It has been a matter of some pride around here that our lean-to greenhouse has worked out so well, not to mention being a fun project. Especially with the place being kept warm by one of the best bargains in the world: Our ubiquitous Chinese-made diesel truck heater.
In fact, we were so tickled with the reliable heat output from it all last winter that we picked up another one this year. Spares for everything come the end of the world this week, right? Unlike most things (even remotely connected with food) these heaters are still moderately priced at Amazon.
The the unthinkable happened.
I walked out of the house after breakfast and there was that pungent smell of diesel fuel in the air. Inspecting the heater area, there was a small puddle on the floor. An inch or five across. Grabbing the closet container (a large plastic garbage can) I shoved it under the fuel outlet and gave the fuel line a gentle (like wouldn’t be called a yank) and it parted ways.
A few minutes later, a camera shoved under the tank revealed what had happened: the line failed where it attached to the tank nipple:
Always Have Kitty Litter on Hand!
Many years ago, Elaine turned me on to kitty litter as one of the best clean-up tools to keep ready. Wine, gas,, paint, diesel – all loved by kitty litter.
If you don’t have one of those 5 or 10-pound jugs of it, put it the hell on your shopping list. Don’t wait. A Home Handy Bastard can’t be called such without all the right tools. Including kitty litter.
The dark areas above are where the diesel was sopped up. When the first coating is saturated, sweep it up and apply a second coat. Then a third. After three rounds, the surface will be relatively cleaned of diesel, though just a bit shy of being able to serve canapes on it.
The litter with a bit of fragrance and baking soda in it is fine. Upscale your shop. Whatever is cheapest at the Dollar store is what we roll with.
Since the heater was running fine, the only real problem was line replacement and a new “fool oil” filter. Ah, but which line? Too many choices for an old man…
The two main choices were the greenish – easy to work flexible line that came with the Vevor heater. However, there is a better grade of line (which look just like the 3D printer tubing from the feed stepper down to the print head).
The green stuff is easy to work, goes on easily and will last a year in normal service before needing replacement. The white tubing (looks like the Capricorn printer feed tube) is a little thicker walled and nearly impossible to get on without heating it.
The failure may relate to the dye (red) in off-road diesel. Since I don’t drive the heater, off-road seems to be legal to use and I do have both a USDA (tree) farm number and a state tax number. Makes it a little more Fordable, if you follow. (Pun police have the day off, right?)
If this was a “virgin installation” (no jokes, this is serious shit here!) then the white tubing would be a better choice. But, son G2 is off being a server farm construction medical rockstar. With no professional firefighter to supervise my rapid-onset senility, I lost interest in applying a heat gun within inches of diesel. Guess old age has addled me. Nerve’s gone missing. May have run off with my senses…
One thing made very clear in the heater install manuals (which will drive you to drink trying to understand) is the mounting of the fuel pump. First trade secret is you actually want them to be mounted at a 45-degree angle, or so.
The second trade secret? Only tighten the lower support clamp far enough to keep the heater in position. IF you lay too much “Arm-strong” into tightening this clamp, every pulse of the pump will sound like someone beating a hammer on the 2-by-4 it was mounted to.
Ideally, I would have taken the time to design a clever “perfect angle” holder over on https://tinkercad.com. Then download the .STL file, printed it off in printer alley in the shop. And sprayed in a good sound-absorbing cellular foam.
Why, I could even put the design up on Cults.com or Thingiverse and become fabulously wealthy from all the people who hate loud banging from fuel pumps. In fact...wait! Did the diesel fumes just damage my brain? No one tips creators enough!
After Action Report
Despite watching umpteen videos on handy-tube, I was unable – no matter what – to get the now ready-for-action-system to drop into prime mode. I eventually took the new hose off the heater end and (no jokes, please) sat there sucking on the loaded with diesel fuel line through at least a half dozen start cycles (each of which was a five-minute grind).
The reason this job (literally) sucked was a) no prime cycle could be triggered on the (two-year old, old style) controller and b) the new fuel line and filter were full of air.
