Picking up the Pieces

After the flooding and my adventures in childminding, I got to survey the damage to the hydro system and the ram pump.  First glance, it’s still there, and so is the lightweight roof suspended on cables spanning the creek.  This tells me it isn’t a maximum height flood, but it was the longest and the generator must have spent about 2 days underwater.  I had it chained to the frame.  Amazingly enough, a light aluminium cowl to keep drifting rain and spray off was still there, though flattened over the top of the generator.  I had considered that a sacrificial item.  I just shoved that back into place.  No water coming out of the nozzle, but that is to be expected as the bottom section of the pipe and nozzle usually jammed with debris.  So I go up to the weir at the top to put a plug in the pipe and drain the pipe so I can disconnect and remove the debris.  No need.  The pipe wasn’t there.  The top 2 lengths (18m) had been ripped away and mashed up and crushed and I could see some jammed under a fallen tree down the waterfall.  Have to be replaced, as you can’t straighten or repair.  Oh well…  Back down to the bottom to clear the debris out of the pipe.  Can’t move the pipe as the blockage is a perfect seal and it hasn’t drained so heavy with water.  I have to remove a 1 inch plug under high pressure, and I know I am going to get an instant shower like from a fire hose, but I try to have my hand over the plug as I know it could be blasted into orbit when the last thread disengages.  Bugger!  I got the instant and thorough shower I expected, but the plug was blown out of my hand.  I was lucky.  As the water drained away to a trickle, I could see the plug underwater near the pipe.  I didn’t bother moving as the water hosed over me.  I had been saturated in the first second.

OK, now to see the damage if any to the ram pump.  Didn’t seem to be any.  Whoopie! My efforts of star picketing the top section in place, suspending the middle section by cable between trees, rock bolting the lower section, and fastening the pump by a couple of pitons 300mm by 12mm hammered into rock and fixed with stainless steel cable had managed to keep it in place.  Oh!  In place yes, connected no.  Fail.  Hard to see as the creek still flooding, but the top section was not in line with the rest.  The top length of 75mm steel pipe had got ripped off at the threaded joint as it was weakened by rust.  Double bugger!  I needed new steel pipes as well.  

I could see my way to the end of repairs with some labour involved, but first I had to get replacement pipes, so onto the phone.  Steel suppliers have have 2 1/2 inch pipe (as 75mm diameter pipe is known, the maths doesn’t work), but they don’t supply it with threaded ends.  An engineering shop has to do that.  OK, I find and engineering shop that will pick up and thread a pipe.  Great.  That will happen when it happens.  Only took a couple of days.   The guy brought the 6.5m pipe out on his forklift and looked round and asked where my vehicle was.  “I’m standing next to it”.  He was looking for a truck, not a 5m duel cab with no front and back carriers.  I had bodged up some wooden sticks for the purposed and started to bolt and clamp into place.  See pic but with the 9.2m by 5 inch Al pipe on.  He made no comment about the legality of the arrangement.  I very rarely see cops out and about, but I thought I wouldn’t go through Atherton center, but sneak around by the High School.  Oh bugger! There were cop cars everywhere!  Came round a bend and there was a cop car at the junction with its lights going.  Too late to do a u-turn so I stopped just 10m in front of them at the T-junction waiting for the traffic.  Fortunately, they had better things to do, and after what seemed like a very long wait, I gingerly pulled away and down the road.  Turned out the batten relay for the Commonwealth Games was going through Atherton that morning and they were closing roads and diverting traffic.  The pipe was pretty easily installed.  Although the top section only needed one thread, I got both ends threaded and cut one off to store in the shed.  Pipe and clapper valve were stuffed with stones and the little weir for the poly pipe to the header tank had disappeared with only a couple of bent star pickets sticking up.  But they had kept the pipe in place and surprisingly, it had survived.  

Not entirely legal

Not entirely legal

Onto sourcing 5 inch aluminium agricultural sprayline pipe.  I can buy it new as a crate of 25 by 9.2m lengths, but no less.  The only way to buy a couple of lengths is second hand from farmers.  I get onto Dave at Malanda Rural supplies and he knows everybody and will get some and is onto a farm where they have heaps for sale.  But it is the avocado picking season and the farmer doesn’t even have time to point the way to his pile of pipes.  I understand.  When your annual income depends on a few weeks of the year, Gabriel sounding the last trump wouldn’t stop you using every hour of the dimmest daylight.  

But it wasn’t going to get me pipes in a hurry, so I put the hard word on Dave and he came good with a list of farmers he knew with a surplus of 5 inch pipes.  You can’t find this on the internet, in the yellow pages, in small ads, these farmers don’t advertise, you need local knowledge.  After much phoning around, I got a lead just 20 mins away.  I raced over and he was most helpful and had hundreds of lengths.  We grabbed one each and carried them back to the car.  They are impressive size but light.  Back at the duel cab he looked dubiously at it, but got the drift when I clamped and bolted the carriers back on.  I told him they were for a hydro and he said he uses a lot of diesel for pumping and deciding to go solar.  He took me to a shed where he had pallets and pallets stacked up and wrapped in plastic.  300 by 320W solar panels there.  Getting on for 100KW of power.  And a 75KW motor to replace the diesel.  And an inverter the size of a small car.  He said many farmers and industry were switching over to renewables.  This gritty horny-handed son of toil is not driven by any ideology, environmental or political, but has a clear view of the bottom line.  It is encouraging to see.  Though our dear leaders are in the thrall of the coal producers, all bought and paid for, coal consumers such as the electrical power companies are building solar farms, as are some communities and many industries are deserting coal.   I’m most encouraged because ideology will drive a few people, economics drives the rest.  

Installing the new pipe for the ram pump was straightforward, though the pipe is heavy.  The aluminium pipes for the hydro much lighter though more troublesome as I’m actually standing on a steep slope with slippy rocks in a waterfall.  Any loss of footing would result in a very rough ride.  I rig some trailing ropes in the torrent in the hope I can grab them and waterski.  Every movement has to be thought out, every support for the 9.2. pipes before linking has to be planned.  I am acutely aware that if I have an accident, there is no backup or help.  Slowly slowly.  

After some very wet days, after feeding a forest of leeches, things are back to normal, if anything at Possum Valley can be described as normal.  I cannot count how many times I climbed up and down the waterfall, but my aging body can.  In aches and pains, in scratches and blood, but it is somehow revitalising to know I can still do it.

I hope to greet new guests with a smile and confidence that has no trace of difficulty and inconvenience, to assure them of a trouble free stay.  




  1. Raewyn Belson says:

    Well done Paul you always find a way to keep Possum humming along. I can totally relate to “doing things without backup or help”. Back in Canada at my little, on the grid, estate there is lots to do after a winter away.
    The highlight was at Possum Valley with Martin. A time together to relax, immerse in nature and catch up with you. I can totally picture how the heavy rains would leave you stranded with the little Grandkids,nice job. Your daughter is lucky you are resourceful and can cope. Marco comes down out of the mountains of Whistler today to return soon to the beauty of the the tropics. Hope I get back to Black Bean one day. The small painting I scratched out while there,of the the pond and bridge reminds me . Cheers Paul, stay safe, Raewyn

  2. Gayle & George Hardy says:

    You are brilliant, and we are glad you are safe.
    The BOM site shows there may be more heavy rain on the way – so stay safe.
    We are looking forward to the next blog.

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