Thursday, August 7, 2008

Out Ridin' Fences

After looking at the difference in cost and performance of buried wire and overhead wire, I have realized that overhead is much more practical. I had hoped to not have to use it since the sight of power lines is somewhat despoiling of the natural beauty of the place. However, I was told by one influential Honduran, who shall remain nameless, that the people don't care about seeing power lines anyway, and that they don't think like me in that way. I can believe this because they are in "survival culture" not a "comfort culture" like our own. Still, I found it hard to use overhead lines, and wanted to bury them. But when I saw how much cheaper they would be, I had to give in.

We calculated that we needed about 150 poles which would be made from trees. At first I was concerned that all the trees in the area would be cut down for this purpose, but when we tasked two of our employees, Adolfo and Santiago, to get us a dozen poles to start with, they came up with a great solution. It was a great case of appropriate technology.

Their solution came from the Madreado tree, which grows like crazy here. The people use their straight branches as fence poles for their barbed wire fences. When you cut off a branch of this tree and stick it in the ground, it does not die. Instead, it sprouts leaves and, presumably, roots. So almost all the barbed wire fences in this part of rural Honduras are constructed with these trees. New fences look like bare posts, but old fences look like rows of trees. I shot the following video of some cows walking by a fence like this. They look like uniformly sized trees in a straight line.

Anyway, Adolfo and Santiago used these madreado trees as power poles. So in a few years, instead of having fewer trees, they will actually have more trees - albeit connected by wires.

After they put in the first dozen poles, Adolfo and Walter began running the first spool of wire! Walter has a bad arm that resulted from a childhood injury, but he can lift more with his left arm than I can with both of mine.

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