Jake and I rode in around 7:00 pm after a stop at Piggly Wiggly to stock the fridge and cabinets. Got all kinds of goodies: brats and italian sausage, canned veggies, chips and salsa, juice boxes and snacks for the boys (Jake picked out some Little Debbie brownies), essentials like ketchup, mustard, horseradish, and butter, and two six-packs of different Wisconsin craft beers. There’s now a whole aisle devoted to smaller Wisconsin breweries at the Princeton Pig—a welcome surprise. I brought in the groceries and goods from Oshkosh while Jake got his trucks set up by the pole barn.

IMG_20160422_193335100With the fire danger holding at Moderate, it was safe enough to burn in the pit. I started the pump and began to fill a 55-gallon drum as a precaution, pulled the truck around to the pole barn, poured some old boat gas around the base of the pile, and tossed a match. Wasn’t long before we had a roaring fire. I kept an eye on it while unloading tools from the back of my truck. Once the pine boughs and smaller branches all burned off, we were left with a sizeable pile of thick logs and a warm, low flame. Jake and I cozied up on the bench in front of the pole barn and watched it burn down until he decided he was tired enough to turn in for the night.

With the fire under control and the drum full of water, I closed up the pole barn and shut off the pump for the night. Jake really liked the new solar lights on the deck stairs. I got him into his PJs, set him up with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and went back to the bedroom to dress the bed and set up the tall quartz heater. Temps are supposed to drop to the mid 30s tonight, so I want to make sure we’re plenty warm. Jake fell asleep in the recliner around 10:00; I carried him back to bed and tucked him in. I watched some TV for a bit but joined him a half hour later.



All-new screens and mounting tabs really help dress up the keep.

Jake woke me up around 5:45 because he had to go “pee on a tree” and was up for the day. I put the rest of Star Wars on for him and went back to bed. The movie ended around 7:00, which is when Jake came back to tell me it was time to go to Aunt Judy’s. Hard to argue with that logic. We got dressed and headed into town. On the way, we saw a bunch of turkeys in an open field, with several toms fanning their tail feathers and gobbling loudly. I tried explaining mating season to Jake, and I think it mostly took. He later told Lyssa that he “saw boy turkeys showing off to get girl turkeys to like them.” Sounds about right.

Jake had his strawberry waffle and some OJ and I had a ham and cheese omelet with a side of sausage links. Jake ended up eating his entire waffle, one of my links, and still wanted a brownie when we got back. Not sure where the skinny little guy puts it all.


After breakfast, we both started on outside projects. It’s mostly sunny and in the upper 60s today with a slight breeze: perfect work weather. Jake set up his “construction site” in front of the pole barn and I used the pitchfork to flip the remaining branches and limbs into the center of the burn pit. After that, I started work on the day’s big project: the pressure washer pump. The shallow well pump up here can’t pull water fast enough to support any kind of power equipment directly; I clocked it at 1.15 gpm. We need an alternate water source, but I certainly can’t afford to have a proper well dug and pump system installed. Instead, I got creative and thought like an RV owner.


Counter-clockwise from top-left: flush-mount plug for extension cord, pex supply line (goes to bottom of drum), screen filter, 3.3 gpm auto shut-off pump, pressurized accumulator tank, pex output line (connects to hose and pressure washer).

I bought a small but powerful pump that can push up to 3.3 gpm (and starts and stops based on water demand), a pressurized reservoir to help reduce water hammer effect and air on the delivery side, and a small screen filter to keep well pump/hose gunk from gumming up the works. The pump and reservoir have rubber anti-vibration mounts, so I installed these on a cut-off piece of plywood along with a male power receptacle I can plug an extension cord into. I secured a 55-gallon drum to the larger flatbed trailer by drilling 1/2″ holes into the upper lip of the barrel, hooking tiedown straps into the holes, and cinching the straps to the four corners of the trailer. The barrel itself sits right over the axle so the trailer can still be connected and disconnected by hand. I set my pump assembly on top of the barrel and secured it with a bungee cord. Hookups were done with pex tubing and a collection of fittings. One tube dips to the bottom of the barrel and the other terminates in a standard garden hose connector. From there, a hose connects to the inlet of the pressure washer. Ideally, this will provide enough flow for the pressure washer to function continuously.


It was around 11:00 and I was just finishing work with the pump setup when Lyssa and Josh pulled in the driveway. After all the hugs and kisses, the boys were soon busy making laps around the yard with their Power Wheels. Lyssa got to relax and go through some cooking magazines while keeping an eye on them, and I was finally able to test out my portable water supply.


After a session with the pressure washer, the picnic table looks brand new.

