It’s about 10° outside today, which means we’re all in our PJs at 4PM. I have had no motivation to do anything today other than straighten up the house, swap my AppleTV out with a new Roku, and help Finn put her final Christmas LEGO set together. She’s now got about eight vehicles, two horses, and a bakery, as well as five of the LEGO Friends characters, and she’s quickly become a pro at assembling the kits.
Down in the basement, I have a new IPA kit fermenting happily; it’s called Sinistral Warrior and it contains the most hops I’ve ever added to a batch of beer (6oz.). It smells delicious down there, which means it’ll be a long six weeks until it’s ready. The pumpkin I brewed a month ago is doing well but needs a kick in the butt for flavoring; I’m thinking Mr. Scout’s method of rum-soaked vanilla beans along with some pumpkin pie spice will help liven it up (it’s heavy on pumpkin but low on flavor). I also know what the next batch will be– a session beer, something lighter and flavorful with a lower ABV. I happened to run into the father of one of Finn’s friends on the train before Christmas, and he expressed an interest in learning how to brew, so I set him up with a beginners’ kit for his Christmas list, and we have tentative plans to get together in the next week or so to get him started.
Elsewhere, there was a shooting at the Columbia Mall this morning, and three people are reported dead. I’m glad we habitually don’t get moving until the afternoon, and that we had nothing to go out for today.
We had a workday north of Baltimore the last week in October, and I was lucky enough to have about five sets of hands helping diagnose my fuel sender issue. What we were able to sort out is as follows:
- My wiring loom up to the bulkhead is not original, but contains original green wiring.
- The ground spade on the sender wasn’t connected (it must have come off at some point after we installed it) but it is now.
- The sender is working properly. We tested it for resistance and it works when we slosh fuel around in the tank.
- The PO put in a grounding wire directly to the frame, which I cleaned up with some sandpaper.
- The wire going up to the bulkhead connector works.
- The bulkhead connector is a mess, and has been screwed with quite a bit.
- Everything behind the dash is a mystery.
The service manual says we’re looking for wire 36-16, which checks out behind the dash but the wire going from the sender through the loom looks like 11. Additionally, the 11 loop (the one which appears to ground on a stud welded to the backside of the dashboard) was loose, so I reconnected that.
While I was there, I bought a Thermoquad from Jason H. for tinkering (it’s the one on the left; the one on the right will get rebuilt as my spare).
Here’s the video I mentioned last week; Finn is featured practicing her excellent manners (right at the 2:00 mark), and the Scout even makes a brief appearance in the background!
I had dreams, big dreams. I had a list of projects two pages long that I wanted to tackle in my free week. Most of them involved hefty tool rental fees, multi-day logistics, or the employ of multiple day laborers to complete. Some of them were simple. Most of them didn’t get accomplished.
I was supposed to haul an engine out of my friend Brian’s yard about two weeks ago, and for whatever reason we weren’t able to synchronize our schedules. We finally got together on Monday and got it moved into the garage without collapsing the floor, but it ate up most of the day. I did recover enough that evening to transfer my batch of Belgian Dubbel into the secondary, and then brew a Kalamazoo IPA, which started with a 25 minute grain steep and is mostly Centennial hops. It smells great and hopefully it’ll be done quickly because I’m running low on Texas Bock.
Monday was supposed to be the day I borrowed my neigbor’s pickup and hauled concrete chunks out of the driveway, but that didn’t happen. I did dispose of two old bucket seats, an inoperable snowblower, half a load of brush, and a spare tire, which made me happy.
Tuesday after I drove Finn into school, I came back and attacked the attic. We’ve been hurling stuff up there into piles for the last six years, so the whole room has gotten way out of hand. All of the baby gear is now organized into one section and the rest of it is separated into categories. After I got that finished I worked my way down the stairs into the atrium–what is now the master bathroom–and continued cleaning. More stuff had been piled in there by necessity, so that got sorted and moved to the right locations. Then I cleaned up the construction debris and made it all ready for whenever we’re able to get back to work.
I’ve been meaning to get a brewing stand built for months now, because the amount of brewing gear I’ve got has outgrown the table I was storing it on. I picked up a wire restaurant rack from Lowe’s and set it up to hold three fermenters, with a set of tubs below and storage for other gear up top. It’s much easier to work with everything organized and out of the way. It’s not as strong as the ones I bought from Sam’s Club years ago, but it does the trick.
