Thursday, April 28, 2011

Precious Memories

Despite the fact that it was Tara's birthday today (how old is she, you may ask? Well, let's just say she's the square root of forty-nine, plus one less than six, times a score, minus a gross, divided by three, plus two cubed, and leave it at that) we managed to make another precious metals run. Also despite the on-again, off-again drizzle and rain (not to mention wind, which threatened to blow away all the aluminum at the scrapyard) which means my feet are still wet. Here's the butt-end of faithful old Larry, yet again:

Good old Larry.

So we got rid of a bunch of copper and brass, some irony/insulated/old sheet aluminum (including this impossible weird aluminum cable thing), a good deal of rusty hunks of rusty rust, er, I mean, #1 iron, plus the odd battery. It netted us a decent chunk of money, which was quite nice for both of us, even though it wasn't my birthday personally.

When we got there, after sorting it all out, the guy in the smelter asked us where we'd been over the winter, like he'd missed us. Awwwwwww.

Since I was going to go back and cook a birthday dinner for Tara, we forwent our usual celebratory Burger King stop, instead hitting the drive-thru at local empire Dunkin' Donuts; when we got back, as I was cooking, Tara took it upon herself to bounce around in the drizzle and uncover a whole bunch more precious stuff (including a prized catalytic converter), enough pretty much for another run in the quite near future. While I've no doubt the unexpected chunk of birthday cash had a lot to do with her enthusiasm, I also have my suspicions about the French vanilla coffee + two chocolate honey-dipped donuts + energy drink she'd had earlier for breakfast. I swear sometimes it feels like we're in that Star Trek episode where Kirk gets into some alternate space-time continuum and is all sped up and Spock keeps hearing this little mosquito whine. I stand here with my eyebrow raised, but I can't understand a word of it.

So yeah, that'll be another run sometime soon, because:

There is always more.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Life in the Scrap Lane

We finally got to that iron run today; Larry after all needed a couple more minor adjustments (something about a bright red light on the dashboard that read BRAKE FAILURE) before we went back to abusing his clutch. Did you know burning clutch smells rather like popcorn?

So here's the pic from today. That big flat rusty hunk of rusty rust on the bottom is (was) some sort of snow plough attachment for I guess a pickup truck. Holy cow was that thing heavy. But we managed to get it in (and out), and Larry's bumper is still even intact.

Today's load came to an even half-ton; that puts our totals for scrap iron (this does not include cars) removed from this place since we've been getting receipts (March 2008) at thirty-two trips to the scrapyard, and 28,000 pounds of iron. That's fourteen tons even.

We already have a sizable pile of stuff for a precious metals run; after that we plan on another one with the lighter stuff in the bus (doors, hoods, fenders, &c).

Yes, there's still more.

Friday, April 15, 2011

More Progress

Goodness, look who showed up on the doorstep this morning—it's our marvellous Mr. Rusty Jones, here to once again help us bid adieu to rusty cars! Oh Rusty. You make my little heart pitter-patter so.

So there we were in the actual morning, holy cow (I believe I have mentioned once or twice that Tara and I generally keep vampiric hours, yes?) watching the junk guy haul off two more rusty piles of rusty rust, one of which was even, I think, originally actually painted rust-red. Mind you, this was a different junk guy than the one from the place that couldn't be bothered to call Tara back last week. Oh well. Their loss.

Or ours, which, totally like HOORAY. Mr. Junk Guy Mark II took both the old reddish Saab 95 and the Général de Gaulle Citroën DS (or what was left of that old Citroën DS, anyway, which wasn't an awful lot). That's right. Both. At the same time. Voilà:

There was some concern as to whether that back driver's side tire on the Saab would hold air; that proved completely grounded. Luckily it wasn't too far and only had to go across town; still, it made a noise, let me tell you, which we could hear even in the hermetically sealed compartment of Tara's new Bug. Junk Guy driving the ramp truck either didn't know or didn't care. I mean, not that it really matters, as it was strictly a one way trip from whence it shall never return.

Being a different junk place this one did things their own way, and didn't quote us a price first; instead they paid by the ton, which, surprisingly enough even with most of that Citroën hacked off or crumbled to rust came to more than two tons, after they weighed it on the big drive-on scale. We were impressed; driving up we didn't think they would realistically top one and a half together.

So that means that if we wanted to count the cars removed as iron hauled (which, in essence, they are), that would add something like another seven tons of iron taken out of here since last June. Cripes.

