Hannah and I rode in around 4:30. Sunny and in the mid-60s, with no change in the forecast. This is going to be the best weather we’ve ever had for a Puckaweekend. Tools, clothes, and most other supplies are already here, but I brought a cooler full of goodies with me. I stocked the fridge and freezer with chili, beer, pizzas, and hot peppers, then headed outside. After filling the bird feeders, I kept the ladder out to make some modifications to the new outhouse vent. I added a wye with a 1 1/2″ plug to the base of the vent stack to make it easier to add water to the hole. I also installed a vent guard on the top of the pipe to keep leaves and critters out.
Next on the agenda was infrastructure prep. I ran a 100′ extension cord from one of the outdoor plugs on the meter panel to the pop-up camper and powered it up. I also turned on the fridge in the big trailer as we may need it for overflow freezer space.
I needed some more room in the pole barn, so I towed the aluminum ATV trailer out and parked it along the south side of the big trailer where it’ll be out of sight, out of mind. I also took a moment to tow the blue utility trailer up to the edge of the driveway so I can’t miss it tomorrow. It’s still full of scrap tires and needs to get dropped off at Pomp’s in Fond du Lac. I don’t want to forget it again.
I emptied the gas cans into the ATVs and mower, threw them in the back of the truck, and ran into town at 6:30 to fill them up and get some A&W. Back at the keep, I washed down dinner with a few cheladas as I uploaded some new additions to the media collection. Hannah was passed out on the couch already, dreaming hard. She must know what’s coming.
There’s a little, narrow island between the kitchen and living room of the keep. It’s where the storm windows or screens are stored, depending on the time of year. And it’s in rough shape. The removable top is full of water stains and the trim is almost completely missing. This would be my final project for the evening. I took the top into the pole barn and pulled the last remnants of trim boards and nails from the sides. I sanded the whole surface, wiped it down, and sanded it again. I’m going to resurface this with adhesive tiles, and this will help them stick a little better. I placed one of the 12″ square tiles on the board and marked the overhang from below. I then stacked all five tiles, clamped them together, and cut along the mark with the plastic-cutting blade of my Dremel Saw Max. This worked well and created a clean, straight cut in the vinyl tiles. I pulled off the adhesive backing and placed the first four tiles, then I scribed the last tile with my utility knife and snapped it to fit. I used my miter saw to cut some cheap white trim at 45° and held it in place around the sides with clamps as the construction adhesive dried.
While this was setting, I did some final cleanup in the pole barn and made sure the jukebox was synced to the latest additions on the media collection in the keep. With the music off and the tools silent, I was able to hear some distant owls calling back and forth. I’m taking this as a good sign for Puckaweekend. I shut down the pole barn for the night and carried the island topper back inside. I’m happy with the results; this thing looks infinitely better now.
I spent the rest of the night cleaning and organizing the front closet/pantry and the cabinets above the sink. We’ve got more cooking equipment and supplies up here now than ever before and space is at a premium. I really need to explore the idea of removing the furnace and utilizing all that potential space. For tonight, however, I’ve made enough progress. I powered up the Pi64 on the bedroom TV and ran one final media sync. I fell asleep watching That 70’s Show around 11:00.
I woke up around 8:00 and got right to work. I’m picking up Sean at the Milwaukee airport today. His flight is scheduled to arrive at 1:25 pm, and it’ll take about two hours for me to get there, even with the Pomp’s pit stop. I’ve got a lot to do and not much time to do it.
First on the agenda was some general grounds prep. I got out the leaf blower and cleared out the deck, in front of the keep, around the bird feeders, and the whole area between the outhouse and the pop-up camper. I also made sure to clear off the roof of the pop-up, because that’s the next item on the list.
I started setting up the camper but realized it’d be easier to bring the picnic table over first. I used the blue ATV winch and tow strap to drag it into position. I finished setting up the pop-up, then brought over a fan to help air it out. Red’s gonna sleep like a king in here.
