Pulled in at 4:00 pm with Hannah and Josh. This is his first solo overnight up here without his big brother and he’s excited. We unloaded the truck and Josh headed to the swing. I opened up the shack and turned on the ceiling fans to help freshen it up. I think I’ll start doing that every trip up to keep mildew at bay.

My next stop was the outhouse. This year, we’ve had several hatches of little black flies in there. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before, honestly. Between them, the spiders, moths, and crickets, it’s getting a little too crowded in there for my tastes. I brought up a four-pack of bug bomb with me today, so I grabbed one can, tied it to some twine, and lowered it down to just above the, uh, “waterline” in the pit below before tying the line off. I placed another can on the bench next to the seat, raised first can, and activated them both before dropping it back down below. I held my breath and shut the door. I’ll give this a few hours to sort itself out.

Rising above the city, blocking out the noon-day sun…

I headed to the pole barn to test out a project for Puckaweekend. A while back, I saved a broken projector from the dumpster at work. I got it back in working order after a little soldering, a new fan, and a new bulb. The goal is to use it to display music videos in the pole barn for no reason other than that it’d be awesome. I ran a long VGA extension cord from the pole barn laptop to the projector and shot it against a screen I mounted from the rafters. Works like a charm.

Joshua really wanted to help me with something, so I switched to a project I knew he’d get a kick out of. One of the things I brought up this trip was a long roller bearing on a rod designed to span the top of an open five-gallon pail. The idea is to put some peanut butter in the middle, some antifreeze in the bottom of the pail, and some ramps leading to either side of the roller, and you’ve got yourself an effective self-resetting mousetrap.

I drilled through the center of a cover of a can of spray paint and slid it down the middle of the roller since I’ve heard some of the lighter or more athletic mice can navigate the death log unless they have something to try to climb over. I set the assembly into the top of the bucket and poured in about a half-gallon of RV antifreeze. Besides the fact that you can use it all year long, another benefit of antifreeze is that it slows decomposition, effectively embalming the mice that drown in it. Works for me; those little jerks have had a free ride far too long.

I cut some ramps out of thin paneling and sunk screws into the ends so they couldn’t slip off of the bucket once set in place. Josh helped me carry everything into the shack where we set it up in the kitchen. I’m hoping this will help keep the areas I cleaned up last weekend from returning to their previous infested states.

Our trap set, we headed back to the pole barn, where Josh was very surprised to see that we had a second riding mower. That just goes to show how long I’ve been putting off repairing it. One of the mandrels on the mower deck broke off a few years back, and while I ordered a replacement part a few months later, I never got around to swapping it out. I want this back in commission as the marsh-mower, so it’s high time I got it done.

Luckily, I’ve kept this on a trickle charger, so the battery was in good shape. It fired up without protest and I limped it across the pole barn on its flat front tire. With no jack around low enough to pick it up, I improvised and hooked a come-along and tow strap to one of the rafters. This let me winch the front end up and pull the tire onto the bead so I could air it back up. I was glad to have my little helper with me since it would have been very hard to pull the tire and run the air chuck at the same time.

It was almost 7:15 at this point, so I put the mower project on pause while we washed up and headed into town for some A&W. Josh was very excited to get a root beer freeze, which he now finds far superior to simple floats. On our way to town, we saw over 30 deer, sometimes in groups as large as a dozen. No hardware on their heads, but with this many does around, the bucks are sure to to be on the prowl. At one point, a group of seven crossed the road in front of us while we were stopped and it sounded like we were being passed by a bunch of Amish buggies. Josh got a huge kick out of our nature encounters.

We made it back at 7:45 and had dinner in the keep. I got Josh in his jammies and we watched the first Harry Potter movie for a while after I moved some things around in the living room again to get a better angle for the TV. The chair from Presque Isle is a welcome addition to the keep.

A little before 9:00, I went back out to the pole barn and gave a half-hearted attempt to free the broken mandrel from the pulley that was keeping it trapped to the deck. I quickly realized there was no way to get it apart without an impact driver and the only way I’d get access at the right angles would be to drop the deck completely. That can be tomorrow’s problem.

I closed up the pole barn and headed back in, switching the movie to the bedroom TV. Josh snuggled in next to me and finally fell asleep a little after 10:00. I was awake about another hour, periodically repositioning my squirmy little guy.


Josh woke me up at 6:30 asking for a water, then fell back asleep until almost 8:00. He played some 3DS while I got dressed and ready. At 9:30, we made our way to Aunt Judy’s and found a spot at the bar. After sampling some of mine last weekend, Josh decided he really loved cheesy hashbrowns and wanted to order the same breakfast I usually get. He ate like someone three times his size: two eggs over easy, a half-order of cheesy hashbrowns, two sausage links, a piece of bacon, an english muffin, and a huge glass of chocolate milk. I think he went up a shoe size just from breakfast.

