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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Seated in a High Place

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Approach the Throne With Awe and Bacon

This is easily the greatest day of my life. I am still not in Miami, and I have a new recliner.

My new house has a big upstairs room which I have turned into my command post. I started out with two plastic Adirondack chairs from Home Depot; perhaps this is appropriate, since I graduated from the Adirondack-Florida School for boys. Anyway, for almost three months, I sat on those chairs, and then I got a couch, which was fantastic yet lacking in foot support. Now I have a proper recliner, with a motor in it to make sure I don’t get PTSD from turning a lever.

This is magnificent. I don’t know why I haven’t had recliners all my life. I have always loved them.

Two days from now I will have a real TV stand, so I’ll be able to get the TV off the floor. I’m not worthy. I’m not worthy.

I even have a lamp now. I stole one of my dad’s end tables from the living room, and I commandeered the elbow LED lamp I used to use for my garage electronics station. I was going blind from relying on the overhead lights. This is bliss. This is paradise.

I am never getting out of this chair. I’m going to be like one of those obese people you read about, who end up welded to their chairs. I’ll find an enabler to bring me root beer and donuts.

Well. I guess I won’t.

I’m not sure what else to do with this room. I have been considering putting my electronics stuff here, with a dedicated desk, but it would be 50 yards from the rest of my tools. Inconvenient if I needed regular tools while working on electronics, or electronics tools while working on regular stuff. I could duplicate a few things to reduce the walking. Maybe I could put my electronics tools in a new box I could move to the workshop when needed.

I have considered putting my CNC lathe up here. It’s small, so it’s suited to an indoor location, and it would be good to have it near the big TV for CAD purposes. I don’t know if I can carry 110 pounds of awkward metal up the stairs, though. Actually, carrying it back down would be worse.

I picked a Barcalounger Vintage recliner. The Vintage line is supposedly better than the basement-grade recliners they sell for $300. I hope so. I read a lot of recliner reviews while shopping, and they were generally discouraging. China this. China that. I decided I would have to quit nitpicking and worrying and buy something.

The recliner I picked is a little funny-looking, but it was discounted heavily, and it has cloth cushions. For some reason, that spoke to me. I love leather furniture, but recliners are about comfort, and when it comes to comfort, cloth is king. When you look at this recliner, it says, “I don’t care what I look like. I just want to embrace you and make you fall asleep watching Forged in Fire.”

But enough about my plans for the week.

Oh, this is great. This is magnificent. You don’t know how great real furniture is until you sit on a plastic chair for three months.

Sorry if you’re annoyed that I wrote about a chair. I had to share my joy. I will try to show restraint when the ottoman that matches the couch arrives.

No promises.

Robot Finally Working

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

CNC Lathe Next

My friend Amanda has a son who has some cognitive issues. Oddly, in some cases, people with his problem turn out to be unusually well suited to the trade of CNC machining. Mental characteristics that cause problems in many areas of life can be assets in machining. There’s a dude in California who runs a school that trains such people.

I learned about this from a TV show called Titans of CNC. A man named Titan Gilroy was convicted of a violent crime, and when he got out of prison, he learned CNC and started a big, successful shop. Now he teaches inmates at San Quentin. He has a son with Asperger’s, and he discovered that his son was very good at CNC. Now he works with the guy who runs the school.

I mentioned this to Amanda a few weeks back, and I said I had some interest in CNC and robotics. We showed her son some Youtubes, and he seemed interested. That’s good, but it’s also a problem. I have only one CNC tool, and it’s a home-built adaptation which I haven’t perfected. Not counting my vacuum cleaner, I have only one robot, and when I bought it and assembled it, I was not able to make it work.

Since showing her son the videos, I have retrieved my CNC lathe from Miami, and I am ready to see if I can make it work. Last night, I took the robot out of the box I had tossed it in, and after an hour or so of reprogramming and researching, I figured out what was wrong with it. Now it’s working.

The robot is a B-robot, from a company called JJ Robots. It’s a two-wheeled balancing robot a little bigger than a box of Pop Tarts. It’s based on an Arduino Leonardo board.

Here’s how it works. It has a tiny board containing circuitry that measures the robot’s vertical orientation. This shouldn’t amaze anyone. Cell phones have circuits that tell them whether they’re level or not. The robot checks the board’s output, and then it accelerates in the direction of the tilt, bringing it back to vertical again. In other words, when the robot starts to fall in a certain direction, it takes off in that direction, bringing itself back under its top. It can do this so often it appears nearly stable.

I found I had installed the orientation board sideways, so the robot was sensing angular deviation along the wrong axis. The robot can’t fall from side to side, so the board’s input was useless. I reinstalled it according to the directions.

The robot still refused to stand. I took a look at what it was doing. It was accelerating away from the direction of fall, making the fall worse. I then turned the board 180 degrees, and everything worked.

Now I have a self-balancing robot.

I had some other problems with it, and they’re even more boring, so I don’t want to get into them too much. I found I could not upload programming to the Arduino. Somewhere on the web, someone said I had to press the board’s reset button immediately before uploading. Not exciting, unless you’re a nerd.

The robot has wi-fi. When you turn it on, you connect your phone to the robot’s network, and then you use an app to steer the robot. Obviously, it needs an onboard camera, like a drone, so you can see what the robot sees as it moves. Maybe I can figure that out some day.

Anyway, next time Amanda brings her son around, I can show him the robot and see if he has any interest. Maybe in a week or two, I can get the lathe working better.

It’s a little strange that I decided to buy and assemble a robot, but the whole exercise has turned out to have a purpose I could not have anticipated. That’s God for you.

Robotics and CNC are not the same thing, but it’s basically the same skill set, applied in different ways. Programming, boards, and servos or steppers. My guess is that a person who has CNC aptitude also has robotics aptitude. The question is which one he will like well enough to stick with.

Her other two sons are interested in music, but the instruction opportunities are limited. I suggested Adventus Piano software for one and Justinguitar.com for the other. Justinguitar.com is a teaching site run by, as you might guess, a guitarist named Justin. It has lots of exercises and videos. It’s not a teacher, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing.

The hard thing will be to get them to learn to sight-read. This is much more important than learning to play. Any idiot can learn to play songs by memorizing them. Ask me how I know. A real musician can read music, and he must also understand theory. A singer who can sight-sing and who understands theory is a better musician than an untrained pianist who plays extremely well.

Math, languages, and music. You have to learn while you’re young. After you’re seven or eight years old, your aptitude drops off, and as far as I know, you can’t get it back.

It’s hard to tell when you’ve scored a point with her kids. Other kids get excited. Hers just sit and think, and sometimes they want to know how soon you’ll be finished so they can do something else. She says it’s working, though.

Sooner or later, if they want to get anywhere with music, they’ll have to find people they can play with.

The robot is interesting to me because the concept doesn’t have to be limited to a tiny machine. The stuff that tells it what to do could be installed on a robot the size of a building. I could yank the guts out of it, find a way to make it run bigger steppers, and make a robot big enough to run around the yard. Jam a lithium battery in there, and it could run for an hour. Not sure what accessories I could add to it to make it useful. Anyway, it doesn’t have to be a small toy. Could it ever be useful for anything? That’s a hard question. I would have to come up with a function for it.

I wish I could make it paint the fence or kill squirrels.

Now that the major crises of moving are abating, I feel like I’m getting my life back. I had time to work on the robot. I’m anxious to get my machine tools up here. Next year, life should be less hectic, and I should be able to get more done. Maybe I’ll be able to make some knives. Right now I can’t run my big grinder without a gas generator and an adaptor (which I don’t have), so knife-making is not possible.

I’m giving up on tree removal. The trees that cause problems will be moved. The rest will be ignored until it’s convenient to do something. It’s just too much work. Surrendering will give me more free time.

Guess I’ll go check out robot accessories. If I can find one a kid could use to drive his brothers nuts, I think it will be a hit.

Web Logs

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Plus Fascinating Shoe Information

Today is a busy day for me, so I am procrastinating. I should be out buying an upholstery needle and a spare folding table, but instead I will tell you about the stump I cut yesterday.

The huge oak that fell on my chicken house is long gone, but the stump lingered until yesterday. It was intimidating. I didn’t think my tractor could pick it up, and it was thicker than my 20″ chainsaw is long. Also, it was down on the ground were cutting it would be difficult. Yesterday I decided to give it a shot.

I had to cut from both sides, and cutting from the bottom was not possible, so there was no way to fix it so it would not split at the bottom. I cut for around 10 minutes, and finally, the free part dropped.

I took my handy-dandy timberjack, and with a lot of effort, I managed to start the log moving away from the rest of the stump. This is when I discovered the split. The log had split at the bottom, and there was still a strap of wood attaching it to the stump. I opened the kerf up so I could get at the strap, and I cut it with the tip of the saw.

Once the log was free, I moved it a couple of feet so the tractor forks could get at it, and I put the tines on the ground beside it. I used the timberjack to roll it onto the forks. Not easy, which told me the log was really heavy.

When I got it onto the forks, I hopped on the tractor and cranked the tines upward. The log moved, much to my relief. It rolled back toward the tractor. I then lifted the forks, and the log was free of the ground.

