I pulled in at 11:30 with a truck full of tools, painting supplies, and a big ol’ 36″ prehung, outswing, exterior door I found for cheap on craigslist. It’ll eventually adorn the new outhouse, but for now it goes in the pole barn. Unloaded the rest of the tools and drove over to the keep where I hauled in my clothes, some clean towels and sheets, two flats of bottled water, and a cooler full of my latest batch of pickled goods. They now bide their time in the keep fridge, awaiting the brave souls who shall attend Puckaweekend 2016.


From left to right: garlic mushrooms, mustard/Tabasco eggs, horseradish eggs, pickles, Hell pickles, spicy garlic asparagus, Inferno asparagus.

With the truck emptied out and the pole barn jukebox playing some 70’s rock, it was time to set my sights on the big project of the weekend: painting the keep. I finally have a stretch of days with weather that lends itself well to painting outdoors (it’s supposed to stay under 80° with low humidity and plenty of sun all weekend), and I’m planning on making the most of it.

However, before I could even crack open a can of paint, I needed to prep the keep. I filled the bird feeders, then hauled the ladder onto the deck and used it to get a good look at the roof. What a mess. Years of leaves and small branches have piled up, decomposing into dirt in spots, the edging is pulling away in several places, the main vent pipe for the furnace is not connected to anything, and there’s grime and moss everywhere. I brought a leaf blower up and blasted the majority of the compost away, then took some sheet metal screws and secured the trim and the vent. Now it was time for the heavy equipment.


The roof had 40 years of caked-on grime. But I had a pressure washer. I won.

I grabbed the green ATV, hooked it to the flat yard trailer with the 55-gallon drum, tossed on the pressure washer and RV pump, and parked it in front of the keep. I fired up the well pump and brought the hose over to the drum to keep it topped off. I sprayed the roof with car wash soap, then switched to the high-pressure wand. Thus began the slow, tedious process of degunkification, one four-inch-wide swath at a time. Some areas were much worse than others, and some spots of the roof had completely lost their coating and were down to rusty sheet metal panels. After a few hours, I had scoured every inch of it.

Back on solid ground, I made a quick circuit of the keep walls with the pressure washer to knock loose any detritus that might have dripped down from the roof cleaning or since May when I last washed everything. Don’t want any of my new paint flaking off. I also gave the deck a quick once-over to clear the accumulated spider webs and pollen dust.

I made a quick supply run at 3:30 because I’m dumb and forgot to bring a paint roller and tray. Thankfully, the Dollar General in Princeton continues to surprise with its selection. I found a roller, tray, roller covers, and assorted brushes for dirt cheap. On the way back, I grabbed a burger at A&W for a fast, early dinner on the road.


This was long overdue. The dark spots are rust.

With the water from the pressure washing evaporated, I could start applying the roof paint. I found a skinny, threaded broom handle in the pole barn and duct-taped it to my new paint roller. I set the tray aside and grabbed one of the 5-gallon buckets of elastomeric paint that Farmer Joe kindly donated for this effort. I just dipped the roller right into the bucket to apply the paint. We had plenty of it, so I laid it on thick. I also slapped a coat on all of the various vent pipes sticking out of the roof. It’s not like we even use the furnace, so it’s not going to hurt anything or burn off. I carefully painted my way off the roof and cleaned the paint roller with the pressure washer. Wow. I got it spinning so fast that it dried itself.

As I was putting things away in the pole barn, I couldn’t help but notice a loud scraping noise on the roof any time the breeze picked up. The big oak branch that’s been hanging over the front door forever grew big enough this year to start making contact. It had to go. I got out my extension ladder, screwed up my courage, and climbed 16 feet up with the chainsaw. The only reason I did this without help was that the tree was safely between me and the branch. Worst case, I’d have to explain to Dad why his Husqvarna took a two-story tumble. Thankfully, it never came to that. The branch did just what I wanted it to; I was able to get it to hinge down but still hang on by a thin strip in the middle. Feeling relieved, I got down from the ladder, lassoed a chain around the base of the branch, secured the other end of the chain to my truck, and yanked the thing free and safely clear of the pole barn. I carved up the branch and tossed its remains in the pit, glad to finally have that stupid thing out of my airspace.


Swift action will be taken against any and all threats to the pole barn.

With the chainsaw back in storage and the branch mess raked up, I shifted gears and tackled another overdue project: deck lighting. The Christmas lights looked nice enough last year, but they literally stuck out. It was only a matter of time before someone or something smashed into the cord or shattered a bulb or two. I needed a more discrete solution, so I got some LED strips from Amazon and cut them to length to fit the railing sections. I drilled boreholes through the 4x4s separating each section and fed jumper wires through. It was dark by the time I had everything mounted, cut, soldered, and taped up, which was perfect for testing it out.