I went to move the green ATV to help reorganize the pole barn and the battery was stone dead. Last night when I filled the tanks, I turned the keys so I could see the fuel gauge reading. I never turned this one back off. Damnit. It wouldn’t even register on the trickle charger and I couldn’t find the 6A charger at all. Thankfully, I had a spare battery here and it was willing to let the trickle charger do its thing. I’ll have to revisit this later today.
At 10:30, I started up the pump and put the new “flush” wye to use on the outhouse vent stack. I’m planning to run water into it all day long to try to mitigate the stink as best I can.
The last task on my checklist was a simple one. I just needed to hang a sign for the UPS guy. I’ve got a Nintendo Switch dock coming today and want to be sure the package is delivered and not delayed for lack of a clear drop-off point. I hung a 11″x17″ DELIVERIES: Leave all packages on the deck sign on the apple tree at the end of the driveway. Should be hard to miss.
I was just about ready to head out for the day and called Hannah into the truck only to immediately regret it. She reeked. This dog just loves to roll in dead things. I grabbed some shampoo from the keep and hauled her over to the back of the outhouse so I could hose her down and lather her up. Now quite ashamed, Hannah slunk back over and hopped into the back seat of the truck. Good thing it’s nice enough to drive with the windows down. She should dry off quickly.
I hooked up the blue trailer and was on the road by 11:30. Dad wasn’t in his office when I stopped at Pomp’s, so I left the trailer parked behind the building and kept on truckin’. I grabbed some breakfast/lunch at the Lomira McD’s and got to the airport by 1:00, well ahead of schedule. Thankfully, you can park in the structure for up to 30 minutes for free. I chilled for a bit and waited for a text from Sean. Hannah was nice and dry by this point and fast asleep.
Sean’s plane landed a few minutes ahead of schedule so I headed to Arrivals, forgetting he’d still have to wait for his bag. I circled the terminal a few times until I saw a grinning monster ready to go get drunk in the woods. He tossed his bag in the bed of the truck, I threw his new Puckaway hoodie at him, and we were off. I love how easy it is to get in and out of MKE.
We had a few stops planned before making it back to Puckaway. It seemed criminal not to make a Mayville detour when it’s basically the exact halfway point between the Milwaukee airport and the Greater Puckalands. The first stop was Farmer Joe’s. Sean got a kick out of the myriad barn cats that kept popping up. Joe’s busier than ever these days and won’t be able to make Puckaweekend, but at least we got to stop by and say hi.
Our next destination was Wally’s Hideout, where we both enjoyed a Korbel and Coke. Sean wrote Deedee (Red’s mom) a little love note for her to discover on her next shift. Easy as it would have been to stay here the rest of the day, we had a pooch in the truck and more stops to make.
Sean marveled at the liquor section of the Mayville Piggly Wiggly. C’mon, it’s Mayville. They’re not going to go halfway on beer and liquor. We quickly filled a cart with all kinds of goodies and headed to Horicon for the last stop, Leroy Meats. Sean went on a meat-spree and got a ton of bacon, beef sticks, and three very good-looking New York strip steaks for us to enjoy with Red tomorrow. I grabbed some string cheese and a pound total of the three kinds of beef jerky they had to offer. Sean rewarded Hannah’s patience with a pig’s ear, which she dutifully gobbled up as we drove the rest of the way to Puckaway.
We pulled in the yard around 5:00. Hannah was happy to be out of the truck. Sean got unpacked and we loaded the fridge with the goods from Pig and Leroy. I pulled the hose from the outhouse; here’s hoping a seven-hour soak is enough to mitigate what we’re about to contribute to that place. I gave Sean his Puckaweekend present, a Kessler belt buckle that seemed like the perfect Honorary Mayvillian medal. As luck would have it, Sean brought up a belt that could actually take the buckle. He quickly donned his badge of honor and we headed out to do some work.
Sean started moving the glass block windows from the ruins of the woodshed to a spot behind the new brick piles next to the pole barn. I got busy replacing the battery on the green ATV. About 20 minutes into this, a UPS truck rolled in with my Switch gear. Guess I didn’t need my sign after all.
