Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Chronicling the cleanup and restoration of our house and property in northern Michigan

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Tractor Run

You may recall from the last update that one of the tires on the tractor went flat just as I was finishing cutting the grass, and that the rest were only a mow or two away from doing the same.  After getting back last time I set about finding replacement tires.  I wasn't able to find any place locally that carried the correct sized rear tires, but I did find a distributor online that had them.  With shipping and tax we would be looking at $220.  Not too bad, but I then took a shot at finding a set on Craigslist to save some money, and I hit the jackpot!  I found a seller with a full set in the size I needed.  He was selling the tires, wheels and snow chains for $100.  The seller was located about an hour from our house, but he offered to send them home with a co-worker, who lives just minutes from our house.  MAJOR SCORE!

Obviously, the tires need replacing before the next time the grass needs to be cut.  Shelly and I checked the calendar, and it looked like our next available weekend would be June 18-20th.  With our vacation in the Outer Banks in between then and now it became obvious that I needed to head up this weekend to haul the tractor back.  I knocked off work early on Friday and headed up.  Because I'd just be making a quick trip up and back this ended up a solo trip.  

One cool (I think) side note.  I learned this week from Shelly that I could download audio books as MP3 files from our local library.  I downloaded a couple books and uploaded them to my Droid, which I am then able to tie into my stereo in the Explorer.  I "read" a book and a half during the drives there and back, and it made the time go much more quickly.  This was far more convenient than audio books on CD, and safer.  I wasn't trying to swap out CD's while steering with my knee, while doing 70 mph and towing a trailer.  :)

The drive went well.  All was good traffic-wise, and I was even able to break for dinner at one of our favorite stops...the Know Good Bar in Atlanta, MI.  One of their specialties is the River Burger.  1/2 pound all beef patty, mushrooms, onions, mozzarella cheese, and pizza sauce.  Guess what I ordered.  :)  I arrived late to the house so I just relaxed, wound down and fell asleep on the couch while watching TV.

I woke in the morning at 5:30 ready to get a few things done.  The trailer needed some TLC, and with the tools and parts up there to do it...and with needing to haul a relatively large and heavy tractor about 400 miles...this seemed a good time to get it done.  The stake sides on the trailer were a bit loose, making the trailer a bit less stable then I liked.  So I drilled them and the frame out at the bases, and secured them with bolts/washers/nuts.  This significantly improved the overall stability of the trailer.  I then removed the mowing deck from the tractor to get it ready for loading.  Unfortunately, the tractor won't fit onto the trailer with the mowing deck.  Turns out that a 52" wide mowing deck won't fit onto a 48" wide trailer.  Go figure.  :)  Here she is, all loaded up and ready to head to Ohio.

With that done I headed in to do a bit of housekeeping, and to get ready to head back.  I cleaned the shower and then the refrigerator, and then got myself cleaned up.  I hit the road for home at about 9:30 AM.  

Back on the road and listening to my second book, it was another nice, uneventful drive.  My luck was running to the good, as when I was about an hour out from home I got a call from the tire seller on Craigslist.  Turned out that he had sent the tires home with his co-worker, and he was checking with me to see if I was available to make the cash/tire exchange that evening.  EXCELLENT!  I finished my drive, unloaded the tractor, and when I received the call from the seller's co-worker I met up with him and secured the new tires.

The tractor, in the garage in Ohio

The new tires

I'll be performing a few other maintenance odds and ends on the tractor while we've got it here.  I'm going to drain and refill the fluid in the transaxle, do an oil change, replace the air filter, degrease the motor, and replace a bunch of bolts that are missing that secure the fenders and seat to the frame.  I may also need to do something with the seat. think?  :)

So, the next trip up will be in mid June, to knock the grass down and to get a few things done.  We're really looking forward to July.  We'll be heading up the week after the 4th of July holiday to spend the whole week. WOOHOO!  I'm planning daily blog updates throughout that week.  I'll be posting an update after the weekend trip on the 18th, so I'll talk to you all then.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Four Seasons

The title of this entry has nothing to do with the accommodations.  We haven't gotten THAT much done on the place.  :)  Weather wise, we had a bit of a surreal weekend.  When we left Columbus, Ohio it was 82 and sunny.  When we arrived at Shangri La?  Thirty-eight, windy, and raining.  And, that was just the beginning.

Shelly stayed back in Ohio this trip, and I was accompanied by our oldest son.  Mike and I left Ohio at around noon on Friday, way earlier than originally planned.  I had been checking the weather radar, and storms were rolling in along our entire route.  I wanted to hit the road ASAP so that we wouldn't be driving through the storms after dark.  That worked out, and we arrived at Shangri La at 7:30 PM.  We watched a bit of TV to wind down from the drive.  Mike brought his DVD's, so we started in on season five of Smallville.

On Saturday we woke to a surprise...a near blizzard, with high winds that had the snow blowing sideways.  Our first priority was to get the toilet working.  At the end of our last trip up the toilet was blocked up, and no amount of plunging would get it going.  We had believed that one of our nephews may have flushed something down it, and that it was stopping it up.  I pulled the toilet and checked for a blockage, but found nothing.  Rather than mess around any more with this 20 year old relic of a throne, I decided to hit the Ace Hardware for a full replacement.  I got about 10 miles from the house and ran into this.
I'll remind you here that we started this trip at 82 degrees and sunny.  This pic was actually taken on the way back from the hardware store, after the plow trucks had cleared the road.  On the way there was about 4 inches of slush and ice on the road, and it was grabbing pretty good at the tires.  At one point it grabbed a bit too much, and it slowly dragged me off into the ditch.  Fortunately it was a gradual slope and not a dropoff.  I had a hard time stopping the Explorer on the frozen and snow/slush covered ground, but finally stopped it a few inches shy of a road sign.  I put it in reverse, but was getting nowhere.  I locked it into 4 low and tried again, and this time I was moving.  I got up some momentum, spun the wheel to square myself in the ditch, and backed up the embankment and back onto the road.  Still needed that toilet, so I continued on into Rogers City.

