Monday, May 12, 2014

Ready and Waiting


I'm ready! I'm ready! I'm ready! (I know you can't hear me, but I'm doing my best Spongebob impression as I chant.)

My Mother's Day plans for a picnic in the park were completely derailed when my daughter and husband woke up ill. On the other hand, it seemed a shame to waste the glorious sunshine (the first and last sunshiny day for a while), so I spent the day installing the bear fence kit that I ordered a few weeks ago.

I was a little nervous about installing an electrical fence because I've never done anything like that before. Fortunately, as a kid, I did enough projects with my dad (who can do anything) that I know how to use basic tools. I say fortunately because the instructions that came with the fencing kit were rubbish. If I hadn't had my dad showing me stuff when I was younger, I'd have been lost. As it was, I still had to go online and watch some videos of people installing electrical fences. BTW, while I was doing that, I came across a terrific instructional video. If I'd seen this a month ago, I never would have ordered the kit because the one in the video seems a lot sturdier and simpler.

However, once I figured out what I was doing, the fence came together pretty easily. Then came the moment of truth -- turning on the switch and using the fence tester to see if I had current running through it. I plugged my fence tester into the ground and touched the other end to the fence. What? No current?! There was some momentary confusion until I realized that I'd forgotten to run a wire from the charger to the fence. Doh!

After connecting the charger to the fence, I threw the switch again. The fence tester gave me a positive reading. Hooray! I did it! All by myself!

At just that moment, my husband came outside to see how things were coming along. Out of curiosity, he decided to test the fence with his hand. His reaction was disappointing. I had expected him to jump backward, but he said he was only getting a slightly unpleasant buzz. What??? After he went inside, I grabbed the fence. He was right, so I called my dad.

Dad wanted to know if the ground was wet or dry. Our yard is on the sandy side, so pretty dry. Then he asked if I was wearing shoes. Yeah, rubber crocs. Was my husband wearing shoes? Hmm.. probably. "Ok," he said, " wet ground will conduct electricity better than dry soil. So will wet hands. Dry hands have about 20,000 ohms of resistance, but a bear will grab it with his mouth or nudge it with a moist nose, so it should get a greater shock. And your shoes are probably insulating you, too. If you really want to know what the bear feels, take your shoes off and bite the fence. HAHAHAHAHAHAH!"

So my dad was joking, but he overestimated my intelligence. After a quick shower, I went back to the fence slightly damp and barefoot. I tapped the fence's polytape "rails" (the kit I got uses a sort of plastic tape with metal wire woven into it instead of straight-up wire) a few times and got nothing. So I pinched the tape between my fingers. ZZZAAAAP! Ow! I yanked my hand away as the shock traveled up my arm and down my right leg. My husband guffawed while I shook my hand to get the feeling back. Of course, he's as much a doofus as I am, so he grabbed the fence next, and it was my turn to laugh.

This is what the polytape for the "rails" looks like.

On the one hand, I'm glad that this fence requires someone to actually latch onto it because I worry about kids getting accidentally shocked. On the other hand, I was hoping for instantaneous current. I got zapped a few times by my grandfather's electric fence as a kid, and as I recall, just a tap -- the minutest touch -- would be enough to shock a body. However, his fences used actual metal wire and not this tape stuff that came with my kit. I don't know if that makes a difference. Also, he probably had a much stronger charger.

If a bear knocks the fence with its body or swats at it, I'm not sure what kind of jolt it'll get. On the other hand, if the bear tries to chomp it, it should get a nasty surprise. To be honest, I still have a wicked headache from the shock I took. Well, I guess time will tell. Fingers crossed that this works.

UPDATE: This morning, I called the company that sold me the kit. Jonathan, their rep helped me troubleshoot to make sure that the charger was working properly (and it is). In the end, he guessed that when I tapped the polytape, I was touching the plastic instead of the wire. However, a bear will probably make contact with a greater area than I was with my fingertip. Hmm.. We'll see.

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