It’s a big relief to know I can move things this heavy, because I have a lot of them.

I took the tractor down to the gate by the highway, and I drove through the gate. Cars were whizzing by at maybe 70. I had planned to drive down the right-of-way and dump the log maybe 50 yards from the gate, but I would have been driving into traffic, and it made me nervous. There isn’t a lot of traffic here, but I picked the busiest time of the day, and such traffic as we have really moves.

I settled for dumping the log by the driveway. In the photo, it’s at the base of the pile by the road.

The county has given people until November 27 to get everything to the side of the road. It’s not looking good. Let me rephrase: it’s impossible. But I can move a few really annoying things into their lap, and it will be worth the effort.

When I was done, I tried something crazy. I put the front end loader down on the dirt above the stump, and I pushed. The stump rocked back. That surprised me. I was trying to rock it back into its hole. I didn’t succeed, but I made a big difference.

Now that I have put in some hours in two different pairs of work boots, I have drawn a conclusion. I like Danners better than Keens. My Keens give great protection, and unlike the Danners, they came with toe caps that prevent cuts to the leather, but the factory insoles are like concrete. They felt better when I bought them, but I suppose I have compacted them. I looked into aftermarket insoles, but Keen’s site says the Braddock boot is not compatible with them. I don’t know how that can be true. Keen makes insoles, though. I sent Keen a message asking whether their own insoles would work.

I am sorely tempted to get a shorter version of the Danners I bought. These boots are wonderful. The toes are vulnerable to cuts, but I solved the problem by applying KG Toe Guard to them. The Danners are selling for a little over a hundred bucks right now, which is crazy. Maybe the toe issue offended other consumers, and Danner is trying to unload the boots and discontinue them.

My Keens are American. My Danners are from somewhere else. Wild guess: China. People say to avoid foreign Danners, but my experience with them has been great, and at a hundred bucks, it’s hard to go wrong. If they last half as long, so what? They cost half as much.

When I’m rolling heavy logs, I’m very grateful for safety toes. Yesterday I imagined that severed stump rolling back on my toe. It weighs hundreds of pounds. It would not have done my toes any good. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it would have pressed my foot into the ground and then broken my leg.

Logging is not for the stupid. You have to think of all the physical possibilities in advance. Otherwise, you learn about them on the fly, very suddenly.

Wood seems to rot very quickly here. Maybe my problems aren’t as bad as they seem. Maybe my fallen trees will disappear in a couple of years if I get them on the ground and kill them with diesel. When I visited this place in the summer, there was a fallen log that looked fairly solid, and it’s disintegrating now.

I have to order some blackberry briars, and I have to make some decisions about new hedges. The sellers installed maybe six different kinds of hedge. Too busy. I need one bulletproof hedge species. A number of the existing hedges are looking crappy; I suppose hedge plants don’t last forever. It’s time to remove a section and plant something new. I figure I can do this about four times a year, and by next winter, the house will look a lot better.

The sellers put some truly worthless plants by the workshop. The shop has a porch with pillars, and each pillar has its own disappointing ornamental plant. I think I should do blackberries on each end and leave the middle pillar alone. Or maybe it would be best to do some kind of ground cover all the way across.

Blueberries do very well here, so I’ll need those, too. I can also grow kiwifruit and raspberries.

If you want ten or twenty tons of free firewood, and you want to cut it yourself, let me know. I’m the guy to see. Otherwise, I’ll just sit here and root for the termites.

Wood Removal Progress

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Facing my Tractor Fears

Today I overcame one of my big fears. I drove the tractor on the right-of-way by my farm, parallel to the road, leaning over, with a big log on the front end loader. And I did not roll the tractor and die.

Marion County and FEMA are sending trucks to carry off Irma debris, and it’s a huge gift to citizens. I can’t even guess what it would cost to pay a tree service to haul tons of wood off my land. Free is preferable. The problem is that it’s not easy to get trees cut and moved. I’m alone, I didn’t have the right tools or access to the whole farm until some time after the storm, and the only place where I can put the trees and count on having them picked up is along a scary ditch.

The free pickups will not last forever, and I am way behind.

My property consists of two adjoining lots that abut a highway. One lot is at the top of a hill. When cars approach that lot, they are approaching a high place. They can’t see past it. The area by the road is fairly flat, and it would be a great place to put wood, but I would have to drive the tractor right beside the road in a place where drivers doing 70 would be very surprised to see me.

The other lot is easy for approaching drivers to see, but it has a lot of growth on the right-of-way, and the ditch is not as flat. This is the safest place to put things, but I was putting it off because of the ditch’s slope.

Somebody in the government surprised me by coming by with some kind of machine (which I never saw) and cutting back the brush by the road. That’s a huge help. Now I can go up and down the lot with the tractor well off the road. The trees and shrubs don’t obstruct my path. With the obstructions gone, the only things preventing me from dumping trees were cowardice and laziness.

Today I drove the Kubota down to the end of the lot and moved a few big logs down the ditch and dumped them. It wasn’t bad at all. I kept the bucket low so the tractor’s center of gravity would be down by the ground, and I moved carefully. Everything worked out well.

If I really work at it, I may be able to get rid of a third of my big logs before the government bails on me. A third is better than nothing.

After I moved the logs, I went back to the area by the house and picked up a 12-foot-long trunk. I wanted to see if the Kubota could lift it. No problem. I took it to the gate between the house and the burn pile, and I raised it so I could get through the gate. Then I lowered it again and took it out by the pile. My friend Mike was here over the weekend, and he played with the tractor. He dumped a lot of wood not far from the pile. I decided to add the trunk.

I lifted the trunk, because you have to have the loader up high in order to lower the forks and drop things. Then I dropped the trunk. The rear wheels of the tractor either left the ground or tried to, and the tractor tilted to the left. This all happened very quickly, and then the trunk fell clear and the tractor righted itself.

This was not quite what I was hoping to see.

For a fraction of a second, I wondered whether I was in the process of rolling the tractor over. On myself. My new lesson: avoid dropping heavy objects quickly. I don’t think I’ll need to repeat the lesson. It made a pretty deep impression on me.

Maybe I should start using the safety belt. I don’t want to overreact, but it’s just possible that I need to start buckling it.

The weather here is very nice now. Working outdoors is much easier than it was a month ago. Sadly, there is more dust, because the ground is dry. But I’ll take dust over mosquitoes, sweat, and heat stroke.

I can’t burn anything in this weather. The other day I was near the burn pile, and I used my plumber’s torch to light the grass by my feet. It did not go out. The fire started spreading. Once I was sure it was not going to die down on its own, I stamped it out. My experiment told me what I needed to know. No burning until it starts raining again. Everthing I can’t put by the road will have to sit and molder.

I’m getting better at taking care of this place. I may conceivably develop the necessary skills before the farm disintegrates from neglect. I have chain saws, two leaf blowers, a string trimmer, and a lithium-ion hedge trimmer that has to be seen to be believed. I’ve learned how to kill unwanted plants with diesel. I’m starting to understand how badly the previous owners chose ornamental plants, and what I need to do to fix it. I’ve even boned up on good choices for tree planting. I’m thinking chestnuts, black walnuts, peaches, and maybe a persimmon.

I feel nervous about killing and burning a bunch of plants and trees the sellers clearly worked hard to put here, but it has to be done. I have like eight different types of shrubs around the house. I need to cut back to one or two. I have the ugliest, most oddly situated magnolia trees on earth. They need to be cut down. I have 70-foot live oaks 50 feet from my house, killing the grass and threatening to fall on me. They have to go.

I have three citrus trees, and I’m pretty sure every one has citrus greening. The fruit are disgusting. And what fruit they are. Navel oranges! The Ford Granada of oranges. No juice, no flavor, and hard to peel. Tiny grapefruit. Ponderosa lemons.

A ponderosa lemon is a ridiculous lemon-like fruit which is nearly as big as a grapefruit. People call them lemons, but they have no taste other than tasting sour. In Miami, damaged citrus trees are famous for dying back to trunks which sprout ponderosas. I guess they’re used for root stock. Anyway, it’s a pathetic fruit. I suppose you could use them to add acidity to food.

There are a lot of great citrus fruits to choose from. Best of all, hands down: the tangelo, also known as the minneola or honeybell. It’s like a giant orange that tastes a hundred times better, and you can peel them with your fingers. Another winner: the tangerine. But if you have tangelos, tangerines are somewhat superfluous. Pummelos are great. A pummelo is a gigantic, dry-fleshed grapefruit which is very sweet. Persian limes are good. If you’ve never had a lime grown in a backyard, you have no idea how good Persian limes are supposed to be. Key limes are good for cooking. Kaffir limes produce leaves you can cook with. Ruby red grapefruit are great for juice or eating with a spoon.

Why anyone would pick the trees currently dying in my side yard is a mystery.

I need to have a county agent come out and confirm that they’re sick. Then down they come. Sad, but citrus is being eradicated all over the world, and it’s best to get it over with and plant something else.

There is a new greening-resistant fruit called a Sugar Belle. It’s sort of like a tangelo, but I think it’s more acidic. I may see if I can get a couple of trees. They’re patented, so you probably can’t pick one up at Home Depot.

