Carroll Cave Work Day

8 March 2020

Jeff Page
Tim Delk
Kellen Delk
Bill Gee

A few weeks ago Tim Delk made a trip to the Carroll Cave silo. He made notes on the electrical system installation, and planned for some upgrades. On March 8 we had a work day for Tim to implement some of the upgrades. We accomplished some other work as well.

I drove down early Saturday morning, arriving at the silo just a few minutes after 0800. The survey team from yesterday’s survey trip (March 7) was just waking up. I talked to Tony Schmitt for a few minutes about what they found, then went out to do some exercise walking.

Sometime in the two or three days before the gravel trail has been repaired. Additional gravel was dumped in a soft spot where the field drains across the trail, and more gravel was put down toward the silo. The gravel trail now goes all the way to the silo.

Jeff Page arrived about 0930. By that time the survey crew was just about gone. Tony, Jeff, Alex Litsch and I chatted for a few minutes, then Tony and Alex hitched Tony’s camper and left.

About 1000 Kellen Delk came walking up the hill. He and Tim were stopped at the gate because they did not know the combination. Jeff drove Kellen back down to the gate and let them in.

The four of us discussed the plan for the day. Tim turned off the power at the main breaker, then began replacing outlets and circuit breakers in the silo. He deleted the outlet in a box that leads up to the exhaust fan. He disconnected Bill Pfantz’ trailer and discovered that one of the two circuit breakers for it was damaged by overheating. Something is overloading the circuit. We did not reconnect the trailer.

Jeff and I walked down to the gate. I brought a garden hoe to see if I could dig a ditch that would allow the gate to open inward without bottoming on the gravel. I was partly successful. The gate can be opened inward far enough to clear a vehicle, but you have to lift it strongly to get it over some of the gravel.

There is a strong consensus that the current gate position is not safe. Local traffic often comes over the hill at high speed, which does not give them time to stop or avoid any people and vehicles who are in the road while opening or closing the gate. There is barely room at the gate to get one short vehicle off the road, and that requires opening the gate into the field. A real safety solution will require moving the gate into the field far enough to pull several vehicles off the road before opening or closing the gate. Jeff and I scouted out some options. We have enough to ask for a bid on moving the gate.

When we got back up to the silo, Tim had realized that he needed to make a trip to a hardware store to get some additional parts. Tim and Kellan left about 1200 for that errand.

Jeff and I had lunch, then started to work on collecting scrap steel and other trash around the silo. All of the trash went into the tank bottom that is sitting on the ground. It has collected quite a bit of rainwater, and it has a lot of scrap metal in it. We piled a bunch of t-posts on the concrete apron. Several old rickety latters went in the scrap metal pile.

We piled 8 of the t-posts and some rolls of barbed wire into Jeff’s truck. These will be dropped near the gate for use building additional fence when the gate is moved. Tim and Kellan returned about 0100.

I put on dairy boots (also called “Wellies”) and started to clean trash out of the frog pond. Kellen was a huge help. Most of the trash was some old rubber tiles of some sort. They had been piled, but over the years were scattered into the pond. We did not get them all, but we got most of them piled up next to the windbreak. We also removed an old yard light that had a small tree growing through it and a plate of steel that was laying in the grass.

Tim finished installing GFI weather-resistant outlets in the silo. He also deleted the utility outlet that was hanging on the power pole. That outlet did not have any protective circuit breaker. While doing that, we discovered that the box on the power pole had a half-dozen wasp nests in it! Fortunately they were not inhabited. We cleaned them out and duct taped over the holes they were using for access.

Tim, Jeff and I talked over the plan for the next work day. Tentatively that is scheduled for Saturday 28 March 2020. Tim, Jeff and I talked over the plan for the next work day. Tentatively that is scheduled for Saturday 28 March 2020. We all left by about 1430. Jeff took Tim and Kellen over to see the natural entrance.

The following work is on the plan for the next work day:

  1. Rent a trenching machine. Run a trench from the power pole to the silo and another trench from the silo to Bill Pfantz’ trailer. Lay conduit in the new trenches.
  2. Install a new meter box and weather head on the power pole.
  3. Run a 200 amp service from the power pole to the silo.
  4. Run a new service to Bill Pfantz’ trailer.
  5. Install a rack on the concrete apron outside the silo. Install a 200 amp power panel on the rack. This power panel will receive the feed from the pole and distribute it to everything. The panel will use circuit breakers that are both arc-fault and ground-fault.
  6. Remove the power panel from inside the silo. Rewire those circuits to the power panel on the outside of the silo.
  7. Replace all of the conduit in the silo with weather-resistant flex conduit.
  8. Install a new overhead light in the top of the silo.
  9. Install two or three 30-amp RV outlets on the power rack.
  10. Install weather-resistant light switches inside the silo.
  11. Clean out brush and a small tree around the base of the power pole.

Once this is all done, we will call the power utility company. They will send out a crew to move the power feed from the old weatherhead to the new. They will also move the meter to the new meter box.

At first glance it seems odd that we are moving a power panel from inside the silo to outside. In fact, moving it outside improves both the safety and longevity of the entire system. Although protected from rain, the silo environment is worse because of the condensing humidity levels. Power panels that can stand up to rain and snow are commonly available, while panels that can protect against condensing humidity are not. It is almost like moving the panel from underwater to above water.

Bill Gee

New gravel in a soft spot on the trail to the silo.
New gravel in a soft spot on the trail to the silo.
Examining the power panel on the utility pole
Tim Delk and Bill Gee look at the power panel on the utility pole
Wasp nests in the power panel
Wasp nests in the power panel