Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Rainy Day

It's raining. This is January, last I checked, and it's not supposed to be raining. (typically not anyway) There was even thunder in the night... What ever happened to the good old days where it was cold in January?

This winter has been rather disappointing in my opinion--not very many cold days and not much snow. Must be that darn global warming committee is having another meeting--all the big wigs traveling really heat things up....That or it's one of those natural cycles that are sooooo improbable....

Well lately I've kept rather busy with a sort of new, kinda old "project" that's been in the works for a few months now. The plan is that in August (this summer) I'm heading up to Alpena Community College (ACC) to attend their Trade School to become an electrical linesman (like for a local electric co-op). Since we firmly believe that the government has no place in supporting education, and we obviously won't be accepting any govt. funding, I've been working on filling our a couple of independent scholarship applications. ACC is still technically a govt. supported school, but unfortunately it's the only school in the state that has the hands on part of the course work integrated into daily activities. It is also the very best around, by the several accounts we've heard from people we know.

Currently we're (using the term loosely--mostly it's Research Central [Mom]) investigating the possibility of combining ACC's two years into one year and several "examinations for credit". These are tests that the college will accept in lieu of taking (and paying) for the actual classes--saving both time and money. That way I could earn an Associates in applied Science Degree in the time I'm will to waste (uh, that would be
spend) in learning the trade before I start working full time. Otherwise I think that I'll just stick to the basic Certificate, and get on with life.

My plan, Lord willing, is to spend this fall and the next spring semesters in obtaining the degree and then get a job with a local utility and work through the 3 1/2 to 4 year apprenticeship until I'm a qualified journeyman linesman. Meanwhile putting in all the hours I can, and saving at least half of what ever income. After 4 years we'll see what happens as far as advancement within the company, or employment with a contractor or something; still working and saving as much as possible.

After 5-7 years of working I hope to be able to have enough saved to purchase a farm. Several people have suggested that I buy one as soon as I have enough for a down payment--but I have an extremely high aversion to debt. About the only possibility I
might consider is getting a place if I had at least 70% down--but only if everything was exactly right. That way I could get a few years head start on the orchards, and wood lots. I firmly believe that good things come to those who wait.

In the meantime I'm doing some experimenting....I was able to rent about an acre and a half across the road this year, and I've got a half acre reserved for a garden (frost seeded to oats for a green manure crop) and the other acre is for pasture for the chickens and other animals... Hopefully, I will be able to rustle up some sheep, from one of the farms I've been working on to graze ahead of the chickens and provide some fertilizer. Also I'd like to attempt raising some PotterVilla Pasture Pigs in addition to the Pastured Poultry--we'll see how that goes.

The Chickens I've kinda got figured out, the sheep are simple--give 'em some water and a little salt, and they graze, but the that will be completely new. I've worked with swine a fair amount but never on pasture, I'm not sure how it will really work out. I know that Mr. Jeffries in VT does well with them, but he's got a lot more acreage than I do to work with. And the occasional load of peanut butter from Ben and Jerry's!

There will be a few new things in the garden but for the most part, that should be fairly basic too. Keeping the weeds in submission shouldn't be too hard because I have a super duper Planet Whizbang Wheel Hoe! And I've got a garden cart too--they'll get a workout this summer.

I'm also going to attempt a heated greenhouse this year too. I just need to get the hoops up and the stove in place and build the wall for the stove and put the plastic on and not forget (like I actually did...) that I planted some two hundred and thirty cloves of garlic in there somewhere!

Hopefully I'll be able to do a little bit of the Farmer's Market thing, but unfortunately, I'll be in Alpena when the vast majority of the fall crops are ready. I could come home on the weekends, but it would cost an average of 75 bucks in fuel every time, which doesn't make that a very viable option.

Another interesting project I've recently completed is rebuilding a trailer. I bought a frame (axle with electric brakes and basic steel supporting beams) which used to be a camper, and then purchased extra steel and substantially beefed it up before putting a 2x6 deck on the thing and wiring it for lights. I've since carefully inspected a commercially built trailer, and I think I may have over built mine a smidgeon ;-) Ah, well. Now I've got a excellent wood cart, if only I can get the spring on the truck replaced. (They're shot and since the trailer is only a single axle there tends to be a little tongue weight)

The other exciting news is that Grandpa is giving me his old Farmall M. He has it all painted up nicely, and running well. I believe that he said that he's got a plow to go with it as well. That will really make the garden work a lot easier, if I only have to borrow tillage equipment rather than a tractor too. I may even take it out to the W. farm to rake hay with. That would be fun.

