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Homestead Texas Pasture

With all the recent rains, there has been some wash out of the driveway at the point (almost exactly) where we said, "some day we'll have to put a catch basin in there to prevent wash out".
This was the low point that collected all the runoff from the pastures both high and low, and where it continued across to Sometime Creek during a heavy rain event.
When we built up the driveway, we formed a dam - and water always finds a way!
This was an All Hands event (well, Travis, Wyatt and me).
We used our new BCS tractor with rotary plow in the center position to dig a trench, then we expanded and deepened that with pickaxe and shovel.
We installed the catch basin (black thing) and laid down PVC pipe to a pop-up drain (green thing).
The cap will pop up when water is flowing, but remain down when no water flows to keep critters from setting up shop inside the pipe.
Then we filled in the ditch and Travis drove his truck over it a few times to compress the dirt.
Then we brought The General over with box blade and dragged some of the gravel onto the dirt.
Now, water will run off of the pastures, into the catch basin, under the driveway, out the pop up drain and off to Sometime Creek.
Ta da!
We've been having a little problem with our driveway at the farm when it rains.
Today's mission was to address that problem.
We had two bad spots and the one up at the highway end was the worst. With an inch of rain it became soggy and soft.
We have finally done something about it.
We had some oversized rock delivered that will eventually bed down into the driveway and lock together to form an all-weather passage.
That's our hope, anyway.
After a morning of work with The General, box blade and shovel.
We also had a load of road base that we spread on top of the rock to cement it all together. It didn't go quite as far as we'd hoped, and we'll compare performance during the spring rains.
The other bad spot was at the other end of the driveway, down by the cabin. Here, we had rain washing the light material from the gravel we had spread, and depositing a silt-like layer on top of the area we had not built up with gravel.
That formed a slick muddy top layer that was a challenge to drive through when wet.
Another load of road base was spread as far as it would go, and we'll see how that works.
Noon, Mission Accomplished!

For a long time we've had the driveway secured at the road with a chain.
It wasn't the most elegant solution to our security needs, but it worked.
Now we have a more permanent solution, and one that we can build on in the future.
Travis and I built the H-brace and hung a gate.
We set it back from the highway so that his truck and the 5th wheel can fit on the driveway while he gets out to open the gate. Someday that setback will come in handy when we're towing stock trailers to the market!
With only four holes to dig, we did it the old-fashioned way and saved some $$ to spend elsewhere.
And here's a short video tour (pardon the road noise at the beginning)
Not much has been going on in the pasture. We're letting it "go wild" so the bees have plenty of wild flowers from which to draw nectar and pollen.
Recently, however, we reached the point where putting power in seems to be a distinct possibility.
In order for that to happen (in part), we needed to have 30-foot wide swaths of the intended power line route cleared.
Travis took The General and shredder, chainsaw and shovel, and made that happen in a most workmanlike manner..
Continued work on clearing the electric easement today - that and finished digging the hole for the meter loop pole.
Got the pole up, made good progress on the clearing.
We're into some real dense brush down there in the corner of the property, and it's taking more than the shredder to do the job. I'm shredding as much as I can but there are hundreds (it seems) of "small" trees growing in that area that have 3"-4" trunks - too big for the shredder to chop, but just right for our new cordless electric chainsaw.
All the power I need without all the noise I don't.
Back at it tomorrow and we'll see how far I get.
What do you do when you have to raise a 16-foot pole into a hole and you're alone?
Why, you use your trusty truck, of course!
Set one end of the pole against the side of the hole and the other end on the tailgate, then just back up until the angle has increased to the point where you can jump into the bed and wrestle the pole vertical, and *thump*, it falls into the hole.
Then you backfill, tamp, check vertical, backfill, tamp, check vertical, backfill, pat, pat, pat and one last check for vertical, and you're done!
Yippee! Ready to build the equipment rack (which will require two more 4-foot holes be dug - blech).
Just another day on the farm...
About wrapped up the easement clearing.

