Sunday, August 26, 2012

What we've been up to lately....

Here are some shots of our most recent activities. Click on any picture to enlarge.

We had some friends over for a lamb smoke. I also cooked some pork ribs with Dick Phillippi's pepper relish, and if I can figure out how to get those a little more tender, so they fall off the bone, perhaps with some tin foil, that recipe will become a favorite, I think. The flavor is great with the relish, so we just need to get the texture down.

Tomatoes are burgeoning. This is a Black Krim in perfect condition, ready for my dinner. The only tomato that tastes better than a Black Krim, IMHO, is an Aunt Ruby's German Green.

The garden is producing great guns and this looks to be our best year ever for tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, cabbages, leeks, and onions. Corn was disappointing. Aimee's looking to buy some form another farm. Dry beans will be great if we can get them dry nicely. I may try to dry them in the barn to be sure of them.

The new hoophouse is adding to our tomato harvest and gave us earlier spring greens. I'll try to keep some greens going in there this fall and winter.

I've canned up about sixteen cans of tomatoes, so far. I need to do about twice as much again to last until next year's tomato harvest. The greenish-looking jars contain canned Black Krims. Usually they're just slicers and salad tomatoes, but we had so many, I canned some in quarters.

One of our Big Boy tomato plants, which will bear around 30 or 40 pounds before all is said and done. This variety is the bulk of what I'm canning. The fruits are so heavy they're very hard to keep off the ground, but they don't rot easily even when they do fall over. A very solid tomato that cans up nicely.

The weather has been dry and hot and the grass is not growing well, so the sheep are having hay some days. They're not enthusiastic about hay this time of year, especially when they can see green grass all around the place, but that grass is either ours and thus too short already and needs to rest some more, or the neighbors' and so not theirs to eat. Poor sheep. Still, there are worse things that can happen to a sheep than being fed oats and hay every day. Some of them will go to the butcher's shop soon, though.

Aimee got busy pretty quick with the last bit of wall she wants to shingle. It's an awkward wee corner and giving her some grief. There were some rather disgruntled and frustrated noises emanating from that corner today!

The switch to my table saw quit working, in a dangerous manner -- it was on all the time! I dismantled it and was able to repair it by sanding down the damaged contacts. Here they are pre-repair. I wish all such things could be fixed as successfully.

That's all we've been up to, or at least everything I have a picture for

School starts for real tomorrow, a serious change of pace.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

All-American outing

It's been our last weekend before college starts up again for the fall, and Aimee had planned out a schedule of interesting and celebratory activities.

The first fun item on the agenda was my idea, though, a visit to a local winery.  There are a number of vineyards now in Maine, fairly solid demonstrations of the way our climate is changing. I've been thinking that one day I'll plant a small vineyard here on the Great Farm, and I wanted to investigate how the business works.

We've been to a few vineyards and wineries together, in places like Pennsylvania and Virginia, but never to a Maine vineyard. The one we chose was Savage Oakes in Union, Maine. Although I've always despised the adding of "Ye Olde" extra vowels to place names, especially when there are such meaningful place names already available.

For instance: How could you go wrong with "Union, Maine" -- what northern US place name could be more full of all-American historical meaning? Does "Union Winery" sound too blah?

I suppose it does.

We didn't hold this anachronism against them, though, and happily paid not only our $3 tasting fee, but also shelled out another thirty bucks for two bottles of premium Maine plonk, which, although it's as yet unopened, we already know is quite good because we tasted it. Then we took a short walk around the fields and vineyard.

Savage Oakes grows quite a few of the grapes I'd investigated for our own operation one day; St. Croix, Frontenac, and others. They're all Quebecois in origin, and we'll probably finish up using the same varieties, since they're the ones that have been bred for this climate.

The only one I object to is "Marachal Foch."

(You'll never get a properly educated Englishman to appreciate a grape named for an bigoted, over-rated, warmongering old bugger whose incompetence and arrogance is to blame for the deaths of at least a half-million British Great War soldiers and who nearly killed my own grandfather. "Lions led by donkeys," and he was the lead "ass". But enough said about him.)

