Monday, September 29, 2014

Giving back a little bit

We sure like this little village and they have been very welcoming to a couple of vagabonds who don’t spend a lot of time here.  We feel guilty – like we’re taking advantage of the community without ever contributing much.  So when I had a chance to help the mayor fix the grader I jumped at the opportunity.

Now you might wonder what I know about graders and that would be a valid thing to wonder about.  The answer is --- not a hell of a lot but maybe a little more than the mayor.  The second thing you might wonder is – what the hell is the mayor doing fixing the grader.  And the answer to that is that we weren’t so much fixing the grader as improving it. 

Last winter the town foreman moved on to greener pastures and his 2IC has been in charge ever since.  As Gary (the mayor) pointed out – all the work seems to be getting done with half the manpower and not only does Richard not book much overtime, he also takes off (unpaid) Friday afternoons to visit his girlfriend.  So things have worked out well.  But Richard would have been over his head doing to the grader what Gary and I did over the last week.  We may have been over our heads too but that never even slowed us down and certainly didn’t stop us.


This is the “new” grader in its bright yellow Champion livery (and not so bright front blade).

The town sold the old grader to my friend “little buddy” Arnold Mayrand in Canora.  Arnie will take his standard $1000 markup and sell it on to some other unsuspecting fool.  Over the years I bought a lot of stuff from Arnie and so did Rex.  One time after Rex had been down on a buying trip Arnie phoned me and said “you know, every time after that Rex leaves here I have to go to the hospital and get a blood transfusion.”  But I think Arnie did OK over the years and he was a lot of fun to deal with.  I bought a grader from him one time and he phoned a few weeks later to try to buy it back.  He was prepared to pay a significant premium too but we kind of liked it by then.  I think that’s the town grader in Arborfield now if I’m not mistaken. 

Anyway, Arnie bought Buchanan’s grader and Buchanan replaced it with a fairly new Champion 730A.  “Fairly new” in this case meaning less than 20 years old.  Unlike the city operators who seem to relish dropping a snow ridge across every driveway they come to, here in Buchanan when they plow snow they drop a wing to clear the driveways as they go by.  Evidently Arnie’s purchase didn’t include the wing because it was bolted to the new grader by the time I arrived on the scene.  The problem that Gary & I were addressing was the lack of an open hydraulic spool to control the wing.  Redhead was willing to install the hydraulics for $3200 but we’re frugal here in Buchanan.  Our budget was “as little as possible” and we likely came in around $600.  Gary had hit on the idea of splitting the circuit that controls the front wheel tilt and using it to control both the wheels and the wing. 

The first I knew of the plan was at coffee row where Gary was displaying a hydraulic block with 6 holes in it and an electric solenoid on one end.  The topic of conversation was “which holes are connected to which other holes?” and there were a lot of opinions -- A LOT OF OPINIONS.  Anyone who has ever participated in small town coffee row will appreciate that there were A LOT OF OPINIONS.  The valve had come from Princess Auto and I expect whoever sold it to Gary had explained which holes went together but somewhere along the way that information had escaped.  I suggested that I could likely find a diagram online and in fact did find one but there was then some further debate about whether we could believe that diagram. (I never doubted that we could believe it but there was some debate nevertheless.)  Finally I proposed that we simply blow through the ports to see where the air came out which is exactly what we did and, not surprisingly, the diagram turned out to be correct.


And this is the snow wing in the down or capture position.  Normally it would be raised for plowing and then whenever the operator comes to a driveway it would be dropped to hold the snow and save the homeowner from having to clean up a hard snow ridge.

The plan was to install the solenoid valve in the control circuit to the tilt on the front wheels.  We would install the valve so that the circuit would default to the wing but when the solenoid was energized the oil would still flow to the wheels.  And that’s exactly what we did.  It probably took us a day and a half in total and several trips to Canora for hydraulic supplies but this morning at 11:00 we buttoned up the instrument panel with big smiles on our faces and called the job done.


This is the genuine Princess Auto solenoid that diverts the oil from the front wheel tilt to the snow wing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Good on ya, Scotland

Last week Marilyn and I agreed that neither of us thought the referendum would come down nearly as close as the polls were predicting.  But I was still anxious to hear the real numbers Friday morning.  Not that Scotland’s departure from Great Britain would have had any particular impact on me, or anyone else in North America – I just hate to see countries going down this increasingly popular Balkanization route.  Its sometimes hard to live together, as any married couple can attest, but the benefits vastly outweigh the costs.

