Round here we use telegraph poles as draining rods


It has to be said that if I ran a scrupulously tidy place this could never happened. It’s just that some years ago, the utility company was replacing the poles carrying the electric wires. Initially the three phase was carried across two fields by three poles, one in the hedge and two more, one in the middle of each field. To be honest it was a bit of a pain but you live with it because at least that way we get electricity.

Anyway the cunning plan, to bring things up to the new specifications, was to replace all three by a taller and heavier post in the central hedge. That was fine. Obviously to do it they’d have to cut the power. So all this was booked and we were told a few weeks ahead, on this day the electric will go off at 9am and come back on at 4pm. Admittedly it’s January, but you can work round things.

On the great day a gang arrived and started work, they were almost all Portuguese, who obviously didn’t mind working on diggers and suchlike in the pouring rain. I was talking to one and he commented he’d just spoken to his mother back in Portugal. She was stuck in their village because of the snow.

They did what preparation they could and took out the fuses. Then because they were sensible people, they checked the wire and discovered it was still live. So they went to the farm at the other end of the wire and asked, “Are you perchance generating electricity.”

Even as they said it, everybody’s eyes turned to the wind turbine on the hill next to them. Whilst they knew it was there (they could see it) because it wasn’t marked on their map, they assumed it wasn’t going to have an impact on the job. After all the electricity it generated didn’t have to join the grid at this farm. It struck me at the time that most precautions we have to take at work are to protect us from the consequences of bureaucrats not getting the paperwork right, sending people out with obsolete maps, forgetting to mention things etc.

So there was a hasty conference into which I and the other farmer were invited. The engineer running the show and his lads decided that they’d switch the electricity back on. If they pressed on, cutting power from the other end as well, it could take an extra three or four hours and the feeling was that was too long to leave people without electricity in January. So they just did everything they could without touching the wire.

Then they left. We then got a letter saying that they’d been back on a new date to do the job. When they arrived the engineer said they weren’t switching the electric off unless it was urgent. He now had in his team people qualified to handle live cables and they would do the cable work with the electricity still running. (I think he called it hot wiring or live wiring) This they did, briskly and efficiently.

And of course it meant that whilst they put one pole in, they took some out and one of them the left lying tidily against a fence that kept livestock out of a gutter.


Now back in the 1980s I’d decided that I had to do something with ‘that gutter.’ So with a ‘back actor’ on the tractor, I took the useable bits of several days (the time when I wasn’t milking, feeding round or whatever) and dug the gutter out. It was quite a serious piece of work. And in the gate way, I’d acquired a length of second hand rubber/plastic pipe that had an internal diameter of a couple of feet. So I dug the gutter across the gateway and then put in the length of pipe and covered it up again. To be fair, this worked really well for thirty years but the last two wet winters etc meant that the damned thing needed digging out again.

The tractor was broken for spares perhaps ten years ago and the back actor went scrap the last time we had a clean out.
But anyway I got hold of a young chap who has a handy tracked digger and his quote for digging it all out was reasonable. So he set to work. He did the length up to the gateway with the water following him and showing him his level. Then he did a length on the other side of the gateway. His idea was that this way he’d find the pipe. He wasn’t sure what we’d have to do with it. We suspected we’d have the hassle of digging it out, and the suggestion was that perhaps we could then hold it up by one end and bang it up and down a time or two so the stuff blocking it dropped out.
But after cleaning out both ends of the pipe, water started trickling through. Not with any great enthusiasm but it was obvious the pipe wasn’t irredeemably blocked. At that point he noticed the pole lying there. So that was dropped into the gutter and with the digger bucket behind it, it was pushed through the pipe. If the pole had been a foot shorter we’d have had to improvise further, but as it was, it worked perfectly.

Mind you it does leave me with a bit of a quandary. I’m left with a somewhat grubby telegraph pole. Now admittedly if I leave it there it’ll soon wash clean in the rain. But the underlying issue is, ‘Do I put it away.’ Here it has to be admitted that storing telegraph poles does take a fair bit of room. Or, ‘do I leave it here, handy for next time?’


Whilst you’re waiting for me to make my mind up, you might fancy a good book to read?