If you didn’t know citrus was being wiped out by a plague, sorry to break it to you. Enjoy it while you can. The plague is global, so eventually citrus will be hard to find.

I plan to cut some of the hopeless shrubs around this place and put in blackberries and raspberries. I should get on that immediately.

Years from now, right before I die, this should be a very nicely landscaped farm.

I’ll try to post photos next time. Hopefully no gore.

“Water Table”?

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

I Usually Drink Mine Standing Up

Good day today. I accomplished nothing whatsoever until after 1 p.m., and I call that a victory. Then Amanda dropped by, and she graciously helped me move boxes from the kitchen to the upstairs storage room. Since the move, I had been hoping elves would break in and move them, but they didn’t show up, so I resorted to physical exertion. Thank God I’m not the only one who suffered. I know how to treat a guest.

After Amanda left (I was out of jobs for her to do), I took her advice and used a new weapon on my immortal live oak stumps. She told me a fascinating story about the house she and her once-husband bought. The original owner built it around a tree. Smart! When the tree grew, the house mysteriously remained the same size, so something had to be done. Amanda and Co. paid someone to cut the tree and lift it out of the house, but the cable snapped, and it fell on the roof.

Anyway, she ended up with a stump that would not die. She used Roundup and I know not what else, and nothing happened. She then pinned her tree person down, perhaps physically, and forced him to tell her the real solution. It was two words: motor oil.

Roundup does not do a great job of killing stumps, and the hippies would much prefer seeing our houses replaced by useless trees to having us taint the precious water table with one part per billion of oil, so we don’t hear a lot about motor oil. Now I know the secret, so I used it.

I read up on it on the web. If what I read is correct, other petroleum products will work. One such product is diesel, which I always have on hand. You drill holes in your stump and you fill them with diesel.

I do not have a really good cordless drill right now, so I decided to bore-cut my stumps with a chainsaw. Beats dragging a generator across the yard. I fired up my little Jonsered and plunged into the stumps, scaring the crap out of a number of carpenter ants. I returned with the diesel jug a short time later, and I filled the stumps up. Except for one, which was apparently bottomless. I am now looking forward to seeing the results.

Using the chainsaw was a good move. I think. I don’t want to dull my drill bits on crappy live oaks, and anyway, drills make very small holes. The chainsaw made holes several inches long and about 3/8″ across. That’s a hole that means something.

Is diesel good for the environment? Don’t bother me with trivia. Besides, my well is a good hundred yards away from the stumps, and I drink bottled water.

It would be nice to have a skid steer with one of those stump attachment things. They rip stumps right out of the ground in seconds. But renting one would cost money, and the diesel trick probably cost less than three bucks.

After I treated the stumps, I shocked the pool again and brushed the algae off. I hate pools. When I was a kid, my dad made me clean the pool at our house, and I rarely did what I was supposed to. He didn’t supervise me or anything, and I was the king of all procrastinators, so basically, every month or so, he would explode for an entire day. I can’t tell you how miserable this made me. Not sure why I didn’t respond by doing a better job. You know how kids are. I have been doing as little as possible to maintain our current pool, and it has worked out about as well as you would expect.

After the hurricane, the pool pump clock died. I don’t know if the death was storm-related, but that’s what happened. I replaced the clock, but I bought the wrong model, and it died again. I finally got the right one installed last week. By then, the pool had gone quite a while with irregular pump cycles, including the long period of inactivity that passed before I realized the clock was dead.

I have been keeping the pool alive with shock treatments, hoping I could avoid skimming and vacuuming, but today I gave up and got out the brush and scoop. When I removed leaves from the bottom of the pool (which is fully screened; go figure), little bits of white stuff came up with them. I wondered what it was. Then I realized I was looking at chlorine-eaten organic material. Stuff I had left in the pool had sat on the bottom, slowly turning white. Also, I’m sure a lot of things that would ordinarily have been sucked into the filter went to the bottom when the pump wasn’t working. My guess, at this point, was that this stuff was eating my chlorine. When you put chlorine in a pool, how well it works depends on the job you give it, and if your pool has a lot of crap in it, it’s not going to get much done.

I accepted my fate. I removed whatever I could, and I brushed the whole pool to get the crap into circulation so it would go into the filter. I am hoping I can backwash it out and get rid of it.

Right now the pool is about as inviting as Chernobyl the day after the accident. I’m pretty sure it will glow at night with or without the pool light. I did not skimp on the chlorine. It’s downright poisonous. That’s fine with me. I don’t care if anyone ever gets to use it. I just want it to be blue and clear.

Maybe I could have it filled with blue lucite. That’s genius.

I also checked my burn pile. I put some big logs on it yesterday, and in the evening, I poured nine gallons of water on it to put it out. This afternoon it was going great guns. It had come back to life. Maybe burn piles aren’t for big logs.

Tomorrow my plans include eating Mike-Sell’s Puffcorn Delites and possibly poisoning my pond. Hope your day is equally fulfilling.

In the House of my Friends

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

With Christian Brothers Like These, who Needs Pagans?

It is Sunday morning, and I am not at church. Praise the Lord.

I suppose I sound cynical. In reality, I would like to attend church. I’ve been looking around online. I say, “Praise the Lord,” because I’ve been part of two cults in a row, and I’m glad I’m not currently being mistreated and milked by any preachers.

Marion County is filled with churches. It seems like everyone I meet is a Christian. That’s the reason the people here are so nice. I’m surrounded by churches, which is good, but I still have to be careful. I can’t just flop down in a chair in the first church I see, because I run the risk of being pumped full of greed-based Joel Osteen/T.D. Jakes/Benny Hinn/Paula White nonsense. Did I mention enough preachers by name? I want to offend as many people as I can.

I look at websites. I rule out all the websites that say, “We believe every individual is filled with the Holy Spirit at the moment he accepts Jesus.” That’s code for, “We can’t get the baptism with the Holy Spirit, so we pretend it doesn’t exist.” I rule out the “Jesus is cool” churches. If I wanted to go to church with confused non-black kids who dress and act like rappers, I’d go back to Miami. And tattoo preachers…no. If you got tattoos before you were saved, and now you can’t afford to remove them, fine, but if you seriously believe God wants you to look like the funny papers, you are way out of God’s will, and if I get around you, I will expect to be taught lies and possibly chastised for not “sanctioning your buffoonery” (to steal a line from Tommy Lee Jones).

I reject all churches that say members have to tithe. Tithing is for Jews, not Christians. Any church that gets excited about tithing is run by a pastor who is a) afraid God will let him go broke, or b) obsessed with money.

I saw a church with a site that advertised the importance of keeping the Sabbath. Not for me. The Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday, and Gentiles have never been required to observe it. It’s a Jewish thing. It’s great to set aside a day for God, but pretending it’s the Sabbath, or claiming we are required to do it, is legalism and possibly replacement theology.

My plan, as I have said before, is to sit in the back, give just enough money to pull my weight, and be quiet. No volunteering. No church office for me. I want to meet Christians, but I don’t want to get into any more squabbles with carnal preachers and their spoiled wives or kids. I never want to feel that I can’t go home at a moment’s notice, or that I have to refrain from speaking the truth in order to avoid offending a preacher who is driven by greed or pride.

I saw a place that doesn’t look too bad, but they had a video of a lady screaming and waving her arms because…Holy Spirit. That’s not how it works. God doesn’t take away your self-control. The devil does. Self-control is listed in the Bible as a fruit of the Spirit. If you’ve ever been “slain in the Spirit” and rolled on the floor at church, you need to know that God didn’t make you do it.

I just had a thought. Imagine visiting heaven. Suppose God takes you up and shows you what happens there. You look out over the host of angels and the saved human beings…and they’re all screaming like monkeys, waving their arms and legs, and rolling on the ground.

Really?

Is heaven a mental ward?

If you wave your arms and scream in church, it’s not God. You’re just that kind of person.

Prayer in tongues sounds silly, and it’s normal to react to God’s presence with some odd facial expressions and semi-involuntary sounds. That ought to suffice. You don’t need to do the gator.

In all likelihood, I will not find a church that doesn’t have significant problems. I do hope God leads me to one that isn’t completely nuts.

Things are going well between God and me here at home. God keeps showing me things. And he does some impressive deeds. Remember how I burned myself and then had the blister disappear? It appears to be happening again. I keep finding new ways to burn myself on chainsaws. Yesterday I learned that you can burn yourself on the chain. I started a saw and ran it a little bit to warm it up, and then I tried to sharpen it. I grabbed the chain to move it forward, and a searing, inexplicable pain shot up my thumb. I let go and looked. My thumb was burned. Dang it. How do you prevent injuries when you don’t know they can happen in the first place? I didn’t know saw chains could get hot.

I work very hard to protect myself. I study tool safety. I read up on poison ivy. I wear pretty decent protective clothing and gear. When I cut trees, I do my best to figure out which way they’ll go after they’re severed, and I prepare. Then I burn myself on a saw chain. Come on. Is that even fair?

