Pulled in the driveway a little before 2:00 pm. Incredibly windy today and temps are dropping fast. First thing I did was fire up the infrared heater in the keep. Dad was already up here getting things ready in the big trailer. He’s got it cleaned up pretty nicely already. Steve and Sammy showed up about 3:30 and Steve set up his portable stand along the east edge of the yard. Based on the timelapse activity I’ve been seeing over the past few months, he should get some deer traffic there. With the wind gusts as strong as they were, I didn’t need to worry about blowing leaves at all. I got the pump going for Dad and filled the 5-gallon pails we use for wash water in the big trailer. Because of the freezing temperatures, I had to drain the pump as soon as I was done. I also ran the hose over to the pole barn and blew it out with the air compressor so it wouldn’t plug up with ice. I fed the birds, put down a feed block, some corn, and some mixed seed, and headed inside by the rest of the guys. It’s getting damn cold.
We weren’t inside long before five does came in to feed on the corn I had just put out. They made short work of it, and the little they left behind would be completely gone by morning. Once they all got startled by something and took off, I headed back for the keep.
I spent some time swapping out the screens for storm windows and replacing the last of the old retention hardware on the windows in the bedroom, bathroom, and back hallway while watching some MST3K. The infrared heater seems to be keeping up, but temps are supposed to drop to the 20s tomorrow and I might need to bring in a heavy hitter to keep this place warm.
Dad called me back over to the big trailer around 6:00 as he was getting dinner ready. He and Steve were discussing alternatives to grilling for our delicious steaks, such as pan frying or broiling, given the high winds. This was unacceptable.
In Puckaweekends past, I’ve had to grill in the pouring rain. This is easily accomplished by leaving the grill right in the pole barn. It’s a big, open area, and you can leave the garage door open if you’re really that worried. What’s the worst that could happen—the pole barn might smell like steak for a while? Sounds like a win/win to me. It wasn’t long before we were all enjoying delicious grilled steaks, sauteed mushrooms, baked potatoes, and giant mugs of brown liqour mixers. I also brought over my pickled goods from the keep and we sampled some mushrooms, pickles, and asparagus.
We watched some Seinfeld for a bit while digesting and I headed back to the keep for the night around 10:00. I spent the rest of the night being lazy and watching TV. It was glorious. Before I called it a night, I brought the infrared heater into the bedroom with me and closed the door. This worked so well, I ended up waking up in the middle of the night to turn it down.
Woke up to the sound of gunfire, as one does around here during deer camp. It sounded close, so I sent Dad a text to see if it came from one of them. He said Sammy had shot one early, and then again just as we were texting. I reluctantly got out of bed and layered up to head out and help and was surprised to see a thin layer of snow blanketing the yard. It certainly got much colder overnight. Steve already had the green ATV out and was headed down the marsh trails, so I found some drag rope and got the blue one going. We made our way out to Sam where he had three deer lined up along the trail—two does (one of them fairly massive) and a nice 8 point buck, Sam’s first. I think it’s fair to say he had a good morning.
Steve hitched the buck to the green ATV and I pulled both does back to the yard where Steve field-dressed all three of them, assembly-line-style. While all this was going on, Dad was busy at work frying breakfast: eggs, potatoes, and bacon. We all headed in to fill up.
Since I had taken down the “meat pole” in spring (because it creaked like an old battleship every time a breeze went through the yard and was driving me insane), we had to get creative in finding places to hang the deer. They ended up all over the yard, looking like grisly Christmas decorations. The ATVs sure make this task much easier all around. I drained the pump and hose once again, This time, ice crystals were actively forming as the pump drained. Winter is here.
While this was going on, I had the propane sunflower heater running in the keep to get the chill out. I kept an eye on the temperature remotely with my phone thanks to the sensor on the PuckaPi server. I let it get above 90° in there before shutting it down. Not just for kicks, mind you; this cut the humidity way down in there. It kept condensation from forming on the windows and helped the place still feel mighty warm even after indoor temperature settled back down into the mid 60s. The guys were all napping in the big trailer by this time, and I soon followed suit in my recliner in the keep.
I didn’t do much productive work the rest of the day. Headed to the big trailer to join the guys for dinner, a big pot of Mom’s chili. Ended up watching a lot of MST3K in the keep again, toasty warm this time. Since I didn’t have my water supply hooked up, I had to go back to the camping shower (pre-heated outdoors by a propane burner) to clean up, but it was still plenty refreshing. Again, I moved the infrared heater into the bedroom and shut the door when I finally went to bed. I get the feeling that’d be enough to keep you warm all night no matter how cold it got outside.
Again woke up to the crack of a rifle. This one wasn’t as close, though. Seems like Sammy used up all the luck on opening morning. Once the guys were all in from the stands, I headed over to join them for another delicious, fried morning meal. Grandpa Joe’s kitchen is the only acceptable substitute for Aunt Judy’s when it comes to breakfast around here.
Had some strange power problems around 9:00 am. Everything we have up here depends on a single, ancient, Push-a-matic 60A breaker that doesn’t really like to fully reset. It took a lot of coaxing to get it to re-seat enough for us to have normal power in the big trailer and keep, but now I can’t run the compressor in the pole barn anymore without it’s own overload protection kicking in. Fun. There must not be as much solid contact on that main breaker anymore to provide the compressor with enough startup amperage. We really need to replace our main outdoor service panel, and soon.
Spent the rest of the day on little projects and buttoning things up for winter. I went through all the cabinets in the keep and pole barn, looking for anything that might freeze up over winter, like paint, tubes of silicone or cleaning supplies. I’ll store this all in the basement at home along with the water heater/pump “backpack” that I built. I packed up the NUC and the pole barn jukebox PC, too.
Sammy and Steve were gone by early afternoon. I had some chili with Dad in the big trailer and spent the rest of my day getting the keep cleaned up and ready for winter. Normally, I’d just cut power to it entirely, but I want to keep the timelapse camera running. So I just made sure everything that could draw any real power, like the fridge and heater, were unplugged. The 4G router, camera, and Pi hardly use any electricity at all and will be fine all winter.
Got the truck loaded up and was on my way home around 5:00. This will probably be the last overnight trip of the year, and it was appropriately relaxing. In spring, the work begins all over again.