Rode up with Lyssa, Josh, and Hannah around 12:30. Jake’s up in Presque Isle with my mom and Josh is excited to have this place to himself. We set Hannah free to bolt around the grounds and I started charging the Power Wheels for Josh to use. Lyssa took him for a four-wheeler ride while I lit up the burnpit to start immolating the brush I had collected during the last trip up. Everything was so dried out that the pit looked like a Saturn V rocket pointed in the wrong direction. Hannah promptly hid in the back of the pole barn. Lyssa’s getting over a summer cold, so after her ride with Josh she relaxed in one of the lounge chairs. They both took refuge in the keep when the smoke picked up, though.
I started cleaning up around the wood shed foundation and unearthed the large prybar from under a stack of shingles. So that’s where it went last fall. I put it to good use by pulling up the remaining wall-base 2x4s from the foundation. This got me motivated, so I grabbed the green ATV and small trailer, backed up to the foundation, and started prying up and collecting all of the hardboard floor panels. I also rolled up and gathered all of the remaining linoleum and floor backing. It was in pretty rough shape. Hannah watched me from the ATV trail on the backside of the pole barn. I think she liked having literal firewall between her and the burn pit.
Something I’ve always associated with Puckaway is feeding the birds. Richie always made it a priority; one of the first things we’d do upon arriving is open up the pole barn and fill some buckets with sunflower seed to stock the feeders. This was a way for me to pitch in and work with my grandpa even when I was too young or small to help with much else. The chickadees were so used to us that they’d eat out of our hands.
When Richie got older and his congestive heart failure started making even light work difficult, I’d drive up here ahead of him to take care of chores so he’d have nothing to do but relax and enjoy the place. Feeding the birds was always the first task on my list.
The first several years after Richie passed away, I didn’t do much of anything for the birds. Overnight stays outside of deer camp were rare, so I wasn’t even around to watch them come in. A lot of the feeders were falling apart and our general neglect of the property didn’t make the birds seem like much of a priority anymore. You could hear chickadees from the margins of the yard and there were signs of woodpeckers on every dead tree off of the driveway, but a lot of songbirds stopped coming in all together. It started to bum me out as just another example of how I couldn’t keep up with the place.
And then Jacob was born.
Shambala – Three Dog Night
We’ve done a lot since last year. High time for a recap!
January started off with a (literal) crash as I deftly maneuvered my toy drone Christmas present right into a tree. Consequently, tree trimming started early this year. The grounds didn’t see any activity again until late March with two quick, back-to-back supply trips. After another hauling run in early April, the keep was ready for the year. It’s never been easier to open this place for business.
We had our first family day trip in mid-April and the deck gained some patio furniture. We also discovered that the bird feeders were getting destroyed, so I sunk a 14′ post in the ground to keep them elevated. By the end of the month, the fridge was stocked for the season, we had our first bonfire, and for the first time in a decade, goldfinches were back in the feeders. The keep got brand new window screens throughout and I rigged a portable pressure-washer supply tank out of an RV pump and 55-gallon drum. Things are starting to look pretty good around here.
She’s run aground.
Hannah and I rolled in around 1pm hauling a cleaned-up pontoon boat behind us. The pooch would have to wait before she got to run some laps, though. I picked a spot in the south yard to park the boat where it would be off-level enough to help prevent rain from accumulating on the deck. It would also get plenty of sun to ward off more mildew formation.
I opened the pole barn and checked out our fuel situation. One of the 5-gallon gas cans was almost empty, so I topped off the mower’s tank with what was left in it and threw the can in the back of the truck. It’s almost 80°, so I popped into the keep to fire up the AC before heading into town for lunch and fuel. Hannah’s patience was rewarded with a burger from A&W.
Resilient little fella.
Once we got back, I ate in the keep while Hannah patrolled the property. It’s already comfortably cool inside; the new AC is a welcome upgrade. I changed into some yard work clothes and set my sites on taming the yard.
The extent of our wind damage.
Drove in around 3:00 pm to check on the place after the huge system of storms that blew through yesterday. The power was knocked out for about 20 hours and I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a disaster waiting for me in the freezer. Surprisingly, everything seemed fine aside from the big bag of ice being fused into one big block.
