Saturday, July 22, 2017

Whatever they pay mechanics...

It ain't enough.

Now, you may be somewhat take aback by this statement - especially if you just got a vast workshop bill for stuff that really is quite basic. It's even more surprising from me, as I tend to cling so hard to every last dollar as to rub the ink off on my fingers. But it's all relative.

To get the relativity on this one, you need to be in the same place I got this great epiphany. It struck me... well, not like a blinding light, but more like an oily vice-grip hitting me on the forehead as it cascaded down from my numb fingers, somewhere in greasy morass of pipes and cables and mysterious bits of sharp steel in the Blue Slug's engine.

To get the full impact, as it were, you have to be in very tight quarters under the blue slug, wrestling with the pipe for the heater - which when the stupid spring clamp and bit of rust-welding give way and a radiator full of ice cold water (there is still frost on the grass) comes to join you. Then when you leave this happy scene, amid the oil and puddle, to say nothing of the grit and mud to get the new pipe, you realize... you have to slither under there again. You see the engine was designed by engineers (for whom I hope there is special place in hell, just next door to the inventor of clam-shell packing) who worried about making it, not repairing it, once all the making was done. The pipe attaches to a flange unreachable by normal hands from above, because there are metal brake lines and other essentials in the way. Even my crayfish-out-of-'orrible holes hands struggled to get there, and getting it off had required me to shuffle between below and above and try and exert force in a place that had no room to move let alone add pull.

So when the new pipe goes on (replace pipe. 3 minutes work if it is not in impossible places or requires special tools. Knowing what you're doing also a major plus, and not one of my advantages) it requires a return to the ice cold oily puddle under the truck. That'll make a man of you... or at least cause shrivel-nipple. But it has to be done, because it's off now, and doing it myself saves money...

So back under I squirmed - one hand up though the steering rods and the other wishing for an extra joint or a tentacle to get up the other gap. Vice grip on spring clamp, dirt showering down onto my glasses (and somehow still getting in my eyes) and push... And then get out again, and do it all over again with the smaller vice-grip. Which I can't open wide enough in the small space. So back to the bigger one... that doesn't quite fit. Push. Wiggle. Push. repeat...

Ya gotta try harder boy. No leverage, hard to see. Hands squirmed into places where whole hands do not fit. And then epiphany. The choir of angels... well my digital watch, which is now keeping my wrist inside the engine for eternity has had some of it buttons pushed. It is going beep beep beeeep beeeep with a steady insistence - and there is no way I can get to it to shut it off - I can't even move my hand, as the watch strap has twisted and is attached to something and is now too tight to come out... At this point the vice-grip which is slightly too big for this job, comes off the spring, which zings into my fingers, and the vice-grip comes bouncing down through the engine to have a little meeting with my face. I try to dodge (fail but save glasses) and scratch my nose on a spilt-pin.

And as I lay there saying... hymns and praises, I'm sure -- I received this great revelation.

'It ain't enough.'

For the curious, I did get it all together. No lives where lost, and the 3 minute job was done in about 4 hours and a great deal of bad language, wet clothes sore fingers and eyes and hair full of oily dirt. Yes, it was cheap, compared to a mechanic, and yes, that's a necessity - we're not broke, but there are at least 10 places to put money with trying to build the new house. And yes, lack of experience and lack of the proper tools did make it harder. There is a satisfaction in doing this, but if I ever make my fortune that's one aspect of self-sufficiency I'd give up. Unfortunately that's not likely, so persevere. But doing 'orrible jobs is worth paying for, if you can. And appreciating not having to do.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Gundalina and misadventures...

Ahem. gather round ye peoples and listen to the tragic tail... tale of Gundalina the tractor's terrible betrayal, tragic fate and miraculous resurrection.
Now, it came upon a Wednesday clear that Barbs and I sallied fifth (or sixth) to go and get some firewood. The track onto the block being slippery let alone getting near the wood, I (and it was my fault alone, I bear this manfully (or at least without whinging too much) decided we'd use Gundalina the magnificent Mercedes tractor to trundle fifth into our jungly parts and carry out the wood. I offered to let Barbs drive as we went Gundalina-trundalina-ed around to pick up the chainsaw, earmuffs, safety glasses, gloves and whotnot-associated-with-chainsawing - everything from a spare chain to various tools and wedges. She retreated from this offer, but 200 yards of my driving was quite enough: she decided to try after all, and found great glee in driving the mighty roaring beastie.

