Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Brother Josh

My brother Josh recently separated (honorably) from the US Navy as a sonar technician on the submarine USS Buffalo.  He has been "in between" jobs, homes, careers?, etc. for a while now as he stays at my parents house and works simultaneously to find a decent interim job and finish off a few classes for his associates degree.  In the meanwhile, we have had the great priviliege of having him hanging around here in TX with very little to do.  What that means to us is that he comes out here on a fairly regular basis and just hangs out for a day or two at a time.  It has been absolutely great.  The kids totally love him, he cleans up after himself, and loves to help out around the farm.  Last night, we were out working on a new chicken run till about 10:30pm and it was great just having a pal to hang around with.

During his latest visit, we ended up doing some very interesting stuff.  I wish I could explain it as well as he did, but if you'd like to have a quick laugh, read his blog entry about the events. 
Here's a teaser:

Read the story here:   Josh's blog

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The two older kids were given "Quil-llows" from their cousins in Utah a year or so ago (or more?)  A Quil-llow is a blanket that has a specially placed pouch that allows the blanket to be folded into itself to create a pillow if desired.  They do love their quil-llows, but ever since it has cooled off here, they have come up with a new way to use them.  Observe:

They put their heads in the pouch and use the blanket as a cape to wrap themselves in.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Couple Surprises

Josh is over here again today kicking it.  He came in from fishing and said that there was a group of guys back working in the area of our rear (barbed wire) fence.  I instantly was hoping they were back there fixing it because that is actually on our list to go ahead and do here (as soon as I have time.)  I hopped on my mt. bike and rode back there.  Bless their little hearts, they WERE fixing the fence!  I chatted um up a bit and then let them finish the job.  One less thing on my to-do list!

The other surprise is not so good.  I spent pert near the entire day working on a section of floor that can't be more than 15 square feet.  There were just so m
any cuts and measurements and re-cuts.  it just took forever.  The good news is that we are getting close - observe:

The areas without the blue tape is not yet glued.  Since it is a tongue & groove wood, I figured I had better make it all fit and figure out how to get it in there before gluing.  The final step here is going ot be to make sure the edges work with the trim piece, install the trim piece and then pull up all the wood again (easy) and then relay/glue it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fall Days

It may be winter everywhere else, but we are just getting into full "fall" weather here where it is only hitting the low 70s during the day.  Ginger and I went to wait for Sterling and Winter to come home from school down at the end of the driveway.  The sky was beautiful, eh?

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Jeep with no roof

The kids are always telling me how much they hate that we "sold the "Jeep with no roof" away."  I stumbled across some images of it today and I feel the same way:

Someday I hope to buy another "project" and work on it with the kids until it is fixed up and is theirs to drive.  That sounds like fun. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Jessica and I went into Leonard today to vote.  There were 4 voting machines and a small line.  It moved along pretty quick and we waited less than 30 minutes.  In that 30 minutes, Ginger (who was tagging along) picked up on what we were doing and, much to the delight of the quiet room of waiting voters exclaimed in a delighted voice, "we go boating!?!?"  No, no, we explained, VOTing not BOATing.  "We go boating!?!?"  After several exchanges, I think she just decided to let it pass and agree to disagree.  Everyone thought it was pretty funny.

