Minneapolis-Moline LS 200 manure spreader manual

Front cover of owner's manual for Minneapolis Moline LS 200 manure spreader

Owner’s manual for Minneapolis Moline LS 200 manure spreader (88 MB PDF)

This is a high-resolution scan of the owner’s manual for the Minneapolis-Moline LS 200 manure spreader, which was manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s in both a horse-drawn and tractor-drawn configuration.

I have one of these units in near working order on our small farm. They come up for sale from time to time at farm auctions or on craigslist—often in fairly poor condition, but occasionally in pretty good shape, like mine. But the owner’s manual is usually either long gone or else the page you need is missing or damaged, making restoration and maintenance even more challenging.

If you have one of these units, I hope you’ll find this PDF to be helpful!

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Responsible Gun Owners Can Have Their Cake and Eat It, Too – Part 1

(This is the first of two posts on this topic.)

National Alliance on Mental Illness logoAccording to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):

“A mental illness is a condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood and may affect his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis.”

Also according to NAMI:

  • About 50% of all Americans will experience a mental illness during their lifetime.
  • In any given year, about 25% of all American adults will experience a mental illness.

Now think about this in the context of a hypothetical national database of people with mental illness for firearm purchase screening, as many on both the Right and the Left have proposed.

Does this hypothetical database have any political chance of success? As long as the stigma of mental illness continues, the answer is a resounding, “No!” Some of the biggest pushback would come from psychologists, psychiatrists, and primary care physicians, because such a database would deter many undiagnosed people with mental illness from seeking help—especially if they are already own one or more guns. But even for people who have no intention of ever owning a gun, there is the knowledge that very large databases (both government and private) are hacked with alarming regularity combined with the tendency for mission creep—e.g databases being used by law enforcement for purposes beyond the original intent.

databaseSo, instead of trying to create and maintain a mental health database of half the nation’s population (a civil liberties nightmare if there ever was one) for the benefit of the minority of Americans who wish to own a firearm (estimated to be about 30% of the population, how about if we require would-be gun owners to undergo a psychological evaluation (and a criminal background check) prior to purchasing a firearm and then again every two years? Instead of discouraging people with mental illness from seeking treatment so as to be able to own a firearm, this would (at worst) discourage people with mental illness from purchasing a firearm so as to be able to avoid a psych evaluation.

Isn’t that the goal?

(This is the first of two posts on this topic. The next post will propose some details for how this might work.)

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Smoke on the Water | Raised By Wolves (I Wish)

I went to high school with Kelli. I wouldn’t call us friends in high school: I was a nerd and she was a year ahead of me and, well, kinda wild. We connected a few years back on Facebook and found that we have more than a few things in common as adults. If we lived closer, I’m pretty sure our families would hang out together.

But, we live several hundred miles apart, so we just enjoy each other’s writing instead.

Every once in a while, one of us turns an especially nice phrase. Today it was this one:

The starkness of the snow illuminated against the dark winter sky appeared in the bedroom window like static on a TV and added to a sense that nothing was happening anywhere else in the world at that moment.

Source: Smoke on the Water | Raised By Wolves (I Wish)

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Fingers In Their Ears

Instead of endless speculating about what to do about or who to blame for these mass shootings, we could do this thing called “research” using this other thing called “science”. After 400 years or so, science has a pretty good track record for figuring stuff out, which has resulted in some nice things like electricity, vaccines, space flight, and HBO. Old habits die hard, though, so when it’s crunch time, we tend to fall back on the only tool we for knowledge that we had for the first 100,000 or so years of human existence: cause and effect.

In other words, we pull something out of our asses that sounds reasonable and go with that. 

Dilbert cartoon about cause and effect

Right. Back to that science thing….

By happy coincidence, there happens to be a group of very bright, well organized, highly trained scientists in Atlanta, Georgia who would very much like to engage in research to determine the root causes of mass shootings. Unfortunately, there is another group of not-so-bright, poorly organized, untrained people in Washington, D.C. who are determined not to let the Atlantans do any such thing because they tend to dislike the Atlantans’ answers. 

