Don got me thinking about fixing or tossing stuff (we call it “repair or replace” now, because that’s how we roll). I grabbed a long-favorite 10-year old shirt this morning and noticed the cuffs are fraying. I suppose racer tape will keep that from being too too noticeable but I need to find my roll with the pale red, blue, green and white stripes to keep peeps from remarking on the tape.

Anyway, I never bought a netbook but I do have a Palm Tungsten T and a pellet stove.

Both broke.

Even if I hadn’t lived in Vermont (motto: Bet ya can’t name two of our towns) for more years than anywhere else in my life, so far, I come from an old Quaker family that never threw anything away. My loft is living proof. When we moved here, I brought 30,000 pounds in two moving vans and still had to tow the race car behind my truck. When my parents and grandfather moved out of the family home, I got the rest of the family history.

New Vermont motto: If Harper can’t find it in the attic, you don’t need it.

When I “upgraded” to Windows 7, it immediately orphaned my Palm PDA. The Palm still works perfectly well but the Palm HotSync™ app won’t load and my calendar and address book sync doesn’t.

Real Vermonters, tinkerers all, really really used to believe in fixing things.

I have tried to “fix” the Palm. I still have some hope but it is on the shelf for now. Meanwhile, it got cold in here.

The pellet stove has been difficult all this heating season. It all started when Anne noticed the fire was “doming” in the firepot. The dome threatened to pus fire back into the pellet poop chute. Not a good thing. Pellet stoves put out very little ash and what ash this one did make seemed to form a dome instead of flying out of the firepot like good ash should. I was down to South Puffin at the time and couldn’t tell if our new pellet supplier caused the problem or that the forced combustion air system wasn’t forcing enough (or any) air. The combustion fan ran but Anne couldn’t detect any air going through the firebox. Trouble was, we had no way of knowing if that meant there wasn’t any air going through the firebox or just that Anne couldn’t detect any air moving.

I have tinkered with it, cleaned it, and even invented new parts for it for most of the past couple of months. The fire kept doming. On Friday, the automatic pellet feeder stopped feeding pellets. And I’ve washed my hands entirely too many times, although not of the stove.

Wood ash gets into everything. I should have remembered that.

I thought I was doing a good job cleaning the stove but I took it apart this weekend. Something was blocking the air flow and by golly I was going to find it. I found hideyholes I didn’t even know existed. And to find them, I disassembled things I wasn’t sure actually came apart. I even had to RTM.

That’s why I had to keep washing my hands. Wood ash and soot gets into everything.

The right “brick” — it’s actually cast iron — in the firebox hides a passage to the flue. The brick should come out by pulling it up and then towards the front of the stove. The peeps who designed this thing and wrote the manual obviously never worked on a stove after it had been in operation.

Got the brick out. Lots of dust and soot and ash buildup clogging everything. Lots.

I took a bucket load of the dust and soot and ash out of the stove, learned a bit more about how it works, and discovered that it goes back together a whole lot better when clean than it came apart when clogged.

On to the feed auger which was what started this entire exercise.

I cleaned out the feeder tube and the auger still didn’t turn. When I say “cleaned out the feeder tube” I ain’t whistling Dixie. Our vacuum cleaner apparently has an Express Mode on the hose operation which sucked a magnet off the refrigerator at 50 paces. It made short work of the pellets in the tube. Pretty simple operation that. Suck, let some fall past the screw, suck more. A quick look with a mirror showed shiny metal everywhere so I pushed the start button. Ignition and combustion air but no pellet feed. I could hear and feel the feed motor running.

Turns out I looked too quickly.

A better look with a mirror showed some pellets still hiding up in the northeast corner, sort of jammed between the screw and the square corner (square corner???) of the tube. Wiggling the screw didn’t move them and the gear motor made it impossible to turn the screw. I couldn’t even bend a tool up to them, including the ubiquitous coat hanger.

Real Vermonters, tinkerers all, are ingenious about finding solutions. I called Anne.

Anne fixed it.

I had given her bad instructions for disassembling the auger assembly back when we were trying to clear jams over the phone but she made ’em work anyway. I asked her to show me what she had done to clear the feed tube jams. She wasn’t able to pull the motor-and-brackets-and-auger out of the tube but she unbolted it and could turn it through almost a full rotation and that cleared it.

We have fire thanks to our own ingenuity.

But I AM™ ashamed to admit I replaced the Palm with an iPod Touch.

5 thoughts on “Broke

  1. Vermonters have the reputation of self-sufficiency but we seem to be losing the ability to get that way ourselves. Our mechanics don’t learn under the shade tree and no one repairs a TV anymore.

    The organic vegetable and strawberry Littlewood Farm, for example, offers internships with education opportunities in mechanics and tractor operation greenhouse management, irrigation, insect scouting and organic sprays, mechanical cultivation, hand weeding, crew picking and packing, marketing, and soil management.

    The University of Vermont offers a Farmer Apprentice Program with comprehensive training in all aspects of the business of farming, including selling and distribution and hands-on on the farm experience.

    UVM charges $4,800 for the five month program but Littlewood pays a $100-200/week stipend and all the veges you can eat.

  2. I can name two Vermont towns: Maple and Syrup. Hellooo! We see them all the time at Safeway, and I don’t like the taste. I prefer cane syrup from the Mississippi Delta and environs.

    But more specifically, why in the world would you want a palm up in Vermont? It is a tropical plant, not like those bleeding trees that produce the obnoxious sap of the aforementioned.

    As for you attic, it was that great conservative icon George Will who — when bemoaning the squiggly light bulbs that have been forced upon us — said that everyone should be like his family and have their basement’s stuffed with incandescent bulbs. Here in Hou TX no one has a basement, but each house has an attic. Mine is full of toilet paper, incandescent light bulbs, 15-10-5 fertilizer and stabilized branch water.

    Let me coin a phrase: “If Poleczech can’t find it in the attic, you don’t need it.” Nice ring to it, eh?

    Wot’s this thread about, anyway?

    — George

  3. Barre (My BF was born there). Burlington. Stowe.

    Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen escape to Vermont (“Must be beautiful this time o’year…all that snow…”) and stumble on Dean Jagger managing an inn (“General Waverly…a JANITOR!”) Hijinx ensue and everyone gets to sing “White Christmas” at the end.

  4. Wot always amazed me about that movie — and I loved it– was that no one was worried about being snowed-in…wot they would eat or where they would wash their clothes or where they would go to pee. But then, we were asked to disregard believability in the 50’s, and we did.

    I loved Rosie…I distrust her liberal progeny who bears my namesake. I grew up on her music. Beautiful lege, too. I always liked Bing and Vera and Danny.

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