Rolled in at 6:30 with Lyssa, Jake, Josh, and Hannah. The boys both fell asleep on the way and were both finishing their Culvers when we got here. Hannah was glad to be back and for the break in the oppressive heat we’ve had for the last week. Once they were done eating, the boys made a beeline for the pole barn to hop on their Power Wheels and roam the grounds. They both liked that they could “help” me by running over the trench dirt to pack it down.
A perfect day for a Puckaway trip.
I had a bunch of new tech goodies in the back of the truck that I was itching to play with. I got two more 8-port Unifi PoE switches, one for the pole barn and one for the big trailer, and another wireless access point that I want to mount to the big trailer’s antenna mast. I also plan on relocating one of the current access points from outside the keep to inside the pole barn. We don’t have well and septic, but we do have mesh wifi and three-building gigabit Ethernet. Priorities! I adopted the new Unifi gear into the Controller and applied all the waiting firmware updates, then switched gears and set out to clean up the pole barn. After last month’s electrical project, it was in rough shape. I left tools and project mess everywhere since I was focused on trying to finish the wiring in time.
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.
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.
Made it up around 2:00 pm for a quick supply run. There was a big TV sale at Best Buy earlier this month—$200 for a 50″ 1080p LCD. The keep gets a nice upgrade, and the 42″, 720p LCD that’s being replaced will move to the pole barn. I also brought Lyssa’s snow tires back and a few other odds and ends.
The overall size of the chassis isn’t much different, but there’s a lot more screen real estate.
I set up the TV and configured the Harmony remote hub and the receiver to work with it. With that out of the way, I closed up the keep and moved on to the pole barn. I stacked Lyssa’s tires and put the old keep TV on the workbench for now. I really need to spend some time organizing this building again.
Before heading out, I had one more thing to try. Last fall at deer camp, we wrecked my pump fill tube trying to thaw it out. So I used the opportunity to build it better. The new one has a much larger “priming tank” made from a section of 4″ PVC. The drain has been improved, too. Instead of the old drilled-hole-plugged-by-a-big-bolt, there’s now a 3/4″ PVC tee below the fill tube that terminates in a 45° elbow with a removable plug.
With my checklist complete for the day, I was on my way out around 4:30.
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.
Flying trip! Took advantage of this unseasonably warm (nearly 60° F) day and stopped up a little before 3:00 pm to drop off the summer tires from Lyssa’s car. While I was here and it was so nice out, I took a minute to collect most of the logs and branches from the tree that fell during deer camp. It wasn’t long before there was a pretty big stack in the pit.
There was one more reason for the visit today. I picked up another smartplug, but this one can also measure and report power consumption. I’ll be able to tell remotely whether or not the UPS heater is running. I plugged this in just behind the thermostatic switch and got it connected to Wi-Fi. Once I had the app running on my phone, I plugged the heater into it directly to verify the readings. 68.5 watts. Even if this thing ran 24/7, it would only add $5 to a monthly power bill. We’re supposed to be in for some cold weather, so we’ll find out soon enough. I closed everything back up and was on my way out by 3:45.
Pulled in at 3:30. No pooch; don’t want to risk someone mistaking her for a deer. Temperatures were hovering just above freezing with on-and-off rain and I was looking forward to heading into a nice, pre-warmed keep. It was not to be. Apparently, there was a power outage between Tuesday and today; microwave clock was reset and the heater wasn’t running. Lovely. I went to the pole barn to get my propane sunflower heater to kickstart the keep thawing process, but it was nowhere to be found. Frustrated, I headed into the big trailer and saw Dad was using it in the living room. He, Steve, and Sam were already plenty warm and had electric heaters going anyway, so I grumbled, stole my propane gear back, and headed out to the keep again.
With the sunflower heater blasting warmth, I finally unloaded the truck. I carried the water jugs over to the big trailer and had a drink with the guys while the keep warmed up. I didn’t stick around long, though. The big trailer reeks. Pretty sure mice have made some kind of home in the oven. The whole place smells like boiled rodent urine. Not sure how the three of them can stand it. I wandered back to the keep and threw on a movie while I started to rebuild the Puckanet. I replaced the router with a Unifi gateway to give me some more remote control and data. And hopefully, if I ever find a way around Verizon’s NAT mess, I can use the gateway for VPN connections to my home network instead of relying on the Pi. The Puckanet is constantly evolving.
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.
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.