Hannah and I drove in around 5:30 pm with a truck bed loaded with tools and Puckaweekend goodies. The whole Thelen clan just spent a long weekend up in Presque Isle, but the boys have school tomorrow and Lyssa works. I, however, have Columbus Day off. As soon as we got back to Oshkosh, I quickly unpacked from PI and loaded up for Puckaway.
Both Red and my dad were here waiting for me. Red and I work in the same office, so he’s got tomorrow off as well. He’s been here since 2:00 pm and has been busy mulching leaves all afternoon in the surprisingly high mid-70s temperatures. My dad got here shortly before me as he came straight down from PI. I helped Dad unload a snowblower from the back of his truck and rode with him to our neighbor Lynn’s property to store the pontoon boat for the winter. I’m glad that Dad was the one backing it in. While my trailering skills aren’t bad, there’s only about 3 inches of clearance on either side of the garage door when backing that big boat in, and I sure wouldn’t want to be the guy to scrape up our helpful neighbor’s garage. Lynn was there and I got to finally meet him. We hung out and talked for a bit, but Dad wanted to get back to Oshkosh and was on the road by 6:00.
Back at the grounds, I basked in the glory of the diminished garden brickpile. It’s pretty much gone now. The last group of craigslist-recruited free-laborers picked it clean. We’ll be able to use the remaining few bricks as marsh fill and it should only take a few trailer-loads. Amazing, considering there were over 6,000 bricks here as recently as this spring.
Red finished mowing and gave me a hand unloading the truck. I had asked him if he could stop at Fleet Farm on the way up to get a mineral block and some shell corn for the deer, so we grabbed the goods from the back of his SUV, put the corn in a bin in the garden shed, and set up the block by the bird feeders. Red wouldn’t let me pay him back for any of this and also kept handing me full beers as mine emptied. Red is the best.
He had also picked up the blue utility trailer from my folks’ house earlier today and used it to haul up a bunch of large items for us to burn or scrap. We listened to the end of the Packers game—where Aaron Rodgers pulled out a literal last-minute save against the Cowboys—as we cleared out the trailer. It was getting dark, so we buttoned things up for the night. Red parked his SUV and I used the ATV to haul the blue trailer away. We closed up the pole barn and headed in to be lazy, drink beer, watch TV, and eat multiple frozen pizzas. I set up the futon for Red while he showered off the leaf dust he accumulated while tending the grounds. We watched a few episodes of The Orville and I fell asleep in the recliner while Hannah and Red passed out on the futon. I wandered back to my bed around 11:00. Tomorrow, the real work begins.
I woke up a little after 7 am with an urgent need to water a tree. This was good timing, as a 20-yard roll-off dumpster is getting delivered at 8:00. I made some coffee and got myself dressed just in time to meet the driver and direct him where to drop the container. I had him leave it at the mouth of the driveway where one of the woodpiles used to be. This puts it equally distant from the truck box we need to empty out and the ruins of the woodshed we need to clean up. I was happy to confirm that this thing has a side door that can be swung open. It’ll be much easier to get some big items in here this way than chucking them over the side.
I started the pump and ran a hose into the outhouse pit. I’m hoping to drown the evils contained within. We let this run and headed into town around 9 am for a good Aunt Judy’s breakfast.
After wolfing down some eggs, we got back and the work started in earnest. I got out the chainsaw, cleaned it thoroughly, and replaced the chain. I also sprayed its carrying case with engine degreaser and rinsed it off. This thing is now primed and ready to fell some trees for Puckaweekend. I tried out the new chain on the remains of the huge oak that nearly hit the pole barn when it fell almost ten years ago. It cut through the trunk like a lightsaber and in no time I was left with some sizeable logs that should keep the pit satiated for a good long time.
While I was lumberjacking, Red was busy clearing a spot to set up the popup. He ran the leafblower all along the keep and the clearing behind the bird feeders and used the manual pole saw to clear some low-hanging branches. After hooking up the popup with the ATV, he got it positioned and levelled out back there. One more piece of Puckaweekend prep can be checked off the list.
