thu june 4
BZ the cat brought home 5 chipmunks in 4 days, and I’ve tossed 3 of them into the woods and helped 2 of them escape. I hate to do it, because nothing makes BZ happier than an injured rodent.
fri jun 5
The tractor sprung a leak, so I replaced the bad hose, and it was fine.
A week later, the tractor sprung another leak. (in the hose right next to the one I just fixed. Very suspicious!) I bought a new hose, but they’d made it with a wrong fitting. I got the new hose replaced, but the replacement had a fitting that didn’t fit because it was dented! I got a 3rd hose, and it finally fit fine. I hooked it all up, tested it, put on the mower, and everything worked good. Whew!!
Next thing you know, Mary is mowing the yard, and black smoke starts coming out the stack and the engine bogged down and died.
She came rrright downstairs and got me, and I went rrright outside to look.
Usually, it’s something dumb, and I just pull a rabbit out of my hat and fix it. This time, it looked like the leaks had dropped the hydraulic fluid level way low, and the pump was running dry. After berating myself for not checking the fluid level, I added oil, but I still got the smoke and power loss. This tractor is 30 years old, and I’ve never broken anything I couldn’t fix myself. I scheduled an appointment for service.
So, with the tractor out of commission, Mary wants to mow with the walk-behind.
The walk-behind was 10 years old when she bought it 20 years ago. It worked fine until she broke her leg 3 years ago, but it hasn’t been started since.
Personally, I’d just let the lawn grow until the tractor gets fixed, but Mary wasn’t having it. This is all my fault, she pointed out, and unless I want to mow the lawn myself, I better fix the walk-behind.
Yup. Good point.
So I wrestled it out of the shed and looked it over. Two flat tires, a stuck belt, and bad gas. It was not looking good, but I gave it a pull anyway, and it coughed and belched some smoke.
Waaay better than expected! I pulled it again, and it started! Whoa! I didn’t ask how this was even possible, but I gave it fresh gas and drove it back to the shop, where I could work on it.
As it turns out, the gas in the tank had dribbled, over the winters, thru the carburetor and into the crankcase. The ‘oil’, when I changed it, was more gas than oil — to the point where there’d been enough gas in the oil to ignite that puff of smoke on my first pull. With gasoline for lubricant, I don’t really understand why the whole thing didn’t just blow up and kill me once it warmed up, but I’ll take it.
Half a day later, I’ve got it running like a watch, and Mary is mowing her heart out.
sun jun 7
Then the Kawasaki stopped starting.
I already knew the battery was bad, but I wasn’t sure how bad. To find out, I swapped in a bigger battery with jumper cables and I watched, in slow motion, as one of the wires melted.
I debugged the daylights out if it and, yes, mistakes were made, but the real problem seemed to be my battery charger.
Honest to god!
mon jun 8
As if the tractor and the mower and the Kawasaki and the charger were not bad enough …
It would appear that my Digital VoltMeter is also busted.
Sixty volts coming out of the wall, it says. Phooey. And since my DVM is my primary tool for debugging things like batteries and chargers and motorcycles, I am re-thinking exactly what’s broken and what’s not.
Jeez. What if it’s me?
mon jun 15
I bought a new DVM, and it says I’ve got 120V in my wall. A good sign.
It says my battery charger is fine.
It says my motorcycle battery is bad.
I bought the motorcycle a new battery, and now everything works perfectly.
That was easy.
Wed jun 17.
Celia is back.
She’s lived in Manhattan, off and on, for about 13 years. School, jobs, friends. All of it.
Then the virus struck and she was at the epicenter.
Then the race riots struck, and she was at the epicenter.
Her job went Poof. Everyone holed up. Money. Fear. Her bathroom ceiling even caved in. Everything that could go wrong – did. It’s a lot.
So she’s moving to Tennessee, and she’s staying with us for a couple of weeks in the mean time. Vermont could not possibly be less like New York City these days, and it’s probably good to soak in some normalcy before heading back out.
It is one thing to talk to the cat.
It is something else to talk to Celia.
I was peacefully weeding the ellipse when Mary burst through the shop door with startling news. There’s no water!
Yup. It’s that kind of month.
I reset the breaker and – Presto! – we had water, and I went back to my weeding.
Ten minutes later, Mary is waving from the deck. There’s no water again!
