Top photo: A bulldozer and a compactor wait in the driveway as a day we were waiting for finally arrived -- the "final grade." Not everything is finished yet, but it allowed for the steps off the deck to finally be built (below).
The first fire
At builder Jim Langendorf's suggestion, I built the first fire in the fireplace. It drew well until I accidentally closed the damper while adding a log. Then, it didn't draw so well, but the smoke alarms really worked well.
The driveway gets a more finished look with the help of a compactor.
This old International Harvester Scout showed up at the Mauston McDonald's, where I went for lunch on Sunday. It reminded me of the old red one that brother Tom and I took up to the farm from Texas in the mid-1960s. I recently found the letters we wrote home from that trip.
We got a late start on trying to burn the sugar maple stump. We should have been working at it all summer.
Time for improving the landscape
The right equipment makes it a lot easier process
One by one, the great-grandchildren of Burt and Margaret (Mom and Dad) have made their way to the tree farm. On the day after Thanksgiving, Ethan DeBaun got his first look -- although at just under three months old, he probably won't remember much about it. Still it was a milestone.
This was a big trip because of Ethan's visit with his Mom and Dad, Ani and Nate, and because the carpeting had been laid, meaning we could move in some bedroom furniture and finally spend a fairly comfortable night in the new house. Even though the water heater still was not connected, the stove and refrigerator were working and we could make coffee in the morning.
Beyond that, I had hoped to do at least a little deer hunting and then to be there on Monday for the final grading.
Ethan and his parents just stayed for the day and headed home about dark, which is pretty early these days, but not before Nate had helped me move a little furniture in. We put up an old double bed in the downstairs bedroom, one we hope to replace fairly soon with a queen-size bed. Since we're still not very set up for normal living inside, Gayle and I decided to try Target Bluff German Haus supper club in Camp Douglas, once a family favorite that seems to have had better days. We both had the fish fry buffet, which was acceptable, but we were just about the only people in the restaurant, hopefully just because it was the day after Thanksgiving and people were still home enjoying the leftovers from the previous day's feast.
Saturday we spent sweeping and cleaning some and getting more furniture in the house, then we did some more priming and painting. The temperature was more stubborn and never really climbed much above 40, and it rained or drizzled much of the day. At mid-afternoon, Gayle headed back to the city.
I spent my first night alone in the house, and since I didn't sleep that well, I didn't get out in the woods to hunt deer on Sunday morning until almost 8:30, two hours too late for a serious hunter. But it was cold and gray...and the house was pretty comfortable. I did get a couple of hours in the woods that morning, first down south in the pines, then I headed up across the hill. The road up from the south end had been cleared by neighbor Dave Clark, who hopefully took some of the downed oak for himself. We had gotten a lot of snags cut up earlier in the fall when family was up for a visit, but had left one that blocked the way.
As I got to the top of the hill, the summer thicket created by the 2008 logging had died down pretty well. I didn't get too far in before a doe about 70 yards away jumped up and bounded over the hill out of sight. As I went closer to where she had been, two more jumped up and followed her. They all were gone so fast, and I didn't have a shot from the top of the hill anyway. An errant bullet would have traveled a along way before falling to earth at some unknown spot, and no good hunter will take a shot like that.
Not that I'm that good of a hunter, because I didn't get a deer. In the afternoon when I hunted at the far south end of the pines I saw three deer quickly cross the main road in the center of the plantation. It likely was the same three does, I think. Anyway, dusk and drizzle ended my day as I headed back to the house for a long evening and a bowl of soup.
Monday, Jim and Luke were outside cleaning up the yard when I dragged myself out of bed around a quarter to 7. I quickly opened the house up, and they seemed slightly reluctant to come in and "intrude" on our humble start at housekeeping, but I told them I still considered the place theirs from 6 a.m. on, which seems to have been their starting time for most of the project. I found out that Luke got a nice 9-point buck hunting on his parents' farm, his biggest deer ever.
A little later, the workers from Hamm Brothers in Mauston arrived for the grading, the same folks who had been there to tear down and haul off the old house. Tom was the main operator and did a fine job moving dirt around the house without bumping into it or the deck or the smokehouse, or even the old concrete gate posts by the smokehouse. They brought several loads of gravel and put in a new driveway, which will certainly be useful until we get some landscaping done in the spring. At least along the north side of the house, and between the house and the garage, we won't have a sea of mud. And of course in a few weeks, it will all be frozen and probably snow-covered anyway. And, as a bonus, Tom took another hour and opened up the road below the garage, the one I have been working on for years with a pick and shovel to try to make it level enough and wide enough to mow with the Cub. His bulldozer also pushed the trunk of the giant white oak that fell down a few years ago clear out of the way.
After lunch, I started a fire in the new fireplace because Jim thought i should give it a try. And I don't have to be persuaded too hard on a cold day to build a fire. The chimney drew great, and I added several logs to keep it going. When I did the last one, however, I inadvertantly shut the damper as well as the screen. The house quickly filled up with smoke and all of the smoke alarms were going off like
crazy. There can't be more than a dozen, but it sounded like 40 and the one upstairs even says "Fire" in a woman's voice. Luckily, Luke was there (Jim had gone off on an errand) and helped me get the alarms shut off and the house opened up for airing out.
At the end of the day, Jim and Luke had finished up some last minute details and Jim told me it would probably be the last time I saw Luke, as he would be on to bigger projects. It was sad news, even though it meant that the house is nearly done. We've felt like we have had really quality people working on this project and we have a house that will last at least another 50 years for DeBaun family members -- and probably 100 years or more. Although a lot of us won't be here then, it's nice to think that the house built by the men and women who worked on this project will be.
Now, we're eager to get more moved in and settled and get on with what the house is here for -- a wonderful place to stay while we're tneding and enjoying our wonderful piece of the Wisconsin woods.
Tom from Hamm Brothers works on the road below the garage, where it makes a hairpin turn and heads down into the north valley.