Hannah and I pulled in at 2:30 with a rented trencher in tow. I picked this up at Kitz and Pfeil in Berlin on the way up. This weekend is dedicated to running new power lines to the keep and pole barn straight from the new service panel we installed last fall. After opening up the keep and getting my clothes and other supplies put away, I unloaded the trencher from its trailer. This is the same one I rented back in 2011 when I made the first buried electrical runs. While that project was a significant improvement from previous methods of getting power to the keep and pole barn—stringing extension cords through the trees—the limitations were starting to show.
This is my trencher. There are many others like it, but this one is mine (for the next 24 hours).
When I first did this seven years ago, I used 10-gauge, 2-conductor direct burial copper cable…mostly. Power was supplied from two 20-amp breakers in the big trailer and run to an outdoor service box using 12-gauge romex. The thicker 10-gauge wire was only run underground to each building where it was spliced to 12-gauge romex in conduits. I also didn’t have subpanels at either building. In the pole barn, I just spliced the incoming connection with wire nuts. In the keep, I gutted the contents of the old fuse box and spliced everything together from the feed, and this was after a spliced stop at the water pump outside. In retrospect, this was terribly kludgy. When you consider the system it was replacing, however, it was revolutionary. Still, the time had come to revisit this project and do it right this time.
We pulled in around noon in two vehicles; Lyssa’s on call at the hospital this weekend and may need to go in on short notice. Jake and Hannah rode in the truck with me, Josh kept Lyssa company in the car. The boys finished eating their Culver’s and were quickly off playing with their trucks and tools in the sawdust pile “quarry”. Lyssa unpacked our stuff in the keep while I set out to put the finishing touches on the Outhouse Relocation Initiative.
A vastly improved view.
First, I wanted to address the old outhouse location. I certainly didn’t need Hannah messing around in there. I grabbed the green ATV and small yard trailer to collect all the bricks around the pit. Then I dug around the outside of the buried metal retaining ring and piled the dirt in the middle. Once I was about four inches below ground level all around the ring, I got out my sawzall and sliced the ring as far down as I could reach. I levelled out the dirt as best I could and with that the site was retired. I’ll need to fill in with more dirt later to even out the area, but it looks much better than it did.
Hannah and I pulled in at 6:00 pm pulling the blue trailer full of brush from Red’s house. The boys are at Presque Isle with my folks for the holiday weekend and Lyssa’s working late tonight. It’s just as well, this weekend is 100% project-focused. Miraculously, my back is completely better from the freak tweak I gave it last Sunday, so I’m ready.
The pit was starving. I let it feast.
I hauled my clothes and supplies into the keep, which was pleasantly pre-cooled thanks to my remote-controlled air conditioner. It’s in the mid 80s and only supposed to get hotter as the weekend goes on, so it’ll be essential to have somewhere to beat the heat. Back outside, the mosquitoes were in full force. I loaded myself up with DEET and started stacking Red’s brush on the burn pile. It’s all evergreen that’s had a year to dry out, so it should catch fire pretty quickly. Once the trailer was empty, I moved it out of the way and double checked the DNR site to make sure it was OK to burn. Confident I wouldn’t attract the authorities, I grabbed my propane torch and started lighting the brush. In less than a minute, I had a raging fire, the first one of 2018. I didn’t even need any gasoline.
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.
Pulled in around 4:00 pm in a fairly empty pickup. All of my tools and goodies for the weekend were brought up last weekend, so all I really needed today was my duffle bag. Well, that and the final parts for the secret project I started last trip up. I brought everything into the keep between intermittent rain showers and got to work on the final big project for Puckaweekend: hot and cold running water.
Of course, cold running water has been a reality up here since early this summer, but I wanted to take it further. I picked up a outdoor, propane-fueled, tankless water heater on Amazon and built it into a “backpack” I could hang on the back of the keep. This setup also contains the pump that was previously mounted beneath the bathroom sink. All connections are centralized (propane supply, power outlet for the pump, water supply, hot output and cold output) and can be disconnected to store the backpack safely indoors for the winter. I ran my new hot water lines to both sinks, fixed my cold water connections beneath the bathroom sink to accommodate for the relocated pump, and ran an extension cord out to the backpack to run the pump in its new spot. I also replaced the kitchen and bathroom faucets with ones that sported both hot and cold taps (and the bathroom one was busted anyway). Finally, I added a hot water supply branch for the new shower head that came with the water heater. It has a supply shutoff switch right on the handle so there’s no need to plumb in a shower faucet. It was nearly dark by the time I finished setting everything up and, thankfully, it worked flawlessly during the first test. No leaks anywhere and 120° water within seconds of turning on a tap.
