Coping: Around the Ranch–21 Projects and Tips; G II is What?

imageAlthough much of the time over winter, we have been able to stray a good ways from our “survival” concepts, the arrival Spring means we have to serious-up about what needs to happen around the ranch.

By the way, speaking of survival, I want to draw your attention to the ReadyMan ad upper right  (at least on full-sized displays).  A parachute cord bracelet, a couple of LifeStraw Personal Water Filter in addition to the Big Berkey for home water use, and you should be ready for anything.

BTW, anyone making a monofilament survival ring, yet?  That would be useful, too.  20 lb test, maybe?  Be great for traps and leaders.

Back to the Spring zing:

#1:  Get a fresh pair of “mucking boots” every few years.  These are the ubiquitous black rubber boots you see a lot of farmers wear.  They keep the feet dry, but they also do a damn fine job of keeping bites off.  We have never tested them against the copperheads, the cottonmouths, or the occasional coral snake that wanders around.  But I can tell you with certainty they will stop a scorpion up to the 3-4” size no problem.

As an aside:  30 acres doesn’t sound like too much land until you have to keep it up.  Then, we you do the math, it turns out our 28.8 acres is (43,560*28.8) 1,254,528 square feet.  A good sized piece of work for anyone.  Figure two hours per acres per year for the easy parts and that’s 58-hours of tractor time with a bush hog.

If you ever find yourself in such wilds, here are some of the spring projects we go through around here (along with some useful shop tips).  All of which is designed to make life easier all around.

#2:  When you move things in the spring, hands clear.  We use an assortment of rakes, hoes, shovels or just a big stick.  The reason?  If you are working anything that offers even minimal weather protection, especially if it didn’t flood out in the recent heavy rains, you want to assume that there is something alive that wants to bite.

#3:  Time for the second exterminator visit.  Your “bug man” may have been around already if you’re in the South, but up north it may be time for the first visit, depending on the kinds of local critters you get.

image#4:  Plan an extra day to get power equipment running. Around here, there are some things like the lawn tractor that seem to need tires pumped up twice a year.  Once in the spring and again in late summer.  It’s right on the ragged edge between being worth screwing with, or just drive up to the air hose.

#4B:  Charge the battery well.  Make sure there is enough water (distilled) and let it gas for a while (this is called “equalizing” in the battery world).  This will drive deposited sulfur crystals (from the winter self discharge) back into solution (the electrolyte).

#5:  Speaking of Air compressors.  This month’s edition of Family Handyman has a Harbor Freight ad and our shop compressor is on sale there for $149.00.  Enter the discount coupon code at check-out and update the damages.

#6:  While you’re there, look for their combination air ratchet and air impact set that comes with some sockets.  The kit is not for rebuilding a lot of machinery, but for occasional automotive repair, herking stuck lug bolts off a tractor (ahem…) and the like, they are just fine.

#7:  Need a Chop Saw?  You might also look for the HF 12” sliding compound miter saw with laser.  They are going for $138 and change (again, use the coupon at checkout).

I’ve been using a Task Force 10-inch saw and it works fine except:  You need the 12” size in order to completely whack a 4X4 at an angle.  10” saws, depending on their design usually come in about a quarter-inch shy of useful.  (If you have heard that line before, see your doctor.)

#8:  For Power Equipment, fresh gas and a shot of ether.  Air filter off, shot of starter fluid (ether).  This goes almost without saying, since everyone around here knows it.  But if you’re new, condensation and methanol in gasoline makes starting an engine terribly hard work.  If anything take more than 2 pulls, adjust your starting routine (read the book on choke use).  If it takes more than 3 pulls, consider the unit due for service.  Sometimes a plugs, but carb filters and floats.  And one of these days, someone will figure out that gasanol is almost as good as varnish from the paint aisle. Just not as user-friendly.

Doing half a dozen pulls when it’s 40 or 50 out is no big deal.  But when it’s 100+ out?  Naw…we don’t do that.

#9:  Make sure you are getting full use out of your battery charger.  A couple of years back we picked up a set of 12 volt outdoor flood lights at a Lowes clearance sale.  With a battery charger and a couple of scraps, I wired in the lights and they work dandy.