Savage Oakes grows beef and pork too, and we also saw Dexter cattle and three pigs, two massive four- or five-hundred pound sows that looked like ordinary landrace or Yorkshire types, as well as a youngish boar, not more than three-hundred pounds, that might have been a Berkshire. Aimee was impressed by the size of the sows, and since part of my "grand plan" is to one day get a couple or three brood sows too, this was an eye-opener for her.

I think there comes a point when pigs must get easier, not harder, to keep, as they get bigger -- just because they can't move very fast anymore because they're too big! But I did wonder how much feed a sow this big might consume, especially when in pig or lactating. Pig feed has gone way up already this year, in anticipation of the corn crop failure in the mid-west.

Our next activity was primarily Aimee's plan. We'd been invited to attend a roller derby tourney involving our Unity College colleague Mandy and her team. There were to be a series of games involving various second and first tier teams from Rockport, Portland and Bangor.

Here's an OK shot of Mandy coaching some team-mates, my only photo from the tourney that was even half-way decent. (There wasn't enough light in the building.)

I'd never been to a roller derby before, and was quite interested in the scene, which I have to say was a typical American kind of a mixture of spoof and serious play. The roller derby "jams" involve ten women, four blockers and a "jammer" from each team are on the oval course for a given play. The jammer must wiggle or weave or butt her way past the opposing side's blockers, make a lap, and then gets a point for every blocker she laps.

It reminded me a little of Harry Potter's "Quiditch, as a made-up kind of a game with it's own language and special terms.

(But then, what game wasn't made up at some point in history? Even my beloved Rugby Union?)

One special feature of roller derby is the "jeer-leaders," which are, of course, a spoof on cheerleaders. This particular group of jeer-leaders was rowdy and hilarious with their various routines and antics.

Anyway, it was a fun night out. Aimee and I finished it up by finding Rockland's top-of-the-line Italian restaurant, Primo, and spending far too much money on some special deserts and snacks. Aimee was pleased with her deserts, while I had some excellent bruschetta with smoked tuna, a new flavor for me, washed down with a glass of Pinot Grigio.

I'd definitely recommend this place for the food, which is superb, but I wouldn't expect to get out of there with much change from three hundred bucks, even just for dinner for two. We only had a couple of small things each, but we blew through a fifty.

I expect I'm just cheap, and that fifteen dollars for a glass of house wine is perfectly normal where the majority of the (out-of-state) customers came from (despite the fact that they could get a whole bottle for the same price just up the road at the winery).

Then it was time for the almost hour-long drive home, which I suppose is why we don't go down to the Rockport/Rockland area very often.

Here we are in the bleachers at the roller derby, where the french fries were a little cheaper, and quite good.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sheep seeking shelter, and an archeological trove

We've had a little rain, nice for the garden and for the sheep's grass which hasn't been growing much lately because of the heat. It should take off again now, as the weather cools going into fall.

Aimee and I happened to look out of the kitchen window and caught this vision of nearly all our sheep crammed into the small shelter we keep in the main paddock.

It looks like one of those "how many folk can you fit in a phone booth" type contests. There were two or three sheep that couldn't get in, bless 'em. Those were standing stock still, not moving a muscle, in the wide open rain. Strange, because there are any number of spruce trees they could get under.

Done with the Land Rover for now, I turned my attention to the harvest and to some odd jobs to set us up for the fall and winter. In particular, Aimee wanted me to strip the vinyl siding off the north wall of the house so she could shingle it, an easy job for me because the north wall is our smallest wall, consisting of the gable end of the kitchen, partly covered up by the garage.

There's a rather damp corner back there behind the propane bottles that feed the hot water tank and kitchen stove. I eased the bottles away from their concrete pad, to get them out of the way, and wrecked out not only the siding but also the old clapboard underneath and a section of sheathing.

