Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I'm Such a Nag

Shame on us, we took the weekend off from weeding even though there are still large areas needing attention.   There were two major garden walks in nearby cities so, of course, we had to venture out of our weed patch and see what was happening in other people's gardens.  There's always something inspirational to see and learn.   But wouldn't you know I forgot to take a camera along, so I don't have any photos to show from the garden walks.  I'll do better next time.

We came home with renewed energy and more ideas for future projects. But first we have to finish the current projects, yep, Aaargh is still waiting for mortar.

 One project that Carl and Joel finished last week was fixing our lawn mower.  Oh, this was a fun job.  (There hasn't been a 'Sarcasm Font' invented yet, has there?  We could use one for the 'fun' part of that last statement.) Our mower is a ZTR (zero turning radius) machine and I'm the principal driver.  Carl has never mowed the entire lawn in all these years.  He's not fond of cutting grass, but I am.

I'd been nagging Carl for over a year that the mower seemed to be using too much oil.  Every time I'd go to mow lawn and pulled the dipstick the oil levels were dangerously low.  I'd add oil, mow for a couple of hours and then recheck it to find it was back down below the add line again.  The whole engine was an oily mess.  We had a problem and it was getting worse.

Carl is a very handy guy who can fix almost anything, but that doesn't mean he enjoys every challenge tossed his way.  One of his pet peeves is engine repair.  He hates it.  So I had to nag extra super hard to get him to take this seriously.

"Just keep adding oil, it will be fine," he kept telling me.

"I do add oil but it's leaking out somewhere," I said.  "What if it runs dry while I'm mowing?  I don't want the engine to seize up."

"That's not going to happen," he said, looking at me as if I was a Hysterical Female.  "But if you're that worried, quit mowing every half hour or so and recheck the oil and add some if you have to.  It'll be ok."

Carl to the rescue.
Quit mowing every half hour?  Well, I guess I could, but it takes about two hours to mow our lawn and the part of the Back Eight I regularly mow for walking purposes and then I have another hour and a half at my mother's place, too.  Ideally, you should let the engine cool down enough so the oil has drained back where it belongs, so that means the mower would have to sit for at least a half hour before I check the dipstick again.  At that rate, I'd be mowing lawn all day long. 

"What happens if the engine does run tight, then what?  I countered.  "Shouldn't we fix it now before something bad happens?  The mower isn't getting any younger, ya know."

"Ok, if the engine runs tight, we'll buy a new engine.  And besides, it's not that old, is it?

"We bought it in 2000."

"2000?  Really?  It seems like it was yesterday.   I wouldn't worry so much if I were you, just keep on checking the oil and add when you have to.  I don't have time to work on the motor right now."

 I knew he didn't have the time, he wasn't making that up.  But I also did some research into what a new engine would cost.  Around $1250.  Ouch.  Or we could opt for a whole new mower of the same kind for five times the price of a new motor.  We'd paid $5000 for this one back in the day and I know prices have gone up.

I went to small engine repair forums late at night and searched for our engine model and the most common problems; read through a myriad of posts and watched Youtube videos of engine repairs and finally decided our problem was probably gasket related.  Of course, I showed all of my online research to a less than enthusiastic Carl who finally tired of my unending harping on the subject.

"All right, if you can find a gasket repair kit, I'll fix it," he said, "But I don't think it's something we have to do Right Now."

I was one step ahead of him.  The gasket repair kit arrived in the mail bright and early the next day.

Joel came home and took the engine out of the mower and between the two men working on it, after a few hours the gaskets were replaced.  Both of the guys were covered head to toe in oil but to my relief, they did find a gasket had deteriorated and was the reason why oil was squirting out all over.  I was really glad they'd found the problem.  Now I could get back to mowing.

But they were one step ahead of me.

Joel didn't have time to put the engine back in the mower.  He figured Carl could handle that chore on his own.  Carl was working with me on the new front bed remodeling job at the time, and he hadn't seen what Joel had taken apart, so he wasn't sure he knew how it went back together.

The Back Eight and my Walking/Skiing/Hiking Trails
All progress halted.

I asked both of the guys when the motor would be installed.

"Dad can do it," Joel said.

"Joel can do it," Carl said.

"I can't do it," I said.

There the motor sat, on the floor of the barn, staring at me every time I went to get a shovel.

My walking trails, getting overgrown.  I need my mower!
The grass was growing.  This summer started out on the wet side and the lawns are growing rapidly even this late in the summer, needing cutting at least once, if not twice a week. 

Now what?  Thoughts of buying a push mower came to mind, but as Ann said, "That's crazy talk."  Yeah, I could work it into my exercise routine I suppose, but mowing two lawns twice a week plus the trails would be a daunting task.  Especially in the high heat and humidity we've been having. 

