Friday, October 31, 2008


Not blog posts -- porch posts.

I said in my first post that this wasn't going to be about my house. But I did want to put in at least a little bit about my home, because it's been such a central part of my life for nearly 10 years, now.

My wife and I moved into the place on our second anniversary, a year and a half or so before we had our first daughter. I'll be honest -- the house was really my find (that's a story unto itself) and my home, more than it was my wife's. That's a little ironic, given I'm not living there anymore and she is, but that's OK -- I'm still there every day, and I'm still taking care of the place.

That first post also mentioned how much of my time the house consumes. A lot. A staggering amount of time, really. Two simple examples: Last summer, I had three lighting fixtures fail in one or multiple ways in the span of four weeks. A pull chain broke, an overhead socket went, the wiring in that same overhead fixture got cooked and needed to be replaced, and the chandelier in the dining room fell out of the ceiling, and hung there by its wires. And within six months of moving into the place, I swear to God that every interior door fell off its hinges -- plus a couple of exterior doors. All the screw holes had long ago stripped out, and the screws were being held in by toothpicks and Elmer's Wood Glue, from all appearances. With all due respect to Elmer's Wood Glue, that's not really much of a repair job...

But this post is about one specific project. Or maybe just tees up a second chapter of that project. That is the replacement of the posts on my porches.

Two and a half sides of my house are wrapped in porches that were no doubt added sometime after the house was built. There's a porch on the back wing of the house, facing south. That's the kitchen porch, and it shelters both the entrance to the kitchen and the barn. We've had plans drawn up to rip that off and bump the kitchen out to make an entry downstairs and a master suite upstairs. There's a south-facing sun porch on the southern wall of the main part of the house. Across the front of the house is an open porch that runs the full width of the place. And on the northwestern corner and side of the house is a screened porch which was either rebuilt not long ago, or was screened in not long ago. It has new walls and windows, but not a new roof or decking.

The roofs on the two open porches are held up by posts -- five across the front of the house, and two on the kitchen porch. They're not too fancy -- just square section, with baseboards, some trim, a shelf and some beveling. But they aren't overly simple, either, and they have a nice look to them. You can see one of them pretty clearly behind the leafing rig in the picture from my last post, holding up the roof of the kitchen porch. When we moved in, they were accompanied by railings and neat balusters, but they were in pretty rough shape, and I pulled them off years ago, with all intention of replacing them at some point. Haven't gotten to that yet, and may never at this rate.

When we moved into the house, all but two of the posts were original. At least, they were painted with very old looking paint and were significantly weathered. Five or six years ago, I noticed that the baseboards on the kitchen porch posts were looking pretty rough, and I decided to replace them. "Rough" isn't really the word to use, I discovered when I started working on them -- "crumbling" would be better. In pulling them apart, I discovered that the posts themselves had significant integrity problems, and were also, in fact, hollow -- just a box section of 1x4s, with some trim layered on. I also learned that they had been sawn off about 10 inches off the deck, and were propped up by a few 1x4's, which were in turn held in and hidden by some trim pieces at the post bases. I think I got a little ashen when I realized I'd been up on that roof the year before, doing some tarring work.

Anyway, I gave my head a good, long, incredulous shake, replaced the pieces propping the posts up with some PT 4x4's, and made a note to replace those posts the following spring. Then I took a good look at the other original posts (on the front porch), and noticed many of the same problems. Only the posts at the northwest corner of the front porch looked OK. I believe the previous owner had made those. They were obviously recently made, appeared to be nicely done, and I didn't feel the need to mess with them. I had also found and used some puzzling L-shaped lumber scraps in the basement that began to make some sense when I started pulling apart the posts, and these led me to believe the two new posts weren't hollow. So my post project swelled from two to five (better than seven!), and my months ahead would now apparently be filled with carpentry.

That winter I bought a table saw and router and miter saw (toys!), and spent hours and hours in the basement making new (and solid-core, btw) posts for installation when the weather turned. Making five posts took a while, but it was simple work made faster with the right tools. I won't get into how I made them here, but I'll get back to that. And yes, I still have all my fingers. Installing them was pretty simple, in part because I already had a pair of big hydraulic jacks that I'd used the summer we moved in to prop up the barn floor with posts and beams from below.

