to position a trailer for offloading horses and smoothly introducing our new guests to their summer accommodations.

I look forward to the horses discovering where they will be able to get a cool drink of water.

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Written by johnwhays

April 11, 2021 at 10:05 am

Totally Busted

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My ruse of relying on snow cover to distract Cyndie from noticing the grass was still carpeted by leaves when she returned home from Guatemala has already been dispelled.

On Saturday, the sun came out for a little while and began to shrink the 3-to-4 inches of snow we received, down to about half that depth. Yesterday, she and Delilah were playing a little leashed version of “fetch the stick” out front and the truth was sadly revealed.

It was interesting. The leaves so thoroughly covered the ground that the grass and soil beneath look unaffected by the snow. I think, if we raked up the leaves today, we’d have an amazing visual of a completely snow-free green lawn, while everywhere else would be snowy.

The chickens would sure appreciate that. This was the first significant snowfall in their lives and they were not at all interested in venturing out from the coop Saturday morning to walk in it.

By yesterday, they were already overcoming their hesitancy to tread on the white stuff and revisiting some of their usual favorite spaces. They do so at their own risk.

While we were out walking Delilah in the afternoon, I spotted an unidentified bird of prey circling the tree tops around the coop. It didn’t have the classic white tail of the previous eagle that swooped through our trees, but it could simply have been a youngster or even a golden, let alone any other variety of larger hawk.

We split up and Cyndie circled back to directly check on the chickens, while I continued around the perimeter with Delilah. The hunting predator glided up and away almost immediately.

I’m so pleased to have remembered to tell Cyndie that I had turned the electric fence back on while she was away. The horses were growing too comfortable with nibbling on parts of the wire insulation and nearby wood. If the fence had still been off, Cyndie would have ducked between wires and been able to walk straight toward the coop.

While I was cleaning up under the overhang a day or two after turning the electricity back on again, Cayenne took a startling snap to the nose. Mission accomplished. The horses were lolling around idly while I worked and she stretched toward one of the very spots I wanted to stop them from biting.

The horses generally notice from a distance that the fence is energized, so they very rarely get shocked. Maybe we left it off for too much of the summer, and they had grown complacent. I’m willing to bet they have already re-learned the necessary respect that will break any habit of chewing on the wires.

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Written by johnwhays

November 12, 2018 at 7:00 am

Not Electrified

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With horses, if you happen to leave the power off the electric fence, they will eventually mess with it. In our case that trait is usually demonstrated by Legacy. If he gets bored, something is going to get chewed. If the fence isn’t electrified, it becomes a prime target.

Over the weekend I noticed one of our web fence lines was loose. Leaving the plowed pathway, I climbed through un-energized fence wires to get to the source of the problem. Somebody had busted the plastic mount holding the web anchor. img_ip1881e

Why do we turn off the electric fence? Sometimes it is simply because company is visiting and we don’t want anyone to accidentally get jolted. Other times, it is due to excessive arcing occurring for a variety of reasons where circuit isolation has been compromised. Most recently, it was because of an overall load pulling the voltage down to a level where it wasn’t really effective.

I’ve been hoping to get through the winter before really diving into the problem spots to fix whatever needs fixing.

Legacy is letting me know I probably shouldn’t wait that long.

img_ip1882eWhen I stopped by to replace the broken anchor yesterday afternoon, the horses were on the far side of the paddock, loitering around the watering hole. Despite the distance, Legacy decided he wanted in on whatever I was up to and came over to help.

He seemed to take great interest in what I was doing. Probably because he could see I was messing with something that he had just “fixed.” He didn’t want the new anchor re-attaching this fence he’d just gotten rid of.

When I finished installing the replacement, I wanted to turn it on to see what the voltage was —as well as give Legacy a little surprise, should he continue to mess with it— but I needed to clean up under the overhang and feed the crew first.

When I got up to the house after feeding the horses, I realized I’d forgotten to test the electricity on the fences.

I sure hope the new bracket is still intact by the time I get back down there to power the fence for a test later today.