I finished up on the ATV and we opened up the dumpster door to get it ready for a long weekend’s worth of deposits. Unbeknownst to Sean, I had been talking with Red and found out he was changing his plans about coming up. Rather than taking a half-day off of work on Thursday, he decided to take the whole day and come up tonight. He pulled in with Gunner around 6:30 and was greeted with hugs and drinks.
Red got himself set up in the pop-up and we put away all of the meal prep goodies that he brought up with him. We’re going to eat like kings this year. It was already dark and we were way ahead of schedule, so rather than worry about digging the pit or starting some other massive project, we spent the rest of the night drinking and enjoying each other’s company. Red makes an excellent Brandy Old Fashioned. We called it a night relatively early, as we are getting old and there is much left to do this weekend. Red and Gunner made their way to the pop-up around 10:30, Sean had the futon to himself, and Hannah hopped up on the bed with me back in the bedroom.
Everyone was up a little after 7:00, another side-effect of getting old. Sean filled the new coffeemaker with Jujimufu coffee and we started our day with some nootropic-injected goodness. We were all dressed and ready for the day a little before 9:00. Both dogs were already spent from running around. Gotta learn to pace yourselves, guys. We left them in the keep and took off for Aunt Judy’s for what would be our last trip away from camp for the rest of the weekend.
We made it back around 10:00, fueled up and ready for work. We immediately tackled the pit, taking away three trailer-loads of ash, dirt, and debris. Tach’s expert shoveling was missed, but we managed to compensate.
Once we had ourselves a four-foot circle about knee-deep, we headed over to the woodpiles to start building our base. From our seemingly never-ending supply of railroad ties, we built a sturdy two-tier lattice and topped this off with the old doors from Red’s house and his old APC work shirts. I soaked this with our similarly never-ending supply of old boat gas, tossed a match, and shortly after noon the first flames of PW17 were lit. Hannah, as usual, was not a fan of this. She spent most of the rest of her weekend in the keep or near the deck. That dog does not like fire.
To help establish a nice coal bed right away, we tossed on the branches and logs that I had hauled over to the pit earlier this month. I also tried out my new gas-powered pole saw and trimmed a bunch of trees around the pole barn as high as I could reach. The dry pine boughs really helped kickstart the fire, especially once we got the leaf-blower involved.
When the pit became too hot to approach, we knew we had earned ourselves a break. We headed back to the keep and I got out a six pack of Capitol Supper Club (self-assessed as “Not Bad!” on the label) for our first boot of the weekend. Delicious. It was damn satisfying to be able to watch the fire from the deck for the first time, too. We snacked a bit as we finished our boot and played a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity, then it was back to work.
We fed the fire from the dwindling woodpiles for the rest of the afternoon. We changed things up for a while and hauled two trailer-loads of blue bricks out to the marsh trails to fill in some low spots, but gave up when it seemed like we weren’t making a dent in the pile. I think these last few hundred are going to be the hardest to get rid of.
At about 5:45, as the sun was starting to set, I headed into the keep to get dinner started. I liberally applied some garlic and pepper seasoning to the three steaks Sean bought at Leroy Meats the day before and slapped them on the grill. After throwing Sean’s and Red’s back on the fire a few times (guess they don’t like them as pink as I do), we had ourselves a feast. We complemented our steaks with some chips and Red’s homemade salsa, which was wonderfully spicy.
After dinner, we continued to burn. I set up the newly-repaired halogen flood light so we could see what we were doing over by the wood piles. A few ATV trailer loads later, and we had ourselves a truly mighty fire. The flames reflected back off of the leaves on the trees and lit up the whole area. Quite the sight.
We stopped feeding the fire around 9:00 and closed up the pole barn. The three of us journeyed out to the deer stand for a bit and shared a big bottle of Space Ghost, a high ABV beer brewed with chili peppers. Once that was gone, we headed back in for the night. Red and Gunner retired to the pop-up, Sean passed out on the futon, and I fought Hannah for bed space in the back after taking a refreshing shower. Everyone was out by 11:00.
