Quick trip today. Pulled in around 7:00 with the aluminum ATV trailer in tow and the pooch in the backseat. Dad was already up here with his friend Nick, a retired electrician. Nick’s going to be helping us install a new meter and outdoor panel, replacing our ancient push-o-matic 60 amp service with a brand-new 200 amp service panel. I’ll eventually be able to re-route the pole barn and keep lines to this new panel and bump them each up to 30 amp in the process. I talked with Nick about the specifics of my current runs and he’ll be getting back to us with a time he can come back up and perform the install. This will be a major and long-overdue upgrade; I’m looking forward to it!
Service for eight. We’re fancy now.
Dad and Nick left around 7:30 so I opened up the keep and dropped off some supplies and recent acquisitions. Having on-demand hot water makes it much easier to do dishes, so I bought a set of silverware for the keep. No more eating steaks with plastic forks! I also got a turner spatula, ladle, and serving spoon so we can be ready for anything from chili to fried eggs. I dropped off the freshly-laundered linens in the bedroom, too.
Speed run! Drove in around 5:30 after picking up a table and chairs set in Berlin, a nice craigslist find for only $20. Hannah came along for the ride. I was glad to replace the keep’s kitchen chairs; the foam cushions are really showing their age. I’m keeping the current table for now as it seems nicer and larger than the one I picked up today. I unloaded the old chairs and new table in the pole barn and collected all the trash/recyclables as long as I was leaving here with an otherwise empty truck bed. While I was here, I got an email reply from the local scrapyard: turns out they will absolutely accept riding lawnmowers, so I’m hoping to be back up here sometime next week to make some more room around the woodshed ruins. The pooch and I were on the road again by 6:15.
Rode up around 5:00 with my tools and some goodies from Menards. It’s been unseasonably cool lately but things are warming back up for the weekend. The first thing I noticed upon unlocking the door and stepping into the trailer is that the place smells great! I think the cabinet renovation took care of the worst of the pest infestation as my two mousetraps remain un-tripped. The true test will come when the weather turns cold and the little critters start looking for somewhere out of the elements to hunker down. Keep looking, you monsters; no vacancy.
Unloaded the truck and got to work putting the finishing touches on the recent trailer improvements. I capped the holes in the kitchen sink that were left from taking out the useless faucet and installed carpet edging around the new lineoleum. I also brought up carpet edging for the bathroom door, a trim strip for the carpet seam in the hallway, and some quarter-round for the base of the kitchen cabinet and walls. I will save that work for another trip, however. My main focus now is the pole barn.
Came up at 6:30 and got things settled in the trailer. Turned on the A/C right away as it was 80° out with 90% humidity. Had to clean out the drain hole on the back of the unit as the fan was slinging water. I need to come up with a solution to protect that from the elements and leaves and whatnot while still letting it vent properly. I spent some time in the pole barn getting a workstation set up for cutting down the trailer door, the one project I’m absolutely determined to finish this weekend. Aside from looking much better, being able to latch and lock again, and doing a better job of insulating the trailer, I’m hoping this cuts off one more point of critter entry.
I installed the adapter I needed to finish the kitchen sink drain and tested everything out. I really appreciate being able to wash up inside—sure beats hanging out by the pump with all the mosquitoes. Dressed the bed with the clean sheets I brought up with me and did some general housekeeping. Spent the rest of the night lounging and watching TV. It’s going to be a busy weekend, so I might as well relax while I can. The new “ducting” on the A/C sure seems to help it circulate better; it got down to 70° in the trailer and the difference in humidity is immediately noticeable as soon as you go outside. In bed by 10:30.
The main trailer door was in bad shape.
It was actually the third door to be in bad shape. The first, the original door to the trailer, had peeled and rotted away from years of disuse and exposure to the elements thanks to both a lack of weather protection around the frame and the trailer having sat in the yard at a slight tilt for many years. The second door was a hollow-core interior door that fell apart almost immediately and never fit well into the existing frame. And the latest door was a hastily hung interior door from my house that couldn’t even latch. Gaps wide enough to fit a determined housecat existed along the top and bottom of the door frame. The new deck looked so nice that it made the door seem even worse by comparison, so it was time to give this project the attention it deserved.