If I was going to re-side this corner, I wanted to inspect the sill and corner post of the house there, just to make sure it was sound, before sealing it up again for what could be fifty or more years.

Here's the short section I wanted to see. The pipes are for the gas supply, while the wire, which is new, is for the porch's 110 volt electrics.

And here's the overall setting with the propane bottles eased out of the way temporarily.

After I had wrecked out the sheathing, I was faced with some rather nasty debris to clear out, the makings of a century's worth of mouse nests. The stud bay here used to be clear open to the attic until I put in a fire block soon after we bought the house, and the debris was full of stuff that had dropped into the stud bay from the attic, or been dragged into the stud bay by rodent "collectors."

There were a couple of old antique bottles, a tobacco tin that was certainly pre-World War II, a child's purse with a "5 ¢" price tag, and several clippings from what looked like an old newsprint catalog, probably the Sears-Roebuck catalog. There were no dates in the margins, but judging from the wares on offer, which was mostly sewing stuff, the material dated from the pre-World War I era.

That was interesting, but not interesting enough to save me from a severe gagging reflex as I cleaned out the rest of the disgusting mouse-nest crap that was in the stud bay. I almost lost my breakfast. I held my breath, but after I was done I had to retreat to the garden for a while.

The good news is, the sill and corner post are sound. The sill in this corner is a 6 by 8 squared hemlock log, while the corner post is 4 by 4, also hemlock. The house isn't post and beam, but partly balloon-framed, partly post-and-beam, with post-and-beam construction in the floors and corner-posts and around some doors, and balloon-framing in the long run of each stud wall.

After I had recovered my composure I painted as much wood preservative in that corner stud bay as I could get in there, made a patch of three-quarter inch plywood, covered it with wood preservative, and covered my hole up for another fifty years. 

There won't be a treasure trove for the next home owner to find in this stud bay (if there ever is another owner) because of the large amount of fire-proof insulation stuffed into the top of the bay from the attic, intended to work as a fire block. Balloon framing is so prone to fire, I thought this a sensible precaution, and did all the attic walls this way. Elsewhere in the house we've filled the stud bays with fire retardant cellulose insulation.

But there are dozens of other stud bays I haven't penetrated, so someone may find more stuff some day.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Done Roving! (For now)

After much tinkering with a worn-out Zenith 36 IV carburetor, I got the Rover's engine running pretty good, and decided to declare the great Land Rover Restoration Project of summer 2012 finished.

I celebrated with a Facebook photo album of the project, which you can find here:

The original goal, which was to replace the functionality of the 1997 Ford Escort Wagon and the 1999 Nissan pick-em-up truck, can be partly met with this vehicle.
The main barrier to completely meeting the goal is the poor fuel efficiency of the Rover. The Escort gets about 35 mpg minimum, while the Land Rover currently gets less than 20. The Ford will have to keep running for now, since we can save money by using it for me to get to and from work and for non-load carrying trips. I'm hoping to increase the fuel efficiency eventually with a new carburetor.

But with the addition of a solid farm trailer, we'll be able to do everything we do with the Nissan, when that vehicle finally poops out as it must in a year or two, at the most three. I think we'll eventually scrap both Nissan and Ford and replace them with a fuel-efficient sedan or hatchback of some kind, possibly a second-hand Prius for Aimee to drive, while I take her Camry into its second 100,000 miles. 

There are a few things we can do with the Rover that we couldn't do before. One is to carry dogs very easily. In fact, the dogs really like it in the back of the Rover. They have their own rug on the floor and their own windows to look out of. We can also install a section of fence back there, pull out the rug, and carry sheep and piglets without the need for a livestock trailer, which will be very convenient.

And, as long as the Nissan keeps running, when the snow flies Aimee can drive the Nissan, while I drive the Landy, allowing us to keep different schedules even when the weather is bad.

The total cost of the Land Rover, including parts, registration and new tires, was somewhere between five and six thousand dollars, which I think is not bad for a four-wheel drive truck that can last for many years. We spent about that much on Aimee's Camry a couple years back.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mutiny on the (tourist entrance) to the Bounty

We tried to be tourists yesterday for a few hours but it didn't work out.