After trimming a few more trees and branches on and around the wood piles and trails behind the pole barn, I put away the chainsaw and started on my next, long-overdue task. Steve brought up some 3″ PVC pipe and an elbow last year in the hopes we could fashion a vent for the outhouse from it. I took the smaller piece of PVC and used it to trace an outline into the back wall of the outhouse, drilled four corner pilot holes through to the plastic liner, and used my orbital jig saw to cut out the main hole. I then liberally applied some Sharpie to the end of the pipe and used it to stamp an outline along the liner so I knew where to slice it with my Dremel. Once the hole was complete, I trimmed the short pipe to length, gave it a tapered end to help it catch fumes, and attached the elbow and long pipe. The overall height of the whole assembly is pretty even with the roof top, so I just stuck a small 2×4 to the top of the back wall as a spacer and then screwed through the end of the pipe to secure it to the block. I hope this thing helps. I moved the hose from under the outhouse platform to the end of the vent pipe. We have a lovely and disgusting fountain now.
With the camper set up, Red took the ATV and small yard trailer and worked on collecting all of the branches and logs that I had cut earlier. Rather than throw them right in the pit, we started a pile off to the side. Puckaweekend begins with a pit dig; can’t interfere with that.
We then turned our attention to the dumpster and decided to make the maiden deposit. I figured out how to open the side door so we wouldn’t have to throw everything over a six foot steel wall, then we each grabbed an end of the toilet that was out among the scrap behind the old woodshed and heaved it into the far wall of the dumpster. It made a very satisfying crash as it shattered into thousands of tiny shards. A porcelain sink followed soon after, and finally the toilet from the keep bathroom. We took out some aggression on that one by throwing the pieces of the other throne at it. Cleaning can be fun if you do it right.
A little after 1:30, we took a break for lunch and further depleted the frozen pizza supply. We didn’t slow down for long, as more dumpster fuel was calling us. I tipped over the burn barrel that was back along the trail behind the shed and we rolled it over by the rest of the scrap. Farmer Joe has expressed an interest in it and he’s more than welcome to come claim it. After unloading its dubious contents in the dumpster, we used a rolling yard waste cart to collect the unburned plastic and trash from the spot where the burn barrel stood. We pulled up the cinder blocks and kicked around the dirt until it was flat. It’s amazing how much more open it looks with that rusty culvert chunk out of the way.
While we were in the area, Red helped me hunt down the last of the scrap tires and stack them in the blue utility trailer. Dad will be able to recycle these at work. I’m just glad to clear more junk out. Once that was done, we set our eyes on a bigger prize: the tub of glass.
Why does Puckaway have a bathtub full of broken glass? Roughly ten years ago, I cleared out all of the old windows that were stored outside in front of the pole barn. The frames were rotten and many of the windows were broken. I was able to burn the frames, but needed somewhere to go with the glass. That’s when I spotted an old fiberglass bathtub in the junk between the pole barn and wood shed. It was a great place to bust out the glass without having to worry about it getting all over the yard. I hauled it over to the truck box with the intention of figuring out how to get rid of it later. And then ten years passed.
The tub proved to be a difficult quarry. We used two ATVs, the yard trailer (which can tilt, mercifully), straps, chain, and a winch to unearth and transport the least soothing bath ever to the dumpster. Even then, it was too heavy to move by hand. I had to shovel glass shards into the back of the dumpster like I was stoking some insane, sharp furnace. Eventually, the tub was light enough for us to drag it off of the trailer and upend it. I’m glad to finally see this go. Even with the tilted truck box still hanging around, that part of the yard looks so much better now that the tub is gone.
This seemed like a good stopping point for the day. We got a lot of work done in a short amount of time. Red started to pack up and I tackled a small project in the keep. I hung a bracket in the bedroom to mount the 32″ TV I bought on craigslist last month. Red gave me a hand getting the TV attached before he left for Oshkosh around 4:15. I’ll worry about hooking it up to a media source on a later trip. It’s just nice to have it up off the floor.
I spent a little time cleaning up in the keep and gathering my things, then headed out to close up the pole barn and put away the ATVs. I closed the dumpster on the off-chance some critter might decide to mess around in there. I also shut off the pump and dumped about four gallons of lime down the outhouse pit. I hope all our efforts to keep the stench down in there prove effective.
I took a moment to marvel at the positive changes in the scenery since last year: no more wood shed, burn barrel, tires, glass, or giant brick pile. It’s been kind of bothering me that this year didn’t yield much in the way of major new projects or infrastructure improvements, but the upgraded view is going a long way to help that. Hannah and I headed out around 5:15.