I was slow to get up, but the smell of fried eggs and bacon motivated me to leave my room around 8:30. Red had cooked us all a delicious camp breakfast on the skillet and griddle. After chowing down and filling up on some Bailey’s coffee, I headed outside to blow the accumulated ash off of the pit and bring it back to life. I opened up the truck box at the end of the driveway and we started emptying it of anything burnable and hauling the contents over to the pit. There are very few things that we’ll save and move to the pole barn. The rest is leaving the property via the pit, scrapper Paul, or the dumpster.
Runge pulled in around 11:30, so we took a break and hung out in the keep for a bit and snacked on chili, beef sticks, cookies, and other health foods. We headed back out around 1:30 after Jeremiah arrived with his tractor and impressive chainsaw-based toolkit in tow. Jeremiah’s a friend from work with a lot of experience felling trees and milling them into planks on-site. I was very glad to have him up here to give us a hand with the oaks close to the pole barn, as they’ve got quite a lot of lean to them.
Once all of his gear was unloaded and everyone got their vehicles out of the way, we made a plan and started to drop some trees. I felt validated when my instincts matched up with Jeremiah’s methods. Felling trees is a hard skill to claim. It’ll either go perfectly well for you or it’ll go horribly wrong. Thankfully, all of our drops ended up going exactly how we wanted.
We were ready for general lumberjackery around 2:15. We started with the second-closest tree to the pole barn. We figured we could use the closer tree as a buffer in case this one took an unexpected turn on the way down. Runge took a chain up my 26′ ladder and secured it around the trunk as high as he could reach. We attached this to Jeremiah’s tractor and kept tension on it as he made his felling cuts. We ended up dropping the oak right into the pit. One down, two to go!
Jeremiah got himself set up for the next tree while I used my chainsaw to trim the branches from our first drop. Everyone else pitched in to collect the limbs and branches as I cut them. They were immediately fed to the pit.
The second tree went much like the first. Runge ran the chain but we used my truck to keep tension this time as we wanted something that could keep a lot of torque on it as it dropped. Once again, we hit our mark perfectly, dropping our second oak right into the pit. I trimmed this one right away as the rest of the crew fed the branches into the fire. Jeremiah moved on to our last tree, which didn’t require any guidance. This one fell alongside the brick garden.
By 3:30, we were done dropping trees. No property damage! Always a plus. Red celebrated by making everyone Old Fashioneds. I continued trimming while Jeremiah switched gears and got his Alaskan sawmill ready to go. This thing is pretty damn sweet. It’s a big aluminum rig that attaches to his ludicrously oversized 48″ chainsaw bar and lets him cut planks out of fallen tree trunks. Puckaway was about to provide us some lumber.
Around 4:30, Jeremiah cut his first plank. It’s fun to see what kind of patterns emerge in the woodgrain as the pieces fall away. We’re going to have some really nice wood to work with in a few years. He’s making 2″ planks, and it takes about a year of drying for every inch of thickness. Expect some fun wood projects in 2019.
Everyone took turns giving Jeremiah a hand or at least looking over his shoulder and grilling him on his setup. I got out the pole saw again and trimmed a bunch of branches around the outhouse and the pop-up. I like this little thing. Not a lot of power, but sure beats using a handsaw or climbing a ladder with a regular chainsaw. I threw the branches on the now-raging bonfire and put away my tools while Jeremiah stacked the freshly-sawn planks behind the pole barn. He’s got them separated by blue bricks to help them dry. At least we finally found utility for those stupid bricks.
When the sun went down, the work stopped. I threw in some pizzas and we relaxed the rest of the night. We passed around two more boots with New Glarus Bubbler and Central Waters Mudpuppy Porter, then just dug into the rest of the beer and liquor supply. At one point, Red, Sean, and I drank Black Russians out of Richie’s drink glasses, fulfilling a Bold Puckaweekend Prediction. The rest of the evening blends together, but I think we were all in bed by midnight or so. Helluva day.
