Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Book Underway: Low-Nonsense Doomsteading.





   Doomsteading.  An admittedly sensationalized term for taking what country folk have always done (making ready for lapses in infrastructure) up a few notches.  Building a rural homestead that can endure extended, even permanent loss of utilities, services, and regular supply sources.  That sort of thing.

   We've been quietly doing this for quite a while.  Thought of doing a book on the subject a year or two back, but it seemed like it might have been be too late.  Appeared to be time to focus on actually hunkering down for the collapse ourselves...

   Then, somewhat to my amazement, Western Civilization managed to dodge the kill shot in November, hopefully buying us a little more time to prepare.

   So the composition of Low-Nonsense Doomsteading is underway.  I'll rotate rough draft pages through this blog as the work proceeds...

CLICK ON LINKS BELOW TO VIEW DRAFT PAGES.






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LND: Chickens.



   Several of the farms I lived and work on over the years had chickens...  And I never really liked having them around.  They're noisy, get guano all over everything, and have a knack for raising a ruckus just when I'm trying to calm down a nervous colt.  They get underfoot, and are far too easily killed.  A handy snack for yotes, dogs, bobcats, foxes, 'coons, and even some other birds!

   But I do like eggs.  And, once I discovered the concept of the chicken tractor, they became a welcome addition to the doomstead.

   In fact, chickens are a no-brainer for anyone interested in self-sufficiency.  They don't require acreage, expensive facilities, or much investment at all.  Nor do you need a lot of skill or know-how.  They eat darned near anything, and pop-out eggs.  And, unlike the cattle and horses we have on the place, they hardly ever bruise us up or break our bones!

Hardly ever, that is!



Getting Started With Laying Hens.

   Just go down to your local farm supply store in the early Spring and pick up a half dozen hatchlings.  All hens.  You don't need a rooster at this point.  Fortunately, they should already be gender-sorted, because it's difficult to tell them apart as chicks.  There are all sorts of fancy breeds, but I just like hardy birds that make big, brown eggs like Cinnamon Queens, Rhode Island Reds, Orpingtons and the like.  They cost maybe a few FRNs apiece. 

   You'll need a makeshift brooder for the first few weeks.  We use a big, plastic tub in the store room with a grate over the top to keep the little fuzzballs from hopping out.  An inch or so of pine shavings for bedding.  A heated back pad between the tub and the floor on one end, so the birds can get away from it if they feel too warm.  (Make sure your heat source doesn't get more than just warm... Don't want to melt the tub or damage the floor!)  You'll need a shallow, but heavy (like ceramic) bowl for a feeder, and a water dispenser.  The mason jar type works well here.


   You can feed the chicks fine-ground grits, cornmeal, and other seeds and grains in the post-Cornucopian future.  But, while it's still available, you can enjoy the advantage of packaged, medicated chick-starter.  Pretty much let them have all they'll clean-up.  But don't dump too much at once, or they may get it filthy before it's eaten.  Keep clean water available to them at all times.

   The brooder tub will need to be dumped-out and the shavings replaced every day or two.  It's handy to have two tubs, so you can just swap the birds over to the fresh one.

   Take the little ones outside when the weather is nice and you can babysit them a while.  Hatchlings may be small enough to get through the chicken wire, or careless enough to get hooked by an ambitious cat reaching-in. 

   As they get bigger and stronger, the tub gets too crowded, and the Spring weather stabilizes, you'll leave the chicks out longer, until they're living out in the coop or tractor full-time.




The Chicken Tractor.

   A lot of people like to let their chickens run loose.  It allows the birds to forage for food, clean up grain spills that might attract mice, and even kill mice and some snakes directly.  But, for the reasons I mentioned earlier, we prefer to keep the fowl confined a bit.  So ours live in chicken tractors.

   A chicken tractor is a mobile coop.  You can buy fancy pre-made versions.  I've seen a few pretty neat ones made from old trampoline frames.  Ours were built with simple 2x4" frames and chicken wire.


   The first one I went overboard with.  A-frame design tall enough for a man to stand upright inside, and a big nesting box with room for each of our original half-dozen hens to have her own nest...  This made things heavy and hard to move for no good reason.  Turns out that a waist-high coop that can be accessed through the top is fine, and birds raised together from chicks tend to sleep almost on top of one-another and take turns laying in the same nest.

   The second tractor I built as a temporary home for the second batch of chicks we bought as the first started to age-out.  This time I made it waist-high with a peel-back wire top.  Also gave them a much smaller, lighter nesting box.

   The third one I built when we realized the old and new hens weren't going to integrate well.  It's a larger (but not taller) version of the second, but with corrugated roofing tin for a lid.  This gives the birds shade, rain/snow protection in addition to their little nesting box, but still allows easy access and relocation.

   All three tractors are still in use.  Turns out to be easier to have a few little ones than one huge coop.  And it seems like none of the batches like newbies joining their flocks.


Maintenance.

   Chickens are pretty easy.  Get a waterer and keep it full and clean.  (They do like to fill the water tray with crud as they scratch around.)  Throw in some horse grain, dry pet kibble, calf manna, table scraps.  Especially bread, grits, oatmeal, and meat.  They're omnivorous.  Move the tractor to fresh grass/ground whenever the current spot gets bare.  (It'll grow back really fast due to the guano and surface scratching.) 


   Add some crushed oyster shell or other calcium supplements.  They use a good bit of the stuff making egg shells.

   If you have dairy production, chickens do well on milk.  Ours prefer it after it's been allowed to clabber a bit.

   If they don't eat something you give them right away, don't retrieve it too fast.  They may like it better a little rotten.  And they may enjoy eating the flies or ants attracted in the mean time.

   Chickens like red pepper and hot tasting foods in general.  And it's good for them.

   You may want to dump in a pile of COLD wood ashes from the stove now and then.  Chickens like to dust bathe in them, and it gets rid of surface parasites.

   It's best to keep the tractors close to the house, especially at night, where predators are less bold about trying to get them.  Chicken wire will keep your cluckers in, but it's not sturdy enough to keep some critters out!  So you may need something stronger if that's a problem.

   They'll need shade in hot weather.  I set up a couple of large computer fans (quiet and need little electricity) and a small solar panel for them.  In the worst heat, I put large chunks of ice into their waterers.

   So long as they can get out of the rain, have a wind break, plenty of food, and some bedding, adult chickens can tolerate sub-freezing weather pretty well.  If you live where the winters are sub-zero brutal, you'll need a better hen house.


