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.
Pulled in at 1:00 pm and noticed a welcome change right away. The truck box is gone! Peter hauled it over to Danny’s. Sure, it’s only moved a few hundred feet, but at least it’s out of the driveway and off of the property.
Ding dong, the box is gone.
I parked by the pole barn and started layering up. I brought my Carhartt bibs and jacket, balaclava, and warm gloves and hat since it’s just below 10° F out (sadly, this is the warmest day we’ve had in a week) and I’ll be spending this entire trip outdoors. A few days ago, I saw Peter’s truck on the pole barn camera. When Dad asked him what he was checking out, Peter mentioned he would have free use of a Skytrak (large, all-terrain boom lift) for a few days and wanted to know if we were still thinking of trimming the trees leaning over the pole barn. I jumped at the chance, which is why I took a half day off of work to meet him here today.
While waiting for Peter to show up, I carried my propane heater over to the keep and fired it up. So far, the little UPS heater seems to be doing its job admirably, but it’s been so consistently cold this past week that it has never turned off. I want to make sure the thermostatic switch does its thing when the temps rise above 30° F. This will serve as a test of the switch as well as give me a nice warm place to change out of my winter gear when we’re done today.
Pulled in at 3:30. No pooch; don’t want to risk someone mistaking her for a deer. Temperatures were hovering just above freezing with on-and-off rain and I was looking forward to heading into a nice, pre-warmed keep. It was not to be. Apparently, there was a power outage between Tuesday and today; microwave clock was reset and the heater wasn’t running. Lovely. I went to the pole barn to get my propane sunflower heater to kickstart the keep thawing process, but it was nowhere to be found. Frustrated, I headed into the big trailer and saw Dad was using it in the living room. He, Steve, and Sam were already plenty warm and had electric heaters going anyway, so I grumbled, stole my propane gear back, and headed out to the keep again.
With the sunflower heater blasting warmth, I finally unloaded the truck. I carried the water jugs over to the big trailer and had a drink with the guys while the keep warmed up. I didn’t stick around long, though. The big trailer reeks. Pretty sure mice have made some kind of home in the oven. The whole place smells like boiled rodent urine. Not sure how the three of them can stand it. I wandered back to the keep and threw on a movie while I started to rebuild the Puckanet. I replaced the router with a Unifi gateway to give me some more remote control and data. And hopefully, if I ever find a way around Verizon’s NAT mess, I can use the gateway for VPN connections to my home network instead of relying on the Pi. The Puckanet is constantly evolving.
Home sweet home.
Hannah and I rode in around 4:30. Sunny and in the mid-60s, with no change in the forecast. This is going to be the best weather we’ve ever had for a Puckaweekend. Tools, clothes, and most other supplies are already here, but I brought a cooler full of goodies with me. I stocked the fridge and freezer with chili, beer, pizzas, and hot peppers, then headed outside. After filling the bird feeders, I kept the ladder out to make some modifications to the new outhouse vent. I added a wye with a 1 1/2″ plug to the base of the vent stack to make it easier to add water to the hole. I also installed a vent guard on the top of the pipe to keep leaves and critters out.
Next on the agenda was infrastructure prep. I ran a 100′ extension cord from one of the outdoor plugs on the meter panel to the pop-up camper and powered it up. I also turned on the fridge in the big trailer as we may need it for overflow freezer space.
I needed some more room in the pole barn, so I towed the aluminum ATV trailer out and parked it along the south side of the big trailer where it’ll be out of sight, out of mind. I also took a moment to tow the blue utility trailer up to the edge of the driveway so I can’t miss it tomorrow. It’s still full of scrap tires and needs to get dropped off at Pomp’s in Fond du Lac. I don’t want to forget it again.
I emptied the gas cans into the ATVs and mower, threw them in the back of the truck, and ran into town at 6:30 to fill them up and get some A&W. Back at the keep, I washed down dinner with a few cheladas as I uploaded some new additions to the media collection. Hannah was passed out on the couch already, dreaming hard. She must know what’s coming.
Hannah and I drove in around 5:30 pm with a truck bed loaded with tools and Puckaweekend goodies. The whole Thelen clan just spent a long weekend up in Presque Isle, but the boys have school tomorrow and Lyssa works. I, however, have Columbus Day off. As soon as we got back to Oshkosh, I quickly unpacked from PI and loaded up for Puckaway.
Lynn needs more hats.
