Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Firing Order: 1-4-3-2

Ah, the quest for a smooth-running, efficient boxer engine.

Ever since I rebuilt the top end of my engine in 2005, I have been trying to understand how the magic of electrical sparks, fuel/air mixtures, valve adjustments and timing all come together to create this mythical purity in a four stroke engine.

Dealing with these engines are so much fun for me.  There is an engineering component that I have absolutely no training on save for internet board conversations & factory manuals - although I love physics and wish I had studied it more.  But there is a design component that I love because of the artful consistency between this motor and the car that it propells - all very purely related to the science of movement and beauty of well-crafted metals and glass.

The VW engine shares heritage with my 616 4-cylinder Porsche engine - namely the same engineer developed both.  It was fun to run across a whole series of these factory training films - they are both a good overview of the issues and a reminder of what an elementary science class was like in the late 1970s.

...so there I'll be, in that dark, spider-filled garage working by headlamp:  adjusting idle jets, accelerator pumps and distributor timing - checking it all twice - then going around Lakeview on test runs.  On Saturday afternoon it was nearly there - and coming over the 35th street bridge it all started to harmonize around 65 mph...

Sunday, May 3, 2009


It's that time of year again - we're getting the garden ready and this time it will be 2x the size of last year's garden.  Krys has done most of the work... I tilled but she has mulched, planted and prepared the drip hose network (multi-valve drip line system comes next year).

The prep from 2008 appears to have paid off.  We combined two concepts:  sunflowers and organic weed suffocation.  The sunflowers helped provide soil structure while layers of newspaper and straw over the tiled soil helped to wipe out the pesky weeds.  When I tilled that section this year the soil looked perfect.  By mulching with more newspaper & straw this summer we will not be tilling that section again for several years - just planting cover crop in the fall then removing that in the spring for next year's garden.  As a bonus, the Lesley family who live here for 60 years before us had a large garden in this location for some time.  Not your average Avondale clay anymore.

This morning Mimi helped us sow the rem
aining seeds (okra, corn, beans, sunflowers, and 4 types of winter squash).  She likes to wal
k on top of the rows in her green yard boots.  Hopefully we will all be enjoying some succotash in a couple of months... maybe even a version of Hot+Hot's tomato salad.