Hannah and I pulled in at 6:00 pm pulling the blue trailer full of brush from Red’s house. The boys are at Presque Isle with my folks for the holiday weekend and Lyssa’s working late tonight. It’s just as well, this weekend is 100% project-focused. Miraculously, my back is completely better from the freak tweak I gave it last Sunday, so I’m ready.
The pit was starving. I let it feast.
I hauled my clothes and supplies into the keep, which was pleasantly pre-cooled thanks to my remote-controlled air conditioner. It’s in the mid 80s and only supposed to get hotter as the weekend goes on, so it’ll be essential to have somewhere to beat the heat. Back outside, the mosquitoes were in full force. I loaded myself up with DEET and started stacking Red’s brush on the burn pile. It’s all evergreen that’s had a year to dry out, so it should catch fire pretty quickly. Once the trailer was empty, I moved it out of the way and double checked the DNR site to make sure it was OK to burn. Confident I wouldn’t attract the authorities, I grabbed my propane torch and started lighting the brush. In less than a minute, I had a raging fire, the first one of 2018. I didn’t even need any gasoline.
The whole family arrived around 6:45 pm with a truck full of tools and goodies. The weather is beautiful, the apple trees are blooming, and we’ve come up for the weekend to enjoy it all.
The kiddos did some exploring while Hannah ran her laps. The gophers / groundhogs / whatevers are sure busy around the driveway entrance and bedroom end of the keep. I wish I could find their tunnel entrances so I could try to do something about them. For now, I just have to settle for flattening their mounds with the truck.
Before it got too dark and everyone came in for the night, I wanted to get some small, indoor projects out of the way. Lyssa and the boys fed the birds and spread some corn for the deer while I worked inside. I bought a Yamaha soundbar to replace the aging Sony receiver. It had a good long run, but it has no digital inputs and is starting to act up. I took down all the speakers from the living room, unsnaked the wires, and got the receiver out of the entertainment center. The soundbar looks a lot nicer by the TV than the old center channel speaker did anyway. It has a subwoofer output, so I kept the sub from the Sony setup. They sound really good together.
Hannah and I drove in at 9:15 pm. I’m taking the day off work tomorrow so I can get all the leaves collected up here before the storms we’re supposed to get later in the week. If I want any kind of lawn this year, the sooner I can get this done, the better.
It’s going to be hot tomorrow with highs in the mid 80s, so I turned on the AC to get ahead of it. This got me thinking of a quick project I could take care of. I’ve got the ability to remotely control the AC with the Logitech Harmony hub, but I can’t really tell what I’m doing or if it’s responding. As long as the AC is set correctly and then turned off when I leave, I just have to hit Power from the remote app and everything will kick on the way it’s supposed to. I wanted more control and assurance, though. I took a USB webcam and mounted it to the underside of the upper kitchen cabinets. It’s pointed directly at the control panel of the air conditioner. This plugs into the PuckaPi, where a program called fswebcam is used to take snapshots. Now I’ll be able to tell exactly what mode the AC is in and can do more fine-tuning remotely.
Content with my efforts, I spent the rest of the night being lazy and watching TV. I was asleep before 11:00.
Flying trip today. Came down a very wet driveway at 2:45 pm with a truck bed full of tools and building materials from Mayville. My folks are making the final push to sell that place, and I’m happy to help just to be rid of it. I made some room in the pole barn for all the sheets of OSB and panelling from the Mayville garage and had the truck emptied in about ten minutes. As long as I was here and heading back to Mayville, I figured I’d make the most of it. I backed up the truck to the scrap pile and heaved the burn barrel into the bed. Farmer Joe expressed some interest in this a while back, so today he’s getting it delivered. Rolled out around 3:30.
Rode in with the whole family around 2 pm after a Menards supply stop and late lunch at Aunt Judy’s. Hannah couldn’t wait to get out of the truck. It’s 55° and sunny—finally, some nice spring weather! I backed the truck and blue trailer up to the pole barn to load up Dad’s riding mower for him. Josh sat on the seat to keep the engine running while Lyssa held the trailer in tilted position and I steered it on board. We need a loading dock.
Buck came over and gave Hannah some exercise as they chased each other around the yard. I had to shoo him back to Danny’s after a while, though. He’s too rough with the boys and kept jumping on them and knocking them over. Lyssa set up Josh’s new tree swing for the boys while I unloaded some supplies in the pole barn. We brought Jake’s new utility cart, and he was thrilled to put it to use by cleaning up the big pile of sawdust left from Jeremiah’s mill last fall.
