Power Pole Problem

A few days ago I heard a crack and the power went off.  I went outside and the inverter had tripped out.  Then a guest from Blackbean Cottage came to tell me the power had gone and a brief investigation showed transmission wires from the Homestead were lying on the ground.  The most important pole where the power from the hydro comes to the house, which then goes through a great deal of massaging before being re-transmitted again to the cottages has 8 wires connected upon it.  Spaghetti junction was now lying on the ground in a tangle of wires.  “Don’t touch anything”, I advised the guest who had come with me.  He was probably way ahead of me there.  I went back to the house to pull plugs and isolate the transmission.  Then headed down to the hydro to shut it off.  I touched the generator very briefly but it still burnt my hand and muttered “not good”.  In my haste, I wasn’t as diligent as usual in turning down the spear valve slowly to ensure that I didn’t stop the flow abruptly.  If you stop the flow in a pipe abruptly, it results in a water-hammer effect and a very large pressure spike.  That is how my ram pump for pumping water works, but it is designed to withstand that force and the hydro is not.  So water exploded everywhere as holes were blown in the last section of pipe and I got instantly drenched.  Corrosion had weakened the aluminium pipe and a decade ago I had patched it with a stainless steel sleeve, but now water was blowing everywhere.  Staring at my blunder, I rationalised ‘not my immediate problem’, and anyway the water loss is not too much for it not to work’.  Generator burn out more likely.  

Abandoning that set of problems, I got back to my guests without power.  It was getting dark and I couldn’t do much except to resort back to 15th century technology and provide my guests with a box of candles.  The other problem was the fridges, which would gradually get warmer, but the short term stay of my guests would probably not make much difference to the food viability.  

Next morning at first light, for those of you who have never seen it, in mid summer that is about 5.45 am, I was assessing the damage.  First thing required was a pole.  The collapsed pole had lasted 36 years but was totally shattered.  I have perhaps a million trees on my property, but only a rare few species are resistant to rot when dead.  I had to go to gum country for a new pole.  Fortunately, my daughter and partner have a 250 acre property on the edge of the rainforest/gum tree zone.  Unfortunately access to their 70 acres of gum trees is quite difficult, so I resorted to stealing a small young turpentine from the adjoining state forest.  I chopped the tree, trimmed the pole and then there was only the minor problem of loading a 7 m long 100 kg pole onto my duel cab.  I must confess that I can no longer lift 100 kg, so it had to be one end at a time.  Having done this before I have a short bit of scaffold pipe to bolt on underneath to the front chassis (the shell is just plastic), and a plank across the back tray and I lash it on to the side. 

I was quite prepared to pay the tiny fee for the log, but finding a ranger and doing the paperwork would have taken days.  As it was I had the pole within 2 hours.  Where I had to plant the pole near the creek was about the only place on the property where I would find rocks.  I could only get down 600 mm.  I normally go down 900 mm, but a big rock stopped me.  Could have been bedrock because I couldn’t blast through it with a big bar.  Then I press-ganged some guests for a few minutes of labour to erect the pole.  I had them over a barrel as to get some power to the cottages, I had to get that pole up.  They did get a free stay as I have a policy if there is a major loss of services like power of water, the stay is free.

The next morning I was up and down the ladder to the top of the pole to heave up and tension each of eight wires, and then fix them.  Plus two stay wires to keep the pole upright.  I could then restore power to the cottages.  The next problem was to get the hydro going.  Rather to my surprise, the generator cranked up and produced power.  Not as much power as expected, so I think a partial burn-out.  

I was going to post here a picture of my new 7 m pole with bark still hanging and sap still glistening, but the pic would be boring and badly lit with bright sky behind, so I offer you a much more appealing pic of my grandkids playing on my tractor.  Two live nearby, and two have flown over from Darwin. 

They did bring with them a parent to handle logistic problems.  Let me introduce Evie and Henry at the back with 

grandkids on tractor

the eldest Huon in the driving seat and the cherub Philip in the middle.  Not so angelic really, as he has his own style of mischief to add to the mayhem.  After some hectic days of kids demanding attention/food etc. I can now relax back into my bachelor squalor and indolence.  

A salute to my daughters and partners, and all the parents out there doing the hard yards with love and patience.




And another random pic taken a few days ago outside the carport of a spider with amazing colour patterns.  My apologies to arachnophobes, but I think it quite beautiful.  I wonder why so many spiders have amazing livery.  Perhaps because there are so many species that they require an elaborate bar code to find the appropriate mate.

beautiful spider


  1. Brendan Williams says:

    Very interesting reading Paul. I have never forgot my visit, and have told many of your home made hydro/ solar power station. I remember you telling me about the one in Wales. I was watching something on youtube yesterday and they were talking about the loss of insects across the world ( with reference to your other post)
    Kind Regards
    Brendan Williams

  2. Ingrid says:

    Howdi Paul,

    Worn out just reading about the pole challenge!! Lovely photos.


  3. Robert Sauve says:

    It is always interesting to hear your remarkable stories of damage control, troubleshooting and maintenance.
    Do you think that you will have to replace the generator?
    Hopefully not as from previous stories this was already replaced last year or was it two years ago?
    Time flies.

    We have similar looking spider camped out near our front door.
    I send you a picture.

    • The generator is producing power but at about half what is expected from the nozzle size. It is still enough power. I already have an old 3.5 KVA generator sitting in my workshop and will swap it if the Chinese one dies or proves inadequate.

  4. Martin L Belson says:

    Nice post Paul… I always appreciate your resilience. Thanks so much for hosting us last week.

  5. Carla Hourn says:

    Thanks for the update Paul. Top job – you are amazing!

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