Free-range Hannah.

The whole family arrived around 6:45 pm with a truck full of tools and goodies. The weather is beautiful, the apple trees are blooming, and we’ve come up for the weekend to enjoy it all.

The kiddos did some exploring while Hannah ran her laps. The gophers / groundhogs / whatevers are sure busy around the driveway entrance and bedroom end of the keep. I wish I could find their tunnel entrances so I could try to do something about them. For now, I just have to settle for flattening their mounds with the truck.

Before it got too dark and everyone came in for the night, I wanted to get some small, indoor projects out of the way. Lyssa and the boys fed the birds and spread some corn for the deer while I worked inside. I bought a Yamaha soundbar to replace the aging Sony receiver. It had a good long run, but it has no digital inputs and is starting to act up. I took down all the speakers from the living room, unsnaked the wires, and got the receiver out of the entertainment center. The soundbar looks a lot nicer by the TV than the old center channel speaker did anyway. It has a subwoofer output, so I kept the sub from the Sony setup. They sound really good together.

The bias light has a nice, subtle glow.

Next, I set up a simple LED-strip-based bias light. It’s powered off of the USB port on the TV and goes on the back with double-sided tape. It’s supposed to help with eye strain from watching TV in a dark room. Whether or not that’s true, it at least looks pretty cool. Lyssa and the boys came in, so I put on some Mythbusters for them while we got the boys into their jammies and set up on the futon. Jake and Josh were both excited to finally get to use their new sleeping bags up here.

Lyssa headed back to read in bed around 9:00 and I stayed out with the boys for a while. I updated the media library with the latest downloads from home and used the pole barn laptop to set up the soundbar to work with the Harmony hub. Josh dropped off around 10:00 and Jake was still awake at 11:00 when I called lights-out and headed back to bed. Guess they’re just amped up to be here.


The boys were up early, because of course they were. We got them set up with more Mythbusters and went back to bed as long as we could. For the most part, that worked out. We took our time getting ready and were on our way to town for breakfast by 10:00. On the way, we stopped at a rummage sale on Reetz Rd. It was at the hobby farm with all the peacocks and donkeys. Not much of interest, but the boys liked seeing all the animals running around.

We got to Aunt Judy’s a little before 10:30. The place was pretty full; looks like the flea market traffic is in full swing. Jake had a strawberry waffle, Josh had a ham and cheese omelet, and they both left with clean plates. Our boys are eating full meals off of the adult menu already. I can’t imagine what kind of appetites they’ll have as teenagers. Before heading back, we stopped at Piggly Wiggly to stock the keep’s fridge and pantry. We got a bunch of brats, canned veggies, chips, tortillas, cheese, salami, condiments, microwave meals for the boys, eggs, breakfast sausage, and some snacks.

We pulled in the yard around noon and Lyssa noticed something going on by the feeders. Upon closer inspection, it looked like an immature cardinal had lost a bad fight. It couldn’t fly, had an eye pecked out, and was in major distress. Jacob was very concerned for the little guy. I wanted to do something with him before we let Hannah out and things got worse, so I took the metal washtub that we use to cover the yard pump and we shooed him into it. Jake waked with me to the edge of the marsh behind Danny’s yard where we let him hop out. I explained to him that the bird was likely going to die no matter what we did, but at least by letting him out where we did, it would die in peace. He seemed pretty happy with this, and went running back to tell Lyssa and Josh how we helped it even though we couldn’t save it. I think he took the whole thing really well. I’m proud of my empathetic little guy.

With that excitement dealt with, we freed Hannah from the keep and the boys ran to get their Power Wheels. Unfortunately, the battery for the ATV no longer holds a charge, so they had to take turns on the tractor. They ended up pulling each other in Jake’s utility cart, so it worked out. Lyssa made some adjustments to their tree swing and between that, the tractor, and all their trucks and tools in the sawdust pile, they had plenty to keep themselves occupied. Lyssa got out one of the reclining lawn chairs and set herself up beneath the apple trees. I got myself in project mode. Today is all about revisiting the keep plumbing.

The bathroom faucet has been out of order since opening up this spring, and the shower temperature regulation is less than ideal. I also don’t like how I have all the PEX terminated under the bathroom sink, so I decided to gut the whole thing and start from scratch. First order of business was to remove the access panel in the bedroom closet and see what the pipes looked like behind the tub. What a mess. Years of mouse activity and all of the old, broken copper pipes and black PVC had to be removed and cleaned up. Some time with the Shop Vac and Sawzall along with a generous application of bleach-based spray cleaner made a significant improvement and gave me plenty of room to run my new plumbing. I cut off the runs to the kitchen right below the tub faucet and drilled holes in the outer wall of the keep. The water now comes in through two fittings along the siding instead of beneath the trailer frame.