Eggs.

   The really awesome thing about chickens is that they just make eggs.  You don't need a rooster.  They don't have to be bred or anything.  They just reach maturity and start laying eggs.  (Unfertilized eggs that cannot be hatched.)  They start out with undersized, but still perfectly good eggs.  Then make 'em bigger as they get older.

    Check frequently for eggs, and retrieve them immediately.  Chickens can develop a bad habit of breaking and eating them!  Try to make sure the nesting area is shaded, so the eggs aren't so visually attractive in the bright light.  We also added ceramic decoy eggs to help dissuade the birds from the idea that eggs are edible.  They look real enough that I had to put little Sharpie X marks on the ends of them to keep from accidentally collecting them myself.

   Egg production may slow down or stop in the Winter, when the chickens go through their normal molting cycle, or when a hen has passed her prime.  Don't be too quick to make gumbo out of them.  Even old hens who seemed to have retired will sometimes resume laying after a rest.

   Avoid washing eggs unless you really need to.  They'll keep quite a while at pantry temperature with their natural bloom intact.


Eggbound Hen.

   Once in a while, a hen might get an egg stuck inside her.  This will kill her in around two days if not rectified.  You can usually tell that she's going to the nest repeatedly, but not producing an egg on her usual schedule, and generally acting sick or distressed.

   Setting her in a warm bath with Epsom salt, gently massaging her abdomen, and lubing her egg vent with Vaseline, then keeping her warm, comfortable, and undisturbed with plenty of water, maybe electrolytes, will usually allow her to pass the blocked egg. 


Flock Management.

   Seems to me that some people get carried away with chickens, bringing home dozens of chicks at the time.  Remember that when they hit their prime, each of those Marshmallow Peeps is going to be giving you an egg almost every day.  Great if you can trade 'em or use them to fatten hogs.  But overkill if you're just producing for household use.

   Chickens have the shortest natural lifespan of farm animals.  They usually have only a few prime laying years, then slow down as they age.  Fewer eggs per week.  Longer off-season breaks.  They have been known to live more than a decade.  But most don't.  Pragmatic farmers often slaughter hens after one or two seasons.  We find that older birds still produce enough to justify their upkeep, which isn't much after-all.  And, though I know it's anthropomorphic nonsense, I'm not enthusiastic about wringing the neck of a critter that has willingly provided me with a whole lot of breakfasts. 

   Still, age and attrition require that replacement hens be on the rise every year or two.  We have one tractor with the semi-retired survivors of our eldest batch, a second with young hens in their laying prime, and a third with pullets coming up. 

  
Chick Production.

   Since chicks are cheap, and so easily available, it's really not worth the effort to produce your own.  Even as the Cornucopian Era breaks down, there will probably be farmers in your area with whom you can trade for a few chicks now and then.

   But, if you're determined to be as self-sufficient as possible, you can hatch your own replacement birds.

   First, you'll need roosters.  One for every five to ten hens should be more than sufficient.  Keep in mind that cross-bred chickens like Cinnamon Queens don't breed to type, so the offspring may bear little resemblance to the parents.

   Fertile chicken eggs stay pretty much dormant until subjected to continuous warmth, which triggers embryonic development.  Then it takes around three weeks for them to hatch.

   Some old-style homestead farms are essentially chicken anarchies, with hens nesting hither and yonder.  Most eggs get collected.  But there are usually a few broody hens who want to build up a clutch (like a dozen eggs) and set them 'til they hatch. 

   Many modern laying hens tend to have weaker brooding instincts, so reproduction is more successful if fertilized eggs are collected and placed in incubators.  Small, electric incubators are reasonably affordable for home use...  There are even kerosene fueled models out there for off-grid.


   Incubators maintain constant warmth and humidity.  They may also turn the eggs, which has to be done frequently by hand if the machine doesn't handle it. 

   If everything goes well, you can look for 50-75% hatch rate on fertilized eggs from your own hens.  About half of the chicks will probably be roosters.  One of the advantages to most homestead chicken breeds is that they are dual purpose for eggs and meat...  Which is good, since nobody needs a bunch of ornery roosters.  As soon as they start to be a nuisance, you channel Colonel Sanders and deal with 'em.






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Friday, April 7, 2017

LND: Backup Generator.





   Some preppers dismiss the idea of generators.  After SHTF, fuel will run out, right?  A generator will be useless.

   But I think there is a high probability that modern civilization and Cornucopian infrastructure will stutter and grind to a halt over the course of years rather than stopping all at once.  During this time, the power grid will become unreliable, and fuel supplies may become erratic.  Being able to stockpile fuel when it's available and generate one's own electricity during outages could smooth-out the bumpy road of the collapse, at least for a while.

   (Of course we're big into non-electrical alternatives where they're practical, and solar/wind electrical generation for things electricity does best.  Covered elsewhere in this book.)



   The best approach to getting a generator is to buy a proper back-up system and have it professionally installed.  The things appear to be pretty awesome.  They look like an extra heat pump behind the house.  Start automatically during power failures.  Shut down when the grid is back up.  Even do maintenance runs and diagnostics by themselves.  Owner just checks the oil a couple times a year.

   Complete with a dedicated transfer panel, these generators are safe and code-compliant.

   But they are rather expensive.  Complex installation means that you may be dependent on the professionals if service is required in the future, and who knows if they will be available then?

   The deal-breaker for us was that these systems run on propane or natural gas.  And not just a barbecue bottle.  Since we don't have gas service here, setting it up just for the back-up generator was an excessive hassle and expense.
   (In retrospect, a gas home might be a pretty good way to go for a doomstead.  A big tank full could keep the appliances going quite a while, and only a small back-up generator system would be needed to go with it.)



   A popular approach to back-up electrical power is the gasoline-powered 'portable' generator.  These are widely available, reasonably affordable, and fairly simple to operate.   Of course, you have to wheel 'em out, start 'em manually, and plug things in yourself.  And they are obnoxiously loud.  But still: POWER during an extended blackout rocks!


   The 'proper' way to use a portable generator is to set it up outside the house (the gasoline engine exhaust can kill people with carbon monoxide in an enclosed area), then run extension cords from it directly to the appliances or devices you want to power.  This reduces the possibility of electrocution, fire, and damage to electronics and household wiring.

   But there are considerable safety hazards in doing it the 'right' way.  You're going to have to leave a door or window partially open to admit the extension cords, possibly letting out heat, letting in bugs, fumes, or worse.  There's also the possibility of the extension cords being damaged by accidental closing in the door or window, creating a shock and fire risk. 