I hold to a view that is uncommon in western Canada – I don’t want to see Quebec separate either.  Unlike the Liberal solution to separation, I also don’t believe that Canada needs to acquiesce to every stupid demand that Les Quebecois may make on the rest of the country.  I listened to some dewy-eyed Quebec youth babbling on before the Scottish referendum about how wonderful it was to be part of this historic undertaking and how much they were looking forward to the results of the vote.  I doubt they were nearly as enthusiastic the morning after.  In fact I suspect the flight home was very subdued.  I hope those youths got a good solid dose of reality and were forced to take a hard look at their own beliefs about Quebec.  And more particularly about Quebec’s and their place in confederation.

Meanwhile, on a completely different subject ….

I decided to put new tires on my little tractor after one of the rear rims split wide open and threatened to let the tube sneak out.  I was actually really lucky that it didn’t die somewhere on a Buchanan street between our two houses.  It took a while to round up a new rim but the internet came through.  Then I phoned the tire shop in Preeceville.  I had a price from Combine World at Allan but he kind of pissed me off because he said he was going to phone me back about a rim and I’m still waiting for that phone call.  I guess he’s been busy.  For the past two months.

The kid at the tire shop in Preeceville was really pleasant on the two occasions when I was looking for an oddball belt so I phoned him about tires.  Turns out his price wasn’t much different than Combine World so I asked him to order a couple of tires.  Then I asked if he wanted a credit card number to guarantee the order.  “No problem – it will take a couple of days for them to come in – you can pay me then.”  Sure enough in a couple of days he phoned to say the tires were in so I took the new rim up but I still had one tire on the tractor and it was full of fluid.  They mounted the tire and again I offered to pay but he said to just wait until they had done both tires.  So Tuesday, about 2 weeks after he initially ordered the tires, we finally got everything done, and I finally paid him.  Try that anywhere in a city.  Whenever we get annoyed by the fact that everyone in this small town knows everyone else’s business we need to remember that they also trust everyone.

The big news in Buchanan is that the woman who looks after the water treatment plant put too much chlorine in the water.  Rather than that turning into a big problem our mayor – very sensibly – thought that this would be a good opportunity to flush the lines.  Apparently they need to shock chlorinate the lines every few years anyway so they just took advantage of the mistake and got the shock treatment out of the way.  We noticed that the water was off briefly one night and the next morning there was a strong chlorine smell to the water.  Other than that I haven’t noticed anything but it is a big topic at coffee row. 

I spent today changing oil in various diesel engines and losing the keys to the truck.  I have a bad habit of absent-mindedly setting them down in some spot that seems logical in the moment but is in fact an incredibly stupid place.  Normally I am eventually able to retrace my tracks and find them but, as of now, they have me stumped.  Fortunately Marilyn has a set.  And – unlike me - she hasn’t lost hers.

The only other excitement in our lives is that I have put signs on some of my equipment and set up a primitive website for my digging equipment – I hesitate to call it a “business” but I suppose it may someday qualify for that appellation. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Prairie oasis and weird places

We spent the night before last at Cabri Regional Park.  We would have loved to stay longer but water and work kept us on the move.  Water was an issue because, despite the beauty of the park, their tap water is frankly disgusting.  We neglected to fill our tank before we arrived and refused to put their muddy brown solution in our lines.  Work beckoned as well because I’m hurrying to get my Assiniboia Farmland files wrapped up over the next couple of days.  So we only spent one night but we definitely will be back – with a full water tank next time.



A winding trail from the bald prairie northeast of Cabri leads to a little oasis on the bank of the south Saskatchewan River.

After we got set up at Cabri I went for a drive over toward Shackleton.  I was in that area in July but it was so damn wet that I couldn’t get to any of the places I wanted to go.  I even ended up in the ditch briefly on that trip and – horror of horrors – had to be drug out of the ditch by a Chebbie.  In my defence the idiot driving the Chebbie had forced me off the road to begin with but mercifully stuck around to pull me back onto the road.  Its not a whole lot drier now but it was enough drier that I could get to the places I wanted to go this time.  Some of the ruts I made a month ago were still evident.

20140912_152744Western Canada has a lot of really big things which some local welder/artist thought would be a good idea.  I’ve profiled some of them over the years but this one is about the most bizarre example of the genre.  Go ahead – guess what it is before you read the next caption.  You won’t get it right.  Guaranteed.


There …. I told you that you wouldn’t get it.  And, tempting as it was, I decided to give the museum a pass. 

