Friday, August 08, 2008

Clean up

Time to do some long over due maintenance on my 1845 Case uni loader. Which I have been referring to as a generic skid loader. But now I have the service manual so I know what it's official name is. It has been losing traction on the right side and tend to acts like a man with one leg shorter than the other, tending to pull to one side. My brother Tom came up and we disassembled it enough to notice that it had a broken centering shock absorber on the right hand control arm. Afterward I spent an hour or so de-greasing and cleaning out the machine in prep for some annual maintenance. I am talking about removing at least an inch of thick oily crud from the innards. I don't think it has ever been cleaned since it left the factory. I swear it was smiling when I finished.
To fill in the gap while my uni-loader is down for maintenance Tom brought up his new, did I mentioned, air conditioned' skid steer. You just know I am going to do some playin...er working with this thing while I have it here.

My old uni-loader looked so good when I was finished I am thinking of re-doing the paint job. Any way enough mechanical gobbly gook.

My point is - I have been thinking about sustainability lately, and something I feel isn't mentioned enough, maintenance. Jeez, deep thoughts from someone who spent an entire career in the maintenance business and felt I never passed on the lesson well enough to anyone who cared. I had an intuitive grasp of the importance of maintenance but a boss who proclaimed that "maintenance was a black hole people threw money at..". I believe it could have been that comment that started me thinking of making some other career choices.

I believe one of the more important tenants of sustainability is "making do" with what we have. That implies we must maintain our equipment, trousers, houses, planet. Somewhere in the '50's we became consumers of a disposable society. Keeping our jeans patched, superfluous to consumerism. We buy new jeans that "look" old, perhaps with patches pre-installed in some Chinese factory. We buy ( O.K. more accurately- rent) a "new" car every two years. Toothpaste, whatever, proclaims "New and Improved". Buy me. Feel better - improved. Throw that "old" un fulfilling crap away.

One thing I enjoy about our little piece of this planet are the signs of where the original homesteader "made do". The fingerprints of someone who could teach me a lot about "making do". I believe his name was Henry Viney. We're doing some research on his contribution to our present lives. Nothing was wasted. Used oil cans were flattened and re-purposed as shingles. Twenty gallon drums split to make a waterproof covers for the ridge on the original homestead cabin. Door handles made from self-forged reclaimed iron. Even the pole barns - made from local pine, beams hand adzed to a rough squarness.

When I was about ten I remember my father showing me how to make shoe laces from discarded leather boots, using only a notched stick and a razor blade. At the time I thought the lesson interesting but quaint. Convinced it had everything to do with being poor. I missed the point.

I think that maintenance, taking care of things, is at it's best, a spiritual excercise. From our trousers to our planet. It's all the same. The only difference, one of scale.

We stopped by a local reserve yesterday and watched the progress an Elder and some helpers were making carving canoes out of some large cottonwoods. I hope a skill that gets passed on. Recycling at a fundamental level.

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