Anyhow, I kept working, and I prayed and commanded my flesh to be healed and so on. I kept thanking God. Over the day, the pain decreased. By the time I went to bed, the burned area seemed flatter and less messed up. I checked it just now, and I had to look for it. I am hoping the healing continues.

I am not satisfied to leave it as it is. Should I grovel and drool and stop praying? Should I say I’m so grateful for what I have, I should be ashamed to ask for more? In short, no. If I did that, the primary reasons would be laziness and lack of faith. I don’t want to spend the day praying and thanking and so on, because I’m lazy, and I’m afraid God won’t finish the job, because I lack faith. The thing to do is to keep going forward and see that God gets as much glory as possible, even if I’m perfectly content with what has already happened.

Jesus didn’t do any half-healings.

Interesting thing…I told my friend Amanda about the other blister that healed, and not long after that, she burned herself. She fought it supernaturally, and it went away. No mark. No blister. How about that?

My character is still disappointing. That’s to be expected. I made self-corruption my special project for half a century, and I did a great job. God has definitely improved me, however, and I look forward to being substantially less contemptible.

My friend Mike is coming down tomorrow to spend a few days. I look forward to that because Mike knows a lot about construction, and I want him to fix my chicken house for nothing he’s a good friend, and I haven’t seen him in a while. He lived near Ocala for a long time. He and his dad raised racehorses. He loves this place and wants to move back. He’ll be beside himself the whole time he’s here. He’ll get to have Krystals and Sonny’s BBQ. He’ll get to go to Rural King. Maybe I’ll let him drive the tractor. No, I think I’ll just let him sit in the seat with the ignition off and go “VROOM VROOM.”

Along with Amanda, Mike has been very helpful with my turbulent Ocala transition. They disagree on one issue, however, and that is the goat question. I would like to have a couple of goats here to eat weeds. Mike thinks it’s a good idea. When I mention it to Amanda, her head spins 720 degrees and flames shoot out of her eye sockets.

I think she’s against it.

We will agree on a few things, however. Sonny’s. Krystal. Rural King. Sonic. Carhartt. Mike-Sell’s Puffcorn Delites. We agree that Miami is a swollen can of pus.

Next weekend, I am virtually certain to be in Miami. Disgusting. Has to be done, however. Miami, like a colonoscopy, is one of those things that has to be confronted head-on. So to speak. I hope I’m not there long enough to let the stink rub off on me.

I have to paint a rental condo. If things go really badly, this is a six-hour job. I know that from experience. The materials cost eighty bucks. Possibly a hundred, if I need primer. The slackjaws in Miami want $2000 for this service. Unacceptable. I’ve painted many condos, and I can’t stomach that price. I figure I’ll paint as much of it as I can, and then even if I have to pay someone to finish it, they’ll be ashamed to charge me a lot.

Well, let’s be serious. It’s hard to shame a slackjaw.

The tree removal work is going well here, but I can see that I’m not going to get the county to move much of the debris. It would take me months to get it to the highway, and I have only weeks.

Yesterday I cut a couple of big oaks that fell by my fence. I cut one section about seven feet long and two feet thick. I tried to roll it onto the timberjack so I could cut it in pieces that might be small enough for the tractor to carry, but I couldn’t do it. I’ll be more accurate here: I could not do it at a level of exertion I considered safe. I refuse to exert myself hard enough to injure myself. I push to something like 75% of my capacity, and after that, I figure it’s time for a helper or a new tool. I don’t want artificial hips or knees, and I don’t want a bad back.

I have a number of oaks just as heavy as the one I worked on yesterday, so progress will be slow. Maybe there’s a better machine for the job. I could rent something once I have all the wood cut up. I should look into that.

I think it’s time to consider the unthinkable: serious exercise. I may get some weights. I don’t want to be so flubbery and soft I get hurt easily. My current workout is paying off about a hundred times as well as expected. I operate one exercise bike with my hands and another with my feet, for a weekly total of about half an hour. Unlike the rest of humanity, I am treated to a full view of myself in the bathroom mirror as I get into and out of the shower, and I am not the same person I was three months ago. But weights would be much better for strength.

I have a Bowflex, which is a fine machine for lazy people who are happy with moderate improvement (me), but I don’t know if it’s possible to get real strength out of it. I have not tried lately. I need to move it out of the garage. I forgot to have the movers (slackjaws par excellence) do it.

In the past, I refused to think about resuming weight training because I was so lazy I knew I would not persist. Now, however, I am getting used to a higher level of mandatory activity, and lifting weights a few times a week would not be much of an increase.

I have to move logs. I have to lift full fuel containers and hold them while I fuel machinery. A little extra strength would be helpful.

When I was in law school, I was pretty sturdy. I maxed out all the machines at the University of Miami Wellness Center. Now I feel like it’s a victory when it only takes me three tries to get out of a chair.

One great thing about exercise equipment is that it’s cheap. Very few people buy it and the use it. Generally, it ends up being used to hold clothing on hangers. I should be able to do quite well on Craigslist for a couple of hundred bucks.

I better get with it. The day is slipping away, in spite of the death of Daylight Saving Time.

Hope your Sunday is going well.

I Love Work Clothes

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Oh, the Irony

I am procrastinating. Shame on me. I should be doing bookkeeping or moving downed trees, but today I made myself pancakes with grade B syrup and several “bacon steaks” from the meat lab at the University of Florida, and I am still enjoying the afterglow too much to work.

The Ocala assimilation process continues to flow seamlessly. Yesterday I received some new duds I ordered, and my wardrobe is coming together. I got some Wrangler chambray work shirts, a Carhartt belt, and two more pairs of Carhartt jeans. Today I’m wearing the jeans and belt with Keen work boots and Wigwam El-pine wool socks, and I wonder why people aren’t born wearing these things.

I’m not sure, but I think my last two belts were from Old Navy, which means they were made from Chinese dogs. They were okay for Miami, but up here I wear heavier pants that exert more pull. Cheap belts stretch and deform. The Carhartt belt is very hard and tough, so it ought to last longer and work better. I got a 34, and I have a few empty notches on it, so if I lose more weight, I should still be able to wear it.

It will look better than a cheap belt. A belt which is stretched and distorted looks sloppy.

As for the jeans, I’m not sure why anyone wears anything but Carhartt. They have triple seams and six (not four) belt loops, and the waistband is at the waist, not just above the crotch. Very comfortable.

I like the Keen boots. I think Danners are a little better. My Danners are some comfortable I hate to take them off. But the Keens have a cut-resistant toe cap thing on them, which is good when you’re cutting trees.

I have not ironed the Wrangler shirts yet. I never wear a shirt until I’ve washed it. Brand new clothes smell funny and make me itch. I don’t know if I’ll like the snaps, but it was hard to find a simple chambray work shirt, and Wrangler makes them, so I’m trying them.

My second Carhartt jacket should be here tomorrow. I don’t know if I really needed it. The one I have seems to be comfortable in 60-degree weather. It’s not too warm when I’m sitting around. But I’m afraid it will be too hot in mild weather if I exert myself in it.

I wore a fleece jacket the other day. I don’t like it. Not for outdoor work. Things catch on it, and it won’t stand up to abrasion. It will also tear easily, and it absorbs water very quickly. Fleece is overrated.

Well-made work clothes are vastly superior to crap from Old Navy, Timberland, and The Gap, and the cost is roughly the same. I should have started wearing this stuff 30 years ago.

A tree guy came by today to look at the giant, unstable branches I need to have removed. He wasn’t a jerk about it. He only wants $300 per tree. He won’t be back for two weeks, so let’s hope no one dies in the meantime.

I keep learning about poison ivy. It appears likely that one of my troublesome trees has a poison ivy vine on it. I always thought poison ivy was a small plant, but it turns out it can grow into huge, woody vines so thick you can swing on them. The tipoff is tiny hairlike roots growing out of the sides of the vine. Even if you can’t see the leaves, those hairs prove you’re looking at poison ivy. I can deal with little plants I can kill with spray, but how do you kill a giant vine without contaminating your tools? A chainsaw won’t work. The sap will get into the chain.

I’m thinking I should use a hoe to scrape the vines open. Then I can spray Roundup into the cuts. Bark protects plants from Roundup, but if you can get it past the bark, the plants will die. A hoe blade is easy to wash.

I see the Hollywood sex mess is spreading. One of the good things about it is that it’s causing people to expose their complicity inadvertently. George Clooney and Matt Damon issued ridiculous, self-praising statements condemning Weinstein, and people jumped on them, saying they obviously knew what was going on and did nothing. Now Clooney and Damon are lying low and cancelling public appearances. Rosie O’Donnell attacked Kevin Spacey, saying “we all knew.” Intelligent people are pointing out that this means she helped Spacey commit more offenses. If she had said something, maybe he would have been stopped.

Eventually, if there is any common sense in the world at all, the public will come to realize that the majority of Hollywood performers and behind-the-scenes professionals who are not newcomers are fully aware that the system tolerates abuse, and the public will hold them accountable for shielding the predators with silence. It’s very simple. People in Hollywood are terrified of losing their coveted jobs, so they kept quiet about perverts and bullies. There is no other plausible explanation for the systematic abuse.

