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Rick's enhanced burger

For the second one that I made, on Friday evening, I added a layer of egg, with cheese on top. Since it was mine and I was making it my way, it's just straight egg white. I discarded the yolks.
It's sitting atop a straight cheese-on-toast.
Egg burger
Egg burger.


Fiddling with Marte's valves

I didn't go shopping yesterday. I didn't feel like going out, interacting with people. So I decided to eat what I had in the house.
Tinned spaghetti
Tinned spaghetti.
Since this is France, it's not spaghetti in orange gloop. It has bits of carrot, onion (I think), herbs, and a sauce based around tomato purée.

Once that was done, I finally got around to thinking about starting Marte, the ride-on mower.
It was a long and laborious process. Which often involved all sorts of voodoo such as removing the air filter and squirting WD40 into the inlet in order to try to coax an explosion in the engine in order to get things going. Plenty of battery charges, and, of course, prayers to pretty much every deity that I know the name of (even if I'm most likely mispronouncing most of them), though I felt as if only Epimetheus bothered to answer...

Something that I did observe was that it would seem as if the engine, when cranking, would suddenly and abruptly stop, often with some smoke coming out of the carburettor.
Which... was odd.


So, I got around to removing the valve cover at the top (front) of the engine.

Valves and rockers.

Hint - it'll drip some oil so put a piece of paper towel underneath.


Know which way the engine turns. Then, with the spark plug removed, you can turn it pretty easily by hand. You will see one valve open and then close, followed by the other one opening and closing, then a lot of engine rotation with nothing open.
The first valve (the lower one, if I recall) is the exhaust valve, as the piston rises to expell the burnt mixture.
This is immediatelly followed by the intake valve, as the piston goes back down, in order to suck in fresh fuel mixture.
Then both valves will be closed as the piston rises back up to compress the mixture prior to ignition.
Finally, the piston will go down as the mixture is ignited, forcing the piston down.
As the piston rises, the exhaust valve opens to allow the burnt mixture to excape. And thus the process repeats.

With the spark plug removed, pop a screwdriver into the hole and feel for the piston. Go through the motions of the exhaust valve opening, then the intake valve opening, and keep on going until you reach the point of ignition. This is when both valves are closed, and the piston is as far up as it can go (you'll feel this with the screwdriver). That point is known as "Top Dead Centre".

Probing for where the piston is
Probing for where the piston is.

You will then want to use feeler gauges in order to determine the spacing between the end of the valve and the rocker arm.
For my engine, a Tecumseh Enduro XL/C 12HP, it was about .10mm. The little Kubota engine in my car is between about .10 to .18 (ish). So you ought to check on the internet to see the correct gap for your engine, but it's not like a spark plug. 0.10mm is sort of normal, some engines go to .20mm. More than that would be a bit unusual.

Feeling the gap
Feeling the gap.
When you slide the feeler gauge in, you should feel a slight resistance, but the thing should be able to move around without too much trouble.
If you can't get it in, it's too tight. If there's no resistance at all, try the next size up to see if it's too loose.

But - note - if you can't get it in, first try wobbling the rocker arm with your fingers. Remember that this thing is going to be slammed around by the cams something like 10-20 times per second, so it will be shaken a lot. Therefore, the position that it happens to be while at rest isn't necessarily the same as when the engine is running. Especially, as in this case, the rockers are mounted sideways.


I found that the exhaust valve was good, however the intake valve had no play at all and seemed to actually release itself a tiny bit as I loosened the rocker. Which could explain the smoke coming back out of the carb?


In order to adjust a rocker arm, it's a dual latching system. With this particular engine, the bolt at the base of the rocker needs to be unscrewed slightly. Once that has been done, the bolt you can see on the end of the rocker can be adjusted. It only needs a fraction of a turn.

