Running water is something we all take for granted. It’s been a basic feature of American homes for over 100 years. But up at Puckaway, we haven’t quite caught up, as there are a few major hurdles in the way. If you want potable (safe to drink) water around here, you need to drill down over 200 feet. We’re not putting in a proper well until we have a nice permanent home up here and know where we’re placing the slab.
Also, while we have always had a shallow well and outdoor pump to provide water that we can wash up with, it has a poor flow rate of under one gallon per minute. Additionally, we have to drain the pump and hoses when temperatures drop below freezing. And we don’t heat any of the buildings during the winter. Pipes would freeze and burst.
Last year, I reconnected all of the drain plumbing in the keep, but I wasn’t expecting much improvement on the supply side. We did what we had always done, storing 5-gallon buckets next to the sinks to wash up with and using our portable, hand-pumped, camping shower. Interestingly enough, this was all about to change because of a pressure washer.
Speed run part deux! My sinus surgery is tomorrow, so I wanted to get one more haul out of the way before my lifting restrictions kick in. Made it up a little after 9:00 pm with the blue ATV, plow, and drive-up ramps in the back of the truck. I had stopped at Menards earlier as well and bought 50 lbs of sunflower seed and 100 lbs of whole-kernel corn. And finally, I brought up the three 5-gallon jugs of Oshkosh drinking water. All the heavy stuff.
I unloaded and parked the ATV, then put on some music while I stowed the ramps and plow for the summer. Drove the truck over to the keep, powered it up to get the outside lights going, and secured the seed and corn in the sealed bins in the garden shed. Noticed the low-hanging feeder was knocked off the shepherd’s hook—must be turkeys. I’ll have to find a new solution to raise the feeders a bit higher. Hopefully, having corn to thrown down will help keep them out of the feeders, too.
Lugged the water jugs into the keep bathroom and took a moment to enjoy how incredibly easy it’s been to start things out for spring. I don’t track in any dirt now because of the deck, the new lighting makes nighttime hauling a snap, all the linens are clean and folded in vacuum bags, and there are actual beds waiting and ready now. I plopped down in the recliner for a bit and just let it sink in that we’ve finally got a good base of operations up here. I hit the lights, locked up, shut down the pole barn, and was out around 10:30. Can’t wait to get the all-clear from the sinus doc so I can dig into some spring cleaning and yardwork up here.
Came up a little after 4:00 pm with a full truck bed of tools and building materials. Warmer and more humid than I expected. I wasn’t here five minutes and a UPS truck rolled up the driveway. The experiment worked! Amazon and UPS consider this a valid shipping address, so I got a new TV antenna for my trailer delivered right to Puckaway. I unloaded my tools, the new storm door for my trailer, and the salvaged countertops I got for free on craigslist and went hunting for a pole I could use to hang the antenna.
I found three pipes of varying diameters and built an antenna mast. I drilled through the two larger pipes about two feet from the end and ran bolts through. This let the next smaller pipe “stack” inside and netted me about 30 feet of overall height for the antenna. I temporarily strapped the pole to the side of the deck, hooked up the TV, and scanned for channels. I was able to pull CBS, ABC, and FOX from Madison. Not bad for $30. I’m sure I could get more channels if I could raise the antenna even further, but I had more pressing tasks ahead.
I’ve been feeling pretty motivated by how quickly the railing went up and was anxious to finish the deck. I had originally planned on using my miter saw and drill press to prep each spindle, but I opted to cut them in groups by section instead. With over 70 spindles total, this saved me quite a bit of time with roughly the same results.
I installed the main platform spindles in three groups, one for each side. I planned the spacing so that I’d only need a 2×4 to help me line them up: 1 1/2″ offset from the center posts of each run, and 3 1/2″ apart. I saved any spindles with warpage until the end of the runs. This made for a very even look, overall.
I had to dig to anchor the lower deck posts to the stair risers. I’m glad I buried the bottom of the risers rather than cut them down, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to secure the posts properly. This involved more root trimming with my sawzall for the left post, which was slow, sweaty work.
The main trailer door was in bad shape.
It was actually the third door to be in bad shape. The first, the original door to the trailer, had peeled and rotted away from years of disuse and exposure to the elements thanks to both a lack of weather protection around the frame and the trailer having sat in the yard at a slight tilt for many years. The second door was a hollow-core interior door that fell apart almost immediately and never fit well into the existing frame. And the latest door was a hastily hung interior door from my house that couldn’t even latch. Gaps wide enough to fit a determined housecat existed along the top and bottom of the door frame. The new deck looked so nice that it made the door seem even worse by comparison, so it was time to give this project the attention it deserved.
The problem with mobile homes, especially older, smaller ones, is that pretty much everything is at a reduced dimension compared to normal construction. This saves space and weight, which are important for the “mobile” part of a mobile home. But it makes finding replacement materials and effecting proper repairs a little challenging. A standard rough opening for an exterior door is 82 1/2″ tall, minimum. The rough opening for the trailer is less than 79″. There are specialty mobile home catalogs and suppliers out there, but you certainly pay for the privilege of custom-fit parts. The cheapest exterior door assembly I found during my initial research was over $300 and it was pretty plain and flimsy looking. I knew Menards had steel exterior doors for around half that price, but at a standard height. Could I actually cut down a door like that?
Even in its incomplete state, the deck has become a welcome addition to the property. But there’s still plenty of work to be done on it; it’s hard to relax in one of the lounge chairs when you don’t know if you’re going to pitch backwards off the platform. It’s time to tackle the railing.
Once again, SketchUp was instrumental in planning and visualizing this project. Among other things, it helped me decide how to finish the rail cap corners. Joining them at a 45 degree angle is difficult to get right and invites later warping. Instead, I had them meet at right angles, but with notches cut in the long board where the corners meet. It’s a simple, clean look and compliments the two small 45 degree corner rail sections. All of the posts are attached from outside of the deck platform. This way, none of the square footage of the platform is lost by adding the rails and none of the planking needs to be cut to accommodate the posts. It’s also easier to clean up and would disassemble relatively easy should we ever need to move the deck.
The PMC Clubhouse had an accessibility problem. The back door opened three feet above the ground and the front entrance had a precariously balanced set of steel stairs and some very uneven terrain right outside. Tracking in dirt and sand has always been a problem, and we never really hung out outside much since there wasn’t much to the yard. It was time for a deck.
Using a tape measure and scratching into the ground with my shoe, I felt out various possible sizes. I settled on 12′ square since it provided ample space while keeping my shopping list and design needs simple.
Trimble SketchUp (previously Google SketchUp) is instrumental in planning any kind of building project. I scoured the internet for deck building tips and methods and got to work drawing the deck frame. SketchUp gives you the liberty to work out your mistakes before you ever cut or even buy a single board. I was able to tweak my design so I could use 2x8s for most of the joists and for the beams, only using 2x10s for the outside border. This saved a decent amount of money. I designed some 45-degree 2×4 cross-braces that required me to tweak the location of the corner posts. It all worked out perfectly and the notching and angle cut on the beams add a nice look to the final product. I also wanted a wider set of stairs come out the side rather than the front. This gives us more room to get by with the trucks and ATVs and helps define the little “yard” area in front of the trailer. The metal stairs get reused for the back door.