Apr 30 2011

Mudding in a Drought?

So, this weekend we decided to give “mudding” a second try.  Except for a few small showers, we haven’t had any rain here in Miami for a couple of months now.  Combine this, with the South Florida Sun, and there is no mud, just moist dirt.  So the question is, “did we go mudding?”. Well, that’s all is perspective I think.  Mudding fanatics take their jacked up 4×4’s and push them to the limit until they get stuck, flooded or break something.  There is no mudding this time of year in Miami, it’s bone dry out there.  Anyone with a truck that can handle some serious mud, may as well be on the pavement.  But for some of us, this means we can take our regular trucks into the woods and see how they handle on soft dirt.

We get stuck, we improvise, we get out, and in the end, feel proud of what we accomplished.  2 2-wheel drive trucks with good tires, and 2 4×4 trucks with city tires, make for a good time.

Apr 30 2011

Watermelon Garden – Week 11

I have completely stopped watering the Watermelon Garden.  Engineering Exams took over my priorities these few weeks.  With nothing but little rain and morning dew, it’s been trying to take over the yard.  See below:

As I was about to chop it back to size, I noticed a few lemon-sized melons growing, so I extended the watermelon patch.  I figured that if the melons formed under these conditions, I’ll continue to ignore the watermelon garden, which is now established.  I believe it will yield baby watermelons until the rainy season, where the big boys will come out.

Apr 21 2011

1993 Chevy Blazer Full Size 5.7L V8 knocking lifter

After an accidental redline, while truck was in Park, a lifter became damaged, and my truck starting knocking.  There are limited parts that can cause knocking, and one can usually identify by the location and tone of the knocking, where it is coming from.  While it was easy to identify that if was a lifter, it is difficult to identify which one without disassembling.   Best practice is replace all of them, while you;re already under the intake manifold.

A hydraulic lifer, typically found on gasoline engines, sits in a shallow pool of oil, and is essentially a mini pump.  In the case of a GM 5.7L V8.  The lifter sits atop the camshaft, and due to the camshafts shape, it’s rotation causes the lifters to move up and down at specific intervals as the camshaft rotates.

Right over the lifter sits the push rod which serves two functions.  It pushed the rocker arm, and also allows the lifter to pump oil into the upper valve heads.  The lifter has a piston inside, and spring, as well as a hold on the bottom end, and a hole on the top end:






The push rod is hollow and allows oil to squirt up through it.  In essence:

The camshaft pushes the lifter up
The lifter pushes the push rod up, while sending a oil through the rod
The rod pushes one side of the rocker arm up as well as dispersing oil
The rocker arm pivots and pushes down on the valve which allows fuel in or exhaust out depending on the valve.

Here’s a short on what my engine sounded like with a failed lifter:



So after hearing the noise, I was all like, “time to identify where it’s coming from”.  The best tool for this is the stethoscope:


By the sound being louder when checking the engine block, versus anything else moving around the engine, one can infer that the problem is within the engine block.   Eliminating any issues caused by the pulleys, belts, or anything being rotated by the engine crank.  The next step is to figure out if the noise if closer to the top or bottom of the engine, this can be done by listening to the engine block, then valve covers, then oil pan.

In this instance, the location and frequency of the sound, identified the problem as one of the lifters.  Usually the lifter’s spring will fail, or the bottom will fail, creating enough slack that camshaft “knocks” the lifter into the push rod.


The lifters on the 5.7L are located beneath the intake manifold.  So the valve covers, intake manifold, distributor, and heads must be removed to access the lifters.  This is a good time to check for other problems and refurbish the heads.  This is basically known as an upper engine rebuild.  The engine does not have to be removed.  I didn’t do it, but I probably should have.  Here are some pics for reference.    Please note that for the distributor pic the engine is in TDC (top dead center).  This means that the number 1 piston is all the way up and in firing position.  Also, when removing the distributor, it is normal to see it rotate a good 45 degrees counterclockwise on it’s way up.  The same must be reversed when it is installed.  This is due to the fact that the gear at the end of the distributor is a helical gear.

Apr 15 2011

Finding Cacita

When most people in Miami think of hunting, they think of driving to a hunt club, lease, or outfitter in North Florida, Georgia, etc.

Not me. I was taken as a young lad down Tamiami trail mainly into Loop Unit for the first time about 14 years ago. I remember telling my dad, “there’s no way that there are deer in here”. And about 30 minutes later, heard a big splashing follows by trotting away. I was hooked.

I remember one day while sloshing through we found a trail which led to a camp. Complete with two bunk beds. There were subtrails leadin to a swamp, a hammock, etc. There were welded tree stands about 60 feet up on dead trees. This was obviously a hunting camp used for years, when vehicles were allowed to roam the loop.

This place was only 1.5 miles in, but it was the longest hike through swamp and cypress to get there. It was our own secret spot, which someone else had abandoned. I ad seen deer there while camping and hunting, but we never caught one. We always wondered how we were going to drag a buck out of here, but never got the chance.

One day, while scouting, we found about 12 different tirds in about a 10ft x 10ft area. There were thick, and smelly, and looked like human feces, soft in the shape of a big Hershey kiss. I apologize for being so detailed, but to this day am unable to identify the animal that did that. Our best guess was bears. And that’s when the place got it’s name…Cacita. Pronounced cah-cay-ta in English. It’s a nickname for caca.

So now, 10 years since going Cacita, having the coordinates, I wanted to go back and check it out. A previous expedition last year led to lots of fallen trees and no sign of the trail, which was blazed pink (or faded hunter orange). I tried follow te coordinates, but ran out of water, and rain was creeping up.

So last weekend, I was able to recruit a buddy who was facinated with tales of this mystical place, and a scouting expedition was planned. We loaded up on water, got to the edge of a hammock, and pointed straight for the coordinates. After 5 hours of sun, green briar, fallen trees, and the thickest brush I’ve ever had to machete through, to travel about a mile, I saw a shotgun shell on the floor (Sign of human!!!). Follow by a single spray marking. We rested, and then looked for more markings….nothing.

Nothing but thick brush in evey direction, I may conclude that in 10 years, the Everglades has fully devoured Cacita. And it can only be found in my childhood memories, and those of my father. I may try again to find those bunk beds, but not in the near future.

Apr 15 2011

Aquaponics in the Yard Week 10

About the Aquaponics. This is about the time where I move on to something else. Lately it’s been hiking and engineering mainly. But to touch base on the Aquaponics subject.

I threw a few dozen feeders in the tank which died over a period of 3 weeks again. Instead of removng them, I left them in there, to make the wate super nutrite-rich for the plants. The green pepper seemed to be the only one to enjoy it.

At this pont, the only plants that I can call success with this deep water nutrient technique was the cilantro and definitely the mint, which seem to so well in any system for that matter.

The lettuce was also a success. I am going to change the system now. I plan to plug the current drain, and begin to drain the PVC lower. Thus creating a nutrient film this time.

I may also use a timer versus the constant flowing system. I beliee this will make the strawberries happier and reduce rotting.

So next on the menu,
Drill a hole to drain the system almost completely. Put a timer. Increase the oxygen pump. Change the fish to oscars (while giving away the Koi).

Apr 15 2011

Human Mammal, Human Hunter – Attenborough – Life of Mammals –

What a hunt.


Apr 3 2011

Tiny Planet Photomerge