Thursday, May 24, 2007

A little more about us

Life here isn't so bad, compared to what I'm reading.

We live on 2 acres in a rural development. There are probably about 40 houses within a 2 mile radius. We are just outside of Moorhead, Minnesota, along the Red River of the North. In our 2 county metro area we have about 200,000 people.

We can still find gas around here for about $7.50 per gallon, higher than national average. If you want gas right now, on the black market you can get it for about $10 per gallon. It's great if you need more gas that the stations are willing to sell, or if you're just in a big hurry.

I live with my wife and 3 kids. We have a garden out back that we just planted with carrots, lettuces, potatoes, peas, pumpkins and some other stuff. We have an established flower garden with hearty native flowers that we have been working on for about 3 years.

We don't see things like oranges here at all, but I expect to see lots of local crops in the farmers market pretty soon. There will be corn, beans, lots of apples, etc. We have 4 apple trees that bloomed this month, so I think we'll be able to trade apples for stuff, but the problem is that everyone around here has apples... we may be trading apples for the proverbial apples. I expect we'll be sick to death of apples by October.

We still get plenty of electricity here. The mail comes almost daily. Crime is not a big issue right now, and we've always had the lowest crime rate in the U.S., and I think we still do.

There are four local colleges which just got out for summer break. It's presumed that student enrollment is going to drop, but a friend who works at the college says that what is really happening is that enrollment is steady. Lots of kids from here who were going to school elsewhere are moving back in with their parents, and then enrolling in the local colleges. This is true of a neighbor, who just saw there 20 year old son move back home from Minneapolis, where he was going to school at MacAlister College. He's now enrolling in Concordia College here, to finish his degree.

One of the things that is concerning us is the relocation of people from the Twin Cities to these work farms, where they work the fields. There is one about 15 miles from here, and its been nothing but problems, so I've heard. Lots of fights. Not the greatest "quality" of people, so I'm told. They don't have much, they don't earn much, and so far haven't demonstrated much affinity for this area. They miss their ball games, favorite bars, etc. To lose all that and suddenly be working on a farm must really suck for them. But then again, its not much fun to have 2,000 people thrust into your community who don't really want to be here.

Return of the Old Sachs Moped: Neighbors Envious

The old 1979 Sachs moped requires a 1:50 oil to gas ratio, which I think would be about 8 ounces of oil mixed with about 3 gallons of gas.

The Mercury Mountaineer still has about 3/4 of a tank, so I was able to siphon out a couple of gallons into a red gas container. The oil I had to borrow from my neighbor, who "loaned" it to me on the condition that he could ride the moped into town next week. Deal.

I don't know much about gas engines, but I'm willing to learn. I found a musty old book in the basement called "Small Gas Engines: how to repair and maintain them" by Paul Weissler, and have been reading it as quickly as I can. Hopefully I won't have to overhaul the engine, but I thought a bit of background couldn't hurt as I tinker and troubleshoot the moped.

A couple of things I have had to fix: a rear flat tire that required a patch on the tube (used a bike tire patch but it seems to be holding); reconnecting the rear break cable; the choke thingy was disconnected from the doohicky so I reconnected it; adjusted the seat to the appropriate level; cleaned up the spark plug; discovered I need to replace a brake light; adjusted the tension on the chain.

After assessing the obvious mechanical problems, I poured a gallon of the precious oil-gas mixture into the moped and miraculously, it started right up! I immediately took it for a spin, driving down the road. About 5 blocks from the house, the thing stopped and wouldn't start. I peddled the thing back home (mopeds truly were not built for peddling) and tried to figure out what was wrong.

Apparently, the fuel filter was clogged by crap from the bottom of the gas tank. I hadn't considered that there may have been 25 year old gas-crud in the tank. I had to remove the fuel valve to drain the tank. My precious gas was completely ruined in the process.

I opened my engine repair book to chapter 7: "Servicing fuel systems." Lots of good stuff in chapter 7, but no advice on cleaning out crud from the gas tank. Unsure exactly how to proceed, simply ran water through the tank to clean it out the best I could. All kinds of black oily crud came out, which I drained into an old milk container. Then I let it dry for a couple of hours, reconnected everything, and poured another gallon of gas-oil mix into it.

This time it did not start right up. I removed the spark plug and poured a tablespoon of gas into it. It fired for a moment, then quite again. After quite an effort, it eventually started, and seems to be running ok now.

I just got back from a five mile pleasure run. It was gratuitous, I know, but so what. A guy's gotta live a little, even a world without oil.

Now I just need to keep the neighbors at bay. I know everyone is going to want to borrow the moped. I think I feel another mechanical problem coming on...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gift from dad: the old moped returns

My dad showed up today with a surprise gift! It was my old 1979 Sachs Westlake moped. It needs some work, but I am very excited about it. It was last licensed in 1983, and has just been sitting in his storage garage for all these years. I had completely forgotten about it.

He dropped off the title with it, and it shows he paid $500 for it back in '79. This moped was my first set of wheels when I was in 8th grade. For my dad, it represented freedom, because now the kid could drive himself to school a couple of days per week. For me it also represented freedom: I couldn't drive in 1979. In 2007, it again represents my freedom!

The old moped gets 150 miles per gallon! This is great! With gas at about $6.50 per gallon right now, this will become my new commuting vehicle. Meanwhile, the Mercury Mountaineer (13 mpg) just sits in the driveway. How I wish I had sold that thing 2 years ago. Who would touch it now with gas so high.

Update: added some precious gas to the moped, and it fired right up! Just a few small mechanical adjustments and I'll be ready for a joy ride!!

The last news paper

Today is a big day, representing a major technological shift in how we've been doing something for my entire life: consuming news.

Last week, my wife and I have made a big decision: we're cutting the cord on the newspaper. The gas surchage that is being charged now for home delivery is just way too much for us, effectively pricing home delivery at about 5x what it was just a year ago.

Instead, we've subscribed to the online version of the paper. I've been reading it more and more anyway; the news is more timely since its posted throughout the day.

We've been recycling for the past few years, and have gotten pretty good at it. The weight of collected newspaper is by far the heaviest load that I tote. I am also looking forward to not having to recycle so much paper. Less paper means I will make fewer trips to the recycling center, which will also save gas.

So over all I think getting our news from online will be a good change for us: less work, save money, save gas, and save trees.

I mention saving trees as a by product of cancelling the newspaper -- but we'll probably need to save the trees for burning in the fire place this winter to save on our oil/electric furnace -- I am joking just a bit now, with heating season 4 months away, but I am very worried about the cost of staying warm next winter. It gets very cold in Minnesota. Very cold, for a long time. I need to start planning now to have enough wood to last us the winter.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sharing the shopping.

We're actually doing ok. It has helped to have the great neighbors, and we're getting to know them much better.

We take turns running into the city to get groceries and supplies. Tomorrow is my turn, and neighbors have been leaving me notes, telling me what they need me to pick up. No one ever goes in without checking with the others. Its kinda nice to know that they're thinking of us.

I've gotten to know the cereals that Bob and Nikki gotta have. I know Frank's favorite pino. Mrs. Peterson needs her Vogue. I'm sure they're getting to know me pretty well, too.

Sharing the shopping duty is proving to be a good thing. I like not having to shop so much. Where we used to run into town for milk, and then back again to get eggs -- now we're much more deliberate about when we go, and what we get. We actually make shopping lists now.

I've been reading about some of the unrest around the nation. We're good here. Lots of complaining, and a few fisticuffs at the long gas lines, but apparently, it could be worse.