Month: May 2016

Log: May 29, 2016

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The new blinds help keep the temperature down quite a bit.

Lyssa, Josh, and I came up around 12:30 in the truck, pulling Dad’s new aluminum trailer behind us. Jake’s up north at Presque Isle with my folks. Today, the trailer will finally get used for its main purpose: hauling ATVs. I was planning on taking the blue one home to figure out what’s wrong with the starter and figured I’d just bring them both back. This way, I can pressure wash them and make sure they’re both caught up on scheduled maintenance. Josh hopped on his Power Wheels four-wheeler and made some laps around the yard while I loaded the trailer.

I stopped in the keep to wash up and drop off some clean laundry and took a moment to appreciate the new blinds. They’re really helping to cut down on the heat; it’s almost 5° cooler inside than out. We left around 2:00, trying to beat the next storm front moving through. Hopefully, I’ll be able to figure out what’s ailing the blue ATV this weekend.

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Log: May 21 and 22, 2016

Saturday

Lyssa, the boys, and I pulled in around 2:30 pm with a truck bed full of tools and burnables. Beautiful day; sunny and upper 70s. I backed the truck up to the pole barn to offload my tools and the boys were off on their Power Wheels. Lyssa made herself comfy with a book while I stacked cardboard and the remains of our old coffee table in the burn pit. There’s a lot to do up here, as always, but I don’t really have a set agenda. The only real goal of this weekend is to have our first overnight stay as a family. As I was looking around and sizing things up, inspiration struck. The tree at the base of the driveway would have to go.

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A little bigger than I had expected. Good thing there was nothing in its way.

Over half of the upper branches were dead and bare, so I figured if the tree was going down, it’d be better if it was on my terms. I fired up the chainsaw, made sure the kiddos were well clear, and the tree was on the ground in short order. Jake was really interested in how I cut it, and went to show off the “felling wedge” to Lyssa and Josh. He thought it was really cool that I could get the tree to fall just the way I wanted it to. Hell, so did I. I’m still kinda new at this.

As long as the chainsaw was out, I also trimmed some dead limbs from the small tree next to the pump. I had a helluva time carving everything up, though. I must have really dulled the chain when I was clearing brush and stumps last trip. The boys gave me a hand hauling limbs and branches over to the pit. Poor Josh was getting frustrated; he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t able to lift the big pieces like his daddy. He’ll get there soon enough.

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Log: May 15, 2016

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Looks better and deters squirrels. What’s not to like?

Lyssa, the boys, and I pulled in around 11:30 after the requisite Aunt Judy’s breakfast. It’s a little cool today, highs in the lower 60s, but it sure feels nice when the sun peeks out of the clouds. I opened the pole barn right away so Jake and Josh could get their Power Wheels out and they were patrolling the yard in short order. Lyssa went off in search of a nice, quiet place to read. I wasn’t much help in that regard; the first thing I went for was the chainsaw.

In reviewing the timelapse footage from the camera I installed last week, I noticed the squirrels still had no problem getting to the feeders. They weren’t getting around the baffle, though. This was an aerial assault. I always thought the dead lower branches by the feeders and garden shed were an eyesore anyway; now I had even more reason to get rid of them.

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One of several rose-breasted grosbeaks we’ve seen at the feeders this spring.

I spent the next few hours clearing limbs and unwanted scrub growth from around the feeders. I’m getting pretty good at felling trees. I had to thread the needle a few times between the feeders and deck and thankfully there were no casualties. As long as I was clearing, I maneuvered my way through the overgrown area behind the outhouse and mostly reclaimed the little wildlife garden my grandpa planned many years back. The whole area looks a lot nicer now and it’s easier to spot the birds as they fly to and from the feeders.

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Log: May 11, 2016

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I see you.

Very short trip today. Stopped in at 4:30 pm to grab all of my tools for a computer project back in Oshkosh. But as long as I was here, I dropped off and set up my latest project: always-on internet and live camera feed. The gear consists of a Verizon 4G router, Raspberry Pi server, and one of my old TrendNet IP webcams. The camera is trained on the bird feeder pole from inside the keep for now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to see how the squirrels are doing against the baffle, as the system records an image every 30 seconds. The Pi has a temperature/humidity sensor attached to it, too. I’ll be able to monitor all sorts of stuff remotely.

With the equipment in place, I headed over to the pole barn and loaded up my tools. I also dug out my external directional Wifi antenna and pointed it at the keep. It worked! The pole barn jukebox PC can connect to the network across the yard, even with the brickpile in the way. I’m sure it helps that there are no other Wifi signals anywhere near this place to cause interference, too. I headed out around 6:30, admiring the blanket of apple blossoms on the ground on my way out. No wonder I never noticed how much the trees in the brickpile garden bloomed before; they don’t stay that way for long.

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Log: May 7, 2016

Happy, hungry boys.

