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.
I pulled in at 11:30 with a truck full of tools, painting supplies, and a big ol’ 36″ prehung, outswing, exterior door I found for cheap on craigslist. It’ll eventually adorn the new outhouse, but for now it goes in the pole barn. Unloaded the rest of the tools and drove over to the keep where I hauled in my clothes, some clean towels and sheets, two flats of bottled water, and a cooler full of my latest batch of pickled goods. They now bide their time in the keep fridge, awaiting the brave souls who shall attend Puckaweekend 2016.
From left to right: garlic mushrooms, mustard/Tabasco eggs, horseradish eggs, pickles, Hell pickles, spicy garlic asparagus, Inferno asparagus.
With the truck emptied out and the pole barn jukebox playing some 70’s rock, it was time to set my sights on the big project of the weekend: painting the keep. I finally have a stretch of days with weather that lends itself well to painting outdoors (it’s supposed to stay under 80° with low humidity and plenty of sun all weekend), and I’m planning on making the most of it.
However, before I could even crack open a can of paint, I needed to prep the keep. I filled the bird feeders, then hauled the ladder onto the deck and used it to get a good look at the roof. What a mess. Years of leaves and small branches have piled up, decomposing into dirt in spots, the edging is pulling away in several places, the main vent pipe for the furnace is not connected to anything, and there’s grime and moss everywhere. I brought a leaf blower up and blasted the majority of the compost away, then took some sheet metal screws and secured the trim and the vent. Now it was time for the heavy equipment.
Happy, hungry boys.
The boys and I rolled in around 11:00 after getting some good Aunt Judy’s breakfast. I’ve been anxious to see how things looked now that the stain has dried, and Jake and Josh just needed to get out and play. Gorgeous day: sunny and temps in the low 70s. I opened the pole barn, hooked up the batteries in their Power Wheels ATV and tractor, and they were off exploring the yard. While the boys were bombing around, I went to check out the deck. Pretty satisfied with the results! There’s only one spot where I notice drip marks and it looks like it generally took the stain pretty evenly throughout. Last night’s rain caused a bunch of pollen to drop off the maple trees, though, so I think I’ll hold off on touching up the cracks between the planks until I can feel confident in hosing it down first.
If the feeders still get knocked down after this, I give up.
My main goal today was to build a squirrel/raccoon baffle for the feeder pole. I bought a 5′ section of 12″ round heating duct and a 12″ tee cap. I cut the cap in half and notched out two triangles on each piece. These halves were joined together again around the post using the two cut-off pieces and this assembly was supported by an 11″ piece of rebar that was slid through a hole drilled in the post. The “pipe” section was snapped together around the base of the post, cut down to about 48″, and screwed to the cap. It sounds relatively simple when written out, but this stupid thing fought me every step of the way. The cap kept coming apart once it was cut, the pipe did NOT want to snap together, I had to use ratchet straps to lift the pipe into position to mate it with the cap, and I burned through the last cutting wheel for my Dremel saw and had to finish trimming the pipe with a sawzall. This caused the cap to blow apart one last time so now, after a bunch of swearing and grumbling, the whole thing is held together with fencing wire. I’ll eventually replace the junk cap with one I don’t cut in half and only slide down the pole, but this will work for now.
Pulled in at 12:30 pm hauling the blue 5’x8′ utility trailer. It’s nice having it back up here and will certainly prove useful in carting the scrap out of the wood shed. In the upper 60s, mostly sunny, with a slight breeze. Perfect weather to apply some stain. I unhooked the trailer and unloaded my paint/stain supplies from the back of the pickup. I headed to the keep to see if the deck needed any last-minute cleaning/prep and saw that two of my bird feeders were on the ground. Damn raccoons. They managed to unscrew the top from the tall feeder (which is how you fill it) and sent it clattering to the ground with the mounting ring still secured to the stand. The mesh feeder was just plain knocked down. I reassembled the tall feeder and drilled a hole through the top mount and the rod that it threads onto. I stuck a cotter pin through this hole. Any raccoon that can figure out how to remove a cotter pin deserves the bird seed. This will work for now, but I really need to build and install a baffle on the pole.