No more low spots!
I pulled in at 3:00 pm with a truck bed full of tools and Outhouse 2.0 on the ATV trailer. This weekend will be the final project push before Puckaweekend 2016. It’s overcast and in the mid-60s and the forecast is calling for intermittent rain all weekend. Not sure how much yard work I’ll be able to get done, but there are plenty of other things to do. I unhooked the trailer and backed up to the pole barn to start unloading tools and materials. I’ll be leaving most of this stuff up here until next weekend. I was just about done when I noticed someone with a day-glo yellow shirt walking up the drive. It was a dump truck driver with Kinas Excavating and he had a full load of gravel to spread at the end of the driveway. Perfect timing. I walked him down and showed him where we wanted it, though the low spots were pretty obvious. Once he knew where to drop, it didn’t take him long to get to work. He had it all spread evenly and was on his way within minutes. It was pretty impressive to watch.
After taking a minute to check out the new driveway, I grabbed the green ATV, hooked it up to the small yard trailer, and backed up to the outhouse. I took down the Christmas lights and removed everything of value from the outhouse like the seat and roll holder. I then took a sledge to the roof assembly, hoping I could pop it loose to re-use on the new outhouse. No such luck. The old roof came away in pieces and shingles crumbled right off of it. I’ll have to come up with a different plan for Outhouse 2.0.
Now that the deck and the keep have both been refinished, the outhouse has been looking even worse than usual by comparison. The door sticks and sometimes won’t even close. The seat’s at an uncomfortable height and depth. It’s covered in cobwebs and open to all manner of critters. And the aging wood has been absorbing unspeakable horrors for the better part of four decades. It needs to go. While not the most glamorous project, it’s hard to argue against the importance and necessity of an outhouse, so some real thought needs to go into its replacement.
Like many projects up here, this one started in SketchUp. I designed a simple four-foot square plywood platform that stands on joists made from the leftover treated 2×8 lumber from the deck. The framing would be done with 2×4 studs, I’d install two windows that I had found in the pole barn, and the whole thing would be panelled with the pine plywood siding that was stacked under the big house trailer. I still needed a roof and a door. My hope was that I could reuse the roof from the old outhouse, so I just had to track down a suitable door. I turned to craigslist and was in luck; I found an outswing, exterior, prehung door for only $40. It was 36″ wide, which is a bit much for this little building, but it was hard to argue with the price.
Lyssa, the boys, and I pulled in at 11:00 after breakfast at Aunt Judy’s. Heading down the driveway, I was nervous that the new paint on the keep might not have held up through the big storms that rolled through this past week, but the place looks absolutely great. On our way up, we had stopped at J&A for a deer block. They were out of stock and won’t have more until Tuesday, so I got a bag of molasses-based feed and two bags of shell corn instead. I unloaded the boys’ power wheels from the back of the truck and they were off to the races. I carried the goods from J&A to the garden shed and got a bummer of a surprise upon opening it up. I had left a full 50-lb bag of sunflower seed in there without sealing it in one of the containers and the chipmunks had completely looted it. So much for filling the bird feeders. I spread the remains of the bag, the molasses mix, and some shell corn in the area behind the feeders and made sure the rest of my new purchases were secured in critter-proof cans. Chipmunks suck.
Musty paneling sure gets hot in a hurry.
I’ve got two goals today: collect building materials to build a new outhouse, and clean up fallen branches and brush around the yard. I knew there was a good-sized stack of exterior pine board paneling under the big house trailer, so I grabbed the green ATV and small yard trailer and started digging things out. Roughly 60% of the sheets were too rotten or rough to be of any use, so I stacked them on the trailer to get burned. The rest I set aside to get picked up later. The pit was already stacked with the big oak limb I cut down last trip, so I made a teepee out of the panels over that, poured on some old boat gas, and lit ‘er up. Wasn’t long before I had a nice hot fire. Lyssa tended it while I took the boys into town for snacks and to fill the two big gas cans from the pole barn with ethanol-free fuel. I stopped in at J&A again to see if they had any sunflower seed to replace the bag the chipmunks binged on. This, too, was out of stock until Tuesday. It’s always Tuesday.