   Having extension cords running across the floor in a poorly-lit house is a tripping hazard.  The most important things you may need to power could be loaded refrigerators and freezers, which often have stuff stacked on top, and are recessed into the counters and cabinets with their short power cords behind them.  Trying to drag the blasted things out so as to plug them into the extension cord can easily result in injury from strain, having the icebox tip over onto a person, or gashing a hand or arm fishing around behind for the plug.


   Making matters worse, long extension cords don't play well with 120v heavy-load appliances.  You may find your generator breakers tripping every time the fridge cycles on.  And other things you may need to run, especially your well pump, may be 240v and/or hard-wired, so you can't just plug them into an extension cord.

   Wouldn't it be easier just to connect the generator to the household electrical system?


Please review the disclaimer at the start of the book.

We're heading into sketchy territory now.



Quick Primer On Household Electricity.

Voltage:  There are two general voltage standards for US household electricity.  120v is used for lighting and common wall sockets to supply power for most devices and light appliances.  240v is used for heavier demand appliances like stoves, electric furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers, and deep well pumps.

Amperage:  The load on an electrical circuit (or maximum safe potential load) is measured in amps.  Increasing amperage tends to heat-up electrical components, especially wires.  So higher amp rated cables have to be thicker and heavier to avoid melting or burning under a full load.

Wattage:  Watts are a measure of the actual power being applied in a circuit (or potential maximum power).  It's basically volts multiplied by amps.  So a 60w bulb puts a 0.5 amp load on a 120v circuit.  A 1200w hair dryer puts a 10 amp load on a 120v circuit.

Starting Loads:  Electrical devices and appliances usually require a spike of power to get them started, then settle to their regular operating load.  Starting loads vary between devices.  Incandescent bulbs have a fairly low and brief starting load.  Fluorescent lights take considerably more.  Pretty much anything with an electric motor (fan, pump) will take a big, long gulp of electricity to get going.  Household electrical services are typically wired to handle far more power than normal consumers would usually need just to accommodate simultaneous starting loads that might occasionally occur.

Breakers:  These are switches which automatically turn off (trip) when the amperage on a circuit exceeds the rated limit.  They are usually integrated into the household service panels and the generator as well.  Breakers are there to prevent dangerous overloads. Do not circumvent them.

The Four Wires:  US standard 120/240v wiring use four wires.  Hot #1 (usually black), Hot #2 (usually red), Neutral (white), and Ground (usually green or bare).

   The Hots are opposite 'ends' of your 240v circuit.  Connect red and black an appliance to feed it 240v.

   Neutral taps from the center of that same circuit, putting it 120v from each of the Hots.  Connect black and white (or red and white) to a device to feed it 120v.

   Ground is just what it says on the tin.  The green or bare wire is ultimately connected to a rod driven into the earth to provide a harmless escape path for stray current in the system.  The Neutral wire is usually cross-connected with the Ground at the household main service panel as well as at your generator.  This means that, when a Neutral connection is needed, and there isn't one available, you can usually get away with connecting to the Ground wiring instead.




Connecting a Gasoline Generator to the Household Service.

   This will require a mid-sized (5000w) or larger generator with a 12/240v socket to be worthwhile.


The Suicide Cable.

   If you have a 240v receptacle that is easily accessible from outside the house (back porch or garage clothes dryer, workshop welder, RV shore power...  Make sure it's a 240v, not just a 30 amp 120v!), back-feeding generator power into the house through a Suicide Cable may be a practical solution.  But remember that these things deserve their name.  Screw up the Order Of Operations and you can earn a Darwin Award real quick.



   A Suicide Cable is a generator extension cord that has plugs at both ends.  Nobody manufactures these, so you have to make one for yourself.  Start with a heavy-duty extension cord that fits the 120/240v outlet on your generator.  (Most take a 30 amp, 4-blade twist-lock.  Bigger generators may also have a 50 amp, 4-prong push-in.  May as well go with the more powerful one if you have it.)  Get a replacement plug for whatever appliance would normally use the 240v household receptacle.  Take the socket end off your generator cable and replace it with the appliance plug.

   If your appliance plug has 4-prongs, you're in luck.  Just be sure to get each of the four wires in your generator cord connected to the correct prong.  If the wires aren't color-coded, you may have to use a voltmeter or test light to verify.

   If your appliance plug has only three prongs, double-check to make certain we're dealing with a 240v outlet and not a heavy 120v.  For three prong 240v plugs, omit the dedicated Ground wire.




Backfeeding Procedure.
(Order is more than important!)

-   Position your generator within cord reach of the 240v household outlet.  The generator must be out in the open air, not inside the house!  Take care that there's nothing that could be melted/ignited near the exhaust pipe.  Get it leveled, grounded, fueled, and ready to start.  Nothing should be plugged into any of its outlets at this point.

-   Walk through the house and make sure all the accessible lights and devices are switched off to reduce the combined starting load when you power the house up.  It may be a good idea to unplug televisions, computers, and other sensitive electronics altogether.

-   Start your generator so that it can begin to warm-up.

-   Go to your primary electrical service panel...  The breaker box, usually outside the house, right under the meter.  SWITCH OFF THE MAIN POWER BREAKER.  (This is usually a big breaker switch at the top.  Something on the order of 100 to over 200 amps in most modern houses).  This effectively disconnects your house from the electrical grid, which is important for a couple reasons: 

   It prevents your generator from backfeeding out onto the power lines.  Safety Sallys scream this will kill utility workers, but the odds of that happening are between slim and none.  What should happen is the monstrous overload of trying to power the whole grid with a portable generator will instantly trip the household breaker associated with the appliance outlet, the generator's breaker, or both.

   The biggest reason to make absolutely sure the main breaker is off is that, if it's left on, and the grid comes back to life while you're handling the Suicide Cable, you could suffer a horrible, agonizing, gruesome death.  If one end of the cable is plugged into a live socket while the other is free, the exposed prongs become like an electric cattle prod, but with very lethal current!

-   Plug the appropriate end of the Suicide Cable into the (inactive) household 240v receptacle.

-   Plug the other end of the Suicide Cable into your generator.

-   You should now have normal, but limited power throughout your house.  Everything should run, but don't try to run everything at once!  Or anything you don't really need, for that matter.

-   To go back to grid power, unplug the generator end of the Suicide Cable FIRST, then the household receptacle end.  After both ends are unplugged, shut off the generator and throw the main breaker on the household service panel back on.