Now, Gundalina has no brakes. She has a handbrake (which works quite well) and of course a hydraulic bucket, which is a very good brake. She also has an accelerator that you have alter throttle with a lever. You can put your foot down, but it doesn't deccelarate - you have to make it do so. Still, if you're calm, and sensible and use her gears and the terrain, she's a foine, foine wee beastie. To kill her engine, you have to throttle right down - she doesn't die if you turn the key off.

Barbs successfully came to a stop and I put Gundalina into one of her worm-crawl gears and pushed cautiously a track, humpty bump through to the fallen trees I wanted cut up. I put on the various accoutrements of safety and was soon wielding the chainsaw manfully (or at least doing a plausible imitation) and had a reasonable pile of logs. Barbs piled them into Gundalina's small tray - and then announced that she'd take the load down, if I would turn the tractor around.

This was, of course, easier said than done, but I did a magnificent 48 point turn in the confined quarters of a medium-sized dance floor (not a great turning circle, remember this.) playing do not run into any large trees - back or forth. Barbs drove away and I resumed my cutting - with the earmuffs designed to blank noise at over a certain level. It's so you don't hear the screaming... Keep in mind Gundalina is in first in gear, at one of the crawler speeds. A moderate walking speed for a bloke in a Zimmer-frame with a ball and chain, so not precisely a speed of great danger in which you have no time do anything.

I got on with cutting, in the earmuff-induced silence.

I look up to see Gundalina has returned, roaring at full throttle. Well, was, or so I am informed. I am in blissful silence. Why didn't I know about these earmuffs when I had young kids with broken volume controls? Barbara is shrieking, but I am unaware of this. Remember this is worm gear... not a place where anything happens fast...

Unless of course you take it OUT of gear. Then she'll ROLL faster (or stop if it is flat) Did I mention this spot wasn't flat? How very remiss of me. Anyway, being one of those perceptive sort of fellows (as well as delicate, modest and with BO rather like the scent of a rose - which by any other name would smell)I look up at the machine thundering down on me - and gather by the waving of hands that not all is well, put the chainsaw down (always a good idea) and remove ear-muffs to witness - amid the thunder of the diesel and plaintive yells of "Dave! DAVE!" lady Gundelina going up in the world. On her bucket...

Barbs, having for some reason decided that taking Gundalina out of gear on a downhill to stop was a good idea (the good idea fairy was active that day) had had her accelerate - as a heavy machine on a gentle downhill will. Panic had ensued and she had been unable to switch Gundalina off (which would have made no difference as Gundy was not in gear) forgetting she had to reduce the throttle by hand. She'd turned uphill (and would have stopped in about 5-10 yards in actual fact) had suddenly remembered I had said to put the bucket down as a brake. Only she went the wrong way, realized her error but grabbed the tip not the up and down lever. So facing the bucket straight down she then realized what was wrong and used the other lever - ending up on Gundalina standing on her bucket front wheels in the air... but stopped. By this time I'm on the stair and can remind her how to pull the throttle back and stall the tractor.

She then informed me that she was never going to play with my toys again, and she'd been yelling at me for ages... Heh. It's only the depth that changes.
But alas, poor Gundalina, she lay - or rather purched on her bucket, stricken in the field. Stricken in among the scrub, anyway. She had roared her last, defiant to the end... Ahem. Gundalina wouldn't start anyway. Made that ominous click that goes with a flat battery or a short.

I, in payment for my sins, and for wearing earmuffs, had to carry a heavy tractor battery (first port of call, troubleshooting) to the ute.

Fortunately, as fortune favors the stupid anyway, that was the problem. She is Gunda-gunda-ing again. It doesn't look like the alternator is charging the battery. This is fixable. Not sure about Barbs' nerves...


Friday, July 7, 2017

doorways opening.

Okay that month flew by! Slack me. Partly sapped by 'flu, and frustration with the lack of progress...
Anyway... some progress has been made. Many more trips out to the block, cutting, clearing, showing the Architect the site.

