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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Between Now and the Turning of the Calendar

It is common to reflect on the past year and look forward to the next around about this time. Since embarking on the Year of Transition a few months ago, I have already written a bit in this vein.

At this point in time, it seems, that my progress towards my goal is taking a side step. Not the "two steps forward, one step back" that some write of, but there has been a bit of a course correction. When Artie, the truck began having problems a while back and went into the shop, I certainly did not expect the news that the mechanic delivered. It seems that the used engine that another mechanic swapped in for me was (a) not done especially correctly and (b) has developed serious issues. Long story short, the truck needs another engine.

Options are scarce and expensive from the mechanic's pool of sources; we have found other options and I have elected this time (hopefully for the last time) to buy a re manufactured engine out of Oregon. Yes, you read that correctly... I am having a truck engine shipped all the way across the country and am returning one the same way. Honestly it IS less expensive than other options, comes with an excellent warrant, the company has good reviews and thanks to my previous aggressive effort to pay off debts, I CAN afford it! It will set the pay off debts back a bit, adding debt back on previously paid off plastic, but the lions share of the cost will come from previous hex sign sales -- money in the bank.

With luck, this will be the engine that will last the aging truck until I no longer need him; his daily commuter status will end this coming year and he, too, can retire to the farm and make occasional trips to town for feed and lumber and to carry large hexen to UPS... a few times a month at most.
Meanwhile we have to come up with a pallet in good repair and several contractor plastic bags in which to contain the old engine, which will be strapped to the pallet, to be picked up by a shipping company, arranged by the rebuilder, for transport. Because we are sending the old engine first, they are covering the cost of shipping both ways as part of our deal. Apparently, they have a hard time getting folks to actually return an engine, rather than just "eating" the core charge.

So, for now, Artie is tucked in the back of a mechanic's bay. Soon we will have the old engine on its way and before spring, Artie shall return home.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, we have been enjoying a surprisingly abrupt onset of appears to be building into a serious Maine winter. While there is only about a foot of snow on the ground (sufficient to make my Yule day trek around the boundaries, to reset wards and charms, an exercise in breaking trail with snow shoes) we have since acquired a solid coating of ice on top of the snow which makes for very difficult walking. Tending the fowl is a challenge and my cohort took several nasty falls just prior to the Christmas holiday while helping me to acquire and butcher a turkey for a friend at work. He is currently nursing many sore muscles and a likely broken tailbone, from a fall on the porch steps.

He still managed to get out to Fergie, our tractor, to cajole her into starting so he could finally clear a bit of the accumulation from the driveway and, most importantly, the entrance at the road which was filled with road ice almost enough to block entrance and exit by the Subaru. With more snow falling today, and a final shift at work in town tomorrow, I am thankful for his efforts. Otherwise, I was planning to take the mattock and attack the end of the drive, as a (plastic) snow shovel would not have been up to the job. This is some, serious ice! But beautiful though!

On a different note, when I butchered our turkey for Yule, we decided that I needed to remove the feathers indoors, to avoid attracting predators to the rest of the fowl. As I struggled to extract the flight and tail feathers and pluck the remainder of the bird -- with both dry down and wet feathers from his flapping on the snowy ground sticking to my hands -- I wondered just why it was that "one must dry pluck a turkey" like a duck, instead of dipping them in hot water, like most folks do chickens. As frustrated as I was by the feathery mess, I decided to give the dunking a try and heated up a water bath canning kettle 3/4 full of water. K helped lift the bird high enough to dunk half of it into the water and... voila! feathers came almost literally flying off! Even the hard wing feathers only resisted a little! When that part of the bird was done, we held its wings and dunked the tail end equally successfully. The water did not damage the skin and the bird looked beautiful both before and after cooking. So I guess the folks who decreed that dipping turkeys was not to be done didn't have a big enough pot! From now on, that is how I shall do them.