Saturday, May 22, 2010

Support Local Agriculture: Drive a Recycled Camry!

It's been great weather here in Maine lately. One of the paradoxes of living in "Vacationland" is that although millions every summer visit Maine, arriving after Memorial Day and disappearing after Labor Day, the best weather occurs outside of those times. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day this part of Maine is hot and muggy. And the coast, while cooler, tends to be foggy. But May often brings hot sunny days with a nice breeze, and cool clear nights, while the weather from later August to early November is usually superb.

The tourists lose, we win. Suits me. But I sometimes wish I could teach at least some of the time in the summer and have more time to work on our own projects in the fall. The fall is a great building season, although you're always racing the snow at the end. And it's good for fixing vehicles and farm equipment too. But summer is growing season and firewood drying season, and grow we must and dry firewood we must have, and all that takes work, so it does work out OK that our summers are freer than the rest of the year.

"Vacationland!" As an immigrant and thereby the owner of a different, if sacreligious, sense of perspective, these state license plate slogans always amused me. "Vacationland went well along with Idaho's "Famous Potatoes" and Wisconsin's "America's Dairyland" and similar tat. If the best thing you do for the world is provide butter, potatoes or vacations, well, that's certainly useful and probably a decent living, but why proclaim your single-mindedness to the world? Did Idaho really sell more potatoes that way?

Our new thirteen year old Camry has a license plate that states "Support Local Agriculture," which I find infinitely preferable to "Vacationland." This may represent a change of ideology for my wife, however, since she was the one who selected it. Every other car we have has "loon plates" that promote conservation. But who am I to complain? I certainly hope my local agriculture is supported.

"Support Local Agriculture" is fine by me.

On that front, here's Aimee with the lamb that needed a penicillin shot for Erysipelis. Notice the mucky knees, from all the kneeling that is typical of this disease. The sheep were all riled up that night, so I needed to use the shepherd's crook to catch him, and after that it was easiest to bring him into the kitchen for the shot and the dose of vitamin paste. He recovered the next day and hasn't been seen on his knees since.

Jewel the ewe-l is feeling a little better and may actually be recovering from Listeriosis. We confined her to the barn for a few days so that she would have less scope for staggering and wandering, and wouldn't be bullied by the rest of the sheep, who were not happy to have such a kultz in their midst and pushed her around a lot. It was easier too, to use the small confining pen in the barn to give her the nine mililiters of Penicillin that she required -- a massive dose, no less than three full syringes a day, given intramuscularly, in different muscle units each time -- and the huge horse syringe of glycerin down her gullet that helped slow the rate she converted fat and muscle to energy to stay alive while she was unable to eat.

Obviously she was never happy with the treatment, nor the confinement, and when not staggering or sleeping it off would look longingly out the window at the rest of her flock, grazing obliviously on the lush green grass of the new paddock.

Poor Jewel. Sheep really hate to be separated from their herds.

But yesterday the sun was so nice and I was due to be around all day working on the Camry's fuel tank so I opened the back door to the confinement/lambing pen and let her out. This door opens onto the North Paddock, from where she might eat a little grass, get a little sun and breeze, take nap in the shade and even communicate with the others over the fence. She was out like a shot, and while clearly still weak and dizzy, she never actually staggered or fell down all day, didn't "star-gaze" or circle, and even ate some grass and nibbled some sheep kibble.

So, we'll see, but she might be past the crisis. If she can stay on her feet and begin to eat in the next few days she'll be on the path to recovery and the land of the living. Luckily, like all our retired ewes, she's fat, so she has a reserve to fall back on. When we butchered Larkie a few weeks ago, we finished up with the greasiest chops and lamburger I've ever seen. It tastes great, but it's not your Atkins diet special.

In other news, Aimee has finished her chicken tractor masterpiece, which I have displayed on the lawn here alongside last year's masterpiece, the garden cart. Aimee's dad Dick, who no doubt will read this, is a master wood carver and furniture maker, and so wifie mine is a chip off the old block. These products are of such high quality you wouldn't even guess they were home-made.

Me, I'm a Sheffield lad, so I prefer hard steel to wood. I exercised my talents some yesterday switching out that leaky gas tank on Aimee's new Camry. I also tried to switch out the bad ABS sensors, to discover the parts house had sent me rear sensors instead of front ones, so that job didn't get done. But I did drive the car down, once the tank was changed, to our local inspection station, where I got confirmation that it will pass inspection once the ABS sensors are changed.

While I was changing the tank, I was amazed to discover that a previous owner had actually drilled the hole in the old one, seemingly on purpose, or at least for a reason, and that was why it was leaking. Recently, too. I discovered a neatly drilled hole with fresh swarf on the edges, right through the top of the gas tank, right under one of the drain plugs in the car body, right under the driver's side back seat.

Go figure.

Some foolish person had taken a 3/8 drill bit and drilled through the center of the plastic drain plug and then on through the gas tank. This had me scratching my head. I imagine that this was perhaps done to drain out water. There's a cover plate for the fuel pump right there, held on with some kind of black cement sealant, which may have been leaking, and the drain plug is at the bottom of a natural well in the body, so water would have collected there if the car was leaking. Enough water, and the seat foam would have been wet and even moldy. You'd want the water gone. And if you were totally ignorant of Camry geography and totally quick on the draw with the drill, you might choose to drill out the plug and inadvertently penetrate the gas tank.

Hah! What a prize numpty that was.

And so then, with the ABS light on and the gas tank holed, what else can you do but sell the car? Especially if you're that stupid?

But how well have we made out from this stupidity? Well, we now have a Toyota Camry that cost less than $5,000 to get on the road, but that has only 44,000 miles on it. According to Craig's List, we might expect to pay anything from $7,000 to $13,0000 for a Camry with so few miles. There are very few that are the right year, though, as old as 1997, and those that are have upwards of 200,000 miles.

I expect we'll find out how well we did if the thing lasts four or five years. that would be my goal. I'd like to get seven or eight, but I'd settle for four or five.

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