Son of a Ditch

No sooner than the 600 ft long trench to the well is filled in we now find ourselves with an 845 ft ditch to bring power to the barn and building site.


Off grid is not cheap or green

This follows long discussions about our power consumption and pure speculation on what it might be at peak usage when the farm is fully operational.

We could easily rationalize 9,000 to 10,000 dollars in solar panels and micro-hydro but the batteries are another thing altogether.

More expensive than the rest of the system, huge and space consuming, heavy, and another thing to maintain, these guys just aren’t reasonable for the flexibility we want. Worse they are a 10-15 year consumable if you are constantly vigilant on use and maintenance schedules.

“The lead battery industry consumes more than 80% of global lead production and is responsible for exposing thousands of workers and millions of children to harmful levels of lead. It is also the fastest growing lead-consuming industry due to a convergence of rapidly increasing demand for vehicles, cell phones, back-up power supplies, and renewable energy systems.” – The Life Cycle of Metals: Improving Health, Environment and Human Security

Even the best system requires a standby generator – another single purpose purchase and maintenance requirement.

For less anxiety and to remove another (car-sized) bill from our future we plan on being grid-tied for now. We will be providing local power for our neighbors, and the power company will pay us for the privilege.

A Ditch By Any Other Name

A long open hole, a terrible mess, the cost of progress looks like destruction to me. I will be glad when all this digging is done and what we do with the land grows things besides piles of torn earth.


that is the pull tape provided by the power company

This ditch would have taken me two or three weekends to dig, and one tricky part might have been impossible. We paid our dear friends S and J to tackle this, and he was done in a day and a half. There was also a “while you are at it request” a few trees left on the building site hadn’t fared well. Roots and all he pushed them over. I’ll save limbing and bucking logs for another day.

The conduit was laid in 10 foot pieces – dropping the pull line through as I went. I started early to get some done before the heat fired up. It was 99 degrees Fahrenheit when I finished.


enough conduit to get to the transformer


The job was finished by 4:00, I could have moved faster but the line in the conduit added steps and I wanted to get this done right. After a quick solar shower and locking everything up I hopped on my motorcycle and headed out.

“Son of a Ditch!”, I muttered.

… But I pronounced it differently.

As I was unlocking the gate I noticed the spool of pull tape provided by the power company was completely empty. The line I had been carefully threading through conduit hadn’t been long enough.

Like every other project here this one is not going smoothly. I stewed on this and tried to come up with solutions on the long ride home. Currently I am considering a ping pong ball on heavy fishing line with a shop vac on one end of the conduit.

About M. Agriculteur

Designer, motorcycle junkie, traveler, wanna-be iron butter (more butt than iron), builder, foodie, farmer wanna-be.
This entry was posted in Construction, Sustainability. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Son of a Ditch

  1. Masha Zager says:

    Machines exist for pulling, pushing and “blowing” fiber optic cable through conduits. Whether they’d work for tape is another question … and getting hold of one for a small job may not be possible. But looking at how they work might help you figure out the best approach for doing it by hand.

  2. ARGH… What did one fish say to the other fish when he swam headlong into a concrete wall?
    Dam(n). Sorry, I couldn’t resist!

  3. DM says:

    loved the update! Can’t think of anything punny that would “tie in” to this conversation.

  4. Bill says:

    I sometimes regret that we didn’t install solar power here. It was on my list of things to do, but hadn’t been reached by the time I quit my job and could no longer afford it. I had done the analysis and concluded, as you did, that it didn’t make any sense to be off-grid (even though here the power company doesn’t have to pay the homeowner when the meter spins backwards).

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