I had heard on the five o'clock local news that the tall ship Bounty was to visit Belfast town. This isn't the original ship, HMS Bounty, but a slightly larger replica built for the great 1960 movie Mutiny on the Bounty.

Interestingly, the organization that now owns the replica calls it HMS Bounty on all their marketing, not perhaps realizing that since they don't actually belong to the Royal Navy, they shouldn't use the term. Or maybe they just want to be drafted. I'm sure Her Majesty can find a use for the ship if they really mean it.

I dragged Aimee down there yesterday to see it, and we even lined up with the tourists to go on board, but were easily dissuaded by the $10/head entrance price. I wanted to see the between decks area, to see how the sailors might have lived, and I'm sure it's a very interesting experience, but $20 was more than that was worth to me, so wifie and I pulled a u-turn right there on the dock, and went for dinner and drinks instead at the pub, a much better use of our spare cash.

It must be hard to be a tourist. Having lived much of my life in the kinds of places most folk go to for vacation, I wouldn't know. I never really take one myself, and neither does Aimee.

Our particular Maine grockles show up in May and stay until August. They wear the kind of clothing sold by LL Bean -- pastel tops and Bermuda shorts and sandals, and they clog the coastal roads and wear out the parking lots in towns like Camden and Rockland. They are probably a nicer class of grockle than you see, say, on the Costa Brava, but they do get in the way.

Aimee drives herself quite spare sometimes trying to get the shopping done, while I make a point of going to inland towns like Waterville, Newport, or Bangor for things like building supplies and hardware. We both much prefer Belfast in the fall and winter when it is again a sleepy Maine town.

One thing you notice about the way that tourism changes a town -- the stuff they sell in the shops! It's just useless tat. Belfast only has a few useful kinds of shops left on Main Street. The rest sell touristy junk. A lot of the Belfast shops simply close up in the winter, a kind of seasonal blight for the locals.

While just fifteen miles away in Brooks, far enough away from Highway 1, we can't even keep our grocery and hardware stores in business.

Amazing, really, how disconnected urban people can be from the world of sensible, productive endeavor, that they are willing to accept this ersatz Maine of tourist shops and fake boats instead of seeking out the real Maine of windy country roads, bee-filled hayfields, and quiet, deep woods. The real Maine is easily found within a mile or two of the coast, but most of the visitors never get there.

I expect the vacation evolved as a counter to the dirt, overcrowding and pollution of the cities.

The pity is, all that happens is that a little place like Belfast becomes dirty, overcrowded, and polluted.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sheep sales

(Note to regular readers --- this is the ad we have running on Maine Craigslist and posted in various local stores. We have too many animals going into the winter and this is our attempt to reduce the size of the herd. Don't worry -- we're not getting out of the sheep business! We just prefer to keep a smaller number for overwintering.)
Sheep for sale: Womerlippi Farm, Fall 2012
These are Corriedale-Romney crosses, general-purpose animals for meat, high quality heavy fleece and even milk if you’re so inclined. We have packaged them as a starter flock. The ewes’ bloodline is mostly Corriedale. The ram is a purebred Romney with papers. We are careful breeders and these animals and their offspring will have no inbreeding depression, as long as the proper approach is taken. Ewes and ram can be sold separately. Shearlings (two year-olds) and the older ewe can be sold already bred, for spring lambs. Sold primarily for breeding purposes. If you are new to sheep and live close to us (Unity-Thorndike-Jackson area) we can give advice and support, especially at lambing time. The ram in particular is a serious animal and should not be bought by amateurs. If you want to get a start with sheep and are unsure of the ram, we would recommend buying the females with all but Sadie bred and go from there.
Call 722 3431 or email

Bentley, a six-year old purebred ram with Romney papers
Molly, a six-year old ewe,
will be a good lead ewe

Rhea, a shearling ewe, ready to be bred

Roxy, another shearling

Sadie, one of this year’s ewe-lambs

Monday, August 6, 2012

The big bodge

I couldn't quit. Although I was pretty exhausted after Saturday's long bodge-a-thon in the heat, I had to have another go at it Sunday. And, long story short, after much use of the old thinking cap, it worked. Finally, we have a quiet land Rover.

