Monday, December 19, 2011

Some Happenings and some Projects

Its been awhile since we posted and its been an extremely busy period with holiday preparation, more work than expected, and a few projects. If you have read this blog before you probably know we are pretty happy and take things pretty easy going but even to those of us who are internally and externally happy most of the time there are things that happen that arent so pleasant.

A couple weeks ago I was toned out for a rescue call that involved the murder of a 4 year old boy who we found under the ice in a septic lagoon with his throat slit. In searching the residence we found one adult with a knife wound (who turned out to be the suspected perpetrator) and a 3 year old little girl who was scared to death but otherwise unharmed. We spent 4 hours on scene and to say it was a trying experience would be understating things considerably. My partner that day is a young man with a child about the same age as the victim and it was particularly hard on him though I can truly say that everyone on scene was profoundly affected. The details of the incident and its aftermath arent important for this blog and I only relate this because it directly relates to our quest for the "Simple Life". Life just isnt so simple sometimes and a tragedy like this really brings that home. I will say that the EMS, Sheriff's Dept, Local Police, and State Troopers were all outstanding in their first response actions, their investigation afterwards, and in the compassion showed to all involved.

My partime job with the Sheriff's Dept has also turned out to be a lot more hours than I expected and I have now expanded to prisoner transport where we move prisoners from our jail to various other jails and prisons. I am working as much as I can handle and making some money but I kind of miss the days of being fully retired. I have also had several opportunities to make money working on other farms and ranches so despite the bad economy we have found more work than we really hoo right? Actually for me personally, I have found that now having a regularly paying job has provided some focus and structure that I was somewhat lacking being retired and self employed. I think that is a real danger if you retire young, everyday is a holiday and every meal is a feast (so to speak) and its easy to get carried away. I am never bored and have tonnes of projects to keep me busy but I guess I do like to have some structure and its going well. Lots of folks are struggling financially or in finding even minimal employment so in some ways I almost feel guilty.

We got the new tractor home and its now securely in the new shop waiting for our mechanical ministrations. It purrs like a kitten and everything works on it just fine but like most motorheads who get a new piece of equipment, I feel compelled to replace all screens, all filters, all fluids, re-torque everything, and in this a lot of the existing wiring. We plan on using this tractor as a work horse so we arent going for a restoration per se', she will keep her work clothes on but we will make her look as good as she can in them. We also wired in a transfer switch to the main circuit breaker to the house so we can isolate certain circuits (refer, freezer, heat, and some outlets to run the computer and TV) and run them off the generator in case of a power outage without potentially backfeeding the current to the power lines. Now we just flip the transfer switch breakers, fire up the genny, and plug it in to the new outlet and we can live quite well during any power outage.

We bought a kit suitable for our purposes and if I remember correctly we got it on sale for $165.00. We figured out what we considered essential to run via generator, researched the draw, and then settled on our freezer, the refer, the blower and circulation pump for the outside wood boiler, the forced air blower, and the outlets in the family room to run a couple lights, a computer and the TV. We will have heat and refrigeration along with communication so we feel like we got all we need. We have a 2 burner propane stove for emergency cooking, we have gravity feed county water (we didnt want to run our two well pumps off the genny due to the initial startup current draw), and we feel we are pretty well set up.

We mounted it next to the main circuit breaker box for the house as was recommended. The metal flex conduit holds wires from the transfer switch to the appropriate circuits in the main and basically what happens is that once you flip the breakers from the transfer switch you isolate those circuits from the main breaker box so there is no danger of back feeding the current from the generator and frying a lineman (not likely but those guys deserve all the protection they can get) and almost as important for us, it keeps the generator from getting fried if the power comes back on when we are running it and forget to flip the main breaker.

The orange Romex is the feed from the outside outlet that connects to the generator to the transfer switch. To those who wonder, yes though we do not have any permits required here, no ispections and no codes, this was installed per NFPA 70 requirements. We even have a rubber insulated matt to stand on under the breaker box and transfer switch.

We tested everything and have a perfectly balanced load and in fact have an open and un-used circuit on the transfer switch.

A hammer drill was used to bore a hole through the basement wall to install the outside covered outlet.

So now we can use the heavy cord and plug from the generator to plug into the outside outlet, fire up the generator, and transfer the load from the breaker to the transfer switch and power outages are not the big deal for us they are for some. We have a ready source of water, propane cooking, heat, oil lanterns for light, refridgeration, and communication in the form of computer and TV. Next years project includes a HAM radio license.

The International Harvester is now in the shop after we spent a couple days putting it through its paces on the farm. A lot of the electrical wiring for the lights was installed using incorrect gage wire and crimp connections while I like soldered connections and shrink tubing for machinery. We will change out all the fluids, replace all the filters, rep[lace some gaskets, adjust the valves...etc.

The paint isnt too bad really but we will likely do some touch up and polishing to protect it. Farm tractors never came from the facotry all shiny and with flawless paint because they were meant to work and I confess to liking the utility look of a well used tractor...its almost a patina that they get. But if you can get them looking good enough for the 20 foot gaze they seem to function better.

Tractors of this vintage are just simple and designed to be worked on by the owner unlike the modern versions. I have all the shop manuals and most parts are readily available because Mahindra (made in India) bought the desihn and tooling from IH-Case about 20 years ago and was still making this same basic tractor up until a few years ago.

Its just a classic 60s utility tractor that was built for heavy farm use and at over 4000 lbs it definitely feels heavy.

The dash is pretty basic with a tach/speedo, water temp, rotary light switch, throttle quadrant, choke,. push button starter, kill switch and generator and oil pressure Tellites. The Tellites will get augmented with actual oil pressure and ammeter gages.

And finally, the spinout rear wheels were an expensive but useful option back in the day. You can turn the rear wheels either concave in or out and you loosed the 4 king nuts, adjust the stops, and then drive forward while dragging the brakes slightly and the wheel spacing adjusts accordingly. We have them adjusted max out on the concave side and I doubt we will ever change that since we have some hills but its nice to know we can if we need to. This just barely clears out equipment trailer side bracing. The red part of the wheel are bolt on wheel weights and we are looking for the same for the front wheels.

So that is what we have been up to. Working, getting ready for Christmas, working some more, and slipping in some projects.

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