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.
Quick note: I stopped in back on October 25 to put away the pop-up camper, but that was such a flying trip that it didn’t seem to merit a log entry.
Drove up with Hannah a little after 10:00 am with all sorts of electrical goodies in the back of the truck. Dad was already here with Jake, who had slept over at their house last night. Also with them was Dad’s brother Cal, a professional electrician. He was here to supervise and give me a hand as I made some much-needed upgrades to power supply here.
Our main outdoor service panel is in rough shape. It’s an ancient 60A “Pushmatic” affair with very reluctant breakers and it’s mounted to a rotten plywood board on an equally rotten 4×4 post. I think the only reason it still (mostly) works is that it can’t decide whether to fall over or catch on fire. Especially since the strange electrical problems we experienced last year at deer camp, I’ve been getting after Dad to talk to an electrician about upgrading the panel. Well, he talked to two of them. His friend Nick helped us pick out proper replacement parts, and now Uncle Cal was going to help me make the swap.
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.
Quick trip today. Pulled in around 7:00 with the aluminum ATV trailer in tow and the pooch in the backseat. Dad was already up here with his friend Nick, a retired electrician. Nick’s going to be helping us install a new meter and outdoor panel, replacing our ancient push-o-matic 60 amp service with a brand-new 200 amp service panel. I’ll eventually be able to re-route the pole barn and keep lines to this new panel and bump them each up to 30 amp in the process. I talked with Nick about the specifics of my current runs and he’ll be getting back to us with a time he can come back up and perform the install. This will be a major and long-overdue upgrade; I’m looking forward to it!
Service for eight. We’re fancy now.
Dad and Nick left around 7:30 so I opened up the keep and dropped off some supplies and recent acquisitions. Having on-demand hot water makes it much easier to do dishes, so I bought a set of silverware for the keep. No more eating steaks with plastic forks! I also got a turner spatula, ladle, and serving spoon so we can be ready for anything from chili to fried eggs. I dropped off the freshly-laundered linens in the bedroom, too.
Lyssa, the boys, Hannah, and I all met my dad at Aunt Judy’s around 10:30. Jake was excited to show Grandpa that his picture was up on the wall. Hannah waited patiently in the truck while we had breakfast, guarding our trailer full of ATVs. We were all on the road to Puckaway by 11:15. It’s unseasonably warm for spring and a beautiful sunny day.
Ready to explore!
As we drove down the driveway, Lyssa spotted a big mound of dirt at the edge of the yard in front of the keep. Scanning the yard, I saw several more. I was confused for a second until I realized the pattern—all of the these piles were around stumps. Rather, they were around craters where stumps used to be. Someone had come through with a stump grinder and dispatched a total of 14 of them. I wandered the yard, grinning as I took tally. The projects are now completing themselves up here!
A roving gang of turkeys greeted me as I rounded the corner to the driveway.
Pulled in the driveway a little before 2:00 pm. Incredibly windy today and temps are dropping fast. First thing I did was fire up the infrared heater in the keep. Dad was already up here getting things ready in the big trailer. He’s got it cleaned up pretty nicely already. Steve and Sammy showed up about 3:30 and Steve set up his portable stand along the east edge of the yard. Based on the timelapse activity I’ve been seeing over the past few months, he should get some deer traffic there. With the wind gusts as strong as they were, I didn’t need to worry about blowing leaves at all. I got the pump going for Dad and filled the 5-gallon pails we use for wash water in the big trailer. Because of the freezing temperatures, I had to drain the pump as soon as I was done. I also ran the hose over to the pole barn and blew it out with the air compressor so it wouldn’t plug up with ice. I fed the birds, put down a feed block, some corn, and some mixed seed, and headed inside by the rest of the guys. It’s getting damn cold.
Looks better and deters squirrels. What’s not to like?
Lyssa, the boys, and I pulled in around 11:30 after the requisite Aunt Judy’s breakfast. It’s a little cool today, highs in the lower 60s, but it sure feels nice when the sun peeks out of the clouds. I opened the pole barn right away so Jake and Josh could get their Power Wheels out and they were patrolling the yard in short order. Lyssa went off in search of a nice, quiet place to read. I wasn’t much help in that regard; the first thing I went for was the chainsaw.
In reviewing the timelapse footage from the camera I installed last week, I noticed the squirrels still had no problem getting to the feeders. They weren’t getting around the baffle, though. This was an aerial assault. I always thought the dead lower branches by the feeders and garden shed were an eyesore anyway; now I had even more reason to get rid of them.
One of several rose-breasted grosbeaks we’ve seen at the feeders this spring.
I spent the next few hours clearing limbs and unwanted scrub growth from around the feeders. I’m getting pretty good at felling trees. I had to thread the needle a few times between the feeders and deck and thankfully there were no casualties. As long as I was clearing, I maneuvered my way through the overgrown area behind the outhouse and mostly reclaimed the little wildlife garden my grandpa planned many years back. The whole area looks a lot nicer now and it’s easier to spot the birds as they fly to and from the feeders.
We’re going to need a bigger grill.
Arrived around 5:30 and unloaded quickly—temperatures are hovering around freezing. Brought up bedding for the futon and the infrared heater. I plan to stay in the keep this weekend but will be leaving the bedroom and bathroom doors closed to help it stay warm. Fired up the heater immediately and lit some candles to give it a boost. I set up the sheets and comforter on the futon and put away the only other things I brought up: my clothes and overnight bag. This weekend, I’m just here to relax.
Headed over to the big trailer where Dad, Steve, and his son Sam had already settled in. Dad was frying up mushrooms to go with the massive steaks that Steve brought up from Leroy Meats. Steve and I headed out to the pole barn to get the grill and struggled to get it to light properly. I cleaned it out thoroughly with the air compressor, but we still couldn’t coax much more than an anemic flame from it. Dad resigned to trying to cook from what we had, but managed to extinguish the burners just by slamming the lid. It seemed like all hope might be lost, but upon relighting, the grill roared to life. The propane regulator must be over-sensitive or something. At least we got it going.
Walked over to Paco’s around 9:00 am to start the process of loading the garden shed onto Peter’s flatbed trailer. Since Paco’s backyard is fenced in, we began by removing a section of chain-link fence. It came away in one piece except for the center pole, which we had to cut at the base. I emptied the shed and took out all the shelves to make it as light as possible, then jacked it up at the doorway so I could side a pipe under the frame. I wrapped a long chain around the base, cinched it up in front of the shed, and grabbed it with the blue ATV’s winch hook. After some initial hesitation, the shed starting rolling across the pipe. Paco and I alternated between positioning pipes and pushing and turning the shed to clear a tight corner between his garage and his kids’ playset. Once we got out in the open, I went back to winching from the ATV while Paco laid out pipes.
Once we had the shed lined up with the trailer, we had to switch tactics. I traded the ATV for my truck and hooked up to the trailer. With the fence out of the way, I could back a few feet further into the yard, clearing the house and giving us more room to work. We attached the trailer ramps and used my new come-along to slowly ratchet the shed up the trailer deck. It took some finesse, but we eventually got it positioned perfectly on the front of the trailer. I pulled out of Paco’s yard as carefully as possible but, because of the added weight of the shed, managed to scalp a 4 foot section of sod. At least it was easy to put back. I parked on the street and helped Paco put his fence back together. We kept his sawed-off fence pole in place with some rebar; you’d never know it had been modified. I backed the trailer into my driveway to finish securing the load and took a break for lunch.