Hannah and I pulled in at 6:00 pm pulling the blue trailer full of brush from Red’s house. The boys are at Presque Isle with my folks for the holiday weekend and Lyssa’s working late tonight. It’s just as well, this weekend is 100% project-focused. Miraculously, my back is completely better from the freak tweak I gave it last Sunday, so I’m ready.
I hauled my clothes and supplies into the keep, which was pleasantly pre-cooled thanks to my remote-controlled air conditioner. It’s in the mid 80s and only supposed to get hotter as the weekend goes on, so it’ll be essential to have somewhere to beat the heat. Back outside, the mosquitoes were in full force. I loaded myself up with DEET and started stacking Red’s brush on the burn pile. It’s all evergreen that’s had a year to dry out, so it should catch fire pretty quickly. Once the trailer was empty, I moved it out of the way and double checked the DNR site to make sure it was OK to burn. Confident I wouldn’t attract the authorities, I grabbed my propane torch and started lighting the brush. In less than a minute, I had a raging fire, the first one of 2018. I didn’t even need any gasoline.
I couldn’t get anywhere near the burnpit thanks to the incredible heat and fifteen-foot flames, so I got out the green ATV and small yard trailer and stacked some more branches and limbs from the west side of the pole barn. The pit was hungry after its long winter slumber and by the time I had a full load to drive back, the burn pile shrunk from eight feet to nearly ground level. I fed it a few trailer loads and got rid of some cardboard from the pole barn. Happy with my progress and with the pit under control, I headed inside for the night around 8:00.
I started to doze off watching MST3K, so I went to dress the bed and realized I had forgotten to bring up the laundry bag full of clean sheets and linens. I rummaged through the totes in the bedroom closet and found some pillow cases and a fitted sheet that I could use on the futon. I set myself up in the living room and dozed off watching Christmas Vacation around 10:30. Tomorrow’s going to be a big day; Jeremiah’s coming up in the morning with his tractor to dig the new outhouse pit.
I woke up confused and disoriented. It was pitch black, dead silent, and uncomfortably humid. I fumbled around for my phone and saw that it was a little after 3:00 am. Hannah was fast asleep on her dog bed; she didn’t seem to be troubled by this strange development at all. I looked in the closet and saw that the UPS was dead. Figuring I somehow tripped a breaker, I slid on my shoes and headed outside to check. The display on the electrical meter was completely blank, so the problem was bigger than just a breaker. I went back to the keep and lit some candles so I wouldn’t have to use my phone as a flashlight anymore, set it up as a hotspot instead, and fired up the laptop to check the electric co-op’s site for outages. Looked like everything from Roeder Rd. on south was knocked out and had been since midnight. That would explain why the UPS was out; the battery is only good for a little over two hours.
The wheels in my head started turning like crazy as I tried to figure out the rest of the weekend. Without AC or running water, it’d be miserable up here. I could go home and get my generator, but that’d be two hours of driving plus time to make a suicide extension cord to back-power the keep. Which would wreck me for doing anything early in the morning. I debated texting Jeremiah that our plans might have been ruined, but decided to wait things out for a bit. I plugged one of the media hard drives into the laptop and continued watching Christmas Vacation as I silently cursed the Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative and their shoddy grid. Right as I was about to get dressed and commit to a bunch of late-night driving, the keep came back to life. It was a few minutes past 4:00 am. What a relief. The AC and fan got things comfortable again in a hurry, and I climbed back into bed to try to get some more sleep. I was out again by 4:30.
Finally woke up around 7:30. Got a text soon after from Jeremiah that he was leaving Fond du Lac, so I took a quick shower and got ready for the day. I met up with him at Aunt Judy’s around 8:45 and treated him to the finest breakfast Green Lake County has to offer. I stopped at the BP on the way out to get some more bug repellent, sunscreen, and a ton of Gatorade.
We made it back to Puckaway by 10:00 and Jeremiah unloaded his tractor. I showed him the IBC we’ll be using as a new holding tank, and he picked it up with the tractor forks and hauled it over to the new site. He spun his seat around, manned the controls for the backhoe, and started digging. I kept busy by stirring up the burnpit and getting the mower out. I used the leaf blower to clear the brush and leaves out of the mower deck, which was apparently a mistake. Once I fired up the PTO, it made a godawful noise and I could smell burning belt. I parked the mower in the pole barn and removed the deck, then unfastened the pulley covers. There were a lot of small branches and other junk to blast out of there. One of them had caused the belt to slide off a pulley. I took care of that and greased all the zerks while I had access to them. I also flipped the deck over and gave the blades a quick sharpen with my angle grinder.
