The whole family made our way up around 5:00 in sultry conditions. The first thing I did was start up the AC and fans in the keep and shack, as well as the shack fridge as the Voights will be making use of it this weekend. Lyssa started unloading the truck while the boys wandered the grounds and I got out some penetrating grease to address the obnoxiously squeaky hinge on the keep’s screen door.

A little after 5:30, the Voights arrived with the blue utility trailer in tow and full of brush to burn. I got the boys’ Power Wheels out and they were all off exploring. Even Allison got to ride along. I gave Red a hand unhooking the trailer while he and Jenny settled into the shack. Gunner’s excited barking over the Power Wheels prompted a response from Buck next door. Glad Danny was able to find him again.

The boys can get some serious air on this thing.

I got out the big ladder and shakily climbed about 20 feet to set up the new strap for Josh’s swing. I remain unappreciative of altitude. The kiddos all took turns on the swing under their moms’ watchful eyes while Red and I unloaded the blue trailer into the pit.

Around 6:30, we got the grill going and Red threw on a variety of brats. Lyssa and Jenny each got some side dishes going and we all had dinner on the picnic table. The bloody mary brats were particularly delicious.

Who watches the watchdog?

After dinner, Lyssa got the fire pit going. She’s much more subtle about it than I am. No explosions at all. We burned all of Red’s brush, the remains of his beat-up recliner, and the entire pile of branches we had accumulated last week. We even hauled over more branches from the downed trees by the last remaining wood pile.

The kiddos were all in bed by 9:30 and the adults found their way back to the fire for some welcome quiet time. Everyone called it a night a bit before 11:00.


Morning in The Voight Shack.

Got up to let Hannah out at 5:30 and made my way back to bed. The boys were up for the day and out exploring by 7:45. I got the pump going at 8:30 after Red fished out the kiddos’ swimming pool from the pole barn and started filling it up. Red stoked the fire with some more branches from by the woodpile and Lyssa got breakfast started. The Thelens enjoyed some eggs, sausage, fruit, and coffee on the deck while the Voights dined in the shack.

Mom’s Keep Kitchen beats Aunt Judy’s.

Jenny and Lyssa set up the screen tent by the picnic table to create a bug-free shady sanctuary and Red headed into town for supplies. By 10:00, the swimming pool was full so I moved the hose over to the keep’s water tank. I got out the chainsaw, cleaned it up, and threw on a freshly-sharpened chain. By this time, Red was back from his town run. He and I dropped a big, dead oak between the driveway and the ruins of the woodshed and hauled the branches over to the pit with the help of Jake, Josh, and Emmett.

This stump finally got to fulfill its true purpose.

I left the stump a little higher than usual to serve as a pedestal for the Puckaway Welcome Owl. It’s a perfect spot. I also felled the bare trunk of the tree up by the cedars that had split about 20 feet up. We stacked the larger logs from this and the driveway tree to burn later.

The lumberjackery was over by noon, right around the time the keep’s water tank was full. I shut off the pump and was coiling up the hose when Farmer Joe pulled in with the whole family in a very familiar truck. The adults hung out and caught up while the kiddos played on their various Power Wheels.

I was complaining about the moles and their tunnels when we noticed one of the recently stomped-down tunnels was reasserting itself. This was my moment. I grabbed the pitchfork from the firepit and started spearfishing for moles. It wasn’t long before I was rewarded with skewered vermin. I really hadn’t expected to rip one right out of the ground, but I was thrilled. More than Joe’s girls, anyway, who may now be scarred for life. Given the two dogs, I didn’t want to leave this thing out anywhere, and it had already spent too much time underground, so the mole was sacrificed to the pit. Inspired by Thor, I dubbed the pitchfork, “Mjolspir.”

Fork you, mole.

The Schanens headed out around 4:00 and we tried to get the kiddos to rest for a bit. Jake crashed watching a movie in the keep, but Josh wouldn’t go down. Lyssa got the grill going a little before 5:00 and we all sat down to a marinated steak taco bar at the picnic table.

After dinner, we got the kids cleaned up and ready and headed to Markesan for the June Dairy Days Parade at 6:15. Once again, we lucked out and got our usual easy-out parking spot and were able to set ourselves up right next to the bridge, ensuring there’d be no outside competition for thrown candy. Red and I got free parade beers again this year; all is right with the world.

We made it back to Puckaway a little before 9:00. Lyssa got the boys ready for bed while I tried resurrecting the fire. We didn’t have much to burn except big logs, so I helped it along with some scrap wood from the pole barn. When the Voights came out, Red decided to stack every last log in the pit at once. It made for quite the spectacle once it got going. The grown-ups hung out late around the fire, draining the Voight’s beer/hard seltzer cooler in the process.


Once again up early to let Hannah out a little after 6:00, then back to the sanctuary of the keep. Jake and Josh were out and playing with Emmett before 8:00 while the Voights started packing up their stuff. We carpooled to Aunt Judy’s a little after 9:00 am. When we got there, we lucked out and were able to take over the entire bar instead of having to combine some tables. The kids all ate like they were starving.

Mayvillians at a bar? What a shock.

After breakfast, we said our goodbyes to the Voights in the parking lot. They were headed back to Puckaway to finish packing up and to grab the blue trailer to drop back off with my dad. The rest of us took a ride around Germania thinking it’d be fun to explore the nature preserve, but we were rained out. We didn’t want to leave Hannah all by herself in the keep too long, especially if started thundering, so we made it back to Puckaway a little after 11:00, missing the departing Voights by only 15 minutes.

We spent the next few hours snuggled up in the keep waiting out the rain. The skies cleared around 2:00, so we started to get things cleaned up. I left the screen tent out since it’s way too wet to pack away.

King of the keep.

I grabbed the pop-up camper with the blue ATV and pulled it to the middle of the yard so we could tow it home. The boys got their helmets on and I took them for the ATV ride they had waited patiently for since we got here on Friday.

With the keep, shack, and pole barn closed up and the fire put out by the rain, we were ready to go and on the road at 3:40. All in all, a productive, fun, mole-spearin’ weekend.