Sunday, October 1, 2017

I Built A Woodshed

Here at Zembecowicz Manor we heat our house with wood.  Wood heat is carbon neutral, and modern wood stoves have efficiency ratings that rival a gas furnace.  On top of that, you aren't dependent upon heavy industries that you have no control over to heat your home.  If  you're interested in maximizing your autonomy, wood heat is the way to go.

Last Winter I rigged up a series of racks to store my firewood in, and covered them with a giant tarp.  While this did work, dealing with the tarp became an enormous pain in the ass.  Last Winter, I resolved to build a woodshed.  I did just that.

My property is sloped, which is great for drainage, but a pain in the ass for building things. I dug three trenches and filled them with 1" minus gravel.  After that I built a level floor on a series of piers.

The next step was to build a floor of 3/4" plywood.

I built a frame from 4"X4"s on which to construct a roof.

A roof was then constructed from 2'X6's and 1/2 inch plywood.

I installed a standard tarpaper and shingle roof.
After adding some fence planks and staining it, I have a shed.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Product Review - Echo CS400

    The Echo CS400 is advertised as a professional grade chainsaw.  I don't know if that is actually true, because I am neither an arborist nor a logger.  I also never plan to become either.  With that out of the way, the CS400 is a much better saw than the one I was using before.  I'm going to go into the things I like about the saw and the places where it could use some improvement.
    Out of the gate the first thing I noticed was how easily it started.  My old saw was a real bear to get going.  It wasn't that it didn't start up after the number of pulls described in the instructions, it was that the recoil was very difficult to operate.  I would sometimes have to pull it so hard that the saw ended up getting jerked away from where I was trying to start it.  This absolutely is not the case with the Echo.  I am able to start it very easily, using my weak hand no less.  I'm pretty sure that most people could get one of these things fired up with very little effort.  The saw also is built so that it has some flex to it (they call this the vibration reduction system).  This seems to work, as I didn't end up with numb fingers like I did using my old saw.
    Another thing I like about the Echo is the chain brake.  The thing that I like about the Echo's is that if the brake ends up getting engaged (shit happens), it doesn't kill the saw.  The chain doesn't move until the brake is reset, but you don't have to fuss with the saw to get it running again.  Granted that this isn't such a bad thing with a saw that's really easy to start, but it's a nice touch.
    The last thing I really like about this saw is where the chain tensioner is placed.  On my old saw, it's on the front, parallel to the bar.  On the Echo, it's on the side.  This is a much more convenient location.
    Now I'll get into what I don't like about the saw.  The worst thing about it is the chain that it comes with.  It's fine for cutting small branches and things like that, but if you're cutting larger stuff it just doesn't quite do the job. I replaced the factory chain with an Oregon S62, and it was like I have a different saw.  I cut up a pine tree with a 14 inch thick trunk today, and the little saw didn't miss a beat. 
    Another thing that I noticed is that if used horizontally (like for felling and limbing) for a while, the throttle response slows way down.  This does correct itself after a few minutes of cutting.  My guess is that the float in the carburetor doesn't work right sideways.
    My only other gripe about the thing is that it seems to run out of bar oil before it does fuel.  This may simply be because I need to adjust the oil flow a little bit, but I cannot honestly say because I haven't tried yet.
    At the end of the day my little Echo has managed to cut up about a cord of various softwoods with few problems.  Changing the chain out made a tremendous difference.  The real test will be how the thing works five years from now, but I hear good things from other people about that.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Stepping forward and back.

Mostly out of frustration from the cold weather turning my hands into useless flippers, I took my Bronco in to the shop.  It turns out that the only mechanic within 20 miles of where I live only has open flames for heat in his garage.  Since he isn't too keen on catching on fire, this means he has to turn the heat off to work on fuel problems.  His current plan is to try and jury rig things so the choke is just wide open and see if it still starts.  One or the other of us will fix it properly when it's a bit warmer out.
Back when my uncle was still alive (seriously, watch your cholesterol folks) I'd go work on crap like this at his brake shop during the Winter.  Maybe I'll get a garage built some day.
Mrs. Z's Volvo also decided it doesn't want to go forward anymore today (reverse still works).  Hopefully the problem is relatively simple.  If it's more than say $1500 to fix I'm probably just going to buy her another car.
On a more positive note I found a place to park the BMW where it doesn't get stuck.  Having 400 ft/lb of torque at the wheels in a small car means that it likes to dig holes when there's no traction.  I'm getting studded tires on Monday, so getting stuck on ice won't be a thing for much longer.
I'm actually starting to get some of the workspaces set up here, finally.  I have several projects I'd like to work on, but I lack the proper facilities.  Once I have all this stuff set up I'll probably post something.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Chokin' the chicken

I did a test drive of the Bronco today and was getting single digit MPG.  Because of the whole snow and no garage thing I tried to take it to the mechanic.  Due to high demand he's only taking non-running cars right now.  Hew suggested that I see if the choke is stuck and come back in about five days if I can't get things figured out.

The choke isn't exactly stuck, but it sure isn't opening.  If I push it open manually it rebounds to where it was as soon as I remove pressure.  Since the choke is opened by a bimetal spring, to me at least this means that it just isn't getting hot enough.

Apparently converting to a manual choke is an option, but I haven't found the details on doing so just yet.  It may be easier.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Winter has arrived

Winter has arrived on the mountain.  We've probably had a foot of snow in the past week.  I have lots of firewood and pellet fuel.  There is plastic film over the crappy old single pane windows, and it's nice and toasty inside. Unfortunately I still wasn't as prepared for it as I should've been.