   The advantages to a Suicide Cable approach are that it's relatively cheap, simple, and portable.  And, when not in use, you can coil the cable and stow it.  So you don't have to worry about a meter reader or anyone else spotting the code violation and getting you cited.

   The disadvantages include the use of an appliance outlet circuit, which could be the weakest link in your power feed.  No matter how powerful your generator is, if you're backfeeding through a 240v, 20amp circuit, you're going to be limited to 4800 watts, maximum...  Oh, and there's the whole "make one error and have most of your body cremated so quickly that the remainder is alive long enough to 'enjoy' the experience" thing. 

   Note:  120v Suicide Cables are sometimes attempted.  They aren't worth the risk or effort.  Even if they work right, they'll only power some of the 120v outlets in your house (the ones using the same Hot leg as the backfed socket), won't power any of the 240v essentials, and will feed only 1800 watts max.



Our Way.

   We played catch-as-catch-can with typical, mid-sized generators and inverters for backup electricity for quite a few years.  Then the bovine aspect of our doomstead got up to speed, and we found ourselves with multiple freezers full of valuable beef and dairy.  We needed a more practical solution.

   First we considered a proper, automatic back-up generator system.  But we don't have LP or NG here, and the inaccessibility of the doomstead made professional installation of the generator and regular delivery of fuel an impossibility.

    So we bought the biggest gasoline generator we could.  In addition to having enough output to power everything we might want to run, the big generators tend to have other useful features.  Electric, push-button start.  12v DC output that can be used to charge batteries for incidental power needs.  A 50amp 120/240v socket, which can be used to channel up to 12,000 watts to the household service, rather than the 7,200 max that the mid-sized generators could provide through their 30amp 120/240v sockets.  And a toggle switch breaker on the 50amp socket, which allows it to be shut-off for safer plugging and unplugging.


   One common problem with portable generators for backup is that they almost inevitably wind up pushed into the far corner of the garage, buried under and behind a long ton of assorted junk.  Not only is it a pain to dig them out when they're needed, but you're unlikely to do it very often for maintenance...  So I laid down a heavy, rubber stall mat near the corner of the house, away from windows, and where it can be easily reached by the cables from the house, barn, milking parlor, and smithy.  Then I built an intentionally rough-looking corrugated box shed to cover the generator in its permanent location.  (Better it look like a doghouse for a redneck's really huge Rottweiler than the home of thousands of dollars worth of equipment for OpSec.)  Not having to to drag the thing out and connect the ground wire every time makes starting the generator much faster and easier, both when it's needed, and for regular maintenance.


   To connect the generator to the house, I got a heavy-duty 50amp extension cable with a plug that fits the generator's big outlet, removed the socket end from the cord, and wired it into the house's primary service panel though its own 50amp breaker, labeled "Aux In".  (No weak link from backfeeding through a 20 or 30amp dryer outlet.)  I also installed an interlock device...  A simple, sliding plate on the breaker panel that prevents the generator cable's incoming breaker and the grid main power breaker from being switched on at the same time.  This prevents anyone from accidentally energizing the generator cable from the house's end and creating a Suicide Cable hazard.


   When the grid goes down, I just raise the cover and start the generator with nothing plugged into it and the 50amp toggle breaker switched off.  Then I go to the house's primary service panel and switch off the 200amp main breaker from the grid, then switch on the Aux In breaker.  The interlock keeps me from doing this in the wrong order.  Next I remove the safety cap from the 50amp cable and plug it into the generator.  Switching on the 50amp circuit powers up the house.  The barn, milking parlor, and smithy can be plugged into the generator's other outlets so that they don't count against the wattage available to the main panel.  (This generator has plenty of capacity left-over to run them.)

   To switch back to grid, I switch off the 50amp circuit on the generator, remove and re-cap the big plug, go back to the house's primary panel to switch the Aux In breaker off, and the main grid breaker back on.  Again, the interlock keeps me from screwing up the order.  An effective interlock device is fairly easy to fabricate, and definitely worth the effort.
  

  
Bonus Round:  Generator Fuel & Maintenance.

   Generators need to be run, preferably under some electrical load, on a monthly basis.  This is one of the big problems with your typical portable generator as a backup.  The danged thing is a hassle to get to and set up, so you put it off.  Next thing you know, there's a major blackout, and your generator hasn't been run in years, and won't start or run right...  This is why I set up ours in a permanent place.  During the last week of each month, I fire it up, plug in just the barn (including the big barnyard lights) and milking parlor, and let it run for an hour while I do other chores.  No big deal.

   When shutting down after a maintenance run, or whenever I don't plan to restart the generator anytime soon, I shut off the fuel valve and wait for the engine to starve out, then turn the run/off switch off.  This gets the gasoline out of the fuel lines, pump, and carburetor, where it might thicken to clogging varnish over time.

   Check the oil every few runs.  Just in case.  Air filter, etc.  See your manual.

   The reason the dedicated, pro-installed backup systems run on LP/NG is that gasoline is a bit of a pain for this application.  It has a limited storage life, so you can't stockpile a lot of it.  Ethanol, which is common in American gasoline, shortens storage life even farther, and is murder on generators  to boot.  So get ethanol-free gas (it's around, but you may have to search), and treat it with a gasoline stabilizer for maximum storage life. 

   Regular maintenance runs should allow you to top-up the generator tank frequently enough (probably every third month) to keep the fuel therein from getting stale.  Be sure to use newly purchased and stabilized ethanol-free gas for this, not the stuff that's already aged a few months in your jerrycans.  If you feel like you're not going through gasoline fast enough to keep it fresh, siphon some out and use it in your automobile, clearing room for fresh fuel in the generator tank.  When SHTF, you don't want stale gas in the generator.

   A bunch of jerrycans (stored safely in a shed away from the house and barn) may be the simplest way to keep a stockpile of stabilized, ethanol-free gasoline for the generator.  Number or position your cans, keep using the oldest stuff up in your chainsaw, mowers, vehicles, and other gasoline engines before it gets stale, replace with new gas, keep the rotation going.


Notes:  There is a lot of variation in the way houses are wired.  Our house has a main service panel outside, under the meter.  This has the 200amp main breaker, and the 240v breakers for my well pump and heat pump.  (And now my Aux In breaker.)  This panel has a shared bus bar for Neutral and Ground. 