Pictures are helpful
Pictures are helpful. ;)
When it's in the correct place, tighten the base bolt slightly and measure the gap. Adjusting the base bolt might have changed the positions.
If it has changed, then readjust the rocker without further loosening the base bolt. Again, it'll require tiny adjustments.
Then, fully tighten the base bolt to lock the rocker into place, and measure the gap once more to ensure that it is correctly placed.

When both rockers have been adjusted, you can put the cover back on and tighten it up. Take care to keep the seal clean and intact, or you'll be leaking oil.


I turned the key in the ignition and the engine seemed to catch, disengaging the starter, only to die.
I cranked again and it turned and turned.
A final try, and after a few more cranks it fired into life, and promptly died. The engine is funny in that it needs choke to get started, but too much choke the instant it is running will kill the engine.
I eased off the choke and cranked again, and it started straight away.

So we're looking at about 12 seconds from cold, rather than 12 minutes (at least) and lots of cargo cult practices trying to get the damn thing going.

Which is, as I'm sure you'll agree, a massive difference.

The engine sounded better. It wasn't doing its "hunting" (revving up and down abruptly), though I'm not sure if that's because of the fix or if it's just because the engine didn't get into the state where it does that.
There is some sort of widget inside the engine that controls the choke, and this is hooked to a spring thing. I've tried on every setting the spring thing has, but the main problem is the internal control moves back and forth, which has the effect that the engine revs up and down. Or rather, it revs up under control of this thing, which then cuts out as the engine speeds up, at which point the engine abruptly slows down. It's a lot like a teenager revving a moped.

It's the arm with the teeth
It's the arm with the teeth that moves back and forth.


As I didn't have much petrol, from the mowing earlier in the week, I went and cut the grass on the driveway.


Damaged Amazon order

I ordered two packs of Bird's Custard (well, flavoured potato starch) from Amazon. Ordered on Thursday (a public holiday), Amazon promised it would arrive on Saturday.

It did.

As it was a food product, I recorded myself opening it, which was comically cack-handed due to holding a camera in one hand and cutting Amazon's thread-infused tape with the other, and not removing any of my extremities in the process.

You might spot that something doesn't quite look right here.

The one on the left looks well dodgy
The one on the left looks well dodgy.

The tin on the left, it is bashed at the bottom edge (by the red box that I think is the ingredients), plus the lid looks to be in the wrong position.

Yup, there's definitely something wrong with the lid.

That lid isn't right
That lid isn't right.

Given that I can see powder, the next thing is pretty self-evident.

The security seal is broken
The security seal is broken.

Given the seal has been broken, I am obliged to toss the thing in the bin. The parcel did not appear particularly damaged. It's been bashed around as one would expect in transit, but nothing that would appear to be brutal enough to damage one pack of custard while leaving the other perfectly intact.
Given the damage at the top and bottom, I rather suspect it was mishandled by a harrassed employee in their warehouse. Which means it's been open for how long?

Amazon does not appear to permit such items to be returned, after giving me a date within which to return them. So I farted around in their help menu system until I finally found an option to chat to somebody. I did an online chat rather than telephone as I don't like telephones.

I explained the problem, and it was total silence for a good three minutes. Finally the rep came back and said that she has recreated the order, two tins of custard should arrive here tomorrow.
That was a nice response from Amazon. Just a shame that it's not exactly easy to speak to anybody real (and their updated app is just horribly badly laid out).

Of course, using the undamaged tin, I had some custard in bed before I went to sleep. Niiiice.
What wasn't so nice is that I had to stay up until half one. I forgot that the stuff needs to boil in order to thicken, and when it is like that and in a paper cup, it takes forever to cool down.


Veg and melons

I planted the melons yesterday.
Planting my melons
Planting my melons.

I drew a rough grid on the ground and used that as a guide for placing the plants. Here they are today. I have used old bamboo forks as a guide so, until they are bigger, I don't mistake them for weeds.

The melons in place
The melons in place.


The leeks are finally starting to do something. But given that it's a winter harvest, there's a good half year for them to grow.

My leeks
My leeks.

