Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Bitter enders

Summer bounty: canned peaches

Summer is coming crashing grinding to a halt whether we wish it too or not, and in my case the answer is a most emphatic "not!"

But all good things come to an end, and as I've said many times on this blog, I do enjoy my job most of the time. In particular, it will be a bit of a relief to be able to justify time to concentrate on adult things again, thanks mostly to the miracle of daycare.

Much as I love my kid, I don't get much done when I'm watching her. And she needs to be with her little friends some of the time, or she won't be properly socialized in time for school.

In other news, our bus is up for sale. This is primarily because most recent trip to VA to see Aimee's folks was hard on me, mostly because of all the bag-carrying, but also because we managed to break the bed in our Airbnb! I repaired it, of course, and indeed it was in better shape when we left than when we arrived. The lady whose home it was seems none the wiser. I think the bed, a miserable piece of flat-pack MDF dressed up in heavy black lacquer as it it were a real piece of furniture, was already broken before we arrived, but hadn't yet collapsed, and when we arrived to make use of it, already substantially weakened. Anyway, long story short, it took two days to fix.

Additionally, Aimee said she wouldn't go camping in the bus. That wasn't unreasonable, since the bus is very small and doesn't have a bed for Edana. But I want to go camping with my kid! And so, it turns out, does Aimee.

So we're selling the bus and buying a camper trailer. We already have one, in fact, We placed a deposit on it Sunday and will pick it up in a couple of week's time, once the owners have had one more trip. I'm going to miss my venerable bus, but there's not much point having a camper that you can't go camping in.

We'll use the new camper to visit Aimee's folks and to camp here in Maine. I'm already exploring with the map to see where we could go that a little kid might like. I'm also replacing the truck's trailer hitch and wiring up the appropriate seven-point plug.

In other news, the garden is producing tomatoes now, my favorite cooking ingredient. I have a nice chicken-garlic-tomato risotto cooking as I type. The Land Rover needs a muffler, and indeed I already cut the old one off in hopes of getting a new stainless one from the UK for cheap, thanks to the "Brexit" premium on dollar-pound exchange rate. This hope proved fruitless, because once we added the shipping, a stainless series Rover muffler was as prohibitively expensive from the UK as they are in the US. We'll get another mild steel one and hope to make it last longer.

Monday, August 1, 2016

There and back again, again

To Virginia and back with a toddler. In a 1997 Camry.

Need I say more?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Bale-full woes

Our kid learns to roll pastry. Eating pastry while rolling is optional.

Not much time these last few weeks for posting, I'm afraid. Some folks, relatives of a former student, want to move into our straw bale house in Monroe, and I've been over there repairing the various systems.

This old house, which could be termed one of the greatest mistakes of my life, was built in 2002 and 2003 when I was ostensibly a single man, although I started dating Aimee before I began building. I was also very poor. Assistant professor salaries at Unity College were never very great, and my student loans kicked in six months after I graduated with my PhD (in May, 20002). Later, Aimee got employed and we both got promoted, and I could afford proper hardware and wotnot, but the Bale House is built with recycled trash of various kinds, as well as straw bale for insulation.

The main problem is, we don't own the land. if we did, I'd have sold the place long ago and made some money for our family by doing so. But we have a lease instead, on land owned by some other folks we know. As a result, we're stuck with a hosue we don't need, but which we need to repair and keep up.

Despite this, it has been a refuge for numerous people over the years. It may be the western equivalent of a shanty house, but it is surprisingly large, and the architecture kind of "works", in that there's a spacious mock Tudor kind of feel to the interior.

I've been over there almost every day cleaning and fixing, including some very heavy and dirty jobs, all done with absolutely no help because someone has to watch our kid. It's been miserable work. I hope to be done with it shortly.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there are potatoes.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

On the road again!

After nearly thirteen years sitting in the woods, my old VW camper is mobile and almost street legal again!

I finished the bodywork and paint a couple-three weeks ago, refitted the engine, newly rebuilt, and a new steering beam, and have been puttering more or less daily on the small stuff like lights, door seals, and interior. It's now insured and registered.

I've taken it for a few test drives. I'd forgotten how much fun these are to drive. The driver sits up high with good visibility, the steering is responsive and has a tight turning circle, and the engine drives from the back, so the vehicle powers around corners.

Our kid seems to like it too, mostly because we sing "The wheels on the bus go round and round" whenever we get in. But it has carpet in back, and a big floor to play on, and will soon have a bench seat that folds into a bed, and a table for eating picnics.

Here she is the other day when I had the seats out for cleaning.

Next stop, a nice family picnic, and when she's old enough, a fishing trip!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The thick of it

Loading the lambs in the Land Rover

Summer is well under way at Womerlippi acres, with the farm and garden work proceeding apace, as are all our projects, and the days are blending into one another nicely in the way they do when you no longer have to go away to work every day. There's something very satisfying about not knowing what day of the week it is, and I certainly don't miss weekends. Nor do I miss the daily commute. I much prefer getting up, walking out of my door, and picking up whatever tools I need to do whatever job I have to do.

