Art of Proprietation

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A brown van will haul a ton of poop

My ugly brown $450 van brought home another load of manure. This is a load of horse manure, a mix of horse apples and sawdust. I don't have much of an estimate but am pretty sure it is in excess of 3000 lbs of material. For Jeff, we'll just round it off to a ton of poop.

Last year I got a five by ten flatbed trailer from a friend. It has stake rack sides, about 36 inches tall. I can hold about five and a half yards if I can handle the weight. That's a lot of poop to pitch by hand, though. Last fall I built a pair of bins on pallets so I could lift the poop out of the trailer with the forks on my tractor. The bins are about 5 x 5 and four feet high. The bins do make unloading the trailer lot easier. But with bins that large, it's not hard to over load the tractor. It's not so much the actual weight as it is the distance of the center of mass from the front axle. The bins allow the center of mass to be a lot further out, giving it more leverage. So there is still a lot of hand work getting enough compost out of the bins so I can safely move the bins with the tractor. It's still worth using the bins because the tractor allows me to stack the compost much higher than I could reasonably by hand.

It is nice having these big bins for materials that I can handle in or near full bins worth. The debarker chips from the saw mill across the way are a good example. But I am toying with making some smaller pallet bins for denser materials. If I cut the bin depth by a third I could handle them with less hand work. But then I would need a place to keep the bins I am not using. And unloading three bins is significantly more difficult than two because it requires a different approach angle. I am waiting for inspiration to hit me.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 19, 2009

Turkey Poults

These are our newest addition, turkey poults. It is always a struggle to get a local turkey in the fall. They are in short supply and expensive. Last year they were between three and four dollars a pound. That makes a good sized bird as much as $80, which is getting too expensive for us. We like turkey and like to cook several between October and March, for holiday meals and family gatherings. Turkey's are a great way to put on a big pleasant meal. Turkey's at the supermarket are often cheap around Thanksgiving, but now that they are explicitly marked as a product of US / Canada / Mexico, I can no longer buy them in good conscience. It was bad enough knowing they were feed lot / poultry barn birds. Now that they might be foreign made industrial ag animals, it's just too much.
So, this year, we are trying raising our own birds. It's not a big difference in cost over buying a local organic bird since we are feeding grain. The ten poults were about $50, 50 lbs of grain is about $10, even our inexpensive stock panel housing costs money and the opportunity cost of choosing to spend our time raising turkeys instead of something else. We are starting with ten with the hope of getting at least six birds out of the season. Since we don't know a lot about turkey's I wouldn't be surprised if we have some losses.
These are broad breasted birds, bred for more breast meat. Bronze and Polish White's. Heritage breeds were not as readily available and after plucking Guineas, I was willing to accept the broad breasted birds. Maybe we'll try heritage breeds in the future for their ability to reproduce. But we'll start with these and see how it goes.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Lend a tool program

That's a front wheel spindle on my new to me $450 van. The van is a 1991 GMC Vandura 3500 series 1 ton van. When I bought the van, I could tell from the steering there was an issue in the front end, so I wasn't surprised when the inspection turned up a loose ball joint. I have done plenty of tie rod ends over the years, but this was the first time I tackled a ball joint.
It wasn't easy.
The ball joint allows the steering knuckle to be attached to the upper and lower control arms and allows that whole assembly to flex while keeping the tire in a vertical position. That allows the tire to follow the road surface with some independence from the vehicle body.
The ball joint is connected to the steering knuckle by a tapered rod. Time and function tend to lock the tapered rod in it's socket and it takes a fair amount of force to get them apart. The bottom of the ball joint is a press fit into the lower control arm.
I had to buy a ball joint separator, but I did manage to get the tapered end of the ball joint out of the steering knuckle. But in doing so, I buggered the threads for the nut on top. That meant I could not reassemble the joint and move the van. And this became a problem because I couldn't get the press fit end out of the lower control arm. I use a trick using the a jack and the weight of the van to separate tie rod ends, but that wouldn't work in this situation. I worked on it off and on for three days but was unable to get the ball joint off the lower control arm. This was a big problem because in order to get the van to a mechanic to have the job completed would now require a tow truck. So on top of wasting my own time, paying to get the job done, paying for the tow, the mechanic might have given me a hard time about using the part I had bought ($70). Mechanics make part of their living on the market on parts and the labor rate for installing customer provided parts is usually punitive. I fretted about this all weekend, but after one last attempt on Monday morning to get it done, I was convinced I couldn't do it and I called the mechanic to make arrangements. But they were not open, I always forget they are closed Mondays. With the extra night to think about it, I decided to try getting a ball joint press through one of these lone a tool programs several of the national chain auto parts stores provide.
I called around and Advanced Auto Parts and Auto Zone both have this program. Auto Zone was the only one with the tool I needed available, though. The way Auto Zone's program works is you can come in and buy the tool, use it and bring it back for a refund of the purchase price. And they didn't even give me a hard time about not buying a ball joint. I took the tool home, used it and brought back a week later and they politely credited my account. There were no fees and no hassles. I was really impressed that they are willing to accept such an expensive tool back like this.
Not everything went perfectly, though. The press is a large arbor and a threaded rod like a big C clamp. There are various cups and adapters to make get allow the clearance to push the ball joint out. Unfortunately, the arbor was not wide enough to get the ball joint of my 1 ton van into it. I had to Jerry rig it a little and I wasn't able to use a straight line push. But I eventually found a way to do it. Pushing the new ball joint in had similar challenges, but I managed it.
So, I am giving Auto Zone a plug here for providing the lend a tool program. It saved me a lot of money getting the van towed to a mechanic to have the job finished. I was a lot happier with myself after getting it all back together than I was when I was contemplating getting the van towed. I still have more work to do on the van but it has already pulled home more $ in composted manure than I paid for it.