The fourth of these collections of anecdotes, rants, pious maunderings and general observations on life. Yes we have dogs, quads, sheep and cattle, but in this one we follow the ‘lambing year.’ It starts with ewes being put to the tup in late autumn and finishes in summer with the last of the laggards lambing.
But as well as this we have endless rain, as well as sleeping in a manger. Be brave and you’ll meet young ladies in high heeled cowboy boots, Sir John Moore of Corunna, brassieres for cows, and, incidentally, David Essex.

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19 thoughts on “Round here we use telegraph poles as draining rods

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt May 21, 2020 at 4:42 pm Reply

    Like poking something out with a toothpick, only bigger.

    • jwebster2 May 21, 2020 at 6:37 pm Reply

      Yes, or if you remember pipe cleaners? Used to clean out pipes, not as a children’s craft accessory 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt May 21, 2020 at 8:43 pm

        Exactly. I’d add Q-Tips for ears, but you really don’t want to go all the way through with those.

        Few of those were used for pipes.

        My grandfather smoked one occasionally, and my husband until I told him it was disgusting inside the house – at which point he decided he didn’t really like it that much, and the vanilla smell to the tobacco was really much more attractive than the taste, and that was the end.

      • jwebster2 May 22, 2020 at 4:40 am

        my father smoked a pipe, he gave up when I was about five. But perhaps because of that I have never had a problem with the smell of pipe smoke

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt May 22, 2020 at 5:54 am

        The vanilla stuff smells nice, but it’s the vanilla. It’ll still give you mouth and throat cancer.

      • jwebster2 May 22, 2020 at 5:57 am

        I’ve never smoked 🙂
        This was back in the 1950s, I think he probably gave up in 1961 or thereabouts. It was what was always known in the UK as shag tobacco

      • jwebster2 May 22, 2020 at 5:58 am

        I remember at the age of ten being asked to go on my push bike about three miles to buy ‘half an ounce of black shag for old Harry’ who was doing some diking for us. The shopkeeper had no hesitation in selling it me (I was given half a crown and there was change but I cannot remember how much)

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt May 22, 2020 at 6:04 am

        Imagine trying to do that nowadays! You’d get reported for child neglect and endangerment.

        Back then Big Tobacco (sort of reminds me of the good choices made by Big Publishing) was pretending things were fine. It was cheaper to buy politicians and doctors than to stop selling the stuff.

        Now we just send it to Asia, where people – like people everywhere – ignore anything that warns them. Sigh.

      • jwebster2 May 22, 2020 at 6:11 am

        The chap I was buying the tobacco for had fought in the First World War. My father had been in farm service throughout the second world war, he’d tried to volunteer but had been sent home because he was a reserved occupation.
        Given that these people had seen, lived through and had accepted as normal, cycling to the shops probably didn’t seem a major issue 🙂

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt May 22, 2020 at 6:20 am

        And back then the apothecary or whoever it was would have believed you when you explained who it was for (or called your mother).

      • jwebster2 May 22, 2020 at 10:22 am

        Actually it was a sweet shop as a lot of them were tobacconists as well 🙂

  2. Doug Jacquier May 21, 2020 at 9:12 pm Reply

    Could have been worse, Jim. The pole could’ve been square. 😉 In the meantime, regarding the future of the pole, the golden rule applies; it might come in handy one day.

    • jwebster2 May 22, 2020 at 4:39 am Reply

      Yes, they always do, even if it’s only as firewood 🙂

  3. Widdershins May 22, 2020 at 3:14 am Reply

    A tough choice. 🙂 … will it last longer in the ditch or out?

    • jwebster2 May 22, 2020 at 4:38 am Reply

      perhaps you’ll have to wait for the next exciting episode 🙂

      • Widdershins May 22, 2020 at 7:53 pm

        Ah-hah! The thot plickens!!! 😀

      • jwebster2 May 23, 2020 at 4:44 am

        some plots are thicker than
        others 🙂

  4. Jack Eason June 9, 2020 at 4:32 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    More from Jim 😉

    • jwebster2 June 9, 2020 at 4:37 am Reply

      Amazing the useful stuff just lying around 🙂

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