Happy, hungry boys.

The boys and I rolled in around 11:00 after getting some good Aunt Judy’s breakfast. I’ve been anxious to see how things looked now that the stain has dried, and Jake and Josh just needed to get out and play. Gorgeous day: sunny and temps in the low 70s. I opened the pole barn, hooked up the batteries in their Power Wheels ATV and tractor, and they were off exploring the yard. While the boys were bombing around, I went to check out the deck. Pretty satisfied with the results! There’s only one spot where I notice drip marks and it looks like it generally took the stain pretty evenly throughout. Last night’s rain caused a bunch of pollen to drop off the maple trees, though, so I think I’ll hold off on touching up the cracks between the planks until I can feel confident in hosing it down first.

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If the feeders still get knocked down after this, I give up.

My main goal today was to build a squirrel/raccoon baffle for the feeder pole. I bought a 5′ section of 12″ round heating duct and a 12″ tee cap. I cut the cap in half and notched out two triangles on each piece. These halves were joined together again around the post using the two cut-off pieces and this assembly was supported by an 11″ piece of rebar that was slid through a hole drilled in the post. The “pipe” section was snapped together around the base of the post, cut down to about 48″, and screwed to the cap. It sounds relatively simple when written out, but this stupid thing fought me every step of the way. The cap kept coming apart once it was cut, the pipe did NOT want to snap together, I had to use ratchet straps to lift the pipe into position to mate it with the cap, and I burned through the last cutting wheel for my Dremel saw and had to finish trimming the pipe with a sawzall. This caused the cap to blow apart one last time so now, after a bunch of swearing and grumbling, the whole thing is held together with fencing wire. I’ll eventually replace the junk cap with one I don’t cut in half and only slide down the pole, but this will work for now.

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Log: May 5, 2016

Pulled in at 12:30 pm hauling the blue 5’x8′ utility trailer. It’s nice having it back up here and will certainly prove useful in carting the scrap out of the wood shed. In the upper 60s, mostly sunny, with a slight breeze. Perfect weather to apply some stain. I unhooked the trailer and unloaded my paint/stain supplies from the back of the pickup. I headed to the keep to see if the deck needed any last-minute cleaning/prep and saw that two of my bird feeders were on the ground. Damn raccoons. They managed to unscrew the top from the tall feeder (which is how you fill it) and sent it clattering to the ground with the mounting ring still secured to the stand. The mesh feeder was just plain knocked down. I reassembled the tall feeder and drilled a hole through the top mount and the rod that it threads onto. I stuck a cotter pin through this hole. Any raccoon that can figure out how to remove a cotter pin deserves the bird seed. This will work for now, but I really need to build and install a baffle on the pole.

With the feeders filled and hung back up, I grabbed a leaf blower and made sure the deck was completely cleared off. I also covered the side of the keep with plastic drop cloth and wedged some big cardboard pieces between the keep and the railings. While I planned on staining the swing first, I wanted all of the prep out of the way. I changed into some old work clothes from the drawers in the keep bedroom and headed back out.

It was time to start staining. I got the power sprayer out, filled the cup with stain (and promptly made a mess—this stuff is thinner than I was anticipating), pulled the trigger on the sprayer, and… nothing. Just a low buzz from the gun. Great.

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Log: April 30 and May 1, 2016

Saturday

Pulled in at 10 pm and backed the truck up inside the pole barn to get out of the rain. Unloaded my tools, the patched-up mower blower components, and a few sheets of OSB. We had used them as makeshift tables for our garage sale in Oshkosh, but I plan on building a leaf-collection trailer box out of them. While I was still in the pole barn, I used my phone as a hotspot to download the latest Kodi update and sync the OneDrive account on the jukebox PC. I also copied the most recent music collection update off of my USB drive.

The rain let up, so I drove over to the keep to unload more goodies and settle in for the night. Since the pressure washer pump setup worked so well, I bought a second pump, reservoir, and strainer to use in the keep. This way, I can pursue the indoor plumbing project without sacrificing the ability to keep things clean outside. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and watched some Netflix for a bit before heading to bed around 11:30.

Sunday

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I love seeing these guys at the feeders. At one point there were seven of them at the same time.

Up around 7:30 and on my way to Aunt Judy’s soon after. Several of the staff including Judy herself made a point to ask where my little buddy was. My waffle-eater is a local celebrity. After enjoying a ham and cheese omelet and several cups of coffee, I headed back to Puckaway to get a day’s worth of projects underway. I started by filling the feeders. The squirrels have no problem getting up and down the pole now that they’re used to it being there, so I need to hurry up and build a baffle if I want the seed to last between trips. The new setup definitely draws more birds; we had chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, house finches, juncos, downy woodpeckers, and even a red-bellied woodpecker. I’ll need to clear some of the gnarly low branches in this part of the yard to open things up a little better for them all.

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