Made it up around 2:00 pm for a quick supply run. There was a big TV sale at Best Buy earlier this month—$200 for a 50″ 1080p LCD. The keep gets a nice upgrade, and the 42″, 720p LCD that’s being replaced will move to the pole barn. I also brought Lyssa’s snow tires back and a few other odds and ends.
The overall size of the chassis isn’t much different, but there’s a lot more screen real estate.
I set up the TV and configured the Harmony remote hub and the receiver to work with it. With that out of the way, I closed up the keep and moved on to the pole barn. I stacked Lyssa’s tires and put the old keep TV on the workbench for now. I really need to spend some time organizing this building again.
Before heading out, I had one more thing to try. Last fall at deer camp, we wrecked my pump fill tube trying to thaw it out. So I used the opportunity to build it better. The new one has a much larger “priming tank” made from a section of 4″ PVC. The drain has been improved, too. Instead of the old drilled-hole-plugged-by-a-big-bolt, there’s now a 3/4″ PVC tee below the fill tube that terminates in a 45° elbow with a removable plug.
With my checklist complete for the day, I was on my way out around 4:30.
Hannah and I rode in around 2:30 on this unseasonably warm 60° day. Originally, I wanted to come up much earlier this morning and spend the day mowing and mulching, but I ended up getting a lot of errands run at home instead. I brought the ATV and plow back, so I got them unloaded quickly and set my sights on the keep.
I also brought up two six-gallon jugs of drinkable Oshkosh water which I set on the bathroom counter. My goals for today are all Puckanet-related. I want to increase the 4G signal to the router and set up my weather station.
The first thing I had to do was figure out mounting for the sensor module. The higher up, the better, but it needs to be within 300 feet of the base station (and probably closer than that, with the aluminum walls of the keep serving to block the signal) to function. I decided to put it on the top of the bird feeder post. Should get plenty of sun and there’s no canopy overhead to mess with the rainfall gauge.
The boys have been getting cabin fever lately. It’s been in the 40s and almost all the snow has melted, so we decided to make a day trip to Puckaway. The five of us (Hannah needs to get out of the house, too) piled in the truck and made it to Aunt Judy’s by 11:15 for a late breakfast. The boys drew some pictures for Judy to hang up, then made short work of a pair of adult-sized omelets. Shortly after we sat down, Danny and his wife came in, too. They both remarked on how much Jacob’s grin reminds them of Richie.
We made it to Puckaway around noon. Hannah started her strafing runs and the boys headed straight to the pole barn to get out some of their trucks. I unloaded the day’s project: major Puckanet upgrades.
It’s been quite a week. The wild swings in temperature have brought on a lot of snowmelt over still-frozen ground. Back in Oshkosh, this resulted in a lot of water pooling near the back of the house. The catch basin and 40 feet of buried 4″ PVC drain pipe that I put in to combat just this situation were rendered useless as they were plugged solid with ice. Water started leaking into the basement because the utility pump I bought out of desperation just couldn’t keep up with the melt rate. To top things off, something was wrong with the water heater from the keep. It would shut itself off after only lighting the burners for a few seconds, which prevented me from using it to flush my drain line with hot water. I felt defeated as a homeowner because my drain solution had failed, discouraged at the prospect of no more hot water at Puckaway, and sick thinking about the freezing rain in the forecast and how it would affect my basement.
My wonderful wife helped me put these (still mostly managed) problems in perspective and suggested that what I needed was some time to recharge and reflect. She would take the boys down by her folks for the weekend and said I should head to Puckaway with the pooch. An overnight stay in February would be an unprecedented event, but probably just what the doctor ordered. Just the idea of a Puckaway trip got me in a better headspace, and by Thursday I had come up with a solution for my frozen pipe problem.
The Devil Makes Three – Do Wrong Right
It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been making these log entries for three years already. The events of the first two years are well chronicled. More sweeping changes came to the landscape in 2017, so let’s review!
Our first trip of the year introduced a new member of the family, our dog Hannah. She bears a striking resemblance to, and shares a name with, a wonderful pooch I had growing up. And she shares her namesake’s love for Puckaway. It was a blast to watch our shelter rescue learn how to be a dog and have fun by tearing around the grounds. Outside of that, similar to years prior, there wasn’t much more winter activity save for a quick supply run.
Just like last year, mid-April marked the first family day trip where we opened up the keep. Peter, in a bid for Neighbor of the Year, came through and ground 14 stumps in the yard just because he had a grinder for a day and is a great guy. We also saw our first unpaid brick-removal team as my “free bricks” craigslist post paid its first dividends. A later April trip came with a major HD upgrade to the bird feeder camera, more brick laborers, the first bonfire of the year, and a trailer load of scrap tires getting hauled off the property. The groundskeeping projects got off to a great start this year.