Sunday, August 23, 2015

Last weekend of summer

It was Aimee's fortieth birthday yesterday, and as befits a family of three on a birthday in summer, we went looking for fun. I had heard of nearby Fort Knox's "Pirate Day" from our local TV station, so we went to check it out.

Roo is of course too young to know what a pirate is, but she does like people and crowds, so we thought she'd enjoy it. We were right. Here she is hamming it up for the camera as usual.

Aimee of course took dozens of pictures, but these are mine, taken with my phone.

The so-called pirates, also major hams, staged a mock attack on a Royal Navy vessel, in reality a yawl-rigged sailboat down in the Penobscot River. The pirates were so poor at their gun drill that the boat had to sail back and forth under the guns many times, essentially attracting fire in order to get enough bangs to please the crowd. I imagine that in any real battle these pirates would have been overwhelmed fairly quickly. The guns were loud, though.

Eventually they gave up on cannon fire and turned to hand-to-hand combat. This was even lamer. But no-one seemed to care. This is supposedly a Royal Navy officer being set upon by a pirate. Americans always choose the British to be the villains in any such period piece, in much the same way as the Brits always choose the Germans.

The pigs are heading off today to the butchers. They had almost eaten through their last load of grain -- we allot a thousand pounds per pig, then call it good -- but the next two weekends are busy, so I was glad to be able to get them in today. I'd like to get the barn cleaned out before the various fall visitors show up.

Thursday was peach-canning day, and it went particularly well, with over fifty jars canned, a Womerlippi Farm record. We made a movie this time, improving and expanding on our how-to-guide from last year. It isn't finished -- that will have to wait for next year -- but here it is.

Finally, we had a minor emergency Friday, when our well pump refused to stop pumping for about five hours. It took a good deal of mental work to run through the trouble-shooting chart, but we eventually were able to isolate all of the usual possibilities -- bad foot valve, blocked ejector, tired motor, worn-out impeller, and so on. The problem turned out to be low water level in the well. It hasn't seemed particularly dry this year, but it must have been. Anyway, lowering the cut-out pressure setting on the pressure switch from 60 to 50 PSI did the job, allowing the pump to work a little less hard, and there's been no trouble since.

Tuesday will be my first day of attendance at work, Wednesday will be Aimee's. Off course, we've been puttering away at syllabi and course prep, but that we can do at home and even while watching Roo. Having to actually show up is different and marks the real start of our fall season. That and butchering pigs.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Shifting gears

Here's our darling delightful daughter one morning when she just couldn't wake up. Usually she's awake when I go into her room, but this one day last week she just kept sleeping and sleeping until we had to wake her, about when we felt very sorry too. Kids are pretty cute when they're sleepy.

This coming week is the last full week of summer before the fall term begins. Our in-service training days are the week after, and classes start on the 31st, which also happens to be Roo's first birthday. I don't suppose she will mind very much. She doesn't really know what a birthday is yet. Considering I'm coming up on my fifty-fourth, I'm not sure she should begin counting them anytime soon. Ignorance is bliss.

It will be good to get back to work, though. Mentally rested after a summer of more mundane but physical activity, I'm ready to teach again. Accordingly, however, I'm declaring partial victory on the VW project and shifting gears mentally. It doesn't usually work out that well to go straight from a demanding, long-term technical project back to work without a rest and a period of mental regrouping. Plus, the weather is slated to be sticky hot until at least the end of the week. I already fried my head, and cooked off a quart can of expensive primer paint, trying to make progress in the summer heat.

The paint thing was interesting. I had been late getting out to my job and the morning heat had begun to build. Trying to make progress, but frustrated by my own tardiness, I worked fast to strip the remaining paint and corrosion off the rusty roof with the wire cup wheel on the angle grinder, a nasty dusty job made worse by the dark hot metal surface. Although I was feeling rushed, never a good feeling in any technical situation, I did a good job, and proceeded then to spray POR-15 primer, which essentially cooked off and turned to dust before it could properly adhere to the roof! What a waste of expensive paint.

