The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

February 29, 2012

Running Out of Time To Repair Equipment

Filed under: Equipment — bob @ 12:59 pm

I looked at the calendar a couple of days ago and realized March is almost here.  Since March is always so busy, I planned to get all of my garden equipment in shape by the end of February.

The last big project is the rotary tiller — its carburetor needs work.

My deadline for fixing the carburetor on my tiller  has arrived.

I’ve rebuilt a few small engine carburetors in the past.  I’ve even done a couple of auto carbs years ago, so I have a good idea of what it’s all about.

I’m convinced that anyone with a mechanical aptitude and the ability to follow written instructions, can do this job.  It takes a positive attitude and some time.

For those who have no idea where to start, I put together a summary of the steps involved.  It may convince you to take your equipment to the shop instead.  On the other hand, it may inspire you to take the plunge and give it a try.  Remember, if you can’t get it to work, you can always take it into the shop later.  In the meantime, it will give you a chance to try something new– and an excuse to use that new tool set you bought.

I did catch a little break — February has 29 days this year.  That gives me an extra day to finish repairing that tiller before my deadline passes.


February 28, 2012

Rebuild a carburetor

Filed under: Equipment — bob @ 4:17 pm


Moderately Challenging

Things You’ll Need

Carburetor rebuild kit
Service manual
Mechanic’s tool set
Cleaning solvent
Air compressor


At first glance, rebuilding your small engine carburetor looks like a daunting task. However, most backyard mechanics with moderate mechanical skills – along with attention to detail– will be able to tackle this job. Yard and garden tractor carburetors are relatively simple compared to fuel injection systems or even automotive carburetors. Most styles of carburetors share similar features. However, each make and model of garden equipment is different and has its own set of specifications. No single reference can cover in detail all the differences therefore; you must have a service manual covering your engine model.

Here's the carburetor on my Troy Built tiller waiting to be fixed.

Removing the Carburetor

Step 1

Disconnect the battery cable if equiped. Close off the fuel valve between the gas tank and the carburetor. Use a spray can of carburetor cleaning solvent to clean off grease and oil deposits from the area near the carburetor. Take care not to spray the solvent onto plastic parts. Remove the choke cable, throttle cable, governor linkage and air cleaner. If equipped, disconnect the fuel shut-off solenoid. Unbolt the carburetor from the intake manifold and lift it away from the engine.

Step 2

The carburetor will still contain gasoline inside the float bowl so it remains highly combustible; handle it with care. Take notes during disassembly in case a question arises concerning how the parts fit during reassembly. Clean off outside surfaces using carburetor cleaning solvent taking care to protect plastic parts.

Step 3

Gently screw in the idle adjustment screw and main jet screw all the way in; count the number of turns. Record the number of turns in your notes; this will give you a starting point for adjustment after reassembly.

Step 4

Note the orientation of the parts as you remove them. Do not throw away any parts until you finish rebuilding and the engine is running properly. Because some rebuild kits contain extra parts—some of them closely resembling one another–you may need the old parts for comparison. Inspect all parts for wear, some parts may not be included in the rebuild kit; you will have to purchase those replacement parts separately.

Disassembly and Cleaning the Carburetor

Step 1

Loosen the screws securing the top and bottom halves of the carburetor. Separate the top half. Empty the gasoline from the float bowl into a safe container for proper disposal. Refer to the service manual during disassembly to avoid damage to the carburetor. Take apart the brass float and needle valve assembly. Remove the idle jet screw and main jet by unscrewing them all the way out. Remove the throttle valve and choke valve.

Step 2

Remove all Welch plugs by piercing them with a small, sharp punch taking care not to nick the carburetor body underneath. Remove other parts as instructed in the service manual.

Step 3

Soak all of the parts in carburetor cleaning solvent for about 12 hours. Check the service manual to make sure it is safe to soak plastic parts.

Step 4

Remove the parts from the cleaning solvent and thoroughly rinse them with clean warm water to halt the corrosive action of the solvent. Blow-dry the parts with compressed air.