And by the way the number of cars left to get out of here is now in the teens, which, though it may not sound impressive, is when you remember that at its zenith (nadir) there were seventy-eight of the damned things here.

Since we got all that over and done with around noon, Tara then figured we had plenty of time to light some more stuff on fire, especially since she had been over the other day and hacked up some of that downed apple tree over by the shop. And while that may not sound like hoard-related cleanup, and while it isn't actually my father's fault it fell down, still, it is blocking something that is. Honestly, my father really did hoard just about anything. That included piles of rocks.

I know, I know, this is New England: we got rocks. I hear though they are originally native to Canada, having been introduced with the glaciers. I have double-dug many a garden here and hit many a rock; and I have been known to stop, shake my fist in a northerly direction, and cry, Damn you, Canada!

And no, we're not exactly sure where this particular pile of rocks came from. It is, however, up near the road with a couple of piles of dirt, which I'm pretty freakin' sure were once piles of sand from the road that someone from The Town didn't know what to do with; when my father said he'd take them they happily dumped it there. Enabling fuckers.

Where they sat, and still sit, of course.

Anyway that apple tree is in the way of accessing those rocks which we'd like to use to finish the stone wall by the back of the garage; so the tree has to go. And yes, there will be rental equipment involved. Some of those rocks are big.

So those bits of the apple tree went on the pyre, as well as anything vaguely brush-like within arm's-reach (or saw's-reach) of Tara, including a good deal of the overgrowth on the pile of dirt in the back by the shed, which is also slated to get moved when we rent the Bobcat.

When that had all burned to cinders, and after a bit of tidying (and the discovery, of course, of more bits of rusty rust within the leaf-mould), we sat back and stared. Because there was so much empty space.

Here are all four panoramas of the area, in order, so you (we) can get a real feel for all we got done:

And the ones taken from the south:

You can see the grass is getting greener in that last shot.

Why yes, I'd say it definitely is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Clutching the Sky

One may not be surprised to learn that given this

and this

and these

and this

and this

and this

and this

as well as this




and this

that Larry the Volvo station waggon was suddenly sorely in need of this:

(That's a clutch disc, kids.)

Poor Larry. His get-go had been getting slower and slower, and that pedal on the left lower and lower, until finally Mom had to have him towed home because he'd pretty much stopped moving entirely, though he was still capable of making loud brrrrum-brrruumm!! noises.

So Tara (our handy go-to grrl mechanic) checked it out and concluded that the clutch had finally ascended to heaven. You've been a very good clutch, Tara said the angels sang; Come into the light!

After three day-long sessions in her trusty (albeit filthy) speed suit Tara got the thing switched out, though it involved (if I am remembering this correctly) dropping the transmission out and decoupling the shift something or other and sawing off some bolts and breaking an allen wrench and getting her hair caught in the creeper wheel and getting covered head to toe in grease, as well as (you can imagine) a lot of swearing, especially at the Haynes manual which was not exactly laid out in a straightforward manner, now was it.

But she got it done, though you should have seen her last night after she'd finished, her hair and face charmingly* smeared with grease; and as far as it looks, Larry is more or less back in the game.

So, go Tara!

Of course, what do you think we have planned for tomorrow?

An iron run.

Poor, poor Larry. There's always more.

*for "charmingly," you may substitute "frightfully," if you are so inclined.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Well, I know I've been saying this for ages now, but I think finally this time it's the last of the tires. I mean not that I'd be all that surprised if we uncovered a couple more here and there; I mean I do know how these things go by now. Also, there are a few axle-type contraptions kicking about that still have the wheels with tires on them, and the guys at the junkyard have been known to grouse about that a bit and then take some off the total, so it may be best to remove them and get rid of them ourselves. Still, this load of tires in the back of Tara's new bug will at least do it for that area over by the shed. So yay!

So that is (again, in theory) the last dozen tires we've got. Out of how many, I don't know. Several years back we had a full gross, yes, one hundred and forty-four of the damned things set aside to be picked up. Those went (though not by the people who were supposed to get them, the bastards), but there have been many many more since. Several loads of from a dozen to something like twenty I'd guess in the back of Larry the Volvo station waggon just since we've started this blog back in June. And before that there were plenty other trips to the dump (sorry, Recycling Center) that did not include the gross of them. So if I had to guess how many tires we've gotten out of here it's something like two hundred fifty, three hundred? I might be low-balling that, too, who can even tell. Though given the way I tend to minimize things like oh I don't know achievements, it might realistically be rather higher.