In the afternoon, after things had cooled off some, I went back and removed the offending POR-15 with the dual action sander and applied instead a quart of white Rustoleum primer, which, although it dripped and ran and will require extra sanding as a result, at least it didn't turn to dust. Here's the finished effect:

The body of the vehicle is now straight and rust-free.

There remained the two front fenders to do, and they hadn't been delivered yet, but they arrived Thursday and I knocked them out Friday.

Here's the driver's side. You can see the weld-through primer can in the background. That stuff sure makes your job easier. Fitting the fenders required to doors to be rehung to get the lines straight and to make sure the doors would shut.

Here's the passenger side.

The two panels that make up the passenger side fender assembly are made by different firms and don't match. They still require a section of right-angled tin to be welded across their tops to complete the fender shape. I can't bend a decent right-angle in my shop because I don't have a bending machine, so I went to our local Amish roofers for a section of their right-angled metal trim, which they'll make up for me and which I can trim down with the air shears. The young guy that sells this product was a little confused by my request, though, because I told him the paint color didn't matter. Usually people are more worried about color selection when they buy roof trim.

So that's the VW chassis and body properly repaired and mostly primed if not painted. There remains the finish paint to do, the engine to rebuild, and the rolling gear and brakes to service, but this is a good time to quit for now. We'll get back to the paint job when the weather has cooled off a little in the fall.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

There and back again

 Photo: Roo with "Grandpap."

For some months now, Aimee has been planning a trip to Pennsylvania to see her parents. They live in Virginia, but moved there years ago from the "coal patch" towns of western PA. We generally only see them once a year, at Christmas, but since Roo was born, the traveling has increased greatly, so the grandparents can see their grandchild more frequently.

Accordingly, we flew to Pittsburgh and spent a couple of days there doing tourist things -- the restaurants and museums, then motored up to the Mount Pleasant area in a rental Ford Focus. Aimee had found a nice AirBnB, in, of all things, a former "company house" in the coal patch village of Calumet. Since she grew up in just such a house, this might have been nostalgia on her part.

The grandparents were very happy to see her, and we were just as happy to hand some of the childcare over for a short while. Grandma is in green on the right. Roo has a little cousin six months younger, called Leelynn, also pictured above. This was the first time the two had laid eyes on each other. 

On the Friday evening we had a big family picnic at a state park, where there was this big slide. Both Aimee and I took Roo down. She liked it a lot.

Calumet, I discovered, is close to Norvelt, a town I'd heard of through reading New Deal history for my work in economics. FDR sponsored several such experimental government-funded towns as part of the New Deal. The inhabitants were employed building their own houses, then later a clothes factory was built. Each home had enough acreage to run a homestead about the size of our own, gardens, chickens and pigs. I read up on the experiment, an interesting side-note in economic history, while we were there, and we took a driving tour around the town.

As we had a very young child with us, we didn't want to have to drive back to the airport and fly out in the same day, so we booked in at an airport hotel for the last night. I had done a little research and discovered there was an aircraft museum and restoration center a half-hour north, so we visited, mostly to see this little beauty, a 1958 Mk. 3a Jet Provost, formerly based at RAF Church Fenton as part of the system of Flying Training Schools that I used to belong to.

I worked on these aircraft for five and a half years, through most of my RAF career, doing everything from flight-line work, through scheduled servicing, to engine bay rebuilds. Even after thirty years I can still remember the procedures for pulling the engines or stripping the compressors.

I was pretty happy to see the plane, but even happier to discover that the museum needed some help in figuring out what to do with it. I was able to put them in touch with the UK-based Jet Provost Appreciation Society, where they'll be able to get parts, manuals, and advice.

All's well that ends well, or would have been, if I hadn't caught a nasty summer cold. About two days into the trip I came down with a sore throat that became a disgusting and painful chesty crud, then bronchitis, requiring antibiotics. The doc thinks I probably got it from the airplane ride. Hopefully it clears up soon, because it's very annoying not to be able to breathe properly.

If you have cold or flu symptoms, they make you wear masks now at our doctors office. This, of course, just makes you feel sicker, but if it prevents anyone else getting sick like I did, then it's fine with me.