Step 5

Clean all exposed orifices — including those under the Welch plugs – with solvent and compressed air. Never use wire to clean orifices. Wire will enlarge the orifice diameter and cause damage to the carburetor.

Reassembly and Re-installation

Step 1

Install new Welch plugs using the end of a wooden dowel of the same diameter as the plug. Position the plug over its opening, and then align the dowel on the plug. Gently tap dowel with a hammer driving the plug into place until it is flat — not pushed in below the surface of the carburetor body. Seal the plug with a fuel-resistant sealer. Fingernail polish makes a good substitute sealer.

Step 2

Install and adjust the new parts from the rebuild kit as indicated in the service manual. Check the float level; adjust if necessary. Reinstall old parts in good condition not included in the kit. Place a small drop of thread lock on the throttle plate and choke plate retaining screws.

Step 3

Screw both halves of the carburetor back together making sure the gasket is in proper position.

Step 4

Clean the area around the intake manifold. Bolt the carburetor with its gasket back onto the intake manifold. Reconnect the choke cable, throttle cable and governor linkage. Clean and reinstall the air cleaner. Reconnect the fuel shut off solenoid if equipped.

Step 5

Refer back to your notes to determine how far in the idle and main jet adjustment screws need to be turned. Turn the adjustment screws all the way in then back them out the required number of turns.

Step 6

Reconnect the fuel line and turn on the fuel valve. Reconnect the battery cable.

Step 7

Make the final carburetor adjustment as indicated in the service manual.


Your local public library will have service manuals available for loan.

Rebuilding a small engine carburetor is like putting together a puzzle.  It takes time and all of the pieces must fit before it is finished.


Bitter tasting carrots

Filed under: Storage and Preservation,Vegetables — bob @ 12:58 pm

Not long ago,  I came home with a bag of carrots from the grocery store. It was disappointing; every carrot in the bag was bitter tasting. This reminded me of the experience I had many years ago as a new gardener.
Back then I had a plan to grow enough fruit and vegetables to last through the winter. I grew carrots, cabbage, onions, apples and some other produce I wanted to put into storage. I built a small storage space and carefully put my produce away.
All of the fruit and vegetables I was storing had similar storage requirements. They needed a temperature around 32 F and fairly high humidity. It made sense to me to store them all together in the same space.
Later in the winter I took out some carrots to use. They all had that bitter, almost soapy flavor. Later I learned that apples give off ethylene gas. The ethylene caused the carrots to form chemical compounds called terpenes. Those terpenes were the source of the bitter flavor.
Somewhere along the line, the carrots I bought this week must have been exposed to ethylene; probably from apples in a cooler.
That’s a good reason why you shouldn’t store apples and carrots together in the same refrigerator drawer; especially if you don’t plan to use them right away.


February 2, 2012

Ground Hog Day

Filed under: Weather — bob @ 12:57 pm

Ground Hog Day is here already.  Most people probably look at this day as a quirky PR stunt dreamed up by the city fathers in Punxsutawney PA.  In Howell, they have Woody the Woodchuck.

I’m not sure, where or when Ground Hog Day got started but farmers in our area used to use this day as a reminder to check their hay and livestock feed supply.  If the storage bins were more than half-full, then they were in good shape until spring.  If not, then they would need to think about buying more feed because they might run short later on.

This all fits in with phenology, the science of observing natural events in the environment.  Phenologists record the dates of things such as when certain flowers bloom or when crickets first start to chirp in the spring.

Information like this, logged over many decades, may show certain trends like earlier blossoming of spring flowers.  Date like that could indicate a trend toward a warmer climate.

I remember when I was a little boy listening to farmers saying they needed to plant corn when the oak leaves were the size of squirrels ears. If you look at young oak leaves in the spring, you’ll notice that is just about the right time for field corn to go into the ground. The corn planting date changes somewhat from year to year depending upon weather conditions and that is reflected in the growth rate of oak leaves.

A well-known practical use of phenology is the timing of crab grass control. The blooming of forsythia is the signal for applying crab grass herbicide.

I wonder if professional phenologists argue that Ground Hog Day isn’t really phenology.  It probably doesn’t matter too much since meteorologists have already gone ahead and claimed this as their special day.


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