At any rate the fuckers are gone, and good riddance.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Points of View

When Tara came by the other day she brought a CD of old pictures of the yard that she'd scanned in; today I walked around outside, to get some pictures from the same points of view for comparison.

When I look at those old photos I am actually shocked. Which you really think I wouldn't be; after all, I lived here, and in fact was living here when most of these pictures were taken. I really should remember it.

I said in a comment a couple posts down that I've blocked it out, how much of a horror this yard was, but that's not quite it; it's that, back then, I didn't know how to see. Not, even, that I was inured to it or had simply grown used to it, though that is probably part of it, but that I was unable to see that it was wrong in the first place. Or rather, I was unable to see the degree to which it was wrong, abnormal, sick, even. Because I did know it was fucked up at the time, even if I was nowhere near being able to articulate how fucked up. Never mind why it was.

And if I'm not remembering the yard as that bad, then I'm not giving myself (and Tara) anywhere near enough credit for cleaning it up. And yes, part of that is that it has been fairly gradual; this has taken us more than a decade now. Well, I say 'us'; really in the first few years, back when our father was still here, it was Tara doing most of the work, at least as far as the cars went, since she for some reason had the patience to deal with Dad. Or maybe that's just another way of not giving myself enough (in this case, any) credit, who knows.

It is always good to pause for a moment in the middle of a project and see how far you've come. Though, really, we are well past the mid-point, I think, at least as the cars go. If there were seventy-eight here originally, and there are only ('only,' ha) twenty-one left, then we are 73% of the way through that part; and as far as the pure junk goes, I'd guess from the pictures that the percentage is about the same, if not greater. We've even made some major strides with the indoor spaces, like the garage, and though the shop is still pretty full, stuff has been moving out of there. So we're, really, I'd guess, something like three quarters done. And that's pretty damned amazing.

So let's see what it looked like then and today. Here's one looking towards the back yard, taken in September of 2001. This was yet another pile of wood, this time piled up and around a large rock. On the left there is a mound of dirt, left over from I'm not sure what, perhaps digging the foundation for the garage in the sixties. When we were kids it had been there for so long that the trees there were big enough to build a tree house in. Said trees are now long gone and the pile itself flattened and used to fill in what was ostensibly a pond my father had dug out, but was mostly an overgrown, damp marshy spot intermittently filled with runoff from the road.

And today. That haphazard pile of wood on that giant mound of charcoal will shortly be burned, just like the rest of it.

Here's the back of the garage again; this is a slightly different picture than one Tara has run before, from May 2001.

And today. Incidentally I put those walls in myself a few years back. One of my strategies upon moving here was to claim previously carred-up and junked-up spaces for new gardens. That way my father couldn't just put another car back in the same spot.

Here's one looking towards the shop, also from May 2001. I'm pretty sure Tara was standing on something, probably a bus roof, to get this. I guess it held; honestly I'm a little surprised.

And today. It's not quite taken from the same angle, but it's close. There are still several Beetles over there, the damned things.

And then one taken from a little further over to the south, and pointed at what were the pen and the pond, from late October 2002:

And today:

That's quite a lot of empty grassy ground exposed, isn't it? And still, I look at that and think What an impossible mess.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

March Progress Report

So let's see how we did with those March goals of cleaning up that area in the back from the downstairs garage to the shed, including that woodpile(s). No, we didn't get everything done; but still we did get quite a bit accomplished.

We did another couple of burns (I think; they're all starting to blur together) and will need to do one more, probably, for that area (though we still have stuff in other parts of the yard that will also need to be lit on fire).

Let's look at some befores and afters; I'll start with the original panorama from early March and compare it to the one I took today. That weird black presence in the middle is the shadow of a tree; it's kinda spooky, isn't it?

Then from the south:

Number Seventy-Five there, or how do you say, Numéro Soixante-Quinze is what's left of an old Citroën DS, which Tara helpfully labelled Le Général de Gaulle on the roof in spray paint. Alas, the horn does not play the first few bars of La Marseillaise, although I suppose you could just blast the intro to All You Need Is Love, I mean, not that it's got a radio. Or a horn. Or a floor.

It's all ready to go, whenever the junk guys can be arsed to call Tara back, that is.

We threw away plenty of trash, of course, and will still need to do a tire run; also we're getting towards being able to do another iron run as well. I haven't had any luck finding someone who recycles concrete, though; the place I called didn't seem to want to call me back, either.