You know what I did. 

Dandelions and I have a lot in common.  We're persistent.

I kept nagging.

To be fair, I didn't have to wait more than five days to get the mower back in action, and I know how lucky I am that Carl and Joel have the ability to fix it in the first place, thank goodness.  The gaskets cost under $50 but the labor was 'free'.  (I wasn't the one covered in oil slime, so I can't complain.)

Joel came home a few days later and between the two of them, they managed to remember where almost everything went and after a few hours, engine and mower were reunited.  The only problem was an electrical plug that had no place to go.  Hmmmmm, that must be important, but there was no place to plug it into.  We took a chance after Joel left and decided to start it anyway.

"Get your motor runnin'," I was humming under my breath as Carl cranked the engine over.

Amazingly, even after having had open heart surgery, the engine started right away.  (We were both surprised.)

I mowed for about two hours and then turned off the deck on my way across a rough patch of ground.  When I tried to turn it back on, there was no response.  Turns out the Mystery Wire went to the charging system.   Luckily it was a fairly easy fix to find the plug which had been obscured by the engine shroud and after recharging the battery, we were good to go.

And when I checked the oil this morning, it was right up there where it should be.


Hosta 'Willy Nilly' in the spotlight late morning.
The Moral of the Story: If at first you don't succeed, nag, nag again.

My thanks to both of the Mechanics in my life.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Think Pink

Fair warning, if you detest the color pink and if petunias make you queasy, this is not the post for you. I know everyone has their preferences and petunias are considered very pedestrian in the horticultural world, but hey, would it interest you if I told you these are Supertunias?  Bubblegum, to be exact.  Oh, I haven't swayed you to the Pink Side yet?  Ok, I tried.  If you really feel all that strongly about it, I don't blame you for clicking on out of here as fast as you can.  Go, be free!

There, now that the petunia haters are gone, I can talk smack about them.   Don't you just hate their smug t-shirts, 'Friends Don't Let Friends Plant Annuals'.  Aw, they don't know what they're missing.

OH, and I should add another warning here....watch your step on this garden tour, I didn't pick up the hoses, watering cans, shovels and pots completely yet, ok? So be careful.  This can be a dangerous environment.

Petunias in the River Bed
It's late, as in after 1:00 AM again, so I'm going to toss pictures in just the way they came out of the camera, in no particular order.  I took them earlier this evening, just before sunset, so here goes.

Yes, I planted Supertunia Vista Bubblegum again this year, I just couldn't resist.   For the first time, I'm trying them planted right in the ground, too.  The River Bed will be a frothy pink sight to see eventually.  I hope.  Barring hail, out of control lawnmowers or a rampant herd of Holsteins traipsing through.

The River Bed is kinda slow this year, but I have high hopes.
Petunias in the driveway light shades
Somehow or other I have the Bubblegums mixed in with some of my Wave seed petunias.

Do you remember my Valentine's Day gift from Carl?  He made me this planter out of scrap stainless steel and I plunked a pot in the middle and planted pink morning glories and cardinal climber, along with a sunset runner bean on every rib.  Things are just starting to climb, so we'll see what happens when the petunias meet the climbers.  This could be quite interesting.
Petunias in the driveway
Petunias and clematis
Petunias by the road.

From a distance........ok, so I have a problem.
The greenhouse is still standing (no we didn't take it down yet)  and Ernie is kinda wedged in next to it.  But he's still here, though feeling neglected, poor guy.
On the plant stand in the hosta bed

Pots in the Formal Garden....and boy do I have a lot of weeding to do.
And by the garage
And the back door

Ok, that does it for the Think Pink Tour. 

Oh, before you go, did you notice the other stuff blooming in the garden?

The hostas are looking pretty good considering the drought we had last summer.... oh what the heck, this is a long post, let's run through the hosta beds, too.

I did get through weeding the following areas this year:  The River Bed, Formal Garden, Pachyberm, Front Garden and the Pump Bed.  I am halfway through the Woodland Bed/Hosta Garden but haven't started on the Quarry itself (shame, shame) or the hills surrounding the Quarry.

 I didn't weed Thursday night and I feel guilty.  We have some blog friends, Beth and Ron, coming all the way from Iowa this weekend to see the garden and we have a lot of work to do to get it ready.  I ended up mowing lawn at Mom's and here instead of weeding.  We had lawn mower woes, but that's another post, ha. 

Yep, this is where I will start weeding tomorrow morning, bright and early.  If you care to join me, I'd be ever so grateful, many hands make light work and all that.  I'll supply the gloves and the kneeling pads.  And a floppy straw hat.

And the beverage of your choice.

 Petunias on the Rocks, anyone?

(Hey, I made it through a post without falling down.)