We got back to Puckaway at 10:30 and I changed into work clothes and got the pump started while Josh bombed around on one of the Power Wheels. I ran the hose over to the outhouse and started filling the pit through the vent pipe. Even with all the rain we’ve had over the last two weeks, the pit seems a bit low and ripe, so I’m hoping to dilute it.

I left that to fill and got out the chainsaw. It’ll probably be a while before I rent a stump grinder. Until then, I want to make it easier to get around the yard with our various vehicles and equipment. I installed my most beat-up looking chain and started flush-cutting the big oak stumps by the pole barn and woodshed ruins. This kicked my ass. It’s humid out and unseasonably warm. Also, there’s more effort involved in this than I would have thought; it’s a lot harder than just cutting down and carving up a tree trunk. I hooked the small yard trailer to the green ATV and collected the stumps, leaving them on the trailer for now. I don’t want these at the bottom of the pit just to have to be dug out before Puckaweekend.

A little after noon, Josh really wanted to be my helper again, so I grabbed a shovel and pitchfork and we used the green ATV to tow the blue trailer. It’s still full of the debris from the woodshed ruins that I gathered two weeks ago. There’s a deep, muddy low spot in the marsh trail entrance along the property line we share with Peter that really needs to get filled in, so that seemed like a perfect place to unload. We made our way back along the trail, and Josh thought it was the coolest thing ever that the trailer could tip like a dump truck.

When everything was scraped out of the trailer, we took the trail through Peter’s woods and headed down the road and up the driveway. Once again, I turned my attention to the Craftsman mower. Years back, when it was the only mower up here, I had to make a few on-the-go repairs to the deck assembly, replacing missing cotter pins with whatever I could find. It took some effort to extract my makeshift retention pins, but I eventually freed the deck from the mower.

My cordless impact driver had no problem freeing the pulley and mower blade from the busted mandrel. I used an adjustable wrench to grab hold of the three broken mounting tabs while the impact took care of the mounting bolts. After a little cleaning as long as the deck was out in the open, I installed the new mandrel.

Throughout this whole process, I had an extra set of hands. Josh was interested in learning about all my tools and was very helpful when it came to handing me parts. I re-installed the deck, using proper cotter pins this time, and took the mower out for a test run. I had Josh stand clear just in case, but nothing flew off or blew up.

The Craftsman rides again.

I tested it out by mulching where the truck box used to be parked and around the last remaining woodpile. This thing is running like a champ. If the marsh ever gets dry enough again, we’ll be ready to tame it.

I cleaned up after the mower repair and Josh headed inside for a snack and a 3DS break. I moved right to another project. I’m hoping to get the pressure washer trailer going again before Puckaweekend so I can clean off the sides of the buildings and the deck. I got out the spare pump, pressure bladder, some PEX lines, and a 55 gallon drum. I also fished out a small wooden trailer meant to be pulled behind a mower. It seems a bit small to have much general utility but it’s the perfect size for lugging around a barrel, assuming the solid tires don’t just sink into the soft soil.

I was working on getting everything attached when Peter showed up on his bike around 3:30. It’s been a while since we’ve seen him and we caught up and BSed for a bit. Josh came out to see what was going on and Hannah bravely barked warnings from the deck. Peter went on his way around four and I put the pressure washer work on hold when I realized I’d need my PEX tools.

Wide open spaces.

Josh asked for a big push on his swing. While I was out there with him, the pine stump out toward the marsh entrance caught my eye. I realized my flush-cutting efforts weren’t over and got the chainsaw ready for more stump erasing. Aside from the pine, I got the dying tree at the marsh entrance and some other stumps around the cedars, including some that were crawling with red ants. My chain was well and truly shot after this and very stretched out. I think I’ll retire this one.

Hannah prefers to stay on the ground.

As I was cutting, Josh was climbing. He made it to the top knot of his rope swing and was very proud of his efforts but also quite concerned as to how he’d get back down. I coached him through finding his footing again and he was soon back on solid ground. He hopped on the ATV with me, which was still hooked to the blue trailer, and we collected the stumps, limbs, and branches I had just cut down. We hauled this back to the burn pit and emptied the trailer out. We then switched to the blue ATV and took a long ride through the marsh trails and Peter’s woods before parking all the equipment back in the pole barn.

A little after 5:00, I turned off the yard pump and coiled up the hose. The outhouse should be a little fresher now. We headed into the keep and Josh started watching The Peanuts Movie while I took a much-needed shower. I packed our things and hooked the blue trailer up to the truck so I could drop it back off by Dad on the way home. We were on the road around 5:45, having left the yard much flatter than we found it. I had a fun time with my little buddy this weekend!