Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gardening is a cruel mistress

Planting season for 'maters and such begins March 1ish around here. That's sooner than we tend to think. So this afternoonI decided to run my tiller in the vegetable beds again to keep the furrows re-established and keep the weedies down somewhat. But I can't just fire-and-go because I've still got the broccoli going and I need to get between the rows. No problem, the tiller's outer tines are detachable. Only... the left outer tine had managed to get frozen to the axle, and no amount of oomphing and twisting would free it.

I got serious about it. A big hammer, a can of WD-40, and a railroad spike for leverage. Mountains have been moved with such tools. And it would...not...budge...a...millimeter. I decided, after an hour of hammering and a quarter-can of WD-40 (and one bruised thumb), that force plus chemistry was insufficient. Clearly, thermodynamics would be required.

I grabbed a firestarter log and set it ablaze and used it as a torch to heat the outer tine housing, hoping that it would heat faster than the inner axle and thus expand (breaking the rust hold); then, after first removing the open flame (a very critical thing, to be sure) I shot WD-40 onto the juncture of the two pieces, The effect was much like in soldering copper plumbing, and the WD-40 worked its way inside. More banging. One more incident involving profanity. But it finally began to move, a half-millimeter at a go, and after another half-hour, I finally managed to get the tine off. Dancing and singing! Relubed everything, got the tiller started, re-furrowed the new bed --and then without warning the spark plug literally disintegrated and fell inside the engine compartment.

I'm through gardening for the day.

UPDATE: all this intrigue allowed me today to play a rousing round of "Part, Part, Who Stocks The Part?" as I attempted to track down the correct spark plug for a Briggs & Stratton L-head engine in the 135200 series. This would've been a piece of cake, except I left the iPhone at home and couldn't just pull up the B/S webpage and look at the manuals. And no one actually keeps fitment charts anymore, it's all hyper-specialized browsers that allow no outside flexibility! Ugh!!! I did find it, though, and finished the tilling today after a brief engine teardown to make sure no nasty bits were in the compression chamber.

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