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Possum Living, by Tracy
- Fri, 04 Apr 2014 14:23:00 -0600: Granville King: The World's Best Shade-tree Mechanic - Possum LivingI grew up around Jeeps. When I was a kid, Wranglers didn't exist and wouldn't for a long time to come. Even the CJ-7 didn't exist yet. CJ-5s were new Jeeps that some people used as daily transportation, but lots of people had an old flat-fender Willys Jeep out back for hunting and exploring the backcountry. You could pick one up for anywhere from a hundred to a few hundred bucks, and keep it running indefinitely with basic hand tools and very little money. There was pretty much nothing that could go wrong with one that you couldn't fix well enough to limp back home with a pair of Vice-grips, a roll of baling wire and perhaps a flattened tin can. Then when you got paid again, you could fix it as good as new, right in your own backyard. New Jeeps are nothing like that. In the entire history of the Jeep, only one man has understood what Jeeps are really all about well enough to convey the idea to the rest of us in the form of books and articles. That man was the late Granville King. "Granny" as he was known by some, began working on WWII jeeps in 1944, and continued until his death in 1989. The last decade or so of his life was spent as a hermit/ beach bum in Baja on the Sea of Cortez with his best friend "Superdawg." Granny lived in a small travel trailer and had a makeshift shed where he tinkered with his many Jeeps, a Honda ATC110 and several other vehicles, and once a month he would drive to San Felipe to mail his monthly article to Four Wheeler Magazine and pick up the check for the previous month. In those days I subscribed to Four Wheeler, and Granville's articles were my favorite part of the magazine. King also wrote the definitive Jeep manual, linked below. I noticed that some reviewers didn't rate the book very highly because they were expecting a detailed service manual. The "Jeep Bible" doesn't replace a factory service manual for your specific Jeep, but it is a must-have for any serious Jeeper. A service manual won't tell you how to effect a backcountry fix that will get you back home. This book will.
- Tue, 01 Apr 2014 09:21:00 -0600: Cheap Chinese Air-Cooled Engine Powering a Full-Size Tractor - Possum Living
This is amazing. A full size Massey Harris 33 tractor powered by a cheap 13 hp Chinese air cooled engine. The owner simply put a chain sprocket on the input shaft of the tractor's original transmission, and a centrifugal clutch on the engine. He's using it for actual work too; not just putting around for fun. Hmmm. I have an old flat-fender Willys jeep with no engine... Seriously, I have been thinking about getting one of these engines. Harbor Freight had them on sale for $350, and I found a 25% coupon code I could apply to it. Then shipping and sales tax brings the total to approximately $305. Before buying though, I decided to look on Amazon because they often beat any other deal I can find. Lo and behold, here's one for $280 shipped!
- Sat, 02 Nov 2013 12:50:00 -0600: The Best Cornbread in the World - Possum Living
The best foods were developed by poor folks, making due with what they have available to them. Mexican food, Italian food, Chinese food, Southern barbecue were all developed by salt of the earth types of people, using a few cheap ingredients to create as flavorful a dish as they could manage. Meat, if included, is usually from animals that are either cheap and easy to raise on a small homestead (like pigs and chickens) or wild creatures that are plentiful and easy to trap (like shrimp, crayfish AKA crawfish or crawdads, blue crabs, even sparrows in Mexico). I refer to this kind of food as "peasant food". Most of my favorite foods are peasant foods. And of those, pinto beans and cornbread are one of the absolute best dishes, as well as cheapest.
As an aside, I have noticed that many young people think ramen noodles are a cheap way to eat. They are not. For one thing, you simply cannot subsist on a meal of ramen noodles for very long. It is just not very nutritious. For another, although ramen noodles look cheap when you are looking at a package that costs only ten cents and supposedly serves two, it is really not that cheap. A meal of cornbread and pinto beans is much more nutritious and filling, and can be much cheaper than ramen noodles, depending on the ingredients you use and how you obtain those ingredients. If you have a small homestead and can raise your own beans and corn, and perhaps a couple of hens for eggs, it can be free if you forgo the milk. Or, even if you buy everything and don't scrimp too much, you can buy milk, eggs and dried beans at the grocery store, and either corn meal at the grocery or a 50 pound bag of dry corn at the feed store (currently about $7.50 where I live) and grind it into meal on a $25 Corona mill. Even if you buy cornmeal at the grocery, you spend less overall on your food bill. This is because, as mentioned before, you can't live on ramen noodles alone, not for long. But you can literally live on beans and cornbread, or even beans and corn mush, which is just cornmeal and water, cooked in a skillet.
But enough about that; I promised to share my cornbread recipe. This recipe is not the poorest possible, but it also doesn't have flour or sugar in it. You don't need those things, and the originators of cornbread didn't have them. If they had, they wouldn't have been making cornbread to begin with. So just leave those things out, and give it a try. You will be amazed at how sweet it is, without sugar. I have seen "cornbread" recipes that are made with a mix of 20% cornmeal and 80% flour, and loads of sugar to boot. That is not cornbread, in my opinion. This is:
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup shortening, lard or bacon fat
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat the fat to smoking in a 10" cast iron skillet on the stovetop, while mixing the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. When the oil just starts smoking, swirl it around to coat the sides of the skillet, then pour it into the batter and mix it in well. Set the skillet back on the stove, turn off the stovetop, and pour the batter into the skillet. Pouring it into the hot skillet will create a nice crust. Put it in the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges or slices, add real butter, and enjoy.
Actually, this cornbread is so good, you can leave out the butter if you prefer. It is amazingly sweet, even though it is not sweetened.
- Wed, 02 Oct 2013 17:17:00 -0600: Wages Of Fear - Possum Living
Actually, "Sorcerer." But the original French film was called "Le Salaire de la peur," or "The Wages Of Fear" and for some reason I can always remember that, but not "Sorcerer." This is one of my favorite movies of all time. I just read an article about the best movie bug-out vehicles. There were lots of comments from readers, but not one mention of this movie. Someone even mentioned the Batmobile, for crying out loud. But nobody remembered Sorcerer. This movie permanently changed the way I look at trucks.
- Wed, 10 Jul 2013 16:09:00 -0600: Honda Trail 90 Project, Part 5: Lapping The Valves - Possum Living
In this episode I fix one of the three compression leaks that were preventing this engine from running (and had the benefit of making it cheap enough for me to buy it!): the valves. This is also the most daunting of the three since neither of the two valve spring compressors I have tried were able to work on this head. Honda makes a valve spring compressor that works on this and most if not all of their other motorcycles, but the price is well out of my budget. In fact, it costs about as much as I have in the entire bike so far. I was planning to try building my own valve spring compressor, but then I found one that looks like a copy of the Honda part at a price I can afford, especially since I have other Hondas that I will likely need to use it on at some point. It is made in China (like most things nowadays), but it worked just fine.
Here it is, if you need one. I'm pretty sure it works on other makes of bikes, too.
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