Here's what I couldn't see when I gave up on Saturday afternoon. The new stud had cracked off, taking a sizable chunk of exhaust manifold with it.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't be repairable, but there was just enough of a hole there to hold the stud in place while I welded it, and the manifold was off, the welding rig right there, and off course, I had one-and-a-half sticks left of 50% nickel-alloy welding electrode.

Probably if the electrode had been 99% nickel, this wouldn't have worked, but there was enough mild steel in there to fuse with both the black iron stud and the gray cast iron head.

Metallurgy is an interesting area of study. I'd love to know just what those iron atoms think they're doing in their various crystal lattices.

Trying to fool us poor mechanics, is what. Clever little buggers, they are.

I was pleased with the results of my bodging though, not so much because I think I saved my part here -- the weld, or something else on this heavily compromised exhaust manifold will break, and we'll need to have that new one on the shelf.

Indeed, and although this is a violation of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule, it would be better to switch out the manifold as soon as I can whether or not it breaks again.

But what I was most pleased by is the new capability we have now we know I can weld cast iron to cast iron, and cast iron to mild steel. I can think of lots of potential vehicle and farm equipment problems that might be solved with that new skill.

Once welded, I decided to take the extra step of test-fitting the downpipe to the manifold on the bench, to find out if there was anything else wrong I couldn't see when the unit was in the car. There was. This is when is where I realized I still needed to drill out the holes on the downpipe flange (from 3/8ths to 7/16ths). The new oversize studs fit through the downpipe flange holes all right, but they're not properly square to the manifold flange like the old ones, and so they put pressure on the manifold as they're tightened down. Hence the piece that cracked off. Reaming out the holes using the drill press relieved this pressure.

That simple test fit, and the reaming job, was what was needed to make it all go back together smoothly.

The next job (because I was done with the exhaust system by 10 am) was to have another look at that carburetor.

On the second reading, the two technical bulletins mentioned in yesterday's blog no longer seemed to contradict each other. The aluminum alloy components of the Zenith 36IV carb are prone to warping as a result of improper heat treatment of the castings at the factory. (More metallurgy!) The mating faces warp and no longer fit together, allowing gas to leak from the main circuit to the idle circuit and adding too much gas to the main circuit. Although a temporary cure for a rough idle can be obtained by plugging one internal orifice with a bit of o-ring, a better overall cure for both the idle and main circuit leaks is to gently grind down all the carb's internal mating surfaces on a proper flat grinding surface.

Although I knew I needed the proper gasket to finish the job, I realized that I might as well have a go at the grinding job since I had the time to do so, and since while I might not know for sure whether or not I succeeded until I had the proper gasket, I could very well determine whether or not the surfaces had been properly made flat using a engineer's steel ruler as a straight edge.

Ideally, and according to my very proper British engineering training, you'd use a flat lapping plate made of machined steel and some engineer's blue marking paste for this job.

But a piece of plate glass, some 150 and 220 grit emery paper, and a shot or two of "three-in-one" oil were adequate substitutes. I happened to have a small six-inch square piece of 1/4 inch plate glass that I keep as a spare for our woodstove's glass door, which is also prone to cracking, and a bunch of different kinds of sandpaper. I might as well give it a go.

I could clearly tell I was succeeding by the appearances of the surfaces. To begin, the mating surfaces were only scratched clean around the screw holes. After a little more very gentle elbow grease, the clean area extended slowly across the whole assembly. Although even once the whole surface was scratched clean there was still light visible between the steel ruler and the two mating surfaces I stopped grinding at this point, reasoning that the gap was only about a thousandth of an inch, and the gasket, when it finally came, had to be at least 3/1,000ths thick. It wouldn't hurt to leave a little metal there for future grinding, if the surfaces continued to warp.

