Batteries and Hummingbirds
By Mary Carton
Fall is slowing making an appearance in our area. The fair has been in town. Farmers are finished combing corn and have started combining soybeans and planting wheat or canola no till over the stubble. I finally saw one field of cotton today. I was beginning to think that for the first time in my lifetime I was going to experience a summer without seeing cotton. When I was a child that’s all we saw as far as row crops. Cotton is no longer King. With the dry weather we’ve had the last couple of weeks; the combines are really raising the dust. Coming home from work last week a lady in a convertible was in front of me driving next to a field being harvested. You could tell she thought she was hot stuff, looking in the mirror and primping her hair at each stop. The combine was right next to the road and was raising a huge cloud. Cars were in both lanes in front of her and slowed down because of poor visibility in the area. She was trapped; either pull off the road and raise the top or drive on. I had to chuckle as we drove through the cloud.
The pears and figs are ripe and the Hooligans have been busy getting figs off of the lower limbs. I ran out of diesel one day while mowing and picked up a pear on the way to the barn. I laid it on the table at the end of the driveway, got a galloon of diesel, walked to the tractor and back with the can. After getting my JD started, I drove up to the barn for more diesel and there was half of the pear by the fuel cans. It was nice of them to share it with me.
When I left a local home improvement store one night recently, my check engine light came on. I had gone there to pick up the wall rock for the screen porch I’m converting into a garden room, but the company had shipped the wrong stone. It was right on the ticket, but the company shipped what they had in stock. I kept telling the guys that it wasn’t what I ordered and they just kept loading. Finally got their attention, then they had to un-load. The light stayed on all the way home, but my truck was running fine. When I got home, I left the truck in the driveway in case it needed to be towed in the morning.
At 4 a.m. I put the key in the ignition and the alarm goes off and you can hear the sizzle of the starter. I called Mom and woke her up to borrow her car to go to work. Later she went over to un-load things out of my truck so it could be towed and the dogs were upset, Patches keeps whining and pawing at her, like what have you done with Momma? They know I went over to her house and didn’t come back.
My truck is almost 5 years old, and still has the original battery. After talking to Bill in parts and a few other folks, I decided to get a new battery. I arranged for towing in case that’s wasn’t the problem.
When I got home I drove Mom’s car into her garage and walked home to get the tractor so I could get the battery out of her car. The Hooligans think it’s time to eat. After all Mom’s home from work, and she feeds us when she gets home, but since I went in at 4:45 a.m., it’s way too early. Now they are stressed out because I won’t feed them. They are standing around me staring at me licking their chops like I’m their next meal. I told them I’d feed them after I got the battery in.
I raised the hood on the truck and pulled the tractor up next to it. You know a 4 X 4 truck with 20-inch wheels is tall. Another pet peeve of mine, if you want a nice truck, it comes with 20-inch wheels. Lifting a battery up and over the fender wasn’t going to work, so I go and get my step ladder and position it between the truck and tractor. I lift the insulated cover and I’m met with battery terminal corrosion, at least an inch high! I had it in for an oil change two weeks before, and I guess it was too much of an effort to lift the cover and check the battery.
I get the cables off and look for the handles to lift it out. It does not have handles! Who heard of such? I decide that trying to lift it out without handles was going to get that powder everywhere along with matching holes in my clothes. I haul my Shopvac out, turn it on and there’s no suction. I take the 20-foot hose off and it almost sucks in one of the nosy Hooligans. I drag the hose around to the back of the house and start flushing. Out comes a mouse nest minus the mice. That explains why Blackie kept hanging around where the vac was hanging on the wall. After thinking about it while I was trying to un-clog the hose, I decided that battery acid powder and what ever was inside the Shopvac probably wouldn’t be a good combo.
My next idea was to get a small towel and scrape as much of the powder into a cup for proper disposal. I put my work gloves on and cleaned off the terminal as much as possible. Standing up on the ladder I pulled up on the battery, and it slips and squashes one of my fingers. Who ever heard of a battery not having a handle? After recovering, I pull the battery out and put it in the loader of the tractor and grab the handle of the new one, and work it over toward the truck.
Break time, hummingbirds are fighting over a feeder, and I felt the need to grab my camera and get some photos of them. After a few shots, the Hooligans start hanging out under the feeder. I think they have figured out that I’ll feed them fairly quickly when the chase the birds off. I go back to my battery replacement job, stressing them out again.
After getting everything tightened down including the bracket that holds the bottom of the battery in the pan, I put the grenade-shaped thing that’s a key now and turn it. The truck starts right up. I was worried since it was dead for over eight hours, my two garage doors and Mom’s programmed into the console would have to be re-programmed, but a push of one of the buttons and hearing the hum of the opener was a blessing. I didn’t feel like crawling up on the ladder three times to program each opener back in.
By now the Hooligans are really getting stressed. Finally they get fed and are happy.
I did find out one useful thing during this ordeal. Take a can of coke and pour on the terminals. It will clean the corrosion off.
With the cooler weather, I’ve been trying to find my flower beds. Between the flu, cold spring and rainy summer, it got away from me. I’ve been putting newspaper down and putting a nice layer of sawdust and chips for beds away from the house and pine mulch around the house.
The hummingbird migration is just about over. I haven’t seen one in about three days. The State of Alabama has done something nice for the birders, establish a birding trail. Our area of northwest Alabama has several along the Tennessee River and one boggy area near my house. I was able to get some Great Egrets at the bogs and white pelicans at the river site near Wheeler Dam during the late afternoon and early morning hours. During these times, the birds and trees have a high reflection off of the water. One lone Sandhill crane was staying with the egrets, so it’s a matter of time before more move in. Wheeler Wildlife refuge has thousands of them now. They along with whooping cranes were unheard of in the area five years ago.
The butterflies are really hitting my profusion zinnias, however, trying to get photographs of them is a bit of a challenge with the Hooligans running up and down the walk scaring them off.
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