This is her assistant, helping

Bringing home loads of firewood. And then doing the incredibly difficult - reaching lots of decisions. Where do you put the solar panels? Where should the veggie garden go? Where will the orchard be? Where will the cool-room and butchering area be? Where's the pig sty? How do you get water to xyz? And so on...

Relatively limited construction has happened, but quite a lot of destruction! I've been getting some of the huge amount of recycled wood I need for the list projects de-nailed. Yep, I'm in denail. I dug my first two holes, and am actually quite positve about it - they're about a meter down to clay - more than I expected and more than I hoped. Great for planting piles and poles.

I got my owner builder course done and passed, and have done and passed my 'white card' OH&S exam. I'm going to have to re-evaluate whether when the revolution come one sends the lawyers or OH&S or the politicians that passed this load of rubbish to visit madame Guillotine first... It's largely a lowest common-denominator, one size fits all rent extraction scheme, worth about 20 cents if you were feeling generous. But $260 dollars is what it costs and you really have no choice: that's your cheapest option.

I've been slowly working on my door at the Community shed. It's made of red ironbark - salvaged from old fence poles.

That's the upper half. The lower half is about 1/4 longer, convenient height for elbows. Lot of work in it - it's going to be more than 100 posts laminated. The wood is among the heaviest in the world (more than a metric ton seasoned, per cube), fire-resistant and will do 25 years underground as a fence-post, so it should see me out. I'd like my coffin made of it which will see my pall-bearers either drive front end loaders or join me.

Considering this is the original posts - it's an exercise in making a very heavy silk purse out of a sow's ear. I left the outside as it came - so it will very rustic indeed on one side.


I did manage one trip to sea this month 1! and caught near nothing. It was pretty cold and bleak, but we got a great rainbow

I've been attempting to drain my body via the nose, which has been a little unpleasant on the body and brain, but a bit offputting to others... and to me going out to do the necessary gardening and work on the block - to say nothing of shooting wallaby for the dog, cats and ourselves (see priority ranking) -which involves a fair amount of walking in the dark and cold to say nothing of processing it. We've had vicious frosts - down to minus 4 - with even the puddles freezing over.


Fortunately one did wander into my veg in the dusk last night, just as I went out to get some spring onions for our evening repast - and so I didn't have to lie down on frozen ground - or puddles and could turn it into more food. I'm just glad of the freezers. They are going down a bit, and we probably only have about 5 months meat and fish in them... My plans on an early easy night went down the drain with an Ambo call, so I got to sleep at 2 AM. I don't mind doing Ambos calls but it has left me tired... so good night.
(an eagle over the block)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Trailer times

It's been an interesting and busy week - the trailer has worked hard. The blue slug pulling moans that she has worked harder still. There's a little fairness in that - I drove her up Jamie's horrendous hill to fetch an old garden shed, that will become our generator shed. Up there we had the interesting times of pulling the shaft out of the hydraulic ram... a task that took another tractor - to put an O-ring in. It's funny how huge powerful machine rely so much on teeny weeny bit of rubber. I mean you just have to look at the disasters born out of rubber failing. Anyway... all achieved with a lot of brute force and ignorance (hey it's what I'm good at. Stick to what you're good at.) And then it leaked more oil. So rinse and repeat with a bigger O-ring.

Anyway, with great care I trundled the wee hoosie back down the hill. And then to the farm, where I got very brave driving to where I thought it should live... (2 wheel drive blue slug, and a trailer.)

As I am writing this you can gather I am not still stuck up there.

I'd no sooner got back before Barbs called to say could I bring the trailer, one of the builders had kindly offered us some old internal doors he was replacing. Had to be done right now. So we fetched and loaded all those, took them out to the old house we will be moving onto the farm.

The next day I went to my friend Peter's place with the trailer to pick up some fence palings for the battery box... well. In a manner of speaking. The fence palings are still attached to fence, and we loaded that in in sections. I've been reducing it to palings and 2x4, with added scorpions for flavor.

