I need to do a better job of applying Occam’s Razor, the principle arguing that the least contrived hypothesis is most likely correct.* I’ve been having weird problems keeping animals contained at Eric and Deb’s place — first the lambs were escaping the fence, then Cleo kept getting out, and finally a mass escape of bulk of the flock. To explain the lamb escapes, I developed an elaborate theory about how the tall grass was keeping me from getting the fence sufficiently tight to the ground, allowing the lambs to push under it without getting zapped. Then the lambs would get concerned that they were on the opposite side of the fence from the group, panic, and push the fence down, letting more sheep out. I tried to solve the fence problem by mowing a strip of the tall bluestem grass to clear the way for the electronet.
To explain Cleo’s wanderings, I convinced myself that she had lost enough weight (she’s been on a diet since getting her, poor girl) that she was finally able to jump over the electronet. I elaborated the story with details about how she used to live in a barn, and the frost a few days ago made her jump out of the enclosure seeking indoor accommodations. Out of fear that she might wander onto a busy road, I brought her home and put her in with the lambs in the Fortress.
What I failed to notice throughout my elaborate narratives was that the fence didn’t have any charge on it, rendering it easily breachable by lamb and dog alike. I had gotten lazy and was looking at the output LEDs on the fence energizer, rather than checking the voltage on the fence itself.
When I finally noticed that though the energizer was on, none of the energy was reaching the fence, I (of course) called Bill Fosher. He helped me do some diagnostic checks which turned up the fact that the ground clip, connecting the energizer to the fence ground,
had come disconnected from the ground wire. Here it is after I put it back together.
Once I pushed the wire connector back onto the post in the alligator clip, everything was wonderful again: 3500 volts on the fence, and more-than-adequate deterrence for inquisitive lambs.
I haven’t brought Cleo back yet, but now I’m fairly sure that she was nosing under the fence along with the lambs, and that the reinstated electric charge will convince her to stay in as well. And for me, the immediate lesson is a reminder to always, ALWAYS, check the voltage on the fence, and more generally, to resist the urge to spin complicated stories when a simple once suffices.
*One formulation of the principle is that when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras. I guess this is a Eurocentric formulation, but I’ve never encountered a zebra in the New England woods…