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  • Changing the Oil with The Mechanic
  • Tilling Techniques with The Gardener

Changing the Oil

Jun 24th, 2008 by The Mechanic | Comments Off on Changing the Oil

To keep your tiller engine running smoothly, change the oil every 50 hours or once a season.  It takes 5 minutes so don’t put it off.  Gather what you need – 3/8″ wrench, a container for the used oil, a funnel, and about 2/3 quart of high quality 30W oil classified “For Service SF, SG, SH, or SJ”.

Place your mason jar or can under your oil plug found on the front, lower, cast edge of your engine.  Using your 3/8″ wrench remove the plug.  Put the plug where you will be able to find it later.

Put your container on the ground under your drain plug.  Use your 3/8\

Then, remove the oil fill plug to provide air flow to speed things up a bit. 

Oil should be flowing fast, now.

Oil should be flowing now.  Adjust your jar if necessary.

Tilt your tiller forward to get the last little bit.

As the flow slows, tilt your tiller forward to get the last little bit.

Replace the oil plug.

Replace the oil plug.  Tighten lightly with your wrench.

Using a funnel, carefully refill the oil reservoir.

Using a funnel, carefully fill your oil reservoir, using about 2/3 quart of oil.

Fill to point of over flowing.  You should be able to see the oil at the threads of the oil fill plug.

And that’s all there is to it.!

Lemmie’s Garden

Jun 12th, 2008 by The Gardener | Comments Off on Lemmie’s Garden




This is the first of a series of posts about your garden. If you would like to show your garden, please email me at thegardener@maximmfg.com.

I visited Lemmie’s Garden this week, and WOW.  There is not a weed in sight, neither is there a jug of weed killer.  I wish my garden looked like this.  This pristine garden is a result of a no-laziness policy and a secret weapon.  I’ll get to that later.

Lemmie’s tiller is a well used, ten year old Maxim RMT50B, but that isn’t the secret weapon, but it does help.  He likes this tiller because it keeps going year after year without expensive repairs and it stands up to our heavy clay soil. The tines are self sharpening, so it is low maintenance.

Lemmie has butter beans, peas, green beans, tomatoes, squash, and peppers – enough for a small army or at least an extended family – in super straight rows that would certainly impress any general.  The squash and banana pepper are producing already, and there are green tomatoes for frying on the vines, but the beans are just blooming and the peas still have a way to go. 

He supports his tomatoes with rebar rods driven into the ground far enough to withstand wind and drenching rains.  His beans are stuck with what we call bean poles, but they are saplings cut at just the perfect size for climbing beans.  These poles are also driven into the ground without any other support.  The effect is a wonderfully neat garden.

I learned something when I was there (something other than that I need to spend more time getting acquainted with my hoe).  When I first walked up I saw several water bottles hanging on bean poles and tomato supports.  I asked about them because, honestly, they seemed a bit out of place in Lemmie’s immaculate garden spot.  Each of these bottles had paper towel wet with perfume.  The scent keeps marauding deer away.  All right, this is a secret weapon, but not the one I alluded to earlier.

Lemmie’s secret weapon is one of Maxim’s discontinued products, an all time favorite of row gardeners who plant somewhat large gardens, The Plow Hoss.  He can run his Plow Hoss right next to the plants with a sweep (You can get this accessory for the Till n’ Plow, MT, Special, or GM) without harming the roots.  He can use the Plow Hoss even when it is somewhat dry because it only turns the top, weed layer.  The results are fantastic!!

Maxim’s considering dusting off The Plow Hoss for next year.  I think I’ll be first in line because I’d like fewer weeds with less work.

The Three Sisters

Jun 2nd, 2008 by The Gardener | Comments Off on The Three Sisters

When I started vegetable gardening seriously, I looked closer at others’ gardens.  Perhaps, I was comparing to see if I were completely incompetent, learning, or just curious, but I looked and I asked questions.

“Why do you plant those marigolds in your vegetable garden?”

“Why are you letting those beans take over the corn?”


Answers ranged from, “That’s the way my momma did it.” to “Keeps the bugs away.”  Curious as I am, I wanted to see if the marigolds in the tomatoes was truth or old wives tale.  And in this search, I found The Three Sisters.  Again, whether science has actually proved the beneficial nature of companion planting, I’m not sure, but years and years of documented gardener’s proof and the sacred legends and methods of the Native Americans are enough for me.