This year, I will be looking for 5-20 watt 12 volt LED flood lights on Amazon and eBay because they will light up your bench just fine and you can really see what you are doing.

#10:  We have beaten the Hangar June Bugs.  Though it’s not June yet, chief flight instructor Billy B took a ladder down to the hangar and unscrewed the “security light” which is between his hangar and mine.  As a result, 100-acres of June Bugs no longer have a “guiding light” to our hangars.  If you ever find a market for dead June Bugs, though, let us know because we could become rich if bug ranching every turns into a money-maker.

We’ve thought about making up a Chinese herb to sell ‘em…

If you have the common sense not to own and airplane, use this tip as a reminder to get yellow bug lights before, not after the season begins.

#11:  Window screens should be repaired sometime in here.  Early in the season the stock of screens is pretty good in the hardware channel.  But if you push it off until August, or so, the annual supply will dry up and you may not find exactly what you’re looking for until it’s too late.  Right now, screen restringing can get done quickly some places.

#12:  Weed and Feed goes on during the first week of dry weather that comes along with 70-degrees. Pappy used to say a man who weeds and feeds – then complains abut the mowing –  is a damn idiot and he was right because he raised one.

#13 & 14:  If you ever wonder had master craftsmen can  get all those angles right and all those cuts precisely right, here are two secrets.

imageA.  Look at the clamp on the right side of the chop saw – see the stop block?  I can cut lengths of exactly what I want all day long with this rig.  On the table saw, extend your miter so the wood had a good surface to rest against and then use the rip fence as your stop.

If the lengths are longer than either of your saws will handle, back to the chop saw and get very good on eyeballing the laser right dead-to-nuts on your line.  Then learn to mark lines consistently.

B.  See that red plastic handle with the blade in the picture?  Adjustable square.  So when you are cutting angles for things like stair railings, you can make them exactly right. Most stair railings (if you do it right) come out about 30-degree angles with pre-cut risers, but that one or two degrees of variance is the difference between a kluge and a happy spouse.

I’m building a sign for my shop:  [  Close enough!…] it  will read.  I will keep a pointer handy near the sign to point it out to the inspector-lady.

#15:  Pick up new batteries for the Chop Saw laser which is low red and nearly dead.  Although we don’t need no stinkin’ laser with stop blocks.

#15B:  Practice measuring from the edge of the table saw kerf to rip fence.  Good enough is 1/32nd.  Furniture is 1/64th or better.  Observe the sign in #14B.

#15C:  Use squares frequently.  It won’t help.  Use squares AND clamps and then you can do good work.  An assortment of squeeze clamps is worth their weight in gold.  Irwin Tools 4935502 Quick-Grip Clamp Set, 8-Piece.  They replace about half a “helper” on many projects and they don’t take breaks or gripe on the job.

#16:  Offer to go grocery shopping for a week, or so, after St. Paddy’s Day.  A lot of times you will find corned beef marked down a bit and it will store in the fridge for a couple of months.

Get the lean cuts.  Cook slow (3.5-4 hours just covered with water) until it falls apart with a harsh word.  Cool well (20-minutes under foil) then slice across the grain.  Genuine working man food.  Sandwiches and corned beef hash (*with Yukon Golds, I mean let’s do this right) and then a couple of eggs over easy on top with some ketchup.

We can talk about it in the CCU later.

#17.  Check your diesel for coagulation.  It’s not algae.  It’s just coagulation of long chain hydrocarbons.  But it’s a lot easier to explain algae grows in diesel than to explain fracking temps of hydrocarbons.

There seem to be two belief systems out there for treating diesel.  Diesel Fuel Treatment PRI 16D is really good, however. Some prefer STA-BIL 22214 Fuel Stabilizer – 32 Fl oz.  – you say tomato, I say tomahto.  Both are good products.  Like in religion, personal experience is a fair guide.

See my grown-ups discussion of diesel preservatives over on my buddy Gaye’s site here.

If you have never used REAL DIESEL DIRT WORK MACHINES you have not lived yet.  I’m partial to a D-6 with a 6-way joystick, but YMMV.  Real men drive dozers (so do a few real women).  Real princesses drive husbands and speed dials.

