Sunday, July 6, 2014

Queen Ginnie and a change of plans

Ginnie the Guinea has been here now for two weeks, and settled in quite nicely. She/he likes it here and has decided it's his/her farm now, but we, the original owners may stay to look after him/her if we feed him/her twice daily and keep clean water on hand.

Still no authoritative word on whether she's the new Queen or King of the Farm, but based on behavior I'm beginning to suspect "King."

Here she/he is right up on the roof, cackling to his/her heart's content. And very noisy cackling it is too. I'm thinking no female would be so self-aggrandizing as to have to get up on the roof if all she wanted was a good loud cackle.

Still, as good scientists we shouldn't jump to conclusions, so we'll keep splitting his/her pronoun until we have harder evidence.

Aimee tried to unload him/her to a couple of different friends' farms, and did actually find a place for him/her to go, but I sort of like having him/her around. When you feed him/her, she/he cackles her thanks very appreciatively. I like having appreciative animals around. It helps make up for Aimee, who is rarely appreciative.

Aimee is either completely indifferent to what I do, or feigns indifference, or, when she actually wants me to do something, orders me around. I rarely get a word of thanks.

Don't get me wrong. My wife is a unique personality and I love her dearly and even hope that some of her character traits are passed on to our kid, soon due. And I do believe she loves me. But it's nice to be made to feel wanted every once in a while.

So Ginnie is kind of nice to have around in that respect.

In other news about ingratitude, I've decided to sell the bloody old Bolens. Regular Great Farm Diary readers long familiar with this great beast of a lawn tractor will know that while on the one hand, it's given me no end of trouble over the years, on the other it's been tremendously useful, and I've gotten an awful lot of very hard work out of it over the years too.

But it's spent about as much time sitting in the shop waiting to be repaired as it has sitting out in the dooryard ready to use.

Most of the early trouble I had with it was with the mower deck and clutch, which in my view was poorly designed in the first place. There's an electromagnetic clutch that requires a positive flow of power from the battery to keep the mower blades spinning. For years this device would cut out after half an hour of mowing, until I realized that the thin wire to the clutch was heating up to the point where the power supply actually reaching the clutch was very low. When after years of this trouble I replaced the wire with a heavier one and got the clutch working properly, I though I was home free, but then broke one of the three mower deck spindles.

Antique Bolens spindles are rarer than the proverbial "rocking horse shit." It took weeks of searching and calling around to locate one in an equipment repair yard in Topsham, two hours away. I duly drove down there and back, then stripped and rebuilt the deck with the new spindle, and again thought I was home free, but the bloody thing still shaved the grass bare anytime it hit a bump. This was primarily because the mechanism that raises and lowers the deck is based on a cable, not rigid mechanical arms, and so this design ensures that the deck wobbles on uneven ground or if it takes even a slight hit. Our lawn is full of slowly healing scars as a result.

Then there was a period during which three of the Bolens's tires all went flat one after another, and so multiple tire repairs were needed, until I finally replaced the front wheels with ones from some other mower, solving the problem.

Then one mud season I went out to start the beast after it had sat out under a tarp all winter, and promptly flooded a cylinder with gas, or possibly water, to the point where it "hydraulicked", temporarily seizing the cylinder, which just as promptly bent a push rod. I didn't know it had only bent a pushrod at the time, so, with the engine running on only one cylinder, this meant a partial engine rebuild to diagnose the problem. I got the engine back together and running on both "pots", only to find the carburetor then out-of-adjustment. The engine has been racing ever since. I could fix it easily enough with some tinkering and probably a new return spring, but by this point, late last summer, we'd bought our new push mower, which does a great job of mowing the "easy" ground in front of the house, and so we needed the Bolens far less. When you have sheep, you only really need a riding mower for weed control once or twice a year.

Other than the front lawn, the rest of our ground is very rough. Because of the loose deck attachment, the Bolens has never been a great rough ground mower, so it was on the cards that eventually I would buy a new riding mower, which happened last week when I purchased a new Ariens gear mower with a solid deck attachment. Meanwhile, we were left with only one use for the Bolens, which was hauling the yard trailer. Then early this spring it sprung a leak from the front main seal on the hydrostatic transmission. I replaced the seal, of course, taking several weeks to do the job because of other more important projects. Hurricane Arthur finally gave me a reason to finish up, in the form of a very wet Saturday in which I could get very little else done around here. But as I put the tranny back together I noticed that the main shaft was loose, meaning the bearing was gone, meaning the new seal would leak just like the old one, which of course it promptly did. A secondhand transmission for this beast will run $300 or $400.

A day, and a hurricane, earlier, I had dug out an old trailer hitch attachment for the Kubota tractor instead, something the Kubota came with, but that I had never used because it was broken, and because I had the Bolens. I repaired it with a bit of pipe and some welding, and used it and the yard trailer yesterday to pick up the remaining pile of gash wood from our recent construction job and truck it to the place behind the barn where we keep piles of fence posts and lumber and other large useful things. This was a big heavy-lifting job I'd delayed doing, waiting for the Bolens to be repaired, but the fact that I managed to get it done easily enough with the Kubota was more than enough to convince me it wasn't worth three hundred bucks to fix the Bolens.

I put it on Maine Craigslist for only $150. Other Bolens tractors with similar problems are on there for upwards of several hundred dollars more, so this is a steal, but I want it gone.

This seems a little ungrateful, like culling a good lead ewe, or some other seemingly ruthless stroke, but as with lead ewes, if you keep pieces of aging farm and yard machinery around past their useful natural life, you finish up with more grief, not less. I surely hate to do this, since in some ways it negates my pride in my own mechanical abilities, but enough is enough.

I'll put the Bolens out of its misery, and end mine, by selling it,  and someone will get enough spare parts to keep theirs running a little longer.

Here if you're interested and have absolutely nothing better to do, is the link to all the GFD posts with the word "Bolens" in over the years.

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