I’ve had lengths of 2×4″ PVC cut for the kegerator for about six months. The plan was to replace the wood surround it came with, which had gotten stained and dented and had several holes drilled that I wasn’t using. Initially I was afraid to pull everything apart for fear that I’d never get it back together again, but with a full afternoon to work with I figured what the hell. My neighbor (the original builder) had warned me he used several tubes of silicone caulk to hold it together, and he wasn’t lying. Once I’d pulled all the screws out it took just a few taps with a rubber mallet and the whole thing came right apart. I made a few cuts to the edge of the plastic surround to fit and it all slipped right into place. A few carefully placed screws and some clean new caulk, and it looks brand new. The cover went right back on with no problem, and I mounted the temperature controller where it had been originally. I’ve held off drilling to replace the tap handle, gas lead, and temperature sensor because I’m not sure which side the gas tank is going to go on or where I’m going to mount a gas manifold that I don’t have yet.
Wednesday was taken up with a doctor’s appointment in the morning and a bit of rest in the afternoon, but I put a sheet of plywood down on the brewing shelf and cleaned up the rest of the kegerator before disassembling my old speakers. I was planning on buying some new MDF to cut down into new sections, but I held off in favor of some other more important projects.
Thursday, on my way in to drop Finn off, I passed a set of dumpsters by an apartment building and spied something that looked familiar: Two A/V receivers sitting on the ground waiting to be picked up. I backed up and when I spied the word DENON on the face, they quickly made their way into the car. Later, when I had some time to look them over, I realized they were units in the same family, separated by one model number. It took some time to sort out the controls and how they worked, but both of them fired up, recognized an iPod, and worked perfectly. They date to 2008, so they predate HDMI, but for utility use in the garage or basement they’re perfect.
I also sold a set of Scout doors I’ve had kicking around the garage for the past four years; they were painted blue with a white stripe by the PO and gave up their window regulators and some other hardware years ago, so they’ve been getting in the way ever since. Erik M. stopped by to pick them up before work, and he grabbed a spare set of wing windows as well. Now I can pull the windows from my good doors and stack them vertically where the other ones had been, which will make more room for the engine in the back corner.
In the afternoon, I had Jen help me lower the traveltop onto the Scout, and I pulled it out into the sunshine to bolt it in. Brian gave me a 3-gallon jug of muratic acid (he gets it free from work) to dip rusty parts into, so I dunked a pile of body bolts and other hardware and soaked it earlier in the week. After two days the bolts look brand new, and they go in just as easy as butter.
Friday we have plans to do a family trip out into the mountains and see leaves and pet cows, which sounds just right for all of us.
So Brian and I finally got our schedules organized to move the spare engine out of his backyard. First we had to borrow Bennett’s engine hoist, which meant disassembling it and fitting it into Peer Pressure, then driving that over to Brian’s. Then we had to build a ramp to coast the engine and cart down off his patio, onto grass, and then onto the driveway. Then we rebuilt the hoist and raised the engine.
Then we scooted the Scout under it and ratcheted it down with four straps.
The engine hoist got broken down and shoved into the back of Brian’s Prius. I drove gingerly up 95 to the house, backed in, and we reassembled the hoist.
Then we muscled the engine and cart up into the garage, got the hoist inside, and attempted to mate it to the Harbor Freight engine stand I’ve had for 8 years. We got three of four bolts to mount but when we let the hoist drop the whole stand leaned frighteningly forward. So we put it back on the cart and called it a day.
So, I’ve got some reading to do. I think I’m going to start with some basic engine rebuilding books and go from there. But for now, I’m resting my back.
Bennett and Brian were headed up to pick over a Traveler in a junkyard in Mt. Airy today, so I tagged along. It was already gone through pretty well, but after a few hours of effort, we got the right inner fender, driver’s door, power steering pump, and some other goodies off it. I grabbed the starter, a hub assembly, the oil pump, both valve covers, some decent door rubber, and a very clean headlight switch, among other things. Now we need to figure out how we’re getting the engine from Brian’s house to my garage.
