Thursday, May 20, 2010

The arrival of Manfred

Since I started the garden at Chalupy, it has been obvious that sooner or later I would have to resort to mechanized means. I realize that in the middle ages, such means were not available, even if you were wealthy. But then, life in those days was "short and brutish", as I believe Hobbes put it. The hard part of gardening is taking ground that hasn't been cultivated in a long time and making it plantable. This ground is overgrown with junk, "sod" is the technical term. There are roots, weeds, and junk to a depth of many cm and it takes forever to get them out. I did the first garden by hand and it was a lot of work. I enjoy work. But there is a limit!

My first attempt at mechanization was to acquire, at a yard sale, an ancient tiller, which I call Tillie. She was in sad shape when I got her.

On the other hand, she only cost me $10. I was sure that what I would learn from her was worth the investment. I was right. I learned how to install "distributor" points (it is really silly to speak of "distributor" on a one-cylinder engine!) , how to rebuild a carburetor, and many other things. On these contraptions, you have to pull the flywheel to get at the points, quite a production:
Tillie's points have been replaced. Amazingly, all the spares you need are available at Lowe's stores at minimal cost. After this episode, Tillie had a sparking spark plug. Now, if it it only could get gas, it would run. So I looked at the carburetor. This was a Briggs and Stratton contraption, and took some research but eventually I found a rebuild kit for it via the internet. The only hangup at this point is the throttle arrangement, I cannot for the life of me determine just how it works. The original was very badly hacked. I am sure Tillie will run but I am still not sure how to rig the throttle (not to mention the governor, which keeps the engine from blowing up).

At this point Attila entered my life. He comes from one of the abandoned houses in the village, whose occupants came to an untimely end or moved away. With the aid of my son, I hauled this thing away from its grave.
This was a heroic effort; the blasted thing must mass 200 kilos. But we did it. And now I had another old engine to work on. However, it is not really hard to do this; you do need a bit of resourcefulness. First you get the spark plug to spark, then you worry about gas supply. This guy is easy, he has electronic ignition. No spark? Get a new unit. The carburetor was shot and required replacement or rebuilding. So I replaced it.

So, after some trouble, Attila ran. So I ran him, vibrating, complaining, loud (muffler kaput) but running, over to the patch, figuring out the gearshift as I went, and determing that the "T" setting on the shift meant "till". When I got to the garden, I put it in "T" and... bitter disappointment! It wouldn't. The transmission is broken. It is a very old tiller: parts not available.

So It was time to stop fooling around. Today, I went out and bought a brand new, rear-tine tiller. If you are wondering whether a rear-tine or front-tine tiller is for you, the asnwer is simple: old simple, ground: front tine will do. Bad ground (what I have) rear tine. So, Manfred (after Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron) came to Chalupy.
An 18" (45 cm) tiller, just the size for my beds. It took several people to load it into my little car, but I was able to unload it by rigging a ramp.

So read the manual, oil it, gas it, and let's see:
My gosh, it tills! So out to the patch I had to open up. And about 45 minutes later...

The size of my garden has been doubled. In 45 minutes. It would take me days to do that by hand. Manfred has been fantastic. New stuff, of course, tends to work (except in computer software).

More tilling in the works. I am tired. You have to muscle the thing around corners. It's a workout! But I've doubled my garden area in one day.

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