St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

Rainy Days

The Sunday 5pm rain 1/2 inch in 1/2 hour

The rain moved in around midnight and by 5:30 am when I rolled out with the sun, it was gone, leaving behind puddles, well watered fields and gardens and a lawn that promises to grow another 2 inches this week! My measurement on the farm was 1.1 inches, brother's Marv a little more and brother Ev near Grantsburg closer to 1.5 inches.  A broad rain that gave the crops another week of lush growth. 

Not satisfied with the first inch, another gust and burst rolled in at 5 pm and left 1/2 inch of fresh rain in a half hour. 

I caught Russ and Dottie Adams unaware
We visited Russ and Dottie, our neighbors, on their 65th wedding anniversary party at Cushing Sunday.  They were enjoying the day with many neighbors and relatives coming to visit and have lunch and cake.  

We got to know them through our common interest in genealogy and our membership in the Polk County Genealogical Society.  Over the past year, I helped Dottie convert her 340 page genealogy scrapbook into a bound book that she had printed and is distributing to her relatives.  She spent 30 years collecting family history and now can share it easily.  

Margo came along and although she used the walker, managed the outing OK.  She spent a few days with tests at Mayo this week -- getting a clear report that cancer hasn't returned, but also getting an appointment to visit the rheumatologist in early July to check on hip and other joint pains.  Recovery progresses, and gradually she is taking on more activity, but not walking without walker or cane, and not really able to stand without something to hang on to.  
Merlin and Margo October of 2013 at his wedding

Her father turns 90 this month in West Bend where he is staying at an assisted care facility.  Margo hasn't seen him since last fall before her first back surgery, and he no longer answers the phone or calls her, so she has to rely on others to tell what is happening.  He was starting to have memory problems which when added to his stroke, made things difficult for him.  Larry and his family, Margo's brother, are watching out for him.  His wife is in the nearby nursing home, so he can go over there and be with her often.  Reaching 90 is not all that one would like sometimes. 

I have been struggling with mowers and tractors this spring attempting to get more of them functional.  Too many and too old, but a challenge that sometimes is successful and other times goes backwards.   Today was backwards.  

Brother Ev tightens the exhaust pulley, opens the valves and adjust the nut behind the wheel. 

I put the new starter on the 1999 Murray riding mower and Brother Ev adjusted the valves, but turning the key wouldn't do anything except click the started solenoid.  So we bypassed it and the starter turned the mower over, but no start.   I think the problem may be in one of the myriad of safety switches that prevent the mower from starting unless God is in his Heaven and all is right with the world.  
Evergreen Fire Department and Apple Spray Inc.

So, we moved to the B Allis Chalmers that earlier in the week I had started on 3 of 4 cylinders, then cleaned the plugs and got down to 2 of 4, and then sanded the points and got to none of 4.  Ev, a regular mechanic who actually knows what he is doing, set the point gap and I tried turning it over.  Not a fire.   Some more fiddling and then try again. This time the switch on the starter stuck in place and turned red hot and burned it out before I got the battery unconnected.  A $10 part of the internet, double that locally so I ordered it, new plugs and new points. 
A Farmall distributor on an Allis Chalmers tractor--the shade tree mechanic route.  Probably comes from my grandparents crossing Swedes and Norwegians. 

Rotor and dust cap cover the points.  To sharpen them you take off these and then borrow a fingernail emery board file and run it back and forth between the fixed and movable points and then move the movable point to the correct point gap, say a few magic words, give some money to the poor and the church and try to start it.  With luck the starter switch won't stick and melt down in the process.  Without luck it will and did.

The complicating factor on the B Allis Chalmers is that when Dad bought it from Grandpa who bought it from George Jones (not the singer) as each got old and sold it because they could no longer clamber up the awkward machine to be seated, it had a magneto on it.  Magnetos let it run without a battery if you hand cranked it, but they were always "weak." 

 So Dad went to Smith implement in Downing WI (the massive graveyard where old tractors drag themselves to die and be recycled as parts), and asked for a B Allis battery distributor to replace the magneto.  "Well, we haven't got one of those, but if you take a Farmall 560 gas distributor, it will bolt right on to the B and work OK except you will have to manually retard the spark by leaving the set screw loose in the distributor and hand turning it a little to start, then advancing it manually to run smoothly." 

  To Dad, who grew up on Model T Fords where you had an advance/retard lever right on the steering column, this made perfect sense, and so he would first twist the distributer a few degrees, start it up standing by the tractor, and then advance it to where it ran smoothly.  
Brother Ev's Model T Ford made up of scrounged parts from dumps, barnyards, flea markets and a few purchases.  He still has it, although he only drives it to church on Sundays now.  Back in the 70s when Dad and Uncle Lloyd and Uncle Maurice, and Uncle Channie got together, they often reminisced about their first cars -- Model T Fords.  By the 1930s they were $25 for a run-about (run about 15 minutes).  You left it in the creek overnight to soak up the wooden spokes and tighten the wheels.  Before you drove the 3 miles to town, you might drain the oil (to be put back in again) tighten the rod bearings and put it back together in an hour or less.
Ev and his cousin Norman got inspired by these stories and each gathered the parts to build one.  Both have running Fords of year 1915-1927 parts, and both are within a few weeks of having them fully completed. They have been in that condition for 40 years now, and it is quite possible they may just never be quite finished.  Ev's runs about 25 minutes without problems.  He has wire spoke wheels on it now so he doesn't have to drive it into the Wood River anymore overnight.  He completely built it and knows more about Model T Fords than any person of his generation has any right to know. 

  To me, who was not so sure where you grabbed so as not to get a coil shock that knocked one over, it was not quite so obvious, and it surely seemed like a retarded system overall.  However, I persisted and now can listen to the purr to know when things are advanced the right amount.  

But, of course since it is a "modern" Farmall ignition on a B Allis, you can't just buy Allis points, you have to buy the Farmall points from the 560 era, somewhat uncommon as they have a curved fixed point rather than the straight one.  And of course, it takes 3 trips to the local parts supply place -- first to get the B Allis that won't work (but save them for the WD Allis where they will work), then to get the standard Farmall points that won't work (but save them for the Farmall Super C where they will work) and the third trip where you finally bring along the old points and find the oldest parts counter man and tell him to match them and then examine the match to make sure it is exact.  

Rather than do that, I Ebayed $63 worth of parts that will be here on Friday so I can run the tractor on Saturday if Satan is chained up for a week or so.  

The Allis B is my apple spraying tractor, and it is time to Sevin the apples every 2 weeks until they are picked.  Without the spray, the apples are worthless to anyone except birds and deer who seem happy to add worms to their diets.  I am sitting on the porch, and I can hear the coddling moths, the apple maggots rubbing their hands with delight as they notice the non-functioning tractor in the garage.  

Stay tuned to find out if the worm turns, the tractor rolls or I just chainsaw the orchard down and plant milkweeds for the butterflies.  

Jonah 4:7 But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered.