Just Hanging Out With the Guys

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Nothing special about this picture. Just Diane and I hanging out with Canyon (on the Right) and Midnite (On the left). This was a Saturday morning a few weeks ago and we’d been teaching inner city kids most of the morning, so just went for a short ride for a break. Canyon is our horse (although to all extents and purposes he’s really mine). He turned nine the other day! Midnite is a Morgan horse that Diane borrows (and has fallen in love with!). He’s lovely to ride, but strong willed. Diane is riding English style (despite being American) whilst I’m actually riding without a saddle (though with a Western saddle pad for comfort of both horse and rider). I actually prefer to ride bareback as you have far superior communication with the horse. Alot of the time, when I bring Canyon in from the fields, I’ll just ride him with a bridle and bareback – great fun (and warm on a cold day).

So there we are. Nothing special, just hanging out and having fun.

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Catching Up and Introducing Sasha (the Scion)

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Sasha the Scion

I must apologize. I’ve not been around here much recently, due to heavy family and work commitments. The hours have been long and I’ve really not felt like sitting at a computer after I got home from work in the evenings. That said, it’s not that nothing has been going on. Far from it.Libby has been earning her keep.

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Libby in the sun. Note the plywood under the engine bay to catch the diff oil leaks.

 

I recently had Libby inspected by a local Land rover Specialist (Treasured Motor Car in Reisterstown, MD – great service for unusual vehicles), as not being a professional mechanic, for my peace of mind I feel it’s worth occasionally having someone do a once over to ID any potential faults. The long and the short of it, is that she’s basically OK, but they identified a number of issues that will need attending to in the not too distant future. These are all mechanical and should be feasible to do myself, consisting of renewing the track rod (tie rod) ends, the front wheel bearings (LHS is starting to get a bit iffy and I might as well do both at the same time) and the UJ’s on the propshafts need replacing (I knew about all of these and so it was nice to have my assessment confirmed. The front and rear diff pinion seals also need replacing, as both diffs are leaking oil all over the drive. OK, it’s a Land Rover, but I try to minimize the oil leakage as much as possible.This may be a bit more of a complex job, as I have a Salisbury rear axle and setting the pre-load on these is more complex. I need to read further to see if this is something I feel that I can do myself. All of this is dependent upon time, which is often in short supply at the moment. However, if we do build the garage this year, it will mean some where nice and comfortable to work. I have recently replaced the front window tops with superior aluminium Rocky Mountains ones, which are superb, but not cheap. I’ve also replaced all the window tracks in the rear windows and middle doors using the aluminum window tracks from the same manufacturer, which are far superior to the OEM type, though stiffer to slide the windows in. Pictures of some of the work are shown below and it will be detailed more fully later.

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Rusted out Middle LHS door window track

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Rusted Out Middle door window track

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Middle door window removed and rusted out track being extracted.

At some point in the future, both the front lower doors and the middle doors will need to be replaced, but for now, this will keep things more watertight. Further Landy posts to follow.

In other news, Canyon is doing well. He’s been off work for a few weeks due to some stiffness in one of his rear legs, but he is now recovering well. He’s growing a long coat with the onset of the colder nights.

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“Who are you looking at?”

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“What are you doing back there with my tail?”

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“No you can’t have my tail as a hair extension!”

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“OK, well I thought it was funny!”

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“Ahhhhh, that’s better. Grass,my favorite food!”

I’ve been commissioned to build a model for a friend of my fathers and have also been building an identical one for myself. These are 2 of the Vivian style industrial garratts in 7 mm (O) scale. It has been a long slog, but we are starting to make some progress now.

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Boiler – almost completely scrathbuilt

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Underside

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Two Garratt Boiler units

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Garratt with front and rear engine units attached

More details to follow later

And finally, I had to replace my regular car after it was damaged in a collision with a deer. This was an extremely unpleasant situation and re-inforced my opinion that insurance companies will screw you. The incident occurred when I was driving into work and a fawn ran right out in front of me and into the side of the wing. There was no way I could stop and unfortunately, the fawn was killed. I felt terrible about that, but at least it was quick. (We are over run with deer here and one has to be very careful driving at this time of year with all the young inexperienced ones around) It also stove in my bumper, the wing, the rad grill (but not the rad itself) and crumpled the hood / bonnet. Neither the airbags were deployed or any glass shattered and the vehicle remained driveble. Immediately afterwards, as required, I contacted my insurance company and from then on the situation went down hill. The long and the short of it, a very exasperating situation developed in which the insurance company screwed up just about everything and wrote off the vehicle based on very nebulous understanding, with no recourse. I felt that the vehicle was not badly damaged and this was confirmed by the body shop, who said that it was a relatively easy repair and that the frame was not twisted. I normally keep my vehicles for at least 10 years and 200K+ miles, so I was very annoyed that the insurance company wrote the vehicle off seemingly arbitrarily, without allowing any second opinion. This was despite the fact that I was prepared to pay for repair of the majority of the damage myself. I have actually taken action against them due to the fact that I have since discovered that they either misled me or flat out lied. This is still ongoing, but I can say that we shall be changing our insurance company shortly and that the current one will lose our business for insuring both the vehicles and the house. Ultimately, I have had to replace the vehicle and was fortunate to find one of the same make, but with only 31ooo miles on it. Not bad for an 11 year old vehicle. But, I would have preferred to have my original vehicle repaired (and it would have been cheaper as well).

So meet Sasha.

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It’s a first generation Scion Xb, and basically looks like something a young child would draw if asked to draw a car. Basically a box on wheels with all the aerodynamics of a brick. Scion is a marque of Toyota and the Xb is a lightly re-designed version of the Toyota Bb, which was available in Japan (and which may now be entering the UK market on the grey market). I think you either love them or hate them. I love them as they are small, economical, and you can stuff a huge amount of stuff in the back. I also like the fact that there is plenty of head room, even for someone of my height. Diane thinks that it looks like a miniature Land Rover and I have to admit when the two are close to each other, there is a certain similarity in appearance. I’m not that fond of the leather seats in this one and so a set of seat covers will probably be added at some point. And this one has a spoiler on the rear door, which will probably go at some point. Quite why anyone would put a spoiler on something shaped like a lego brick, I don’t know. I’m happy with the car, but I still wish i had the original one. However, I guess I’ll have this one for a good few years yet.

More to follow shortly

Down Came The Snow

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Sorry for the lack of posts recently, but we’ve been pretty busy the past few days dealing with winter weather. You may have heard about it. Actually, when all was done and dusted, we had about 32 inches of snow in a little over 24 hrs, which is quite a bit. Now the media were going beserk as usual and predicting the end of the world, but everyone has dug themselves out pretty well. I was off work Friday for another reason, but ended up using the time to prep the storm and work was closed on Monday and Tuesday to allow for clear up.

The storm began friday afternoon and by 4 pm, we were hunkered down. There was no where to be, but home and stay put. It snowed all night and all through Saturday

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Storm in progress on Saturday. Birds at feeders, which we had to replenish regularly, and my car on the right disappearing below a snow bank.

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View over the back garden Friday evening. Grover under cover and becoming a snow bank

Saturday continued in the same manner

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Ion watching the birds at the feeder

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Whilst Stewart gets pole position in front of the fire.

Fortunately we didn’t lose power this storm, so were able to get on with various things.  Diane decided to clean the house and proceeded to whirlwind through it, dispatching me upstairs to get out of her way (“No, I don’t want any help”!). So off I went and built a boiler for a locomotive commission I’m working on. Actually, I hadn’t planned to get to it until next week, so this was a bonus. Maintaining electrical supplies was also a bonus, as although we have a generator hookup, we don’t have a generator….yet! The biggest problem for us when we lose power (and it happens frequently at the best of times) is that the well stops working, which means we don’t have running water. This can be a bit awkward, particularly in summer….. At least with the fire, we have heat and can use it for cooking (we frequently do anyhow) and we also have oil lamps for illumination.