The lights are programmable with eight levels of brightness in 4,096 possible colors. Overkill, of course; a warm white at medium brightness will look best and get used most often. But it’s fun to have options. I still need to rig a waterproof enclosure for the light controller, but I was satisfied with my progress for the night and went to bed around 10:00, asleep soon after my head hit the pillow.


The Deck: A Study In Colors


I woke up refreshed and comfortable around 7:30 and started my day by perforating three chipmunks with the .22. I would eventually get eight more as the weekend went on. Good riddance to hole-digging, cord-chewing, furry parasites.

Feeling accomplished, I got dressed and headed to town for some Aunt Judy’s breakfast. As soon as she saw me, Judy asked where Jake was. Thankfully, they’re open for breakfast on Labor Day, so she’ll get to see him tomorrow. Before heading back, I stopped in at J&A for some sunflower seed and shell corn, as we’re fresh out of both. I lugged the bags of feed over to the garden shed and got ready to start painting.


There should be no problem finding the keep on aerial shots now.

I checked out the roof, confirming my suspicions from yesterday that it would need a second coat. No problem there; we’ve got a lot of paint. It went on a lot easier and quicker the second time around, but I was sweating—it’s a lot warmer today. I’m glad I brought up all that extra water; I’ll need it. I tapped one of the 5-gallon buckets of roof paint, so I ended up using it as a trash can for all the paint supplies. A big thanks to Farmer Joe; this stuff looks like it’s going to work out great.

Happy with the roof, I was almost ready to start in on the siding. I knew that constantly repositioning the ladder was going to get old fast, so I decided to build scaffolding out of some scrap 1x12s and 8′ 2x4s from the pole barn. I set this between two sections of my collapsible 26′ extension ladder, the first time I was able to use it for this purpose. It made for a sturdy platform with a lot of room, which was perfect. I fired up my Foo Fighters discography on the pole barn jukebox and hauled my new setup over to the keep along with the paint, brushes, roller, and tray, Time to get started!

I began with the short wall that faces the driveway for two reasons. One, I’d be able to tell pretty quickly what methods would and wouldn’t work and how long I could expect things to take. Two, I’d start in the sun and progressively get more and more shade as the day went on. I discovered right away that the majority of the work could be done with a roller and was relieved. A paintbrush was required, however, for every corner and around each window. At least I could be kind of sloppy with my margins for the primary color as the trim would come later to clean all of that up. I started a pattern I’d follow the rest of the day: use the scaffold to cover a roughly 8-foot-wide area down to the window line, then hop down and do the rest of that area from the ground.



With the first wall done, I stood back to take it in. What an incredible difference. And the paint covers perfectly! I was worried about adhesion and even coverage considering this is a 40-year-old aluminum trailer with paint missing in some spots and turning to powder in others. I originally thought I’d have to coat the whole thing in aluminum primer and then go over it with my paint color of choice, but was talked into Dutch Boy Maxbond by the Sherwin Williams rep at Menards. I’m glad I listened; he saved me a ton of extra work.

I started in on the front of the keep after inhaling a protein bar and several more bottles of water. From my first brush stroke, I was constantly getting strafed by long-legged paper wasps. I couldn’t find a nest anywhere, but they just seemed to love hanging out on the walls of the keep. They never seemed to want to go anywhere I had already painted, so that was just more motivation to keep going. I continued to be impressed with this Maxbond stuff as I moved my way down the wall. It covered the rust on the back door hinge without a problem. And drips in general are at a welcome minimum.

I heard some big equipment back in Danny’s woods, so I stopped over to say hi. Peter was on his tractor dumping fill in the overgrown path to Danny’s old deer stand. Didn’t hang out too long because I had a lot more wall to cover. By the time I got to the deck, I had gone through my first gallon of paint. I only had two gallons of the primary color, so the back wall of the keep was officially ruled out for painting this weekend. It’s just as well; this is slow, sweaty work and no one sees that side of it anyway.


The first day’s efforts. Even without the trim, the difference is astonishing.

I finished the front of the keep around 7:00 and decided to call it a night. I cleaned up the mess of drop cloths, tape, and my scaffolding, then fired up the pressure washer to blast the paint out of the brushes, rollers, and tray. I was in the middle of this when Lyssa pulled in with the boys. They had gone to Kenosha for the weekend but came up to spend the night. They loved the progress so far. I finished my cleanup and joined them in the keep. I was a sweaty, paint-covered mess, so I took a refreshing cold shower. Microwaved some leftovers I had brought up and we all snuggled on the couch and watched a movie.