Far too much of my non-writing life revolves around vehicles which I have a magnificent hate-hate relationship with - especially Barb's red rocket, which has been an unremitting lemon with horrible brakes and terrible thirst, to say nothing of her many other fine characteristics, like the corroded fuel line, power steering leak, various burst water hoses, corroded fittings, stuffed electronic bits, and many other minor fixes. Hopefully this passtime will improve as we just replaced it with a Diahatsu Pyzar for an into-work car. It is 18 years old but new to us! It used to belong to a dear friend who died just a few days short of her 90th - so one owner, a little old lady who drove it to church on Sunday- actually is accurate. Poor little car. A hard life awaits it. As you can see it has no roo-bar - which is near fatal around here.

So I wrestled the one off the red rocket. It may be worth more than the rocket was. It had mag wheels I plan to keep for boat trailer wheels. Otherwise I won't miss it. I spent a good few hours cutting some heavy steel plate and drilling holes in it for brackets for the roo-bar for the Pyzar. I need lessons on how to re-sharpen drill-bits.

The brown ute has been having hiccups. That's what it feels like anyway. It farts and stutters and jumps around, and nearly dies. Stop, shake the fuel filter, and hey presto, all is well... sometime for 50 yards sometimes for twenty km. I replaced fuel filters... and it went away. And then started again. So I tried again. And again. Cheap filters I ordered in bulk, fortunately. (cheaper for 5 than 1). Alas I am onto the last one. I figured it might be rust in the tank (the brown ute stood, undriven for about 2 years. So I spent time draining the tank, filtering the petrol, filling the tank, draining the tank, filtering the petrol. draining the tank, etc, and getting this really manly petrol bouquet. My darling wife said 'you stink.' No appreciation of the cologne... There wasn't much that came out of the tank, so I dunno. Haven't tried driving it yet.

Anyway, tomorrow I must take the trailer with a few poles and some scrap timber for the tractor's temporary resting shed to the block and start at least clearing the spot. Next is a lot of hole digging - framework for the solar panels, and the foundations fro the little shed, and putting in four poles for the tractor-port - I have a hand auger but it's still quite a job. I'll bring back a load of firewood, and then on Saturday fetch a cupboard with it... The blue slug I hope survives. It now has this front-tow-hitch which I love. I still suck at reversing a trailer, so with so much trailer use, a serious blessing.

Friday, May 19, 2017

One to six, pull

Or something like that (that's an old boatswain' call, from whaling days, not just my inability to count.)


It seems to have been a week of carrying. First loading these, then offloading these, then carrying them and then packing them up. It's kinda like digging holes and filling them in. (well, except with slightly more point.) That was my Monday. Tuesday I did a relatively minor load of collecting some scrap hardwood.

Then on Wednesday we bought 50 square meters of Macrocarpa planks, and took them out to the old house (our 'store' and shed-to-be on the farm next door). This was done with a big heavy borrowed trailer. I kept expecting the blue slug to expire like puff the tragic wagon. I'm not too sure what I'll do with the timber - it is a little soft - would make pretty internal doors window frames, and the like. I worked a little more on my front door. The job seems endless, partly because there are only a few hours to do it (I'm using the tools at the community shed.) The wood is curious... it sinks like a stone. That leaves it as almost certainly Ironbark, probably Grey, which makes it Australia's second hardest wood (ranked no 11 on the Janka scale, at 16 300 Newtons. White Oak for comparison is rated at 6 000 N) That's good because I plan to make a countertop of it and I have a lot of heavy cast iron pots and pans. There is an excellent reason for me cooking - a skillet related injury with frying pans is terminal. It's also one of the few timbers not to need fire-proofing in bushfire prone areas. In case of flooding do not attempt to float away on the door

I'm also scavenging old timber for a battery box for the solar system - I have enough bits left for 'carport' for Jamie's tractor. We have -thanks to John Tulloch got the Hydraulic ram apart, and hopefully have a new O-ring soon. Then (rubs hands gleefully) digga digga... A shortcut to England. Well - some track-flattening, flattening the site for the generator shed, clearing the orchard site etc.

Olives are now bottled. It's a month now before they can be tested.

