Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mosquitos and machinery

If you live in rural Alaska you will soon find out that mosquitos (actually Spanish for "small fly") are the bane of your existence. There is a story that when they were building the Alcan highway back in WWII, a mosquito landed at an Air Corps (as it was then called) airfield. The mechanics rushed out and refueled it. They thought it was a very large bomber.

Due to all of the really weird weather (blame the PDO, of course) our mosquitos have been horrific. Now one way to keep these vampires at bay is Deet. It is a shorthand for some fearsome chemical, and it does indeed keep mosquitoes at bay. Whether it is good for you is undetermined. I suspect not, but the alternative is 10,000 bites per second and that is not good for you either. The **** mosquitos are really bad this year.

Besides Deet, there are a number of things that you can do. One of them is to invest in one or more Buffy rackets. These are battery-powered contraptions that look like tennis rackets. I must do a post on Buffys someday. With this, you can fry the indoors mosquitos.

But a very important part of the anti-mosquito campaign is mowing your lawn. This cuts down on the habitat of the loathsome creatures. (My "lawn" is mostly dandelions. Let us ignore this detail). For years I did this by hand. Well, with a push motorized mower. It took days. Then I broke down and bought Achilles, the riding mower.
The only trouble with Achilles is that eventually the blades must be sharpened. Since the deck sits so close to the ground, it is impossible to get the blades out. On a regular power mower you turn the thing upside down and get the blade off. Achilles weighs at least 100 Kilos (200 lb to metrically-impaired persons) and upside-down is not an option.So aided by John, a makeshift ramp was rigged. With this and some improvising (and a big piece of pipe to act as a lever) we were able to get the blades off. From there it was a SMOS (Simple Matter of Sharpening) and I need few lessons in that direction.

There are lots of videos on the subject on YouTube. Unfortunately none of them is geared to Rural Alaska. Hint: not all of us have $800 air compressors and $50 pneumatic impact wrenches. Be real, you-tubers. Not all of us live in Groton, CT or even Palo Alto, CA. Not even Grand Forks, ND. However, one video was a real help. It is a simple tool that holds the blade still while you take the nut off. The nut is some insane Gringo Size, 15/16" for all I know (1" slips).  I will see if I can duplicate that tool.

However, we got the blades back on today and I mowed. Ahhhh. Mosquitos have temporarily disappeared. So nice to have sharp blades. Another temporary victory in the man-mosquito war. The mosquitos have disappeared. It is ephemeral. Insects, in the long run, outlive us all.

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