On this last day of 2019, my thoughts are on the past.  Of nostalgia, of things I haven’t seen for many years and think of again.  This often happens to me the older I get, but last night I was looking on eBay for a tree topper, something to put on the top of the Christmas tree, since ours, while very festooned with ornaments and lights, is definitely missing something at the very top.

When I was young, living in the Hudson Valley, we got a real tree every November on the day after Thanksgiving.  My Dad would pile myself and my brother into the 1970 Oldsmobile station wagon (a yesteryear SUV) for the trip out to the Christmas tree farm in Milan.  Once there, we would park the car and take the purple handled crosscut saw up the hill into the trees to find the right one for us.  As I recall, it needed to be a Douglas Fir, as the needles on that particular type of tree would best accommodate our ornaments and it would be a good looking specimen situated in our family room in front of the bay window.  My Dad, standing six feet three inches, was able to easily measure using his height and his arm to get a feel for how high each choice might be since we had seven-foot ceilings in the house.  Too, we had to accommodate the height of the tree stand it was going to be sitting in, I have to admit Dad thought of everything in that regard.

My brother was always less interested in the nuts and bolts of the operation than I was, so I tended to stick closer to Dad while he was measuring and thinking.  John would wander off, talk to his friends from school whose families were also there doing the same thing, but I would have the saw, and Dad would be measuring and we’d converse about which tree was better, was it good to have one that was ‘perfectly conical’ or could we get away with one that was a little less so, so that it had character.

Once it had been decided which one, Dad would cut the tree himself in the early years, using myself or John to hold the tree steady as he cut.  As we got older, he would allow one of us to use the saw, after being sure we were of the understanding of how the saw best be used, safety and all of that.  Dad was a stickler for that sort of thing, definitely ahead of his time.  I expect that was because he grew up on a farm, and had seen more than his share of accidents when it came to carelessness, so he wanted to be certain his boys made it to adulthood with all ten fingers and toes.  I always marveled about how heavy the tree was after it had been felled, dragging it down the hill and back towards the car.  Dad would pay the manager of the tree farm (in the early years it was $10-15, in later years before we stopped going it was about $25 per tree.  The tree farm is still in operation today and they’re charging $75 for the same trees, mostly because of people from all around the area, sometimes as far away as NYC and CT desire natural trees for their Christmases) and would spread out the canvas drop cloth, rolling the tree in it for the trip home.

After that, he would lift the tree up, and with my and John’s help, we’d manage to get it into the station wagon, though with the treetop sticking out the window in the back of the vehicle, rather than trying to stuff the entire six and a half foot tree inside.  Usually, it would be a fairly cold ride home, with the tree base sticking pretty close to the front seats, and either John or I sitting in the back holding onto the tree so it wouldn’t slide one way or the other and bang into Dad as he was driving.

Once we got home, Mom would have a pot of hot water ready for the tree, as well as hot cocoa (with marshmallows!) made on the stove for all of us to have.  Dad would go down to the basement, (or send me down) to get the red and green tree stand so that he could settle it on the base and using a mallet, pound the stand onto the base of the tree.  At that point, the tree and stand would be lugged into the backyard, then to the screened porch to be muscled through the door and set up to wait a couple of weeks until the time came for it to be brought into the house and be decorated.  The hot water was poured into the tree stand, to infuse the tree and assist it in continuing to ‘live’, otherwise, the tree would begin to die in earnest, the needles would turn brown fairly quickly and we’d have a dead tree by Christmas.

Getting back to the tree topper I had been searching for, over the last couple of years I’ve been looking on places like Etsy and eBay for one similar.  A couple of times I’ve found one, but never ‘pulled the trigger’ in getting it.  Every year my wife and I tell one another that we’re going to get one for the next year, but we never do.  This year, I got a Lenox snowflake ornament for one of her presents, and we put that at the top of the tree in place of that something else that’s always missing.   Perhaps this year I’ll take the plunge and get something to ‘finish the tree’.  Perhaps.

Anyway, this is the last post of 2019.  Tomorrow starts another year.  I wonder what that year will bring?


I posted about this camera a little over a week ago, and since then I’ve managed to get a charger and two new batteries for it.  Too, I was able to determine that I already had a reader that can interface with the type of memory card it carries.  It lives again!

