Sunday, June 10, 2012

The mother of all grills

I was happy to pick up a used oil tank the other day. I'd been wanting one for a while, to build a grill and smoker for lamb and fish. 

These are very common metal tanks for home heating oil, and most Maine homes have one or two. We have one in our basement. The metal is one eighth inch mild steel, which has numerous uses here and there around a farm and can even be sold for scrap, so they're worth salvaging just for the steel. You can cut it with a circular saw, if you have the right kind of blade.

This particular one had about five gallons of black oil sludge left in it, a potential environmental hazard that would need to be dealt with first. You could see why it had been replaced. Although the metal was sound, the sludge had blocked up the outlet, so it would not have been serviceable. 

Disconnecting an unblocking the outlet, I collected the oil in an old paint bucket to take to the recyclers, and then sprayed a few gallons of water over the inside to dampen down any sparks. Heat oil is not particularly volatile, as petroleum products go, and twenty gallons of water was enough of a dampener to be able to cut the thing up safely. It did take about ten blades for the circular saw, each one being good for about four feet of cutting.

I took off the rounded ends and hinged them together on a stand to make a very solid grill/smoker combination. The next job will be to fire it, to burn off the oily smell. Then I will need some actual grills, from an old oven or similar. Then watch out! Grill city, here we come. I have a stash of apple wood logs saved up just for the purpose. For smoking, we'll start a small fire in one corner and keep the lid closed and the draft shut down.

In other farm business, we've been waging war on the thistles. Aimee has decided, in her wisdom, that a donkey, or even two, may be needed around here. Apparently donkeys like thistles. Who knew?

A pair of donkeys have therefore been found and booked in for a few weeks of thistle eradication duty. Be sure to tune in for future news about these additional farm beasts later in the year. I'm sure they will be very newsworthy.

Especially if they actually eat the thistles. I have my doubts.

In the meantime, I've been mowing thistles. To begin, with our old Bolens riding mower's cutting deck out of action, I used a push mower, but that got old fast. I then went out and bought the bush hog in the last post, but although that equipment does a number on thistles, as well as the sumac and other noxious weeds we have, it isn't maneuverable enough to get all the thistles I need to get cost effectively. Some smaller unit was needed, something in between the push mower and the bush hog.

I decided to rebuild the Bolens deck. I figured this would be a good investment, and it was. These old Bolens mowers are very sturdy, a serious bit of equipment not at all like the plastic s**te you find in Home Despot.

I had to somehow track down a new spindle shaft, blades, and pulley for an old Bolens 18300 deck. I don't know when these machines were made but I'd say the late eighties or early nineties. Bolens was long ago bought out by MTD, and the new parts would have been several hundred dollars. As it was, the hunt for secondhand parts took several hours of Internet, about a hundred miles of driving, and $130 dollars, all for a box of nasty, greasy, mower deck pieces.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Here's the rebuilt mower with deck fitted. A solid beast if ever there was one. And it cuts well again, almost as good as new. I think $130 is a lot better than the couple thousand we might have spent on a new mower, which would probably only have lasted a few years.

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