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On this, the day of our Lord March 155th, in the year of Satan 2020, I am looking at the impending harvest with a tinge of sadness. The first week of my summer holiday has come and gone, and it seems like the transition between Spring and Summer has come and gone too. All around, everything is coming to its end. Seeds have fallen from withered leaves, and there is brown everywhere. From the scorched grass to the harvested fields, the bright happy green of Spring has become the browns and deep green of the last weeks of heat before the inevitable decline into winter.

The Gage:


And the Sloe, apparently good for popping into a bottle of gin for a few years:


I don't use either, so a friend is coming over on Monday to harvest whatever is desired.


Sentient bramble

I was working more on clearing the bramble forest yesterday. Little by little, as my shoulders and back can tolerate.
Anyway, having hacked a big chunk of bramble down to the ground, I took Some Pig to chop it all down to mulch. This is one place where the smaller mower excels, it has no problem pulverising stuff like that.
Anyway, about halfway through, Pig just died. Sometimes it happens if there's too much to chew on at once. So I cranked. Pig started, and immediately died.
I'm already out of petrol? I unscrewed the cap to see a mostly full tank.
Crank, start, cough, dead.

Turns out that a young (green) piece of bramble had sacrified itself up into the carburettor mechanism in such a way (and this wasn''t exactly easy to do, or undo) that it would be holding the choke so the mower would start, but the choke wouldn't release upon starting, so the mower would not be able to get up to speed. There's no throttle, it's an automatic thing that runs at a fixed speed. Only, it wasn't ever reaching that and stalling instead.

How did the bramble get there? How did it know to aim for exactly that part in order to disable the big noisy monster that was slaughtering it?

Well, folks, this is 2020.

So the idea of sentient bramble would get, at best, a nonchalant shrug.


Less bramble, more barrenness

Here's what it looks like now. All of the orange bits are electrical tape wrapped over on itself to indicate the barbed wire. There used to be a rustic barbed wire fence along there, but a quarter of a century and a lot of brambles have likely made it a rustic ruin.
The cleared part.
I have not decided yet (probably depends on how much fence remains) if I should leave part of the fence in place, or take it our and merge it with the reclaimed section behind it (where I'm standing to take the photo).

I ought to do more today, but my back and shoulders hurt so...


Marte revised

I placed an order with Autoportée Discount on the 29th (Wednesday). My stuff arrived yesterday, Saturday.
Mower bits parcel

I ordered a main drive belt. I hope it is correct, and I hope I never need to find out. ☺ I already have a spare mower blades belt, I thought to order two after the awful mess that I got off Amazon.
I can find very little information on this mower, however it appears as if the basic frame/mechanism is used by a number of manufacturers, and that they tend to take the same belts. So, well, this was purely an educated guess...

I ordered a new air filter, as the original (yes, it was branded so is probably as old as the mower) was not only oily but rusted and clogged with all sorts of everything.

I ordered a new spark plug. Knowing nothing about spark plugs, and confronted with a number of brands, I chose Champion purely because that's the surname of one of my friends.
A spark plug is a remarkable object, as it routinely deals with tens of thousands of volts, hundreds of degrees of heat, insane pressure fluctuations (from near vacuum to anything from 200-1000psi), and violent vibrations, and it does this effortlessly thousands of times per second; all while asking for the spark gap to be calibrated to an accuracy of tenths of a millimetre.
However, like the air filter, this was probably there since the beginning too so a change is long overdue.
Given that the engine seems to run rich given it's fuel consumption, and that it probably uses a totally different sort of petrol today to back when it was new (I run it on 98 octane in order to have less ethanol in it), the original spark plug seems in pretty good shape, so hopefully this machine will give me a few years yet. Actually, I suspect other mechanical parts will fail before the engine does.