Now, fair enough, this was going to depend on the weather, and well, March both came in and went out in a roaringly leonine manner, even passive-aggressively spilling over into April with a snowstorm on the first, no fooling. Driving by the local elementary school the other day the readerboard sign out front said:



So altogether I think we did pretty well, and that damned woodpile is finally history; at any rate we're just going to continue on with this part of the yard. Momentum, you know.

I mean, assuming it's actually going to get warmer somewhere in here...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Where We Were - 1992. Nauseating in more ways than one

In pawing through all the old photographs of the yard progress, there's a distinct lack of documented evidence to just how bad the yard was, at its height in the 1990s.

It was only in 2001 or so when we started to clean things thoroughly and document the evidence. This happened to coincide with the dawn of digital photography, so photos would be shot of the progress. These photos would become more plentiful as memory cards got bigger and cheaper.

But for pretty much that whole decade of the 90s there was no reason to waste precious film on pictures of junk! So very little evidence exists of how junkyardariffic this acre and a half property really was.

And- for most of the 90s Thalia and I were fresh out of high school and seemingly powerless to do anything about the junk, then later on busy at college or working and living somewhere else. Couple this with the fact that dad's business was pretty much winding down to a trickle and you get a situation where there were a grand total of 70-something cars in the yard plus lumber, junk, car parts, metal chunks, rusty rust, etc.. etc...

In 1992 I was in video school and I had built a homemade steadi-cam of sorts. I'm not sure if it was a success or not, but I tested the contraption by running out the front door and bounding across the roofs of the cars in the yard like a slower and slightly more cautious version of parkour freerunning. And here is the result, if you can stomach it.

So grab a paper bag and just let your eyes glaze over. Can you count how many cars there are in the yard? There's about 50 visible here, though there's about 6 indoors and another 20 or so not visible.

What is noticeable here is that the cars are all over the yard at this point in time, whereas in the 2000s they have at least been consolidated to one location. What are now great expanses of green and a usable driveway were just parking lots for non-running vehicles back then. And disclaimer: those last 5 seconds or so are an actual parking lot nearby, not our yard. I can't even imagine how much worse the yard would have been if the 78 cars were Cadillacs or some other land yachts. They'd take up twice as much space!


Where We Were.. Where do we even start? - Summer 2004

We've got a new problem with Tetanus Burger, and it has to do with an overabundance of things...

No, not the hoard of junk, but the hoard of photographs taken of the junk, that predate this very blog. We've taken thousands of photographs over the past 10 years of the progress we have made. If you thought there was a lot of stuff now, wait till you see what we've already carted away! It's a little recurring section called "Where We Were".

And yet like attacking the junk, it's difficult to know even where to start with posting some of the photos. So for this installment, I've picked at random the Summer of 2004.

Back then, the Red Sox were just another team of lovable losers, we thought maybe John Kerry was a shoe-in for President, and it seems we were starting to make some genuine headway on the crap in the yard. This was the first summer we were more or less given carte blanche to do what was necessary.

Back then we were uncovering piles upon piles of rotted lumber, spare oil tanks (how the hell are you supposed to get rid of those?) 55 gallon drums full of broken glass and mystery liquids (what- we won't say, all we'll say is they're gone), extra storm windows brought home from the town dump, etc. etc..

Piles of iron? I know there's always more, but there was much more in the past, back when we were just hauling it to the dump and not getting any money for it either.

Cars? Well there were a lot more of them, in any color you want as long as it's rust. Keen observers can see that a few of these cars have been offered new leases on life or have simply earned a last minute reprieve from a certain and ugly execution.

What better place to store car seats which someone presumably saved since they were "GOOD!", than outdoors year after year in the snow, rain and sun? Better call Germany and tell those Volkswagen engineers how durable their "leatherette" fabric really is after 20 years of rigorous testing!

Oh, and that rusty rectangular tank to the left of those blue and mold colored seats? Some sort of parts cleaning bin that was half full of some nasty parts-cleaning liquid.. All gone, though I don't recall how we got rid of it. I think we brought it to the dump and dumped it into their waste oil. Anyway, it's gone. When I see people freaking out over recycling a foil wrapper off a burrito or a teaspoon of oil... I can't get very worked up about it considering what we've had to deal with.

Well, that's it for this installment. In our next riveting episode, we pay our respects to some of our honored dead. Yes, they came to this property, believing they would be restored, only to be thrown into the Colosseum and pitted against the undefeated champion, "The Claw".

Who will win? Find out!!