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DayCreek Journal

February 28, 2004

I Hate Those Meeces to Pieces

Rural Living Lesson #1: Never leave a vehicle unattended for more than a day or two.

Rural Living Lesson #2: Never underestimate the power of a mouse.

The plan has been to drive Jo's old beater...uh, I mean baby ('92 Subaru Legacy) while driving to and from Illinois to keep our expenditures down and conserve fuel. This plan was working up until about December when I started hearing a bad grinding noise coming out of the rear of the car. With everything else going on in our lives, I decided to wait until this week to get her car fixed. I did use the car once in January to drive into town, but other than that it really hasn't been used much this winter.

I tried starting the car, but no luck. It cranked over just fine, but it appeared as if no gas was getting to the engine. After careful inspection, I discovered that two cables had been gnawed in half. I was not a happy camper to say the least. The next morning I took the truck and drove into town to see if I could find replacement cables.

As luck would have it, there is a Subaru dealer in La Crosse. I went to their parts department and the gentleman behind the counter had an eerie resemblance to Mr. Haney. (That darn Mr. Haney always shows up whenever I need something!) I inquired as to the availability of the two cables. Mr. Haney found the cables in the parts catalog and quoted me a price of: $162 for a cam shaft sensor and $268 for a crank case sensor. (Evidently you can't buy just the cable, you have to buy the whole assembly.) I thanked Mr. Haney for his time and said "NO THANKS!"

I then went to a couple of auto parts store, but they didn't have any two conductor shielded cable. Finally, I ended up at Radio Shack and bought a spool of shielded microphone cable. It wasn't exactly the same, but I figured it would probably have to do.

I removed the two half-eaten sensor cables along with the sensors, soldered on the new cable to the nubs of copper wire left on the sensors and reinstalled the cables. While I was reinstalling the cables, I found another half-eaten connector, so I soldered it back together and tried to start the car. It sounded slightly better, but still no go.

I then found that three out of the four spark plug cables had been gnawed off at the base of the cable down by the spark plugs. They sheared the cables right off at the plug, but ate none of the cable. It was just cut in two!

So...back to town for spark plug cables. One hour later I had the new spark plug cables installed. Now for sure it's gonna work...WRONG! It still wouldn't start although it sounded like it might kick over any minute.

Back under the hood, I found another eaten wire that had been sheared off at the connector. This looked to be one of the fuel injector sensors. I got the soldering iron out again, redid the connection and ... it still didn't work.

Now I started looking way down into the lower portion of the chassis. There's a wiring harness that runs the width of the car below the radiator. Or should I say, there ONCE WAS a wiring harness. Well, actually, it's the outer shielding that is missing. The wires appear to be intact but the corrugated plastic shielding has be surgically gnawed into the bowel of some rodent.

Since the car is sitting in a puddle of melted snow water, I decided to call it quits until next week. Maybe by then the car will have been totally consumed and I won't have to worry about towing it away to some dump!

How Much Wood can Tom cut if Tom could cut Wood?
I knew how much Tom enjoys cutting wood, so I invited him out for a day of wood cutting. The few trees that gave up their lives were in the area in back of the solar collectors. If the winds were strong enough, they could have potentially damaged the existing solar collectors and IF I decide to install the solar electric system, I would need an area with good southerly exposure. Secondly, the trees will provide firewood for next winter's fuel supply.

There are quite a few Box Elders on the property and they really are kind of a "weed tree". There trunks are usually twisted and of no real value other than fire wood. They are a form of maple, and they can even be tapped for syrup, but it takes a whole lot more sap to make a gallon of syrup compared to a sugar maple. Needless to say I will no longer have to worry about them damaging the solar collectors.

Tom is really good with the chain saw and you never want to cut down trees on your own. It's always best to have someone with you to make sure no one gets hurt.


Solar Electric Update
The cooperative is suppose to get back to me with a new proposal that averages the kW rate for those customers who have a dual-fuel system. Minnesota law states that the utility must buy the power back at the average customer rate. Well, the average customer rate of .068/kW does not take into effect only those customers on the dual-fuel rate. Since I am a Dual Fuel customer, they feel it is only "fair" that my average rate should be lower to reflect the discounted price I pay. Needless to say, their proposed buyback rate will be lower than .068/kW. The question is, how much lower?

Besides the "tweaked" average rate, I am having trouble getting my insurance company to include our local utility onto my policy. With that said, I am getting quotes from other insurance brokers who do not have this problem. The saga continues...

Spring is right around the corner! Robins have been spotted in the area and the Sandhill Cranes have already returned to the Root River Valley.