#18: Hot-House Starts are on sale at Lowes and nurseries elsewhere around the south, and in a week or three up north.  The sooner you get them in, the sooner you get to eat fresh from the garden.

The road to hell being paved with good intentions, we didn’t get around to starting early this year.  (This is familiar, is it not?)

#19.  Plant wild seed gardens now.  This is where we walk around the property with the tiller running and toss seeds in low spots.  When city folk (like the kids) come to visit, we can then spin marvelous yarns about “Oh yes, this part of East Texas was famous among the pioneers moving west for the abundance of wild watermelons and celeries,” both of which do well in the creek bottom.  Along with the copperheads and the cotton mouths that are damn near bitchy, so bring a double-stacked 9 with rat shot for harvesting.  And track shoes. ‘Territorial as hell.

#20:  Fill the hummingbird feeders if you’re south of Oklahoma.  They are here already.  Just a few, but time to get in practice for summer.

No sign of the yellow belly sap suckers yet.  Apparently they haven’t recovered from the debates, yet.

#21:  When the motor went out on the jointer this weekend, I started a quest for motor brushes.  eBay has a good stock and there’s nothing particularly holy about one kind versus another.

That said, the RIGHT solution would be to use one of the fancy Woodtek sealed motors which are designed for use in a dusty environment.  Remember that with 1:1 belting, you might need something like a Woodtek 923936, Machinery Components, Motors, 1-1/2hp TEFC Motor 3450rpm 120/230   North of 2-bills, though.  Or, you can get away with a similar horsepowered Tractor Supply electric motor and a double diameter pulled on a 1,750 RPM motor to bump up your blade speed. A good bit less.

Or, you can play eBay electric brush roulette until you really need the tool again.

So ends the farmerly advice from the Outback.  As we say out here, a naster gardener is one thing.  But a master fisherman is another.

George II is What?

You can imagine my surprise when my son emailed me a wedding license last week.

Obviously, Dad called.

You’re punking me, right?”

“Nope…foe shoe real deal.”

Then he called this morning if I could come up this week if they got married.

“Nope.  We are solid booked until April 16…”

We then had the long father-son chat about “You just decided this last week, for crying out loud.”   Boy’s more anxious than a bull in heat.

“Yeah, but you and Elaine got married after just 5-months, so why not us?”

“Well, kid, we need more time to arrange things for travel. You need to take time on this too.  Relax and enjoy.  It’s engaged.  Not done.  Enjoy the flow.   N 0 panic.  Tell you what: For each week you wait, the wedding gift goes up $75 bucks to a maximum of $1,000.”

We’ll soon find out if reading the Art of the Deal has paid off.  Of, if I should send him 8-ounces of saltpeter and a bottle of doggie downers.  I didn’t ask him to quit the test drive – no sir.  I’m hopeful, not stupid.

But it’s like the first time you drive a Porsche 930.  Great fun. “ Where do I sign?”  But there are always complications.  Like insurance and such.

Same is true for Corvettes and marriages near as I can figure.  Take a few extra minutes, consider the fine print. What can it hurt?

Being a modern couple, they don’t have much in the way of assets.  Elaine and I at least took the time to go through the motions of a pre-nup and such.  Sheesh!  It was in this cooling-off period we worked out our now-famous “matching food – matching breath” agreement.  People don’t usually work on things like matched body chemistry, know what I mean?

Even a minimal “If one does garlic, the other does” will improve the quality of marriage.

As a worried parent, I want them both to take at least a few weeks and let the ink dry on the license and think things through.  Zero to married in 2-weeks is…uh….not quite OSHA, know what I mean?

On the other hand, I’m crazy. Parental concern is no antidote for estrogen or testosterone.  Never has been, never will be.

I’m happy my son is happy and I am happy the new DIL is happy with my son.

But in a funny wink from the Universe it does answer the Monday question posed in the column:  Can the whole planet go crazy?

Oh, hell yeah. Totally and absofreaking-lutely.  But it does keep things interesting….

