Jake, the pooches, and I pulled in a little after 6 pm for the first overnight trip of 2022. Sure took us long enough. It’s been a pretty miserable spring with lots of overnight freezing temperatures into late April, so I didn’t want to de-winterize things prematurely.
It’s ridiculously hot today, however. Temperatures are hovering near 90° and the humidity is unpleasantly thick. Good thing I started the Keep’s AC remotely this morning; indoors it’s pleasantly dry and in the low 70s. Jake and I made quick work of unloading everything Keep-bound to limit how much time the door needed to be open. The screen door is sticking and misaligned worse than ever–I really need to see what’s going on with the door frame.
I plugged in the Keep’s fridge to get it ready, then backed the truck up to the pole barn and unloaded all of my tools. I should make an updated Tools of the Trade post to cover all my new DeWalt goodies. The stackable, waterproof toolboxes make it so much easier to mobilize my gear.
With the truck empty, I headed for the water pump and got it primed and running as distant, long, low thunder started getting closer. Last year’s new hose reel and 75′ Flexzilla hose make it much less of a chore to get the water tank filled up. Shame I can’t do anything about the slow flow rate. I’ve been down a few YouTube rabbit holes about driving your own well and it’s something I’d like to try in the near future, probably close to the pole barn.
I was done with the pump prep around 7:15 and left Jake in charge of the pooches in the Keep while I drove to town for some essentials. We’ll do a bigger grocery run tomorrow, but for now I figured we should at least have ice and water. Oh, and beer. And some donuts for Jake. Like I said, essentials. I managed to avoid the storm until about halfway back to Puckaway when it began to pour and lightning joined the thunder. I welcomed the storm front, though. Temperatures dropped almost 20 degrees as the rain came in. I ran back in the keep with my wares to a cowering Hannah, confused Hank, and donut-happy Jacob.
I spent the rest of the night getting the Keep ready for the year. I almost forgot that we bought a foam mattress topper for the bed; what a welcome upgrade. I dressed the bed and futon, transferred the two dog beds into a new cover that I brought up (which Hannah appreciated as a hiding place), and cleaned out the fridge while Jake settled in with his Switch and some King of the Hill.
I got out my laptop and external hard drives and started syncing all the media changes since last fall with the pole barn NAS. At this point, there was enough water in the storage tank to turn on the water pump. I soon had a nice flow from the kitchen sink but also heard a loud crash from the bathroom. When I winterize, I leave all the taps open (including the ones for the shower) to prevent ice from bursting the fixtures. Guess this wasn’t enough for the showerhead assembly. One of the plastic parts had cracked and the water blew the whole thing off from the first ball joint fitting. Good thing I had a second one in the cabinet.
With that fixed, I ran some hot water and took care of the dishes in the sink. I also washed down the table and countertops. I still think that hot-and-cold running water has been the best quality of life upgrade this place has seen in my lifetime. Here’s hoping I can continue to improve upon it so we end up with something akin to normal household plumbing.
I let Jake play Switch until 10:00. He spent the rest of the night watching King of the Hill until he fell asleep a little before 11. At this point, the storm had passed, so I coaxed the dogs out one more time and turned off the yard pump before I retired to the bedroom. I dozed off watching Futurama a little before midnight.
The dogs made it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Hannah hopped up on the bed when the thunder picked back up, and Hank hopped up on the bed because it seemed like the cool thing to do. They sure know how to fill a space. Jake got up around 7:00 to use the outhouse and let them out. At that point, I was up for the day, too. We lazed around the keep for a bit but eventually got dressed and ready for an Aunt Judy’s breakfast and supply run at 9:15. Looks like today’s going to be a lot more tolerable than yesterday, weather-wise. Sunny and already in the mid 70s.
Judy was sure happy to see her “Waffle Baby” again, although he’s long since moved on to ham and cheese omelets. I ordered some fried eggs, sausage, and hash browns. Full of eggs and energy, we inched our way through flea market traffic to Piggly Wiggly to stock the fridge and pantry for the year. Got some pizzas, cheddarwurst, condiments, sparkling water, freezer pops, beer, Pop Tarts, and Oatmeal Cream Pies. The latter have become a Puckaway staple for Jacob. We made it back to camp a little after 11:00 to a pair of pups who were very happy to run around the grounds.
I fired up the pump to finish topping off the water tank, grabbed my impact driver and some deck screws, and proceeded to kludge-fix the door to the Keep. The door frame itself is the problem. The screen door mounts into the outer door molding, which is pulling away from the rest of the frame. A dozen screws later, and all was well again. No more crooked, unclosable screen door.
With that annoyance dealt with, I turned my attention to the pole barn. Jake got his ATV started and was patrolling the grounds with a barking Hank in tow while I moved the Polaris ATVs outdoors and made some room to work on my new John Deere. It’s certainly a much more impressive machine than any of the mowers that came before it (all three of which I was able to sell, by the way!), but the deck blades that came with it are disappointing. There’s hardly any actual cutting surface, so they’re not very skilled at turning our oak leaf surplus into a more manageable mince. I ordered a set of Oregon Gator blades for it, the G5 series this time. They’re a step up from the G3 series I used with the Sabre. With a deck designed to drop easily and a proper cordless impact wrench, I had the new blades on in short order.
