Hannah and I drove in at 9:15 pm. I’m taking the day off work tomorrow so I can get all the leaves collected up here before the storms we’re supposed to get later in the week. If I want any kind of lawn this year, the sooner I can get this done, the better.
It’s going to be hot tomorrow with highs in the mid 80s, so I turned on the AC to get ahead of it. This got me thinking of a quick project I could take care of. I’ve got the ability to remotely control the AC with the Logitech Harmony hub, but I can’t really tell what I’m doing or if it’s responding. As long as the AC is set correctly and then turned off when I leave, I just have to hit Power from the remote app and everything will kick on the way it’s supposed to. I wanted more control and assurance, though. I took a USB webcam and mounted it to the underside of the upper kitchen cabinets. It’s pointed directly at the control panel of the air conditioner. This plugs into the PuckaPi, where a program called fswebcam is used to take snapshots. Now I’ll be able to tell exactly what mode the AC is in and can do more fine-tuning remotely.
Content with my efforts, I spent the rest of the night being lazy and watching TV. I was asleep before 11:00.
Rode in with the whole family around 2 pm after a Menards supply stop and late lunch at Aunt Judy’s. Hannah couldn’t wait to get out of the truck. It’s 55° and sunny—finally, some nice spring weather! I backed the truck and blue trailer up to the pole barn to load up Dad’s riding mower for him. Josh sat on the seat to keep the engine running while Lyssa held the trailer in tilted position and I steered it on board. We need a loading dock.
Buck came over and gave Hannah some exercise as they chased each other around the yard. I had to shoo him back to Danny’s after a while, though. He’s too rough with the boys and kept jumping on them and knocking them over. Lyssa set up Josh’s new tree swing for the boys while I unloaded some supplies in the pole barn. We brought Jake’s new utility cart, and he was thrilled to put it to use by cleaning up the big pile of sawdust left from Jeremiah’s mill last fall.
Hannah and I rode in around 2:30 on this unseasonably warm 60° day. Originally, I wanted to come up much earlier this morning and spend the day mowing and mulching, but I ended up getting a lot of errands run at home instead. I brought the ATV and plow back, so I got them unloaded quickly and set my sights on the keep.
I also brought up two six-gallon jugs of drinkable Oshkosh water which I set on the bathroom counter. My goals for today are all Puckanet-related. I want to increase the 4G signal to the router and set up my weather station.
The first thing I had to do was figure out mounting for the sensor module. The higher up, the better, but it needs to be within 300 feet of the base station (and probably closer than that, with the aluminum walls of the keep serving to block the signal) to function. I decided to put it on the top of the bird feeder post. Should get plenty of sun and there’s no canopy overhead to mess with the rainfall gauge.
The boys have been getting cabin fever lately. It’s been in the 40s and almost all the snow has melted, so we decided to make a day trip to Puckaway. The five of us (Hannah needs to get out of the house, too) piled in the truck and made it to Aunt Judy’s by 11:15 for a late breakfast. The boys drew some pictures for Judy to hang up, then made short work of a pair of adult-sized omelets. Shortly after we sat down, Danny and his wife came in, too. They both remarked on how much Jacob’s grin reminds them of Richie.
We made it to Puckaway around noon. Hannah started her strafing runs and the boys headed straight to the pole barn to get out some of their trucks. I unloaded the day’s project: major Puckanet upgrades.
It’s been quite a week. The wild swings in temperature have brought on a lot of snowmelt over still-frozen ground. Back in Oshkosh, this resulted in a lot of water pooling near the back of the house. The catch basin and 40 feet of buried 4″ PVC drain pipe that I put in to combat just this situation were rendered useless as they were plugged solid with ice. Water started leaking into the basement because the utility pump I bought out of desperation just couldn’t keep up with the melt rate. To top things off, something was wrong with the water heater from the keep. It would shut itself off after only lighting the burners for a few seconds, which prevented me from using it to flush my drain line with hot water. I felt defeated as a homeowner because my drain solution had failed, discouraged at the prospect of no more hot water at Puckaway, and sick thinking about the freezing rain in the forecast and how it would affect my basement.
My wonderful wife helped me put these (still mostly managed) problems in perspective and suggested that what I needed was some time to recharge and reflect. She would take the boys down by her folks for the weekend and said I should head to Puckaway with the pooch. An overnight stay in February would be an unprecedented event, but probably just what the doctor ordered. Just the idea of a Puckaway trip got me in a better headspace, and by Thursday I had come up with a solution for my frozen pipe problem.
Rolled in with Hannah around 3:30 to some light snowfall. Time to collect the blue ATV and plow for the driveway back home. Hannah was sure happy to be here and got right to work making high-speed laps of the yard. This came with some pretty spectacular wipeouts, though. Thanks to the quick freeze-thaw-freeze cycle over the last few days, the yard is full of glare ice patches hidden beneath the fresh snow. Hannah, for the most part, was unfazed by this and just wanted to keep running.
I went to fire up the blue ATV and the dials went completely dead. What the hell. I’ve had this on the trickle charger, just like the green ATV and the mowers, and none of them are any worse for wear. Then again, I think this battery is at least six or seven years old and probably due for replacement. It’s a shame these require their electronics to function. Even with a pull rope, there’s no way of getting this to run without a battery.
Pulled in at 1:30 with Hannah, who was glad to be back again so soon. She tore a few laps around the yard while I went into the keep to check out the Puckanet. It never reconnected to my VPN after the power was restored yesterday so I wanted to see what was going on. Turns out something got corrupted on the Pi and it wouldn’t boot at all. I’ll have to take it home and restore it from backup. Looks like the cameras will be down for a few days. I headed outside and saw Danny and Buck walking in to say hi. Hannah’s come around on Buck. She used to be really territorial and tried keeping him off the property, but now they’re perfectly happy chasing each other around the yard.
I’m sick of fighting this busted thing.
My main reason for coming up was mowing/leaf collection, so I got right to it. I hooked up the blower and the NASCAR trailer and started collecting leaves along the driveway. It was slow going as the trailer filled quickly. After three loads, I decided to change tactics and unhooked the collection equipment. I went around the yard between the keep and the pole barn and just mulched, progressively blowing the piles inward. Twice I was stopped by the front tie rod assembly coming apart at one of the wheels. I’ve had a redneck fix applied to this for the past year where it’s just held in place with a metal hose clamp, but it won’t hold anymore. The mount is just too worn out. I was forced to give up mowing around 4:15 with a lot of yard left to handle.
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.
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.