Write when you break-even,


Coping: Around the Ranch–21 Projects and Tips; G II is What? — 13 Comments

  1. First and last tank of gas for the mowers is ethanol-free. Last tank gets some stabilizer. Any small stuff with a purge pump gets pickled with kero, dump it out in the spring and purge fresh gas/mix thru. I use non-ethanol all season long in the small stuff. As for marriage, still working on my first (23 yrs).Waited til I was 30.

  2. Re: “#10: We have beaten the Hangar June Bugs.” Are they caramel-colored and piled up under the light? We used to call those ‘candle bugs’, and where I grew up in the RGV just outside of Rio Hondo, TX, they would fry themselves on the incandescent porch light if we left it on after dark for any period of time during spring/summer. You could hear them bouncing off the light bulb non-stop.

  3. Husband was a Master Sergeant in the Marine Corps. I was a first class Petty Officer in the Navy. We knew each other for three weeks. Mother called my Navy Chief boss and asked him to talk me out of marriage. 25 years later the love of my life passed away from cancer. Be happy for GII.Happiness is fleeting at any time. For all of the pain, the joy is worth it.

  4. Really George? Comparing a marriage to a car buy? Its not a matter of the “deal” or even the ceremony, its a matter of the commitment of the two of them. Just because you didn’t get it right the first time, glad you and Elaine are happy, don’t project your life onto your kids or anyone else’s for that matter. Your so cynical about marriage! Some people get it right the first time because they are committed to each other, heart and soul. That does happen!
    Got married at 19, wife was 17, almost 18 she tells everyone. 39 years later, she is still the one. I hope your son doesn’t take your deal. If they are happy and they are ready, then support your kid and quit being the ” look at me kid and learn” type of parent. Look, but go do better and treat her like your are dating her the rest of your life!!!!

    • Very good advice Wayne. I apologize for my small degree of cynicism, but it took me three tries and 50-years to finally “get it right.” (#1 ran off with a biker. That lowered my IQ estimates of that club. #2 cost me half a million after-tax dollars, so there is some grounds for cynicism…believe me.)
      I’m just concerned that 2-weeks of serious would be statistically more reliable if it was 3-4 weeks. Know what I mean?

  5. G, my husband and I got married after having kids. We rebuilt a home inside to out, had the kids come along, job upheavals and all. Even deaths in the families. After all those things happened, and we didn’t drive each other away or attempt to kill each other with hammers or cement mixer machines (lonnngg fun times there), we made it legal. After all we had been through already, we’re fairly sure were in it for the long haul. I will say that neither of us are young, so maturity plays a big part in this, and we cohabitated together for 3 years before the life tornado picked us up and carried us for a wild ride.

    I like your maneuver on the money carrot stick to your son, btw. Ingenious. I only hope when my own children grow up, I can do something like that as well.

  6. Congrats to G II… we’re in a similar boat. The Ratbag (a.k.a. the Wizard’s Demon Spawn) is similarly hitching up with a lovable microelectronics engineer come October. He’s buying a new dress kilt for the occasion.

    They’ve only known each other for 10 years come this fall, so obviously the marriage is doomed to success, as the Lovely Mrs Wizard & mine has worked for 33 years+, after we knew each other for the same amount of time.

  7. Being a long time reader of your work (since 1998 or was it 1999), hearing the news about the upcoming wedding has me asking the question – where do we send the wedding gifts?

  8. Get a cheap kiddie pool, place a lamp over it pointing down into the water. Skim those junebugs off every morning and feed them to the chickens. Saves a few bucks on feed, and saves what the bugs would be chewing.

  9. EASY STARTING FOR TWO CYCLE ENGINES: When you shut off the engine slowly pull the starting cord until it is at the point of most resistance and then slowly let it recoil. This places the piston at top dead center (TDC) and closes the exhaust port preventing air from getting into the cylinder and corroding the walls during storage and compression loss. Engines should start in no more than 5 pulls. Works best when done from first use when new.

    • Great idea! I never thought of that. It should also work for four cycle engines, since at the same point(greatest resistance), both valves will be closed.

    • Also, don’t shut the engine off when running at high speed. Have it slow down to idle then shut off. This means less un-burned gasoline will be in the engine cylinders and will be less likely to clean the oil off of the cylinder walls. It will make your engine last longer.