After going to eBay for those parts and receiving them from the seller, I plugged the memory card into the reader and discovered a trove of pictures from 7 years ago.  Pictures of my cat Rochester, as well as some pictures of the house (outside) and several of places that I’d forgotten I’d taken the camera.

It most definitely reminds me that I have a lot of old tech here in the house.  The basement is a veritable treasure trove of all of my old computers way all the way back almost to the point where I started with computers.  For whatever reason, I still have pretty much all of them, even going back to 1988, when I purchased an 8088 computer from a catalog, and it arrived with a small 14″ VGA monitor, the tower was sideways and didn’t have a hard drive, two floppy drives (one 5.25″ and the other 3.5″) and an external 300 baud modem.  The modem required a telephone connection, so in order to use it, I had to tie up the phone line at my parents’ house, and no incoming calls could arrive at the house.  Not that a lot of people called us anyway, but a far cry from the way things are done 30 some odd years hence.

But getting back to the camera, it also reminds me that I have a lot of other cameras in the house.  From the really ‘old school’ Kodak Brownies that my Dad collected to his 35 mm Minolta SLR that took film, to my Canon Rebel XT DSLR that most definitely doesn’t.   I had checked eBay about a year ago to see how much the Canon was worth and just for the heck of it priced both it and the Minolta.  Wouldn’t you know, the old SLR is worth more than its advanced descendant.  I guess nostalgia really does pay more!

Although with my recent computer woe, the option of being able to download the pictures off the memory card are shelved for the time being.  I do expect by the time that I need to transfer more pictures off the card I’ll have options, even to the point if I get a new computer, just pulling out the card reader from the old tower and inserting it in the new one.  Not a really difficult matter, just have to have the right slot and be able to connect it to the motherboard.  So I’m not overly concerned at this juncture.

Perhaps I’ll grab out my Canon in another day or so and take some pictures!


Getting the most bang for your buck

While I’ve been ensconced in this roto-tiller nightmare, I’ve learned a good deal about small engines, and older machines as well.  Though I’ve sort of discovered that which I already knew to a certain extent.  The older your machine, generally the more expensive the items are to replace on it.  Unless you can find ones that are similar, and more often used, therefore less expensive.  Which is what I’m in the process of searching for now.

Its been like a detective story, to a certain extent.  I have this engine, that’s been working like a champ for 40 plus years, and then suddenly, it starts to misbehave.  For a while I baby it, and finally, it quits.  So, I think to myself that it’s going to be a relatively easy fix.  Take off the offending part, find its replacement, unbolt one, bolt the other on, pull the starter cord and all’s right with the world.  Except it didn’t happen that way.  After taking the carburetor apart, I’ve discovered for the past 20 years, when I moved the choke lever, in actuality it wouldn’t have made a difference if I left it in any position, because a flange is missing from it.  So it’s ‘wide open’ all the time.  Curious how the people that ‘fixed’ it all those years ago never mentioned this was the case.   Too, finding the correct model of the tiller was nearly impossible because the identifying ‘plate’ was made out of paper and has completely eroded/erased over the intervening 40 some odd years.  Somewhat fortunately, when the tiller was put together, identifying numbers were stamped into the metal of both the engine shroud as well as the carburetor, but rust and corrosion as all but obscured them as well.

I’m increasingly thinking that it would be better just to get a new carburetor and bolt it on, hoping for the best.  Getting an original is going to cost upwards of $70-80 USD and that’s too much for something like that.  A repair for the entire unit including oil change etc. would be less than that, even if I were to include mileage to and from whatever repair place I could find.  To that end, I took the best amount of information that I have and placed an order on eBay for a compatible carburetor and it should be delivered here on/around June 3.

Even though I’m sort of giving up on the whole ‘repair the old’ strategy, I’m going to hold onto the old unit for reference if the new one happens to go sideways.  Even though there are parts missing from it, I could still use it for repairs down the road, as much of the unit is still functional.  Too, I took time to clean it and put it back together, so I know better how it all works.  At least for now.  So I’m ok with having it clutter up one portion of the garage.  Considering the rest of the clutter in the garage, that’s in dire need of attention, it will be good to move onto another one of my projects.