On a side note, one of the original front porch posts is still providing supporting services today. It's at my sister and brother-in-law's place, along with the Shogun Katana bicycle I mentioned a while back. Only instead of sitting in a shed, the post is busy holding up a neat bird house my brother-in-law made. Mike is a super guy. He's a former technology guy who decided to follow his heart, and is now making custom furniture and cabinetry. And it's very nice stuff, at that. His blog is at, and his website is

A few weeks ago, I'd planned to do some painting on the porches, so I borrowed my boss' power washer, and cleaned everything up a bit. And in the process, I discovered that the baseboard of one of the two posts I didn't replace (one the previous owner had made) was rotting. I pulled the baseboard off, and found the core of the post to be soaking wet and rotten as well. It seems the end-grain had been wicking water its entire life, and my guess is that it had stayed wet because that corner stays shaded by a big maple. Another project! Sweet! (That's sarcasm, btw.)

So I'm now in the process of making a sixth post. And with fresh data that Douglas fir will both wick water and rot, I'm going to make that post out of cedar (fortunately, just like the first five I made), and put a wicking barrier on the end grain. Cedar has gotten expensive, by the way. A 10' 4x4 was like $90 -- that's close to mahogany prices! I'll have pictures and more on the post fabrication process later. Happy Halloween!

All for now,


Friday, October 24, 2008


Just a quick Gravely update tonight. Last weekend I got the leafing rig together and used it for the first time this season -- both days, actually. I assembled the box, got everything into place and tooled around the yard picking up leaves.

Things started out OK, but I discovered that the armature pin on the fuel pump is loose enough to work its way out in no time at all, and it's been leaking oil again. After a couple of attempts to fix it in place, I ended up smooshing a piece of lead into the nooks and crannies of the casting's outer shape to act as a physical barrier to sliding out, and that appears to have done the trick for now. At some point I'll do something more permanent, but as you'll read, there's more than one permanent fix needed.

Second, a simple thing: The starter solenoid is sticking. I was able to find it (it's on the inside of a frame rail, down by the operator's shins), and whacking on the frame rail with a hammer seems to have unstuck it for now. But that's going to need to be replaced at some point. These things just use old GM-spec solenoids, readily and cheaply available at a NAPA or CAP store.

The truly bad news is that the engine has a rod knock. It also seems to be leaking some oil around the crankshaft on the flywheel side. Doesn't seem to be burning too much oil, at least. In any case, it would seem the engine will either need to be rebuilt or replaced.

I can find out easily enough how much an Onan NB-MS rebuild will cost, but I don't expect to hear good news, there, unless I did it myself. It's got to take a bunch of hours to do a rebuild. We'll see how it goes. It's a stout engine, and I'd rather not have to replace it, but we'll see what the options are.

Actually, though, I have seen some interesting repowers of Gravely equipment on the Web. Replacing the big, shaky single-cylinder Onan with a v-twin from Kohler, Honda or Briggs & Stratton might be fun. More power is available, should I want it, and I'm sure they'd produce much less noise and vibration than I'm getting now, and a modern engine would be a lot cleaner and greener too. Or I could repower my walk-behind and move its engine over to the rider, since I don't use the rider nearly as much, and the benefits of a new motor would be experienced to a far lesser extent. Again -- we'll see. I don't really have time for any of the above, honestly.

In the mean time, I'm going to keep the engine speeds slow and steady -- no more than half throttle on the tractor. And I'm going to keep it throttled back on the vacuum as well -- no need to overstress either engine, and since I got all the sticks up a few weeks ago and am keeping ahead of the leaves, part throttle seems perfectly fine.

Speaking of which, the leafer engine is performing pretty well. It got into a wierd non-running state last weekend that I eventually solved, but I'm not really sure how. Maybe by tightening up the three fuel pump bolts on it, or scouring the magnet on the flywheel with steel wool -- not sure what did the trick. In the process of trying to solve it, though, I discovered that one of the head studs is broken off and as a result, the head can't be removed. Which isn't a big deal since it was an essentially free engine. But rebuilding that one isn't really an option, it seems, should the need ever arise. I also had to run a tap down through another of the head stud holes, so at some point in it's life, the engine's clearly been messed with by someone who'd no business messing with it. But again, it was free and it's running fine again -- for now. If it gets me through a season or two, that's all I can really ask.

I also set the rig up with the new hose. I could probably have done with a 7 foot length rather than an 8, but that's OK. The new hose is nice because it doesn't sag like the old one did, and it stays up and out of the way of the muffler. I'd planned to experiment with supports for it, but it seems all I need to do with it is lash it to the trailer tongue with a tie-down strap, and all is well.