Most people lived like this at one time, and I think our bodies and minds are probably built for this more continuous kind of rhythm to our days. I sleep better in the summers, usually, perhaps because I get more exercise, but more likely because there just isn't any stress. If you think about it, one of the reasons work is so stressful for many people is that you have to get there, and on time.

We still get to go places, of course, mostly for farm chores, as well as to shop for food, and for any family outings we plan. Our first farm sale of the year is always that of two lambs to our friend John Mac and his partner Nancy. Pictured above, I take them in the Land Rover because their driveway is very narrow and it's hard to turn the truck around. These two will graze the lawns and other unused spaces around their home for the summer, and then become dinner in the fall.

Roo was investigating the situation for herself. She likes to scramble around in the cars when they're parked for some reason, investigating the controls and of course any cargo. This activity occupies her for hours, another reason why I think having a nice big VW camper bus is going to be a big hit.

Our most recent family outing was to the new kids play room in Belfast. This is a combination of gym and rumpus room for kids to run around in, and the grand opening was Saturday. We went along to see what all the fuss was about. Roo had fun, while we watched carefully from the sidelines. Most of the other kids were much bigger and fast, so we expected her to get knocked over at any point, but she stayed on her feet pretty much the whole time.

We've also discovered that our daughter likes to "cook".

What this really means, of course, is that Roo likes to make a mess in the kitchen while we're cooking.

This is some rice and flour, mixed with food color, that mommy used as a distraction. Roo had a fine time using her hands to mess with the colorful grains.

My VW project is coming along nicely and I will probably finish it later this month. "Finish", in the sense that all the major restoration work is done. I'm not sure if I will sticker and drive it this year. We'll see. I have a mind to do the interior up really nicely, and am looking around for ideas.

I thought that getting the engine over to the lift would be a problem, but then realized that the car itself could be used as a strong point to lift the engine off the trailer. Here's the engine being lifted off the engine stand and onto the trailer, and below you see the bus rear beam used as a strong point to lift the engine off the trailer and get it in position underneath the car.

From this point it was less than twenty minute's work, six bolts and two nuts, to install the engine. The whole process was complete by nine thirty Tuesday morning, having started at eight. This was very satisfying for me.

Here's the rebuilt engine in the car. We'll try for a start late next week sometime. As I was working,I discovered that the distributor was bad and had to order a new one, so we'll have to wait a little while.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A day off from summer break

It's been nearly a week since our summer break began. What did we do with all that "free time"?

Well, we looked after our kid. Played with her, fed her, bathed her, put her down for naps. All that good stuff. Here she is. having discovered that fun stuff comes in packages, she decided to try to open one with a table knife. Luckily, not only are our knives blunt, but we caught her in time.

We also bought a new livestock trailer, to replace our old home-made one (pictured above). I have to restore the body and frame of the new one. No welding needed, just mild rust abatement, but if it's done now, it should last for twenty more years at least.

There was a gale last weekend that took out our greenhouse. Repeated gusts pulled the anchors out of the ground and bent the frame. I was able to square it up again and re-position it, but a proper repair must wait for replacement rafter tubes. Since then the weather has been better and we now have the garden planted.

Aimee made more of the new design wooden tomato cages.

Finally, we've done a lot of work on the VW project and started the repairs to the Bale House.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Nearly done -- crack that nut

Our summer break has nearly begun, but you wouldn't know it from the weather. Graduation was Saturday, and that day was nice and warm, but then some cold air spilled in and we even had snow in northern and eastern parts of Maine.

I enjoyed the commencement ceremony, mostly because of all the students and their families and how happy they were. I'm not fond of dressing up, nor of anything really that gives people the impression they are better than other people, and so I don't enjoy all the robes and pomp and circumstance. But I like seeing the smiles on all the students and parents and grandparents.

I also like the bagpipes.

We have our requisite period of "professional development" this week, our mandatory in-service teacher training, and then we're officially off work for the summer.

My grading done, I've been dividing my time between jobs around the house and farm and making progress on my Volksproject. The interesting rig you see above is my solution to the difficulty that ensues when you remove a VW engine before you crack the large nuts on the rear stub axles. Normally, you'd do this procedure with the engine in, using the engine's compression to lock the gearbox and prevent the wheels from turning. But I had removed the engine before I realized I had to remove the axle nut. I used an old clutch plate placed over the gearbox input shaft, attached to a long bar,  to make a jamming rig.

Our kid is thriving with the (mostly) warmer weather, and spends a lot of time running around the yard. We now have our feeder pigs in the barn, and with the lambs running around and baby chicks in the kitchen, there's lots to see and do if you're a few months shy of two whole years old.

The garden is about half-planted, just waiting for some warmer weather and for the risk of frost to pass. We managed to find a horse trailer to replace our pathetic home-built animal trailer, something we've complained about for years. It needs to be restored, although it's not as much work as the VW.

Mostly, this particular season of the year, I'm just anxious to get started and get some of this work done. I'll be glad when these two training days are done.