Thursday, June 24, 2010

First Fruits (and vegetables)

I'll begin by letting you all know that the baby hasn't come yet - we have a long list of folks to notify, and probably all of you are on it (unless we don't know you personally). You ought to know within a day when it arrives. We remain grateful for all the thoughts and prayers coming our way, and we tell the baby all the time that it is expected, with love, by many.
So that said, we have harvested the very first products of our garden labors. Margo's coveted Schweizer Riesen snow peas and our dear Red Russian kale came of age today! They were both featured in a lentil dish that Margo concocted for dinner.

In the interests of data collection we plan to weigh all of the harvests out of the demonstration garden, which is the 4,000 sq ft area we are starting with. And in the interests of juggling our numbers with greater ease (as almost everyone else in the world does) we will be using the metric system in our garden, for weights at least. Anyone who has frequently had need to do calculations using pounds and ounces will understand, as will anyone who has tried to teach someone from another country how to do calculations using pounds and ounces.

This has long been our plan, and a friend who used to teach middle school science and recently retired scored us a metric triple-beam balance to aid us in our quest.

Today we recorded 60.7 g of kale and 117 g of snow peas (photos pending). I feel like a world citizen already!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Confusion and the Art of Tractor Maintenance

We have this classy old Ford 2000 tractor that does all of our big mowing and pulling around of heavy things. To look at a clean one you can click here. It's a small tractor, easy to use, and has the bare minimum of parts. When something goes wrong, then, it's about as easy as a thing can be to fix. Provided you know what any given part does, what its name is, and where it can be found. Two out of three isn't good enough - but that's what friends are for!
It hasn't been starting well for the past six months, and sometimes hasn't started at all. Most recently I was mowing pretty far out and turned it off so I could sit in the shade for a bit and breath clean air (it smokes out the bottom of the engine pretty good sometimes, but I am assured that isn't fatal). I got back on to take it home, turned the key, and got nothing but a clacking noisemaker sound. Repeated attempts yielded similar results. I went to get the truck to jump it, but to no avail.
Luckily the husband of one of Mom's egg cartel friends does tractor maintenance, among many other things, so I called up Larry. He's very knowledgeable, kind and compassionate, which is a great set of traits. It means he won't laugh at me if I sound unintentionally foolish, and treats me as if I know what I'm doing.
Larry suggested that if the battery was alright (or jumping it didn't work) then it was probably the solenoid starter or the starter motor. Both of which I had heard the names of before. I even knew what the starter motor was for. He said "The solenoid will have four posts on it, two little ones and two big ones. One big one is from the battery terminal, the other big one goes to the starter motor. One little one goes to the ground, and one comes from the ignition." I can't remember if I had found the solenoid by this point.
"To see if it's the ignition that's the problem you can just create a short around that. You want to get a screwdriver and touch it to the big post coming into the solenoid and the little wire going to the ignition." I never understood the principle of hot-wiring before, but this kind of explains it. You bypass the ignition by sticking a conductive device across the contacts the ignition itself is supposed to connect.
We hung up and I looked for the solenoid. It took longer than necessary, but I did find it. I found the big posts and the little posts, and tried the hot-wiring. It didn't work at all, so I called Larry back.
"Well if that doesn't work" he said," it means the ignition isn't the problem, and the solenoid might be bad. So then you'll want to try bypassing the solenoid by making a short between the main posts. But you'll want a big screwdriver for that." Unfortunately the posts are on opposites sides of the solenoid, and I don't have a screwdriver shaped like that. Larry suggested that I use a wire, but a big wire, because it would be taking the whole load of the battery.
I didn't have anything big, but I did have some electric fence wire. I figured three strands would be good enough, so I twisted them together, bent them in a U, and held them onto the posts with rubber-handled pliers. The three strands lit up on the ends like a light bulb and commenced to actually burn. That's about when I remembered I had jumper cables in the truck. Those elicited a pleasant spark, but nothing else. Larry's reaction was that it may be the starter, but that starters don't often just completely quit working - they wheeze, grind, or otherwise attempt their job. His last suggestion was to get the solenoid and starter tested.
The solenoid was easy to remove, so I did that first. I took it in to the equipment repair place where we get everything smaller than a tractor fixed, and the guy tested it. It looked fine to him, and his only advice was to rub off any corrosion and make sure it made good contact to the tractor frame where it bolted on. Apparently every electrical component on this tractor is grounded all over the place.
I scrubbed it, stuck it back on with all it's wires, and turned the key... Click. At least it wasn't the clacking noisemaker. I was inspired to try jumping it again, and this time it coughed to life. I did not turn it off until it was safe in the barn. Once there, it refused to start again.

While carpooling to Aikido with a friend who had been a master mechanic (not that you'd have to be for this observation) I was told "You need a new battery. It could be the generator, but you definitely need a new battery." So I got a new battery, and I'll hook it up today. (At right is the solenoid, featuring big copper posts on left and right).
You might say Larry gave me misleading advice, but this is what I appreciate so much about Larry: he took me at my word that I jumped it correctly (which I didn't) and that we could rule that piece out. He then led me through further troubleshooting. He didn't say "I know you tried jumping it, but I still think it's the battery," and he didn't say "are you sure you jumped it right? Try it again and do it this way. Maybe I should come over and make sure you know how to jump your own piece of equipment." That would have been aggravating. So he let me make my own mistake. Which, incidentally, was attaching the cable to the negative battery post on the tractor instead of the frame when jumping it. This tractor just doesn't swing that way...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wiggles and Giggles

A complete change of subject matter is in order as I, Margo, compose my first blog entry. I’ll have you know I’ve already created several in my head, so you’ve enjoyed various imaginary-entries on topics ranging from garden planning, tough choices in a first season, using the goods in the kitchen, and rain water barrels! I hope you’ve enjoyed them.

But now, I’ll just make a quick note about the most prominent reality of life: PREGNANCY! We are now at 40 weeks. The counting is a little strange, basically this means full term, at our “due date,” and very large! I’ve now gained 30-35 pounds, surpassing Dan months ago and full of baby.

Little Royer-Miller has several baby names on the list for selection when we meet him/her and some pet names we use now. I oscillate between Little Munchkin, Wigglet, and Babilicious.

Movement is one of the most amazing things, the baby moving I mean. (Though my movement at this stage is notable.) It started as butterfly flutters in my belly in January and has now progressed to major kicks with tiny feet sticking out of my belly on the left side. Leg action just under my ribcage is visible to family members sitting across the table. And the little butt is probably the cutest thing ever on my right side, sometimes it rolls around as the feet move. All of this is totally miraculous and periodically sends me into giggle fits. Will I giggle as much at her/his every move when in front of me instead of inside? Only time will tell.

Last note, as you can see from the previous pictures I continued to work in the garden, transplanting and weeding on hands and knees, through 8 months. At this point my body doesn’t like it. So I prepare for the baby at home, room prep, cooking, napping, grounding, etc. while Dan prepares by getting as much done in the garden as he can. All his work feels so important and special to me right now, not being comfortable there myself. It is his gift of support and keeps us moving forward on our path as we wait for the new arrival to grace our lives and join the journey.