With the feeders filled and hung back up, I grabbed a leaf blower and made sure the deck was completely cleared off. I also covered the side of the keep with plastic drop cloth and wedged some big cardboard pieces between the keep and the railings. While I planned on staining the swing first, I wanted all of the prep out of the way. I changed into some old work clothes from the drawers in the keep bedroom and headed back out.
It was time to start staining. I got the power sprayer out, filled the cup with stain (and promptly made a mess—this stuff is thinner than I was anticipating), pulled the trigger on the sprayer, and… nothing. Just a low buzz from the gun. Great.
Pulled in at 10 pm and backed the truck up inside the pole barn to get out of the rain. Unloaded my tools, the patched-up mower blower components, and a few sheets of OSB. We had used them as makeshift tables for our garage sale in Oshkosh, but I plan on building a leaf-collection trailer box out of them. While I was still in the pole barn, I used my phone as a hotspot to download the latest Kodi update and sync the OneDrive account on the jukebox PC. I also copied the most recent music collection update off of my USB drive.
The rain let up, so I drove over to the keep to unload more goodies and settle in for the night. Since the pressure washer pump setup worked so well, I bought a second pump, reservoir, and strainer to use in the keep. This way, I can pursue the indoor plumbing project without sacrificing the ability to keep things clean outside. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and watched some Netflix for a bit before heading to bed around 11:30.
I love seeing these guys at the feeders. At one point there were seven of them at the same time.
Up around 7:30 and on my way to Aunt Judy’s soon after. Several of the staff including Judy herself made a point to ask where my little buddy was. My waffle-eater is a local celebrity. After enjoying a ham and cheese omelet and several cups of coffee, I headed back to Puckaway to get a day’s worth of projects underway. I started by filling the feeders. The squirrels have no problem getting up and down the pole now that they’re used to it being there, so I need to hurry up and build a baffle if I want the seed to last between trips. The new setup definitely draws more birds; we had chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, house finches, juncos, downy woodpeckers, and even a red-bellied woodpecker. I’ll need to clear some of the gnarly low branches in this part of the yard to open things up a little better for them all.
Jake and I rode in around 7:00 pm after a stop at Piggly Wiggly to stock the fridge and cabinets. Got all kinds of goodies: brats and italian sausage, canned veggies, chips and salsa, juice boxes and snacks for the boys (Jake picked out some Little Debbie brownies), essentials like ketchup, mustard, horseradish, and butter, and two six-packs of different Wisconsin craft beers. There’s now a whole aisle devoted to smaller Wisconsin breweries at the Princeton Pig—a welcome surprise. I brought in the groceries and goods from Oshkosh while Jake got his trucks set up by the pole barn.
With the fire danger holding at Moderate, it was safe enough to burn in the pit. I started the pump and began to fill a 55-gallon drum as a precaution, pulled the truck around to the pole barn, poured some old boat gas around the base of the pile, and tossed a match. Wasn’t long before we had a roaring fire. I kept an eye on it while unloading tools from the back of my truck. Once the pine boughs and smaller branches all burned off, we were left with a sizeable pile of thick logs and a warm, low flame. Jake and I cozied up on the bench in front of the pole barn and watched it burn down until he decided he was tired enough to turn in for the night.
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.
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.
The new outdoor outlets. The left pair is always live and each outlet on the right is controlled by a switch inside the trailer to power the deck and outhouse lights respectively.
Arrived a little before 5:00 pm with Lyssa. My folks have the boys so we can go out for our anniversary this weekend. We’ve got reservations at Grey Rock in Green Lake, so we’re staying here for the night. The fall colors are just starting to creep in; lots of yellow leaves toward the south end of the property and the maple over the deck is already bright red. Lyssa remarked right away upon opening the trailer how nice and “homey” things are getting around here. The place looks (and smells!) pretty great.
With our reservations at 7:15, there was just enough time to finish a small project before we left for dinner. I started securing the deck lights to the railings. I also brought up and set out four more deck chairs that I had picked up on Craigslist. Before the sun even started setting, I heard a pair of owls start calling from across the road. Seemed pretty early for them to be up and about.