I think I'll go back and snick off that one small stand of trees. They looked further than 15 feet from the centerline when I quit, but the wind was blowing so hard I didn't run a string to FIND the centerline.
I'm pretty sure the tree on the far end will escape cutting. Again, need a firm measurement of 15 feet from centerline.

4th of July four-day weekend!
Whoo hoo!
Saturday on the farm:
The ATV saved me today!
The work site at the meter pole is 320 feet from the cabin (640 feet round trip) and 434 feet from the shop (868 feet round trip), and I typically don't collect all the tools I need at one time.
The ATV saved me a lot of steps in the heat, plus carried more than I could.
The truck was still hitched up to the trailer and I hadn't yet unloaded the trencher.

I was unable to locate the long wood blades for the cordless sawzall when I needed to inlet the pole for the top brace to fit flush, so I used another precision tool in our toolbox - electric chainsaw!
In woodworking (as well as in other crafts) there is this notion of a "dry fit", where you make sure all your parts fit together right before you apply the glue.
I applied that principle to fitting the rack that will hold the meter base (pictures of that tomorrow). The poles are full length here - I just needed to get everything plumb and level to find out where to dig the holes.

Once the holes were dug to the Bartlett Electric Coop's specifications, I could measure the proper pole length and cut them down, then put the whole thing back together.
Re-square, re-plumb, re-level... and tighten all the bolts - and then re-check everything, and start mixing concrete.
Once the holes were filled and tamped, I re-checked everything again - gave it a kick here or a rap there, until happy.
Let set while I fired up The General and cleaned up the driveway some.

Tomorrow we hang the meter base and raise the weather head. All we'll need then is a little wire in the thing, and we can call Brad at BEC and tell him we're ready for power!
Now, where's that Ibuprofen...
Sunday on the farm:
Kit and I hung the meter base - will take the front panels out tomorrow to close it up.
My pole seems to have a kink in it...
Trenched back to the meadow.
The intent there was to pull out the water pipe and use some of the existing trench - but that wasn't happening. The graboid roots have solidified the pipe in place.
So, trenched parallel, using the trenched dirt to go ahead and finish filling the pipe trench. Rob Peter to pay Paul.
Then headed around to corner towards the bardominium build site.
And there, at 2/3 done, I gave out.
We'll get the trencher for another day and finish up tomorrow.
Kit has found the wild grapes are ripe and ready for picking - she filled her bucket and we'll be cleaning grapes tonight.
I didn't try one, but I understand from the neighbor that while they aren't great snacking grapes, they make great grape jam.
We'll see!

Monday on the farm.
Trenching done!
Yes indeedy, I finished the trenching for power conduit.
Did not even take all that long - must be perspective...
And back to where a temporary pole will be set to provide power for construction of the barndominium.
Before I put it on the trailer, I took it around back of the cabin to trench a drain ditch for gray water from the cabin kitchen and shower drains.

Happy Independence Day!
Tuesday on the farm.
Meter loop pole is complete!
The ball is now in the court of the Bartlett Electric Coop.

Pulling wire.
The wire arrived last week from a wholesaler Illinois. I was able to save mucho dinero ordering from them, the lack of tax covered the shipping!
So we layed down conduit to run from the meter pole to a temporary pole...
and then from the temporary pole to the cabin.
We needed to mount the wire spools in such a way that we could pull 4 wires at once into the conduit (2 hots, a neutral and a grounding wire)
We used our mulch cart by laying steel post across the side and mounting the spools on them.
We ran our pull rope through the conduit by sucking a mouse (AKA plastic bag) through first (attached to a leader line).
We did this using the shop vac.
See the video here:

And then we began feeding wire. Two feeding, one pulling, and we managed half the run before giving out in the heat.
I went back out this morning but didn't get a lot done.
I changed out the #6 AWG ground wire for #4 AWG which is what I should have installed in the first place.
But I also got the temporary pole in place at the barndo end of the conduit run.
Needs bracing but otherwise good to go.

