Running water is something we all take for granted. It’s been a basic feature of American homes for over 100 years. But up at Puckaway, we haven’t quite caught up, as there are a few major hurdles in the way. If you want potable (safe to drink) water around here, you need to drill down over 200 feet. We’re not putting in a proper well until we have a nice permanent home up here and know where we’re placing the slab.
Also, while we have always had a shallow well and outdoor pump to provide water that we can wash up with, it has a poor flow rate of under one gallon per minute. Additionally, we have to drain the pump and hoses when temperatures drop below freezing. And we don’t heat any of the buildings during the winter. Pipes would freeze and burst.
Last year, I reconnected all of the drain plumbing in the keep, but I wasn’t expecting much improvement on the supply side. We did what we had always done, storing 5-gallon buckets next to the sinks to wash up with and using our portable, hand-pumped, camping shower. Interestingly enough, this was all about to change because of a pressure washer.
Now that the deck and the keep have both been refinished, the outhouse has been looking even worse than usual by comparison. The door sticks and sometimes won’t even close. The seat’s at an uncomfortable height and depth. It’s covered in cobwebs and open to all manner of critters. And the aging wood has been absorbing unspeakable horrors for the better part of four decades. It needs to go. While not the most glamorous project, it’s hard to argue against the importance and necessity of an outhouse, so some real thought needs to go into its replacement.
Like many projects up here, this one started in SketchUp. I designed a simple four-foot square plywood platform that stands on joists made from the leftover treated 2×8 lumber from the deck. The framing would be done with 2×4 studs, I’d install two windows that I had found in the pole barn, and the whole thing would be panelled with the pine plywood siding that was stacked under the big house trailer. I still needed a roof and a door. My hope was that I could reuse the roof from the old outhouse, so I just had to track down a suitable door. I turned to craigslist and was in luck; I found an outswing, exterior, prehung door for only $40. It was 36″ wide, which is a bit much for this little building, but it was hard to argue with the price.
Pulled in a little before noon with Lyssa, the boys, and a truck full of tools. I also brought up a replacement blower/leaf collector unit for the riding mower that I found on craigslist. It might need a little tweaking to fit, but it’s in a lot better shape than the stuff we already have.
Wild black raspberries!
The boys wanted to ride their Power Wheels right away but they hadn’t been charged up. I need to rig something up to make this work better. We typically charge these things after they run them all day, but leaving the chargers plugged in isn’t the best idea as they’re not “smart” chargers and might wreck the batteries. Maybe I can get some kind of timer that’ll shut off after 6 hours or something. Anyway, we set them up on the chargers and Lyssa took the boys for a ride on the ATV in the meantime. I focused on tidying things up in the pole barn. It’s nice having walking room in here again with Dad’s boat back up at Presque Isle. It wasn’t long into their ride when Lyssa pulled back up to the pole barn. They had found some black raspberries growing along the trails by Peter’s woods and wanted to make sure it was OK to pick them. I got her a container to put them in and they were off to collect. After a while, they came back with a few handfuls worth. Josh was very excited about this new feature of a “wheeler ride.”
Lyssa wanted to wash the berries, so I turned on the pump in the keep and we hung out in there for a bit. The boys snacked on berries and Cheez-Its, Lyssa relaxed, and I started clearing out the front closet. I guess I just don’t know how to come up here without starting a project and the shelving situation in there has been bugging me for a while. I tore out the original side shelves and Richie’s homemade extensions, took some measurements, and crafted new full-width shelves out of 1×12 boards. These are now solidly anchored with 2x2s and I was able to move a bunch of things out of the kitchen cabinets into the closet. There’s room to bring in a set of dishes, which makes more sense now that we have running water to wash them with.
I cleaned up my tools and the boys got a little time with their Power Wheels before we decided to head out and grab some dinner around 6:00. Fun little day trip today with perfect weather.
Puckaweekend grows ever closer. As I write this, it’s a little over six weeks away, so this is the perfect time to brew up a new round of pickled eggs to bring to the party.
The first efforts went over quite well considering this was something I’d never tried to do before. The mustard eggs and horseradish eggs were the clear favorites, so this time around I made two large jars of each. While I didn’t deviate far from the original recipes, I did end up making some minor adjustments to both varieties. The mustard eggs got a little heat help from a heaping teaspoon of red pepper flakes, I subbed garlic Tabasco for the standard variety, and I added some onion powder to broaden the flavor a bit. The horseradish kind got a double-dose of its namesake and this time I added it after boiling the vinegar and dry ingredients. I think I lost some of the potency last time that way. Also, as it was in season this time around, each jar has some fresh dill. I minced, rather than crushed, the fresh garlic for this batch. I have no idea whether that’ll make much of a difference, but it was certainly easier. Besides, I needed a bunch of minced garlic for a new experiment.
The main trailer door was in bad shape.
It was actually the third door to be in bad shape. The first, the original door to the trailer, had peeled and rotted away from years of disuse and exposure to the elements thanks to both a lack of weather protection around the frame and the trailer having sat in the yard at a slight tilt for many years. The second door was a hollow-core interior door that fell apart almost immediately and never fit well into the existing frame. And the latest door was a hastily hung interior door from my house that couldn’t even latch. Gaps wide enough to fit a determined housecat existed along the top and bottom of the door frame. The new deck looked so nice that it made the door seem even worse by comparison, so it was time to give this project the attention it deserved.
The problem with mobile homes, especially older, smaller ones, is that pretty much everything is at a reduced dimension compared to normal construction. This saves space and weight, which are important for the “mobile” part of a mobile home. But it makes finding replacement materials and effecting proper repairs a little challenging. A standard rough opening for an exterior door is 82 1/2″ tall, minimum. The rough opening for the trailer is less than 79″. There are specialty mobile home catalogs and suppliers out there, but you certainly pay for the privilege of custom-fit parts. The cheapest exterior door assembly I found during my initial research was over $300 and it was pretty plain and flimsy looking. I knew Menards had steel exterior doors for around half that price, but at a standard height. Could I actually cut down a door like that?
The pickled egg is an acquired taste, but it’s something many of us at the PMC enjoy. That being said, a pickled egg you’d find at a bar doesn’t have much to give it any unique taste. Most of them are jarred with little more than vinegar and some onion. I decided to try my hand at home-pickling to see if I could add some flavor to these smelly snacks.
Proper pickling takes two to three weeks, so I wanted to try multiple recipes at once. This way, if a batch isn’t that great, it’s not a complete waste of time. In this first effort, I chose three different recipes. Since most recipes call for making around two dozen eggs in a gallon jar, I bought two-quart jars so I could just cut the ingredients in half and not have to factor weird fractions into an already unfamiliar situation.
Reeling in the Years – Steely Dan
Here it is, folks: our first Project and first Archive post. I’ve started the process of digitizing the logs. I didn’t think scanning would work all that well given the varied sizes of the source media and the maddeningly slow pace of most flatbed scanners. So I got a little creative and put together a capture studio.
I didn’t want to spend a lot of money or take up a lot of space, so I kept it simple. I’ve got a Canon PowerShot S110 that takes very nice photos but doesn’t have much in the way of advanced features. Unless you mess with it a little, that is. With the help of some clever software called CHDK and a little surgery on a spare USB cable, I crafted a remote shutter button.