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.
Rolled in with Hannah around 3:30 to some light snowfall. Time to collect the blue ATV and plow for the driveway back home. Hannah was sure happy to be here and got right to work making high-speed laps of the yard. This came with some pretty spectacular wipeouts, though. Thanks to the quick freeze-thaw-freeze cycle over the last few days, the yard is full of glare ice patches hidden beneath the fresh snow. Hannah, for the most part, was unfazed by this and just wanted to keep running.
I went to fire up the blue ATV and the dials went completely dead. What the hell. I’ve had this on the trickle charger, just like the green ATV and the mowers, and none of them are any worse for wear. Then again, I think this battery is at least six or seven years old and probably due for replacement. It’s a shame these require their electronics to function. Even with a pull rope, there’s no way of getting this to run without a battery.
Pulled in at 1:00 pm and noticed a welcome change right away. The truck box is gone! Peter hauled it over to Danny’s. Sure, it’s only moved a few hundred feet, but at least it’s out of the driveway and off of the property.
Ding dong, the box is gone.
I parked by the pole barn and started layering up. I brought my Carhartt bibs and jacket, balaclava, and warm gloves and hat since it’s just below 10° F out (sadly, this is the warmest day we’ve had in a week) and I’ll be spending this entire trip outdoors. A few days ago, I saw Peter’s truck on the pole barn camera. When Dad asked him what he was checking out, Peter mentioned he would have free use of a Skytrak (large, all-terrain boom lift) for a few days and wanted to know if we were still thinking of trimming the trees leaning over the pole barn. I jumped at the chance, which is why I took a half day off of work to meet him here today.
While waiting for Peter to show up, I carried my propane heater over to the keep and fired it up. So far, the little UPS heater seems to be doing its job admirably, but it’s been so consistently cold this past week that it has never turned off. I want to make sure the thermostatic switch does its thing when the temps rise above 30° F. This will serve as a test of the switch as well as give me a nice warm place to change out of my winter gear when we’re done today.
Flying trip! Took advantage of this unseasonably warm (nearly 60° F) day and stopped up a little before 3:00 pm to drop off the summer tires from Lyssa’s car. While I was here and it was so nice out, I took a minute to collect most of the logs and branches from the tree that fell during deer camp. It wasn’t long before there was a pretty big stack in the pit.
There was one more reason for the visit today. I picked up another smartplug, but this one can also measure and report power consumption. I’ll be able to tell remotely whether or not the UPS heater is running. I plugged this in just behind the thermostatic switch and got it connected to Wi-Fi. Once I had the app running on my phone, I plugged the heater into it directly to verify the readings. 68.5 watts. Even if this thing ran 24/7, it would only add $5 to a monthly power bill. We’re supposed to be in for some cold weather, so we’ll find out soon enough. I closed everything back up and was on my way out by 3:45.
Pulled in at 3:30. No pooch; don’t want to risk someone mistaking her for a deer. Temperatures were hovering just above freezing with on-and-off rain and I was looking forward to heading into a nice, pre-warmed keep. It was not to be. Apparently, there was a power outage between Tuesday and today; microwave clock was reset and the heater wasn’t running. Lovely. I went to the pole barn to get my propane sunflower heater to kickstart the keep thawing process, but it was nowhere to be found. Frustrated, I headed into the big trailer and saw Dad was using it in the living room. He, Steve, and Sam were already plenty warm and had electric heaters going anyway, so I grumbled, stole my propane gear back, and headed out to the keep again.
With the sunflower heater blasting warmth, I finally unloaded the truck. I carried the water jugs over to the big trailer and had a drink with the guys while the keep warmed up. I didn’t stick around long, though. The big trailer reeks. Pretty sure mice have made some kind of home in the oven. The whole place smells like boiled rodent urine. Not sure how the three of them can stand it. I wandered back to the keep and threw on a movie while I started to rebuild the Puckanet. I replaced the router with a Unifi gateway to give me some more remote control and data. And hopefully, if I ever find a way around Verizon’s NAT mess, I can use the gateway for VPN connections to my home network instead of relying on the Pi. The Puckanet is constantly evolving.
Pulled in at 1:30 with Hannah, who was glad to be back again so soon. She tore a few laps around the yard while I went into the keep to check out the Puckanet. It never reconnected to my VPN after the power was restored yesterday so I wanted to see what was going on. Turns out something got corrupted on the Pi and it wouldn’t boot at all. I’ll have to take it home and restore it from backup. Looks like the cameras will be down for a few days. I headed outside and saw Danny and Buck walking in to say hi. Hannah’s come around on Buck. She used to be really territorial and tried keeping him off the property, but now they’re perfectly happy chasing each other around the yard.
I’m sick of fighting this busted thing.