Anyhow, Sunday morning came and it was time to start digging.out. Fortunately the snow had been the light powdery stuff, not the wet slushy kind, but it had been blown in to drifts which meant that it was packed fairly solid. We have a long 50 foot drive and a large area at the back of the house to be cleared. I had prepositioned my car (the Scion) at the top of the hill, but Diane’s was entombed in the garage and the Land Rovers were gigantic snow drifts. In the past we had dug this all out by hand and let me tell you, that is a LOT of digging. I’d always resisted going out and buying a snow blower, as they are expensive and don’t get a great deal of use. However, two summers ago I found a second hand one that was about 25 years old for dirt cheap, so I bought it. What a godsend! Wish I’d done it earlier. My back thanks me. Diane thanks me! I must listen to my wife in the future. Anyhow, I call this thing “The Beast” as it is old school engineering with a Tecumseh engine and is a bit of a beast to control. I’m not sure if you drive it or it drives you. However, it really does the job and by noon on Sunday, we had cleared the drive out to the road. It was by no means easy, but by taking turns to drive and one person knocking down the snow to more manageable chunks, the thrower could clear a passage way.

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The beast after completion of operations on Monday

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Libby under cover and covered in snow

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Diane snow throwing – this is actually Monday morning

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Once we got out to the road, the world looked like this.

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The main road through the village. Road is open but not full width.

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One of our Neighbors houses

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Our house (the blue one), as well as our neighbors, showing the drive and the depth of snow)

Diane Snowshoe

We were taking care of our neighbors cat whilst she was away (sensible person) and for the first day, we had to snowshoe over to her house (even though it is just next door – the snow was just too deep). Here Diane returns from a feeding expedition.

Once we had gotten out to the road, we got a distress call from the barn. Beth had been going for nearly 2 days solid on her own taking care of the horses and was trying to keep things together. She was running on empty. So we threw The Beast into the scion and headed over there. The roads weren’t great, but I’m not bothered about driving on snow. It’s amazing how well my little Scion copes in bad weather.

We couldn’t get up the drive in the Scion as it hadn’t been plowed, but a friend with a humongous pickup truck met us and got us up there with the snow blower. Once there, it was a case of digging out paths from the barn to all the gates, so we could get the horses out of their stalls. They had been cooped up for 24 hours inside and normally they are outside 24/7, so they were eager to get out to the pastures. Plus a horse in a stall for 24hrs generates a LOT of poop! Using the snowblower, Diane and I dug out the gates so we could open them and carved paths from them to the main barn doors. Then the horses went out, which was the funniest thing I’d seen for ages and made it all worth while. They were kicking and jumping and rolling and galloping around in it. Great fun to watch.

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Isabel galloping around like a lunatic

A couple of other volunteers also managed to get in and help out with the horses, whilst Diane and I took hay bales out using snow shoes to the horses in the furthest fields whom no one had been able to reach. Under these conditions, snow shoes are not sporting equipment, they are an essential mode of travel. The horses didn’t seem very concerned about the conditions, but were happy to see fresh hay coming! Apparently, according to Beth, even at the height of the storm, they preferred to be at the hay bales rather than undercover in their run-in sheds. Daft creatures!

Afterwards we went home and straight to bed – we were knackered!

Monday was more of the same. We dug out the rest of our house and then went with the Beast to help a friend who was still stuck in. The only problem was that the temperature had warmed and the snow had compacted, making it heavier and more difficult to shift, even with the thrower. However, it allowed our house to sprout a great set of icicles.

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Icicles at the front door of our house

We saw a great sunset out at our friends as the sun went down and all the starlings were congregating in the trees. It was quite warm whilst the sun was up, but got damned cold once the sun had set.

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Tuesday – guess what? More of the same! First finish helping friend dig out and then over to Graham to help dig the barn out. By this time, someone had managed to clear the drive with the tractor, so I could get up there with the Scion. By now, several volunteers were in, so we were getting on top of things. The tractor was in full operation ploughing wider access paths so we could get the big round hay bales out. We were also able to get to the manure pile and get all the accumulated manure out of the barn, and I trekked out and opened up paths to replenish the water supplies for the horses in the furthest fields and to check on them.

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Canyon dozing in the sun with his purple sheet – doesn’t he look regal?

 

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The herd in Canyon’s paddock. Canyon on LHS with purple sheet. Shaggy (who belongs to / owns Pat) on the RHS without a sheet.

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Shaggy. He looks (and acts) like an aging hippy, but has a great personality and is incredibly friendly, especially if you have a carrot

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Bordick, Domino and Cheyenne in the far field – supremely unconcerned with matters!