   There is a subpanel inside the house that is home to breakers for all the household circuits.  This panel also has a 200amp main switch at the top...  But switching it off will not kill the current in the outside panel or anything wired directly to it!

   Some houses will have only one panel.  Locate your meter and work from there to find the real main switch for your grid power.






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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

LND: Nonsense Guns.



   And now we break for just a wee bit o' nonsense...



   There are very real reasons for a doomsteader to own guns, and a number of firearms that are of practical utility.

   There are also a lot of guns on the market which are essentially range toys and conversation pieces.  And that's okay!  Nothing wrong with buying a gun just because it's awesome looking and fun to shoot.  'MERICA!

   But many of preppers confuse the playthings with essential tools, which can be a problem if the latter are neglected in favor of the former.

   Keep in-mind that "impractical" is not the same thing as "useless".  You can certainly shoot game or a bad guy with a novelty gun.  But there are better, usually cheaper weapons that put you at less of a handicap.




The Mare's Laig.

   The poster child for Hollywood contrived guns, from the heyday of TV westerns, when producers made their protagonists stand-out by giving them distinctive weapons.  Bounty hunter Josh Randall of Wanted Dead or Alive carried a big-loop Winchester lever-action rifle that had been cut down at both the barrel and stock so that it could be used as a sidearm. 

   In reality, this is a pointless gun.  The handgun-level 44-40 Winchester cartridge, fired out of shortened barrel, would have been slightly inferior to the typical .45 Colt revolver in power, and no better in accuracy.  The Winchester uses a tubular magazine, which gets cut down along with the barrel.  This leaves the Mare's Laig with the same capacity as a six-shooter.  All in an excessively heavy gun with an obnoxious overall length that takes two hands to use, with a higher probability of malfunction and slower rate of fire than what all the other horse-opera guys were shooting!

   To be fair, Wanted Dead or Alive didn't even try to pretend this was a particularly good weapon.  In the first episode, Josh Randall found himself at a noticeable disadvantage trying to work the lever from a prone position, then managed to hit a physically unimposing adversary (none other than the future Little Joe!) with a round that didn't take him off his horse or prevent his escape.

   Yet, due to it's badass appearance and association with Steve McQueen, who played Josh, and whose picture was in 1960s and 70s dictionaries next to the word "cool", people still love the Mare's Laig.

   Getting one used to be a problem, since cutting down a rifle makes it subject to registration and taxation under the federal National Firearms Act, which most people don't want to mess with.  But it finally occurred to someone that a Mare's Laig manufactured as such from the start (rather than being modified from a rifle) would technically be just a handgun, not restricted by the NFA.   New manufacture Mare's Laig (Ranch Hand, Mare's Leg) pistols are widely available at this writing.




AK/AR "Pistols".

   So, if we can get away with selling a cut-down 19th Century lever-action rifle as a handgun, why not do the same with modern, semi-auto rifles?

   Building the AR-15 and AK-47 with short barrels and no shoulder stocks has become a popular way to get around the NFA.  Of course, you loose considerable of power and accuracy with the short barrel.  These weapons are bulky and poorly balanced if you actually try to shoot them like pistols, and awkward to hold and sight rifle-style without a stock.  A more conventional pistol in 9mm +P with a 33 round extended magazine would be handier, and would have the advantage of being a normal, holster-friendly sidearm when you switch back to a 17 round mag.

   Now there are new, adjustable 'wrist braces' (wink-wink) on the market that make these AK/AR shorties a little more shootable.  But, if you need something that fires rifle rounds, a 16" barrel is already pretty handy.  Seems like the main purpose of these guns is to say "up yours" to the bATFe...

   Which is pretty good justification, come to think of it.




Pistol Grip Shotguns.

    Shotguns had stocks long before 1934, when the Feds started regulating this sort of thing.  And for good reasons...  The stock helps you manage recoil, acts as a spacer to put your eyes in alignment with the sights, and gives you a more stable hold on the gun for accurate shooting. 

   Replacing the stock with a pistol grip throws all that away in exchange for making the shotgun compact enough for... What?  Hiding under your coat on the way to a mob hit? 

   "A great truck gun!" I've heard some say about stockless shotguns (as well as Mare's Laigs and AK/AR pistols).  But what does that mean?  If it's a gun you carry in your truck, why would it need to be truncated?  Trucks have lots of room, and don't get tired from carrying a full-weight shotgun.  If it means you're gonna shoot it from inside the truck, an awkward, two-hand weapon is a poor choice.

   "Home defense!"  Really?  Shotguns are indeed the obvious go-to for home defense, but how does lack of a stock help you there?

   There's this notion that shotguns produce a wall of devastation, so you don't really need to aim them.  But shot patterns are actually pretty small at defensive range, even with a short barrel.  It is quite possible to miss, especially when you are just pointing, rather than properly aiming.

   Mossberg has figured out how to exploit loopholes in the law in order to produce a 14" barrel shotgun (er- "firearm") with a pistol grip that avoids NFA regulation.  I'm half-tempted to get one myself, just because it looks badass and I like the rule-bending aspect.  But, if there's real shotgun work to be done, I'd leave the novelty gun alone and grab my full stock 12 gauge!




Gimmick Shotguns.

   I remember watching the old Looney Tunes and thinking that Elmer Fudd had a heck of a shotgun, as it appeared to be a double-barreled, pump-action, semiautomatic, with a huge magazine capacity!

   Well, modern manufacturers aren't content to leave Elmer's gun in the realm of cartoons.  They're selling dual-tube magazine shotguns for umpteen round capacity, pump-action double barrels (rack once, shoot twice), Assault Rifle derived semiautomatics that can be fed from a big drum with dozens of rounds, and more.

   Tacti-cool as these scatterguns are, they are complex in design and function, which reduces reliability.  And they are expensive.  As in, you could buy multiple Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 tried-and-true shotguns for what one of these things costs, and have change enough left over for a steamer trunk of shells.

   A long sequence of blasting away nonstop with a shotgun is a 'Going Out In A Blaze Of Glory' climax scene in a zombie apocalypse movie.  The half dozen rounds in a conventional shotgun is probably sufficient to convince more realistic threats to find an easier target, at the very least.




.410 Revolvers.

   These are on the bubble of practicality.  The Taurus Judge was initially promoted as an automobile defense gun.  And the concept has some merit.  A load of birdshot to the face would no-doubt be substantially more effective against a carjacker, over-the-line 'protester', or road-raging nut than pepper spray.  All with substantially less risk of serious collateral damage than flinging bullets around.  Plus, the Judge (and the S&W Governor it inspired) can have the first chamber(s) loaded with .410 shotshells, and the remainder loaded with .45 Colt or .45 ACP, just in case the threat at hand is a psycho, crackhead, or Moro Tribesman who won't back-off after being hit with pellets.

