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.
I pulled in at 11:30 with a truck full of tools, painting supplies, and a big ol’ 36″ prehung, outswing, exterior door I found for cheap on craigslist. It’ll eventually adorn the new outhouse, but for now it goes in the pole barn. Unloaded the rest of the tools and drove over to the keep where I hauled in my clothes, some clean towels and sheets, two flats of bottled water, and a cooler full of my latest batch of pickled goods. They now bide their time in the keep fridge, awaiting the brave souls who shall attend Puckaweekend 2016.
From left to right: garlic mushrooms, mustard/Tabasco eggs, horseradish eggs, pickles, Hell pickles, spicy garlic asparagus, Inferno asparagus.
With the truck emptied out and the pole barn jukebox playing some 70’s rock, it was time to set my sights on the big project of the weekend: painting the keep. I finally have a stretch of days with weather that lends itself well to painting outdoors (it’s supposed to stay under 80° with low humidity and plenty of sun all weekend), and I’m planning on making the most of it.
However, before I could even crack open a can of paint, I needed to prep the keep. I filled the bird feeders, then hauled the ladder onto the deck and used it to get a good look at the roof. What a mess. Years of leaves and small branches have piled up, decomposing into dirt in spots, the edging is pulling away in several places, the main vent pipe for the furnace is not connected to anything, and there’s grime and moss everywhere. I brought a leaf blower up and blasted the majority of the compost away, then took some sheet metal screws and secured the trim and the vent. Now it was time for the heavy equipment.
A Puckaway video log entry is an idea I’ve toyed around with since I started posting entries last spring, but I was beat to the punch by almost 25 years. Here’s Richie, in late November of 1991, admiring the fresh-fallen snow:
Grandpa bought a VHS camcorder some time in 1988. Starting that Christmas, it was ever-present at family gatherings, on his trips to Florida and Canada, and it even made it to Puckaway a few times over the years. I have his entire collection of tapes, nearly 25 hours of footage in total, digitally preserved. I’ve left things unedited, only cutting static between recordings. I want to start cleaning this collection up further, and figured a Puckaway log entry would be a fitting place to start.
Taking photos of and transcribing the log pages has been a fulfilling way to connect with the past of this place, but it can’t top being able to hear my grandpa narrating a trip. There’s nothing too profound or significant being discussed, but it doesn’t matter. Welcome to puckaway.net, Beeba. Thanks for posting.
Pulled up to the keep a little after 9:15 am, fired up the AC, and turned right back around. We’ll let the place cool down while we’re at Aunt Judy’s. This was slated to be a “camping” weekend up here with the Voights and Saucedas, but work schedules and a forecast of highs in the 90s with plenty of humidity combined to shut that idea down. Instead, Lyssa, the boys, and I are joined today by Kent, her sister Christine’s husband. As a high school teacher, he’s got summers off and is up visiting from Houston. This’ll be his first trip to Puckaway.
Shortly after we were seated at Aunt Judy’s, Jake got a big, loud greeting from the proprietress herself. “There’s my waffle baby!!” He cracked up and got a big kick out of that. Kent was impressed that we were recognized regulars at such a fine establishment. After breakfast, we made a quick stop at the feed store to grab another deer block. The one I put out last month is already almost completely gone. They seem to have all found the new clearing in the yard.
Working hard at the quarry.
Back at Puckaway, the boys showed their uncle around while Lyssa and I got the pump started and filled the pool. It’s already hot enough to break a sweat standing still. The boys and I got on the blue ATV and Kent followed us on the green one for a tour of the marsh trails. Even with the heat and lack of rain, there’s still a fair amount of water out there. Lyssa smartly relaxed in her hammock while we were out exploring. Jake wanted to show Uncle Kent the bird feeders he and his brother painted me for Father’s Day, and we got a little surprise—both of them are full of sticks! Must be wrens.
Pulled in the driveway at 5:45 am to turn on the AC in the keep. The forecast is calling for humid days with highs in the 90s all weekend. I wanted to make sure we’d have a comfortable place to get out of the heat and I figured our only shot would be to give the air conditioner a head start. I headed back to Oshkosh as I still had to work a full day. Throughout the day, I kept an eye on the temperature and humidity readings from the Raspberry Pi server in the keep, and was pleased to see that it was able to maintain a 10 to 12 degree difference from the outside temps with humidity hovering around 55%. We’re certainly pushing the limits of that little 5,000 BTU window unit by asking it to cool a 40-year-old mobile home, but it’s making a valiant effort.
Arrived for the second time around 4:00 pm with Lyssa and the boys. Jake and Josh went off on their Power Wheels to explore the yard and were particularly interested in the new area by the bird feeders. The heat and humidity are pretty intense, but the keep is a nice little oasis. I’m not a fan of waking up early, but I’m definitely glad I did today.
We had a dinner guest!
We brought up a small pool for the boys and I set it up by the picnic table and swing. I drove a pipe into the ground next to it and hung the hoze nozzle from it, giving Jake and Josh a makeshift sprinkler as the pool filled. Lyssa worked on stocking the fridge and prepping the keep while I headed to the pole barn. The replacement starter solenoid for the blue ATV finally came, so I took a few minutes to install it. No more pull-starting! The ATV fires up with the turn of a key again, just as God intended. I drove it out to show the boys and was signalled to come in for dinner. We had grilled burgers and veggies at the keep’s kitchen table; it’s way too hot and humid to enjoy a meal on the deck today. While we ate, I brought up the live stream from the bird feeder camera on the living room TV. This let us keep the shades drawn to keep the heat down while allowing the boys to keep an eye on the animal traffic. Just as we were finishing up, Jake spotted a deer. Good to know they’re taking advantage of the food block out there. The doe was being pretty cautious but stuck around a good 15 minutes or so. It’s crazy how bright and colorful their coats get this time of year.