Jonathan & Denise: It was a month ago – at the beginning of December, that the news came that an outbreak of Avian Flu [Bird Flu] – which had already caused a great deal of loss in continental Europe – had reached our shores. The order soon came that all poultry was to be kept indoors or by other means entirely segregated from wild birds. The order applied in every part of Great Britain [that’s Scotland, England and Wales] and for 30 days. Unfortunately, during that time, there’s been wild birds found dead across the UK in which Avian Flue has been found, and sporadic outbreaks amongst poultry flocks. These flocks have been destroyed by the authorities, and biosecurity zones set up around the site of the outbreak. Compliance amongst back-garden keepers, small-holders [homesteaders in the US?] and – as we’ve seen with our own eyes – Hebridean crofters, has been far from complete. So it was no great surprise that, a few days ago, just before the 30-day lock-down was due to end, the authorities extended it until the end of February – another two months.
Jonathan: It’s been a cold dreich day, so we’ve kept ourselves busy and warm with a cable tug of war! Well, not quite a war, though the pulling to and fro between us did generate a few choice words! When we built Carrick back in 2008-2009, we’d planned to erect a 6kW wind turbine on the croft land and connected to the electrics in the house. For various reasons that turbine never happened, but we put in a duct from the service core at the middle of the house, under the roadway that goes past the house into Home Park field, and then towards the site of the wind turbine. We put the duct in for Justin. Justin Case. ;~)
Well, it’s almost eight years later and it still looks unlikely a turbine will ever be put up, so we’ve decided to use the duct to run a cable down to the hen house, by the shore, and potentially onwards to another building that we’re thinking of putting up. That’s a 100m run of cable just to the hen house, and 40m of that in the duct.
Unfortunately, due to lack of experience in these matters at that time, the duct we installed is just 50mm inside diameter, and not double-skinned, so it’s corrugated inside as well as out. It also has two or three tight bends – and is nearly 40m long! The cable requiree has an outside diameter of 16mm (more like 24mm at the leading end, where the draw-wire is attached) and stiff: Just thinking about the difficulty of pulling it through has been enough to bring me out in a sweat!
A few days ago we opened up at each end – making a hole in the plasterboard in the utility room, and digging up the end of the duct in the field. We attached a light steel wire (on a 400m reel) to one end of the draw cord supplied with the duct (a rather flimsy thing, though surprisingly strong) and pulled the wire right through. Now we had something substantial to pull back with.
Yesterday I set up the reel of electric cable (as above photos) by the field end of the duct, and firmly connected its armour wires to the new pull-wire. Today, Denise and I set about puling back the cable (together with a replacement pull-rope, just in case we ever need another cable – and are able to pull it through!).
Denise was indoors, pulling, and I was outside – kneeling in the mud and rain! – pulling. Or rather we took it in turns to pull, as the cable end kept snagging on the corrugations (and, no doubt, those inadvisably tight bends) and it needed constant to-ing and fro-ing to keep the cable moving on. A foot or so forward, half that back, then forward again – but perhaps by not as much. After half an hour or so, we we’d got may be 30m or so along the duct, but as the resistance increased I was having to push the cable as much as Denise was pulling it. Another quarter of an hour of pull-push persuasion. Then, suddenly, a call from Denise on the walkie-talkie: It’s through! Another metre or so and then there was enough to make the connection in the house.
I disassembled the make-shift reel stand and rolled the cable down the hill to the hen house – 60m or so. I’ll need to be careful on the exact route I bury it (I have to weave my way between exposed and shallow rock) but – thank heavens – it looks like the 100m reel will be enough.
I’ve a lot of other jobs to work on right now – so many of them are ‘urgent’, so it may be a while, but before long the croft hen house is going to be a lot better with lights, power for cleaning equipment and power tools (instead of daisy-chained extension leads from the croft store, or the generator), and maybe BBC Radio na Gael for those rainy-windy days when the hens don’t much fancy going outside at all …