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 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.
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.
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.
Eye in the Sky – The Alan Parsons Project
Thanks to satellite/aerial imagery, it’s easier than ever to see how things are progressing at Puckaway. I’ve collected a few different pictures and found an image slider plugin to use for them. It’s pretty cool.
Bing Maps vs Google Maps
The two heavy hitters in free online aerial photography really show how much the land changes throughout the course of the year. I couldn’t find exact dates, but I think the Bing image is from the summer of 2013 or 2014 and the Google one is from fall of 2014. The marsh ATV trail is well-established now, as both pictures show, and with the Google image you can see the yard pretty clearly.
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.
I’m Your Captain – Grand Funk Railroad
My grandpa kept a log of every visit to Puckaway. And “log” is definitely the right word. These were not verbose journal entries or opinion pieces. He took down the events of the day. The work he had done, what the weather was like, who stopped by–stuff like that. I’m not sure how much they would interest anyone else, but they help me bind my memories of him to this place.
Richie wasn’t the only one who kept the log. If Inee (grandma) came up with him, she’d usually take up the pen. There are entries from their friend Jeannie, my mom, my aunt Linda–it served as a guestbook of sorts where visitors could briefly transcribe their experience. There are even occasional mini-entries and margin notes from a young me. After grandpa died, my dad took over writing duties during deer camp. But while I came up as often as I was able, I would never write.