The Fence – Part 7 of 8

Electric Boogaloo

The idea of working with electricity made both Nate and I pretty nervous so we watched and re-watched the videos from ElectroBraid about how to hook up the fence and I did a lot of internet searching. The two things everyone agreed on were that the energizer or fencer needs to be protected from the elements but not too far away from your fence, and a good grounding system is critical to the operation of your fence. Those were the only things they agreed on. Here is a brief summary of some of the other advice:

You need to use copper ground rods – no, you need to use galvanized steel ground rods.

You need one ground rod – no, you need two – no, you need at least three.

You can’t put your grounding system within 50 feet of any underground water, electrical lines, telephone lines, buildings, or other grounding systems – no, it has to be 30 feet away from all those things – no, it has to be 75 feet away from all those things – no, it’s just electrical grounding systems and telephone lines you have to worry about – no, it’s just water – no, it’s just water running to your house – no, it’s just buildings with foundations – oh, and the ground rods should be in a low wet shady spot. Also your ground rods shouldn’t be more than 50 feet from the energizer.


Bluebird Fencing had already supplied us with three grounding rods and hookup wire so that part was decided for us. What we had to do was figure out where to put the ground rods.

We don’t have a barn (yet) so our only power source is the house and we did not design the house with the thought of having to run power to a fence. Our well is located on the north side of the house; the septic system, drain tile around the foundation, and propane come in/out on the west side of the house; the buried electrical lines come in from the south, wrap around the east side of the house and actually connect on the north side (that way the big ugly electrical box wasn’t on the front of our house). That means there is no place anywhere close to our house where we could put this grounding system. After a great deal of thought, and consultation with several people, we decided to put the three ground rods behind the first “barn” shelter – which is currently hay and wood storage. There is a little triangle of space there that isn’t fenced in and is shaded by the shelter for half the day and out of the way of any foot traffic.

The problem is this spot is 95 feet from the house. I did another round of thinking and looking and there really isn’t any other place we can put this grounding system so that means running hookup wire 95 feet in addition to the 10 feet between the ground rods themselves. That is one hundred and fifteen feet of wire to run, all of which needs to be buried, that means one hundred and fifteen feet of trench digging – fun!

We looked into renting a trencher, but you need a trailer to get it and we have no vehicle capable of hauling a trailer. I did briefly look into getting a hitch for my car, but after finding one and talking to our mechanic we decided not to. At that point I decided I had wasted enough time and had I just started digging that the trench it would have been done by now – so time to get digging!

It sucked! I would not recommend digging 115 feet of trench by hand if you can help it, but it’s not a complicated job so I couldn’t make mistakes and I didn’t hurt myself so that’s a thing.

While taking digging breaks I was also trying to find “polyethylene tubing” which is what our fencing directions said to use to run the hookup wire through when burying it underground, but no one could really tell me what that was. In the end we got irrigation tubing that would be wide enough to fit four lines of hookup wire, which is what we would need to go under the gates; the idea being that the extra width would make it easier to run the two lines (hot and ground) from the garage where the energizer would be to the fence and the ground rods behind the “barn” shelter. We were a little concerned about being able to get 95 feet of hookup wire through a small tube. It was suggested that we first run a string through the tube then tie the string to the hookup wire to help pull it through. The original suggestion was to use a shop-vac to pull the string through but I didn’t think that would manage over 95 feet so I tied a nut to the string and hoped gravity would help. It didn’t. I did eventually get the nut and string through, but it was a ridiculous endeavor. I would feed string through the end of the tube by the house and then shake the tube and slowly work my way down shaking it until I heard the nut rattle. Then I would use a magnet to try to pull the nut along a bit, but it would invariably get stuck, and I’d have to go back up to the top and feed more string in and shake it down. Part of the problem was that the tubing had spent its life up to that point coiled tightly and having to lay flat was not something it was interested in doing, so though gravity was helping us go down the hill it was hurting us on those coils. I did eventually get the nut and string all the way through, but it took the whole afternoon. Then I decided to bury the tube in my trench before getting the hookup wire through it. Was this a good idea? I don’t know. I was concerned about guessing the amount of tubing I actually needed since I could not get it to lay even remotely straight, and I didn’t want to cut through the tubing after the wires were in it. Even now, after having finished everything, I’m still not sure if burying the tube before getting the wires through was a good idea or not.

At this point we have the string through the tube and we have the tube buried in the ground. The next day I tied the string to the ground and hot hookup wires and started feeding them through. I would get so far and then they would stop going in and I would have to go down to the other end (95 feet away) pull on the string some, then the string would get stuck and I’d have to go back up to the top and push the wires in some more; back and forth, push and pull, back and forth. Then the string broke. **** (I will let you guess which expletive I said.)

From the amount of string I had pulled out I guessed I had made it a little less than half way. Try again. I pulled out the wires and untied them from the string and decided to use the shop-vac as recommended since the tube was buried and there was no other way I was getting a string through it. It worked, sort of. The shop-vac doesn’t fit snuggly on the tube so I had to hold my hands around it to create enough of a seal for the suction to work and if the string hit even the smallest snag it wouldn’t pull into the tube. That meant I would be on one end with my hands cupped around the tube and the shop-vac for a little while but then I’d have to turn it off, go back up to the top and make sure the string hadn’t caught on anything, like a blade of grass; seriously the smallest snag would stop all progress. Back and forth, shop-vac, then feed the string, back and forth. The shop-vac did eventually pull the string all the way through, and it was much faster than my first attempt with the nut and gravity. This time instead of tying the thin string to the hookup wire I tied the string to a stronger piece of rope and tied that rope to the hookup wire. I was also smarter and staggered the ground wire first and then the hot wire farther down so that the size ramped up gradually: string, rope, one hookup wire, two hookup wires. Then it was back to feeding the wire in on one end, then going down pulling on the rope on the other end, back and forth, push and pull.

Then the rope broke. **** **** (Again, I shall leave my reaction to your imagination.)

Time for a trip to LeVahn Brothers.