The Atlantans are also known as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The other group is politely referred to as the U.S. Congress. And, yes, Congress has continuously blocked the CDC from firearm death research—despite it clearly being a public health issue—since 1996. 

As long as Congress continues to prohibit the CDC from researching firearm violence (as they did once again just three months ago), we can legislate, pontificate, contemplate, congregate, agitate, concentrate, perseverate, and be irate all we want, but we’re just blundering about, groping blindly for a solution. 

As long as we allow Congress to continue to do absolutely nothing except spout platitudes and express sympathy, every couple of weeks another hate-filled person with too much time, too many guns, too much ammunition, and nothing to lose will decide to execute his long-planned ten minutes or so of gunfire and bloodshed, leaving behind more fear, another pile of bodies, another broken community, another collection of hateful social media posts, and another manifesto. More students, churchgoers, shoppers, and other ordinary citizens going about their daily routines will be killed or maimed, and the rest of us will go through the same well-practiced ceremony of national hand-wringing and outrage. 

 Grouchy little boy with his fingers in his ears 
Unless Congress stops behaving like a little child who plugs his ears so he doesn’t have to hear what he doesn’t like, the pressure is going to continue to build as more and more mass shootings occur. Eventually, the pot will boil over and there will be a drastic overreaction—whether from the government or from citizen vigilantes—that will be more harmful to the nation than the mass shootings themselves. 

This is addressed specifically to conservative Americans:  The Republican Party is calling the shots on this, folks, because they control the House of Representatives. If you sincerely want these shootings to stop, if you truly want to find out the root causes of these shootings (and avoid an even worse overreaction from either government or vigilantes), then you conservative Americans need to tell Congress to stop blocking the CDC from conducting research into our epidemic of mass shootings. 

You need to do this, because the GOP won’t listen to the liberal half of the nation. If they won’t listen to you, either, then God help us all. 

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Ibuprofen Will Kill Us All!

I’ve found myself writing more and more on Facebook, and a friend suggested I start blogging. After giving it some thought, I decided to try expanding this blog from its on-again-off-again musings about horses, fencing, etc. to being a forum for my writing in general. I’ve been dragging my feet, though, because I haven’t yet finished writing the third installment about diesel engine exhaust valve installation for pickups. (Curiously, I don’t have people begging me to finish that series….).

Today, I am determined that an unfinished post from last December about my adventures as a grease monkey is not going to keep me from posting other stuff. So, here we go….

AARP logoToday’s Facebook feed included a post from AARP about “new” dangers of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NASAIDs). (Background: NSAIDs include most of the commonly used pain relievers (including aspirin), but this warning does not apply to all of them. It does apply to naproxen (Aleve®) and ibuprofen (Advil®), along with a few prescription-only NSAIDs.)

I’m married to a physician. I was a science major in college. So, we are something of an evidenced-based household with a low tolerance for pseudoscience, anti-science, and fear-mongering. Something about this article set off my radar. Maybe it was the tagline on the Facebook post:

Study shows NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can have major negative health effects regardless of medical history.

Really? Okay, let’s go see if the jumbo-sized bottle of ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet just became toxic waste. The AARP article wasn’t too bad for a lay media publication, but something didn’t sit right with me in the quotes from two of the physicians on the FDA panel who announced the need for sterner warnings on NSAID labels. They felt choppy.

So I did some googling and found a New York Times piece on the same subject, along with some others. They provided some of what was missing from the quotes: this stuff called context.

So here’s the comment I posted to AARP’s Facebook posting.

Before people go off the deep end, take a look at the whole picture. The message is not that NSAIDs are unsafe, but that they are not the risk-free pain-relievers that we would like for them to be. No medication should be used without good reason, whether it be herbal remedies, aspirin, penicillin, Viagra®, Prevacid®, acetaminophen, naproxen, ibuprofen, or anything else. All medications have some risk associated with their use, and that risk is not the same for everyone or even for the same person in differing circumstances.