The tip of the old spark plug

Finally, they gave me a good offer on a spark plug maintenance kit. There's a little scraper not unlike a nail file, a soft wire brush, and a set of feeler gauges. Now those are like insurance policies - the sort of thing that you'll practically never use, but you'll be glad you have them when you need them.
For those who don't know, they are slivers of metal in various widths from about 0.3mm to 1mm. They are intended to be slid into the spark gap of a sparkplug (between the centre pole and the bit that hangs over it) to regulate the size of the gap. If the gap is too large, it requires a higher voltage for the spark to jump the gap. It is possible that the electricity will find an easier path elsewhere, or that the built up charge simply isn't enough to cause a spark, leading to an engine that runs erratically or not at all. If the gap is too small, the spark will take less charge, so it'll be weak and likely occur earlier, leading to an engine that runs poorly or misfires.

The final thing, bought from a supermarket, was oil. The Tecumseh book recommends SAE30, which doesn't seem to exist around here (maybe it's an American rating?). I got some oil specially intended for mower engines, technically SAE15W40. All of the oils around here are something-W-something.
Anyway, I imagine it's been a while since the oil was changed, so that was also to be done.

I started with the oil change. It was refreshing to see an engine that not only had an accessible oil drain, but a simple bayonet arrangement for opening the drain. It wasn't any "take this near-inaccessible bolt out nonsense".

Draining the oil
It about a third filled an Evian bottle, so something around 500ml? When the black sludge was drained off, I put about 200ml of fresh oil into the engine and cranked it with the starter without the spark plug fitted, and then drained that off. Just to give the engine's insides a little bit of a rinse.
Finally, I closed the drain and filled the engine with new oil until it reached the full level on the dipstick.

The next job was the air filter. Compare old and new:

Air filters, old and new
Since Marte has a habit of throwing a lot of stuff into the air, I got a basic mousse filter for a different model of mower and stretched it around the new filter, in order to try to keep the filter cardboard as clean as possible. I can take off this mousse filter and clean it as necessary.
Marte's new air filter

The final job was to swap spark plugs. The engine manual suggests that the gap for this plug should be 0.30 inches. There's no direct metric equivalent, so I picked 0.70mm and set it to that.


All of that done, it still took blood sacrifices to the old gods in order for the engine to start. However once it had started, it purred happily at idle speed. I didn't run the engine hard, just let it idle for a while, and then drove it back (still on idle) to park it in the cow barn.


I'll leave you with a final photo, to explain why I make derogatory comments about neighbour farmer... because he irrigates his corn in rotation, and the other day did the part alongside the access lane and irrigated the hay bales. Duh.

Soggy hay



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Gavin Wraith, 2nd August 2020, 14:42
Wire brush, feeler gauges, they take me back to the 1960s, to manual chokes and copper-headed hammers for knocking off the spinners that held the wheels on their shafts. I had a Lotus Elan, whose Weber carburettors needed constant adjustment. It was an amazing car, put together with heterogeneous parts from here and there, in days long before manufacturers carefully designed in the impossibility of anybody but themselves earning money on repairs or doing anything for themselves.
David Pilling, 5th August 2020, 01:29
I ended up buying feeler gauges for my 3D printer. Sloes - Plum jam. Google says sloe and blackberry - pity about all those brambles 8-)
John, 9th August 2020, 19:56
I couldn't find the quote, but I fear you have got the "not on Sundays idea from us! 
In a rural community with neighbours it is inconsiderate to make unnecessary noise on the day of rest. But where Rick is he could have a firework display including AirBomb Repeaters without bothering anyone but the pigs in the porcherie! 
I think he's being over-cautious myself! 
Rick, 9th August 2020, 20:21
The "not on Sundays" thing is, generally speaking, the law. s-de-travaux-les-regles-de-voisinage 
Of course, the farmers and their crow scarer cannons often make a mockery of this...
Rick, 9th August 2020, 20:22
David - I'm not lacking brambles. Taking this lot out hasn't even decimated (used properly!) the bramble population chez moi.

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