We got a little rain overnight at the park.  It probably amounted to less than a 10th of an inch but it has been so wet down here that even that insignificant amount had an impact on the road.  The truck was just on the edge of spinning out all the way up the fairly steep hill as we left the park.  Then we chucked mud all over the undercarriage as we followed the gravel into Cabri.  I deliberately went slow and managed to keep the front of the rig clean but the undercarriage got blasted.  When we pulled into the Husky at Swift Current I discovered that we only had 3 shoes left.  Somewhere along the way the right front tire on the trailer had completely shredded.  Fortunately the rim was undamaged but all that remained of the tire was strings of rubber around the rim.  The night before I had looked at the tires and thought that they didn’t have much life left in them so we limped from the Husky to the Integra Tire store next door where we had 4 new shoes installed.  It was Saturday morning so there was only one guy on duty, answering the phone, manning the counter and installing tires.  Nonetheless he had us out the door with four new tires in under an hour and for just a shade over $600.   Two more of the tires were on the verge of separating so it was way past time anyway.

Last night we stayed in Notukeu Regional Park on the outskirts of Ponteix.  I’ve got a couple of visits nearby so we’ll spend one more night here before we go back to Regina and then on to Buchanan.  My farming gig fell through – evidently they found another truck driver who was prepared to come immediately.  While I would have appreciated a call to tell me they had found another driver I was actually relieved.  There’s no way they would have paid me even a fraction of what I think I’m worth and I’ve just got too many things to do right now to be doing charity work for farmers.  Particularly so for farmers who can well afford to hire the help that they really need. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Home briefly

Last weekend I drove Marilyn to Saskatoon where she rented a car for a fast trip to the Okanagan.  She was pitching a training program to some grape growers association.  Her reunion in P.A. went well, wrapping up with a breakfast at the golf course on Sunday morning.  We left from the breakfast for Saskatoon.

While she was driving across half the country I finished up some Assiniboia files across the north of the province.  Then I came back to Buchanan via Bjorkdale so I could look at another skidsteer loader.  It was pretty tired and overpriced.  The guy who owned it wasn’t home so I told his wife he could call me when he got real on his expected price.  So far no phone calls.  The guy in Big River with the bastard Thomas loader, on the other hand, has already called me with a price reduction.  I may end up buying that one.  It seemed pretty tight – he obviously is negotiable on the price – and its a very simple machine.  Simple = good in my books.

Meanwhile I’ve been cleaning up the little Kubota.  I spent about an hour washing it yesterday.  Next I need to figure out why it has no working gauges and I need to replace the shutdown cable.  Right now when its time to shutdown I need to reach in behind the engine and feel blindly for the shutdown level.  Which is actually pretty simple now but my arm ends up really close to the muffler and its kind of a pain so it needs to be fixed.  The vendor had already bought the cable but hadn’t got around to installing it so he included it in the deal.

Marilyn came home with a bad cold so we’re taking a couple of days for her to recover and I’m happy to have the time to get things ready for winter.  Then we’ll make one final trip to wrap up the farm visits. 

A friend has asked me to help him with his harvest so that’s where I’ll likely end up by the end of next week.  Marilyn’s plans are still fluid.  There could very well be snow on the ground by the time I get back here again so yesterday and today I was busy getting my various antiques ready for winter.  I spent most of today dinging up the little Kubota.


Revere seems a little extreme but I’m certainly coming to appreciate how good a deal I appear to have made on the little Kubota.

I started the day with a new grease gun and by the end of the day the first tube was empty.  That likely means I have too many pieces of equipment.  Along the way I discovered that my Kubota does have glow plugs after all.  They weren’t connected to anything but when I did they clearly work because the little 3-banger fired on the first turn.  I was suspicious that my alternator wasn’t putting out so I tested it and sure enough, it wasn’t doing anything other than turning.  A few jumper wires later I had confirmed that there is nothing wrong with the alternator.  There’s a lot of boogy wiring to be cleaned up – I expect as I get further into cleaning up the wiring more of the bits and pieces will start to work again.  The defective shutdown cable turned out to be as simple as connecting the cable that was already in place so now I have a spare shutdown cable if I should ever need one.


Here’s a good example of boogy wiring – random wires going to nowhere, lots of black tape.


In the past I’ve always hired someone else to do my sandblasting and that was likely very wise.  However I have several projects coming up that will require sandblasting so I now own a genuine Princess Auto piece of crap sandblaster.