You stare at the intricate workings at the rear of the fire truck, and hope that nobody asks you to do anything. So that connection goes up there. And that valve operates the flow on that pipe. And does this connection flow into or out of the pump? It doesn’t seem obvious to me how this stuff works. One of the guys thoughtfully said that “you’ll get it. The thing works just like a tractor”. It was flattering to consider that they’d thought I knew how a tractor worked.
Even now, I have only the vaguest idea as to how a tractor works. A few years ago I did get to drive one, once. It was a mate’s quite large tractor, and it was a whole lot of fun. After a brief introduction to the controls, I took off. The machine was handy for moving mulch around the property using the front bucket. Except I moved more mulch than what my friend had perhaps intended, and so I was surreptitiously watching him via the mirrors whilst he was furiously signalling something or other. At such times it is wise to studiously avoid eye-contact and kind of act dumb. Sadly, the tractor eventually had to be returned. That one experience though hardly rates me as an expert.
It takes me a while to get a feel for how complicated systems work. It takes even more consistent effort to comprehend the intricacies involved with those systems. But mostly what it takes is years of installations, maintenance, modifications and repairs, before you can really say you know what is going on. And even then you can stuff things up. Far out!
Recently we’ve begun the process of maintaining and repairing all of the many farm machines used here. Most of the fossil fuelled machines have small engines ranging from 5hp all the way up to 21hp. There are also electrically powered machines. And don’t forget the hand tools. All of them require at least some regular care and attention. Most days I watch at least one YouTube video from a thoughtful person in the trade who has taken the time to post a video on their experiences.
You sure do learn a lot, and in my own methodical way I’m taking in a lot of information on all these machines and tools. And I learn stuff even when I already thought I knew all that there was to know on the subject. That means going over old knowledge and seeing what other people have to say.
About a decade ago, I spent two days out in the forest on a course with a crusty old dude who knew more about forestry practices than I’ll ever know. He taught me how to maintain and repair my chainsaw, and also how to use the thing so that I could be using it every day for years to come. People shouldn’t be let loose with such dangerous machines without that sort of training!
The bloke taking the course was ‘old school’, and I respect that. For years afterwards I’d sharpen the chain with a hand file. That’s hard work, and you have to make sure the file is clean and cuts the steel on the chains teeth using the correct method. A good sharpening always brings a chainsaw right back to life.
Then one fateful day, years ago, the sirens of the tool shop unsolicited marketing email sung a song of ‘Mains Electric Pro Chainsaw Sharpener’. The sirens call was too strong to resist. The sharpening machine was awesome. But trying to find the exact sharpening specifications for the particular chain I was using was a surprisingly difficult task. Need I mention that there are tables. A bewildering number of tables and chains.
As you do sometimes when the way forward is unclear, you take your best guess. And the electric sharpener worked a treat, except that towards the second half of a chains life, the saw didn’t quite cut as easily as it once did. As everyone knows, you should not have to force a sharp chainsaw through timber, theoretically the machine should pull itself through the timber. That’s the case even with the super hard and dense Australian hardwood species which grow here.
Turns out I was using an ever so slightly incorrect angle with the electric chainsaw sharpener. A bloke on YouTube said so, and then he went on to show and explain in considerable detail just how the teeth on the chain cut timber. I knew most of the story, but hadn’t appreciated the finer points. He even mentioned to throw the tables out because they confused him as well. Sure enough I threw the table out and checked on the state of the teeth on the chainsaw. The bloke was right. I was wrong, even though I thought I knew what I was doing. At least I now know.
The repercussions are pretty minor, I simply have to re-sharpen all of the old chains. The good news is that they can all be brought back to almost as good-as-new condition. There’s a few of them though, and that work should drive the lesson home as they used to say.
A week and a half ago I received a comment (nod to Lewis) which linked to an article about the recent activities of one of the main folks behind the creation of credit default swaps on mortgage backed securities way back in about 2005. A book was written about those things (and the people), by the author Michael Lewis (no relation). There was even a film, you may have heard of it: The Big Short. Don’t know what a credit default swap on a mortgage backed security is, well you’re not alone. All I know is the outcome from all those financial shenanigans produced a whole world of pain back in 2008.
After reading the article, I made the decision then and there to re-read the book: The Big Short. It’s a great read, and I recommend the book highly. The article casually mentioned something along the lines that a large short bet had apparently been made by the same person. A short bet is a fancy way of saying that a person will make a heap of mad cash if something bad occurs, like say for a random example: a market crash. It’s not in my nature to provide unsolicited advice, and in this area I’m not allowed to do so anyway, but after re-reading the book again, these folks don’t seem to me like the sort of folks who’d use the slightly incorrect angle for their electric chainsaw sharpener if that was their special interest – at least not for long anyway! But heck, what do I know, I still don’t even know how a tractor works.
We had a mixed week of weather. A bit of sun, a bit of rain, a bit of fog. On the sunny days we worked outside and enjoyed the gentle early spring sunshine. The rocks which were split last week, were hauled back up the hill and installed in a rock wall for the new low gradient path project. Two rock walls have now met and form a junction.
The path project will be continuing for a long time to come.
Not all of the rocks were hauled back up the hill. One of the rocks split last week was used to repair a mysterious second stone circle. This second stone circle is on contour with the original circle, and until a few days ago was missing a rock which left it with a gap. Some of the other rocks in the circle needed to be adjusted so that they formed a better looking circle, and we did that work with a large steel house wrecking bar.
The soil in the stone circle was then given a good feed of chicken manure, compost and mulch. An oak tree was planted into the centre of the circle.
All of the garden terraces have now been readied for the coming growing season. The soil in the rows in those garden terraces have been fed with lots of good compost and aged mulch.
Half of the down hill row in the above photo was sown with snow peas as well as some other varieties of peas we’d had.
All of the pea seeds were soaked in warm water overnight before planting out. The soaking assists with speeding up the germination process.
An old gate I’d welded up a few years ago was even pressed into service as a structure for some of the peas to climb upon.
The highest two terraces have rows for Roses and Raspberries, and those varieties of plants were all given a good prune.
About 95% of the strawberry plants were dug up from their enclosure. We’re trialling thinning the plants out to one every two feet. Last year, despite the many plants, they produced almost no berries, but a lot of runners (baby strawberry plants). The rows in the strawberry enclosure were then fed whilst a couple of bales of sugar cane mulch were spread out over the surface.
The latest citrus tree to ripen is a Mandarin. I now forget whether it is an Imperial or Emperor variety, but who cares, the fruit is small and tasty.
Our experiments with Alpine Strawberries continue and even now in late-winter or early-spring, they are producing berries.
The plants in the greenhouse are growing well on the occasional days of sunny weather.
In other signs of the coming growing season, some of the very early fruit trees are breaking their dormancy, like the Plumcott in the next image.
One of the earlier variety of Almonds has not only produced blossoms, but also early leaves.
It is possible that the plants are still a bit low in protein compared to what the local forest critters would prefer, because after all it takes a tough, or hungry wombat to eat this:
Onto the flowers:
The temperature outside now at about 10am is 11’C (52’F). So far this year there has been 610.2mm (24.0 inches) which is up from last weeks total of 587.2mm (23.1 inches)