Tuesday after Labor Day has been a 2-cup-of-coffee workday. It was relaxing and we had lots of fun, but I need a vacation day to recover from my vacation.
We were lucky for the opportunity to visit with lots of old friends; Saturday night Finn and I went to a barbecue with the Flynns while Mama stayed home to catch up on work. Finn was shy at first but within about 30 seconds was engrossed in playing dress-up with the girls, while Tim and Betty and I drank and caught up on the deck outside. She was on her best behavior, even after a bowl of chocolate ice cream, and when it was time to leave we drove home under the stars with the top down.
Sunday we drove to Lexington Park to meet Grand at the Naval Air Museum where he showed us around the planes and told Finn about the ones he’d flown and worked on. It wound up being sunnier and hotter out there than we bargained for, so we had to skip the last couple in order to escape to air conditioning and an early dinner. After rehydrating, we made it home in time to move the mattress out of our bedroom, lay new carpet down, assemble an IKEA bedframe, and replace the bed. We’re getting to the point at which all the improvements we made in the house 8-10 years ago are needing touchups. This past week, the entire room got patched, sanded, and a new coat of paint throughout, and it looks dramatically better.
Monday we drove up to Pennsylvania to visit with the Beatties and have another barbecue. Finn was again on her best behavior, and we adults let the kids play while we (mostly) relaxed. Chris and Alison have a beautiful house stocked with mouthwatering mid-century furniture and two excitable Boston Terriers, and it was great to catch up with them. It’s amazing to consider, looking back at who we were 20 years ago, how far we’ve come, and how much the same we are in a lot of ways. As we stood in his driveway chatting and watching the kids ride bikes, leaves fell gently into the yard. Fall is coming soon…
On our return, we “did a teamwork” in Finn’s words and started assembling a new dresser for our room. We’re both tired of waiting around to get things done (we’ve had new carpet and furniture sitting out on the porch in boxes for months) and we couldn’t help ourselves. With some careful maneuvering and strategic use of a hammer in the quiet corners of the house, we got everything put together by 10PM and fell exhausted into bed.
Jeez, where do I start?
Our weekend really started on Thursday, when we were invited to the neighbors’ house for pizza and playtime with the kids; Poor Jen was suffering a migraine so Finn and I walked over and played hard until the sun was down and the mosquitos flew. I woke up Friday morning feeling a little worse for wear, but rallied to make it into work with the top down in the Scout in sunny 80° weather. The evening was a little more laid back, spending some quality time across the street at the playground with the kids.
Saturday I was invited to go fishing out on the Bay, so I dragged myself out of bed and made it outside by 7 A.M. to pile into a crewcab pickup and head to Sandy Point. There we put the boat in the water and trolled out under the bridge to catch spots for live bait. Our initial casting area was OK but when we hit another, better spot further south, we caught baitfish as fast as we could bait our lines. Then we headed to the mouth of the Eastern Bay to use the spots on live lines for rockfish. Obviously the spot we chose was the correct one, because we joined a fleet of other fishing boats anchored in the same area looking for the same fish.
My neighbor caught an undersized rockfish within about 10 minutes, and I was close behind with what would have been a keeper about five minutes later. But I let the line go slack for a minute while I tried to negotiate getting it into the boat, and it dropped off the line and swam away. The rest of the afternoon was less climactic; we sat, cast lines, drank some beer, and called it a day at about 3.
That evening we were invited to another neigbors’ house for some dinner and a bonfire, so we rallied Finn, picked up some beer and dessert, and stayed until all three kids were dozing on the couch. Somewhere in there we sampled strawberry s’mores (pink marshmallows) over the fire, which were surprisingly delicious.
Sunday morning came a little too early, but we put an appearance in at church and then got to work clearing out our bedroom in preparation for some plaster repair, a new area carpet, and new furniture. I got the walls patched, primed and painted before we hit the road for Sunday dinner with another family; again, we adults talked over some wine and Hors d’oeuvres while the kids ran in circles around the house and tired themselves out. Our hostess Sue was kind enough to have baked a birthday cake for Jen on top of a wonderful gourmet meal, so we got to celebrate twice in two weeks.
It occurs to me this foggy Monday morning how blessed we are to have so many great, generous friends. I’m exhausted but I can’t imagine a better summer weekend. Thank you everyone!