I installed new shower faucet controls in the same holes as the original ones, fit a plastic plug into the hole where the tub faucet was, and fished a shower head mount up the wall. Now all the holes are plugged and I can still use the removable shower head (which makes washing up the boys much easier). I finished making my PEX connections after running new lines into the bathroom sink and replacing the faucet. I also installed new flexible nylon-braided hoses between the pump/heater pack and the keep. This takes the strain off of the outside connections and keeps the vibrations from the water pump from travelling inside.

I fired up the pump and tested all my new fixtures. No leaks, good pressure at both faucets, and the new shower setup is great! There’s more pressure and it’s a lot easier to dial in the perfect temperature without needing someone to adjust the valves on the heater outside. It was almost 4:30 by the time I finished up and built a new cover for the closet access panel. Lyssa had gotten out the grill and was working on supper. I packed up my tools and got the bedroom and bathroom all cleaned up just in time for dinner on the deck. We had brats and canned corn, the boys had cheddar sausage and microwave Easy Mac, and Hannah had all the leftovers she could eat.

Lyssa had been giving the boys short ATV rides all day, but they wanted to do a long run with Daddy, so at around 7:00, once they had all their toys picked up and back in the pole barn, I obliged them. We took a ride down to the boat landing, which was extremely flooded. They thought that was really cool, but were kind of bummed they couldn’t throw rocks. We turned back and circled around the end of Wicks Landing, stopping to wave at Peter while he was out mowing his lawn. We made our way back through the woods trail and came in for the night. Lyssa already had all the dishes done, so I got the futon pulled back out for the boys and we teamed up to get them both through the shower and into their PJs. They settled into their sleeping bags and were content to watch Mythbusters for the rest of the night. I got the bedroom TV working for Lyssa so she could start watching Handmaid’s Tale and then headed for the shower. The pressure boost is a welcome new feature. Refreshed, I sunk into the recliner and did some work on the laptop. The boys didn’t last as long as they did yesterday. Josh was passed out by 8:30 and Jake made it to around 10:00. I shut everything down and tucked them in, joining Lyssa in the bedroom. I think we were both asleep by 11:00.


I was up early, before 5:30, to walk outside with Jacob so he could knock some bark off a tree. We scared up a pair of deer feeding at the corn piles, which was pretty cool. I turned on the TV for him and lumbered back to bed. I woke up a few hours later to the smell of fried eggs, sausage, and toast. Lyssa got out the skillet and made us all a delicious breakfast. It was drizzling out, so we enjoyed a lazy morning inside.

It’s been a great weekend for bird-watching. We’ve seen (or heard) at least one of each of the following: tufted titmouse, cardinal, chickadee, grosbeak, goldfinch, house finch, nuthatch, hairy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, oriole, red-winged blackbird, robin, pheasant, ruffed grouse, barred owl. The oriole was a real treat. I knew they came through here but hadn’t seen or heard one since I used to come up with my grandparents. He was hanging out in the apple trees, singing like crazy. And we never saw the grouse, but could certainly hear them drumming.

Hopefully, these will all get dropped later this year.

The sun came out and dried things up around 10:30 and we got the boys dressed and sent them out to play. I cleaned up and put my tools away, then hooked up the green ATV to the small yard trailer to start collecting the rest of the limbs and branches from the SkyJack work we did in January. I was on my second load when I went to move a pipe out of the way and felt a sharp stab in my back right above my belt line. I couldn’t straighten up and it wouldn’t go away. I managed to unload the few branches I had collected in the trailer onto the pit, unhooked the trailer, and shambled into the keep. I took some ibuprofen and a hydrocodone and rested for a bit. It was clear I was done for the day. Lyssa stripped the beds and gathered the linens and we closed up the keep. My dad wants the ATV trailer back at his house, so I collected it with the green ATV and hooked it up to the truck. The boys put away all their toys and I gathered up the garbage from the keep and the pole barn to throw out at home. We were all on our way around 2:00.

It sucks that I managed to wreck my back right at the tail end, because other than that, this has been a really fun and relaxing family weekend up here. I hope this heals quickly; I’ve got plans to come up next weekend for some major projects.