I cut a new temporary paper gasket using the same technique as before, put the carb back together and back on the vehicle, tried the engine, and was rewarded by the proper purring, ticking sound of a quiet Rover engine, running much better than before, especially at anything above 1200 or so rpm.

It actually runs well enough at operating speeds that I took it on the road.

The engine still won't idle correctly, and so you wouldn't want to be in traffic with it. There's a lot of black smoke below 1200 rpm, so it's still running rich, a condition I expect will resolve itself once I get the proper, thicker gasket. I also saw a good deal of wear on the accelerator pump spindle, and so will be looking for something in the gasket kit to resolve that problem, as well as a new o-ring for the venturi.

Failing that, we'll buy a new carb as well as a new exhaust manifold when payday comes around again.

I was pretty content as I washed up and ate dinner and rested. I even had an extra glass of rhubarb wine. My car isn't properly fixed yet, but I know know it can be made to run very well indeed, and soon.

I've been thinking about it, and I've finally figured out what it is I like so much about this Land Rover work.

The Land Rover is an engineer's car, designed by British engineers and tradesmen for engineers and tradesmen to work on and drive. At every juncture of the design, whatever function they were thinking of, from windshield wipers to drive train, the designers asked themselves "what is the simplest, most straightforward way we can provide this functionality." As a result, the car is very repairable, almost completely so. It might be possible to total a Land Rover in a crash, but there isn't any condition of normal mechanical wear I can think of that is would be mechanically impossible, or even cost-ineffective, to fix.

You can, therefore, literally keep these things going forever.

A long time ago I worked on old Royal Air Force training airplanes, Jet Provosts, Bulldogs, and Chipmunks. The Mark 3 Jet Provosts and the Chipmunks in particular were antiques even then. I worked on them from 1978 to 1985, and the oldest ones I worked on had been flying since the 1950s. But they were safe to fly for the simple reason that they were eminently repairable. Any part could be exchanged if it wore out, and there were no fatal flaws in the design. The series Land Rover is the same way.

More than anything, it responds to reason.

With reason, logic and a little skill with tools and technique, you can fix anything that needs to be fixed.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bodger's End

That is what I'm going to rename this farm. Because some of this Land Rover bodging will be the death of me.

Bodging, in the heat, no less. It would be one thing to bodge away all day in the nice cool of a British 50 degree F "summer" rain. But it cleared 87 degrees F here today (31 C), and the humidity was up there too.


Here's the source of my woes, what looks like the original 1971 exhaust manifold for this Rover. You can see that two of the three studs on the downpipe connection are corroded and unserviceable. The one good stud is located in a hole that has a nasty crack running through it.

In an effort to eliminate the crack, I ground down the flange, sawed off and drilled out the studs, and fitted replacement but original size studs. However, this meant using the old threads, which were compromised. My back-up plan was oversize studs.

But when I fitted it after this first attempt at bodging, and found the Rover was still louder than a Maine thunderstorm, I found this additional crack here, close to the mating face for the inlet manifold.

So that had to be ground out and welded.

Now you can't just use any old welding stick for cast iron. It has to be nickel alloy electrode, so that required a trip to the welder's yard, and the outlay of ten dollars for just two (yes, only two!) precious 50% nickel electrodes. I think that might be the same price per pound as silver right now.

I think I did a pretty good job on the weld, and in normal circumstances, this might have saved my part for reuse, but when I fitted it (the second time) it was still loud. This time it was the connection to the downpipe (again). So, Plan B, the oversize studs. Here's the tap at work on the last of three.

But I think I may have ground off too much metal when I did the first bodge. The face of the flange still has a recess for the "doughnut" gasket, but the mating bevel is now less than a quarter-inch wide when it used to be three-eighths, making me wish I'd welded that crack and ground only a little of the mating face instead of as much as I did. In addition, two of three oversize studs are holding well, but a third has a weak thread. The engine was still loud.