Finally making it to Ace I picked up the new thrown and a new mop.  Aside from replacing the toilet, my plan for Saturday was to dive back in on the basement, with the hope of getting the floors swept and mopped.  This was going to require some organization as well, as there's still quite a bit of "stuff" laying about in the basement.  The trip back home was far less eventful, and the toilet install went smoothly as well.  I guess this officially kicks off the eventual bathroom renovation.  :)
On to the basement, I began clearing sections so that I could sweep and mop.  The floor was pretty dirty from before we took ownership, and was made far worse when the sump pump failed and the basement flooded back in November.  I was able to get the basement dried out back then, but the cleanup...well, that's where I was now finding myself.  Not much more to describe about the work.  There's just no way that I can find to expound upon the intricacies of organizing, sweeping and mopping.  Instead, here are some pics of the finished product.

That pretty much took us to dinner time on Saturday.  Mike and I headed into Onaway, and had dinner at what is becoming one of our new favorite local haunts...Manzana's Deli.  Baked five cheese stuffed ravioli for me, and a buffalo chicken wrap for Mike.  Afterward we headed back to the house, and took in a few more episodes of Smallville before bedtime.

Sunday morning started out much nicer than Saturday.  Not a cloud in the sky, and a prediction for temps in the 50's.  My hope of trying out my repairs to the mowing deck was looking more likely.  I spent the morning tying up a few loose ends in the basement, waiting for the weather to warm up and the grass to dry out.  After lunch I set about removing the snow thrower and installing the mowing deck.  I had to fight a bit with the mowing deck, but once I figured out the trick of it it went on pretty easily.  I have to say, I was extremely pleased with the performance of the mowing deck following the repairs.  I got about 80% of the grass cut when I noticed that the tractor was pulling to the left.  The left front tire was flat, and with large cracks in it I knew there was no hope at all of just airing up the tire.  The tires were showing their wear, especially having sat outside for nearly two years, but we were hoping we'd get another season out of them.  No such luck.  I snapped some pics of the tires to capture the sizes, and I'll be looking for replacements.

That pretty much finished up the work day.  I went in, made some dinner, and Mike and I relaxed for the remainder of the evening.  We hit the road for home Monday morning, with a pretty good trailer load of junk for the dumpster at work.

Mike and I kept commenting on how surreal the weather was throughout the weekend.  We leave summer behind in Ohio on Friday.  We have blizzard like conditions on Saturday.  We have spring/fall like temps on Sunday.  Michigan weather certainly isn't boring.







Mike and I are actually thinking of heading back up this coming weekend.  I'd like to bring the tractor back to Ohio to work on replacing the tires, and maybe do some other fine tuning.  As for projects, most of the doors in the house don't fit into their frames worth a darn...sticking and rubbing when opening and closing.  Time for FUN WITH BELT SANDERS!  

We'll see what the week brings.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


One of the many projects at Shangri La has been rehabbing the 25 year old Homelite Jacobsen Garden Tractor.

After the original rehab work it's running well, and we made it through the first cutting season with no major issues.  I was even able to rehab the snow thrower attachment, and used it when we went up in December.

One thing that came up during the mowing season that needed to be repaired was the mowing deck.  The 1/2" shaft that supports the rear rollers wore through and snapped, and needed to be replaced.  At the end of the season we brought it down to Ohio so that I could work on it during the winter.  Best laid plans, and all...I didn't end up working on it until this weekend.  :)

I found the replacement for the broken part online, but it came with a price tag of $100 after tax and shipping.  Even after this I would still need to replace other missing parts.  I decided to make my own parts, and the final product appears that it will work well.

The picture below shows the old, broken shaft below the newly completed repair.  The original shaft was welded to the right height adjustment bracket.  I cut this off and drilled out the bracket, which then had it matching the other three brackets.  I purchased a 48 inch length of 1/2 inch rod stock, and a 36 inch length of 1/2 inch galvanized pipe to cut into sections to use as spacers between the rollers.  I was short one large roller, so I bought 4 hard rubber casters.  I removed the wheels from the caster brackets, and drilled out the wheel hubs so that the new 1/2" axle shaft would fit through the hubs.  I combined these 4 new caster wheels with a short roller to make "one" large roller.

Below is an underside view of the deck.  One of the front roller shafts also broke, so I used a length of the 1/2" rod stock here, too.  At each end of the new roller shafts I drilled holes and inserted beefy cotter pins.  To finish the job I scraped off all of the old grass and sharpened the blades.

The total bill for all of the parts ended up being around $65.  The casters and other miscellaneous hardware was $35 of that.  If I had gone ahead and purchased the factory original replacement part I would still have had to buy these items as well.  So, I saved a grand total of  $70 and I didn't have to wait a week for the part to arrive via shipping. Looking forward to trying it out.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Heading Back Up

Our next visit to Shangi La will be next weekend.  Stay tuned for a new update and pictures!