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14 April 2008

If last week's post was energetic and care-free then this week's post is the complete opposite.  Sometimes life is good, other times... not so good.  Things are better now but, man, what a nasty week it was.

The fun actually started two weeks ago.  Most of our coffee trees have been pruned which means the fields are crammed with branches that need to be chipped into mulch.  This is perfectly normal for this time of year.  I have a PTO chipper attached to the tractor so I can drive up and down the field while feeding branches into the chipper.  The system works great unless the tractor breaks, then everything comes to a halt.

Mechanic Engine I spent a couple days diagnosing the tractor's engine with no luck.  I called every mechanic I know, I even found a friend of a friend that is a diesel mechanic at the local Ford dealership.  Unfortunately, nobody had a magical solution waiting for me.

The good news is that the chain hoist in my barn came in quite handy when I removed the cylinder head from the tractor.  The bad news is that removing the cylinder head didn't reveal the problem so the problem must be in the bottom half of the engine.  Inspecting the bottom half of the engine means the oil pan needs to be removed.  That sounds easy enough until you see that the oil pan is blocked by the drive shaft which is in turn blocked by the front end loader bucket.  What that means is that removing the oil pan pretty much requires the whole darned tractor to be disassembled.

Before continuing, let me pause for a moment to explain our household water system.  We're too rural and too far up the mountain for city water.  The entire island is basically a giant pile of lava rock which means the ground is too rocky and too porous for digging a well.  Luckily we're in the tropics so we get lots of rain.  Our roof collects the rain and carefully designed gutters send all that fresh water to a couple large water tanks.  As long as there's not a drought, we have all the free water we need.  Our rain is sometimes slightly acidic because of volcano fumes but that is usually not a problem.

Ok, so after several days of frustration with the tractor, we decided to take Sunday off and go to the beach.  Unfortunately the weather turned bad so we never did get to the beach.  Even worse, when we got home after lunch, our youngest daughter said "Mommy, I hear water in the pantry."

Plumber Our house is about 20 years old and was built with copper pipes.  Normally copper pipes should easily last more than 20 years however, because of our acid rain, all of our copper pipes were starting to leak.  I've made emergency patches before but this time the leak was more severe and a quick inspection showed that several other spots were also starting to leak.  I decided it was time to replace all the plumbing in the entire house.

I suppose a sane person would have hired a plumber but being the do-it-yourself, not-so-wealthy-farmer type, I decided to do the work myself.  No sooner did I have the water shut off and pipes ripped open then Valerie started to feel sick.  Being sick is difficult enough, being sick with no plumbing is even worse.  Fixing plumbing is difficult enough, fixing plumbing while also trying to be Mr. Mom is even worse.

I spent several days crawling around under the house, ripping into walls and making far too many trips to the hardware store.  By Wednesday afternoon I had the plumbing almost all the way back together.  I needed one last part before I could turn the water back on so I made another trip to the hardware store, stopped for lunch on the way.  As I walked in to my favorite little Mexican food joint I heard the owner saying something about an extra beef burrito.  That was convenient because I wanted a beef burrito and I was in a hurry.  Well, later that evening, not more than an hour after getting the water turned back on, I started to feel sick and that beef burrito came back to haunt me.  I'm certainly not the fastest plumber in the world but apparently I'm just fast enough.

It's several days later now and we're all healthy again.  The plumbing is all working great with no more leaks.  I still haven't fixed the tractor but the plumbing help put things into perspective so I don't feel the need to swear at the tractor any more.  The tradewinds have shifted and the next several days should be bright and sunny, maybe we'll take a day off and try going to the beach again.

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