Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Maintenance! That is a dirty word to some and to others like myself, I enjoy doing maintenance. I admit that sometimes I will procrastinate but I never avoid doing it. When I perform service to my chain saws it is slow, methodical and I am forced to concentrate exclusively on what I am doing and therefore I am not thinking about other things that need to be done or are a concern. Living on the side of a mountain the winter period is when maintenance is done - mainly because we can’t do other things due to the deep snow.
We have a half dozen chain saws that all require cleaning, adjusting, and chain sharpening. Two of those are electric saws. I had a fellow in Canada tell me the best way to sharpen a chain was to file into the blade two or three firm strokes and then make the last stroke a nice light one. Also not to file both ways, but only on the down stroke. I have found that to produce a fairly sharp chain that cuts well. I strip my saws down and clean them carefully. It is good to have an air compressor when you do this but be sure to wear safety glasses as that built up oil and saw dust has a way to find its way directly to your face.
Routine maintenance is important for many reasons. First it keeps the tool in top shape. A tool in good condition is safer than one which is not sharp and maybe not running smoothly. Then it keeps the tool working more efficiently so when you want to use it the tool is ready to use. Regular maintenance prolongs the life of the tool by reducing wear and heat build up. One of my chain saws that is still in constant use in the summer is 18 years old and still cuts and runs like when it was new. I have had to replace the spark plug, the pull cord and a few chains but it still starts easily and runs all day if needed. I service the bars and when they show heavy wear replace them as well. Without proper routine maintenance I do not believe the chain saws would last as long and run as good as ours do. We cut approximately 11 cords of firewood a year. We also cut dead trees that we cut to log size for milling lumber from. That is a lot of summer use and we want our saws to run safely and cut efficiently.
In addition to servicing chain saws we also use the winter to clean indoor appliances as well. We take the propane stove apart and clean it, make sure the propane jets are clean. Heat sensors are working well and the stove is clean. We also clean the refrigerator and separate freezer. We clean coils, condenser and clean air intake and heat exhaust vents. We clean and service all our appliances through out the winter months when the snow is deep enough to get in your pockets when you try to walk through it - or should I say struggle through it.
Some people consider these tools to be disposable but we like to keep ours running efficiently with regular maintenance. When you live 40 miles from the nearest town it is just smart to keep your equipment running as well as possible. Prior to moving to our mountain side we took a course in small engine repair. We both took the basic course along with the advanced course that included repair on diesel engines up to 25 horse power. Those courses have come in handy several times and instead of having to take our equipment to a repair shop and leave it for two weeks we can fix it ourselves. Saves us down time and the knowledge of how our equipment works makes maintenance more efficient. The courses gave us the confidence to undertake tasks that we would not have been able to do before. As a final exam we had to reassemble a 4 horse power engine laying all over the floor with tiny springs the thickness of a hair and numerous nuts and bolts. When you get all the engine parts back together and pull that starter rope and the engine runs you have the confidence to take on difficult engine repairs.
So to us winter is time to make sure our indoor and summer equipment is properly serviced and made ready for summer when it is really used extensively.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their lifestyle go to http://www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com