On an unrelated note, unkygiash is here again - this time to apply his new computer-whiz skills to reload our operating system and optimize our computer's performance.  He arrived late last night and hung around here all day alternately working on the computer and helping us to install our wood floors.  I've decided one thing: I like having him around.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Some of you may know that we had a little 'incident' with the metro which involved a lot of heat and ended up with a warped head, blown headgasket, and scorched cylinders.  This occurred several months ago... forward to today.  The metro is back in action for the first time since the heinous events that led to the breakdown.  What has happened since then?  Well - it started with removal of the head to assess the damage.  We then proceed to deciding to replace the engine while we are at it.  Since we are replacing the engine, we might as well also replace: 
  • Water pump
  • clutch
  • CV shafts
  • oil pump
  • fan & AC belt
  • Timing belt
  • Spark plugs
  • Air filter
  • Various hoses
  • Various gaskets
I meticulously cleaned and replaced each piece taking extra care to clean all threads and torque all bolts to spec.  Unfortunately, I also got a bit overzealous in my "packing" of the oil pump with vaseline.  This is a practice I have used with success in the past.  The vaseline stays in the pump and then instantly primes the engine when it is fired up and dissolves into the engine oil harmlessly.  I say I got overzealous because I succumbed to the thing where if a bit is good, lots must be better...wrong!
I packed the oil pump and figured while I was at it I would also pack the oil pickup tube.  Once the whole thing was back together, I turned the engine over with the spark plugs out for what seemed like forever and could NOT get the oil warning light to go off (indicating that the engine was turning without being oiled - a very bad thing.)  After much consultation with relatives and internet sources, I decided to pull the oil pan (now a job that had to be done lying under the car - as opposed to when it was originally installed when the engine was out of the car and we could just flip the engine over and stick it on.)  
As expected, once the oil pan was back off, it was immediately apparent that the vaseline in the pickup tube was still there.  This means that the oil pump was spinning in a vacuum and the vaseline was preventing the oil from being sucked up into the engine.  I used compressed air to blow the vaseline out of the pickup tube and stuck a temporary (clear) tube into the block and had Jessica turn the engine over for a bit to see if it was pulling oil up the tube.  It was!  So, after gluing the oil pan back on and letting it set for 24 hours, I tried it all again.  No dice!
Now I was pulling out hair and dad even was lucky enough to call me right during that time and was treated to a very depressed phone conversation.  I decided that there were two possibilities:
  1. The cold temperature was causing the vaseline to solidify and block up all the oil passages
  2. Turning the engine over by using the starter (as opposed to just starting the engine up) was not getting enough RPM to suck the oil up the pickup
So, for the one/two punch to solve those, I decided on a plan to hit them both at once.  I waited till it was warm today - around 80 or so at noon and then constructed a temporary tent around the engine compartment of the car.  I then moved my portable propane shop heater into the tent and fired it up.   It was working great to heat up the upper part of the car, but the heat was not really getting down low (I think the concrete was soaking up a lot of it) so I added my portable halogen worklight right under the oil pan.  It generates a LOT of heat and it was only a few inches from the oil.  By around 5:00pm, it was time and the light had heated the engine oil to too-hot-to-touch and the rest of the engine was almost getting warm to the touch (instead of cold metal.)  
I turned it over for 30 seconds using the starter - still no oil pressure.  I decided to take the big gamble (perhaps out of exasperation more than anything else) and installed the spark plugs and fired it up.  Almost instantly the oil warning light went out!  Hooooray!  Another couple hours of timing and idle adjustments, fluid level checks and getting it back down off the jack stands (and clearing a path to remove it from the shop) and I was taking her for a test spin!

The results?  The car drives under its own power and I am almost daring to say that it runs better than it did before the overheating incident - although I am cautious to say too much at this point.  It does have great power, the temperature of the engine is consistently perfect, and it doesn't seem to smoke at idle (like it did before all this.)  Here's the bad part - the engine is making a lot of noise.  There are some ticking sounds that should not be there and that could very likely be the result of a motor that was run without oil for too long (even a few moments can kill it.)  On the other hand, there is an exhaust leak right in front of the engine (I had to reuse the exhaust gasket that goes between the exhaust manifold and the exhaust pipe since I didn't get a new one in my masker gasket kit) which could very well be the source of all the noise.  I'll see about a new gasket on Monday and should know then if the rest of the ticking is coming from inside the engine.  

I can say that I am very pleased tonight that this thing is back into driveable shape.  I learned a very good lesson in mechanics, and if anybody needs anything done on a metro, please let me know - I think I have just about everything under the hood under control these days.