So I reset the breaker, took off the cover plates and watched the well go through a pressure cycle. It seemed to be OK, but the contacts were pretty ugly, so I cleaned them up and told Mary it ‘might be fixed.’ Deep down, though, I knew better.
We cooked, cleaned, bathed, and slept. Plenty of water.
Next day, Mary is watering the garden again, and the breaker trips again.
It turns out Mary has a favorite cast iron sprinkler head that does a great job of watering the garden. It goes through more GPM than the well can supply, though, so she just needs to use less water in the garden.
sun jun 21
Friday night, when I went to queue up Colbert, my TV said ‘Disk Crash.’ So I watched it live instead.
Last night, when I went to watch Colbert, my TV said ‘DVR Overheated.’ So I unplugged it.
I tried to watch Netflix. But the DSL was down, and it wouldn’t stream. So I got myself a bowl of ice cream, went out on the porch, and watched the stars.
And it was a great show, too: New moon. Clear skies. Birds, bugs, and beasts. A thousand points of light. The summer solstice, with fireflies flitting everywhere and an occasional UFO.
wed jun 24
Back in 1979, a friend of mine pounded on my door at 3:00 am and wanted me to drive up to Chaco Canyon with him to watch the summer solstice sunrise as it aligned through two holes in two walls of a 1500 year old indian dwelling. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Fast forward 1500 years. It is sunset on the summer solstice, and Reid is sitting in the shade in his favorite chair, reading on the front porch. The line of shadow from the setting sun past the kitchen creeps toward me from the right and, juuuust as it’s about to glare into my face, the sun sinks beneath the horizon. Reid smiles.
Next time I build a house, remind me to align it so that my favorite spot only gets a face-full of sun once a year.
thu jun 25
We’ve got a big party coming up in 2 days, and my job is to come up with birthday gifts for three girls and a baby. Normally, I would just show up empty-handed, but since MY birthday is also being celebrated, I thought I’d try to set a good example.
Montpelier is 35 miles south of here and has more Mom’n’Pop shops per capita than any other town. It’s a beautiful day, so I hitched up the motorcycle, revved into town, and scoped out the store fronts. I idled up Main Street, looking for a place to park. I found a spot but, in taking it, I hit the brakes just a little too late, missed the turn, and had to either hit a parked car or fall over. It was my first fall ever, and I’m sure glad it happened at zero mph! There was no damage to me or the machine, and I just picked it up, brushed myself off, and backed it in. Just as though I’d planned the whole thing.
My dignity was a whole ‘nother matter. No one was staring, pointing, laughing, or calling 911, but my mojo was in tatters. ‘Calm down,’ I told myself. ‘You can do this.’
I fed a few quarters into the parking meter but it stayed stuck at zero. I checked out the fine print: “Free parking.”
‘Calm. Normal. Breathe.’
I found the bookstore and lost myself in the stacks. Buying a book went well. Whew.
Next on my list: Ladies’ fashion. And – just to the right of the bookstore? – a ladies’ fashion store! I steeled myself, hiked up my pants and my mask, and ventured inside. It was like an alien world. Soft lighting, attractive wooden displays, muted colors, and an attentive clerk. I told her my problem, and she solved it. Bam!
Next on my list: a baby gift. And – just to the left of the bookstore? – a baby store! It was another alien world, but the clerk said I can’t go wrong with a onesie, so I picked one out.
So much stress! I got back on the motorcycle and put Montpelier behind me at the speed limit.
Enough shopping for me.
The tractor came back, and is feeling much better.
You would think that water in the fuel line is something I would have thought to check, but the confluence of all the other problems was overwhelming. I consider myself lucky.
The whole affair was eerily similar to diagnosing a bad battery, using a bad DVM.
tue jun 30
My 11 year old pickup is having a warranty repair done, and I am driving a late model Tundra as a free loaner from the dealer. (It’s a nice truck, but way too big for me.)
Toyota is replacing my truck’s frame. They are completely removing the body, the engine, the brakes, … the whole shebang, and re-assembling it on a brand new frame. Free.
I wish they’d just give me a new truck.
Mary’s car, on the other hand started to vibrate on the freeway. Really bad.
She took it in for service, and they said there was mud packed tight into the wheel wells and all they had to do was hose it out.
So: Mary’s car, my truck, the tractor, the walk-behind, the Kawasaki and (forgot to mention this) Juliet’s zero-turn mower all needed service this month.
But the Suzuki runs great.