A boy and his (tolerant) dog.
Jake, Hannah, and I came up in the truck around 6:15 pm. Jake’s been asking for an overnight up here—just him and me—for a while now, so he’s pretty excited. We unloaded the truck, unhooked the blue trailer, and opened up the keep while Hannah ran her laps around the grounds. I started the heater right away as it’s only 50° right now and the temp continues to drop.
We called Hannah into the keep and Jake and I headed into town to fill up the gas cans and get some dinner at A&W. We ate once we got back and spent the rest of the night inside relaxing and watching How It’s Made. Jake fell asleep on the couch around 9:30 and I carried him back to the bedroom. I stayed up messing with some automation scripts on the PuckaPi. I let Hannah out one more time for the night, then joined my snoring kiddo around 11:00.
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.
Came up around 4:30 with a 16′ 4×4 jutting out of the back of the truck. I intend to deer-proof the bird feeders today. But first, some unloading. I stopped by my folks’ house on the way up to pick up Dad’s snowblower. It’ll stay in the pole barn for the summer. Also brought up a bunch of new blankets and sheets for the keep.
I found the auger in the pole barn and started digging a hole for the new bird feeder pole. Went as far as the handle would allow and then set the post. I had bought this stuff called Fast 2K that promised to deliver the strength and rigidity of a 50-lb bag of concrete in a 2-lb bag of 2-part expanding foam. It had all sorts of colorful warnings, the best of which was, “CAUTION! DO NOT EXCEED MIXING TIME AND NEVER ALLOW THE COMPOSITE TO START EXPANDING INSIDE THE BAG AS BAG MAY RUPTURE, CAUSING CONTENTS TO SPRAY OUT AND PERSONAL INJURY AS WELL AS PROPERTY DAMAGE TO OCCUR.” Sounds like a fine product to me. I mixed the two parts in the bag, sliced the corner, and poured it in the hole. It looked like melted black cherry ice cream; I figured I had done it wrong, or didn’t mix it enough, or something. However, after about a minute, it started rising up in the hole as thick, off-white foam. I held the post plumb for a few minutes while it set, and went to clean up. I grabbed the bag, which itself was inflating a bit, and immediately dropped it—it was red-hot. This stuff has one helluva catalytic reaction.
Lyssa, the boys, and I arrived in the truck around 10:30 am after a family breakfast at Aunt Judy’s. We also got two flats of bottled water, which I was grateful for later—it was unseasonably warm and beautiful out; it stayed sunny and in the mid-70s all day. I quickly unpacked the boys’ Power Wheels ATV and Tractor from the truck bed and they were off exploring. I stacked the snow tires for Lyssa’s car in the pole barn and headed over to the keep to get things ready to unload the rest of the truck. I got out the leaf blower and cleared around the garden shed, bird feeders, deck, and the front of the keep. Once everything was ready, I pulled the truck around and set up the patio table and four chairs on the deck. We got a new set for the house so brought up our old set. It’s a perfect fit. Between the new furniture and the chairs we already had up here, we now have deck seating for ten. I’d still like to get some little side tables, though.
With everything unloaded, I went to tidy up in the keep. I ran the vacuum cleaner through to take care of the few dead flies that had accumulated, sprayed down and wiped out the shelves in the fridge, and cleaned the table and counters with bleach cleaner. Couldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes to get things ready for the year. What a difference over last spring. Turned on the A/C so the boys would have somewhere to get relief from the sun. On my way out, I primed the pump and let it run for the rest of the day to clear out the accumulated gunk and sediment.
Another day, another speed run. Misting out, generally gloomy-looking, and damp. We need some sunshine to dry up the swamps around here. Pulled in around 3:00 pm with six 55-gallon plastic drums in the back of the truck. There are always plenty of these at the Cliff’s Oshkosh shop—it’s how they get their wiper fluid. I’m hoping to use a bunch of them for a new bird seed storage solution and the rest just come in handy for various projects. Unloaded the barrels in the pole barn and started stacking broken glass panes and window frames in their place in the bed of the truck. I’m trying to clean up around the old wood shed so we can raze it this year. Filled the truck bed to the top with the last of the glass and other assorted junk around the front of the wood shed. The only things left leaning on the building now are the large chain-link trellises Mom wants for her new house in Oshkosh.
