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.
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.
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.
Rode in with Jake, Josh, and the pooch at 6:30 pm to some intermittent rain. I wanted to get some time in with my boys before Puckaweekend. I set them up at the table with the dinner we had picked up at Culvers in Ripon, then headed out to unload the truck before the next downpour showed up.
Just look at this thing!
After eating my own burger and starting a movie for the kiddos, I got to work unpacking. I stocked the pantry for Puckaweekend, then decided to hang my new sign. My wonderful wife got me an amazing anniversary gift this year: a custom-made, LED-backlit steel sign in the form of my Puckaway Motor Club owl logo. It’s huge, too: about 30″ in diameter. I love this thing.
It came with four post mounts for hanging it on the wall at the proper depth for the backlight, so I picked a spot right by the door and screwed it into the paneling. I was able to hide the wire for it behind the trim between wall panels, so it’s a really clean looking installation. I lit it up and the boys were thrilled to have a new Puckaway nightlight to watch over them.
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.
Something I’ve always associated with Puckaway is feeding the birds. Richie always made it a priority; one of the first things we’d do upon arriving is open up the pole barn and fill some buckets with sunflower seed to stock the feeders. This was a way for me to pitch in and work with my grandpa even when I was too young or small to help with much else. The chickadees were so used to us that they’d eat out of our hands.
When Richie got older and his congestive heart failure started making even light work difficult, I’d drive up here ahead of him to take care of chores so he’d have nothing to do but relax and enjoy the place. Feeding the birds was always the first task on my list.
The first several years after Richie passed away, I didn’t do much of anything for the birds. Overnight stays outside of deer camp were rare, so I wasn’t even around to watch them come in. A lot of the feeders were falling apart and our general neglect of the property didn’t make the birds seem like much of a priority anymore. You could hear chickadees from the margins of the yard and there were signs of woodpeckers on every dead tree off of the driveway, but a lot of songbirds stopped coming in all together. It started to bum me out as just another example of how I couldn’t keep up with the place.
And then Jacob was born.
New TV stand, new pooch bed. Life’s good.
Pulled in at 3pm with Lyssa, the boys, Hannah, and a bunch of goodies in the back. Red, Emmett, and Gunner had already been here about a half-hour. I unlocked the big trailer so they could set up camp and grabbed a dog bed for Hannah while I was in there. Gorgeous day! Sunny and in the upper 70s with a light breeze.
The boys were all happy to explore together and the dogs kept busy racing each other around the yard. Lyssa unpacked things in the keep while I made room for its newest upgrade—a proper TV stand. I cleared everything off the coffee table that had been serving as our entertainment center and cleaned out behind it. I moved the table into the bedroom; it’s now a nice place to keep our luggage.
Lyssa helped me carry the new TV stand in from the back of the truck. It’s a solid little Sauder unit I found on craigslist for $30. I wrestled it in place and set everything back up, including the freshly-loaded external hard drive. It’s nice to have all the gear off of the floor and the TV is much easier to see from the kitchen or laying down on the futon now that it’s higher up.
If you eat enough of Aunt Judy’s waffles…
Lyssa, the boys, and I rolled into Aunt Judy’s a little after 11:00 for a late breakfast. Jake had his usual waffle and Josh devoured a cheese omelet. It was a pretty standard meal for the most part, but Jake spotted something on his way out: himself. There’s a little notice on the wall urging people to leave TripAdvisor reviews, and they’ve got Jake’s picture! I took the photo back in June and uploaded it to Google Maps where it’s had over 5,000 views. Aunt Judy’s “waffle baby” is a little celebrity now!
… you go up on the wall!
Lyssa, the boys, and I pulled in around 11:30 after a delicious Aunt Judy’s breakfast. Sunny, breezy, and in the mid-50s—a perfect fall day. Not much on the agenda today; just looking to enjoy the place and get the boys tired. Quite a few leaves on the ground now with more falling like snow as the wind picks up. I blew off the deck and around the keep, feeders, pump, and outhouse while Lyssa and the boys raked up a big pile near the pole barn that they could jump around and play in. The boys got a kick out of diving deep, popping out, and scaring each other. Jake was really interested in checking out the remains of the woodshed, too.
Back in the keep, I went through all the bedding and linens. I had washed everything I brought home last trip and hauled it back up today. I put all the stuff we use regularly in vacuum bags and stacked them in totes in the bedroom closet. There were a lot of older blankets and sheets left and I returned those to the big trailer. This freed up a lot of room in the closet and should make dressing the beds a lot easier.