   What keeps these revolvers from qualifying as practical is the fact that you can get revolvers to do essentially the same thing at half the weight and price.  Shotshells can be purchased (or hand-loaded) for revolvers in several popular calibers.  These rounds may not have the payload of .410 shells, but we're not shooting quail at 30 yards with them.  At the short ranges at which you'd use a birdshot revolver, the snake-shot should be an effective deterrent against ordinary thugs.

   Pulling .410 Revolvers even deeper into the novelty category are the many .410 gimmick shotshells that have been introduced for them.  Slug and buck, disks and BBs, etc.  Kind of misses the original point.  If you're going to fire projectiles more substantial than birdshot, why not just use good old BULLETS?




Super-Magnum Handguns.

   In the 1971 film Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood pointed a .44 Magnum revolver at Albert Popwell and told him that it was the most powerful handgun in the world, and capable of blowing his head clean off.  While not entirely correct, this moment of Hollywood badassery started an unending quest among gun nuts to own the most wrist-breakingly, eardrum-burstingly overpowered gun they could get their hands on.

   The .44 Magnum is on the uppermost tier of powerful practical sidearm cartridges.  Much more, and you'll need a revolver so large and heavy to make full use of it that you'd may as well carry a long gun.  Even .44 Magnum class cartridges are mostly wasted on muzzle flash in popular compact revolvers, and provide only a modest firepower advantage over sub-magnum rounds like the .44 Special.

   Still, practicality doesn't figure into this sort of thing.  So we've got a whole slew of cartridges that make the .44 Magnum look like a mouse-gun.  But they're far better suited to something like an updated Winchester 1886 rifle than any handgun.




.50 BMG 'Sniper' Rifles.

   In the wake of World War I, John Moses Browning decided to radically scale-up the standard US infantry rifle cartridge for use in his new heavy machine gun, creating the .50 Browning Machine Gun round.  It wasn't long before someone realized lighter rifles could be built around this powerhouse cartridge.  These have gained considerable popularity since the 1980s.

   A .50 BMG is the most powerful rifle you can legally own without registering it under the NFA as a "destructive device".  It has an effective range of well over a mile, and can punch through medium armor and considerable hard cover. 

    They also cost ten to twenty times as much as a practical precision shooting rifles, weigh four times as much, and use ammo that costs five times as much, and require special equipment if you want to roll your own.

   In skilled hands, an 'ordinary' bolt-action with decent glass in common calibers like 30-06 and .308 can reliably take out targets at over a quarter of a mile.  There are few realistic scenarios in doomstead defense that would require more than that from a 'sniper' rifle.



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Monday, March 13, 2017

LND: Arcane Firearm Nomenclature.





   Essential to the safe use of firearms is knowing exactly what you're doing when it comes to what ammo goes into which guns.  With about a zillion different cartridges out there, it is very possible to chamber and touch-off a round that was not designed to be fired in that particular weapon.  Depending on the combination, the result could be anywhere from poor performance to a zero-delay hand grenade.

   You'd think it'd be simple.  Make sure the head stamp on your ammo matches the markings on your gun and you're good, right?  But no.  Due to the long and complex development history of firearms, it's kind of a mess.



Caliber.

   Even the term "caliber" is a bit murky.  It usually means diameter in inch measurement with implied decimal, as in "forty caliber" meaning ".40 inch".  Sometimes it means a specific cartridge.  For an assortment of reasons, it is almost always used nominally when referencing loaded ammunition.  Most .45 cartridges use slightly larger than .45" diameter bullets, while most .44 cartridges actually use bullets just under .43", and .38 cartridges use bullets less than .36".

   Sometimes an extended caliber is a way to distinguish a cartridge, like the .307 Winchester, which uses a .308" bullet like most other nominal .30 caliber rifles.


Grains.

   A "grain" is tiny unit of weight (1/7000 pound) traditionally used to measure both gunpowder and bullets.  It does not refer to a particle of powder.


Caliber - Grains.

   One common way to identify cartridges in the 19th Century was by nominal caliber and powder charge in grains.  The 44-40 was a .44 bullet loaded over forty grains of gunpowder. 

   This naming convention worked well when cartridges were loaded with black powder.  But the rise of smokeless propellants at the end of the century meant that there would be far too great a difference between the various powder choices to give a simple load weight.  Only a few of the very earliest smokeless cartridges (like the 30-40 and 30-30) used this style of designation.


Caliber - Year.

   When it became clear that powder charge wouldn't work for smokeless cartridge designation in the early 20th Century, the number after the hyphen was switched to the last two digits of the introduction year.  This convention didn't last long, but did yield the still-popular 30-06 cartridge.  (Thirty caliber of 1906.)


Metric.

   Since firearms are marketed internationally, metric designations, given in millimeters, are common.  Sometimes just the diameter, but more specifically diameter and case length, as in 9 x 19mm. 


Diameter, then Words and/or Initials.

   There are lots of cartridges with the same diameter bullets, and more than a few with the same length case as well.  So a straightforward way to identify them is with a name based on the company that developed the round, some practical description of the ammo, or the nation of origin.  Occasionally, a wholly contrived name will be applied.  These descriptors are often abbreviated, since there's just so much room on a head stamp.

   In addition to every imaginable company and country name, cartridges are commonly identified as short, long, special, magnum, auto, super, belted, rimmed, rifle, pistol, etc.   Examples include the .38 Long Colt and .30 Remington.

  
Brundlefly Naming.

   As if things weren't already confusing enough, some cartridges, especially those based developed from older rounds, mix and match naming conventions.  For instance, the 6.5-06 A-Square is a (nominal) 6.5mm bullet in a necked-down 30-06 case developed by the A-Square company.




Gauge (aka Bore).

   Shotguns and the shells they fire are usually designated by gauge, which is determined how many bore-fitting round balls can be made from a pound of pure lead.  The bigger the shotgun, the fewer balls can be made, and the lower the gauge number. 

