Ready for action!
Drove up with the whole family and a fully loaded pickup truck at 3:30. We brought Josh’s Power Wheels UTV, and the only place it would fit was on top of the tonneau cover. The bed was full with our clothes, cooler, stuff for the boys, and the last big-ticket items I needed for my upcoming electrical project. We also had the boys’ new ATV helmets, which they couldn’t wait to put on. I took Josh’s UTV down from the truck and he and Jake went racing around the yard in their new gear. I unloaded my generator, a spool of 320 feet of underground cable, and a tote full of extension cords and stashed everything in the pole barn, then gave Lyssa a hand getting all our stuff into the keep.
We were taking rides with the real ATV when the Voights pulled in. This is Allison’s first time up. Gunner and Hannah immediately took turns chasing each other around the brick garden. The boys were happy to see Emmett and the three of them each grabbed their own Power Wheels and went off exploring the grounds. Red and Jenny took turns on baby duty while setting up the big trailer for themselves. I organized the pole barn for a bit while they settled in and Lyssa was getting things ready for dinner. We got the grill going around 5:45 and each family took turns on it. We ate on the deck; the weather is perfect for this time of year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pulled in the driveway at 5:45 am to turn on the AC in the keep. The forecast is calling for humid days with highs in the 90s all weekend. I wanted to make sure we’d have a comfortable place to get out of the heat and I figured our only shot would be to give the air conditioner a head start. I headed back to Oshkosh as I still had to work a full day. Throughout the day, I kept an eye on the temperature and humidity readings from the Raspberry Pi server in the keep, and was pleased to see that it was able to maintain a 10 to 12 degree difference from the outside temps with humidity hovering around 55%. We’re certainly pushing the limits of that little 5,000 BTU window unit by asking it to cool a 40-year-old mobile home, but it’s making a valiant effort.
Arrived for the second time around 4:00 pm with Lyssa and the boys. Jake and Josh went off on their Power Wheels to explore the yard and were particularly interested in the new area by the bird feeders. The heat and humidity are pretty intense, but the keep is a nice little oasis. I’m not a fan of waking up early, but I’m definitely glad I did today.
We had a dinner guest!
We brought up a small pool for the boys and I set it up by the picnic table and swing. I drove a pipe into the ground next to it and hung the hoze nozzle from it, giving Jake and Josh a makeshift sprinkler as the pool filled. Lyssa worked on stocking the fridge and prepping the keep while I headed to the pole barn. The replacement starter solenoid for the blue ATV finally came, so I took a few minutes to install it. No more pull-starting! The ATV fires up with the turn of a key again, just as God intended. I drove it out to show the boys and was signalled to come in for dinner. We had grilled burgers and veggies at the keep’s kitchen table; it’s way too hot and humid to enjoy a meal on the deck today. While we ate, I brought up the live stream from the bird feeder camera on the living room TV. This let us keep the shades drawn to keep the heat down while allowing the boys to keep an eye on the animal traffic. Just as we were finishing up, Jake spotted a deer. Good to know they’re taking advantage of the food block out there. The doe was being pretty cautious but stuck around a good 15 minutes or so. It’s crazy how bright and colorful their coats get this time of year.
I Need Never Get Old – Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
This was a big year for Puckaway. Let’s take a look back at it!
On April 15, I finally accepted my responsibility for keeping the logs. But rather than taking pen to paper, I took fingers to keyboard and started a WordPress site. Accounts of the days’ activities are now accompanied by photos and videos, projects can be tracked from start to finish, and even the old notebooks are getting digitized and transcribed. I now have a platform to share my favorite little corner of the globe with the rest of the world.
Spring was greeted with the usual cleaning efforts and the start of some of the most ambitious projects I’ve undertaken. Farmer Joe provided a truckful of fertilized dirt to help rehabilitate the yard and we tamed the area around the brick pile. I jacked up and levelled out the keep in preparation for Sean’s 2014 suggestion, a new deck. With a little help from Jake, I was able to frame out the platform, lay the boards, and install the stairs in just two short trips. While this construction was underway, the keep got a much-needed new recliner, the pole barn got some new all-weather outdoor speakers, and I built a full/twin trundle bed for the keep’s bedroom. No more air mattresses.
Red and I got things ready for summer by installing the A/C into the wall of the keep, giving us our kitchen window back. We also tore out the stove, which Red hauled away for scrap along with his extensive collection of aluminum cans. More spring cleaning was done around the yard as I cut trees and cleared out the LP tanks and scrap from the end of the driveway. The place was looking better than ever.