Once it got dark, I surprised the boys with the deck lights. They were a big hit. Lyssa and Josh retired to the bedroom around 9:00. Jake and I stayed out on the futon where he fell asleep while I did some reading. I didn’t make it much past 10:30.

Monday (Labor Day)

The boys got us up early and everyone was dressed and out of bed by 7:00. Lyssa had brought the boys’ bikes along and they wanted to ride. I pulled Lyssa’s old bike from high school (with the super sweet pink and purple splatter paint) out of the pole barn, oiled the chain, aired the tires, and straightened the back wheel. They all rode down the driveway and to Peter’s and back. Jake’s out of training wheels now and does really well on his bike, but Josh got frustrated navigating the soft grass of the driveway and ended up walking his bike in. Everyone was getting a little hungry at this point, so we headed into town.

Aunt Judy greeted her “Waffle Baby!” at the door. Jake lived up to his title and devoured an entire blueberry waffle. Josh ate a whole plate of scrambled eggs, sausage links, and toast that Lyssa ordered off of the regular menu, not the kid’s menu. Growing boys! Full and happy, we headed back to Puckaway.


I’m impressed with how evenly this paint covers. Goes on the same shade whether there’s black paint, white paint, or no paint underneath.

I changed into my paint clothes, set up the scaffolding at the bird feeder end of the keep, and started painting the final wall. With the weird panelling and double windows, this was easily the most challenging part to cover evenly. It’s probably best I saved it for last. It’s also the strongest testament to the quality of this Maxbond paint. This wall had panels with black paint, white paint, and plenty of spots where paint had worn off completely, but the new color went on uniformly perfect. I love this stuff. I even got the front of the trailer frame and hitch while I was here. This was covered in powdery rust that I hadn’t even prepped but took paint without issue.

Lyssa and the boys periodically checked my progress as they made laps around the property on the blue ATV. At one point, Lyssa motioned toward the garden shed I got from Paco last year and asked if I was going to paint that, too. Well, why not? Since I’m skipping the back wall, there’s still enough paint left. I used up most of the second gallon covering the front of the shed. It was plenty thirsty, especially toward the bottom of the door and wall panels where most of the existing paint had already flaked off. The color ended up being very close to what was originally on there, so you don’t even notice the difference between the newly painted front and the sides that were left alone.


The back door blends in well now and the stairs and platform got some much-needed love.

With the shed done, there was just enough paint left to use for touch-up later on. I moved my scaffolding to the driveway side of the keep again; I want to give the other side plenty of time to dry before taping off for trim. It’s a good thing I brought plenty of painter’s tape up with me. I ended up using three rolls throughout the day in what was the most tedious part of this whole project. I’m glad I didn’t rush it, though. I ended up with very clean trim lines—better than I had expected.

I was just getting ready to crack open the trim paint when Lyssa and the boys decided to head out. They’ve got a lot of things to unpack and get ready at home, and I’m admittedly pretty boring to be around today (unless you like to sit around and watch paint dry). Around noon, I kissed my family goodbye, fired up some Fastball on the pole barn jukebox, and began the final leg of the paint project.

This was slow going. Each new spot required that I first tape off all windows and walls, apply the trim, carefully remove the tape, clean up any drips, and touch up any dried trim paint with fresh primary color paint. Getting the roof trim done was a pain as well; I fashioned some cardboard shields that I could move around with me since taping wouldn’t really work up there and the potential for dripping onto the walls below was way too high.

I had another protein bar lunch and was slamming water left and right. Temperatures stayed around 80° all day and I was constantly up and down ladders and platforms trying to cover every last inch of the keep. Initially, I was thinking I’d leave the jalousie window frames unpainted (like they’ve always been) just because it’d help things move along faster, but the bedroom window on the driveway side looked so good with a fresh coat that I had to keep it up. I ended up leaving the screen door unpainted, but the brickmould of the new front door looks great in the trim color. I also painted over the outside light fixtures and the back door stairs and platform with the brown trim. I think it’s these finishing touches that really help the transformation look complete.


Even the garden shed got a fresh, matching coat of paint.

My final brushstrokes occurred around 6:30. The sky had gotten a bit overcast, but it was still immensely satisfying to stand back and take everything in. I finished something today that started almost a year-and-a-half ago when I mounted the first deck board, a moment I recorded in my first log post on The keep is restored, inside and out. With enough time, effort, and love, everything up here is capable of renewing itself. It’s what keeps me coming back.

After cleaning up and gathering my tools and clothes, I pulled out of the driveway at 7:30, smiling at the keep in my rearview mirror.