three days without pills

Sunday night and I wrote more than one entry’s worth, so I split it in half and will post the spillage tomorrow. Makes things easier for me, and helps to avoid last week’s spotty posting style. This entry can be summed up as a “blog update,” so to speak. The “meat” of it is down below, but here’s a couple shorter updates before we get to that. Enjoy.

First off, an update on my post about my attempts to kill off the bermudgrass armies marching on my front lawn. This past Friday, nearly a week to the day I sprayed, I finally started seeing results. The weedy areas are browning up, but the good turf still looks healthy, untouched. I’m not sure if I need another application or not, I was going to do it on Saturday – but I think I’m going to give it a few more days lest it just needs more time and I over-poison.

Next, remember that ridiculously obscure state-mandated test I mocked when we learned Sharaun would have to take it for her teaching credential? She took two of the three units (the hard two), and, to her immense surprise, passed them both. The day after the test, she came home so bummed, convinced she’d failed. She didn’t even logon to the website to check her scores. But, when the official results came in the mail – she had passed both. It really made her happy, and that made me happy. One more unit to go (the one about songs and dance and whatnot), and she’ll be done.

Flashing waaaay back to the entry where I learned of my allergic-to-cold malady – last week I ran out of my allergy medicines, and I forgot to fill them right away. By the third day without pills, I was nearly unbearably itchy. I itched when I got out of the shower, when I drove to work with the windows down, after coming back into the air conditioned building where my sheen of summer sweat slowly cools off. Guess this nuisance disease is here to stay for a little longer, which really bums me out.

Finally, remember when I told you that Pat and I had talked about fixing up my grandpa’s old highbanker? We were planning a camping trip with a gold panning theme. Well, we finally pegged the weekend for the trip – Labor Day, and on Saturday Pat urged me to bring over the pieces parts of the machine so we could try and get it up and running. My previous description of the machine, linked above, was actually inaccurate. What I was describing was a dredge/sluice combo – where my grandpa’s old equipment is really just a water-assisted sluice, also known as a “highbanker.” It consists of an engine, which runs a pump. The pump sucks water from the river and routes it through a hose to a sluice. You then dump buckets of sediment onto the sluice and the running water powers it over the “riffles” (bumpy-edged stuff) in the sluice. The heavier stuff (including gold) collects at the bottom of the riffles, usually on black rubber mats. These “leavings” are then panned to reduce them to the “take,” or gold. It’s a fairly brilliant idea – elegantly simple.

My grandfather’s old highbanker was in need of some repair. First, we had to ensure that the old Briggs & Stratton motor was still operable. Once we emptied out the old oil and fuel and replaced them with fresh stuff, we mounted the motor to a piece of 1″ board and fired it up. Without much effort, the old motor was puttering away like a champ. Now, let me explain the basics of how the contraption works. While modern power-sluices or highbankers employ a motor/pump combo unit, my grandfather’s solution was simply a small engine powering a stand-alone pump. The two are connected by a drive belt, the engine turning the pump. In my grandfather’s original implementation (which I only know about because I was given hand-written instructions from my mom’s cousin when I inherited the machine), simplicity ruled. Both the pump and motor were mounted to pieces of 1" thick wood, and these two pieces were connected by way of a couple door hinges. When you connect the pump and engine with the drive belt, the two hinged planks can’t lay flat, and the weight of the pump pulling on the hinges provides the tension on the drive belt. Imagine it like this:

I spend too much time in Visio.

With this “clapper board” arrangement, there’s no elaborate mounting constraints to ensure the proper amount of belt tension – gravity takes care of that. Not to mention, you can tap out the hinge pins and separate the pump and engine boards for easier transport and storage (also mentioned in those hand-written instructions). When I got the parts, both the engine and pump mounting boards were missing, as was the drive belt. Pat and I made a trip to the hardware store and picked up some hinges, 1″ board, and a drive belt for an edger. We quickly mounted the engine and pump, and connected them with the door hinges. The gravity-tension on the belt worked perfect! We then moved the whole rig out to his backyard, where we’d be testing it in the pool. We attached the short intake hose to the pump, and dangled it into the pool. Then stretched out the long output hose around to the other side of the pool. Pat suggested we “prime” the pump by pouring some water into the intake hose and pump itself, this way, the pump would start sucking water as soon as the engine started turning it. His suggestion was a good one, as the pump would only start sucking water well after it was properly primed. Once we got it – it worked like a charm. So good, in fact, that we were both surprised by volume of water the little rig was transferring. Some imagey-goodness for your approval:

Affixing the hinges to the engine side of the “clapper board.”

Mounting the pump, the clapper is attached and hinged.

The hinged pump providing tension for the drive belt.

Hoses attached, getting ready for the test.

It works!

Labor Day could be payday if this thing works out right. Well, not really… but it would be super cool to at least get some dust/flakes from the process. I’ll be happy if we find anything. Changing subjects a bit, we’ll be camping for the next two weekends. This coming weekend at Erik and Kristi’s wedding, we’ll be camping on their land – where the ceremony and reception will be held. I’m actually in the wedding, so I’m really excited about heading down. I’ll be taking Thursday afternoon and all of Friday off from work so we can head down early for the rehearsal and dinner, and get in a couple more evenings of camping. It should be a great time, the weather is supposed to be perfect – and they dug a true firepit, ringed in stones and accented with stump-chairs – not to mention the beer. So, wedding camping this weekend and gold-prospecting camping the next. I’m pumped… really looking forward to both.

With that, goodnight or good-day – depending on where you are.

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