Even so, the increased risk of heart attack and stroke from NSAIDs is trivial when compared to the increased risk from obesity, smoking, or high blood pressure. The increased risks with NSAID use apply primarily to people who:
• have had a heart attack or stroke
• have a history of heart disease
• are at increased risk for stroke or heart attack
• are over 65
• are using higher doses of NSAIDs, especially prescription-strength doses
• are using NSAIDs for extended periods of time

For most of the rest of the population, the increased risk is small—enough so that the NY Times quotes Dr. Kaul: “I’m not going to stop using these medications,” he said. “But there has to be a good reason to use them.”

So, yes: stop taking ibuprofen because you think you *might* get a headache or before exercise as preventative for muscle soreness [Ed. note: this is a Bad Idea™ for plenty of other reasons]. But don’t throw the medication bottle out unless you are a) in a higher-risk group AND b) your doctor advises you to stop using NSAIDs.

Value size bottle of ibuprofenAs pudgy-but-not-obese forty-somethings with healthy hearts, I am relieved to report that our bottle of ibuprofen will be able to stay right where it is and continue to minister to our occasional aches and pains on an as-needed basis.

Maybe America will someday be able to stop panicking about the things that sound scary—but which actually have a low chance of hurting us unless we are a member of a particularly at-risk group—and concentrate instead on doing something about the things that really are scary—which, even though they have a much higher chance of hurting us, we blithely accept every day, doing little or nothing to reduce our risk exposure.

You know… existential threats like rapid sea level rise, arctification, mass species extinction, desertification, and natural disasters. Or risks of personal mortality, like riding in a motor vehicle, having a gun in the house, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, depression….

Yeah. Little stuff like that.

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Zen and the Art of Exhaust Brake Installation, Part 2

Continuing the saga from yesterday of installing an exhaust brake in my 1997 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins diesel pickup named Hamish. Note that I am not a mechanic. I am sharing my experiences in the hope that it may be helpful to some other non-mechanic attempting the same tasks. If you are reasonably handy, have a basic set of tools, and take your time, you can do this yourself. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and observe proper safety precautions; if you are in over your head, get an experienced diesel mechanic to do the job for you.

After getting all of the parts yesterday, today’s goal was to get the six new 60-lb. exhaust valve springs installed and adjust the valve lash while I was at it. So, this morning I read through the valve spring installation instructions from Tork one more time over breakfast and then dove in. The weather was pretty miserable, with intermittent gusts of wind and a steady drizzle with occasional downpours. Fortunately, Kim and I hatched up the idea of using the patio umbrella to give me and the engine some protection beyond that supplied by the hood.

Removing the rocker arm pedestal (photo lifted from the Internet)

Rocker arm assembly and valve springs (photo lifted from the Internet)

The valve covers all came off just fine, and the gaskets were fine, as were the O-rings on the cover bolts. I cleaned the gaskets up and set all that aside. The patio umbrella was keeping me pretty dry, but even with its help, I still had to keep rags over all of the cylinders I wasn’t working on—kind of like surgical drapes—to keep out the occasional bit of windblown rain. (In hindsight, I probably should have just loosely placed the valve covers back in place.)

With the valve covers off, the next thing was to get the piston in position to keep valves in place on cylinder #1, which meant putting a 7/8″ socket on the alternator pulley and turning the engine backwards by hand until the piston is at top dead center (TDC). No problem, as I had a 7/8″ socket and the accompanying ½” drive ratchet. It turns out that doing this with an 8″ long ratchet isn’t very fun, but I got it done.

On the bright side, I am pleased to report that the Tork valve spring compressor tool worked like a charm, and I had the new springs in place in short order. Now it was time to torque down the bolts that hold the rocker arm pedestal in place, and I discovered that 3/8″ drive sockets do not fit on a ½” drive torque wrench (duh!).