Almost an hour of controller cursing, fuel-line sucking (uh-uh – no jokes!) and cycling the heater through start cycles, the fuel was finally up to within 4 or 5-inches of the heater. At this point, Fellatio Heater Blower reattached and clamped the heater end back on and life continued. Replete with heat.
Diesel Powered Tomatoes
With the heat back on, I looked around the greenhouse. Suddenly I felt like God. Sixth Day and it was Good, kind of thing: Time to rest and reflect.
Grow lights were glowing. Last vestiges of diesel stain would be gone before I turn to daisy food. And over on the legacy tomato plant? Christmas ‘maters is it?
Why yes, I think if I keep the room temp at 60-F or better at night, (15 or 16 C) the fuel consumption shouldn’t be too bad. The Detroit Red Beets are coming along and the bok choi could contribute to a pork and shrimp soup any old day, now.
There is one mystery, though: The Peppers. On the same plant I have one green:
And another that is red:
Stop and Go peppers? Say what?
Meanwhile, those Big Island pepper plants that Hank sent over from Hawaii as seeds are now fully 36-inches high. A few more (tiny) flowers, too. But only one suspected “pepper” and it’s scarcely bigger than a grain of brown rice (uncooked) with a little dark spot on the top of it.
At this rate, we may be driven to throw the whole kit and kaboodle into the yard waste chipper and use the sawdust as a crude form of pepper. Things are bigger in Texas, you know. I’m surely not the first “Texan” to consider a gas-powered pepper grinder. It would help to have peppers though and I hark back to the (partly joke but actually seen) gas-powered Marguerita Mixer that showed up at a sailing function out on the left coast before the revolutionaries took over.
The idea hasn’t gone away. Click over to Tailgator Gas Blender – w/ Case (americantailgater.com) and order Ure’s today!
For the less homey of the HandyBastards, the option is to get one of those 600-900 watt (girl-sized) portable generators and snag the VitaMix from the house.
BUT, those little generators are about as useless as (fill in an unsuitable for mixed company phrase). Because you don’t have enough power for running a welder or doing REAL (man, manly man) power tool work with ’em.
So, gas powered blenders makes total sense, if for no other reason than you don’t have the conversion efficiency losses that add up in the longer power chain…(diesel fume relapse?). If you really need power losses, we find a 2,860-foot (AWG #18 gauge) extension cord is hard to beat, though.
Black Friday madness is in full swing (swig?) until damn near month-end. Someone asked me about which lathe tooling to get for a new home wood lathe setup.
One reason they might have asked is Ure has this small-sized seldom-used wood turning rig at the hobby shop workstation area:
The question of lathe tooling is somewhat related to the size of lathe you plan to use. Above is my (too small) Wen 3421 8-inch by 12-inch lathe. These are good for pen-making, but since I like broad point OHTO Fude roller pens (1.5 mm really wide), it was a hobby bound for the boneyard from the outset. You can make a passable 7 1/2 -inch bowl on it, but it’s not a big powerhouse.
Point I was getting to? In general, on a wood lathe, you want to have three sizes of chisels. For big roughing work (assuming you get a more powerful lathe) go for 24-inches, or so, overall. the “go to for most work” will be a 16-inch set. Anything under 14 on down to tiny is for delicate work – like pen making and turning out bowls for the local midget population.
There are lots of reasons to start with something smaller than a Baileigh or a Powermatic. ($4-kilobucks and up comes to mind.) You are less likely to be injured if the wood parts the machine at 50 versus 500 miles per hour.
Point – regardless of tool length – is to keep the tool rest close to your work. A quarter inch, or less, is my comfort zone. You get too much closer; things can go bad in a hurry. Much further out and tool chatter becomes an issue. You want a long-enough tool so that you always maintain positive control of the
Positive control, whether tools, boats, cars drifting corners on a track, all manner of silly shit in the sky, there can never be failure to be in control. Positive COMMAND is critical.
When you are not “in-charge” of something as “simple” as a Skil saw, they WILL kick back, and you can get hurt. Lathes are the same way. If you’re a pussy, a wimp, or a coward fearful of responsibility, maybe something else, besides real shop work with big power tools, is more suited to your nature. In doubt? Check with your insurance carrier. Serum testosterone levels.