So far (mostly), so good. But the tractor is going to need some love. I should add, though, that as frustrating as it is to not be able to rely on the equipment like I can my car (a 2006 Mazda3 that's been pretty much flawless in that regard), I did know what I was getting into with this stuff. And the truth is there's a part of me that thrives on tinkering and cobbling together contraptions and coming up with solutions. It's a part of me that requires constant feeding, and sharing that is really what this blog is all about. So I'll raise my coffee cup, here, to old machines needing some love.

All for now,


Friday, October 17, 2008


What is a Gravely?

Well, one of the age-old challenges farmers have faced is in how to efficiently work their land and their crops. If you've ever tried to use a spade to do more than dig a small flower bed into your front yard, you can probably appreciate that challenge. Digging by hand to prepare a seed bed is slow work that can be both difficult and frustrating. I'm sure draft animals were a vast improvement (and they even came with a lifetime supply of fertilizer!), but mechanization was truly a revolution when it came. Corner my dad sometime and he can tell you all about the impact mechanization had on the Ellsworth farm back in the day.

I'm no farmer. You just learned that my dad was a farm kid, but at best I'm a suburban gardener, and even that sort of gardening almost didn't take. You see, I grew up in an antique farmhouse, and my parents had a big garden most years I was growing up. I loved many of the types of produce they grew, but dreaded just as many. Add to the mix things like hoeing and weeding and watering on summer days I'd have preferred to be riding a bike or otherwise fooling around, and gardening was almost sworn off forever.

But having a dad who was a farm kid came with a couple of benefits. First, it meant he had a penchant for owning lots of power equipment, or at least borrowing it. I had access to a Farmall M as a kid, as well as a small diesel Ford tractor and various implements. Dad also made an interesting choice for a lawn mower -- he bought a piece of equipment he was familiar with from his youth, undoubtedly hoping he could use it for a variety of chores around the property. It was a Gravely Model L, fitted with a 30" brush cutter that served as our mower, and he also picked up positively medieval sickle bar mower (that looked perfect for lopping feet off at the ankles) and a snowblower (that looked hungry for human digits, limbs or even small livestock or pets).

So back to the question -- what's a Gravely? Well, I could get into all kinds of details, here, but I'll stick with the basics. A "traditional" Gravely is a two-wheeled tractor. The operator works from the rear, holding a pair of handlebars and operating a handful of levers. The engine sits beneath the bars at the far rear of the machine, bolted to a very heavy, very simple and very cool transmission that provides for up to 8 combinations of wheel speed, wheel direction and implement speed. They can be outfitted with a variety of implements -- mostly mowers, but also plows and tillers and brooms and blowers and the like. And countless home-made gadgets have been assembled for them as well, I'm sure. They are crude and heavy beasts, and they shake like a paint mixer -- especially the very old ones with the proprietary Gravely engines. In short, they are unlike anything most of us (or any of my friends' parents, back when I was a kid) has in our garage or shed.

The basic Gravely design was laid out in the 1940's, and continued with only detail changes until the last ones shipped a few years ago. In the late 1960's the neat old Gravely engine gave way to a Kohler engine, and that introduced a host of changes, but the fundamentals remained as originally penned. That's an amazing run, if you think about it. But where Gravely's made sense for small farms or private gardeners with big plots, they weren't big enough for medium or large commercial farms. My dad only used his sickle bar mower a couple of seasons at most, before giving up on it and borrowing the Farmall M and a field mower to do the job in a fraction of the time. And since they were essentially designed as small farm implements (60 years ago), they were/are far more crude and complicated than most homeowners will accept, even if much more capable. So they were essentially a niche product, and I'd be willing to bet most Americans couldn't tell you what a Gravely is.

The company had a number of owners over the years, including Studebaker, and is now essentially Ariens' commercial mower brand. They shut down the old Gravely offerings, and the closest thing to a Gravely 2-wheel tractor is a funny looking and expensive import with a hydrostatic transmission and the ability to use old attachments (with the right adapter kit). I'm honestly not sure that's even offered anymore. But eBay is a treasure trove of old Gravely stuff, and the old stuff generally works well if it's maintained and set up properly.

And when I was a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with ours. But as an adult, I think they're just wonderful. So when it came time for me to buy my own first lawn mower, I figured I'd get a Gravely. I wanted one machine capable of running multiple implements, and I ended up buying a Gravely 5665 with a Kohler 12 and an 8-speed transmission. It's been a wonderful purchase, and has needed surprisingly little maintenance over the years (and simple stuff at that). It's only been in the shop once, and I now have a 50" 3-bladed out-front mower deck, a wide snowblower, and a rotary plow for tilling. And I hae a couple of other tractors as well -- a 430 rider with a 40" deck as seen in my last post, and the very Model L that I grew up with (whose serial number dates to the early 1960's).