My wife and I both drive rear wheel drive cars, and they were parked in a way that had my truck blocked in.  Yesterday we spent probably three hours fucking around with snow shovels, pieces of cardboard, and ultimately a propane brush burning torch to get them moved around enough to get the truck out.
We ran some errands, and the truck was misfiring.  I picked up some spark plugs while we were out.

This morning I swapped out the plugs.  The existing ones were unsurprisingly carbon fouled.  I also leaned out the idle mixture a little bit (it's an old carbureted model) for good measure.  It still seems to be missing a little bit, but not nearly as badly as it was.  If a good jaunt on the highway doesn't get it to fly right it'll be off to the mechanic.  While it is true that I do need to learn more about carburetors,  I am currently without a good workspace.  When I changed the plugs it was about 33 degrees out and raining.  I was dressed appropriately, so it wasn't exactly miserable, but it wasn't pleasant either.

From here on out, I'm going to make sure that the truck is in a different spot the moment I see the word snow in a weather forecast.  Had there been some kind of situation that required leaving immediately, it wouldn't have happened.  Also, I'm going to drive the truck more frequently.  It currently is only driven when something needs to be hauled somewhere.  This won't quite do anymore.

I ordered some tire chains for Mrs. Z's Volvo.  I'm debating getting some for my car too.  The thing is that I have far less ground clearance than she does, so I'm not sure if they'd actually do me any good on the one hand.  On the other hand my car gets about double the mileage that the truck does and has nice things like fuel injection.

On the subject of lacking a work area, the house has a garage of sorts, and it is my intent to make it a workshop.  Unfortunately there is currently too much stuff in there to actually do any work.  I've gotten rid of most of the things that I don't need.  Mrs. Z and I put together a small storage shed this evening, and I'm going to move all the yard and garden type stuff into it.  I have a ladder showing up tomorrow that will let me get into the attic of the house.  A plethora of things that are currently in the garage are much better suited for the attic, and they'll be up there soon.  I picked up a workbench at Hazard Fraught yesterday, and I think I may be able to get it set up after I move all that stuff. 

In short, I have problems, but I also have solutions.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Election Thoughts

The election has been over and done with for some time, but I only just now have the spare time to pontificate upon the subject.
The single axis, left/right political graph doesn't represent my world view well.  On some issues I track pretty far to the left, and on others I'm pretty far to the right.  I also absolutely loathe authoritarians, and look toward their supporters with a mixture of pity and contempt (the ratio varying from person to person).
Both candidates are authoritarians who oppose people's basic rights, they just happen to oppose different sets of rights.  Ultimately the election simply altered which set of contingencies I need to plan for.

I have some slightly different messages for people who voted for either of these two people.  If your candidate lost, bear in mind that this is exactly why some people have very strong feelings of discomfort about growing the size and scope of government.  If state power can be abused, it will.  Now that the shoe is on the other foot, hopefully you'll remember that the next time your candidate wins.

For the people who supported the winning candidate and are excited that their guy won I cannot stress enough that you don't have a guy, he has you.  Anyone who has that much power is not looking out for the average man or woman on the street.

For people in either camp I suggest that you get your house in order.  Pay down your debt and acquire skills and tools that make you less dependent upon others.  Perform the maintenance you've been putting off on the things that let you live in the way that you're used to.  Pay attention to your health and make changes if necessary.

If enough people become the captains of their own ships, the idea of a great idealogical savior of one kind or another will become much less interesting.  The best thing you can do is trade in that Make America Great Again hat or I'm With Her sticker in for a garden hoe or a wrench set.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New York and the Terrorism Tax

Some douchebag with an overly manicured beard and shit between his ears managed to badly injure about 30 people he'd never met.  He tried to hurt far more people, but his incompetence prevented him from doing that.  He was also captured alive, so he'll probably be spending the rest of his life in prison wishing he was dead.

Another asshole went to a shopping mall in Minnesota and started stabbing strangers for no good reason.  An off duty cop who happened to be carrying a pistol shot him before he could kill anyone.

If you look past the fact that these guys are/were repulsive sociopaths, one thing that is worth thinking about is that the bomber probably spent a few hundred bucks on his attack.  Knives are so abundant that they might as well be considered to be free.

A few years back John Robb (he wrote Brave New War, you should read it) described what he called a terrorism tax.  Essentially, Joe and Jane average begin to scale back on various economic activities because they're worried that people will kill them.  An article on CNN states that one billion dollars are spent yearly to keep New York safe.  Granted, in a city that big the per taxpayer cost probably isn't exactly huge in and of itself.

This begins to be a bigger problem if people stop going places because because they're afraid that someone will try to murder them because it just happens to be their unlucky day.  Revenues go down.  People lose their jobs.  People don't go out because in addition to being afraid, they're broke.  This creates a feedback loop where the weakened economy creates an even weaker economy.

We also have to consider that with a problem like this, the cure may be worse than the disease.  My wife is a food nerd, so we have a couple dozen different kinds of knives in the kitchen.  I have a variety of knives for general use, fishing, camping, etc.  Where I live both black and smokeless gunpowder are sold at a many stores.  Even if it was to be banned, black powder is eighth century technology.  People are going to make it if they want it.

The only sensible response to these little pissant terrorist attacks is to treat them as just another risk.  If I die of unnatural causes it'll most likely be on my commute to work and back.  This doesn't stop me from jumping in my car every morning, and it doesn't keep me from going ninety miles an hour every now and again.  It does cause me to wear my seat belt and to not drive if I've had too much to drink.  The equivalent response to these little Junior Terrorist Club asshats would be to do something like get first aid or self defense (armed or unarmed) training, along with the requisite equipment.

Using your head is increasingly important in our modern world.  Your instincts developed in a world that no longer exists and often provide bad information.  Going with your gut leaves you vulnerable to people who are actively working against you.