Friday, September 17, 2010

The Little Engine That Won't

Tempus fugit...what can I say. And the older one gets the tempus fugits even faster.

Let me fill you in on the latest dilemma. I've spent the greater part of the week on a particularly thorny problem. I've expounded before on landscaping issues which are part and parcel of living in my subdivision. There are rules. Actually, it is a very nice place to live. I love my neighbors, and the Homeowners Association is pretty good at planning little events to help keep it a real community. But there are rules, and I'm breaking one of the cardinal ones with my grass. I don't want to break the rules, but I do not take defeat lightly. So here's the scenario. I no longer have a landscaper. He was too expensive. He made more per hour than I do. But he was good. When you think about it, being good at what one does for a living - keeping consistently at peak best through the day-in and day-out grind - is not as easy as it's cracked up to be. No denying it. He was good. I simply could no longer afford the luxury.

As I've written before, I found a power mower in my garage. I dusted it off, oiled it up, and it sputtered along all summer - until two weeks ago. It's not an old mower. I pull the cord, the motor spins, but it doesn't kick in. (I have a John Deere riding mower in the garage as well, which also doesn't work and which needs to get hauled away on a trailer for servicing, but that's another story.) This is what I have learned about power mowers - they need three things to start: air, fuel, and a spark.

I learned how to change the spark plug - nothing. I learned how to change the air filter - still nothing. I drained the gas and re-filled it. Dead. Yesterday, I decided I'd clean the carburetor - at least I think it's the carburetor. I learned that when I press the little red "prime" button, a squirt of gasoline shoots through an opening inside what I think is the carburetor, and then into the part of the engine that houses the spark plug. Should it do that? I sat on the patio steps and thought hard about it - trying to get into the mind of the combustion engine. The spark that the spark plug is supposed to make probably ignites the little squirt of gasoline and that sets the whole caboodle in motion. Is that how it works? Could that be right?

I've tried getting a copy of my owners manual on-line. There is an owners manual for my lawn mower, all right. But instead of it being an owners manual for the walk-behind power mower, it's a manual for a leaf blower. The leaf blower manual is not much help. Did I mention that being good at one's job is admirable? Things should just work right. Is that a tall order? I want my lawn mower to work. I want the owners manual for the mower to be for the mower and not for a leaf blower. Should I print off the leaf blower manual anyway just in case I buy it one day? Did someone make a mistake and switch the two manuals? Maybe if I pulled up the manual for a leaf blower I'd find the manual for the lawn mower.

The lawn situation is getting pretty desperate, so I will have to hire someone to cut it. That should give me another week or two to tinker. I don't think the problem is the starter spring. Until yesterday I didn't even know there was such a thing as a starter spring. But I learned how to change that as well, just in case.

My reading assignment for the weekend will be to learn everything I can about the combustion engine. I cannot allow it to win. Like Winston Churchill, I will fight on the land...I will fight on the sea...I will never give up.

Wrestling the lawn mower into submission is one of my loftier goals. It's right up there with baking a flaky pie crust. (The secret is vodka.) I'll let you guess for which one.


  1. You are very tenacious. :) I don't think I could have stayed with trying to figure out the problem with the mower as long as you have. I probably would have given up and found a neighborhood kid with his/her own mower to do it.

  2. Red, some people would call it stubborn. I like tenacious better!

  3. The secret for a pie crust, I believe, is egg and vinegar (although maybe vodka would work instead of the latter). You are amazing, Grad. I hate machines and would rather go without food and cable TV than cut my own lawn. Keep us posted......

  4. Tinky, as you know water is the enemy of a flaky crust. The theory is, if one uses a certain amount of vodka to replace water, the dough is moist enough to roll out,'s the clincher...the heat of the oven evaporates the alcohol in the vodka, leaving left moisture in the crust, ergo a flakier crust. I haven't tested this theory myself, but I have assurances it works (and if it doesn't, I'm sure one can find something to so with that vodka in the freezer!)

  5. Good on you for even trying! I would have cried and pouted and manipulated someone handy into helping me out. I am NOT the most practical person. I bet you'll crack that mower in the end. Apropos of nothing, I happened to get a link on my site to your blogger profile where there is a picture of you. You always talk about how old you are getting and yet you look SO young!! I'm not going to believe this tempus fugit stuff anymore... you are just a slip of a girl. ;-)

  6. Litlove, you are too sweet. I plan on looking even better when I get the hang of "Photoshop!"