So, off to the auto parts store I went, initially thinking I would just buy the ½” drive versions of the sockets I needed. I looked at the price of the sockets and then remembered that there are these things called adapters that are designed for just this purpose (much cheaper, too). While there, I decided to make my life easier and bought a 14″ driver to give me some extra leverage on the alternator. Once back, torquing down the pedestal was easy.

Feeling confident, I moved on to cylinder #6. That was a challenge. I spent at least an hour trying to get out the bolt for the rocker arm arm pedestal. It wasn’t seized or anything like that, but #6 is back under the cowling with limited vertical clearance, and I simply didn’t have room to get the bolt out. Finally I called the folks at Diesel Power Products (who sold me the parts for the exhaust brake and new springs), and the tech there gave me the tip I needed—one which apparently is so well known to mechanics that no one bothers to write down the instructions for it. It turns out that there are two rubber plugs in the cowl directly over the bolts in question on both cylinder #5 and #6. Pop those plugs out and—voila!—you have room to get the bolts out.

Tork valve spring compressor in place; the rocker arm assembly has already been removed. Photo courtesy of Tork Technology.

Obstacle overcome, I quickly finished #6, almost giddy at how well the Tork tool worked. I was about to start on cylinder #5 when I realized I didn’t have enough new springs left to finish the installation. Twelve valves = twelve springs, right? But I only had two springs left and I’d only done two cylinders. Hmm. Oh, right: I was only replacing the exhaust springs, but the Tork tool worked so well that in my giddiness I had replaced both exhaust valve springs and the intake valve springs on #1 and #6. Whoops.

After fixing that mistake, I kept on going, one cylinder at a time at a nice steady pace. Occasionally I had to deal with a pushrod that I had bumped out of position, but fortunately they were easy to get back in place. The tip in the Tork instructions to wrap a rag around the base of the pushrods was a good one, by the way, as I didn’t have to worry about losing a valve keeper inside the engine.

Things continued to go well until I started my last cylinder, which should have been #4. By this point, it was about 3:30 and I was just starting to lose daylight. I was also starting to get tired. I pulled the pedestal, started compressing the springs, and noticed that only the intake spring was compressing. Uh-oh. Did I have the piston in the wrong position? Hey, that exhaust spring looks awfully shiny…. Oh. That’s cylinder #2. Whoops, again. I put everything back together on 2 and switched to 4 where I was supposed to be.

All the valve springs were done, but I had decided to do a valve lash adjustment while I had all the valve covers off, as it was past the service interval. This went fairly smoothly, but was tedious. In hindsight, I am not all that pleased with the job I did and will re-do it when I have a dry day.

I double-checked the torques on the pedestal bolts and the lock nuts for the rocker arm adjustment bolts. Kim held the work light for me as I put the valve covers back on and torqued those down. That accomplished, she went back inside and I started tidying things up.

Aside from a basic set of wrenches and sockets, I really appreciated having box wrenches with a ratchet in them. I also really liked the 36-watt compact fluorescent work light (purchased from Lowe’s): very tough and lots of light right where I wanted it. The fussiest part of the job was dealing with the valve keepers, which are little curved bits of metal about the size of the nail on your pinky. There are two for each valve.  The big hero tool of the day (after the Tork tool) was the telescoping magnetic pencil, followed by the magnetic parts tray. The pencil made getting those tiny valve keepers out a piece of cake—even back on #6 where I was working blind. The tapered cone of the Tork tool made getting the keepers back in place during reinstallation easy, as all I had to do was get them close to where they needed to go and then a dental mirror came in really handy for making sure I had the keepers seated properly during reassembly.

After getting most of the tools put away, I started to reconnect the batteries and jumped out of my skin as the car alarm went off. I quickly disconnected the battery again and scratched my head for a moment. On a hunch, I put the key in the ignition, turned it to “ON”, and reconnected one battery: silence, lovely silence!