Wow. It all worked together better than I could have guessed. The pressure washer never got interrupted, the utility pump never got hot, and the water came through pretty clear and clean with just the screen filter in place. The main reason I wanted a pressure washer up here was to prep the deck and keep for a stain and paint job respectively, but before I carted everything over there, I needed a test target. I trained the pressure washer on the picnic table. It’s built with treated lumber but had been out in the elements for eight years. Moss was growing on the boards in spots and the whole thing was dark gray.

Not anymore. After a little break-in period figuring out the best nozzle setting, distance, and angle, I was able to transform the table to near-new condition. It’ll get some more love later this summer; I plan to stain it to match the deck. I moved on to the big wooden swing, which has been outside 11 years now, and was able to get about half of the frame cleared off when the pump started sucking air. I was pretty happy with how much work I was able to squeeze out of one load.

Refilling the drum takes about 48 minutes, so I switched gears and headed toward the keep to install the window screens. Back in Oshkosh, I had ripped all the corroding and beat-up aluminum screening out of the frames and replaced it with new fiberglass material. I also bought new retention clips that come with larger screws, solving the problem of missing clips and stripped-out screw holes. I installed screens in the living room, kitchen, and bedroom and stored the storm windows in the island for the summer. All that’s left is to replace the back door’s built in screen and the small one in the bathroom.


At one point while working inside, Lyssa called me out to the deck. I teared up a bit when I saw why; there were goldfinches at the feeders. A little history: when I was a kid and my grandpa kept the birds well fed, there were always tons of goldfinches up here. Several dozens coming in to feed at once. But it’s been years since I’ve seen one around, and never at my feeders. It felt like a little nod from Richie that I was doing things right.


Even the bench swing, which has sat outside (untreated) for over a decade, looks worlds better after some pressurized TLC.

I finished up in the keep and started in on the bench again. It took a lot more work than the picnic table thanks to a combination of being several years older and having a lot more angles. By the time I was done, Lyssa had dinner ready. She made brats and canned green beans on the grill, cleaned and cut up some fresh strawberries, and we nuked mac and cheese for the boys. We all enjoyed our meal together on the deck.

Lyssa and Josh headed home shortly after dinner. Josh didn’t want to go at first, but when he was reminded that he could watch Paw Patrol at the house, he became a little more amenable. I still had a decent amount of water in the drum, so I moved the setup over to the pole barn and sprayed down the main door. What an incredible difference. This thing had been covered with dirt and moss since I can remember. I was worried I’d damage the door itself trying to clean it off, but it held up well. Having a pressure washer up here is a game-changer in terms of aesthetics.

Jake wanted to go inside for a bit, so I put on Wreck-It Ralph for him and did some more cleaning and organizing in the pole barn for a bit. After about an hour, he came out saying he was ready for his nighttime 4-wheeler ride. We hopped on the blue ATV and drove down to the boat landing and watched the sunset. It started getting pretty cold, so we hurried back and closed up shop on the pole barn for the night. We washed up a bit, changed into jammies, and snuggled on the couch watching the rest of the movie. Jake still wasn’t tired, so I started A Goofy Movie and he curled up on the recliner while I tidied up in the closet and cabinets. Once I get running water up here, I’m going to bring a set of dishes and cookware back in. I’ll need to build some shelves in the closet to make it into a pantry.

Jake was snoring by 9:30, so I hauled him back to bed. I fired up the hotspot and watched a few episodes of That 70’s Show on Netflix before heading back and reading a bit. I was out by 11:00.


Turned the heater back on in the middle of the night. It wasn’t as cold as last night, but just enough that you couldn’t get comfortable. Jake was ready to get up around 7:00, right about when I started hearing rain hitting the roof. I put his movie back on and went outside to make sure everything was put away: the green ATV, the lawnmower, and the pump assembly. I left the trailer and drum outside, just parked behind the pole barn. The rain really picked up for a few minutes, so I waited it out in the pole barn. When it let up, I hopped in the truck and pulled it around to the keep.


Squeaky clean! I’ve wanted to get the moss and grime off this door since I was a kid.

We headed to Aunt Judy’s around 9:30. Once again, Jake ate his entire waffle. He also scarfed down one of the strips of bacon I ordered alongside my sausage and cheese omelet. Something about being at Puckaway agrees with his appetite.

The rain was intermittent the rest of the morning. I did a little more organizing in the pole barn, wrapped up the hoses, cleaned up by the pump, and packed up all my tools while Jake put away all his trucks. I grabbed the blower assembly for the bagger kit on the new mower and threw it in the back of the truck, too. I’m hoping I can patch the holes on it back in Oshkosh and come up with some kind of flex tubing to rig it to a leaf-collection cart.

Back in the keep, I made the bed, closed all the windows, collected all the dirty laundry and towels, and gathered everything from the fridge that would spoil. We were on our way out around 1:00 pm, with Jake already talking about his plans for next time we come up.