Yesterday I decided that I was going to reestablish a small garden plot in my back yard so that my daughter can learn how plants grow from seeds to flowers or edibility. Gardening has taken a back seat to other priorities for me in the past couple of years, but I know my way around that territory, and I want her to as well.
I got out my small rototiller from the garden shed. Unsurprisingly, it balked and no amount of yanking on the starter cord and fiddling with the choke could get it going. I was not too confident of my abilities to fix it, because I have somehow made it to a fairly ripe age knowing very little about motors (almost everything I know comes from one week in eighth grade shop class).
Now I like to know how things work. My dad claims that when I was a little kid, one of my favorite expressions was “let’s take it apart.” I like disassembling mechanical devices. But somehow I have a hole in my education about small motors. I skipped them and went on to computers.
So I called in reinforcements. My neighbor Steve knows a lot about cars and can talk extensively about carburetors, spark plugs, pistons, cylinders, ratios of air to fuel, and other pertinent topics.
We spent the next hour or so of the beautiful sunny Saturday engaged in enjoyable banter and discussion about machines of that sort as we got some supplies and worked on the tiller. Steve brought a product with the lovely name “Thrust” from his garage. When he sprayed that in the tiller's air filter it helped start the machine, but only briefly.
Steve diagnosed the problem as old gas gumming up the lines, so we emptied the half full gas tank into an old paint can. We then walked over to Connecticut Avenue get fresh gas at Exxon and a carburetor cleaner at Safeway, taking in the sights along the way.
When we got back, after a cleaning and new fuel, the machine was miraculously revived.
So I got a useful lesson in just about the amount of time that it would have taken me to spade the garden.