By this time having refit the exhaust manifold three or four times, with the sun getting hotter and hotter, I was too tired to bodge any more. As I've done every night for several nights I checked the price of a new manifold. We can order one on Friday.

In the meantime, tomorrow will be one last attempt to bodge my manifold. I'll re-tap the thread on that weak stud and put in a bolt, possibly with a head on both ends, to see if that will give me the torque I need to tighten this up.

When I pulled the manifold off the first time, I took the opportunity to study the inner workings of the Zenith carb, which as been running rich at idle. I need to rebuild it and possibly grind the emulsion block and lid as per this bulletin here or bodge it with a bit of o-ring as per this bulletin here.

Competing tech bulletins? What's a bodger to do?

Probably, we'll try the easier one, the o-ring fragment, first and if that doesn't work we'll grind the parts down carefully per the other tech report.

Either way, I'll need the gaskets. The rebuild kit is ordered. In the meantime, I needed a bare bones gasket kit so I could move the Rover around the farmyard over the next few days. There's just too much going on around here the next few weeks to have an immobile vehicle.

When the going gets tough, the bodgers get bodging! Here's the gasket-making technique, using a brown paper bag, a magic marker as an ink-pad, and the carb cover to make a kind of potato-stamp outline. Once you have the outline, it's just a few minutes with a razor blade to make the gasket. A little gasket sealant goop made it fuel-tight.

Now, I didn't say I needed the car to run well. I just want it to run. Which it does, after a fashion.

Why worry? Because after all, with a noisy engine like that, it's not going anywhere, except perhaps in and out out of the shop as needed. The rebuild kit should be here Tuesday.

The humid weather is also supposed to break on Tuesday, which is good. It's been too hot around here, especially for the sheep, whose fleece is growing back.

But we have our first tomatoes and our first corn, so that heat and moisture are good for something.

Just not that good for working on hot engines.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Stuck sheep and a man on a hot tin roof

I was getting ready to make dinner yesterday afternoon around 4.30 pm when I heard a strange noise. Our ram lamb's voice has "dropped," and instead of a regular "baaahhhhh" he makes the same kind of low growl that the older ram makes. At a distance, it's  much less audible.

I wandered over to investigate, thinking the while that it was probably time to move the sheep back to the main pen if I wanted a nice quiet evening, and found the ram lamb caught in the hot-wire fence.

There's no power to this particular stretch of fence and the sheep have figured it out, reaching through to get at the greener grass on the other side.

The silly wee lambie was well and truly caught. A few seconds untangling freed him, and off he gallumphed to be with the others.

This was the second time in two days he'd been caught in this stretch of fence. Silly wee bugger. And we mean to breed with him next year?

Maybe that's not such a good idea.

I was hopeful of a quiet evening because the humidity had been high all day, and I'd been working outside on a new metal roof for our porch. This is green sheet metal that is shaped and cut to size by an Amish family business in Unity, and we mean to cover the whole roof with it eventually, but the porch needed done first because of the difficulty we've had with ice dams. Ice dams formed on this roof in 2011, here and here, and in 2009. The main reason was heat escaping though leaks from the porch below, which has an electrical baseboard and is heated on the coldest days for the dog's comfort -- this is where they are kept while we're at work. I had earlier filled the crawl space with cellulose, which stopped the heat escaping, and fitted heater wires to the edge of the roof to melt ice if it did ever occur, but the damage to the roof shingles was already done. Aimee planned to put new wall shingles, dipped to match the rest of the house, on the two small wall sections above the porch, and so the roof had to be done this year. But with the dew point at about 69 degrees F, this was very tiring work. Even though the morning was foggy, I still sweated buckets and my clothing was uncomfortably wet the whole time. By lunchtime I was exhausted, by two in the afternoon when I wrapped up, I was fit for nothing but a shower, a lunch, and a long nap.

Today I'll take things a little easier.

The weather is supposed to break Tuesday. I'm looking forward to it.