Hollywood is a funny place. They’re very gung-ho about the pro-homosexuality “anti-bullying” message, but they suck up to bullies who commit sexual crimes. Kevin Spacey is a bully. James Toback is a bully. The fact that sex was involved doesn’t turn bullying into something else. Will the anti-bullying people acknowledge this?

Abusers don’t just mistreat others. They force intimacy on them. Abusers are often exhibitionists. They touch people without permission. They don’t respect boundaries. It’s very natural that many of them should express themselves through sexual acts. Maybe they don’t respect boundaries because they don’t see other people as fully real. They don’t realize we feel and think. They’re too self-absorbed. It makes sense that bullies grope and rape, because bullying is very much like rape. It’s a violation.

We should all be examining ourselves and repenting, in the hope that God will judge us privately instead of hitting us over the head with public disgrace. But in Hollywood, that’s not an option, because Hollywood people hate God.

I wonder if the inquisition will extend into the past. CBS journalist Mike Wallace had a reputation for gross, arrogant, boundary-shattering behavior with female employees. Will he be outed? Bob Hope used to make crude remarks about Doris Day. Shirley Temple was abused. There are rumors that Kirk Douglas raped Natalie Wood. Will the bodies be exhumed, or will the crusaders be content to bring down the living? If Thomas Jefferson and George Washington aren’t safe, I guess Mike Wallace is fair game.

I’m glad I’m not famous and that my sins aren’t worse than they are.

I better fire up the golf cart and cut some wood. Those pancakes were great.

The Adventures of Tractor Man

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Strange Visitor from the Planet Diesel

I feel like I got nothing at all done today, but when I list my achievements, they sound pretty good. I applied Roundup to every plant I could find that resembled poison oak or poison ivy. I used it to kill a young magnolia and a bunch of small live oaks. I also took a bag of Amdro fire ant granules and nuked our mounds. I bush-hogged a big percentage of the big pasture. I also cleared a lot more oak branches away and put them on the burn pile, which was still smoldering from yesterday. I put several gallons of water on the pile to keep it from flaring up again. I ordered a new garbage disposal for a tenant. I ordered myself another Carhartt jacket, in a lighter weight than the one I already have. I need something I can work in, when the weather is between 40 and 60 degrees. On top of all that, I took my dad to Tractor Supply and made sure he had a good lightweight jacket of his own. It’s going to be 39 degrees here tonight.

I’m not sure if we have poison oak and poison ivy or not, but I found a bunch of plants that look a whole lot like the pictures on the Internet. I had to stop clearing hurricane debris because of them. I read up on poison ivy to make sure I didn’t expose myself to it.

I read something reassuring: you don’t get poison ivy just from touching it lightly. The contact has to be sufficient to get urushiol, the poisonous compound in poison ivy, on you. The best way to get it is to break something so the juice comes out.

Anyway, I am being very judicious about what I touch when I move debris, and I use the tractor’s forks by themselves when I can. In the areas where I sprayed Roundup, I plan to leave things alone. Maybe I can go back in when the plants have had time to die and rot. You can’t burn them, and you can’t handle them when they’re dead, because the urushiol takes years to break down. I figure rot is the easiest solution.

The Internet says one of the best ways to get a rash is to get urushiol on your tools or gloves and then touch them later, so I am trying very hard to keep my gloves away from my eyes and nose.

I don’t know how strongly I react to poison ivy, but I am not in a hurry to find out. Mangoes contain urushiol, and some people can’t go near them. Supposedly, there is urushiol in mango skin. I’ve skinned a zillion mangoes, and they never bothered me. But I am not anxious to be my own guinea pig in an experiment that causes a horrible rash that lasts two weeks.

I suppose I got enough done today.

My big problem these days isn’t getting things done. It’s getting to bed on time. I hate to go to bed. I enjoy the things I do so much, I don’t want to quit. When I know it’s time to quit, I linger and procrastinate. I wish I could go out and cut some downed trees right now.

The lifestyle here suits me perfectly. I love the work clothes; Carhartt and Danner should pay me to endorse them. I have come to feel nervous when I’m not wearing a ball cap; if I find myself leaving the house without my Tractor Supply cap, I go back in and look for it. I love the tools. Everyone should have a tractor with a front end loader. I didn’t realize how incomplete I was without one. A man with a good-sized tractor is a superhero. Lift a compressor? No problem. Pull a tree down? Hold my beer and watch.

My parents should never have left Kentucky. Being a Southerner is what it’s all about. It’s just better. Period. No wonder so many people want Confederate flags. What we have is great, and what other symbol do we have to celebrate it? Maybe a flag with Colonel Sanders’ face on it. Or the flag of Jesusland.

It may sound weird that I enjoy life this much when I’m so solitary, but it doesn’t bother me at all.

It’s late. Time to knock off.

I’ll try to take more photos in the future. It’s inconvenient to take my gloves off, but I’ll work on it.

The Single Man and the Widowmaker

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Sawing Away at Life’s Problems

Today I got to work on my tree situation. Areas of the farm that used to be inaccessible because of standing water and mosquitoes are open for business, so I took my pole saw and tractor and made some excursions.

Two oaks by the highway to my east were giving me problems. They both snapped about 25 feet from the ground.

One tree had several major branches, and only one branch snapped. That left a tree maybe fifty feet tall, with a torn place halfway up. The part of the tree above the place where the branch tore out appears to be resting in a crotch between two branches of a taller tree. I think the place where the branch tore out is too weak to hold the remaining branch up for long. If it comes out, it could conceivably fall on the highway, which could be very bad. The broken part was lying on my fence, threatening to break it.

The other tree only had one main trunk, and that trunk snapped. It didn’t detach at the break. It was hanging down onto my fence. I would guess the broken part was 25 feet long and weighed several hundred pounds. It was not in danger of hitting the highway, but I wanted it off my fence before it ruined it.

I considered calling a tree service to cut both trees. Tree surgeons call objects that threaten to fall when you cut trees “widowmakers,” and I was dealing with three of them: the snapped-off branches plus the branch with the weakened support. I was afraid that if I tried to cut them, they would find ways to swing toward me and kill me, which was not the outcome I wanted. I thought I had finally found tree problems I could not fix.

I decided to see what I could do. I took the tractor and backed it up to the broken tree that only had one trunk. I cut off as much of the ground side of the broken bit as I could. I put a tow strap on the end of it and took off with the tractor. The broken part came loose at the top and slid down quite a bit, and I was able to cut it up with the pole saw, until nothing was left on my side of the fence except for cut-up wood. I still had maybe 12 feet of trunk outside the fence, but it’s not going to hurt anything. No one walks out there in the weeds. I can take my time dealing with it.

I was able to nibble away at the fallen part of the other tree until nothing big remained inside the fence. When I cut it free from the fence, it swung toward the road, but it wasn’t long enough to go anywhere near it, so it ended up leaning on the tree’s trunk. Now I can put a strap on it, yank it down so it lies on its side, and either cut it up or just leave it for the county.

The top of that tree is something I can’t handle. It’s way up there. The tree people may need a bucket that goes up 40 feet to get to the parts they need to cut. I know when to quit. But I think I did myself a big favor by getting the broken part off the fence. Instead of telling them to deal with the whole tree, I can have them cut off the scary part way above the ground. That’s a smaller job, and it should be cheaper.

I would rather pay $500 than $2000. It’s worth it to reduce the work I leave to paid help.

I also have a widowmaker in my front yard. It appeared as though by magic a few days ago. I would say the break is about 40 feet up. It’s the main trunk of a tall, straight tree. The broken part is maybe 15 feet long, and it’s heavy. It’s just hanging there. I keep hoping it will fall by itself. If I could get a rope on the low end, I could pull it down with the tractor, but it’s way up in the air. That distance may end up costing me hundreds of dollars. If I could get the broken part down, I could handle the rest of the job and not pay a dime. There ought to be a safe way to do it. Surely someone has invented some kind of grappling hook for grabbing trees. If it cost me a hundred bucks, it would be a bargain.

I need something I can attach while standing to the side of the tree. If I’m under it, and I accidentally bring the widowmaker down early, I’ll be in trouble.

Tomorrow I will have to call the tree people and see what they can do for me. I can’t just sit around and see where these things fall. The one by the highway has to be fixed ASAP. I can wait longer to deal with the one in the yard, but it would be awkward if someone were crushed to death before I arrived at a solution.

After I did what I could with these two trees, I took the pole saw deeper into the property and started working on some other trees. In about an hour, I did an amazing amount of work. The pole saw allowed me to cut dangerous branches and trunks up to nine inches thick, without risking my life. It’s one of the best tools I’ve ever seen. I felled a rotten oak with it and bucked it so I could move it off a dirt road. I cut major limbs off a fairly large downed oak and fixed it so it was no longer applying pressure to the trunk of a young maple I want to keep. I had another oak that had snapped maybe 15 feet up, and the place where it had snapped was still hung up. I cut away at the grounded end until the part that was suspended crashed down to the ground. Now I can buck it and move it.