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Written by johnwhays

January 17, 2017 at 7:00 am

Springing Considerably

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DSCN4685eThe forest floor is sprouting forth with an abundance of white trout lilies this week. It made me curious about the trillium that we transplanted from our lake place last year. I should have marked them better, because the complete transformation of the woods in a year’s time has me confused now over where I put them.

I planted the “borrowed” trillium in several small groups in a section of woods just below the house. Surveying the area late yesterday, it seemed like the only growth was trout lilies, but I eventually spotted a grouping of the distinctly different leaves.

In a few weeks, flowers will make the trillium much easier to spot.

DSCN4681eUp north, it is obvious how prolific trillium is in naturally propagating to carpet the woods and create a dramatic visual. We are hoping to seed our spaces with enough starters to enable the natural process to do the rest.

After some passing gentle rain showers on Thursday, the pasture that I mowed last weekend is greening up nicely. I strung the webbing between posts yesterday to complete the divider fence that will allow us to rotationally graze the horses on that precious field.

The point where I connected the new webbing to electricity is right at the paddock, and the horses took great interest in what I was doing. I had the charger turned off to work, and while I experimented with several methods of connection, Legacy and Cayenne took turns putting their noses right into the business at hand.DSCN4669e

I sure hope they are keen enough to sense the hazard of doing that when the electricity is on.

Even though they already had a stint on the alley grass earlier in the day, Cyndie talked me into letting them come out on the pasture with the new divider for a short nibble after so patiently watching me fix it up all afternoon.

I can’t really say whether they even noticed the new divider, because their attention was exclusively focused on the succulent green blades immediately available just steps beyond the opened gate.

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Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2016 at 8:24 am

Situations Happen

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DSCN4125eYou just never know what is going to come next. When we went to bed on Saturday night, there were no concerns on our radar. I started the day yesterday in the sunshine, modifying pallets for future use. In a moment of pause, I gave Delilah a chance to join me on a trip to check on the horses, to look at the arena fence that Cyndie told me had been taking some abuse from Legacy.

The last time we took down temporary fencing that kept the horses out of the hay-field, it meant we lost the connection to electricity for the arena fence. Turned out that wasn’t a problem for more than a month, but horses have a way of eventually getting around to dealing with anything in their reach. Legacy has proven himself very persistent, once he figures out he can get his teeth into something.

It was time I put electricity back on the arena fence.

My first problem was that the horses would scarcely grant me a break from their messing with the portions of the fence I had just put back in order. As I moved to a different spot, they congregated at the previous location, eyeing their prize.

I reacted with little thought to the appropriateness of my action and ran after them, inviting Delilah to join me in the chase. She was more than thrilled at the rare opportunity. Most days, she is subject to firm restrictions when it comes to harassing the horses.

We rounded the bend at the end of the arena with maximum energy and the horses reacted with a bit of shock over the unprecedented sight. They scrambled around and circled to face us from a distance. Legacy was very unhappy with our behavior and snorted with a boldness I have not seen before.

I stood my ground, conveying the seriousness of my desire that they not mess with the fence, and then slowly headed back to my work on the next section.

Legacy moved them back up after a few minutes, and when I spotted him biting the fence again, I called Delilah to action, and we charged again. She loved it. The herd made a bigger circle back and stood a little farther away, this time staying put long enough for me to finish what I was doing.

On my way back through the paddock, I spotted ice covering their water, which meant the electric heat wasn’t working. That meant they hadn’t had access to their water all morning.

Best I can tell, the ground fault safety on the circuit breaker is either failing, or doing its job and telling me there is a problem. I’m inclined to believe it’s the former. Further testing to follow, as soon as I can find a replacement GFI circuit breaker.

Just a couple of things I didn’t see coming to keep things interesting around here over the weekend.

Situations happen.

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Written by johnwhays

November 23, 2015 at 7:00 am

Stopping Snapping

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IMG_iP0754eTo most of you who have known me for a long time, my transition to ranch hand and horse wrangler (I’ll hold off on claiming any prowess with a dog for now) over the last two years may seem a bit surprising.