So no use visiting before mid June.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Doorways, olives and electricity

It's been a busy week - writing and doing other self-sufficiency type tasks as well as making some fairly large steps toward the new home - and some that take a lot of patience... always my strongest suite. But you know, you can have it two of the following good, fast or cheap - not three. And as writers get 64 cents for that paperback WHEN and if they get it, cheap has to be one. And I kinda like good. I don't like endlessly replacing cheap junk. It still happens...

One of the slows has been progress on the door - I've now laminated into 6 sections the upper half of the stable door. For a job I thought I'd do in a day, it's taking an amazingly long time. I'm still no wiser about what the dense timber it is made of - which is sort of relevant as they may fuss about fire retardation. Personally I suspect it's a lot more fire-resistant than the expensive imported tropical timber I am supposed to use - but can I prove this? The internet is being no help.


So: Olives
I bottled the green ones de-bittered for 6 days in wood-ash lye. I only did just over 600 grams - it's pretty much experimental. The patience with the black olives (and they were all at least mostly black when I started) goes on. Daily the water is changed and they go into another 5% salt solution, I'm planning to give them 10 changes.
notice that some are hardly black any more.
Anyway a couple more days before bottling.

I went out to see the legendary John Tulloch with the tractor's water sheep... hydralic ram, and to consult him on setting up my own off-grid system. John is an amazing man - a sort Nikola Tesla character, with the same incredible breadth of knowledge -anything from Quantum Physics to how to fix hydraulic rams - and the same ability to visualize thing in 3D. I'm not the bluntest pencil in the box but he makes me feel a trifle dim. He adds being pragmatic to all of this. Anyway one of his favorite fields is alternate energy sources, and he talked me through getting my Solar power set-up. I've got 9 panels, I will soon have 29. An old shed, and one of John's fiendish devices, und vith ze power galvanic... ahem. You get the picture. I hope to have power on the site soon - We have water, we will have power. Now all we need is get some form of shelter.

I'm also looking at the possibilities of buying some macrocarpa to do my floors - a bit soft but beautiful. It may just be an expense too far.

On another tangent, I took in a 7 foot log of Cape Barren pine - a kind of cypress native to the Island. Also rather soft, but with a lovely cedar-like scent. I hope to get slats of this to make shelves for the linen cupboard.

I've got a load more bulbs to plant, and no further developments...

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Diving, Tractors and doors

Ok with financial stalls temporarily holding up progress, I've been a bit lax about reporting in. That and having a surprise visit from my son James and my daughter-in-law, Alana, kind of put a temporary halt to major works.
Which involved a fair amount of diving, fishing
And my first 5kg cray.
Normally diving crays here is pretty hard - not easy for the inexperienced, as they're few and far between, typically in deep, narrow caves or cracks at least 10 meters down, and very hard to reach and hard to pull out. Norman and I have got very into diving the way my bruv and I dived back in the old country - as a team. This has upped our joint catch a lot as so often you go into one side of a cray hole, only to have the spiny lobster leave out of a second hole. In among huge underwater boulders and chasms and cracks... that usually means you've lost them. So we work together - any large boulder if he swims left I'll scout right, and fetch the other if we spot a cray - if there is time. We keep a very close watch on the other diver, or at least their bubbles. This time Norm spotted a cray, went in to have a look... and quite unbenknownst to him frightened another into leaving quietly by the back door... only I was swimming past his back door and saw him coming. So I just settled, stopped breathing, with my hands apart on either side of the cave. He just kept looking backwards... until he was between my hands. I just had to scruff him and swim over to Norm, who has the catch bag.

Anyway - as I've been a bit stuck with the actual building, I've been working on making a hardwood stable door - from insulposts - a hardwood they used for fencing back in the day. Mostly these old fences are/have been replaced - but the wood is still undamaged after 40-60 years out in the weather. It's a heavy dense beautiful dark red/brown timber. Hell to work - an inch and a half thick - the door will weigh at least 100kg. It is made up of 49 posts - quite a job cleaning and gluing... and heavy. Man... I reckon in case of a nuclear attack - just take shelter behind my door. The house will blow away, but not that door. When it is done I will put up pictures.

Today I was up at Jamie's taking a piece out of the hydraulics of an old tractor - if we can fix it, we can borrow it... it's got a bucket on the front, and will make road building, as well as taking apart and moving the old house a lot easier. Besides I get to play digga-digga...