I also slaughtered every small live oak I could see. I hate those things. I will not let them reach maturity. I’m making room for maples and pecans to fill. From now on, I plan to kill every oak sapling I see, unless I can think of a good reason to let it live.

The pole saw is actually more useful than my 20″ chainsaw.

I am growing disenchanted with the raw woods I loved at first. Woods down here are buggy. They’re weedy. They’re full of spider webs with 3-inch spiders suspended at face level. They contain a lot of undesirable species, like live oaks. Now that Irma has knocked over a lot of my big trees, I’m thinking I should give up on the idea of having a wilderness area and try to create some tamed woods. I can get rid of the bad trees and weeds and plant some better ones. Instead of having thick woods that look beaten up, I can have thinner woods that have been put in some kind of order, with more grassy areas. I can put bamboo around the perimeter to restore my privacy.

If I can get a bamboo wall to work, I can live without the woods. The main purpose of the woods is to provide seclusion. A 20-foot-high wall of bamboo with no breaks will do a better job of providing seclusion than a bunch of stringy oaks that fall over every time it rains. It would actually be really neat. And if a tree falls on a bamboo hedge, no problem. Bamboo grows back very quickly.

A lot of people have thick, ugly hedges here to shut out the world. They look pretty bad. Bamboo is pretty. It looks elegant. Remember Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? I have to find out how hardy it is, though. If bugs eat it, there is no point in trying.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I feel like I’m headed toward a solution.

I’ll try to post more photos. This stuff can be pretty dull when it’s all text.

Hurry up With That Wrench, Larry

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

John Deere Manuals are Full of Little Jokes

Yesterday I really screwed up. I tried to do the responsible thing, reading a machinery manual instead of doing things however seemed right at the time. I should have known better!

I have a John Deere 430 garden tractor with a mower deck. I don’t know why it’s called a deck. It’s a big flat attachment that connects to the underside of the tractor. You can’t stand on it, like a ship’s deck or the deck behind your house. In any case, it probably weighs over 200 pounds, and it has three blades on it. Once in a while, the blades have to be sharpened.

My yard is bahia grass. This is a somewhat disappointing, very tall grass which a friend of mine has compared to leather. It’s very tough. When I first arrived here, I started using the mower, and it seemed like it was pushing the grass over on its side and tearing some of it. It did not appear to be cutting very well. I read somewhere that bahia grass requires very sharp blades, so I resolved to figure out how to sharpen mine. Also, I hit a stump or an exposed rock the first time I mowed, and I felt like I needed to see what it had done to the deck. A big spark shot across the yard when I hit the obstruction, and I assumed that was a bad thing.

The previous owner said he used ramps to lift the mower so he could work on it. That seemed like a bad idea, so I looked at the manual. I was aware that farm machinery manuals tend to be highly optimistic (i.e. full of it) concerning the difficulty of servicing equipment, but I decided to take a chance. The manual said you pull some pins, turn a lever, disconnect the PTO driveshaft, turn the wheels, remove one wheel and slide the deck out. Child’s play!

Yeah.

My first bad move was to put the tractor on grass. I was going to have to flip the deck over once I got it out, and I did not want to do that on concrete. I did not consider the immense difficulty of moving a heavy item on three smallish wheels on soft dirt. But before I get to that, I will talk about the other problems.

First, there is a bizarre assembly with two arms on it, attached to the front of the tractor. The arms attach to the deck from the front. You have to push a pin and pull a lever to make the front of the attachment drop out. No problem! I tried to push the pin. It was frozen. I banged on it with a punch. When I finally got it moving, it bounced. It was a spring-loaded pin with a detent you have to activate to hold it in the out position, and the detent doesn’t work, so it keeps popping back into the hole, preventing the lever from turning.

When I mastered that, I found that the lever did not want to turn. The lever turns a rod with two circular flanges on it, and the flanges fit between two flat plates. The engineers in Japan apparently decided it was important to have tremendous friction between the plates and the outsides of the flanges, so they made them with an interference fit. Picture an axle with two wheels (the flanges), turned by a lever on the hub of one wheel. Then picture two brick walls, pressed up against the wheels from outside.

Turning the lever was impossible, until I got out my 3-foot pipe wrench. What about a breaker bar? Well, the lever points downward when you get it rotated, so a breaker bar would be pointed toward the center of the earth. In order to avoid obstruction, the bar would have to be about an inch and a half long, defeating the purpose of increasing leverage.

I got the attachment to fall, and then I pried out the spring-loaded J-pins that held the arms onto the deck. They’re supposed to move freely. Ha.

I got all the other pins out, and then I had to remove the driveshaft from the PTO. The driveshaft telescopes “freely” (again, ha), and there is a collar on the front end that compresses some ball detents to keep it in place. The collar moves…freely. Unless it’s impacted with thick, black, greasy dust from mowing. I had to work it and work it. I pulled the deck backward and forward by hand. I moved the tractor up and back. Finally, the coupling fell off the PTO.

When I had everything loose, I pulled the deck sideways in the soft dirt, which was not easy at all, and then the little gearbox in the middle of the deck hit the inside of the frame of the tractor.

To get this stupid thing out, you have to jack the tractor up maybe two inches. This is not in the manual. John Deere’s little joke.

No problem. I had a farm jack.

I put the farm jack on the right front axle and started raising the tractor. As I raised it, the jack leaned closer and closer to the cowling. Great. It was going to gouge the crap out of it. I found a towel and shoved it in there and continued jacking.

Eventually, I got the deck to slide out, and then I decided to lower the tractor for safety reasons. It would not budge. It was perfectly happy to go up. Down was not an option.

I went to the shop PC and got on the web. Guess what? Farm jacks freeze up so they can only be raised. There are two sprung pins in the mechanism, and whenever you use your farm jack, you’re supposed to lube the snot out of them before you start. Otherwise, you can end up with a heavy load suspended in the air, with no way to get it down.

I used WD-40 and lithium grease (because WD-40 evaporates), and I got the jack to work.

I have a policy of never lifting anything heavy. First of all, lifting is work. Apart from that, it’s a great way to ruin your old age. One lift can screw up up for life. Unfortunately, I had no help, so I picked up the front of the deck and rolled it on its back. I will not be doing that next time. If it had been fifteen pounds heavier, I don’t know if I could have done it.

The blades were held on by three huge hex bolts. I tried a wrench, but they were on there pretty good, and it was just about impossible to hold the blades still. When I turned one bolt, all three blades moved. I got out my impact wrench and fired up the small compressor, and thanks be to God, the bolts came right out.

The blades didn’t look bad at all. I saw a John Deere manual online, and it said the cutting edge was supposed to be a flat surface 0.4 mm wide. In other words, much duller than a butter knife. I have no idea why that would be desirable. I would guess that the unsharpened blades were considerably sharper than that when I took them off. I wasn’t having it. I went to my small belt grinder and created edges that were sharp enough to slice bologna. It’s not easy to put a really good edge on steel that thick. I was satisfied. I went through the horror of disassembling and detaching the deck, backward, and after maybe 3 hours of work, total, I had a tractor ready to mow.

Supposedly, you should use a torque wrench to put mower blades back on. Yeah, sure. Thanks for that great tip. I’m all over it.

I used the impact wrench.

I still have a lot of sticks and twigs in my enormous yard because of Hurricane Irma. I asked some forum people if I needed a landscape rake, and one said I should just run over the twigs with the mower. I decided to take his advice. Now I know how to fix blades, so I don’t care what happens to them. I ran right over everything I saw, up to 3/4″ in thickness. Whatever the blades hit, they dealt with. Good enough.

Hmm…the Internet says this deck weighs 300 pounds. Yeah, that feels about right.

There was one bright spot in my ordeal. The smiley spider from my front door showed up to help. I am told his name is Larry. Not sure how helpful he was, but it was good to know he was in my corner.

Larry says I should get a smiley tattoo to match his own, but for the moment I have decided to pass.

Cheese!

Friday, October 20th, 2017

Here, Even the Bugs Smile

Today is a great day. I got the road to the south gate cleared, so now I can start moving wood to the side of the highway.

But first, a picture of the coolest spider I’ve ever seen.

I asked friends if this was a spider or a transformer. One says it’s a decepticon. My question: does it know it has a big smile painted on its butt? Is this normal, or is it a spider holiday? Maybe it’s spider Mardi Gras or Carnaval, and this spider is drunk.

To get back to the road, two big oaks fell across it, and to make matters worse, one was on top of the other. The other day I got them mostly subdued, and then my chainsaw ran out of gas. I left one trunk lying across the road, with two plastic wedges stuck in it. Today I went back and finished cutting that trunk, leaving me with a piece maybe eight feet long, lying directly on the road. I used the timberjack to cut that in three pieces, I rolled them out of the way, and the biggest obstacle on the road was tamed. After that I moved down the road and moved a few small trees that were in the way.

This is sweet. Next time I fire the tractor up, I should be able to use it to move big logs out to the highway, and once they’re there, they’re the county’s problem.

I’ll still have to burn a lot of crap, but burning two-foot-thick logs will no longer be part of the job.

