Pulled in at 7:00 with Jake and Hannah. After Josh’s solo overnight last weekend, Jake was ready for his own. We surprised four deer eating acorns in the south yard as we drove in. One bolted right away, one left after I parked the truck, another took off after I revved the engine, but the final deer was enjoying her snack too much to be bothered to move. It wasn’t until I pulled up to the pole barn that she decided it was time to join her friends. Jake, of course, got a big kick out of this.

I set my boy up with one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and he had his A&W dinner at the keep’s kitchen table. I joined him after unloading the truck by the pole barn. Since we arrived kind of late, I don’t have much to tackle projectwise tonight and we can just relax.

Let there be light!

After we ate, Jake put on his jammies and snuggled up on the new living room chair. Before I was ready to call it a night, there were a few minor things I wanted to take care of. The outhouse lights, inside and out, are two sections of a string of incandescent C7 Christmas bulbs. This was originally meant as a temporary solution, but it’s worked pretty well and looks decent. Lately, however, it seems another bulb burns out every time I come up, so I brought up some Edison-style LED replacement bulbs. I swapped out all 25 bulbs, only 11 of which were still lit. The new LEDs are still a nice warm color temperature and should be a lot more robust.

I had one more lighting-based endeavor to pursue before calling it a night. The four Puckaway cameras have been an excellent investment. I love being able to check in on the place whenever I want. Because they’re dome cameras, however, they’ve got a major flaw. The infrared LEDs and camera lens are both behind the dome, so if there’s any dust or debris on the dome, it reflects like crazy whenever the LEDs are on. The camera tries to focus on this and adjust the exposure, and you get a useless image at night. This is why I wanted to try out an infrared floodlight. I got one on Amazon with 8 wide-dispersal LEDs and designed to turn off during the daytime. I figured I’d test one out and, if it worked, I could order more so I had one for each camera.

Wow. It works, alright. To the human eye, it does nothing, but to the camera, it’s like I installed a stadium light. I’m definitely getting more of these; it’s going to make a huge difference in the nighttime utility of the cameras.

Drinking in style.

I headed inside and unpacked the latest addition to the Puckaway-branded product line: ten stainless-steel lowball tumblers. Red brought his own up here last Puckaweekend and Sean was so enamored with the versatile, lidded, indoor/outdoor drinkware that he generously purchased and shipped to me enough for everyone. One of my IT clients is a print and trophy shop, so I was able to get the Puckaway owl laser-engraved on them. I made myself a gin and soda to break one of them in, then snuggled up with my kiddo to watch the rest of his movie. Around 10:30, I switched it over to the bedroom TV, and he was snoring within minutes. I stayed up a bit to read, and was asleep a little after 11.


After an early venture to knock some bark off, Jake and I spent a quiet morning inside. He played his 3DS and I did some reading. We were both dressed and ready by 9:00 and off to town for breakfast soon after.

Photo taken about 5 seconds before that omelet completely disappeared.

As we walked into Aunt Judy’s, the proprietress welcomed us over and then compelled the diners next to her to shuffle around so there would be two open seats at the bar. I love the service here. Jake got his usual omelet, but was curious to try my hashbrowns after hearing his brother rave about them last weekend. Turns out both of my boys now have a taste for breakfast potatoes.

We were back at Puckaway by 10:15. The weather’s pretty unusual for this time of year; it’s already 70° and climbing and the humidity is ridiculously high. It looks like rain is imminent, but all we’re getting is the occasional mist. I’ve had the A/C on non-stop since we got here last night, and it’s still struggling to dehumidify the keep. Jake was feeling full and sluggish, so he stayed inside and played his 3DS for a while. I changed into some work clothes and headed out to check some projects off my list.

Power overwhelming…

First up was the power pole. For reasons which will be fully disclosed in a later post, we need to add a 30 amp circuit and outdoor outlet. This would be pretty straightforward, but things are getting a little crowded there. If I knew how much we would be expanding, I would have probably installed the boards a little further over to the right. The main impediment was the conduit for the shack. It’s not really needed given that it’s slid over the thick, outdoor-rated feed cable bundle that was exposed for years before we replaced the pole, so I got out my little Dremel saw with the plastic-cutting blade, set the cutting depth extremely low, and carefully cut the conduit away like I was removing someone’s cast. This left me with plenty of room to screw the new outlet box to the boards right below the main lug.

I ran the cables and got the new circuit wired. We have just enough room for this; the new breaker is taking up the last open spot in the panel. It was noon by the time I tested the connections and closed everything back up. I love how easy and safe it is to work on our power distribution now; this would have been impossible two years ago.

One of several trailer loads of branches that we hauled out.

I stayed conscious of the time, since we need to be out of here relatively early today so Lyssa and I can take my folks out to dinner for Mom’s birthday. With that in mind, I moved right to the next priority project, trimming branches at the driveway entrance. It’s more open than it has been in years, but larger vehicles like a UPS truck or the one that delivers roll-off containers still end up getting scraped as they make their way down the drive. I fired up the chainsaw-on-a-stick and dropped every low branch within my reach. Unfortunately, my reach was insufficient, so I grabbed a ladder from the pole barn, leaned it against the tree on the left side of the driveway mouth, and climbed about 10 feet up to drop the biggest of the leaners. This got caught up in a tangle of lower branches, but that worked to my advantage, allowing me to reach more of them from the ground than I could have otherwise.

I’ve got the best helpers a dad could ask for.

I was carving up the downed limbs when Jake walked down the driveway with his work gloves on. He was a big help, clearing the smaller branches as I cut them away. Once I had everything down to a manageable size, we got the green ATV and big yard trailer to gather our fallen quarry. We stacked two full trailer loads onto the burnpit, then I returned to the driveway entrance with the Husqvarna to drop a very big branch from a tree on the right side. I was impressed at some of the logs Jake was able to haul away on his own; this kid sure knows how to work.

This pile was two feet taller than me when it started out.

Even with some substantial logs weighing everything down, the stack in the burnpit was about eight feet tall. The damp conditions made it a real struggle getting a fire started, but with enough liquid assistance from a full boat gas tank I discovered in the pole barn last month, it eventually took.

It was a little after 2:30 at this point and the clock was ticking, so I closed things up in the pole barn and headed inside to wash up. Before I got the shower going, however, I wanted to get one more thing done. I installed a new curved shower curtain in the keep bathroom, mounting it slightly lower and further out than the previous one. This made for a very pleasant shower; it doesn’t feel so cramped in there anymore.

No longer reeking of chainsaw fuel and sweat, I buttoned up the keep and gathered our things. We were on the road by 3:15. I would have liked to stay longer, but I managed to check everything off my list for the trip and had fun with my buddy.

I’ll be back up on Tuesday with one of the biggest and most surprising developments in Puckaway history. I’m going to have a hard time waiting these next three days.