Friday, February 04, 2011

Winter Repairs

Friday, February 4, 2011

Although the sun is bright and there isn't any wind this morning, the temperature has worked to get to zero degrees here at just past 9 AM. It was below zero again last night and every aspect of this winter has been a real contrast to last year's record setting warmth.

Winter is a time when gardeners need to catch up on their reading and then begin to prepare for the following spring. Repairing equipment is always on the list even if it is something as simple as sanding and oiling tool handles or sharpening shovels and hoes. As gardens grow larger and and gardeners resort to more and more power equipment, the repair process becomes more important. Some things I can do and some things I need help with.

In 1983, Gail and I began gardening together and our first investment was a Troy Built Rototiller. This was in the days of a South Burlington, Vermont store named Garden Way located on Williston Road where the current Alpine Shop operates. It was a great store that carried all means of putting-food-by equipment as it espoused the WWII theories of the Have-More Plan. There were seeds and tools and books and canning equipment. It was one of those stores that always took time to just visit, let alone make a purchase at because everything was good quality and interesting. Even though we didn't have much money, we opted for a Horse Model 8 hp 319 CC with a Briggs & Stratton Industrial Commercial Engine complete with hiller/furrower attachment for potatoes and similar crops. I'm not sure but I think the cost was somewhere around $1400.

A great deal has transpired in the 28 years since and our gardens have grown into a business that now involves 5 acres at our nursery and a couple acres here at our house. Over those years the Troy Built received regular oil changes, a few spark plugs, a couple belts, starter springs and pull cords and one, maybe two Magnetron ignitions......and it kept starting on a couple pulls and kept chugging along.

This summer, the 28 years caught up with the engine. Although it had developed an added mosquito fogger control feature we didn't count on, fact was it needed an engine job.

Equipment doesn't come with a technician and although routine maintenance was not difficult, I knew I needed help on an engine rebuild. My friend Mike just down the road from our house can fix about everything going and he spends his winters rebuilding equipment. His project list goes from remote control toys to a 1940 something Case tractor he completely dismantled, moved into his cellar and has been restoring for a couple years now. That project will roll back out this spring and it may well join Gail's John Deere 320 Utility tractor on display at the nursery.

Anyway Mike stops by the nursery on weekends during the summer and one day I guess he saw blue smoke rising. He suggested that he bring me his tiller, same make and size but different vintage, and take away our tiller until he could take it apart. As I sit offering this history, the pieces you see here have about come back together.

The engine block needed to be bored and the piston and rings are now appropriately resized too. Valves and seals everywhere are new as are a couple springs and a new gas shut off valve.

As Mike worked through the dismantling and rebuilding, he said the quality of this engine was superior. He and a friend chuckled over a comment that the tiller would now last a lot longer than the owner. If it lasts another 28 years, I'll be 90 and it will need new tires too. I'm really grateful to have a friend who can laugh with me about my shortcomings and work through what I need to keep my equipment operating. Mike's a great guy and if you knew him, you'd wish he lived down the road from you too!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the only thing on today's list is raking the last quarter of the house roof. It will be nice to have that done before the next storm comes through. Oh yes, never forget preventive maintenance.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
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1 comment:

Andrew Greess said...

Doing preventative maintenance and repairs on lawn, garden & pest control equipment in the off season is a great idea. Another good thing to do is clean stuff out: backpack sprayers, hand sprayers, power sprayers. Thoroughly clean out the tank & filter, then run clean water through the system. Always release the pressure before putting equipment away. This extends the life of o-rings & gaskets and can help reduce the risk of freeze damage.