St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Saturday, November 15, 2014


The "exploded" view of the snow blower auger drive box with the new bronze gear on the shaft.  Had to sand down some of the ridges on the shaft, put on flange sealer and fill it with grease before bolting it back together.
The snowblower is almost ready for use -- the new gear and gearbox repaired, but one of the bearings on the outside end of the auger needs replacing.  Not because it is worn out, but disappeared from my repair area.  When I removed the auger and shaft, on each end was a bearing housing and bearing, but somehow I lost one.  I think it stuck in the housing without me noticing it.  After I took out the auger, I used the snowblower-tractor as a snow plow and undoubtedly it was lost somewhere in the acre of driveway and yard I plowed--buried under the snow not to be recovered until I mow over it next spring and break my mower on it!

So, I ordered the housing and two bearings as they were somewhat worn anyway.  Should be in late next week.  Another $30 with shipping.  In the end I will have about $60 bucks repair and 4 hours labor costs and about $500 value in learning about the machine for Scott and me.

The Ford Tractor started up with the new ignition coil, so I didn't take the time to put in the electronic ignition points replacement yet.  My fingers were frozen with a little delicate work in the unheated shed.  Leaving the switch on with the points happening to be closed let the coil overheat.  The $10 coil from the Internet worked fine and replaced the $45 one that came from Tractor Supply a few years earlier.    I really wonder why the local shop has to charge 4 times as much (I bought 2 coils online for $21 shipping included).  Sort of like the gear for the snow blower --- local supplier said 2x as much and wait a full week (2 days more than the internet order took). 

 Got the cabin plowed out easily as the snow was soft.  The ground underneath was soft, and turned up a little too easily -- plowing snow and gravel.  Put the Ford back in the shed and turned the switch off!

Now I have to get the Super C Farmall out and see if I can pull a trailer through the snow across the field.  I had planned to cut some of the dead elms bordering the fields to use for sap cooking next spring, and for the wood stove, so hope I can still wallow through the snow to them.  The narrow front tends to plow snow rather than drive through it.  I don't have the chains on it either--have to see if they are needed. Winter came a week ahead of my schedule. 

My Olsen oil furnace at the farm failed to start the other morning.  The house was down to 50 when I got up.  It had tripped the circuit breaker in the basement.  It was doing that 2 years ago, so I put in a new breaker, and then it worked OK.  It worries me as we have two houses and the one we are not at might freeze while we are away-- and we spend time at both. The new remote monitoring thermostat at Pine Island is slick--I can check the temp anytime I want.  No problems yet. 

 When Margo goes in for surgery in a few weeks, I need to be sure the furnace is working at the farm while we are away.  I have a phone dial alarm that I need to set up -- if it goes to 45 degrees F, it dials a phone number and then continues to dial it every 15 minutes until the temp if fixed or you shut it off.  The furnace here has a two wire thermostat, so if I wanted to put one of the fancy wireless digital ones in, I have to add a 24 volt transformer to power it.  That unit with isolation costs about $40 and the thermostat about $99, so will work with the phone unit (I already had -- $65).  

Furnaces, as heating people will tell you, are not reliable machines.  They may go for a year or two, but will surely fail often enough to keep all of the furnace repair people busy enough to show up two weeks later than you want them.   In MN we have it better with the 1-hour service in Pine Island that gives you a free service call if they don't show up in 1 hour.  I had them out once -- cheerful, competent and on time!  Spoils a person. 

Here in Polk County, WI, I have found the people who do services like electrical, furnace, and other on-site repairs are almost totally unreliable as to when they tell you they will show up and when they do.   My neighbor spent 3 weeks with a down furnace last year waiting for the furnace man to show up after the initial call and fix (which worked for about 3 hours and then failed) -- calling him often and being assured someone would be out later that day each time.  Eventually after trying to keep the house above freezing with wood and electricity during the 20 below weeks, he got a 2 week fix and then one that lasted through the rest of the winter (quite expensive too).  
    I think these repair people lie intentionally knowing you have little choice except to live with it.  I have a call in for a furnace cleaning that is not critical, but is now a month out from the promised date.  If someone actually ran a responsive business in the area, they could drive all the others out of business quickly!  

    My own solution here is to have a backup system so when the furnace fails I can still survive.  I had a Jungers oil burner as backup, but hauled that into the barn and put in a wood stove.  I like the independence wood provides--but don't have a lot on hand unless I cut a little more for the emergency that might come along. I have some oak in the basement and some elm in the yard.  I can always haul some of my maple syrup wood from the cabin if I need to.  

 I also use the internet a lot.  People post manuals, videos, and discussions of many of the problems that I run into--so during the long wait for a repairman, I see if I can learn how to fix the problem myself.  Sometimes I can.  

I did the plumbing in our Pine Island house, consolidating it in one corner of the house.  The upstairs and main floor bathrooms stacked with one interior wall "wet."  That same wall backs the kitchen sink too.  I also made all of the pipes with faucets for draining them--the idea I had was to be able to easily drain the plumbing, put washer fluid in the traps and toilet, and drain to the entrance line which is wrapped with thermal tape.  Haven't tried it, but I think it should work.  However, I would rather keep the house at 50 degrees.  I put in a great deal of insulation so the house takes less than a 1/3 the cost of the farm house to heat.  

Mechanical and electrical things wear out.  Some of it is planned obsolescence, some is poor design, and some is actual old age.  Mom bought an IHC freezer in the late 1950s.  It ran for her trouble free for 30 years.  Then it got passed around the family including a few years at the cabin.  Last I heard, brother Marv had passed it along to a friend and it may still be running.  In studying the Cub Cadet (MTD owned) snow blower, several bearings were plastic and none were greasable.  Even the gear box had a plastic plug on the bottom where in earlier models a grease fitting had been placed.  Maintenance free bearings probably means they wear out sooner. 

Oh well, that is why we work so hard to make money--to buy and repair the machines to clean our driveway and haul us to the job. 

Barely Legal buck paws for apples