Archive for November, 2009

Calipers Calipers Everywhere

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

We have a daily community errand runner, here at Acorn.  Sending out one person in one car to get the half dozen things that we need from town saves a lot of time and gas and cuts down on the number of cars that the community needs to keep to function efficiently.  Today I was that person.

I’m also one of a small number of folks who look after the machinery here.  Today the errands were unusually machine focused as I had been saving up errands that required my special attention for a week or two.  I discovered that a good metric of how mechanically inclined one’s basket of errands is is the proportion of stops that result in the person I’m visiting pulling out their “mics” or high precision calipers.  Today that was three stops out of six (the library, post office, and hardware store had no desire to measure anything I was bringing them).

There’s a lot happening here in the world of machines.  We’re upgrading our tractor capacity now that we have the labor and money to do it.  We finally bought a used John Deere 1520 a couple months ago.  Hailing from the 1970’s and weighing in at about 46 HP it’s a big step up from our vintage 1938 Ford 9N with it’s 24 HP.  Plus, it has a front end loader.  As River predicted, once you have a front end loader you look at the farm in an entirely new way.

The three errands today all stemmed from the purchase of the tofuier tractor (thanks to my friend Pax for finding a vegan friendly alternative to “beefier”).  The bigger tractor has the ability to run a mower conditioner which means that we can start haying our own fields.  This means that it made sense for us to get a hay rake and a pair of pallet forks (which can double as hay bale lifting forks) at an auction recently.  As with many things purchased at auction, the upfront cost is low but the amount of money you’ll have to sink into someone else’s junk to make it work is unknown.

On the way home, one of the universal joints on the drive train for the hay rake shattered.  It was quite the ordeal dragging the whole thing the remaining 15 miles home.  The project now is finding a replacement for the shattered yoke.  The discovery, sadly, seems to be that the u-joint in question is ancient and idiosyncratic.  Dickie, of Louisa Auto Parts, says it’s of a size that simply isn’t available any more.  We’ll have to chop the whole thing off and substitute a newer model.  One caliper usage down.

When we got the forks home from the auction we discovered that the pins for the forks were a few fractions of an inch smaller than the holes in the front end loader.  Now the project is finding bushings or reaming out the holes on the fork so that the front end loader’s pins can fit.  I brought a sample pin off the forks to Dick Harris, the machinist in town, for him to puzzle on.  Second caliper usage down.

Now that we’ve got a big tractor we can finally run our tractor mounted back hoe again.  Our previous big tractor died some 6 years ago and we didn’t have the money or skill to repair it or replace it until this year (I’ve been training myself for the last few years and finally started figuring out the rusting behemoth in the tractor lot last spring).  So last week I pulled the tarp back from the poor neglected backhoe, dug out the accumulated humus from years of rotted leaves, and hit all the joints I could find with penetrating oil.  Miraculously, all the valves look to be in great shape.  Sadly, the hydraulic lines supplying the PTO mounted pump had sprung leaks and the adapter that affixes the pump to the tractor’s PTO shaft had rusted half to dust.  I got the pump off and with the help of plenty of penetrating oil and a bearing puller managed to separate the pump and the adapter.  Then it was in to the local backhoe dealer to get a replacement adapter and some advice on the pump and backhoe.  We needed a new key to affix the adapter to the rusted pump drive shaft.  But what size was the key supposed to be?  Third caliper usage down.

In a week I expect us to be fully functional in tractor land.

I hope I didn’t bore you.  Joan told me to just go ahead and write what I know.

day of the dead celebration

Friday, November 13th, 2009
day of the dead altar

day of the dead altar

sixer and i organized a low-key celebration for day of the dead just after halloween. we turned the piano into an altar complete with marigolds, other flowers, painted skull masks, candles, personal offerings, and lots of skull cookies. here are a few photos.

skull cookies

skull cookies

for those of you unfamiliar (we were pretty unfamiliar too!), day of the dead is a celebration of loved ones who have passed on. it is often a multi-day celebration, during which families honor those who have passed with flowers, favorite foods, drink, and other things the dead might miss from life on earth.  there is typically a parade to the related cemetery, where festivities continue, altars are created, and offerings are made. stories of dead loved ones are shared amidst traditional sweet bread and sugar skulls. there are also often dolls made to look like the deceased.

day of the dead altar

day of the dead altar

we had a fun time with the cookies – i made vaguely skull-shaped sugar cookies and then filled a few henna cones with chocolate icing for decorating. we ended up with cookies decorated as famous folks, bugs, spaceships, and all manner of crazy things.

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