Hannah and I pulled in at 5:00 pm. Lyssa and the boys are down in Kenosha to see their new cousin this weekend and I’m going to be helping my folks make a major push to clear out Mayville while spending my nights here.
My truck will finish what the storm started.
After unloading the truck and getting the keep set up, I grabbed the green ATV and small yard trailer and aired up all the tires. I got the chainsaw out and fueled up, then started work on downing the apple tree that was partly uprooted by Tuesday’s storm. It took three trailer loads to feed the tree remains to the pit, but after an hour, I was left with nothing but a tall stump. I figured that since it had been twisted and snapped by the storm, I’d have a decent chance of pulling it out instead of leaving a flush-cut stump to trip over and mow around. I got my tow rope out of the truck, wrapped it around the remains of the trunk, set my gearbox to 4-low and started tugging. I ended up having to pull from three different angles but eventually got the tree out.
Drove up at 12:30 to survey the damage from last night’s storms. My weather station—which is surrounded by a copse of trees and has never registered winds above 15 mph—showed a peak gust of 40 mph yesterday afternoon. I could also tell from the cameras that my patio table got blown off the deck and something was seriously askew with the apple tree by the pump.
There wasn’t much damage along the roads on the way in, but I saw Peter working outside of his township truck feeding downed limbs into a chipper. He said they had already cleared the worst of the damage. Driving by Danny’s yard, I was shocked by just how high the water was. It went right up to his house. The drainage ditch that crosses the road in front of his house was overwhelmed and had flowed over the road all night and backing up into his lawn.
Jake, Josh, Hannah and I pulled in with the pop-up camper in tow around 2:15. I was going to store it in Lynn and Carol’s pole barn, but Lynn is still in hospice and Carol just had a rummage sale so their building was full. After parking the pop-up behind our pole barn, the boys got out their Power Wheels and roamed the yard while Hannah chased them. I got the tires on the mower aired up and got to work taming the yard. We’re in for a lot of rain next week, so I wanted to get this done before the storms hit.
The grass was taller than the cameras led me to believe. It’s really filling in nicely by my bird feeders and along the ruins of the wood shed. The trench lines are getting fainter, too. Once the boys’ batteries ran low, they decided to help me out by gathering fallen branches for the burnpit. This got cut short when poor Josh got stung by a hornet on his ankle. I checked him out and carried him into the keep where I set the boys up with a movie and got back to mowing.
You’ve seen my first major Puckaway project from 1999, so here’s another video to help give a better idea of what the place looked like back then:
I don’t know what drove me to do this, but I took these long, panning shots of the yard and marsh in April and November of 1999. I’m glad I did. The difference in the landscape between then and now is astonishing. So much has been cleaned up! And this was shot before we moved the keep to its current spot. And would you just look at the front of the pole barn?! One of these days, I should try to match this shot for shot in a comparison video. If I ever feel like I’m not making progress at Puckaway, I can always watch this for a clear reminder that I most certainly am.
It’s been a while since I dug through the archives and posted a video log. Here’s another, hosted by 14-year-old me, edited by 17-year-old me, and cleaned up for HD by 30-minutes-ago me:
That was a fun summer. Puckaway used to play host to all sorts of vehicles and mobile homes. There was a truck camper up on jacks that my dad used to sleep in during deer camp. There was also a small travel trailer owned by Jeannie, a friend of my grandparents. It had been sitting here since the early ’80s and she had no plans to ever use it again, so it became my project. I cleaned out the cabinets, gutted the old water tanks and furnace, cleaned down every surface, and tricked it out in proper teenage fashion.
I always loved coming to Puckaway, but the summer of 1999 marks the first time I felt any real ownership of the place. Watching this now, I can see what a lost cause this trailer was. But I can also see how proud I was to make my claim here. This is the trailer that launched 1,000 projects.
Rolled in at 6:30 with Lyssa, Jake, Josh, and Hannah. The boys both fell asleep on the way and were both finishing their Culvers when we got here. Hannah was glad to be back and for the break in the oppressive heat we’ve had for the last week. Once they were done eating, the boys made a beeline for the pole barn to hop on their Power Wheels and roam the grounds. They both liked that they could “help” me by running over the trench dirt to pack it down.
A perfect day for a Puckaway trip.
I had a bunch of new tech goodies in the back of the truck that I was itching to play with. I got two more 8-port Unifi PoE switches, one for the pole barn and one for the big trailer, and another wireless access point that I want to mount to the big trailer’s antenna mast. I also plan on relocating one of the current access points from outside the keep to inside the pole barn. We don’t have well and septic, but we do have mesh wifi and three-building gigabit Ethernet. Priorities! I adopted the new Unifi gear into the Controller and applied all the waiting firmware updates, then switched gears and set out to clean up the pole barn. After last month’s electrical project, it was in rough shape. I left tools and project mess everywhere since I was focused on trying to finish the wiring in time.