Actually, if I were to be honest, I'd add that I have two other snowblowers (including the mauler my dad bought years back), a plow blade, and another rotary plow gearbox kicking around. And if I were being really, really honest, I'd say that I've owned still another rotary plow, a 30" mower deck, one running L8, two non-running L's, all of which have been since sold on eBay. And that I gave my dad the L8, so it's sort of still my responsibility. I also convinced my brother in law to buy a Commercial 12, which came with a bunch of attachments. He has had nothing but bad luck with it, unfortunately -- exact opposite of my own experiences. Anyway, as you can see, I can be a bit of a hoarder.

When I took custody of the tractor I used as a kid several years ago, I picked it up in my trailer, then stopped at a car wash, where I blasted away at years of grime and oil with a power washer. Once I got it home I started taking it apart, I was able to identify several examples of my adolescent handiwork (ahem). Stuff like the trailer hitch being held together (sort of), by an undersized bolt and nut because dad didn't have the right bolt. Things like fabricated throttle cable anchors, cut from galvanized sheet steel and an old Army index card box bolted in place as a toolbox. Some of these things I left alone during the rebuild because there was nothing wrong with what I did then, but other stuff I had to fix. And though I'm proud to say that it ran once I reassembled it, I then discovered that the cylinder was cracked (a common problem), and it needed to come apart again. It's been that way for a couple of years now, and I just haven't gotten back to it. I have most of the parts, but need to find time to put it back together. Maybe this fall or next Spring. But there always seems to be another priority -- in some cases, another broken Gravely.

But they're still pretty cool.

All for now,


Sunday, October 12, 2008


I've had my Gravely/Ransomes home-built leaf-cleaning rig for going on three years, and used it two seasons thus far. And as I mentioned last time, keeping it running and functioning has been something of an adventure in old equipment.

I chose the Gravely because it has gear drive, rather than belt drive. I needed a tractor that had the ability to climb hills towing several hundred pounds of leaf mulch, trailer and leaf vacuum, and a belt drive seemed suspect in that regard. But it still has a belt to drive the mower. The first year, the mower deck belt broke, and since the leaves are swept up and given an initial mulching by the mower deck, it obviously needed to be replaced. Figuring out the serpentine path of a mower belt is always a joy, and ever since I replaced it, the new one smells like burning rubber whenever the PTO is engaged. I'm expecting the belt to break again, but I'm hoping the belt will eventually just burn off whatever compounds are in it that make it smell, and that when it's done so it will still be intact. In any case, I can't figure out why it's overheating, if that's what it's doing.

The tractor has otherwise been pretty easy to deal with. The starter switch is a little touchy, and the throttle cable pops off the throttle lever on a regular basis up behind the dashboard (which is maddening, let me tell you). But that's pretty much it. Actually, the latter is why the hood is missing from the front of the tractor in the picture above -- it's much easier to get at the throttle cable that way. Old Gravelys also leak, so I store it without any oil in the transmission case, because the right side axle seal will otherwise let a bunch of oil escape during winter storage.

Oh! And I siezed both engines last year. That's right -- both the tractor's engine and the truck loader's engine. On the same afternoon. That was not a good day.

The leaf vacuum went two seasons without me thinking to check or change the oil or air filter. Yeah, I know -- not smart. There was oil in it when it siezed last year, but it was a lot more like tar than oil. Not good. It never un-siezed -- that engine was well and truly toast. This happened maybe an hour after the tractor's engine locked up. That one ran dry of oil because the fuel pump leaked the stuff like a single-hulled tanker. Or a Gravely. I let it cool down, put oil in it, and it ran again, but not well.

Clearly I was distracted last year -- distracted for the same reasons that find me living in apartment for now, I suppose. Normally I'd expect siezing an engine to be enough of a wake-up call to get me to actually check on everything else. No such luck last year.

Anyway, I finished the leaves by hand (I was almost done anyway), and started looking for solutions to those problems as soon as the snow melted this past Spring.

