Wednesday, July 18, 2012

If it ain't broke.... it soon will be!

Hello, and welcome to Broke-Down Mountain Ranch.   I'd like to document some of the many broken things here.  It seems like my days are filled with fixing broken things.  I fix 1 thing and 3 others break.  It's probably not that bad, but it seems like it.  Here's what I dealt with today, just today!

First up is my finger.  It's not broken, but it's badly bent (and cut, too).  See, there's this broken door (note to self: another broken thing... need picture) in the barn that can only be opened by pushing the latch in from the side of the metal frame.  Normally, I get a hammer and punch and hit it, but this day I tried just pushing it.  With my finger.  It opened and since the wind was blowing, it opened hard, catching the tip of my finger between the door and frame and neatly slicing the tip of my finger off.  This is gonna cut down on my guitar playing for a few days, at least.

This is a 25' tape measure.  It quit retracting and after WD-40 didn't work, I took it apart and found a, yup, broken spring inside.  Into the trash with it.  I already have a new 30' Stanley with metal housing in the shop. Maybe it'll be my buddy for a few weeks.

 Oh, cool- this is a two-fer, maybe even a three or four-fer!  On the trailer is a Kawasaki generator.  I'm using it to run the formerly broken, now fixed (I hope!) well.  This has never been a particularly reliable generator and we've long since replaced/supplemented it with a much simpler and, so far, more reliable Honda.  But, since it's just sitting and since we paid good money for it, I wanted to put it back to work.  It ran once.  Then I brought it home and filled it with gas and took it back to the well.  It refused to run.  Gas was pouring out of the carb and that could mean only 1 thing.  I took the carb apart and after careful searching found the broken float bowl that was not doing its job, which is quite simple, really:  Shut off the fuel, and "don't let it leave the carb!"  (Monty Python fans will recognize the allusion).  New float bowls are $25 plus shipping and JB Weld is impervious to gas, so I restored to globs of the latter.  After determining that the float pins is uni-directional and must be installed "just-so" or it'll bind the float, I (hopefully) fixed the carb and float and returned the generator to work.  I'd still better order a new float.

In the background is the Yellow Peril, otherwise known as a John Deere backhoe.  This thing...well, where to start?  First of all, it doesn't!  That's right- it doesn't start.  I don't really know why.  I do know that several years ago, I took it to a neighbor's to dig a new septic line for him.  Loading this thing is a really scary deal and after I did a wheelie trying to get it loaded, I decided to just drive it home.  About 1/2 way, it seized and quit running.  I'd hit the starter and get nothing.  I left it there and went home for my skid steer, with the intention of using it to lift all the arms and buckets up and chain them in place so that I could maybe tow the Yellow Peril home.  After getting the skid steer on-site, chaining everything, and etc, I thought I'd try the starter.  It started!!!!  So, I drove it home.  A few weeks later, I needed to dig on my own septic system.  After starting the tool via a complex system of cables and extra batteries, I went to work.  All was well for awhile and I was nearly finished with the job.  I went into the house to get something and I returned to find smoke pouring from the engine.  I took a quick look and determined that the fan belt was off.  The last thing I wanted was a humongous piece of dead yellow metal on an open sewage hole, so I quickly moved the backhoe off the hole and drove it to near the barn.  It needs a new fan belt but to get that on, I have to remove the hydraulic pump.  I've never done this and it sounds messy and oily and I have procrastinated for nearly 2 years.  So, the Yellow Peril sits.  Oh, yeah, did I mention that it also doesn't have any brakes?

My skid steer does 10x the job of moving dirt that this backhoe does but, alas- take a wild guess!!!!-  the skid steer is broken!!!  It has a weird oil leak that I haven't been able to diagnose yet and can't afford to have a pro diagnose.  Thus, the skid steer also sits.  In between them, visible to the right of the child's play set (which, coincidentally, has a broken slide) is a Ford 8N tractor that- imagine!!!- is broken!!!  It has a rusted-out exhaust pipe that'll need replacement. 

I don't think the lights work on the trailer holding the generator but I'm scared to check.

Here we have a new driveshaft carrier bearing on my 1980 Toyota.  Now this one I'll cut some slack as the original bearing lasted for 32 years and 170,000 miles.  It was a fairly easy replacement and (hopefully) I installed it correctly.  We'll see.  If you see something wrong in this picture, PLEASE let me know!

This broken item is a Makita battery.  It just quit working.  All was fine until I put it on the charger one day.  I got the flashing/alternating green/red lights which indicate a failed battery.  No hope here.

My go-to-mailbox bike (an old Gary Fisher Supercaliber) has a flat-tire.  I can probably fix this and it'll probably just go flat again.

And finally, for now, my boots.  These are Wolverine work boots that I made the mistake of going rappelling in one day this spring.   My ascending rope cut the soft soles of these boots a-part.  I filled 'em up with Gorilla Glue and I'm getting a little more use out of them, but they are not far from the trash heap.