My main reason for coming up was mowing/leaf collection, so I got right to it. I hooked up the blower and the NASCAR trailer and started collecting leaves along the driveway. It was slow going as the trailer filled quickly. After three loads, I decided to change tactics and unhooked the collection equipment. I went around the yard between the keep and the pole barn and just mulched, progressively blowing the piles inward. Twice I was stopped by the front tie rod assembly coming apart at one of the wheels. I’ve had a redneck fix applied to this for the past year where it’s just held in place with a metal hose clamp, but it won’t hold anymore. The mount is just too worn out. I was forced to give up mowing around 4:15 with a lot of yard left to handle.
Quick note: I stopped in back on October 25 to put away the pop-up camper, but that was such a flying trip that it didn’t seem to merit a log entry.
Drove up with Hannah a little after 10:00 am with all sorts of electrical goodies in the back of the truck. Dad was already here with Jake, who had slept over at their house last night. Also with them was Dad’s brother Cal, a professional electrician. He was here to supervise and give me a hand as I made some much-needed upgrades to power supply here.
Our main outdoor service panel is in rough shape. It’s an ancient 60A “Pushmatic” affair with very reluctant breakers and it’s mounted to a rotten plywood board on an equally rotten 4×4 post. I think the only reason it still (mostly) works is that it can’t decide whether to fall over or catch on fire. Especially since the strange electrical problems we experienced last year at deer camp, I’ve been getting after Dad to talk to an electrician about upgrading the panel. Well, he talked to two of them. His friend Nick helped us pick out proper replacement parts, and now Uncle Cal was going to help me make the swap.
Home sweet home.
Hannah and I rode in around 4:30. Sunny and in the mid-60s, with no change in the forecast. This is going to be the best weather we’ve ever had for a Puckaweekend. Tools, clothes, and most other supplies are already here, but I brought a cooler full of goodies with me. I stocked the fridge and freezer with chili, beer, pizzas, and hot peppers, then headed outside. After filling the bird feeders, I kept the ladder out to make some modifications to the new outhouse vent. I added a wye with a 1 1/2″ plug to the base of the vent stack to make it easier to add water to the hole. I also installed a vent guard on the top of the pipe to keep leaves and critters out.
Next on the agenda was infrastructure prep. I ran a 100′ extension cord from one of the outdoor plugs on the meter panel to the pop-up camper and powered it up. I also turned on the fridge in the big trailer as we may need it for overflow freezer space.
I needed some more room in the pole barn, so I towed the aluminum ATV trailer out and parked it along the south side of the big trailer where it’ll be out of sight, out of mind. I also took a moment to tow the blue utility trailer up to the edge of the driveway so I can’t miss it tomorrow. It’s still full of scrap tires and needs to get dropped off at Pomp’s in Fond du Lac. I don’t want to forget it again.
I emptied the gas cans into the ATVs and mower, threw them in the back of the truck, and ran into town at 6:30 to fill them up and get some A&W. Back at the keep, I washed down dinner with a few cheladas as I uploaded some new additions to the media collection. Hannah was passed out on the couch already, dreaming hard. She must know what’s coming.
Rode in with Jake, Josh, and the pooch at 6:30 pm to some intermittent rain. I wanted to get some time in with my boys before Puckaweekend. I set them up at the table with the dinner we had picked up at Culvers in Ripon, then headed out to unload the truck before the next downpour showed up.
Just look at this thing!
After eating my own burger and starting a movie for the kiddos, I got to work unpacking. I stocked the pantry for Puckaweekend, then decided to hang my new sign. My wonderful wife got me an amazing anniversary gift this year: a custom-made, LED-backlit steel sign in the form of my Puckaway Motor Club owl logo. It’s huge, too: about 30″ in diameter. I love this thing.
It came with four post mounts for hanging it on the wall at the proper depth for the backlight, so I picked a spot right by the door and screwed it into the paneling. I was able to hide the wire for it behind the trim between wall panels, so it’s a really clean looking installation. I lit it up and the boys were thrilled to have a new Puckaway nightlight to watch over them.
Hannah and I drove in around 5:30 pm with a truck bed loaded with tools and Puckaweekend goodies. The whole Thelen clan just spent a long weekend up in Presque Isle, but the boys have school tomorrow and Lyssa works. I, however, have Columbus Day off. As soon as we got back to Oshkosh, I quickly unpacked from PI and loaded up for Puckaway.
Lynn needs more hats.
Both Red and my dad were here waiting for me. Red and I work in the same office, so he’s got tomorrow off as well. He’s been here since 2:00 pm and has been busy mulching leaves all afternoon in the surprisingly high mid-70s temperatures. My dad got here shortly before me as he came straight down from PI. I helped Dad unload a snowblower from the back of his truck and rode with him to our neighbor Lynn’s property to store the pontoon boat for the winter. I’m glad that Dad was the one backing it in. While my trailering skills aren’t bad, there’s only about 3 inches of clearance on either side of the garage door when backing that big boat in, and I sure wouldn’t want to be the guy to scrape up our helpful neighbor’s garage. Lynn was there and I got to finally meet him. We hung out and talked for a bit, but Dad wanted to get back to Oshkosh and was on the road by 6:00.