Well that's all I can think of for now,


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adventures Arising from Attempting to Obtain a New(er) Truck

First let me acquaint you with the circumstances surrounding this series of events.

To begin with the old truck was dead. There can be no doubt about that fact. Did we know that the old truck was dead? Of course we did. We were the ones who hauled it home. We were the ones who tore it apart. We were the ones who declared its life finished.

There is no doubt that the old truck is dead. This must be definitely and distinctly understood, or nothing special can come of the tale I'm about to tell....

Once upon a time--early on a cold December morning, of all days ([Jonathan]: Dec. 08?)--a young man was headed off to work on the farm when a deer suddenly dashed out in front of him...I took my foot of the accelerator pedal and the truck quit. Attempting vainly to restart the engine, I tried everything I could think of, but to no avail. So I trekked home (only about a half mile) and called my friend (Daniel) from the farm to come to the rescue. At first I thought it might just be a dead battery but when we tried to jump it we were completely unsuccessful. After numerous frustrating, failing attempts to figure something out I said: "Forget it. Tow me home!" (or something very similar to the same effect.) So he did. The interesting part came in when you factor in the fact that home was in the direction directly opposite the way I was facing--that and there was absolutely no way to turn around (especially with out power steering). Thus Dan hauled me for about a half-mile-- backwards. If you don't think that trying to steer backwards looking in your mirrors is difficult, you aught to try it some day...did I mention that I had no power steering?

So there you have a brief description of "the death of the truck." You now understand why we are looking for a new(er) truck. Shortly thereafter the W. family (with the farm) graciously volunteered to let me use their farm truck for transportation. For a while we were not completely sure that the truck had died, so for a period of time (while Dad took the tappet covers off to look at the lifters and the oil pan off to examine the bearings and pistons) we were suspended in action (in limbo so to speak).

But although no one really wanted to admit it we all knew the sad truth. The poor old truck was dead.

And so we began the search for a new(er) truck. Hours turned to days, days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months...

We search the papers, talked to friends and local salesmen, got hooked on craigslist (You need it? They've got it!), and generally searched the internet (fortunately, Mom is the consummate researcher--we call her "Research Central" :-) ). As the weeks dragged on, we did find several trucks that met our long list of qualifications. One day we went to Lansing and visited several area dealerships--we discovered some useful information (the price on that sort of vehicle is often negotiable even up to 25% or thereabouts) and another interesting fact--used car salesmen have the wimpiest handshakes imaginable. Its about like shaking a damp dishrag. Actually, the dishrag may have a firmer grip!

But we failed to locate anything that seemed worthy of pursuing. Until...Fletcher found something new to do! (Oh, sorry...relapse to one of our favorite stories when we were little--"Pirates Ahoy!" by Hans Wilhelm) That is until Mom found a likely truck in Lansing, and one in South Haven, and one in Grand Rapids! Since she was having trouble keeping track of them all by sheer memorization (after all she isn't really intimately familiar with all the engine numbers and model numbers between Ford GMC and Chevy, let alone remembering minute details like color, box length, etc.) we referred to them by the name of the owner/salesman.

For instance the truck in Lansing was Sam's truck--a shiny red '98 3-door extended cab F150, short box with topper, 4 wheel drive with a standard transmission. Salesman Bob's truck was in Grand Rapids: a green '96 extended cab F150, short box, 4x4. But my favorite of all the ones we'd found to date was in South Haven--the salesman's name was Sandy. Sandy's truck was white with a red strip, '95 extended cab F150, long box with topper, 4x4, automatic transmission and bucket seats.

First we went and took Sam's truck for a test drive--the main problem was I didn't fit in it very well. And with stick shifts you kinda need plenty of room.

Bob's truck sold before we could get up there to look at it.

Then we made plans to journey down to South Haven to look at Sandy's truck. Just as we were about to walk out the door, the phone rang--"'this is Sandy, at blank, blank blank,' we can't find the truck you are coming to look at." He asked if we could go out for lunch or something while they looked for it. We mentioned that South Haven is a long ways from Charlotte and that if they didn't have the truck on the lot we didn't feel we could justify making such a long trip. (To put it mildly!) To make a long story slightly shorter, we did finally go down and look at the truck a couple of weekends later. Apparently, the owner took the truck to let his dad borrow to use to haul diesel fuel to a job site. Unfortunately, when we went to test drive the truck the battery was dead. So evidently, since the owners dad had just been using the truck, the battery was no good. The salesman offered an interesting excuse: the high voltage lines running over the parking lot had drained the juice from the battery. (Too bad he didn't know he was talking to an electrical engineer!)

