Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lister engine rebuild, part 1

I tore down the top end this morning, between stints on baby care duty. This is what I found:

This is what the number two cylinder head looked like (above)...

... while this is the number one cylinder head. Notice the difference in carbon deposits in the (smaller) exhaust valve holes.

I think this genset was overdue for its thousand hour decoke, is all. Everything else checks out. The cylinder walls don't have a single score on them, and you can still see the factory-made honing marks.

So, assuming we can hack this, and I'm sure I can, we just bought a generator worth several thousand dollars for only $400.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Eight weeks tomorrow!

Here's Ernie the English Shepherd doing his shepherd-dog thing, guarding the house and watching for Roo. He loves her like she was his own baby. I'm sure he would get a pretty good bite of anyone that laid a hand to her.

Our precious wee mite will be eight weeks old tomorrow, and we seem to be settling into the role of parents well enough. Aimee is having it harder than I, mostly because breastfeeding is time-consuming and keeps you in one spot. She's off to do the shopping and get a massage, a new treat for her, although probably also a necessity.

One important trick we discovered early on is that Roo falls asleep to the sound of white noise, especially machinery. The Kitchen Aid mixer is the best, but lots of other things have worked, from cars and trucks, through the drill press, to the new 3D printer in my workshop at college.

Accordingly, I recorded the mixer to my Mac laptop and play it in a loop whenever and wherever we need her to "go down." Here's the set-up, Roo in the rocker and the computer playing the mixer noise. Brings new meaning to the old phrase "mix tape."

Although there's way too much to do still, it's hard to get much done around here with weekends pretty much solid child care from front to back. We essentially have to plan out household and farm chores ahead of time, taking each others' plans and needs into account, and prioritizing. Even so, I've managed to find time to run the fat lambs to the butchers, deliver the meat, winterize the cars, clean up the yard, and put about half of the garden to bed. I'm waiting for a good solid hard frost for the potato harvest, then the rest can go to bed too.

Here's the underside of the Nissan pick-em up truck, getting what will be an annual coat of fluid film.

And her's a new investment, a diesel generator set built on an old British Lister Petter TS3 diesel. This cost $400 off Maine Craigslist. I got up at four this morning to drive up to Greenville to get it, leaving Aimee to look after Roo by herself for a short while. Turns out, when you have a baby and want to go dickering, you have to go early if you can, so you can get back to do your share of baby watching.

I'm looking forward to getting this beast running. It's 18KW, which is too much really for this house, but if we ever decide to build again, especially if we build off-grid, this will be ideal for running heavy duty farm machinery and shop tools. It can also be run off biodiesel and waste vegetable oil, like the grease cars the students use to build at the college in the early 2000s. I've been wanting to try a Lister grease-generator conversion for years.

The garden is still pretty to look at in places. The marigolds we planted to keep the flea beetles off the brassicas have done their work and then some, then decided to give us one final show.

Even Roo likes a walk in the veggie patch. Daddy is lousy at baby-selfies, though. Don't drop her!

Finally, here's Shawn doing his thing. The two at the front are breed ewes. Shawn is at the back, trying to keep up.

All in all, a very active late fall.

Snow will come soon, though, and I'm not ready yet. I need a few good days.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Six weeks old!

It's been hard to write for the blog lately. For one, there isn't as much time. In particular, we're up all hours of the night, and so my previously much-cherished and peaceful early mornings from 4am to sheep-feeding time are now more likely to be spent in bed trying to get another hour in, or at least enough sleep that I can get through the workday without sleeping at my desk or, worse, on my feet in front of a class.

We've been lucky, though. Our little bundle of joy does actually sleep through the night already. Not all the way through the night, but enough of it. The only problem is that she has to be latched on to Mom to do so. This makes Aimee achy from not being able to turn over, and of course she's missing out on REM sleep.

Even so, farm life goes on, and if these days aren't all to be a blur, some record must be kept. I find myself going back over the blog several times a year to find out when it was that we did such-and-such a thing, or which sheep gave birth to which lamb, and so on. The value of having a diary has been well-proven over the years. And, of course, family members and friends all over the world want to know what is happening here in Maine.

So what has happened around here, other than our daughter is now six weeks old and beginning to grab Mommy's hair and make "social smiles", all earth-shaking news in itself, at least to the proud and sleep-deprived parents?

Well, we sold three breed ewes to an island farm Saturday. The farmers came with a nice big livestock trailer. They were pleasant and sensible, and the photos on their webpage and FaceBook page show some pretty good husbandry, and so we feel that these sheep will go to good homes.

The island farmers seem surprised at the large size of our sheep, given that they also keep Romneys.

It isn't the Corriedale blood. Corriedales are no larger than Romneys. Both are multi-purpose breeds, and look so similar they can be hard to tell apart. But since we grain our sheep daily all year, they grow out to the full potential of the breed.

They may have a ram for us next year, which would be nice. Little Roo might be old enough by then to enjoy a trip to an island. All in all we were pretty pleased with the deal.

Then yesterday the three fat lambs went to the butchers. By the end of the week they'll be lamb chops. Aimee was asked to help with the trailer-loading chore. This is a job she has avoided every year, mostly after giving up on me in frustration when I've struggled to load pigs, but I know she also feels sorry for the poor doomed critters.

This time she was so shocked at how difficult it can be to load multiple animals into our small home-made livestock trailer, she immediately acquiesced to our purchase of a "proper" one, much like the one the island farmers brought. This was a great day for me, because I've struggled for so many years. But the money we could set aside for farming has always been tight, and so we can't just spend it willy-nilly. I believed that if we could get by with a little home-made trailer, then we probably should.

A larger, purpose-built livestock trailer would transform my year, taking the two hardest jobs and making them easy. And the "new" (eleven years old) Nissan pick-em up truck will be able to draw such a trailer easily. One day, if we can find some more land around here, I'd like to have a proper piggery and more sheep, and so a bigger trailer would be needed.

Finally, Shaun the ram is also sold, the deposit in hand, and he will leave soon after he has completed his tupping rounds. He began yesterday and got off to a bad start. His notion was simply to run down the ewes when they wouldn't at first stand for him, a real "rough wooing." This of course will not work for him. He'll have to learn to be nicer. But he soon got tired, so this is the sort of behavior that is likely self-correcting.

All this sheep-selling leaves us with only seven ewes, of which five can and are being be bred to Shaun. (The remaining two are his sister and daughter, now seperated.) That's the fewest sheep we've had since our first sheep purchase all those years ago, and reflects our desire to have an easy winter, this first winter that we're a family of three.