The legend of “Three Sisters” originated when a woman of medicine who could no longer bear the fighting among her three daughters asked the Creator to help her find a way to get them to stop. That night she had a dream, and in it each sister was a different seed. In her dream, she planted them in one mound in just the way they would have lived at home and told them that in order to grow and thrive, they would need to be different but dependent upon each other. They needed to see that each was special and each had great things to offer on her own and with the others. The next morning while cooking breakfast, she cooked each daughter an egg, but each was different: one hard-boiled, one scrambled, and one over-easy. She told her daughters of her dream and said to them, “You are like these eggs. Each is still an egg but with different textures and flavors. Each of you has a special place in the world and in my heart.” The daughters started to cry and hugged each other, because now they would celebrate their differences and love one another more because of them. From that day on, Native people have planted the three crops together—Three Sisters helping and loving each other. – by Sheila Wilson in Tar Heel Junior Historian 45:1 (Fall 2005) 


This version of the legend is one of many and the methodology bears the same diversity. Regardless of the story or the practicalities, The Three Sisters combination makes perfect sense.  Look at the pictures of the individuals of the three sisters.  The squash (summer squash in this case) has huge shade producing and weed blocking leaves and is a typical feeder type plant.  The corn is a definite feeder plant, has very shallow roots that either need shade or hilling, and it grows tall and straight.  The beans are a natural source of food for plants with their nitrogen fixation capabilities and they send out runners seeking a place to climb.  What a lovely combination!  Each plant perfectly gives what the others lack making planting together a wonderful way to increase production and reduce work.

Buffalo Bird Woman\'s Garden by Gilbert L WilsonBuffalo Bird Woman relates, in *Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden, the Hidatsa methods of planting The Three Sisters.  Their method maintains rows as illustrated by this image.  They also add sunflowers to the edge of the garden.  

Others plant the sisters in one hill which, to me, takes advantage of all the companion properties of each plant.  Your garden won’t look completely neat and tidy though.  However you decide to plant The Three Sisters you do need to keep in mind the legendary order of planting.

According to Buffalo Bird Woman and my trial and error corn is the older sister and should go into the ground first.  Once the corn is up to about knee high, plant your squash followed quickly by your beans.  Logically speaking this makes perfect sense if you are following the one hill plan.  The corn needs the sun and rain to get a good start. Once the corn starts showing roots it needs the shade of the large leaved squash plant.  Beans are a fast germinator and grower so if the corn is to be the pole (so you won’t have to cut and stick), it needs a head start.

Whether you alternate rows, plant in single hills, or create a method of your own, The Three Sisters has a long history of boosting production, banishing weeds, and inhibiting bugs.  

Give it a try!

For further information try these books or websites:

*Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden, Gilbert L. Wilson.  Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota. 1987

The Bean Harvest Cookbook, Ashley Miller.  The Taunton Press.  Newtown, CT.  1997

The North Carolina Museum of History

Bird Clan of East Central Alabama

New York State Museum


Firing Up Your Tiller For Summer

May 30th, 2008 by The Mechanic | Comments Off on Firing Up Your Tiller For Summer

Down here, I pulled the #2 washtub off my tiller and cleaned the dirt daubers out of the air filter months ago, but as summer moves north a refresher course is due for those who have yet to begin the summer rituals of gardening.

First off, you need to fill your tank with gas.  I know y’all emptied your gas tanks for winter as recommended by the engine manufacturer.  If you didn’t, you may have a gummed up carburator, but we’ll get to that later.  Fill your gas tank.

Second.  Check your oil and add as needed.  Better yet, take this opportunity to do your engine a favor and change the oil as recommended by your engine manufacturer*.  

Third.  Seriously, check for dirt daubers, spiders, and other warmth seeking creature in your air filter casing.  Remove them.  Clean your filter.

Fourth.  Check the transmission fluid.  This is important.  This is where a lot of people make big mistakes.  The tiller in the picture is my well used Maxim Compact, M30B.  I would have cleaned it for you, but then we wouldn’t be keeping it real.  The check plug on this model is behind the tines right above the tine shaft**.  You may have to remove your tines to get to it by removing the cotter pin and tine pin from the tine closest to the transmission and slipping them off.

Before you start to check the fluid, clean the area around the check plug.  You don’t want dirt in there.  Remove the plug.  You should be able to see oil right below the opening.  If you don’t you need to add some, but don’t get carried away unless you want pressure to build up in the transmission and blow your gasket so you have a greasy puddle in your shed.  

Refit the check plug.  Open the Oil Fill Plug and pour just a little 90 weight gear oil into the transmission.  Recheck at the check plug.  Oil should just ooze from the check opening.  DO NOT OVER FILL.  If you happen to put a little too much then let it run out of the check opening until the gear oil is just at the bottom of the opening.  I know this is messy, but it is better than the alternative of major repairs.  Use a cup to catch it.

Fifth.  Tighten all bolts.  The cold of winter and the warm of spring can loosen those things for you.  Make sure you have all tine pins and cotter pins in place.

Lastly.  Check your belt for wear.  Replace if necessary.  I’ll show you this later.

You should be ready to break ground.  Remember if you properly maintain your equipment, you will get many years of service.


*You can get copies of your owner’s manuals for both tiller and engine here, if you need a refresher.

**If you have another tiller model your check and fill valves will be in the same areas, but not in exactly the same place.  The larger transmissions have the check plug on front of the transmission rather than the side.



May 19th, 2008 by The Gardener | Comments Off on Spring

What a wonderful time to begin new projects, especially garden related ones!  The soil is warming, seedlings are ready for planting, and early vegetables are ready for eating.  Now, we wait for the weather to cooperate.  While waiting, we can look into some wonderful garden folklore, review the basics, and remember some lessons that seem to need to be learned every single year.

Join me!