By the time I was done messing with the mower, Jeremiah was ready to bury the IBC. We flipped it upside-down and set it into the hole, then started filling in around it. Everything seemed to be going well. It was almost noon when we used the forks to move the outhouse over to the new spot to have it ready. This allowed us the dubious honor of scoping out the old hole. Aside from being woefully shallow and containing the kind of foulness you’d expect of an outhouse hole, it was also the final resting place of at least four groundhogs and a bunch of mice. What a way to go.
I went back to the pole barn to fish out a 55-gallon plastic drum and proceeded to cut a roughly 16″ tall ring out of it. This will serve as a liner between the tank below and outhouse above and should hopefully prevent critters from filling this tank with sand and dirt. I traced this ring onto the IBC and got out a graduated drill bit to make some pilot holes for my Sawzall to start from. That’s when we heard the noise. A horrible, low whistle started coming out of my drill holes in the IBC as air rushed out of the container. I had an idea what this might have meant and it was confirmed once I sawed out the opening. The inner plastic liner of the IBC wasn’t strong enough to hold against the dirt and sand and had collapsed inwards. We were going to have to dig this out and reinforce it. Damnit.
I was kicking myself because I had figured this might be the case and had planned on using the corrugated steel sheets from the scrap pile as armor. But between the oppressive heat and the speed of Jeremiah’s tractor, I forgot all about this. Jeremiah started digging around the IBC to dislodge it and I grabbed the green ATV and trailer to collect some steel. I brought a bunch of sheets over to the picnic table and helped Jeremiah extract the IBC. It was a little worse for the wear, but nothing we couldn’t fix. We used zip ties to help secure the liner to the cage in a few spots and return it to its normal shape. Then we headed to the table where Jeremiah steadied the sheet metal while I took the Sawzall to them. Once we had enough, we fastened the plates to the IBC cage with self-tapping sheet metal screws. At one point, my left leg completely locked up and I couldn’t straighten it. Jeremiah figured I was just getting dehydrated, even though I had been taking care to stay full of fluids on this 95° day. After a short break, my knee seemed back to normal and we reburied the IBC at 3:15. We lost over three hours to my lack of planning, but at least Jeremiah didn’t seem too upset about it.
The ground around the IBC was really soupy now after having been dug out twice. We installed the drum ring liner onto the IBC, then got some 2x4s out of the pole barn to prop up the outhouse foundation until the ground dries out and we can level everything with bricks. We set the building down with the tractor forks and by 4:30 had finally completed the project. Jeremiah gathered his tractor attachments and started getting everything loaded on his trailer while I cleaned up all my tools and scrap. We hung out in the keep for a while and made a dent in the beer supply. I thanked Jeremiah profusely for all his efforts. I can’t even imagine what it would have taken for me to dig that by hand. And if I had to dig it back out? I’d probably just crawl in the tank and wait for the water to come up.
Jeremiah left around 5:45, but not before being the first to try out the new outhouse hole. He had certainly earned the right. As I saw him off, I fired up the yard pump and brought the hose over to the keep’s water tank. It’s already near the halfway mark, so I figured I’d top it off. At this point, I was absolutely beat. My original plan of grilling brats for dinner now sounded like hell on earth, so I put them back in the freezer and called Pizza Factory for delivery. I got my filthy self into the shower and sent a ton of sandy soil down the drain as I scrubbed up.
My dinner arrived at 6:30 and I devoured nearly the entire pizza. The rest of the night was a blur. I put on some old episodes of The Simpsons and drifted off, but woke up every few hours with my knee throbbing to beat hell. I took a bunch of ibuprofen and kept it elevated, which helped quiet it down, but I slept fitfully the rest of the night.
I was up for the day by 8:00. My knee seems fine now, but I have zero energy. While it was still relatively cool out, I took the bucketful of dirt that Jeremiah left by the old outhouse pit and buried the sins within as best I could. I also gave the new pit a test drive. Scent-free and full of groundwater. This one should last us quite a while. I finished putting away the tools I missed yesterday and packed up the back of my truck. By 10:30 it was already 90° out. I took this as a sign that I was done here for the weekend, and was on the road by 11:30. I wish I could have tackled more, but we made some pretty good progress here. Until next time.