   The 12 Gauge is the most popular modern shotgun size.  The smaller 20 Gauge is also fairly common for youths, ladies, and anyone else who might be recoil-sensitive.   10, 16, and 28 Gauge shotguns are still around, but no longer common.  Most shotgun shells are nominally 2 3/4" in length.  Many guns are chambered to accept 3", and some newer models will take 3 1/2".  Shorter shells, including 2 1/2" and 1 3/4" mini-shells can safely be fired from the longer chambers, but may not cycle reliably in pumps or auto-loaders.

    Of course, somebody had to go and muddy-up the world of shotguns with the .410, which is not technically a gauge, but an inch caliber.  I guess "68 Gauge" just didn't sound right.  This is the smallest shotgun commonly available, and has often been a beginner's gun for children.  Standard .410 shells are 2 1/2" long, but 3" shells have recently been introduced for revolver use, of all things.




Shot.

   The pellets used in shotgun shells are identified by two number scales, buckshot and birdshot, both of which are counter-intuitively numbered highest for smallest.  Buckshot shells are usually marked with the number of pellets, while birdshot shells are marked with the total weight of shot.   The smallest shot (#10 - #12 on the birdshot scale) is called ratshot, suitable for close-range use on small pests, like rodents and snakes. 

   Birdshot shells are often marked "target".



Multiple Identity Confusion.

   Politics, language, common usage, and parallel development often result in the same cartridge getting alternate designations.

   Companies like to put their names on cartridges, like the .30 Winchester Center Fire.  Other companies don't like stamping their rival's name on ammo or rifles, so they label it something like 30-30.  Eventually it becomes known as 30-30 Win.

   Other companies were also reluctant to stamp their rival's name on the .380 Automatic Colt Pistol cartridge, preferring to call it .380 Auto.  But that was just the start, since it was also known by it's metric designation as 9x17mm...  Having less case length than most of the other 9mm cartridges rising at the time, it was also called the 9mm Short...  And, being used around the world, that became 9mm Kurz/Corto/Court... 

   Which is all the more confusing since, in America, we usually think "9mm" means the 9x19mm.  Which itself is also known as the 9mm Parabellum/NATO/Luger.  You might reasonably expect this round to also be known as the "9mm Long/Largo".  But that designation was used by the Browning 9x20mm Long... And the 9x23mm Largo/Bergmann–Bayard/Bayard Long...  Which must never be confused with the 9x23mm Winchester...




Exceptions to the Rule.

   Despite the dumbfounding confusion of cartridge designations, you must never, EVER use a cartridge for which your gun isn't specifically chambered...  Except that sometimes it's perfectly okay to do so.

   This is frequently the case with revolvers chambered for straight-walled, rimmed, lengthened versions of earlier cartridges.  A .357 Magnum can fire .38 Special ammo.  .44 Special works in a .44 Magnum.45 Colt works in a .454 Casull.22 Short works in a .22 Long Rifle revolver...  But, just to mess with us, .22LR shouldn't be fired from a .22 Magnum cylinder, since the latter cartridge is derived not from the .22 Short/Long/Long Rifle, but the nearly forgotten, larger case diameter, .22 Winchester Rim Fire.


Coping With The Madness.

   The saving grace in this swirling jumble of nomenclature is that you only have to know the details for the guns you shoot.  Can you fire a .357 SIG in a .357 Magnum handgun?  It doesn't really matter if you own only a .45 ACP!

   Though it might be wise to learn a bit about the more common cartridges, even if they aren't used by any of the weapons in currently in your collection.  You never know what you might come-across in the future, when you might not have access to the Internet for technical data.



Possible Appendices...
   Overview of Common Cartridges.
   Don't Try This At Home:  Firing the wrong cartridge. What happens?





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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

LND: Fences.

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   Of course, you don't want to keep the livestock in the barn all (or even most) of the time.  So you're going to need fences.

   Most farm animals are capable of jumping, crashing down, climbing over, burrowing under, or crawling through any fence that would be economically feasible to wrap-around a large area.  So fences actually work by creating a kind of psychological boundary.   Some combination of visual and tactile aspects has to convince the critter that it's not worth it to get to the other side of the barrier.

   I'm going to skip right over board, split rail, vinyl, and other expensive / cosmetically appealing fences for our purposes.  Kinda' defeats the purpose of a doomstead to have it look like a well-off show farm worth looting!



   Barbed wire is a relatively cheap, old school, and effective means to contain stock.  It is physically fairly strong, and has sharp projections every few inches that will stab or cut anything that comes into contact with it.  This usually discourages beasts from pushing into or leaning across it.  It tends to be long lasting and requires little maintenance.

Fence tensioning tool.

   Barbed wire needs to be stretched quite tight with a tensioning tool, so reinforced corner posts are required, and sometimes pull-to braced posts if there is a long distance between corners, or non-straight fence line.  The rest of the posts can be lighter, since they serve mostly to counter sagging and maintain spacing between the strands.   Usually four to six strands of barbed wire is used.  With tougher-skinned animals, posts have to be placed closer together keep the critters from spreading the strands apart to crawl through.

   Strands of barbed wire are often used to augment other fence that might otherwise be pushed-down or crawled-under.  

   Barbed wire should not be used for horses.  They are too thin-skinned, and prone to get panicked and tangled in the stuff, resulting in horrific injury.  Yeah, I know that (Insert Name Here) used barbed wire horse fences for years and nothing bad happened.  People get away with foolishness all the time... Until they don't.



   Field fencing, aka hog wire, is a mesh of steel wires knotted to create a pattern of rectangles.  (There is a similar form using welding rather than knots, which is generally unsuitable for livestock.)  It must be stretched tight between reinforced corner and brace posts, and held upright by lighter posts, much like barbed wire.

   Field fencing wire is probably the physically strongest practical material for livestock enclosure, especially in terms of being able to withstand a straight-on collision with a large animal.  But is not painful to touch or lean-across.  So it can be crushed down, or rooted up, trod upon, and thus rendered ineffective.  Supplemental barbed and/or hot wire is often used to prevent this.




   Hot wire is usually relatively lightweight, smooth wire (although barbed wire is sometimes used) attached to the fence posts with plastic insulators.  A fence charger sends a very high voltage, low amperage pulse of electricity out through the fence about once per second.  The return path for the current is through the earth to the charger's grounding rod(s), so anyone completing the circuit by touching the fence and ground (even if indirectly) when the pulse goes through will get an unpleasant, but harmless shock.  Solar powered charges are available for your off-grid needs.

   The light weight and tension needed for hot wire makes it easy to install and mend, allows greater distance between posts, and does not require braced corner posts.