The only thing left now was to start it up. I was kind of anxious about this, but I had double-checked everything and followed the instructions. Crossing my fingers, I hit the starter, and Hamish came to life without any fuss. He sounded good, so I took him for a test drive. That went well, too, so I cleaned up and sat down to well-earned dinner.

Tomorrow will be the installation of the exhaust brake….

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Zen and the Art of Exhaust Brake Installation, Part 1

I finally got something for Hamish* that I have been wanting for him for a long time: an exhaust brake. What’s an exhaust brake, you ask? Well, sit back and let ‘splain it to you….

Diesel engines surpass gasoline engines in terms of power, fuel economy, and durability (but gasoline engines cost less and generate more horsepower with snappier acceleration), so they are the preferred engine for heavy-duty hauling and towing applications (including commercial trucks, of course). One of the idiosyncrasies of the diesel engine is that it doesn’t have anywhere near the speed retarding capabilities of a gasoline engine (i.e. when you let off the throttle in a gas-powered vehicle, it slows down significantly, but letting off the throttle on an ordinary diesel engine results in only a modest decrease in speed). Thus, when you’re heading down a hill in a diesel-powered vehicle, you have to use your brakes more.

Heavy commercial diesel truck engines have technology built into them to deal with this, known as compression release engine braking and generically referred to as a “jake brake” (after Jacobs, the company that pioneered it). The jake brake opens the exhaust valves during the compression cycle to make the engine act as a brake when desired (and generate noise that sounds a bit like a muffled air-powered jackhammer). Diesel pickups like mine instead either have no engine brake (most common) or use an exhaust brake, which is available from several third-party companies as an after-market add-on (and increasingly available from the manufacturer on new diesel pickups). Instead of using the exhaust valves the way a jake brake does, an exhaust brake restricts the exhaust flow, allowing the engine to yield almost as much braking horsepower as it has horsepower available for acceleration.

So, why does a 17-year-old pickup need an exhaust brake? Try hauling two draft horses (combined weight: 3,500 lbs., plus their feed and tack, plus the weight of the trailer; total weight: about 12,000 lbs.) over the Cascade Range and you will understand.

Remember that bit from three paragraphs back about having to use your brakes more on a descent in a diesel? Well, that’s no big deal—unless you’re hauling a big trailer, in which case you have to use your brakes a lot. Heavy brake use on a downhill heats up your brakes, reducing their effectiveness and shortening their useful life, and can result in brake fade/failure. And brake fade is exactly what happened in September when we were coming back over the Cascades from a vacation with the horses—as in, smoking brakes and rims too hot to touch, which is a Very Bad Thing when towing a horse trailer down a mountain.

bd_diesel_descriptionAfter a bunch of shopping, I ordered a BD Diesel Performance exhaust brake from Diesel Power Products in Spokane, WA. I chose this particular model because of the ease of installation and simplicity of the system. This model bolts on to the back of the turbocharger, replacing the factory elbow that connects the turbocharger to the exhaust pipe, where other kinds require cutting out a section of the exhaust and welding in the exhaust brake. Also in this model, the butterfly valve inside the exhaust brake, which is what actually regulates the exhaust flow, is powered by the truck’s vacuum system, where other models use compressed air to actuate the butterfly valve (requiring the installation of a compressor). The exhaust brake also requires upgrading the exhaust valve springs from the stock 40-lb. to 60-lb. springs, so I ordered those, too, along with a valve spring compression tool from Tork Technology.

After a one-day delay due to an addressing snafu, everything arrived today. I spent a few hours reading through the installation instructions for the exhaust brake and researching how to change out the valve springs. I haven’t ever done any engine work before, so I am kind of apprehensive about the valve springs. Fortunately, I found this video of a valve spring install on a Cummins 12-valve engine. It’s not exactly the same situation, as this guy did the work with the engine pulled and used compressed air to keep the valves floated at the tops of the cylinders, but it gives me a pretty good idea of what to expect—and he was using the same Tork tool as I would be using.

