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.
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.
Hannah and I got here around 2:30 pm with an empty ATV trailer in tow. I’m done hauling scrap for a while but will be using this tomorrow to help my dad clear out the garage in Mayville. The pooch sniffed around the grounds while I unloaded the back of the truck. I brought a cooler full of frozen pizzas, four 24-packs of bottled water, some seasoning, mixer ingredients, Ty Ku, and three different craft beer six packs. The Puckaweekend prep begins.
Two guys competing to take away these bricks for free was a beautiful thing to watch.
I spent some time putting everything away, then went out back to drain the IBC holding the keep’s water supply. It’s gotten pretty scummy and smelly. This didn’t seem to happen to the 55-gallon tank (that I noticed, at least) but that was drained and filled a lot more often throughout the year due to its smaller size. I brought up some pool shock treatment, figuring that a large tank of water that we’ll never drink but want to be able to use safely on our bodies has a lot in common with a swimming pool. I’m planning to overtreat a full tank, dump it out, clean it out, then refill it, At that point I’ll add the proper amount of pool shock to prevent anything from growing and living in it.
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.
Rode up with Lyssa, Josh, and Hannah around 12:30. Jake’s up in Presque Isle with my mom and Josh is excited to have this place to himself. We set Hannah free to bolt around the grounds and I started charging the Power Wheels for Josh to use. Lyssa took him for a four-wheeler ride while I lit up the burnpit to start immolating the brush I had collected during the last trip up. Everything was so dried out that the pit looked like a Saturn V rocket pointed in the wrong direction. Hannah promptly hid in the back of the pole barn. Lyssa’s getting over a summer cold, so after her ride with Josh she relaxed in one of the lounge chairs. They both took refuge in the keep when the smoke picked up, though.
I started cleaning up around the wood shed foundation and unearthed the large prybar from under a stack of shingles. So that’s where it went last fall. I put it to good use by pulling up the remaining wall-base 2x4s from the foundation. This got me motivated, so I grabbed the green ATV and small trailer, backed up to the foundation, and started prying up and collecting all of the hardboard floor panels. I also rolled up and gathered all of the remaining linoleum and floor backing. It was in pretty rough shape. Hannah watched me from the ATV trail on the backside of the pole barn. I think she liked having literal firewall between her and the burn pit.
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.
She’s run aground.
Hannah and I rolled in around 1pm hauling a cleaned-up pontoon boat behind us. The pooch would have to wait before she got to run some laps, though. I picked a spot in the south yard to park the boat where it would be off-level enough to help prevent rain from accumulating on the deck. It would also get plenty of sun to ward off more mildew formation.
I opened the pole barn and checked out our fuel situation. One of the 5-gallon gas cans was almost empty, so I topped off the mower’s tank with what was left in it and threw the can in the back of the truck. It’s almost 80°, so I popped into the keep to fire up the AC before heading into town for lunch and fuel. Hannah’s patience was rewarded with a burger from A&W.
Resilient little fella.
Once we got back, I ate in the keep while Hannah patrolled the property. It’s already comfortably cool inside; the new AC is a welcome upgrade. I changed into some yard work clothes and set my sites on taming the yard.
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.
Hannah and I drove in around 6:20 pm with a pickup bed full of tools and other goodies. She ran some laps around the yard while I quickly unloaded the truck. I wanted to get right to my first project.
Let there be (night)light!
Lyssa got me a pair of really nice network cameras for Christmas. They’re PoE, 720p, have IR blasters, and are IP66 rated. Translated: they don’t need a power cord, have four times the clarity of the old ones, come with night vision, and they’re waterproof. One of them has replaced the driveway camera back home, but the other one will serve as the new bird feeder cam.
I had already configured everything from home, so I installed it to the roof overhang on the keep, plugged it in, and tested it out. There was the expected major increase in image quality, but I was surprised by just how much wider of a field of view it has, too. This is a very welcome improvement.
Lyssa, the boys, Hannah, and I all met my dad at Aunt Judy’s around 10:30. Jake was excited to show Grandpa that his picture was up on the wall. Hannah waited patiently in the truck while we had breakfast, guarding our trailer full of ATVs. We were all on the road to Puckaway by 11:15. It’s unseasonably warm for spring and a beautiful sunny day.
Ready to explore!
As we drove down the driveway, Lyssa spotted a big mound of dirt at the edge of the yard in front of the keep. Scanning the yard, I saw several more. I was confused for a second until I realized the pattern—all of the these piles were around stumps. Rather, they were around craters where stumps used to be. Someone had come through with a stump grinder and dispatched a total of 14 of them. I wandered the yard, grinning as I took tally. The projects are now completing themselves up here!