In other news, my second pair of work boots arrived. I was considering getting a shorter pair of Danner Vicious boots, but curiosity overcame me, and I decided to try some American-made Keen Braddock boots. Keen is famous for its weight-saving asymmetrical steel toe, which puts more metal over the bigger toes.

The boots seem fine, but I think Danners are more comfortable. We’ll see what happens. People say disparaging things about the Chinese Keens, but these are American, so I have hope.

I needed shorter boots. The tall ones are heavy. They’re great with shorts, because they cover my ankles, but long boots aren’t necessary with jeans.

These boots have a true steel toe, unlike the Danners, which have some sort of hard plastic or something. A chainsaw ought to bounce off steel pretty good.

I came close to rolling a huge log onto my foot today, so I feel smug about choosing not to wear my plain-toe boots.

That’s it for today. Hope you’re enjoying life as much as I am.

I Need a Blue Ox

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Tree Removal Continues

Today we had another day of fall-like weather. It was in the mid-70’s, with little sun. I was pretty happy about that, because I have about 5 years’ worth of tree removal work ahead of me, and doing it in 90-degree heat is not much fun.

I have two big oaks that fell as one. They are pointing in the same direction, and one is (was) on top of the other. Cutting them up is an intimidating job. The trunk of the upper oak was above shoulder height, so that ruled out a typical chainsaw cut. You don’t use a chainsaw for cuts that high, because if it swings down, it will have a lot of momentum, and it can hit your legs. Worse, you could Jennerize yourself.

Another problem: cutting the upper trunk near the base would cause it to fall on the lower trunk, and from there, who knows where it would bounce?

I solved the problem using my fun new technique: the bore cut. You shove the chainsaw through the middle of the tree, leaving “straps” above and below the tunnel. I didn’t have to lift the saw that high to do this.

When you cut a tree, you end up with one side in tension and one side in compression. For example, imagine a horizontal log. The weight pulls on the top fibers and tries to push the bottom ones together. If you cut too far on the compression side, the tree will close on your saw, and then you get to have fun trying to extract it. This has happened to me several times in spite of my efforts to avoid it. Sometimes trees surprise you.

I kept cutting the upper tree until the trunk was suspended in space. That put tension on the top and compression on the bottom, down by the base. I cut up into the tree from the bottom, making a kerf maybe five inches deep. Then I pounded two plastic wedges into it. Wedges hold kerfs open while you work. You don’t want metal wedges for this purpose. You use plastic, because every so often, you’re going to hit a wedge with your saw.

I made a bore cut through the tree, above the kerf with the wedges, separated from the kerf by material intended to form a hinge. I left a little strap up at the top to hold the tree up while I switched saws. I got my pole saw, stood at a relatively safe distance, and cut into the strap. The trunk fell straight down, and I was in business.

This method, with variations, works on all sorts of stressed trees.

I’ve been studying the crap out of tree-cutting methods on Youtube, because I don’t want to be crushed or mutilated any more than is necessary. If you’re using a chainsaw, and you haven’t studied, well, people like you make a lot of money for hospitals.

I’m not the perfect example of chainsaw safety. I don’t have chaps, and I don’t wear a face shield. But I’m considerably better off than a guy who thinks testosterone is a good substitute for brains.

The timberjack I bought is a huge help. I can take a log that weighs hundreds of pounds and flip it over with one end suspended in the air, without exerting myself at all. Green live oak is extremely heavy. It’s so heavy, one piece I cut came close to straining the tractor’s front end loader. With the timberjack, I can cut everything in small pieces I can move.

I have to get these two oaks moved, because they have been blocking the dirt road to my east gate. I need to use that gate to move logs to the swale by the highway, where the county will pick them up for nothing. Today I got to the point where both oaks were cut in pieces. My big saw ran out of gas while I was finishing up the lower log, so I left my wedges in the log and called it a day.

Thanks to the weather, I can wear long pants while I work. My legs aren’t getting cut any more. I’m not bleeding at all. That’s a nice change.

I got myself two probationary pairs of Carhartt jeans, because the local stores had a crappy selection of overalls (my first choice). The jeans are great. I have Carhartt work pants, but they’re too nice for cutting trees, and they have to be ironed. Jeans are more practical. I have a pair of overalls on the way via Amazon, and if they work out, I’ll get more.

Overalls should be ideal for this kind of work. Coveralls would be better if the weather were cooler. Bark scrapes bare arms up pretty good. But overalls will do. I need something that permits freedom of movement and has lots of pockets. Naturally, I ordered Carhartt. Their other products are so good, the overalls must be good, too.

I have owned many pairs of Levi’s in my life, but now I look down on them. They have a number of problems. First, the cotton is cheap and weak. It’s not made to last. It’s made to wear out early so little girls will have cute rips that expose their knees. Second, Levi’s don’t sit at the waist. They sit below the waist. Your waist is about at the level of your belly button. Every time you bend, Levi’s cut into you because of the unfortunate location of the belt line. Final thing, Levi’s don’t have a lot of pockets.

Carhartt stuff is not made to look good on little girls. It’s made to last. If it doesn’t last, the company goes bust. The quality is much better than Levi’s, and the price is lower. That’s how I see it.

I decided to order a second pair of boots. I can’t stop myself. My Danner Vicious boots are wonderful, but when I’m wearing long pants, I don’t need 8″ boots. I can get by with shorter ones, which are lighter. I decided to try a pair of Keens. Some Keen boots are made in China, and it looks like they aren’t the ones you should get. I ordered some American jobs. We’ll see how they work out.

I never buy Timberlands. I’ve had two pairs of Timberland boots, and they were both disappointing. They’re fine for rappers, I guess. If all you do is rap and stand in police lineups, you don’t need comfortable boots that last.

The Danners and the Keens are waterproof and have crushproof toes. If I roll a 400-pound log onto my foot, I want something other than leather between me and the wood.

I can’t wait to start dumping logs by the road. Burning them is helpful, but it will take me the rest of my life to burn all the wood I’m discarding.

I think the farm is in good enough shape to resume cattle raising. I have to come up with some kind of agricultural operation unless I want to pay serious property tax, and this place is already set up for cattle. I don’t have a lot of interest in raising cattle, but you go with what works. I am told I can get a tax reduction with two tiny dwarf Brahmas. That should be easy.

Question: do people eat dwarf cattle? I could actually see the appeal in little rib eyes. A rib eye is no good at all unless it’s at least 1-1/2″ thick, but a steak like that weighs 2 pounds, which is a lot. Maybe a dwarf rib eye would be more practical.

I believe that customarily, people here put useless animals on their land and do nothing worthwhile with them. It would be perfectly okay to buy two tiny steers and let them live here until they die of old age. But it seems weird.

Amanda keeps telling me goats are the livestock from hell, but it would be very nice to have a couple to eat weeds.

I’ll try to put up some photos. I’m pretty pooped. Even though it was cool today, I drank about 72 ounces of beverages when I was done working (within a period of a few minutes), and I have yet to see the customary evidence of overcoming dehydration.

I hate Miami more than I can say, and I pity everyone who lives there, although I would rather see most of them live there than here. This place is wonderful.

I will work on the photos now. If you see a tiny orange dot on top of the lower trunk in the first photo, that’s my big 60-cc saw. Tells you how big the tree is.

This is the Light at the End of the Tunnel

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

There is a Cure for Miami

I am enjoying Ocala to the point where I almost wonder if something is wrong with me.

When I moved here, the movers screwed up badly. My dad insisted on going for a drive and got lost on the day of the move. My dad overdosed on pills he was supposed to let me measure out for him, and he ended up in the hospital for several days. Hurricane Irma hit me with tropical storm winds and knocked over lots of big trees on the farm. The power went out. I had to bathe in buckets of pool water. The main AC unit in the house died, and we had to fork out $6800. A tenant broke a lease in Miami, and we had to pay $5000 to fix the apartment. Hurricane Irma messed up a yacht I really needed to sell.

Plus it was ungodly hot during the day, and the mosquitoes were so big and numerous they practically lifted me off the ground when I went outside.

It was a bad start.

Now I have a lot of my stuff here. I made a trip to Miami, and a friend also went down and brought things back. The boat sold for more than I expected. I have three chain saws, and I’ve learned how to move a lot of wood in a hurry. The air is drying up, and the weather is cooler. The bugs are going away.

Finally I can enjoy this place.

When you join a moronic street gang, they “jump you in” and “jump you out.” That means they give you a beating when you join, and if you leave, you get another beating. Satan seems to work the same way. Simply moving back to Miami in 1997 was a beating. This year I left again, and the God of Losers came at me again. That’s how I see it.

Whatever. The suffering I endured doesn’t really compare to the eternal roasting my enemy is going to get.

Today I went out to the shop to start my day of hurricane mess recovery, and I felt the cool breeze hit me as I stood on the porch (My shop has a porch!) and opened the door. A crazy wave of pleasure hit me. I was overcome. It’s gross and trite to compare everyday pleasures to sex, but that’s what I thought of. Something went through me and left me a little dizzy.

Today I lit up the burn pile again. I also sharpened the pole saw and made my way into the middle of my woods. I have a bunch of big downed trees in there. I’ve been reluctant to take them on because of the bugs, heat, and standing water. Today was the right day.