The dead 7HP Kawasaki came off the vacuum over the winter, and in June was replaced by an 8HP Briggs & Stratton from a broken (Italian) BCS tractor I picked up in March or so. It was a pretty sweet deal. The seller didn't seem to know what that tractor was, so he'd posted the tractor on eBay essentially as a functioning 8HP B&S engine with a disposal problem bolted to it. A $115 bid sealed the deal (sweet!), and the engine fired right away when I picked it up. I took the engine off, and found it had the right shaft diameter for the truck loader (which was an educated guess, but still lucky), and as I put it on the Ransomes, I further found it had the right dimensions for all the bolt holes on the Ransomes' housings to line up properly. The muffler's a bit close to the frame, but I did what I could with the little shield that directs the flow, and it shouldn't be a big deal as long as I watch where I put my hands

I posted the engine-less (and now properly identified) BCS tractor on eBay this Summer and got about $115 for it. So I essentially got a free replacement engine. That's a break you don't get very often, and I promise to take care of this one!

You'll remember that the rider still ran last year, but not all that well. I figured I could limp it through this season rather than fixing it. And I figured that if I couldn't, I'd just find a used Gravely-spec Kohler and bolt that on in place of the Onan, for which parts are much harder to come by these days. Either way, I had to get the oil leak under control, as it wasn't doing the tractor, the environment or me any good. So last weekend, I took some time to fix the oil leak.

It appears to have been caused by two things. First, the pivot pin for the armature had drifted out of place -- all the way out of one side of the casting, and the open hole made for a fine oil drain. And second it had a bent mounting flange. The casting was either flawed all along, or had bowed over time. I'm not sure how likely the latter is, but the thick rubber spacer between the pump and block might not have provided for a sufficiently stable and flat surface to torque down the casting against.

I removed the pump and took it over to Waverly Tool over in Framingham. Following the advice of a very helpful guy in the parts department (whose name I didn't get, unfortunately), I took the pump's armature out (which was actually when I noticed the pin was out of place), then used some emory cloth sitting on a flat countertop as a grinding surface to even out the flange. It took maybe a half hour to sand it flat and clean the grit out of it. Then, to make sure it didn't warp again, I fabricated some crude spacers from aluminum stock to replace the rubber spacer. I put the pin back in properly, and bought three fresh gaskets (to sit between the engine block and the first spacer, between the two spacers and between the second spacer and the fuel pump).

I then fired up the rider after a year's dry storage and discovered that the plug wire was arcing (it was visible in the darkness of the barn's basement). A little electrical tape solved that problem, and... Voila! Much to my delight, the engine runs great and now seems no worse for wear from its sieze-up. No burning oil, no undue noises and plenty of power. And the pump has no leaks, even after 20 minutes of high RPM running.

For this season I've also replaced the old rubberized cloth and wire hose (which had been burned through by the muffler in a couple of places) with a new polyethylene hose. And I'm going to rig up a J-shaped support bracket from iron pipe to hold it up and out of the way of the exhaust. That one will sit on the back of the tractor, behind the seat on the engine cover. Then I'll put another support on the trailer's tongue. I was first thinking I just needed something to keep the hose away from the muffler, but I don't think that's going to be foolproof, so I'll make some more substantial supports instead. The new hose is clear, so I'll be able to see clogs more easily (sticks tend to clog things up), and it's sturdy, so it shouldn't kink up as much.

This weekend I have my girls with me, so I'm going to put the rig together next weekend and make the first sweep of the lawn. I'm sure there will be teething problems with this new configuration, but I'm looking forward to playing with my toys.

All for now,


Friday, October 10, 2008


Fall in New England can be lovely -- especially while the foliage is heading towards or at peak. And each year, when I stand at the end of my driveway and look back at my home, framed by beautiful 150-year old sugar maples in blazing color, it makes me smile.

But then three weeks later, I have to clean the leaves off the lawn, and I'm not smiling so much anymore.

The fall leafing ritual has always been a mixed blessing for me. It's a pretty thankless chore (though I suppose the lawn would thank me if it could), and a tremendous effort at that, but has also been an inspiration for innovation and process improvement.

The first few years we were in my house, I did the leaves by hand, with rakes and a tarp. My wife helped the first year, but the raking bug apparently didn't take, and I've pretty much had the chore to myself most years. The raking method sucked, really, and it didn't get much better when I started using my trailer to get the leaves to the back yard, towing it behind my Gravely walk-behind. It only took me a couple of years to decide to try something different.

The first big improvement involved blowing. I bought an electric blower, which was a complete and utter waste of time and money. But sticking with the tried and true approach of using a bigger hammer if the small one didn't work, I rented a "Little Wonder" walk behind leaf blower from The Home Depot in Natick. This thing was life-changing.