Both Red and my dad were here waiting for me. Red and I work in the same office, so he’s got tomorrow off as well. He’s been here since 2:00 pm and has been busy mulching leaves all afternoon in the surprisingly high mid-70s temperatures. My dad got here shortly before me as he came straight down from PI. I helped Dad unload a snowblower from the back of his truck and rode with him to our neighbor Lynn’s property to store the pontoon boat for the winter. I’m glad that Dad was the one backing it in. While my trailering skills aren’t bad, there’s only about 3 inches of clearance on either side of the garage door when backing that big boat in, and I sure wouldn’t want to be the guy to scrape up our helpful neighbor’s garage. Lynn was there and I got to finally meet him. We hung out and talked for a bit, but Dad wanted to get back to Oshkosh and was on the road by 6:00.
Lyssa, the boys, and I enjoyed a late Aunt Judy’s breakfast at 11:30 while Hannah waited in the truck. With no other plans for Labor Day and a promising weather forecast, we’ve decided to spend a night at Puckaway. We pulled in the driveway around 12:15 and had to stop about a third of the way in. A huge fallen birch was blocking our path.
This beast was almost two feet in diameter at its base.
I let everyone out of the truck and backed out of the driveway, turned around, and backed in up to the tree. I walked up to the pole barn, fired up the green ATV, and hooked it up to the small yard trailer. We used it as a bellhop’s cart, filling it with our bags, the cooler, and my tools from the back of the truck. Lyssa started unloading and preparing things in the keep while I gathered some tools to clear our path.
I was filling the chainsaw with gas and chain oil when Lyssa’s parents came walking down the driveway. It’s been a few years since they’ve last seen the place, so we showed off some of the recent improvements. Peter gave me a hand clearing the megabirch from the driveway while Lyssa and Val kept an eye on the boys and filled the bird feeders. We used the ATV trailer for all of the smaller branches and threw the trunk sections in the back of my pickup. After about 45 minutes, we had just about everything collected and enough room to let our vehicles pass.
She’s run aground.
Hannah and I rolled in around 1pm hauling a cleaned-up pontoon boat behind us. The pooch would have to wait before she got to run some laps, though. I picked a spot in the south yard to park the boat where it would be off-level enough to help prevent rain from accumulating on the deck. It would also get plenty of sun to ward off more mildew formation.
I opened the pole barn and checked out our fuel situation. One of the 5-gallon gas cans was almost empty, so I topped off the mower’s tank with what was left in it and threw the can in the back of the truck. It’s almost 80°, so I popped into the keep to fire up the AC before heading into town for lunch and fuel. Hannah’s patience was rewarded with a burger from A&W.
Resilient little fella.
Once we got back, I ate in the keep while Hannah patrolled the property. It’s already comfortably cool inside; the new AC is a welcome upgrade. I changed into some yard work clothes and set my sites on taming the yard.
Hannah and I drove in around 6:20 pm with a pickup bed full of tools and other goodies. She ran some laps around the yard while I quickly unloaded the truck. I wanted to get right to my first project.
Let there be (night)light!
Lyssa got me a pair of really nice network cameras for Christmas. They’re PoE, 720p, have IR blasters, and are IP66 rated. Translated: they don’t need a power cord, have four times the clarity of the old ones, come with night vision, and they’re waterproof. One of them has replaced the driveway camera back home, but the other one will serve as the new bird feeder cam.
I had already configured everything from home, so I installed it to the roof overhang on the keep, plugged it in, and tested it out. There was the expected major increase in image quality, but I was surprised by just how much wider of a field of view it has, too. This is a very welcome improvement.
I wound my way down the driveway around noon after fortifying myself with some Aunt Judy’s. This trip, my only aim is to suck up leaves. However, I had some prep work to get out of the way. I started the pump and filled the keep’s reservoir so I could have some wash water this weekend. I also blew leaves off of the deck and away from the front of the keep. I unloaded my bags and some tools from the truck, parked it out of the way, and I was ready to hop on the mower.
I got right to it, starting with the driveway. I’m very glad the collection trailer works as well as it does; it would take forever to do this with a traditional bagger unit. As it was, I filled the trailer three times from the driveway alone. I’m dumping the mulched leaves around the marsh entrance as that’s been getting pretty squishy lately. After about four hours on the mower, I finally decided to do something about all the low branches and dead trees on the east side of the yard. I parked the mower and got out the chainsaw, trimming trees as high as I could reach from the ground. I hit everything from the marsh entrance to the outhouse, greatly increasing visibility in that part of the yard.