I think that sums up the broken stuff I had to deal with just on this one day.  Next time, I'll chronicle the stuff that works.  That will be easy as it will be a much shorter blog.

Until then, keep on the sunnyside.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Well, well, well

YES!!!!!!!! Do you know what this means?!!!?!!!??
The renegade pipe

This is the pipe that was lost in the well. After 2+ hours of fishing, aided by my home-made camera rig, we snagged the pipe. It was extremely tough pulling so we sent the camera down again and saw that our fishing spear had gone past the head- we figured we'd snagged the outside of a joint past the bad part. In other words, the fishing spear never went down the pipe but snagged the _outside_ of the pipe. Amazingly, we were able to pull the entire pipe up w/out losing that grip. It was tense at first because the pipe refused to budge and I was afraid we'd break the lifting cable and lose the whole thing, but we got it moving (it was probably snagged on a joint gap- watch the video and you can see them).  We ended up pulling 6 20' joints of pipe to clean the hole. I am SO relieved to have gotten this pipe.

Next step was to re-pipe the hole with PVC and put a solar-capable pump down. This cost about $5000 and I'll have to run it with a generator until we can afford to put the solar panels in, but at least we're spending $$$ toward solar. Otherwise, I'd have to sink at least that, probably more, in repairing the windmill and pipe.After pulling the pipe and installing an electric well, we dismantled the old windmill head.  It has some issues that made it next to useless and the best solution was to just get it down.  This, obviously, is MUCH easier when the right equipment is at hand.
Windmills are HEAVY

Dismantling the mill

 Here's my next Well Challenge. The "East Slater" mill sits in a "hole" about 3/4 mi from the Bent Pipe Well. It's a rough road down into the hole and the road washes out every time we get a big rain. The mill head developed some problems- worn bearings, worn holes, etc, and it sits on an old bolt-together tower. About 6 years ago, it stopped pumping and since the road was washed out, I just shut it off. With the other well in danger of being lost, I decided to try to revive the East Slater well.
After dismantling the mill head, we discovered that the well was "sanded-in". We barely recovered the pipe and then the sand collapsed and plugged the well hole. My mission- should I choose to accept it, and I probably will since I have nothing to lose and a well to gain- is to unplug the plug. I have a water trailer, a generator, and a portable air compressor, so I'm going to try flooding the hole with water and then using a homemade PVC tool to blow air thru that tool, creating suction and lifting the sandy water (watery sand?) to the surface.

If I can get the plug opened, we can re-line the casing with PVC to hold the sand at bay and and install a solar pump. I don't think the the sand goes down very far and I highly suspect it came in thru the top during a heavy flooding rain (like one that washed the water tub into my neighbor's pasture).

We are still awaiting some sort of word on what caused his seizure.  An autopsy had to be done and they discovered that all  his organs were grossly swollen and that his brain was nearly jelly.  The pathologist said he'd never seen anything like it and all of his tests came up negative.  So, tissues samples have been shipped to the CDC for analysis.  We heard from David's doctor and he said he was having a hard time dealing with the fact that David is suddenly gone.  This is the doctor who said he'd wake up at 3 in the morning, thinking about David and how to heal him.  On the last visit, he and David spent 10-15 minutes talking about rockets as the doctor was a big fan of them.  So, this week, I picked out a picture of David with one of his rockets, printed and framed it, and we sent that to the doctor with a little note.  We may never find out definitely what the issue was and I guess it doesn't matter, unless it helps someone else avoid the same thing.
David and rocket
The dynamics of the family have certainly changed a lot, esp with Brianna getting ready to leave for college in a month.  We're going very quickly from 3 kids at home to 1.   It's quieter, cleaner, and there is less fussing going on. I guess this is what The Next Stage of Life is going to be like.  For me, the worst times are the quiet times when I'm in my shop.  That's when the busyness gets shut out, I have time to think, and I miss David the most then.  When that happens, I go back and re-read my own blog, remind myself of the things I wrote then, and look thru the pictures of him when he was declining.  I feel better then and I look forward to the hope of reuniting with a healthy, vibrant David. The other thing that made me feel better was when we stopped by the cemetery to visit  his grave for the first time.  This is a cemetery about the size of a postage stamp, serving a community currently pop 22, and I was absolutely floored at the number of children's graves there.  I think that 1/3 of them are children under 10.  Oddly, it made me feel better to know that we're certainly not the only ones to lose a child.
Georgia and Derek at the grave
We're going to get a headstone for the grave after I've put some thought into what it should say.  I kind of like the verse we used at the memorial service:
Zechariah 8:5 NKJV  The streets of the city Shall be full of boys and girls Playing in its streets.'
Well (ha!), that's it for now.  Over and out, from the High Plains.