The truck was kinda rusty, but I liked it, it was in good mechanical condition and so we moved onto the bargaining. To make a long story really short, we seemed to have a few irreconcilable differences--about 800 of them to be exact. ($1 each :-) )

Also on that trip we were discussing the pros and cons of another truck, located in Howe Indiana.
It was a 1997 F150, 4x4, extended cab, long box, decent mileage, excellent price, with one major problem: a rebuilt salvage title. Which means that it had been in at least a couple of accidents--totaled in one or more, and repaired up to par with what the state required. It sounded pretty good except for the last part...and we decided that we didn't care to open that can of worms.

Some time later, we found a 1996 F150 (do you see a theme here? We really were considering Chevy's and GMC's) 4x4, extended cab, North Woods edition. I think that one was down south somewhere too. (South of Bellevue, MI anyway) They had a video tour of that one, and it was only a short box, so we kinda left it by the wayside.

But then Fletcher, I mean Mom, found one on craigslist or somewhere, in Lansing. It was almost exactly like the one in wherever it was. (with the video) 1996 F150, 4x4, extended cab, short box, topper, power windows, manual seats (I can actually run them [as opposed to the automatic ones with all the buttons] ), the old style of Ford mirrors--the ones that are big enough you can actually see something in, and pretty decent mileage. It was owned by a very small rescue mission type organization in Lansing.

So we set up a meeting with Mr. Mark, who was the head honcho at the mission. As we neared the corner parking lot where we were supposed to meet him we heard this dull roaring sound getting louder and louder. In fact it was getting so noisy that it was rather unsettling. When we finally arrived at the corner the noise was almost deafening. Then we found out what was making all the commotion. The construction crews on the nearby street had broken a gas main, and it was rushing out of the fissure and causing all the racket. It was also causing evacuations, and news crews were beginning to show up.

However the wost part of it all was that the truck we had come to see was parked in a garage less than a block away from the broken pipe, and we couldn't get to it. I mean come on, just because they're evacuating people, why would that stop anything? We had driven a long ways--maybe 20 minutes or so!

So anyways Mr. Mark agreed to not sell the truck before we could get a chance to look at it. He even offered to meet us half way at Potterville. One afternoon not too long after that Mom and I went over and looked at the truck and took it to a mechanic friend. Who gave us the bad news. (yes I know that is a fragment and not a sentence, but I don't have to turn this in for a grade!) There was a seven dollar seal on the rear end that wasn't replaced quite quick enough. Which meant that the bearings were bad, and could possible mean that more that that was ruined. Which could run about three to four hundred dollars. Which wasn't really that good. The other minor problem was that the rear springs were shot. With no load the box was riding on the overload springs.

But on the plus side the front end had been almost completely replaced--new tie rods and ends, one new suspension arm, new brakes, new front tires. According to Mr. Mark he had intended to keep the truck--and so had sent the truck to the shop and had the front end completely gone over with a fine tooth comb--but unfortunately the financial situation wasn't favorable to that. Mr. Roger the mechanic, said that the repairs to the front end were probably worth around $1600. Thus it could be a good start to having a very nice truck.

And my friend Dan, of the farm and pulling me home (backwards) fame, had an old truck that had also died (well actually he killed it, but he's much easier on vehicles now) a couple of years ago but that he'd kept for parts etc. and which had practically brand new tires that would fit on that truck, and which he'd give to me. (that might be classed as a run-on sentence)

And it would be very nice just to be done. Done looking at every single truck on the face of the earth in the five state area. Done, until you search for a truck for as long as we did, you'll never know the sense of relief that came when we were finally...Done.

So we took the truck home to show to Dad and Jonathan. It passed their initial inspection--"wow, I really like how the topper exactly matches the truck..." (or something very similar to the same effect.) (No names as to which of them actually said that...)

Over dinner we discussed what to do. Finally we decided to see if Mr. Mark could come down on his price at all. We'd give him the sad story about the seven dollar seal...

Later at the corner gas station we met Mr. Mark with the truck. We told him about the repairs that would be necessary etc. He said "well I'm glad you had a chance to look at the truck." and started to walk away...Mom then asked if he couldn't come down any. Apparently, he thought that we weren't interested at all. But he was willing to come down what we asked and so.........

On September 29, 2009 (one day after my birthday) we became the proud owners of a New(er) Truck!!!!!

Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, Amen.

Or something very similar to the same effect. ;-)

Thus I now have a very nice truck in which to haul around my vast accumulation of junk! Which is why I wanted the extended cab in the first place.

And so ends my tale, and now you can see why it was important for you realize that the old truck was dead.