Hannah and I pulled in at 2:30 with a rented trencher in tow. I picked this up at Kitz and Pfeil in Berlin on the way up. This weekend is dedicated to running new power lines to the keep and pole barn straight from the new service panel we installed last fall. After opening up the keep and getting my clothes and other supplies put away, I unloaded the trencher from its trailer. This is the same one I rented back in 2011 when I made the first buried electrical runs. While that project was a significant improvement from previous methods of getting power to the keep and pole barn—stringing extension cords through the trees—the limitations were starting to show.
This is my trencher. There are many others like it, but this one is mine (for the next 24 hours).
When I first did this seven years ago, I used 10-gauge, 2-conductor direct burial copper cable…mostly. Power was supplied from two 20-amp breakers in the big trailer and run to an outdoor service box using 12-gauge romex. The thicker 10-gauge wire was only run underground to each building where it was spliced to 12-gauge romex in conduits. I also didn’t have subpanels at either building. In the pole barn, I just spliced the incoming connection with wire nuts. In the keep, I gutted the contents of the old fuse box and spliced everything together from the feed, and this was after a spliced stop at the water pump outside. In retrospect, this was terribly kludgy. When you consider the system it was replacing, however, it was revolutionary. Still, the time had come to revisit this project and do it right this time.
Ready for action!
Drove up with the whole family and a fully loaded pickup truck at 3:30. We brought Josh’s Power Wheels UTV, and the only place it would fit was on top of the tonneau cover. The bed was full with our clothes, cooler, stuff for the boys, and the last big-ticket items I needed for my upcoming electrical project. We also had the boys’ new ATV helmets, which they couldn’t wait to put on. I took Josh’s UTV down from the truck and he and Jake went racing around the yard in their new gear. I unloaded my generator, a spool of 320 feet of underground cable, and a tote full of extension cords and stashed everything in the pole barn, then gave Lyssa a hand getting all our stuff into the keep.
We were taking rides with the real ATV when the Voights pulled in. This is Allison’s first time up. Gunner and Hannah immediately took turns chasing each other around the brick garden. The boys were happy to see Emmett and the three of them each grabbed their own Power Wheels and went off exploring the grounds. Red and Jenny took turns on baby duty while setting up the big trailer for themselves. I organized the pole barn for a bit while they settled in and Lyssa was getting things ready for dinner. We got the grill going around 5:45 and each family took turns on it. We ate on the deck; the weather is perfect for this time of year.
We pulled in around noon in two vehicles; Lyssa’s on call at the hospital this weekend and may need to go in on short notice. Jake and Hannah rode in the truck with me, Josh kept Lyssa company in the car. The boys finished eating their Culver’s and were quickly off playing with their trucks and tools in the sawdust pile “quarry”. Lyssa unpacked our stuff in the keep while I set out to put the finishing touches on the Outhouse Relocation Initiative.
A vastly improved view.
First, I wanted to address the old outhouse location. I certainly didn’t need Hannah messing around in there. I grabbed the green ATV and small yard trailer to collect all the bricks around the pit. Then I dug around the outside of the buried metal retaining ring and piled the dirt in the middle. Once I was about four inches below ground level all around the ring, I got out my sawzall and sliced the ring as far down as I could reach. I levelled out the dirt as best I could and with that the site was retired. I’ll need to fill in with more dirt later to even out the area, but it looks much better than it did.
Hannah and I pulled in at 6:00 pm pulling the blue trailer full of brush from Red’s house. The boys are at Presque Isle with my folks for the holiday weekend and Lyssa’s working late tonight. It’s just as well, this weekend is 100% project-focused. Miraculously, my back is completely better from the freak tweak I gave it last Sunday, so I’m ready.
The pit was starving. I let it feast.
I hauled my clothes and supplies into the keep, which was pleasantly pre-cooled thanks to my remote-controlled air conditioner. It’s in the mid 80s and only supposed to get hotter as the weekend goes on, so it’ll be essential to have somewhere to beat the heat. Back outside, the mosquitoes were in full force. I loaded myself up with DEET and started stacking Red’s brush on the burn pile. It’s all evergreen that’s had a year to dry out, so it should catch fire pretty quickly. Once the trailer was empty, I moved it out of the way and double checked the DNR site to make sure it was OK to burn. Confident I wouldn’t attract the authorities, I grabbed my propane torch and started lighting the brush. In less than a minute, I had a raging fire, the first one of 2018. I didn’t even need any gasoline.