Before heading out, I stopped at the keep to restock the liquor cabinet. I glanced over by the bird feeders only to find that most of them were gone and all of the shepherd’s hooks were bent to hell. I tracked down the three missing feeders at various points along the edge of the yard; they were all empty but none of them were damaged. I didn’t see any big footprints around, but there were some deep depressions with the diameter of a golf ball. I have to think this was the work of some very hungry deer. Building a new, taller pole for the feeders is a project that just moved way up on my list this spring.
Pulled out of the drive around 4:30. Planning to throw out the glass at the tire shop’s dumpster. That place is the gift that keeps on giving.
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.
Speed run! Wound my way up the soggy driveway with a full truck bed around 2:30 pm. I’m having sinus surgery in two days and I’m not supposed to lift over 10 lbs for a week afterwards, so I wanted to get the first spring haul out of the way. After last week’s surprise final snowstorm, this sunny, 55° day is especially welcome. Dropped off the outdoor Christmas decorations from Oshkosh, some outside toys for the boys, the propane heater and propane tank, then took a moment to hook the pole barn jukebox back up. I installed a different hard drive in that laptop over the winter so it can better handle the music collection, upgraded to Windows 10, and updated KODI as well. The tunes continue.
I also brought up a toaster for the keep, so I walked over to check out how things had fared in there the rest of the winter. There was my mousetrap, baited and set just like I left it. The place smells stuffy, like it could use a good airing out, but not musty or mouse-infested. The fact that the keep went an entire winter without a single critter incursion might be a completely unprecedented Puckaway event. God bless the new door and last summer’s kitchen overhaul.
After slightly venting a few windows for some airflow and locking up, I stopped at the garden shed to fill the bird feeders with the last of the sunflower seed. I’ll have to get more at Menards before my next trip. The chickadees were sure happy to see me. I closed up the shed and headed back to the pole barn to load up my push mower and the summer tires for Lyssa’s car. I noticed that the left rear tire on the green ATV had gone flat so I powered up the air compressor, let the tank build, and aired it back up. Can’t see a hole or hear a leak, so I’ll have to look more into it later.
I was back on the road around 4:00. Feels good to be starting a new year of projects, however short the trip.
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.
Rolled in around 11:00 am with a new riding mower on the back of the truck. It’s an early-2000s Sabre (budget John Deere) model with a 48″ deck. Dad bought it from Linda and Dennis now that they’ve sold their house in Campbellsport. I had taken it home, washed it up, and given it a tune-up. I was also going to get new mulching blades for it but ended up ordering the wrong fitment; I’ll have to bring them up another time. The mower itself is in great shape but the bagging accessories look like they’ve been through hell and back. The bag unit itself is completely unsalvageable and the chute and blower assembly will require a lot of creative patching to get up and running again. But at least it cuts. I used the ATV ramps to unload the mower and decided to try it out by trimming the areas of the yard I had mowed/mulched last month. Even with dull, worn blades, it made quick work of cutting. I even tried a few areas with a lot of leaves and it never bogged down once. I can only imagine how well it’ll do when it’s got proper, sharp, mulching blades.
I was just finishing up cutting around 12:45 when Red and Gunner pulled in, trailer in tow. Red’s mission this weekend is to gather up the aluminum cans he stored here several years back and cash them in. It didn’t take Gunner long to go into “Puckaway mode” and start sprinting huge laps around the yard. He’ll sleep well.
Arrived around 6:30 pm with a strapped down load in the truck bed. Two mattresses, some 2″x6″s and two sheets of 5/8″ OSB to build the trundle bed, 10′ 1″x12″ shelf boards, extra planks for the deck stairs, and a brand new door for my trailer. Unloaded everything into the pole barn and got my first good look at the deck in the daylight. The current goal is to finish the platform and stairs; the railing will get added on later this summer.
I hadn’t planned on resuming work on the deck until Saturday. The project for the night was to build a trundle bed and provide a much-needed upgrade to the sleeping accommodations in the trailer. I had found a simple plan for building a frame online and tweaked it to allow for a full mattress on top and a pullout twin mattress. I set up shop in the pole barn and got to work building the full mattress frame. I forgot to grab the caster wheels for the small, simple twin pullout, so that’ll have to wait. The OSB can be lifted out of the 2×6 frame leaving a light, sturdy assembly that’s pretty easy to move around.