Wire Pulled!
(well, mostly)
The best $75 we ever spent!
I got this little winch at Harbor Freight last weekend, after we struggled with the wire pull last weekend.
This little guy has its downsides, but for us and for this job, it was perfect!
12 volt operation, has an adapter to attach it to the trailer hitch, and has sufficient pull to bring the wire through.
I put a trucker's hitch in the rope to pull on, and after every 25 feet I pulled the cable back out, tied another knot, hooked it up and pulled another 25 feet of wire.
The green is some shade cloth from the garden, draped over the wire in case something snapped so the winch operator (me) wouldn't get a metal hook in the face.
You can't imagine how we waited for THIS moment! When the wire "crowned", we celebrated.
And then we pulled it a tad further than it needed to be and cut the other end. Done!
(except for some additional conduit slipped over it and glued, the connection with the other wire)
Next step was to repeat the process on the temporary pole to cabin run. Get a line through, pull wire.
This is where we'll have an underground junction box, where three wire sets meet and connect:
1. Coming from the main disconnect at the meter
2. Going to the cabin
3. Eventually, going to the farm house bandominium

Wire To Cabin!
(well, mostly)
The conduit is to the cabin, just need a pair of 90 degree elbows to bring it up to ground level, then head under the cabin through another 20 foot section of conduit, to a junction box to transition inside.
We left a little uncovered as we had just glued the last piece of conduit in place.
Everything else we back filled though. The last time we saw a picture like this was when we back filled the water pipe.

This weekend was all about the wiring.

I changed our 2" mast to 3" to meet NEC code for 400 amp service.
I was actually researching something else, and this requirement hit me like a brick.
Not a lot of work, just took time away from other things.
One of the "other things" was installing the conduit riser from the below-ground 90 degree elbow to the box. There's a fine line between installing all the conduit and pulling the wire through everything, and piecing the length together. I chose to piece this part and it caused some downstream problems - namely, you can't bend 4/0 wire too tight.
The only solution, at this point, was to lift the entire box, insert the wires, and then drop the box back onto the riser.
Out came some straps, the come-along and an improvised mount point at the top of the pole.
And some time later, the job was done.
The next step was connecting all that wire we had pulled around the corner.
Another view showing the conduit riser secured and clamped in place.
And the final shot before placing all the panels back on.
NEC-compliant mast, properly run wire which is properly terminated and all connections torqued to specifications.
If we had inspectors, we'd be ready for a visit. Out in the sticks as we are, we aren't subject to wiring or construction inspections.
That doesn't prevent us from doing our work in such a fashion as to pass an inspection though!
Finished wiring to cabin

Got the conduit from the meter mated up with conduit under the cabin.
Conduit running under the cabin to the load center on the other side.
Once strapped down, I back filled the trench. I am always amazed at how we can dig a ditch, lay some volume of material in it (irrigation line or conduit) and then not have enough dirt on the surface to fill it back in.
At the junction box to transition into the cabin. This box also serves to house splices where the larger wire necessary to carry power over long distances transitions down to a size that will fit the circuit breakers in the load center.
All closed up and water tight. Supposedly.
Main wires reduced to 1/0 to fit the 100 amp breakers.
Load center complete!
Laid conduit to the Allen build site and installed junction box.
From our main disconnect we have wire going in two directions:
1. To the Allen's build site in the meadow.
2. To the Thompson build site and to the cabin

So now the main panel has two conduit paths.

Splitting the power between Bando and cabin is done at this junction box. The main power comes from around the corner and into this box, where the main wires are terminated in special connectors.
These connectors are sized to fit the HUGE 4/0 wire we have coming from the main box.
Each connector has three ports - one for the main feed, one for the cabin feed wire and the third, eventually, to the bando.

The junction box will be accessible, but still buried for protection.
A milestone on the farm!
Last week they installed our power poles and connect us to the wires.
The wires are not hot yet - we're hoping for this next week - but it sure changes the view on the drive in.

Back To Homestead Texas Home
Ground Breaking
Clearing For The Cabin
Labor Day
Labor Day II
The Tractor
The Tractor Barn
The Cabin
The Truck Patch
The Bee Yard
The Hay Field
The Tractor Barn
The Barndo

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