Sadly, the carrots are not going anywhere fast. They've been in the ground for a month and a half (sown on April 10th), and have shown signs of life for exactly a month, but today are still barely different to the weeds that come up in a week.

Carrot, just.
Carrot, just.


The shallots are coming along. I think I might let one go to flower so I can harvest the seeds. The rest, the flowers will be removed when they come, so that I can have the bulbs.


Shallots, for those who aren't familiar, are basically onions only with a sweeter and more delicate flavour. They are interchangable in recipies, and useful when you want something oniony without the tangy bite that onions provide.
In terms of growth, onions grow as a single large bulb while shallots grow in smaller clusters not unlike garlic.
Really, if you haven't ever cooked with shallots, I advise you to try it. Given their smaller size they are a tad more fiddly to prepare, but thankfully an average rule of thumb is to use half as much shallot as you would onion, if doing a simple swap. You can do a straight 1:1 swap, but it's best to start off with a smaller amount until you know and understand how it changes the flavour of dishes. Gone will be the in-your-face tanginess of onion, and in its place will be a much richer and more subtle flavour.
Just like onions...
They can be diced and eaten raw on a salad,
or diced and cooked into a sauce,
or sliced into little rings for raw or fried garnish,
or cut into strips and eaten raw as an arty-farty finish,
or simply left whole (just peeled) and popped into a roast along with meat and potatoes.

In fact, I think the only thing that they might not be so good at is onion rings. Unless you like really little rings. ☺


My potatoes are coming along nicely. There isn't so much direct sun where they are now, thanks to tree cover. However it's a pretty breezy place so hopefully less risk of fungal contaminations as air is always circulating.

Bintje potatoes
Bintje potatoes.

That reminds me, I want to have a crack at building some sort of box to put them in, with racks to put the potatoes on for air circulation, but a cover that can keep them in the dark.
I'm not good at woodwork so... hmmm...


My grass is looking surprisingly good. It's been strimmed once, and earlier in the week cut with the ride-on (which was a bit of a logistics problem getting the mower there in the first place!).

Rustic grass
Rustic grass.

And, finally, the chives outside are flowering. I let this happen because the bees like the flowers.



Two more days to go, and then it's June already. About three weeks until Litha, the summer solstice, and the longest day. Then the days will start getting shorter.
WTF? Already?


Hell, it's back to work tomorrow, so I guess I'll upload this and then drag the reclining chair out front and just chill out with my headphones and nice weather. Hmm... coke? lemonade? or tea?

As if you need to ask. Shall I be mother?



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John, 29th May 2022, 17:00
Now what has slats, is made of wood, can easily be dismantled to provide sides and other construction parts, and is normally discarded by occasional recipients? Could it be palettes? Keep your eyes open and ask. A sympathetic donor may even deliver if you butter them up a bit!
J.G.Harston, 29th May 2022, 20:28
My potatoes are coming up nicely, and a nice surprise is loads of mixed meadow flowers in the borders which I didn't expect. 
I seem to have timed things just right this year in that the mint is just now harvestable just as I'm running out of dried mint from last year. I'm now self sufficient! :) 
Now, how do I grow ice cream.....
Mick, 29th May 2022, 23:33
No mow May. Marte doing its bit to help the Bees! ;)
David Pilling, 30th May 2022, 04:05
How much effort has gone into IC engines (design and operation) and they're about to disappear - like VCRs.
Zerosquare, 30th May 2022, 15:56
Unless you use your lawnmower's engine to warm up your burgers, I think one of the photos is out-of-place :)
David Boddie, 30th May 2022, 17:32
I just assumed he made another burger at that point because he was "feeling the gap". ;-)
Rick, 30th May 2022, 18:14
Well spotted! I'm surprised I didn't notice that in the read-through. 
Fixed. ;)
Rick, 30th May 2022, 18:16
BTW, it's an air cooled engine. I'm not sure it actually gets hot enough to decently cook a burger. 
The exhaust, perhaps, but that's a rusty box so putting any food on that would be asking for trouble. 

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