   When in good repair, under most conditions, hot wire is quite effective.  But it is higher maintenance than barbed and field fencing wires, because green, wet foliage or a single downed strand will short-out the fence and greatly reduce shocking power.  Drought conditions can reduce the topsoil conductivity, also weakening the zap.  Fortunately, once they've learned not to touch the hot fences, most animals won't challenge it during transient current failures.  But they will figure it out after a while, so keep it checked and maintained!  (Most chargers have some sort of gauge that will alert you to ground-outs.)

   Lightning can travel through electric fences and damage your charger.  Simple lightning arresters are available and can be installed on the fences to prevent this. 




   The biggest drawbacks to hot wire are that it tends to by physically fragile and nearly invisible, so animals often crash right through it.  This is why it was often used in conjunction with tougher and/or more visible fences like board, split rail, and field fencing.  But the development of electrified poly tape and rope has solved these drawbacks.

   Multiple conductive wire threads are woven into a polymer web tape or cord, which is then installed much the same way as hot wire.  The polymer portion adds thickness, bright color, and physical resiliency that wire alone lacks.  It is nearly as easy to put up and repair.  UV-resistant tape with stainless threads has proven to have a respectable service life.




   Wood fence posts, soaked black with creosote, were the go-to back home in the Lowcountry.  I think those are considered too toxic for use anymore, but wood posts treated other ways are still commonly used.

   I understand that driving wood posts into the ground is a common practice in some places.  We always dug post holes and set/packed them in.  I imagine attempting to drive a wooden post into the ground up here in the hills would reduce the thing to splinters.

   Wood posts have the advantages of accepting nails and staples for fence attachment and being relatively safe for livestock.  On the down side, they are subject to rot and breakage.




   T-posts are made of steel to be driven into even very hard ground with a purpose-specific form of hammer.  (A heavy steel tube, closed and weighted at one end, with handles welded onto the sides.  This is slipped over the top of the post and repeatedly slammed-down.)




   T-posts are generally much faster and easier to put-up.  Unless you're dealing with a salt water environment, they'll long outlast wood posts.  Even when hit with a truck, they will usually just bend over rather than break.  (They can be unbent.)  Barbed and field wire are attached with simple wire clips.  Various types of snap-on hot fence insulators for t-posts are widely available.

   Because of their somewhat jagged, absolutely unforgiving tops, t-posts do pose a hazard to animals who might try to jump or climb over them.  Horses are particularly prone to severe cuts and even lethal impalement due to their thin hides, height, and inclination to jump obstacles.  T-post caps should always be used in horse fences.  Post-top insulators do double-duty, making the posts safer and providing an attachment point of hot fencing.




   Brace posts are used where great strength and rigidity are required.  The corners of high-tension wire fences.  At gates.  At intervals or at bends in long stretched of wire fences.  An extremely strong post, like a utility pole, railroad tie, large bore steel pipe, or reinforced concrete culvert can simple be sunk deep and set in concrete to do the job.  A more traditional approach is to sink strong, wood posts about 8' apart, with another post placed horizontally between them near the top, and a diagonal cable twist-tightened to lock them together.

   Where heavy wooden posts are employed, the tops can be cut off at a shallow angle and/or coated with tar, paint, aluminum flashing to reduce water soaking into the end grain of the wood and speeding rot.




   Before building our doomstead, we had the opportunity to try electrified poly tape fencing (a new product at the time) on the old farm, and decided it was the fastest and most economical approach for our needs here.

   We selected half-inch, white tape with stainless threads.  Half inch is wide enough for good visibility, but narrow enough to fit through insulators designed for wire.  The ones designed specifically for tape had proven too flimsy.  The narrow tape is also less subject to fluttering in the wind.  We make splices with aluminum wire wrapped and pliers-crushed flat to try and contact all the metal threads in the tape.  Aluminum is easier to work with, and doesn't rust-burn the tape like steel wire eventually does.

   The light weight of the tape allowed us to set t-posts at 20' intervals.  Domed insulator caps on the top of each, with a regular insulator snapped-on about a foot above the ground.  Since the tape needs only hand-pulled tension, no brace posts were required.  Four strands of tape were run.  One at the top, one at the bottom, and two diagonally, forming an X between each pair of posts.  This arrangement allowed four strands to be run with only two insulators per post, and the crossing created more intersections of tape, helping to keep the voltage distributed to all strands.

   Because the thin, stainless threads seemed to be poor long-distance conductors, we added an aluminum carrier wire along with the bottom strand.  Every 100' - 150', we added a vertical 'jump wire' which connects the carrier wire to all tape strands.

   Spring-loaded, insulated handles make it possible to open gates on live, hot fences without getting shocked.  It's best to install the gates so that the juice comes in from the wire loop the gate handle hooks into, so the gate goes dead the moment it's opened.  That way you don't have to worry about getting accidentally zapped, and you can toss the handle down onto the ground without shorting-out the fence.

   Folding the end of the gate tape and splicing it back to itself creates a loop that can slipped onto to an insulator (not otherwise attached to the hot fence) for an easily removable gate, handy for allowing animals to move freely between paddocks.




   To keep voltage going across the gate opening regardless of whether the gate is closed (which may be necessary to keep sections of the fence alive), an underground connector cable can be buried.  This needs to be very high voltage insulated wire, not household extension cord wire, which is only insulated against a couple hundred volts.  Fortunately, the proper stuff is fairly cheap and available from livestock product suppliers.   Be sure to bury it deep, as livestock going through the gate will wear a path.




   When we started this doomstead, we had only mature, sane horses who had already become accustomed to hot fences.  So the four-strand X pattern was sufficient.  Foals and calves are more likely to try to slip through the spaces between the strands, so we later reinforced with additional horizontal strands.




   Adapting for an ornery bull was not quite so easy.  We pulled the tape fence down from one paddock, then added new t-posts between the existing ones, giving us 10' spacing.  Since this was only a one acre enclosure, with relatively short corner-to-corner runs, we made brace posts by driving extra t-posts in a few feet down the line from the corner posts, then bending the new posts to be affixed to the corner post as diagonal supports.  (We did this with lots of heavy wire.  But it turns out that there are couplers made for exactly this sort of thing.)



   We pulled heavy gauge field fencing to replace the tape, kept the insulator caps and ran an electric wire to discourage reaching over the fence.  Extended insulators a foot or so above ground level are used to suspend electrified barbed wire several inches inside the fence line to keep the bull from rooting under the field wire.

   Bulls are more trouble than they're worth, but that's a story for another chapter!





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