While I was working on this, Jacob stopped in to ask what he could do to help. I pointed out all of the large fallen branches in the yard and told him that before either of us could mow or pick up leaves, we had to clear those out. I don’t worry too much about smaller sticks, but I’d prefer not to ruin the new mower’s PowerFlow bagger by sending small logs through it. He moved to get his little utility cart to haphazardly tow behind the little ATV and I stopped him cold.
“That’s just not big enough, buddy. Try this.” I fired up the green Polaris and attached my Harbor Freight utility trailer. He stood there dumbstruck for a bit and then a huge grin broke out across his face. This is the first time I’ve let him pilot one of the big machines. Jake spent the rest of the afternoon happily gathering brush from all corners of the yard with an adult-sized ATV.
With Jacob occupied, I finished up with the mower and decided to test it out. I made a few passes around the main entrance without the bagger attached. It even sounds better. The new blades have a much richer hum as they spin. And the leaves, already nice and dry from the sun and heat, come out practically powdered. This is going to make for some nice mulch. I continued cutting around the driveway, keep, brick garden, burn pit, pole barn, and the new clearing where the wood shed used to be. The mower didn’t bog down once. I think this new machine and I will get along just fine.
Jake had finished brush gathering and asked if he could ride around on the ATV without the trailer. I got him unhooked, gave him a speed limit, and told him to keep out of the flooded marsh trails. Once he went on his merry way, I hooked up the bagger unit (so much easier with this mower!) and started collecting my tree shreds. I considered rigging up the NASCAR trailer, but decided I wanted to see how quickly the bags filled. It really wasn’t so bad–this chops leaves so finely that they really pack into the bagger. I collected the majority of what I had mulched and only needed to empty the bags three or four times.
One of the things we brought up with us this trip was the bow and arrow set Jake got for Christmas. I knew we had a big foam block target up here and figured this was a much better place to train with a ranged weapon than our small back yard at home. I set up the target on the stump of the old leaning maple and Jacob did his best to perforate it.
It was getting a bit late in the day and my kiddo was getting hungry, so around 7:00 I headed in the keep to start a pizza and shower off the caked dust I had accumulated. After relaxing for a bit, Jake asked if we could take a night ATV ride. I should have realized that he meant we’d each be on a full-sized ATV. I led him through the yard and near marsh trails, then down the path in Peter’s woods and even along the roadside for a bit. I had one happy kiddo. We got back to the pole barn and he hopped on the green one as my passenger so we could go check out the boat landing. They must’ve had a budget surplus or something as the landing has recently seen some well-deserved TLC with a new approach, gravel, and textured sunken portion.
It was almost 9:00 by the time we made it back to Puckaway. I closed up the pole barn and we settled in for the night. Jake played Switch and watched more King of the Hill. I have no idea what time he fell asleep as I was out by 10:00. Full day.
Slow start this morning. At least for me, anyway. Jake took an early jaunt to the outhouse and let the dogs out with him. I worked on some Puckanet projects from my laptop until I started getting hungry. Since we didn’t order out last night, I figured another trip to Aunt Judy’s was in order, so we took off around 10:00.
AJ’s wasn’t nearly as busy this late on a Sunday morning, so we got our proper corner parking spot and were able to sit at the front counter. Jake repeated his omelet order from yesterday, and I decided to join him by getting a sausage and swiss one. The whole staff was wondering where Lyssa and Josh were. We’ll have to come back together at some point this summer.
Once we got back, I took a minute to enjoy the weather. Temps are in the low 70s, there’s a nice intermittent breeze causing the apple blossoms to fall like snow, and the sun is shining bright. Just beautiful. Jake bombed around on the green ATV for a bit before switching things up and trying out the new John Deere. I showed him how and where to dump the bagger and he took to it quickly. I only had to unclog the chute a few times before he got the hang of things.
My folks recently had a new garage door installed on their home and upgraded their opener at the same time. Dad gave me the old one, a still-decent 1/2 HP Chamberlain, so that’s my project for the afternoon. I ran a 2×4 between the bottom of the roof trusses to hold up the opener and secured the front track mount above the door. It took quite a bit of adjusting to dial in the door travel, but within a few hours, the pole barn found itself equipped with a pair of Wi-Fi-enabled power doors.
While I was occupied with the door, Jake was making incredible progress in the yard. Nearly everything was bagged and dumped. I busted out the rake and leaf blower to help clear the perimeter of the pole barn so he could finish up. I wasn’t expecting to have the entire yard cleared of leaves this trip. He’s a heck of a helper.
As the afternoon drew on, I knew we had to start winding things down. My kiddo was filthy with dirt and dust, I wanted to make it home for dinner with Lyssa and Josh, and there was still a lot to pack up. I gathered my tools and pulled all the vehicles back in the pole barn while Jake put things away in the Keep. The truck was loaded and we all pulled out of the driveway a little before 6 pm. Feels good to have the place open for business again!