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Yardly, with Dolly behind at the fresh hay bale

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A final picture of Canyon when we’d finished and went to give him a carrot – he was most happy with me!

So there we are, we made it through. I have to say that the state and county snow clearance was really top notch, as most roads were passable, if not fully open by mid day the day after the storm. Over the past few days they have been gradually expanding the open areas, but we were never marooned except during the actual storm itself. Of course there were some idiots as always who drove like complete morons oblivious of the conditions and managed to get themselves nose down in the ditch. Frankly I have little sympathy for them they are a danger to themselves and others.

Some sections of the media have been going crackers about how bad everything is and how we’ll be digging out for weeks. Well, today is Wednesday and I, along with almost everyone else is now back at work. The residual snow is now just a nuisance, but it will go away in it’s own time.

However, I do think that tonight, I will not do anything involving horses or shoveling. A hot meal, a bath, some iboprufen and some TV is in order I think!

A Good Day and an Unusual Use for a Land Rover

It was always going to be a long day……

As you may know, Diane and I are learning how to work with horses. We take lessons and volunteer at Graham Equestrian Ctr (GEC), a non-profit Facility dedicated to teaching people about horses. The facility is located in part of the Maryland State Park, on the North East side of Baltimore and has a diverse mix of people of all ages, abilities and disciplines. Being a non-profit (i.e. a charity), GEC tends to rely a lot on volunteers and so many of us get involved in the running of the place and its activities. This can involve anything from the usual mucking out and feeding of the horses, to repairing fences, writing policy documents, fund-raising, awareness, etc. Most of us have many different roles!

Much of what we do involves outreach activities. This can take many forms, but all have the common theme of making horse riding and the ability to work with horses available to anyone and everyone, not just the privileged or the uber-rich. One of the things we do is to give under-privileged children the chance to get up close and personal with horses by participating in working sessions with them. Normally these sessions are lead by Jim McDonald, one of the lead instructors, but this past Saturday, Jim was unavailable first thing so I drew the assignment.

So it was, I headed out to the barn about 7 am. Since my regular car was in for repairs to a slow leak in one of the tires and Diane wasn’t feeling great and decided to sleep in, I took Libby instead. As a result, I probably woke all the neighbors since Libby isn’t exactly quiet or subtle, especially at 7am!. Normally, if I take Libby to the barn, I go via the slower back-roads rather than the beltway, due to Libby being rather asthmatic and there being some pretty steep hills on the route. But at 7am on a Saturday, the roads were clear and we blasted chugged round the beltway with no risk of causing traffic delays.

The kids experience session went well and I think that they all had a good time. Unfortunately, I have no photo’s as I was talking for most of it! We generally start things off by explaining how a horse thinks and behaves, explain how to be around horses safely (“Quiet, Calm and put your cell phone away!”), and then get the participants to come in to the ring and clean up and groom one of the horses under supervision. Generally, we use our Canyon for this, since I know that he is used to it, likes children and is pretty calm. After the kids have finished grooming, we then we explain about saddles, bridles and bits and how to communicate with the horse. I usually get one of the kids to try and pick up both an English saddle and a Western saddle to show them the big difference in weight. This often involves questions as to “why are they are so different?”, why the western saddle is so much heavier and what they are used for. (A Western saddle is a working saddle for roping animals and needs to be much stronger to take the forces exerted on it). Finally, we spring the surprise on them – we put the saddle and bridle on and they get a Pony Ride! Some of these kids are from Inner City Baltimore and have never seen a large animal, much less a horse, so to actually ride a horse is a new and exciting experience for them. Often at the end, we get the request “Can I have another go?” All in all, whilst it’s very tiring leading the session (making sure everyone is safe and interested), we hope that it is an experience that they will take away with them.

Canyon earlier in the year having been playing in the snow

Canyon earlier in the year having been playing in the snow

Canyon and I took a bit of a break after this. By now it was 10:30 and we’d been going since before 8am, so we were both pretty tired and a little dried out. We were supposed to participate in a clinic with Jim to work on some issues. However, we both needed a break and whilst I lounged under a tree listening into the clinic instruction, Canyon had a drink and mowed the lawn (“Grass! My favorite food!”).

