General (page 1 of 2)

Thoughts that wouldn’t really fit into the log or project info: the flowery musings and whatnot.

The Year In Review: 2017

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.

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The Birds of Puckaway

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.

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The Year In Review: 2016

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.

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The First Video Log

A Puckaway video log entry is an idea I’ve toyed around with since I started posting entries last spring, but I was beat to the punch by almost 25 years. Here’s Richie, in late November of 1991, admiring the fresh-fallen snow:

Grandpa bought a VHS camcorder some time in 1988. Starting that Christmas, it was ever-present at family gatherings, on his trips to Florida and Canada, and it even made it to Puckaway a few times over the years. I have his entire collection of tapes, nearly 25 hours of footage in total, digitally preserved. I’ve left things unedited, only cutting static between recordings. I want to start cleaning this collection up further, and figured a Puckaway log entry would be a fitting place to start.

Taking photos of and transcribing the log pages has been a fulfilling way to connect with the past of this place, but it can’t top being able to hear my grandpa narrating a trip. There’s nothing too profound or significant being discussed, but it doesn’t matter. Welcome to puckaway.net, Beeba. Thanks for posting.

The Tools of the Trade

Monkey Wrench – Foo Fighters

For any major project, having the right tools available is crucial. I find myself regularly needing to shuttle tools and supplies between Oshkosh and Puckaway, so it’s also important for everything to be easily transportable. This is something I consider every time I buy a new tool. It has also led me to streamline my storage methods. Let’s take a quick tour of a typical Puckaway-bound truckload.

Craftsman C3 Cordless Tools

This is my favorite cooler that doesn't hold beer.

This is my favorite cooler that doesn’t hold beer.

I’ll proudly fly the flag for Craftsman’s C3 19.2v line of cordless tools. There’s a wide variety available and you can run either Ni-Cad or Lithium-Ion batteries in all of them. It’s easy to buy into, you can upgrade as you go, and the tools hold up well. I’ve had my current set for over five years. I’ve built two decks and a playset, finished a basement and two-car garage, remodeled a kitchen, and worked countless other small projects without a single problem. They’re a great value for the price and much better than previous Craftsman cordless sets.

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The Year In Review: 2015

I Need Never Get Old – Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats

This was a big year for Puckaway. Let’s take a look back at it!

On April 15, I finally accepted my responsibility for keeping the logs. But rather than taking pen to paper, I took fingers to keyboard and started a WordPress site. Accounts of the days’ activities are now accompanied by photos and videos, projects can be tracked from start to finish, and even the old notebooks are getting digitized and transcribed. I now have a platform to share my favorite little corner of the globe with the rest of the world.

Spring was greeted with the usual cleaning efforts and the start of some of the most ambitious projects I’ve undertaken. Farmer Joe provided a truckful of fertilized dirt to help rehabilitate the yard and we tamed the area around the brick pile. I jacked up and levelled out the keep in preparation for Sean’s 2014 suggestion, a new deck. With a little help from Jake, I was able to frame out the platform, lay the boards, and install the stairs in just two short trips. While this construction was underway, the keep got a much-needed new recliner, the pole barn got some new all-weather outdoor speakers, and I built a full/twin trundle bed for the keep’s bedroom. No more air mattresses.

Red and I got things ready for summer by installing the A/C into the wall of the keep, giving us our kitchen window back. We also tore out the stove, which Red hauled away for scrap along with his extensive collection of aluminum cans. More spring cleaning was done around the yard as I cut trees and cleared out the LP tanks and scrap from the end of the driveway. The place was looking better than ever.

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The View from Above

Eye in the Sky – The Alan Parsons Project

Thanks to satellite/aerial imagery, it’s easier than ever to see how things are progressing at Puckaway. I’ve collected a few different pictures and found an image slider plugin to use for them. It’s pretty cool.

Bing Maps vs Google Maps

The two heavy hitters in free online aerial photography really show how much the land changes throughout the course of the year. I couldn’t find exact dates, but I think the Bing image is from the summer of 2013 or 2014 and the Google one is from fall of 2014. The marsh ATV trail is well-established now, as both pictures show, and with the Google image you can see the yard pretty clearly.

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The Mission Statement

Leader of The Band – Dan Fogelberg

I was watching some of my grandpa’s old camcorder footage the other day (which I will eventually upload). He was taking panning shots of the big trailer and talking about his plans to build additions onto it. It hurts a little to listen to that now. Richie always had plans like that. This is why Puckaway has an abundance of bricks, lumber, plywood, corrugated metal sheets, piping, small engines, lawnmowers, appliances, and everything else that makes up the clutter we’re now focused on clearing out. My grandpa grew up during the Great Depression and spent the rest of his life never taking anything for granted. Throughout his career with the City of Milwaukee Sanitation Department, he was in a prime position to snatch up all sorts of leftover building materials that otherwise would have been scrapped. Later, when his son-in-law, Andy, owned and operated Custom Craft Vehicles, Richie had another opportunity to grab cast aside treasures. He was always on the lookout for deals and never passed up an opportunity to take on a new project.

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Plenty good came from his drive over the years. Grandpa built all sorts of things from the nice hardwood pieces he got from CCV. Some of the bricks he salvaged found a place in landscaping at Puckaway, his home, my aunt’s house, and my parents’ house. Worn-out railroad ties became garden boundaries. Richie had a knack for repairing small engines and I don’t think he ever had to buy a new (or even running) lawnmower, riding or push, in his life. He had plans for everything he salvaged, he had the know-how to see those plans through, and most of what he salvaged in his lifetime ended up at Puckaway.

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The Magic of Suction

Shop Vac – Jonathan Coulton

Puckaway tends to attract some uninvited guests. Particularly mice. Particularly mice that get in my trailer. Particularly mice that get in my trailer and wreck all my clothes and blankets. We’ve made some strides in keeping them at bay, though. This is mostly thanks to the miracle of expanding foam sealant and me blasting it into every crack and possible point of entry I can find. And then there’s vacuum bags.

They’re mostly known for turning this:

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The Archive Studio

Reeling in the Years – Steely Dan

Here it is, folks: our first Project and first Archive post. I’ve started the process of digitizing the logs. I didn’t think scanning would work all that well given the varied sizes of the source media and the maddeningly slow pace of most flatbed scanners. So I got a little creative and put together a capture studio.

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I didn’t want to spend a lot of money or take up a lot of space, so I kept it simple. I’ve got a Canon PowerShot S110 that takes very nice photos but doesn’t have much in the way of advanced features. Unless you mess with it a little, that is. With the help of some clever software called CHDK and a little surgery on a spare USB cable, I crafted a remote shutter button.

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