Saturday, May 10, 2014

Lamb daze done and other news

Wednesday was shearing day at the farm, the biggest sheep management day of the spring season. Our shearer is Edi, a UMaine agriculture student with a talent for efficiently and gently removing all the fleece from a ewe or ram. First up was Shawn, who met his match and lived up to his name. Then we ran through all the ewes and ewe-lambs, finishing with the last three thought-to-be-pregant ewes, only to find that all was not as thought to be.

In fact, they were not at all pregnant. Not even a little bit.

So much for Shawn the home-grown ram. Growing your own is clearly not always better.

But poor Shawnie. He's probably sealed his fate at that. No-one will buy him if we can't point to a good lambing rate, so he'll have to go to be ramburger. He has one more season on the farm, but we won't want to keep him around after that. Even if he does better he won't live long enough for us to find out how well he did. It's just too much trouble to keep a ram you don't need anymore.

If Shawnie had done a better job, he would have had a better chance of being sold on to another farm.

Before another horrible anti-farming, anti-meat activist sends us snotty comments, think it through. This is not as horrible as it sounds. Our experience is that sheep tend to die pretty painful deaths at eight or nine years of age, if you keep them around to die of old age. A few good years of good health, all the feed and sunshine you want, the chance to reproduce, and then a quick clean unsuspecting death is not all that bad. And where do you think the manure comes from for the compost used in organic farming?

As for me, I get to sleep through the night now, after nearly five weeks of night checks every night.

Here's Quinn with her two black lambs, one boy and one girl. I only have pre-shearing pictures because my camera batteries died. I need to pull out the charger and charge up some. Still, you get to see how strong the lambies we do have are doing. They're very sturdy, all the troubles with white muscle disease left far behind.

Here's Flamie very excited by the sheep and lambs being put out to graze for the first time the other day. The grass has taken quite a while to grow, and is not at all up to snuff, but we decided to let them have a go at the island paddock. They were getting very tired of hay.

Finally, here's the "new" Nissan pick-em up truck on jackstands waiting for a new muffler, having failed inspection on that count.

I'd asked the mechanic, Mr. Thompson on the Valley Road in Brooks, if he would weld the muffler while he had the truck on the lift to change the tires, but it was cracked in more than one place and he gave up on it, telling me I had to get a new exhaust system from the catalytic converters back. Then followed a fairly hectic few days of mechanical work for me as I tried to cut the old system off, and then locate all the pieces needed to make a new exhaust system.

The problem is, as a long bed and four-door model, this truck's body style is fairly rare, and there are several different after-market exhaust system configurations, some of which don't have the same parts. The Nissan place in Bangor was no help. They didn't have as much as a single gasket on hand. In the end I went to CarQuest in Bangor for the muffler, tailpipe and intermediate pipe, ordered online for the crossover pipe, went to NAPA in Belfast for one gasket, all they had, and Autozone in Belfast for gasket material with which to make my own second gasket.

I still need what looks to be (from online parts diagrams) a long-bed extender pipe, which no-one seems to supply. But I also noticed that the old muffler, not original but after-market, had used a second intermediate pipe for this purpose, so wonder if it isn't just the same thing, and that's why no-one has it. If I do this I need to cut the rear flange off the crossover pipe, but I think it will work. We'll find out when all the parts get here.

In any case, all the work came to a temporary end after I managed to get a hot shard of steel embedded in my right eyeball. I needed to grind off the rusted bolts on the old muffler with the angle grinder, but at one point forgot to lower my goggles. This is an easy mistake. Getting middle-aged as I am, I can't actually see that well for close work anymore with either my glasses and googles on, so I'm in the habit of pausing work and lifting them from time to time, to be able to actually see what I'm doing. Sometimes I forget to lower them again. In this case I was rewarded with a very nasty injury to my eye.

This was a particularly painful splinter, as I couldn't get it out for several hours. It was tiny, but had penetrated the cornea and was stuck hard. Aimee, with her usual good timing, had left for the day to do fieldwork with her friend Pam, and so I had no-one to help me. In the end, after a couple hours of sporadic attempts to clear it, interspersed with attempts to continue work, it came out after a lucky swipe with the edge of a towel soaked in hot water, but the eye was still very sore.

It didn't help that the second job I wanted to do, with the muffler all off, was to spray phosphoric acid on the rust and bare metal, where I'd been using the wire wheel on the hand grinder to remove the big flakes. The breeze was light but variable and the acid mist kept drifting my way, coming through the holes in the side of my goggles. In the end, after washing off several times, I persevered and got the whole frame properly etched and ready for POR 15 paint, but I probably added slight acid burns to hot steel shards on my list of eyeball injuries.

You really need a full protective suit for these kinds of jobs. And a lift.

After a particularly painful evening in which I resorted to lying on the couch with my eyes closed listening to a radio play -- Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood on BBC Wales -- rather than watch TV, I went to bed with some Ibuprofen, and awoke to be much better although still not a hundred percent. Today is graduation, so I think I'll take it easy. But it's also a good day for transplanting starts, so we'll see.

This is a lot of effort to go to for this truck. I'm starting to think I made a mistake. The price given for this truck in the Kelly Blue Book, assuming good order, 144,000 miles, and no major defects is $6,800, for a private sale. I've invested around $6,700 already, and still don't know if the timing belt was properly replaced at 120,000 miles.

Still, with a bit more work I'll have it where I need it to be, assuming my eyesight holds up. If nothing else shows up to confound my plans, we'll not be too far over the target price. Certainly we'll be under the dealer price for the same truck, and I'll have the security of having confidence in the work, having done it all myself.

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