The problem with mobile homes, especially older, smaller ones, is that pretty much everything is at a reduced dimension compared to normal construction. This saves space and weight, which are important for the “mobile” part of a mobile home. But it makes finding replacement materials and effecting proper repairs a little challenging. A standard rough opening for an exterior door is 82 1/2″ tall, minimum. The rough opening for the trailer is less than 79″. There are specialty mobile home catalogs and suppliers out there, but you certainly pay for the privilege of custom-fit parts. The cheapest exterior door assembly I found during my initial research was over $300 and it was pretty plain and flimsy looking. I knew Menards had steel exterior doors for around half that price, but at a standard height. Could I actually cut down a door like that?
Even in its incomplete state, the deck has become a welcome addition to the property. But there’s still plenty of work to be done on it; it’s hard to relax in one of the lounge chairs when you don’t know if you’re going to pitch backwards off the platform. It’s time to tackle the railing.
Once again, SketchUp was instrumental in planning and visualizing this project. Among other things, it helped me decide how to finish the rail cap corners. Joining them at a 45 degree angle is difficult to get right and invites later warping. Instead, I had them meet at right angles, but with notches cut in the long board where the corners meet. It’s a simple, clean look and compliments the two small 45 degree corner rail sections. All of the posts are attached from outside of the deck platform. This way, none of the square footage of the platform is lost by adding the rails and none of the planking needs to be cut to accommodate the posts. It’s also easier to clean up and would disassemble relatively easy should we ever need to move the deck.
Came up a little before 8pm with a tarped load in some intermittently heavy rain. Backed the truck into the pole barn and unloaded the woodworking tools and hardwood pieces I picked up after my last trip up. It’s nice having all of that out of the Oshkosh garage, and it’s really nice being able to say I “backed the truck into the pole barn.” Up until a few years ago, that statement would be describing an accident.
Before it got too dark, I noticed how much new-growth grass we had this year in the area between the driveway entrance and pole barn. It’s nice to see the yard reestablishing itself.
The rain really started pouring as I finished wrestling down the last drill and sander from the truck bed. I need to put a small section of rain gutter above the pole barn entry door. It’s like looking out from behind a waterfall. I finished unloading the tools I brought up and the supplies from Menards for repairing the outdoor outlet for the pole barn. My first setup didn’t stand up to winter very well, so this time I got the same type of PVC box and conduit I used for all the other outdoor outlets. I installed this during breaks in the rain, but still need to wire it back in.
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.
The PMC Clubhouse had an accessibility problem. The back door opened three feet above the ground and the front entrance had a precariously balanced set of steel stairs and some very uneven terrain right outside. Tracking in dirt and sand has always been a problem, and we never really hung out outside much since there wasn’t much to the yard. It was time for a deck.
Using a tape measure and scratching into the ground with my shoe, I felt out various possible sizes. I settled on 12′ square since it provided ample space while keeping my shopping list and design needs simple.
Trimble SketchUp (previously Google SketchUp) is instrumental in planning any kind of building project. I scoured the internet for deck building tips and methods and got to work drawing the deck frame. SketchUp gives you the liberty to work out your mistakes before you ever cut or even buy a single board. I was able to tweak my design so I could use 2x8s for most of the joists and for the beams, only using 2x10s for the outside border. This saved a decent amount of money. I designed some 45-degree 2×4 cross-braces that required me to tweak the location of the corner posts. It all worked out perfectly and the notching and angle cut on the beams add a nice look to the final product. I also wanted a wider set of stairs come out the side rather than the front. This gives us more room to get by with the trucks and ATVs and helps define the little “yard” area in front of the trailer. The metal stairs get reused for the back door.
Shop Vac – Jonathan Coulton
Puckaway tends to attract some uninvited guests. Particularly mice. Particularly mice that get in my trailer. Particularly mice that get in my trailer and wreck all my clothes and blankets. We’ve made some strides in keeping them at bay, though. This is mostly thanks to the miracle of expanding foam sealant and me blasting it into every crack and possible point of entry I can find. And then there’s vacuum bags.
They’re mostly known for turning this: