Is that an oxymoron or what? Kind of like military intelligence. But believe it or not, I actually can fix things once in a while. A lifetime of experience has taught me that the best and quickest way to accomplish repairs around the house is to tell Miss Terry about them and let her handle it. But occasionally, she leaves me to my own devices, mostly because she thinks it’s funny to watch how much trouble I can get into on my own. Of course, she doesn’t think it’s so funny when she has to then go back and undo everything I messed up and then do it right like it should have been done the first time. And our son Travis is even less handy than I am, if that’s even possible.
All that being said, I actually did fix some things while we were visiting Travis and his wife Geli at their place in Alabama. As I said in a couple of previous blog posts, they recently bought a house on nine acres, way out in the country. Geli is a country girl at heart and actually grew up not far away.
Travis, on the other hand, spent most of his life living in small towns and a couple of good sized cities. But we have never seen him happier or more content than he is now. While you might think he is some kind of biker or something with his shaved head, bushy beard, and tattoos, looks are deceiving. He has a gentle soul, and even at age 45 he always hugs and kisses his old man on the cheek. He loves animals of all kinds and he is an accomplished gardener. I think if you gave him a handful of sticks and an asphalt parking lot, you could come back a month later and he would have a forest growing there. Obviously, having that much land gives him lots of opportunities to exercise his green thumb.
At some point in the past, he came into possession of an old Craftsman rototiller that didn’t work, and it spent years sitting under a porch at their old house in Tuscaloosa. While we were visiting them I had him drag it out from the shed to see if it was worth trying to have somebody rebuild it.
It didn’t look promising to start with, but when I had Travis pull the starter cord to see if the Briggs & Stratton engine was seized, we could hear the engine turning over. I got a can of starting fluid and gave it a blast or two in the carburetor and had him pull the cord again and the darn thing popped off and ran for half a minute or so. Another shot of starting fluid and it started again and ran until the fluid was gone. As long as I kept spraying it, the engine would run.
Okay, maybe we’re onto something. We poured some gas in the tank and primed the carburetor with more starting fluid, but while the darn thing would start, it would not keep running. So we took the little fuel bowl off the bottom of the carburetor, I fiddled with the floats a moment or two, then we put it back together, and it started up and ran! How cool is that?
Then we noticed that gas leaking out of the fuel bowl, so we took it off again to find that the rubber gasket had pretty much disintegrated. We made a trip into town to a parts store, and while they didn’t have the proper size gasket, they had one that was just a tiny bit bigger. Back at the house, Terry was able to get it to fit well enough to create a seal, and we put it together and the thing was running like a champ! Travis was one happy camper. Well, more correctly, one happy gardener. He said having the rototiller working is going to make life much easier for him.
The next order of business was the pole barn on his property, which is located about 100 feet from the house. There are several electrical outlets in it, along with some lights, but for whatever reason, there was no wiring from the house to the pole barn, just some bare wires hanging out of the end of the conduit leading to a power switch. I suspect that the previous owner, who worked for the local power company before he retired, may have just run a heavy-duty extension cord out to the pole barn from the house, but knowing that wouldn’t pass the inspection when he was selling the place, I think he just cut the wires off and left them dangling.
We connected a couple of 50-foot extension cords, plugged them into an outlet on the front porch, and ran them out to the pole barn. Sticking the two bare wires (that’s scary, isn’t it?) that came out from the conduit into the plug of the extension cord, I then turned on the power switch in the pole barn and promptly blew the circuit, knocking out power to both the front and back porch of the house and the sump pump in the crawl space under the house.
Checking all the breakers, nothing was stripped, but there was no power. Now what the heck did I do? I thought about it for a moment and then went inside and started looking for GFI outlets inside the house. As it turned out, the only one was in the master bathroom, and I reset it and we had power again. So I repeated the procedure out at the pole barn and promptly tripped the GFI again. By then it was getting dark and we were running out of time, so I told Travis that was a project we would have to address on our next visit. He and Geli were both fine with that, and mostly I think they were just grateful they weren’t going to have to call out an electrician to figure out what I had done to lose power at the house.
Travis had told me that they had a large pool of standing water in the yard at one end of their house after a prolonged thunderstorm, which I guess explains the sump pump. The ground there has a lot of clay in it and is very slow to absorb water. He and Geli had been researching drainage solutions and decided that they needed to install some kind of French drain to divert the water from the side of the house down a hill about 50 feet away from the rear of the house.
That seemed like a lot of work to me, and work is a four-letter word that I try very hard to avoid. So instead, we went to Lowe’s in Tuscaloosa and got a heavy-duty electric transfer pump that uses a garden hose to move liquids.
Back at the house, Travis filled up a 5-gallon plastic bucket with water, we connected the short intake hose that came with the pump and then a longer hose to the outlet side of the pump and ran it from the side of the house down the hill. We plugged in the pump, and it drained that 5 gallons of water lickety-split. For the times when they get heavy rainstorms and the water pools, I think it will work just fine.
I think Travis was a little impressed that his old man could actually do something useful around the place. I didn’t disabuse him of that notion by telling him I was just stumbling around lost and confused, hoping I didn’t cut any of my fingers off or burn the place down in the process.
And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.
Thought for the day – Great achievements are never made in comfort zones.