We’ve already had two fairly lengthy power outages up here this year. Both times, the Puckanet has run on battery backup for about three hours before gracefully shutting everything down. And both times, everything came back up and the Pi reconnected to the VPN like it was supposed to. I wish I had a better means of battery backup for this stuff. As small as the draw is for everything, a DC-to-DC converter would probably last it for a whole day or more. For now, I’m just glad that it can come back online without intervention.
New TV stand, new pooch bed. Life’s good.
Pulled in at 3pm with Lyssa, the boys, Hannah, and a bunch of goodies in the back. Red, Emmett, and Gunner had already been here about a half-hour. I unlocked the big trailer so they could set up camp and grabbed a dog bed for Hannah while I was in there. Gorgeous day! Sunny and in the upper 70s with a light breeze.
The boys were all happy to explore together and the dogs kept busy racing each other around the yard. Lyssa unpacked things in the keep while I made room for its newest upgrade—a proper TV stand. I cleared everything off the coffee table that had been serving as our entertainment center and cleaned out behind it. I moved the table into the bedroom; it’s now a nice place to keep our luggage.
Lyssa helped me carry the new TV stand in from the back of the truck. It’s a solid little Sauder unit I found on craigslist for $30. I wrestled it in place and set everything back up, including the freshly-loaded external hard drive. It’s nice to have all the gear off of the floor and the TV is much easier to see from the kitchen or laying down on the futon now that it’s higher up.
It’s a jungle out there.
Pulled in the driveway around 5:30 pm with mowing on my mind. It’s a beautiful day to be outside—upper 70s and sunny. I parked the truck, opened up the pole barn, and fired up the mower. I thought it might be smart to try to mulch instead of using the side discharge chute, so I made a very quick and basic mulch plug out of a small board and a bunch of duct tape. This bogged down the deck almost immediately, and the idea was quickly abandoned.
The grass is thigh-high in some places and looks a lot fuller and greener than it has in years. The last year’s worth of effort in collecting leaves early and often is really starting to pay off. Things have finally dried up after our very soggy spring, so I can finally mow the back yard toward the marsh entrance this trip.
Pulled in at 10:15 am with a pair of IBCs in the back of the pickup and a bunch of tools crammed in the back seat. I got the containers for $40 each on craigslist. Once I get them cleaned out, I want to use one as the keep’s water supply and strap the other one to the larger yard trailer for pressure washing and other water needs. The 55-gallon drums have worked well, but they require too much refilling and it’s difficult to gauge how full they are. These square containers have five times the capacity of a drum and you can tell the water level at a glance. They should be quite the upgrade.
I took a moment to walk around the grounds. The grass is really filling in nicely this year; I think all my mowing and collecting from last month is paying off. There’s a lot of sage (at least I think that’s what it is) growing in the wildflower garden where Jake and I cleared leaves, which adds some nice color to the area. There’s also a bunch of stuff coming up in the brick garden and around the woodshed foundation. I’ll need to fire up the weed trimmer soon and beat that all back while it’s still small enough to be manageable.
A boy and his (tolerant) dog.
Jake, Hannah, and I came up in the truck around 6:15 pm. Jake’s been asking for an overnight up here—just him and me—for a while now, so he’s pretty excited. We unloaded the truck, unhooked the blue trailer, and opened up the keep while Hannah ran her laps around the grounds. I started the heater right away as it’s only 50° right now and the temp continues to drop.
We called Hannah into the keep and Jake and I headed into town to fill up the gas cans and get some dinner at A&W. We ate once we got back and spent the rest of the night inside relaxing and watching How It’s Made. Jake fell asleep on the couch around 9:30 and I carried him back to the bedroom. I stayed up messing with some automation scripts on the PuckaPi. I let Hannah out one more time for the night, then joined my snoring kiddo around 11:00.
Hannah and I drove in around 6:20 pm with a pickup bed full of tools and other goodies. She ran some laps around the yard while I quickly unloaded the truck. I wanted to get right to my first project.
Let there be (night)light!
Lyssa got me a pair of really nice network cameras for Christmas. They’re PoE, 720p, have IR blasters, and are IP66 rated. Translated: they don’t need a power cord, have four times the clarity of the old ones, come with night vision, and they’re waterproof. One of them has replaced the driveway camera back home, but the other one will serve as the new bird feeder cam.
I had already configured everything from home, so I installed it to the roof overhang on the keep, plugged it in, and tested it out. There was the expected major increase in image quality, but I was surprised by just how much wider of a field of view it has, too. This is a very welcome improvement.