Black Friday craziness still comes and goes. In one idle moment, I went off looking for another one of US General / Harbor Freight green roll around tool storage units. I gave $99 bucks, less a coupon not four years ago. Love it. Dame color as my old 911-E which was Viper Green. (Before the classic million-dollar divorce in the 1980s.)
Wholly shit! These tool carts were going for $269 when I looked this weekend.
Horrible inflation, but tools are something that if you really take care of them, they are a joy to use and a way to make a lot for future value-added things in life. Like a new house or a rat rod.
Send links in for our research into earth-cooled Southern climate greenhouses. I have a lot of plans and ideas, but most end up looking like macro-scaled dehydrators…or paths to bankruptcy even with solar power cooling. Sweat lodges with no ice.
Design parms are 90-F high and 60-F nights spanning the calendar from Snowmageddon to Gates of Hell. If you aren’t enjoying the weather, neither are your plants.
The Sunday Gourmet
Word from our Houston Bureau overnight brings me to mentioning the right way to make mashed potatoes.
You see, Houston advised me to check out the CNN report How to make mashed potatoes step-by-step | CNN. Well, Houston, we do have a problem, yessir.
OMG, CNN can’t even cover food right.
First, advice like “start with cold water” is somewhere between hogwash and bad physics on Ure’s Reality Scale. And anyone who has even a cursory knowledge of food chemistry knows the whole deal is about differential temperatures and times at temperatures. But we’re going to let this slide. Because since this is a ShopTalk report, the CNN advice skips over the main tool behind of the most amazing-tasting mashed potatoes – ever – bar none.
Get your potatoes. Russets will do fine. For a little different taste, boil up some Yukon Gold’s – or do all Yukon but this quickly becomes addictive. ((If you’re on Keto, burn this web post and never come back!)) Half a dozen big ones is fine. A dozen medium Yukon’s is better, but have the hold punch out in the shop to work-over your belt afterwards.
Boil till done (forkable).
Peel potatoes. Now, go to the kitchen power tools.
Get out the mixer (in order of choice) either an 8-quart (or larger) Hobart that has been in the family for 50-years. Or, our more modest KitchenAid works OK, too. We have a 5-quart KitchenAid bought in 2010. There are only two of us mostly, so a bigger Hobart just didn’t make sense.
Still, as in my bitch-note above about tool prices in general, kitchen appliances are higher nowadays. In 2010 the mixer with tax and shipping was $267, Today, they are going for $450. Toss on about $36 of tax on that. But remember, the kitchen mixer is every bit as much a “power tool”: as an Evolution Rage steel cutting saw. You get what you pay for.
We have about $300 add-ons for the KitchenAid power takeoff.
Not to slice, dice, chop and sauté CNN, but you can’t have enough upper body strength after a hard week of clicking to make even minimally passable mashed ‘taters.
Put the too-hot to handle (or microwave ’em to warm up again) and toss into the mixer with two tablespoons of whipping cream, a tablespoon, or two, of real butter. (Margerine is poison if you hadn’t figured that out, yet. See The Oiling of America – The Weston A. Price Foundation (westonaprice.org) for details.)
Turn the mixer on about medium. You want it to work – hard – but not so fast that it will polka-dot the kitchen. Add some fresh ground black pepper.
Let it mix for at least 10-minutes. Have a glass or wine. Two, maybe.
The difference between tool potatoes and that slope that CNN dished up is amazing.
We’d charitably recommend they join the power tools in the kitchen revolution and read up on food chemistry.
Because bullied, and beaten severely by a mean mixer, actual good can come of it. Though I don’t suppose that’s on their menu, either.
Bottom line is, you need power for this job and the mashing process will take 10-15 minutes, according to taste. NO ONE in the instant world seems to get this.
The Sunday Gourmet teaches that like fine furniture building, there is a return on investment over thyme. The tiniest specks of garlic or the herbs will blow your mind.
The mixing changes the nature of the long-chain carbbies…
Write when you get rich,