Canyon listening to Jim McDonald teach

Canyon listening to Jim McDonald teach

Canyon explaining something with Jim to Clinic Participants. It was hot so we are all standing under the tree for a reason!

Canyon explaining something with Jim to Clinic Participants. It was hot so we are all standing under the tree for a reason!

After a quick break for lunch (a doughnut), we then started work on the afternoons session, which was where the Land Rover came in.

GEC is the home base for the State Park Mounted Patrol. These are Rangers on horseback that patrol the various areas of the State Park, assisting and aiding visitors, keeping an eye on things (no bootlegging allowed!) and helping prevent problems. Along with mountain bikes (there is also a State Park Bike Patrol), horses can get into places in the back-country that motorized vehicles cannot and so provide a valuable tool for patrolling the park. Most mounted rangers are volunteers, rather like PCSO’s in the UK. They have much of the authority of regular rangers, but are not paid. New Rangers and their horses have to go through several training sessions and an assessment to demonstrate that they are proficient on horseback, and that their horses have the correct temperament for the job. Today was final assessment day and involved dealing with various distractions. To do this, we had set up an obstacle course consisting of various things such as flags, flares, floating balloons, a flapping tarp, a bridge, a moving bike, a pushchair (actually we used a wheel barrow as we didn’t have a pushchair!), mechanized machinery (the tractor got used for that one), a fallen log blocking the path and a car. Indeed the car had to fulfill two roles. In one part of the test, we had to mimic being stopped by the ranger and handing over our drivers license. In the second part, the vehicle had to mimic a police car with sirens and lights. Originally, the intention was to use Diane’s Prius (by now Diane had somewhat recovered and was also over at the barn), but the consensus was that it wasn’t imposing enough. Lets face it, whilst I love our Prius, it’s not very imposing!. So Libby got pressed into service. Which was how I found myself sitting in Libby handing over my drivers license to each ranger in turn as they did the course. Of course, Libby is RHD, so after confusing the first participant as they went through, who approached on the passenger side (this IS North America), I moved over to the passenger side for the rest of the exercise. None of the horses seemed bothered by the land Rover, despite having the diesel engine on high tick-over.

“What’s going on here then?

Peter McConaughy and Connor navigating the flares.

Peter McConaughy and Connor negotiate the flares.

Wendy and Dan (with Blondie) naviate the flares

Wendy and Dan (with Blondie) navigate the flares

Negotiating a fallen

Negotiating a fallen “log”

“Sir, can I see your license please?”

Connor isn't bothered by the tractor

Connor isn’t bothered by the tractor

The final part of the test involved the horses encountering a police car. For this, I was given a siren and a light bar and told to use them. How cool was that? It’s a long time since a Series Landy has acted as a police vehicle. (When I lived in Hong Kong back in the ‘80’s, all the police cars were S3 LWB station wagons painted dark blue). Of course, as with everything Land Rover, nothing is as easy as expected. The light bar was designed to be held to the car by magnets, which of just doesn’t work with an aluminium body. Still, we weren’t going anywhere so it just sat on the top. Making it work was harder, as it had a standard cigarette lighter connector, something Libby does not have. Still, I was able to jury rig something up from the 12 V connections on the dash. The test involved having the rangers circle the vehicle whilst blasting the siren, the horn and with the lights flashing!

Land Rover with lightbar and siren

Land Rover with light-bar and siren

Land Rover Carosel!

Land Rover Carousel!

Great fun! Fortunately, none of the horses spooked or were upset and all passed the test. However, as I sat their being circled by the horses, the thought went through my head was that this was a bit like being on a carousel! All it needed was fairground music!

So Libby got to be intimidating for once, all in a good cause. All participants passed and are now qualified Rangers. They will continue their training and have periodic refresher courses and assessments, which will be conducted at GEC, so I fully expect to do this again! Libby got to be useful and I had a productive, if long, day. What more does anyone really need?

Diane borrowed Blondie for a few minutes after the assessment.

Diane borrowed Blondie for a few minutes after the assessment.

Libby meets the original eco-friendly 1hp off-road SUV!

Libby meets the original eco-friendly 1hp off-road SUV!