Friday, February 20, 2015

10 below zero this morning and my titanium spork is missing. I blame the Russians.

10 below zero this morning. The coldest I've measured here in seventeen years in the clearcut. 

My titanium spork is missing.   The spork and a stainless steel coffee cup have been my constant companions for the last 4 or 5 years since  I received the spork  as a Christmas present. I love it very much,  light, tough, with a lovely patina of tea stains.  It could stop a .22lr round if  carried in a shirt pocket and one happened to get hit in that pocket.

I make at least 10 trips a day between the office/house and the house/house and I take the spork/SS cup with me for coffee refills.  Starting yesterday, it has been so cold that the air moisture in the office has condensed on the storm door latch making the catch sticky so the door won't stay closed.   To fix the sticky catch, I have had to turn around on the landing and breathe on the latch a few times which melts the moisture and allows a sticky catch to unstick.  Of course, this adds more moisture to the works but I'm in a hurry. I need my coffee!

Last night, while doing the breathing-on-the-latch routine, I set my cup and spork on the landing railing.  The landing is a bit wobbly and needs leveling.  As I turned around  I generated a bit of wobble that launched the cup and spork off the railing and into a deep pile of snow that  has accumulated at the edge of the house.

I found the cup ok, it may be a couple of weeks until I find my spork again, if ever.

Why do I blame the Russians?  This record cold originated in Siberia, came over the pole like a fleet of invisible Tupolev bombers and dropped some record breaking nuclear winter over the eastern US.  This could be the start of a new cold war.  Also, we built the SR-71 from Russian titanium to spy on the Russians and that has to mean something.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

First Crop of 2015

"He didn't amount to much, but he sure knew how to grow some herbs in a five gallon bucket."  
If anybody says that about me after I'm dead and gone, well, that will be OK.   On December 20th, I did a little cleaning in the garden and pulled out the weeds, and dead cilantro and basil stems from three of our herb buckets.  The plants had gone to seed and died a natural death.    I brought the buckets in the house, set them in a south facing window and added water.   Here we are on February 16th.   The cilantro is rocking.  The basil is not liking the cool conditions so much.  
The third bucket was also cilantro but apparently none of the plants produced viable seed.  I should probably replant that one now to try to stay in continuous cilantro production.
On Sunday, we had nachos with fresh chopped cilantro.  Chana masala is next on the menu.  Ah, home grown herbs, literally. Made from recycled dog breath.
I was going to do a post on the potatoes we grew in chicken feed sacks and dog food bags.  I'll just summarize it here. Two lbs. of overpriced, organic designer spuds in and 9.5 lbs out.  That was pretty much a failure.  I think our soil was too moist. I probably needed to add sand.  Also, instead of burying the plants up to their necks when they first sprouted we just buried them -that was a mistake.  Maybe I'll try it again this year.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Long 445 Alternator Hack.

I'm posting this in case somebody needs to replace the alternator for their Long 445 tractor.  This isn't a particularly difficult hack, but, because so many good people post about their repairs, and we have benefited greatly over the years,  I felt the need to pay back a little and post this.

The alternator finally failed last year on our 36 year old tractor.  My internet parts supplier had a replacement for $230 but that's just too expensive.   I figured if I got an old car alternator, one with without a built-in voltage regulator, then I could use that.  I assumed I would have to fabricate some sort of bracket to match how the original was positioned on the tractor.

I visited the local Advance Auto and asked the sales representative to find an alternator for a Ford from the 60s.  He entered '63 Galaxy into the computer and came up with a $40 replacement.  Now, that's more like it.

Here are the two alternators.  They matched very closely so no special mount fabrication was necessary.   However, the replacement required one cut, as shown below.

The replacement had a smaller pulley so I purchaced a new a belt an inch smaller than the original.  When I tightened the belt I ended up at the maximum length for the adjustment bracket.  I recommend a belt two inches shorter than the original.

The next task was to map the connections.   The markings on the Ford are written in Ford and the markings on the Long are Romanian.   There were some obvious mappings like BAT on the Ford corresponding to  B+ on the original and then there were some which required some educated guessing.  Anyway, I was ready to give it a try, however, my Ent-wife said, "Hooooo Hummm, don't be so hasty there.  Let me gaze into my palantir and see if I can find something to aid you with your connections."  -or someting along those lines.  After some searching, she came up with a link to a document which is best described as the Rosetta Stone for alternators.   I looked up "Ford" and looked up "Romanian" and the guesswork was eliminated.

