Sunday, April 7, 2013

Spring flinging (of yard gubbins) and other endeavors

The cold Canadian weather finally broke for the last two days of our two-week spring break, and I used those days to get rid of a lot of waste lumber and other yard trash that we had stored in what I call the "bomb dump," an area of waste ground behind our workshop that we've been using for storing large potentially useful items for years now. 

(The RAF bases I worked at all had bomb dump areas, left over from WWII, used for much the same purposes.)


Our bomb dump needs to be cleared out since it's basically the access route to this year's building project, the house extension that wifey ordered up just before Christmas. 


Here's the area at the top of the garden where we're now keeping the more useful items that were previously stored in the bomb dump.

I'm not quite sure that Aimee truly understood, or understands, just what a chain of events she placed in motion, once she made that order. The bomb dump clear-out is just the beginning, really. There's also the big "refi" project, by which we consolidate our current two mortgages into one, for the cost of only one payment (interest rates having declined significantly since we bought the place) over the same fifteen years' length, and so free up monthly income to pay for the extension. That paperwork is almost done, a major effort. Then there's the septic pumping and the plumbing permit, which processes I must now begin, since the septic and drainfield are now clear of snow and ready for inspection. Then the building permit, the excavation, the foundation...

All of which, I can confidently predict, Aimee will remain more or less ignorant of, since all of these jobs have "husband" written next to them in bold capital letters, somewhere deep in the pages of the (unwritten) Womerlippi Strategic Plan. 

It must be nice to be married to someone as useful as me.

Of course, once you begin a process like this one, other problems soon reveal themselves to add to the list. In the case of the bomb dump, all the trash and gubbins we had stored there prevented maintenance access to the rear wall of the shed, which was also made damp by the lack of sunshine and the high Maine humidity. The paint began to peel, and will now need to be sanded down and repainted. I probably have a gallon of this paint down in our basement paint storage tubs, but expect that it has solidified by now. So we'll have to match the paint. At least it won't be hard to get a paint chip for that job.

Once the bomb dump was more or less cleaned out, it was time to do the more usual spring chore of grading the driveway and raking the winter's road salt and gravel off the grass verges. This is a job I do with the '73 Kubota B6000 tractor and the York rake. When we first bought the house I tried to do it by hand with a leaf rake, but that was a serious work-out, and left me gimping for a few days while I recovered. The York rake does a better job and saves all that effort. It came with the tractor and is one of the reasons I bought this particular second hand tractor, that and the Kubota-made rototiller that also came with it. I usually take the opportunity to grade the driveway too, which helps in drainage and reduces the mud around here when it rains.

Yet another job that would be pure misery without this wonderful old tractor, forty years old this year. 

(It must have been difficult for all those American World War II Pacific war veterans, once these tractors appeared on the market in the 1970s. On the one hand I know from talking with many of these old fellows over the years that they truly came to hate the Japanese soldiers. Most British Pacific War veterans did too. There were just too many murders and too much torturing of POWs. All the Burma and island war vets detested Japanese folks as a result. And then, just a few short years after the war, all these amazingly useful and cheap Japanese products began to appear in the US. I expect there were some old timers who just could never bring themselves to buy anything Japanese. I know I won't touch anything obviously Argentinian to this day. Maybe I'll allow myself a can of corned beef again, once they admit that our Falkland Islanders have a right to democracy and self-determination. But not until then.)

I wish our old Bolens 1669 lawn tractor was as reliable as the Kubota, but it's always given me grief. The design is very solid, lots of heavy steel in there, so it won't wear out. But mower deck parts are expensive and hard to find, while the engine is just a rickety old Briggsy-Stratton 16 horse "Vanguard" twin.

Despite starting up first time after a winter stored outdoors (all I had to do was put in fresh gas and a fully charged battery), and despite running perfectly for several loads of gubbins that we took up to the top of the garden, one the forth or fifth load the Bolens suddenly wouldn't start. When I finally did get it to run, it was only running on one cylinder and back-firing through the carb. 

This was a minor disaster, since the Bolens pulls the yard trailer, which is how we get heavy stuff from one part of our farm to the other, and since the bomb dump wasn't yet completely clear, and firewood-getting  season is nearly on us. I used the Land Rover to take the last trailer load up to the top of the garden, driving very carefully so as not to hurt my beloved Rover. I then ran the Bolens, shuddering and banging along on only one cylinder, right up into my shop, where I promptly left it for a whole week, to wait until I had time and gumption to do something about it .

It took the best part of Saturday afternoon to remove the Vanguard engine from the Bolens chassis, and another hour or so to strip down the two cylinder heads. Eventually I found the problem, or at least the symptom, a bent push-rod for the exhaust valve on number one cylinder. I had to ask Aimee to help me remove the valve-keepers (I think my valve spring compressor is over in the work shed at the Bale House), which was not a request she particularly appreciated, since it meant getting greasy hands and standing around in the cold shed.

Eventually I figured a way to use the vice to compress the spring. Something had happened to the valve stem oil seal, and a bit of coiled wire, that I assume was part of this seal, came loose. Assuming this was what caused the push-rod to bend, I removed the wire and ordered a replacement push-rod online. Once the push-rod arrives, we'll re-mantle the cylinder heads and see if we can't get everything to turn over properly by had. If so, I will probably just put the engine back in and hope for the best.

Another theory is water in the gas tank. This beast was stored outside all winter, open to the rain and snow. If even a few cubic centimeters of winter rain got sucked into a cylinder, the cylinder might have "hydraulic'ed", bending the push-rod. Too much raw gas from an overly rich carb can have the same effect. So might internal oil build-up in the cylinder. But we don't need a perfect diagnosis. As long as the valve isn't also bent, the push-rod took the brunt and the engine will run again once the new push rod is in.

I may take the motor to the car wash first. It could do with a good pressure washing.

None of this mechanical and gubbins-hauling endeavor has phased our sheep much. They're still keeping their legs crossed and their lambs firmly inside.

Indeed, the only obvious change in behavior has been an increase of about half a bale a day of hay consumption. I expect this is down to having lambs inside to feed, but also perhaps because it's still a little cool around here and they no longer have their winter coats on.

Spring is, however, well on its way.and there's no turning back now. 

Here's the positive proof: Green growing things in our greenhouse.

Amen to that.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

The earliest posts, at the very end of the blog, tell the story of the Great Farm, our purchase of a fragment of that farm, the renovation of the homestead and its populating with people and animals. Go all the way to the last post in the archive and read backwards from there to get it in chronological order.

After getting tired of spam comments (up to a dozen or more per day), I required commentators to be Google "registered users". You can write me at if you have a serious comment or question and are not a registered user.

Spammers -- don't bother writing -- there's no way I will post your spam to my blog. Just go away.