Tag Archives: homestead

Work on the Truck

Part of living off grid and on a budget is keeping everything running. That most certainly includes the truck. At 172K miles the F-150 is still a great truck but to keep it that way requires a person to stay aware of what is happening with it and addressing issues before they leave you stranded. Last week I noticed that the rear differential was leaking oil. Everything was canceled and I got a ride from Shane into Missoula for parts.


Changing the fluid and checking all the moving parts is not that difficult. It should be done every few years once a truck gets as many miles as this one has. It only took a few hours and is nothing anyone should be intimidated by.  The drain plug is on the back side of the casing and takes a 1/2 inch wrench to open it up.


Once the drain plug is out you can get a good idea of much metallic particulates are in the fluid. The inside of the plug is a magnet that works to pull the any metallic fragments from the fluid while the truck is running. You will want to be sure to wipe clean.


The bolts on the casing should be loosened in a star pattern. When they all are loose and can be removed with no chance of putting any strain on the other bolts or the casing cover itself, put them aside to clean while the fluid drains. When all the bolts are pulled, very gently, use a tool to get in between the cover and the case to break the seal. Be very careful not to scratch or mar the surface with your tool or you risk a bad seal later on.  As soon as the seal is broken the fluid will start to drain out.


Give it twenty minutes or so to drain then pull the cover off. Cleaning the bolts and around the outside of the seal quickly fills the time.  (Be sure to have a drip pan of some sort under to catch it all.) Once the cover is off take your time to clean it well. A shop towel or shop quality paper towels work best.


Once it is wiped clean you will want to spend a little effort to clean off all the old sealant and any grime from the mating surface not only of the cover but the case itself. Using a plastic scraper takes a lot of the risk out of it. You can pick one up, with an extra blade, at Auto Zone for $4 or less depending on what part of the country or you’re in.


Inside the differential you’ll want to wipe out all the fluid from the bottom and down in the basin just inside the lip. Use a small portion of the new fluid to rinse it down. Only then put your new sealant on.


I used JB weld blue glue. There are different brands but whatever you use make sure if says for use on differentials. Once its on, line it up carefully and put it into place. Begin to replace the the bolts in the same cross cross pattern used to take it off. Tighten them gently and only enough to touch all around. You’ll need to let the sealant set-up for at least an hour before you tighten it down all the way. Be sure to replace the tags so future work, or future owners will know what fluid to use.   20180513_132918

I let it set up for a full 24 hours before I drove it. For the effort of a morning and for the $60 of fluid and sealant a great deal of stress, headache, and later work was dealt with. I had already lost over 2 quarts of the fluid (the trucks hold 2.5 quarts of differential fluid) by the time I had caught the leak. If I had not stopped work on other projects to deal with it, it would not have been long before entire differential would have had to be replaced.  Some of these unexpected little side line projects are well worth stopping other plans for. Being able to do such work for oneself is a skill that only gets better with time. Even when you find yourself under a truck and greasy to your elbows try to appreciate the fact that you’re in a cubical. Doing basic mechanics is just part of the off grid, homestead lifestyle; and try not to be intimidated by it.


Update on the Greenhouse

Work has been non-stop, as much as possible anyway. As so often in the case with the off-grid lifestyle money is always an issue. The work that needs to be done often is limited by the materials you have at hand. In my case a bit of health issues never helps. I am happy to say though, seeds are in the ground.

The creeping fear we just wouldn’t be able to get it going this fall was alleviated when we got the stove into place.


We got enough of the Gabion wall in place enough to get it in and the chimney up. The stove had been int he little Cabin but was simply too big for the space. That meant to make it hot enough to keep the chimney clean the house became an oven even with the windows and doors open.  It was a great day when the first fire was built.


James painting the top boards for the back wall. Vent fans will go into these come spring.

The back wall, had to be closed in. Even though there has been next to no snow the temps here have stayed below freezing and the ground freezes early up this high. The extra panels, a few tarps and an promise of ongoing effort to deal with cold air leaks all winter we had to put a halt tot he rock work.

The fire place section us in and the nest nine foot segment of base wall was done.


the section north of the fireplace, mid build. The 15 gallon pots still visible.

Even before the back wall had it temporary paneling put up James and I got to putting in beds and moving all the craft, art, and home school extras to the greenhouse. The ground here is nothing but rock. Putting soil directly down would simply wash down and away forever. Using a layer approach is the only hope to keep the soil in place without using completely sealed boxes. The hope is the cardboard and straw add enough fiver to the base layer to help bind the soil and prevent erosion.


James at work layering cardboard, straw and top soil in on the the ground beds

last week the first seeds went into the soil. Its a little cool in there at night but all the plants going in are cool weather and hopefully will pop out of the ground any day. Snow peas, spinach, kale, and garlic are in.

A friend gave me a few heritage potatoes and squash that had been forgotten on the edge of his garden to throw in and see what happened. We’ll see if the join the party.

This week was spent clearing more of the the mountain side and thus adding to the wood pile but we had time to get up some of the gutter gardens and get them planted as well.


The gutter, though a bit warped I picked up at the Restore in Missoula for under $20. I love that place. Nearly all of the building material I have used has come from there. Some I have had to buy new, some small amount has been donated, some collected from clean up jobs, but the Restore is a massive asset to the area. Reusing material takes patience and conviction. Most people have access to planers and routers to clean and trim down their reused lumber but off-grid that just isn’t really an option.

This morning with snow on the ground, and the house a bit chilled I went out pre-coffee to check on the greenhouse. It was by far warmer than the house. The larger stove was stacked up before bed and still had embers. A few logs and handful of paper garbage and the fire came back up to life. Coffee in hand Thor and I went on back out to sit by the fire and enjoy the quiet of the first real snow of the year.