I found out a neighbor had cleared away 90% of a big oak that had fallen on a fence. That was nice. I don’t have access to the DMZ between our fences, so I was dreading looking him up and asking how I could get in. Evidently he did not consider me accountable for my tree’s behavior. All I have to deal with is the stump.

I found several trees which fell near each other. Some were on top of each other. I took out the pole saw and got to work. I put in around 3 hours. I murdered those trees. Because the pole saw is so safe to use, and because it can reach things several feet away and things that are over my head, I had access to all sorts of branches that would have been a problem for a chain saw. I cut the crap out of the trees and made a giant pile of limbs and logs.

I had my trusty timberjack with me. What a great tool. It makes short work of heavy logs I could not have dealt with a week ago. They used to be a real pain. Now they’re a joke.

Within a week or two, I should have a clear path to the gate on the highway. Once that happens, I’ll be able to use the tractor to take wood out through the gate and dump it for the county to pick up. I won’t have to burn it!

I’m sad that I lost trees, but just about all of them were worthless oaks. I can plant pecans or something.

Maybe I should do something with that lot. I don’t know how many desirable trees are on it. I like the woods, but maybe I should consider a plan with fewer trees and more grass. Maybe there are pecans and other trees there that I could assist by cutting oaks, and then I could thin out the brush and put in grass.

I do not like seeing the neighbors. I’ve read that bamboo will grow up and form a thick hedge in a year or two. Maybe I should plant a couple hundred feet along the fence line. Bamboo looks really nice, and on top of that, the canes are useful for certain things.

While I was hacking away at a tree, I hit something and knocked the chain off the pole saw bar. It was time to quit anyway, so I headed back to the shop. I had two bottles of cold water from the Rockstar fridge, a Pellegrino orange soda, and an egg cream. It’s amazing how much water you sweat out while using the saws. I sat in one of the shop’s entrances in a plastic Adirondack chair, facing the woods, enjoying my beverages. The breeze blew through the shop and kept me cool. Too much. I loved it.

I goofed off. I texted and called friends. The only thing missing was a smoker with a few ribs in it.

I was so right about this place. That tells me the idea came from God. When I have my trees cleaned up and my bamboo installed, I’ll be the big daddy king of all eccentric hermits.

Some day this will be a place for prayer meetings and God knows what else. Until then I’ll enjoy myself getting it ready.

I just can’t hate Miami enough.

Sorry for not taking photos. I was too engrossed. Maybe next time.

How Beautiful Can Life Get?

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Maybe Miami was Just a Bad Dream

Ocala is just too much.

Today I finished looking after my dad’s business, and I put my boots on and headed for the workshop. I sharpened up Big Bad Mama, the 20″ Echo chainsaw, and I put it in the E-Z-GO along with my new Woodchuck timberjack. I cruised over to the big live oak that tried to crush my chicken house, and I went to work sawing it up.

Before I got to the oak, I went off my property and grabbed a gigantic ball of live oak limbs and Spanish moss from my neighbor’s swale and carted it to my burn pile. Good neighbors don’t leave hurricane junk on each other’s swales. I scooped it up with the tractor forks and dumped it on the pile.

I cut little limbs and moved them until I had access to the bigger bits of the tree, and then I went at it. I cut the tree into manageable pieces, and then I used the tractor and a strap to yank it around into a position where I could buck the last big branch.

The timberjack is wonderful. You can grab a hundred-pound limb with it and yank it into cutting position with about as much effort as it takes to flip a pancake. I had no problem cutting big limbs up with it.

The tree had one huge limb which could be considered the trunk. Hard to say. After I moved things around with the tractor, that limb was off the ground. Using my brain, I put the tractor forks under it and then cut it off. It fell on the forks. I didn’t have to roll it onto them. I ran it over to the burn pile and dumped it on.

Because I use the right tools, I got a whole lot of work done in a short time. It was a pleasure. Tomorrow or the next day, I’ll go out and hit the pile with my plumber’s torch, and it will go up like Mt. Saint Helens.

When I was done, I moved everything back to the shop, got a chair, and drank several beverages, ending with a lovely Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Occasionally I drink beer to blow out kidney stones.

The air was cool. The bugs were not biting. It was quiet. No one was yammering at me in a foreign language. Exquisite.

This place gets better and better. Why didn’t I move 20 years ago? Oh, right. I was out of God’s will. I would not have fit in.

I’m in the workshop now. A nice breeze is blowing through. I hate to leave.

I’ll post a few photos.

Man, I hate Miami.

FYI, my dad’s boat is sold, and the money is in the checking account. A major headache, GONE!

I think I’ll buy some pie.

More Disgusted With Miami With Each Passing Day

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Thank You Again, God

They say the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys and the day he sells. That’s misleading. Selling is WAY better.

The sale of my dad’s boat closed today. That means it’s not my responsibility any more. I will never have to pay for another repair. I will never have to worry about it sinking. It’s gone! Gone! Gone!

The boat was fun. We cruised to Bimini, Eleuthera, Chub Cay, and Key West, among other places. It’s a real privilege to putt by the tourists on a huge cruise ship in Nassau Harbor and watch them wave at you and know they all wish they were you. It’s fun to catch dolphin in the Tongue of the Ocean and tuna off Harbour Island. But my dad is 85 and has no business on a dock, let alone a boat, and there was no possibility that we would use it again.

Boat culture is kind of sleazy anyway. It’s all about getting drunk and fornicating, to be quite honest. You take your boat to the Bahamas, you get a slip, you fish your heart out all day, and then you go to the bar, get drunk, and hope you get lucky. Yacht people are as shallow as ice trays, and nothing they talk about or think about has any real importance. None of it has any relationship to the kingdom of God. If you want to watch fat, drunk lawyers make fools of themselves in Bahamian bars, get a boat.

I don’t recall seeing a lot of doctors over there. But then doctors are not interested in fun. Just money.

What I take away from the boat is that I know how to run one and maintain one. If I ever have to jump on a 60-foot diesel yacht and go to Jamaica, I won’t need any instructions. Just GPS and lots of bottled water, Gatorade, and peanut butter M&M’s.

My dad’s boat was not 60 feet long. It was a 46-footer. But it’s the same thing.

I was starting to think I’d never get rid of that boat. Now I can put it behind me and start thinking I’ll never get rid of my dad’s rental house or the condo we want to dump.

I got rid of the boat, and I also renewed my concealed carry permit. If you’re a Florida person, I learned things that may help you. If you renew your permit by mail, it takes 8-10 weeks. They send you the application about 150 days before the time is up, but if you’re like me, you forget. This weekend I learned you can get your permit renewed at your county’s tax collector office, and they give the new card to you immediately.

I drove to the government building complex. It’s hilarious. Perfect for Ocala. It’s a bunch of brick buildings spread out over maybe 30 acres. It almost looks like a summer camp. I went in the biggest building and saw a gigantic line. I could not complain. I deserved it. But I asked the official greeter, and she said I had to follow some signs and go to another part of the building.

After some twists and turns, I came to a long row of windows and a line consisting of…ONE person. I was at a window in about a minute and a half. The lady who took my photo and did the paperwork could not have been nicer. How can that be? This is the same place where you get your driver’s license. They’re supposed to be rude and condescending, as if everyone admires and looks up to people who do repetitive government jobs.

It was a beautiful experience. I’m sure it’s not as much fun in Miami, though. Down there the tag agencies are staffed by huge, surly women in tights, who barely speak English.

When I finished my other jobs, I decided to look into fixing the bush hog. It didn’t cut too well. Someone on a website said bush hog blades don’t have to be sharp. The idea was that they moved so fast, sheer speed made the blades cut. That turned out to be a fantasy. You have to sharpen bush hog blades, or they just push the grass over.

My bush hog has blades held on by 1-5/8″ nuts. I do not have a 1-5/8″ socket. What to do? I saw someone on Youtube sharpening blades that were still attached, using an angle grinder. Couldn’t hurt to try!

I propped the end of the machine on a jackstand, and I got under there and sharpened the blades. Then I mowed. It’s considerably better. If I got them truly sharp, it would mow like crazy. I think the answer is to get the correct socket and use my bench grinder.

While I was mowing, a gigantic wasp smacked into the bill of my hat. At least I thought it was a wasp. A fraction of a second later I realized it was a spider. It was so big, it felt like someone hit me with a crabapple. Luckily it was not any happier about the situation than I was, and it scrambled off of me before I could have a complete mental breakdown.

I also got my hair cut. I love my barber. His shop has about five American flags out front, along with a big yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag in the center. I don’t even care how my hair looks. That’s where I’m going from now on.

On top of all that, I managed to shift my schedule so I’m getting up at 6:30. This is very important, because I pray a lot. By moving back to 6:30, I make it possible for me to be fed and showered by 9:00. I don’t lose as much of the morning. Nice.

Things are getting better.

Ocala still rocks. Miami is still a humongous butt boil. Every day, I’m happier about the move.

Tomorrow I’m thinking I might sharpen my chainsaws. Can life get any better than that? I may follow up with some target shooting.

I’ll try to post more photos. I’m too busy having fun to stop and take the phone out.