Another slow start for me, another delicious breakfast prepared by Red to draw me out. Scrambled eggs today. Yum. I wandered out into the world around 8:30 and most of the guys had already been up and working. Sean and Runge were feeding the fire with the rest of the branches I had trimmed by the outhouse and some of the larger limbs from the three trees we dropped yesterday. After sharpening his blade, Jeremiah resumed his work on planking the tree trunks and hauling them away to dry. Red took care of dishes and general cleanup around the keep. We were already off to a productive start.
Dusty pulled in a little after noon while we were cleaning out the truck box. He, Red, and Runge caught up while Sean and I gathered windows to throw in the dumpster. The truck box was full of windows, all double-pane, and all compromised and cloudy. I’m happy to see these things go. We broke down the frames when we could to save on dumpster space, and had the truck box completely cleaned out by 1:15. Dad knows someone who wants it, so we might soon be rid of this prominent eyesore.
Like yesterday, we didn’t really eat lunch so much as graze on what was available throughout the afternoon. I had put more chili in the crock pot after breakfast and we finished off the remaining cookies and a bunch of Red’s salsa. Most everyone took a nap at some point. At 3:00, Paul drove in ready to get loaded up with scrap. As usual, many hands made light work and his truck was completely full within 45 minutes. We even fished out most of the aluminum window pane sections from the dumpster. We’re really making strides in reducing the piles of clutter and debris around here. Paul was on his way and we returned to sitting around and drinking.
Jordan drove in at 4:30, completing this year’s expected attendance list. I got out the mower and cleared leaves from a large area of the south yard so we could play Viking Chess. Dusty brought it back up with him. It was fun last year even with a perforated foot, so I was looking forward to this. Runge, Jordan, and I played Dusty, Sean, and Jeremiah. Red came by later after his well-deserved late nap, but didn’t play. He preferred to watch from the sidelines and sip his Old Fashioned.
Around 6:00, though, Red took center stage. He started meal prep on his beef stroganoff. He browned the beef in the skillet and made the noodles on the side burner of the grill. We used the pizza stone in the grill as a place to make the frozen garlic bread he brought up. And once we had completely devoured his excellent meal, he served homemade key lime pie for everyone. I cast my vote for Red as Puckaweekend MVP.
The rest of the evening was once again hazy. We continued to feed the fire well into the night, sat around bullshitting, and drank all the beer. It was glorious. People started crashing early around 10:00 and I called it a night around midnight.
I woke up very early around 4:30 because I could hear rain coming down. I got dressed and headed out to put away the ATVs and make sure all of my tools and the items I wanted to save from the truck box were inside. Jeremiah was also up, so we made room in the pole barn for his tractor and the custom skid with all of his chainsaw stuff. I also grabbed the Viking Chess set and the camping chairs and brought them into the pole barn. Happy that all of the goods were out of the elements, I went back to bed.
While I was sleeping, Jordan, Dusty, and Runge hit the road. Around 7:30, Red came in the keep. His wife had texted him that his kiddo was sick, so he was going to make an early departure, too. He and Gunner left around 8:00. Sean and I cleaned up in the keep and watched History of the World: Part 1 while Jeremiah packed up all of his gear. We took a moment to admire his handiwork and he set up the last plank and a small pair of notched logs as a fireside bench that’ll be just the right height for Jake and Josh. Jeremiah hit the road around 10:15.
The pop-up was too wet to take down and put away, so I’ll have to come back for that later in the week. Since I’ll be back anyway, I decided to leave most of my tools up here. I stripped the beds and gathered all the towels while Sean packed his bags. Satisfied that we had everything handled for the day, we grabbed the pooch and headed out for the airport around 11:00.
My heartfelt thanks to everyone that came up and helped out this year, especially to Jeremiah for bringing his wonderful toys and to Red for keeping us all well fed and making sure no one ever went long without a drink. Every year, we make more and more progress up here and every year we seem to have more time to just enjoy ourselves. Thank you for sharing this with me. Until next year, gentlemen!