The wire mapping is:

Ford           Long
BAT           B+  (this is missing from the chart)
FLD           DF
STA           C
GRD          D-

Here is the the Ford alternator on the tractor.   The only other modification I had to make was to replace the spade connector with a ring connector for the FLD=DF wire.

Here's the original on the tractor.

That's all there is to it.  Seems to work, so far.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thanks boys, much appreciated.

The Saturday before last we loaded a couple of wethers into the truck and drove about 10 miles down the back roads to one of our local meat processors and then picked them up last Saturday.  It was $160 to process the two of them and they came back as 65 lbs. of  vaccuum-packed mutton.  That works out to $2.46 a pound.   For a completely unfair comparison, I searched online for grass-fed, organic lamb and saw prices ranging from $10-$20 a pound (closer to the $10) .   It's an unfair comparison because I'm not counting the cost of raising and maintaining these two sheep,  but let me live in my little fantasy farmer bubble, OK?

This is really a humane way to go.  Short ride to the processor on back roads, just the two of them getting killed that same morning, as opposed to a long haul to huge, noisy, slaughtering operation.   Supporting a local business, no factory-sized waste disposal problem.   It's meat done on a humane scale.

Often, bigger isn't better.

Of course, it would be illegal for me to sell any of this to you.  Because, you know, the government needs to protect you from me and my local processor because we are possibly evil and want to hurt you -or something like that.

Monday, October 06, 2014

It was so windy....

... that the barbs piled up on the windward side of the fence posts.

Yeah, I'm still working on the fence.  I've put up about 2000 of the 3000 feet of barbed wire along the top.  Hadn't spent this much time with barbed wire before.  For instance, I discovered you can twist the barbs and move them up and down along the wire a little.  Comes in handy when you want to move them out of the way when taking a turn around a post.  And yes, when I was walking the line stapling the wire to the posts I did adjust the ones that were out of place so they were nicely spaced 
  -because that's the kind of detail-oriented guy I am.

Feel free to use that folksy, country, weather reference in your next western novel about hard work, open spaces, honesty, integrity, and the administraton of kinetic justice to real bad hombres.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The year is middle-aged now.

It's that middle-aged time of year.  The trees have finished growing, the leaves are showing signs of wear.  Hopes for growth have now turned to the business of ripening acorns and fruits.  Life is now the daily routine of getting up with the sun, and getting to the business of photosynthesis -trying to put aside some carbohydrates for the future, maybe a starch or two. 

As for the potatoes, all that waiting and excitement of  finally busting through the dirt and taking in the new world is behind them.  Things aren't bad.  Plenty of light, decent water, and occasionally you send out for some MiracleGro.  Gravity is taking its toll.  You stick to the ground now, been knocked down by a storm or two.  Yeah, frost is a couple of months away, closer than it used to be but not so close that it is always in your thoughts -but you do notice the sun is setting a little earlier.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Maysville Heating & Air

Two nights ago, the outside unit for the upstairs heat pump stopped working.  I suspected it was a start capacitor since we have replaced about one a summer over the last few years.   I give Robbie, our HVAC guy, a call and he comes by and we are both talking as he works in the oppressive heat and sun of a July afternoon.  He opens the cover on the heat pump, pulls out the old capacitor, shows it to me and says they just don't work like the old ones now that they are made in China and are filled with eco-friendly castor oil instead of  good old PCBs from the USA. He puts in the replacement and shorts a couple of contacts with his screwdriver to start the motor.  Rrrrrrrr, click.  Oh crap! we both say since this means much money will be needed for a new system with eco-friendly-refrigerant.  Then he says, "Let me try this 480 volt one instead of the 370."  He swaps in the 480 volt capacitor, shorts the contacts again, the compressor goes Hmmmmmmmmm and the cooling fan kicks in and a cold front rolls in and the outside temp drops about 10 degrees in one minute followed by a much needed six tenths of rain.

This guy is good.