Personally, I feel a bit more amazed than surprised, partly because it all has come rather easily to me. Yesterday, without a hitch, I breezed through a fence repair that had me marveling over how familiar it seemed, for someone having no fence experience whatsoever a short time ago.

With the temperature swings from hot to cold that we’ve experienced lately, our wire fences are looking a little less taut than usual. After long hours at the (now temporary) day-job, followed by a stop at our health clinic for a pre-international-travel checkup, I stepped out to feed the horses and found a wire tension ratchet arcing.

Snap! Snap! Snap!

I think it bugs the horses, so I try not to neglect tending to these when they begin to arc. Oftentimes, oddly enough, moisture seems to bring it on, but this case was caused when the tension reduced over time and the electrical connection from wire to metal ratchet degraded. That results in arcing with creates a build up of carbon, which then reduces the connection even more.

To fix it, I start by turning off the charger and then loosen the ratchet. That allows me to get access to the place where the coated wire runs through the hole in the ratchet. The original installer saved time by not removing the coating from the wire, but the downside of doing that is the likelihood of future arcing. I strip off the coating altogether, creating a connection that is bare wire to bare metal. Works like a charm.

When I finished yesterday’s repair and turned the charger on again, that junction was completely silent.

It was so quiet that it enabled me to then hear a different spot farther down the line doing a quieter version of the same snapping sound. I decided to wait on that one, since it was out on the hay-field where the horses don’t have access for the time being.

Maybe it will be one of those that goes away on its own.

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Written by johnwhays

March 19, 2015 at 6:00 am

Temporary Fencing

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While I was in having lunch yesterday, the buried electric lines were marked with flags and paint. I had been watching for them the whole morning while I was down cutting tree branches along the planned new fence line near our southern border. Nothing happened. I walked out of the house after lunch and —boom— there were the red flags. It was magic!

It’s a good thing we thought to have the wires marked, because they don’t run in a straight line at all, and my planned gate location was right over them. I moved in a bit.

Having the electrical lines marked instantly changed my afternoon itinerary. It was time to put up some temporary fence so the horses can graze on the north side of our driveway. The first thing I wanted to do was bury a couple of wood posts so we could hang a gate. The rest of the fence will be pounded t-posts. I dug about a foot and a half down and water appeared!

DSCN2347eI set the post in the hole and hung the gate on it, just to see if there might be a way to make it work. Then I called our fence guy and he confirmed that I needed to come up with a different plan for a gate. I’ll rig up something using t-posts and the webbed fence line. That meant I was on to pounding posts.

That is one heck of a workout. I was pounding posts all afternoon. Everything was laid out for me from the preparation work we did on Sunday, which helped smooth the routine out a bit, however I ended up making a couple changes to the route.

We think the horses will like it. There are a lot of evergreen trees scattered through half of this space, and I moved the fence to include a variety of other overgrown areas. It will give them some places to explore, in addition to the areas of lush grass they will be able to graze.

Since this fenced area of grazing is remotely located, we will have to escort them on a lead line to move them in and out of it, as opposed to the other spaces we have where we can just open a gate from their paddock. I’m considering rigging up a line with something hanging off it every 6 feet that I could hang across our driveway to create a visual barrier to help confine them to the direction we want them to go. We DON’T want them getting away from us and heading down the driveway.

We still need to buy a device to allow us to electrify the fence, since it is on the other side of the driveway from our existing system. Legacy has proved that he will mess with pretty much everything he can get his mouth on. A little electric shock potential does wonders to help him mind his manners. Until the white webbing is electrified, we will not be able to leave them in there unsupervised for any extended amount of time.

It will be tempting for me to try to put them over there during the day today, but I will wait until Cyndie can be present for their initial introduction to this new space. That will allow us to move them in pairs, which will make them a little more comfortable while they learn a different way of getting to this new grazing space.

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Written by johnwhays

September 10, 2014 at 6:00 am