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.
The whole family arrived around 6:45 pm with a truck full of tools and goodies. The weather is beautiful, the apple trees are blooming, and we’ve come up for the weekend to enjoy it all.
The kiddos did some exploring while Hannah ran her laps. The gophers / groundhogs / whatevers are sure busy around the driveway entrance and bedroom end of the keep. I wish I could find their tunnel entrances so I could try to do something about them. For now, I just have to settle for flattening their mounds with the truck.
Before it got too dark and everyone came in for the night, I wanted to get some small, indoor projects out of the way. Lyssa and the boys fed the birds and spread some corn for the deer while I worked inside. I bought a Yamaha soundbar to replace the aging Sony receiver. It had a good long run, but it has no digital inputs and is starting to act up. I took down all the speakers from the living room, unsnaked the wires, and got the receiver out of the entertainment center. The soundbar looks a lot nicer by the TV than the old center channel speaker did anyway. It has a subwoofer output, so I kept the sub from the Sony setup. They sound really good together.
Hannah and I drove in at 9:15 pm. I’m taking the day off work tomorrow so I can get all the leaves collected up here before the storms we’re supposed to get later in the week. If I want any kind of lawn this year, the sooner I can get this done, the better.
It’s going to be hot tomorrow with highs in the mid 80s, so I turned on the AC to get ahead of it. This got me thinking of a quick project I could take care of. I’ve got the ability to remotely control the AC with the Logitech Harmony hub, but I can’t really tell what I’m doing or if it’s responding. As long as the AC is set correctly and then turned off when I leave, I just have to hit Power from the remote app and everything will kick on the way it’s supposed to. I wanted more control and assurance, though. I took a USB webcam and mounted it to the underside of the upper kitchen cabinets. It’s pointed directly at the control panel of the air conditioner. This plugs into the PuckaPi, where a program called fswebcam is used to take snapshots. Now I’ll be able to tell exactly what mode the AC is in and can do more fine-tuning remotely.
Content with my efforts, I spent the rest of the night being lazy and watching TV. I was asleep before 11:00.
Flying trip today. Came down a very wet driveway at 2:45 pm with a truck bed full of tools and building materials from Mayville. My folks are making the final push to sell that place, and I’m happy to help just to be rid of it. I made some room in the pole barn for all the sheets of OSB and panelling from the Mayville garage and had the truck emptied in about ten minutes. As long as I was here and heading back to Mayville, I figured I’d make the most of it. I backed up the truck to the scrap pile and heaved the burn barrel into the bed. Farmer Joe expressed some interest in this a while back, so today he’s getting it delivered. Rolled out around 3:30.
Rode in with the whole family around 2 pm after a Menards supply stop and late lunch at Aunt Judy’s. Hannah couldn’t wait to get out of the truck. It’s 55° and sunny—finally, some nice spring weather! I backed the truck and blue trailer up to the pole barn to load up Dad’s riding mower for him. Josh sat on the seat to keep the engine running while Lyssa held the trailer in tilted position and I steered it on board. We need a loading dock.
Buck came over and gave Hannah some exercise as they chased each other around the yard. I had to shoo him back to Danny’s after a while, though. He’s too rough with the boys and kept jumping on them and knocking them over. Lyssa set up Josh’s new tree swing for the boys while I unloaded some supplies in the pole barn. We brought Jake’s new utility cart, and he was thrilled to put it to use by cleaning up the big pile of sawdust left from Jeremiah’s mill last fall.
Made it up around 2:00 pm for a quick supply run. There was a big TV sale at Best Buy earlier this month—$200 for a 50″ 1080p LCD. The keep gets a nice upgrade, and the 42″, 720p LCD that’s being replaced will move to the pole barn. I also brought Lyssa’s snow tires back and a few other odds and ends.
The overall size of the chassis isn’t much different, but there’s a lot more screen real estate.
I set up the TV and configured the Harmony remote hub and the receiver to work with it. With that out of the way, I closed up the keep and moved on to the pole barn. I stacked Lyssa’s tires and put the old keep TV on the workbench for now. I really need to spend some time organizing this building again.
Before heading out, I had one more thing to try. Last fall at deer camp, we wrecked my pump fill tube trying to thaw it out. So I used the opportunity to build it better. The new one has a much larger “priming tank” made from a section of 4″ PVC. The drain has been improved, too. Instead of the old drilled-hole-plugged-by-a-big-bolt, there’s now a 3/4″ PVC tee below the fill tube that terminates in a 45° elbow with a removable plug.
With my checklist complete for the day, I was on my way out around 4:30.