Using a walk-behind blower was by no means "free" in terms of effort. It was like pushing a heavy lawnmower around, and required no fewer passes on the lawn. But it was a real time-saver as compared to the rake. It helped me create piles for loading into the trailer in a fraction of the time. What had been a 3-4 day epic the first couple of years became a 2-2.5 day event. Not bad! I rented a walk-behind unit for a couple of years, then bought one of my own several years ago. I couldn't justify a Little Wonder (nice as they are), and bought a Giant Vac that works just fine (but whose low-hour alloy Briggs and Stratton engine block cracked a few years ago, necessitating a replacement).

The world isn't a static place, and neither is my neighborhood. The woods behind my house had at one point been an orchard. The orchard had over time been abandoned, grown up into woods, and then, perhaps inevitably, the last remaining parcel -- three acres directly behind my house -- was developed. I had plenty of warning, and as the winter closed in after the last Fall of dragging leaves into those woods three years ago, I started thinking about other leafing strategies.

I started by looking into professional removal, but in spite of my penchant for spending perfectly good money on occasionally questionable toys, my Yankee sensibilities struggled with the notion of forking over $700 to clean up the yard every Fall. I guess getting back a bit more than a weekend for only $300 per day isn't such a bad deal. But it's not like I'd be able to use that time to relax. There's always something else waiting in line for time and money when you own a house. And that's especially the case with an old one.

Having ruled out landscapers (sorry, guys) I stumbled on Trac Vac companions for riding mowers. These vacuums are of a design similar to my walk behind blower, but arranged such that the business end of the machine is the fan's intake, not its exhaust. But the homeowner models are pretty expensive and don't offer much collection capacity. I get a LOT of leaves -- I'd spend all my time emptying bins. Then one day I saw a landscaping truck roll by. It was a dump body pickup with a big plywood box on the back and a vacuum sitting on the hitch. Eureka! I had my solution. There's a pun in there, in case you missed it.

Over the next few weeks, I noodled on a plan. I needed a riding mower, a truck loader (I learned the vacuums were called), a box for my trailer, a hitch for the mower and an adapter to connect the truck loader hose to the mower deck. And my budget was $700.
I found a truck loader in The Want Advertiser, a local classifieds publication (in case that wasn't obvious) that can be found at convenience stores and the like. I have to believe their business model is under immense pressure, but it's a useful weekly, just the same. There was a Ransomes truck loader up near Portsmouth, NH for $250 -- perfect! OK, not perfect, or even close to perfect. But a good start.

I've mentioned that I'm a Gravely guy. And so naturally I wanted a Gravely rider to complement my walk behinds. And more to the point, I wanted one of the older ones whose internals I understood. They have drivelines that are virtually identical to the walk behinds, complete with big bronze worm gears putting torque to the drive wheels. eBay yielded a 1970-ish Gravely 430 tractor (t's a 400 series rider with an Onan 12 on it, at least). It was out in Berwick, PA on the Susquehanna river. It was a bit of a drive out there and back, but I made a long weekend of it and visited with a good friend in New Jersey. We took in the Auto Show while we were at it -- a good weekend all around. eBay also coughed up a Trac Vac attachment for the Gravely's mower deck, which allowed me to connect a leaf vacuum to the grass chute on the deck without having to fabricate anything.

My trailer is a perfect platform for a box into which the vacuum could discharge the mulch created by the dual action of the mower deck and the vacuum impeller. I made a 4x4x6 box from thin plywood, giving me a bit of room at the front of the trailer to mount the blower. The rear door on the box swings upward and out of the way, and the box vents out the top of the box. The box breaks down and builds up readily with drywall screws. And the vacuum is counterbalanced by cinder blocks loaded inside the mulch box, at the far rear of the trailer, making it much easier to horse the trailer around and taking a lot of strain off the tractor's hitch (which I don't really trust for this load).
Putting it together every fall is pretty simple. I assemble the box, wrestle the vacuum onto the front of the trailer, strap it down with some ratcheting tie-down straps, toss in the four cinder blocks, hitch it up to the tractor and run the hose forward to the mower deck, where it connects to the chute via a length of stove pipe. There are a couple of years' worth of evolution here, and it works well at this point. Building the box takes the longest of the steps above.
I have to say, it works very well. But as you might expect with old equipment, there have been some issues over the years. And though I came in under budget initially, I haven't stayed there. More on my leafing rig next time.
All for now,