Tomorrow, we’ll try to install the valve springs….

* Hamish is my 1997 Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins diesel pickup. He has a long bed, a standard cab (wish I had bought the club cab, though), two-wheel drive, and a 5-speed manual transmission. We bought him brand new, and he has seen service as a camper,  commuter vehicle, contractor’s truck, and horse hauler. I almost sold him a few years ago because I just wasn’t driving that much, but I am very glad I didn’t. He has just over 120,000 miles on his odometer now, which would lead many diesel-heads to say that the engine is “just getting broke in”. He’s a good truck, in short.

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Putting the “hat” back into whatever

I was in New Orleans last weekend with Kim. She had a medical conference; I tagged along to keep her company and be her travel beast of burden. It was my first time in New Orleans, so on my first day in town, I decided to check out Bourbon Street.

I started walking northeast from our hotel on Lee Circle, going through the central business district, which was pretty much like that of any other city, except with better architecture. As I neared Canal Street, I heard music echoing off the buildings. It was big, brassy, and full of lively rhythms. The source was at Canal and Bourbon, in front of a Foot Locker store. Two trombones, a cornet, a trumpet made up the front line, supported by a tuba, a bass drum, and a snare. The players were kind of a scruffy lot of ordinary looking joes ranging from late teens to maybe fifty years old. Six were black, and the trumpeter was white. The apparent leader was the oldest, a stocky guy with a thick set of braids pulled back in a ponytail. He was the one with the cornet and a can of malt liquor wrapped in a brown paper bag that he sipped from between pieces. All of the instruments were well used, most with plenty of dents and dings, and a few patched up with duct tape.

I thought about buying one of their homemade CDs, but decided against it and just dropped some cash in their cardboard box. A CD just wouldn’t be the same as being in this place with these people, watching the tourists watch the band and watching the locals spontaneously dancing in the street for a few minutes as they walked by on their way to or from work. Instead I sat down on the sidewalk, leaned back against the wall of the shoe store, and let the sounds soak into my memory, into my skin, into my heart.

I listened to them play for an hour. There wasn’t a sheet of music in sight—not even a set list. They only took one five-minute break to smoke. The rest was musical bliss. They just played and played, occasionally talking to each other or waving to a familiar face, sometimes laughing at musical jokes with no words. This was the music I hoped to hear. This was jazz, New Orleans style.

I ran into this band a couple of other times over the weekend, sometimes with a slightly different lineup, but always having a good time. I spent the next couple of days exploring the French Quarter and loved it. Bourbon Street was, um, interesting, but it was the rest of Quarter that captured me. The buildings, the streets, the vegetation, the people, the feel in the air—all wonderful, all very much in the moment.

I can’t wait to go back. And next time, I’ll stay in the French Quarter.

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I finally found (and bought) a trailer this week! It’s a 1997 4-Star gooseneck two-horse slant. It’s in great shape—especially for its age. It is an extra tall and wide model, but it is still going to be a cozy fit with both horses in at the same time. It pulls very nicely. I have been working with the boys getting them used to it this week, and so far, so good.

It’s been a busy and productive winter, horse-wise. Everyone in the barn is happy to (finally) see nicer weather. Boulder and Bob are both doing well. We started Parelli Natural Horsemanship in this winter (yes, I drank the Kool-Aid), and Kim and I couldn’t be happier (the horses say the same thing). Lots more to report, but that’s all I have time for now. The ponies are calling to me!

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An eyesore

Well, today was an interesting day. It started with a 7:30 a.m. phone call from Jenn at the barn. I slept through that. When she called again at 8:00, I woke up and answered. It seems Bob had some kind of gooey icky eye infection, and that the vet should probably come out and make sure there wasn’t an ulceration.

Farm call scheduled with Dr. Keck at 11:30. Check. One gram of ‘bute for Bob. Check. Continue reading

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