25 July 2008

Free lawn mower

As I was on my way home from work yesterday, I noticed a lawn mower pushed to the curb for the garbage man. I asked permission to take it and got my first free lawn mower!

It had obviously sat for a few years, so I disassembled it to clean the carburetor and free up the frozen butterflies and linkages. (Lemontree lent a hand too.) One of the throttle shaft seals disintegrated when I attempted to clean it, so I cut some foam from Tiffany's "eggcrate" mattress pad and made a new one. Sharpened the blade, put in some fresh oil and gas and... it started up on the first pull! Not bad for free garbage.

There is a broken throttle control lever, so I'm going to hit up some local lawn mower junkyards and see if I can get a better one. Other than slapping some paint on the rust, this "garbage" is ready to cut a few more lawns for somebody. If I value my labor, I'll be selling it at a loss, but it's still fun to divert something from the landfill. The best form of recycling, in my opinion. :)

18 July 2008


This is what we've been up to just about every Saturday for the last month or so, and every day during the whole week Corwin had off work. Painting our house! It didn't quite work out as planned. For one, the prep work takes some time. We had some peeling paint, so we did some scraping and applied primer. We thought we could do a side of the house each weekend. We also thought our spraygun worked. But apparently it is broken, so we did it the old fashioned way, which in a way is probably better, because we can get into the crevices better than I think a sprayer would have done. Also, we didn't count on it getting so hot so soon, so every day we've been able to work on it, it's only been a few hours.

I wish I could show you a finished picture, but alas, we are destined to work at it for a while longer. Most of the main color is finally applied, and I've started on the trim (a reddey-orangey color). For your enjoyment, I attach a photo of Corwin painting where I couldn't reach. The color on the slat below where he is painting is the dried finish color. I know it's not a huge difference from the original color, but now I can say our house is light gray, and not some tannish wierd color.

11 July 2008

What's That Bug?

We were spending the evening watering our various plants in the backyard. I checked my compost bin and saw that it was very dry. While I was doing this, the girls joined me. Tiffany looked in and saw several little bugs running around. Of course, you know that compost bins are full of bugs of all sorts. I know this, too. Lately, I've seen a lot of ants, but it's not uncommon to see pill bugs and earwigs, so that's what I expected when she asked, "What's that bug?" Well, it obviously wasn't any of those afore mentioned bugs, but it was really hard to get a good look at. They liked the dark, so if I moved a piece of compost, I saw maybe a hundred of them, but they scattered and disappeared deeper into the compost, that it was so hard to get a good look at them. Finally one of them got caught in an eggshell. Despite their speed, it couldn't climb up the smooth sides of the shell, so I caught one!

It's really dusty. The picture really doesn't look like I remember it looking. Funny thing about pictures. I remember it being blacker and skinnier. Of course it was moving really fast. It was tough to get it to sit still for a picture.

Anyhow, I went searching on the web for this strange creature. I knew it was some sort of larvae, so that helped. But what really helped was running into a wonderful website called What's That Bug? I'm not sure I've figured out what it is, but I think it is the larvae of a carpet beetle. I sent the picture to the administrator of that site to ask, so I may yet find out definitively what the bugs are. I then spent 2 hours looking at bugs on the website. It was way cool.

06 July 2008

Teardown begins

Our VW Fox has served faithfully as the family car for several years, but it's a little on the small side for a growing family and the paint... well, Volkswagen picked a bad formulation for their red paint in 1988 and the result is not pretty. The VW Jetta is larger than the Fox both in legroom as well as trunk space, so we purchased one a while ago and it's been sleeping in the garage until I had time to get to it. Last week, I finally had time.

I've removed most of the front end to expose the now nearly naked gasoline engine. The gas engine will be replaced with a turbodiesel engine from a local junkyard that has been bored out and will be rebuilt with new pistons and bearings, so we will essentially have a new engine ready to go 300,000 miles or more (VWs and diesels both last a very long time -- some VW diesels have passed 500,000 miles without a rebuild). Yes, yes, diesel fuel is currently more expensive than gasoline, but at 45 to 50MPG, it still ends up being cheaper per mile than a 30MPG gasoline car. Plus, you have the option of burning waste vegetable oil in a diesel engine... free fuel!

I'm also going to be replacing all of the wear items. Once the Jetta is done, we will sell the Fox so the Jetta has to be reliable enough to go on interstate trips -- any part that might leave us stranded is going to be replaced now while it's all in pieces anyway. The cost of replacing the engine and various parts will be high up front, but will still be less than new car payments over the long term... and because it is an older car, it will be cheaper to insure and less likely to be stolen. Plus, it's kind of cool to build your own car... kind of the ultimate Lego toy.