After the fire

I have never experienced the complete upset of watching a fire ravage through an area even remotely close to me before, so when we heard the news of the Parry Sound 33 fire I had no concerns. How bad can a little fire get here, it’s not BC or California. They have wild fires, but it couldn’t happen to our little piece of heaven. Boy, was I wrong! We had packed up our car to head north on July 20 for a typical weekend, but just as we were about to leave we got word of evacuations happening on the Key River. I think I was still kind of not believing what I was hearing, and that we would be back to normal the next weekend.

Watching each for each report and constantly check Facebook for updates from the Key River Area Association, my Dad, Nick and I were so worried and constantly analyzing what we had read and what could it all mean. We all had visions of our little slice of heaven going up in flames and what that would mean for us. Would we have a boat? What about the dock?  Then of course bigger questions like how does one go about rebuilding a cottage in a water access location, and how long would that take, and how many others would need to be rebuilt too? We also considered that if this was the way the cottage was going to go it was probably the best as insurance would cover the clean up and hauling out of the mess.

Map of the fire damage. We were so lucky to not have any damage.

The fire grew so rapidly, and we all just watched with horror and baited breath waiting for news of our cottage. Finally on August 10 after almost 3 weeks of evacuation and restrictions, we were allowed to go!!! There were river restrictions to allow the water bombers and helicopters to do their job. We had to be off of the river by 8am and nobody was allowed on the river until 8pm. We made the journey North at 4am and safely arrived at the harbour by 7. We had packed enough provisions for a week, including a new generator as the power had been off for 3 weeks and we had no idea when it would return, and all the gas to power it. We had finished loading and the battery in the boat was flat, luck had it that we were able to get a boost and we high tailed it out of the harbour to make it to the cottage for 8.

At the highway there was no sign of damage, so as we left we had no idea what was in store for the river. I could smell the burnt trees before I could see them. There was blackened stumps and rocks, a moonscape is what some people have referred to it as. The rocks are bare, just blackened by the fire and ash. It was patchy damage and there were some signs of life close to the river and some areas where you could hardly tell. Some cottages had fire within a couple of feet of the cabin, They are so lucky! We continued on down the river no knowing yet, and as we came out of the narrows into the bay before our cottage we had this huge sense of relief. It looked the same! as we pulled up to the dock I think my dad, Nick and I simultaneously relaxed and started to laugh a little. Our cottage was there, our little solar lights were all still where we left them, Dad’s planter was looking a little over grown, not even wilting!

On the way up the river.
One of the camps for the firefighters. They did such an amazing job!
Almost to beaver creek on the river.
More devastation.

We started to unload and walked up to the door of the back cabin, and the smell of rotting fridge was in the air. We were lucky to only have 1 garbage bag of rotten food, and also lucky that someone came and got it as soon as we had finished emptying it. We thought we might be able to continue using the fridge but as it turns out, it was the worst smelling thing I have ever smelled. We are lucky that we have an ancient fridge in our front cabin that was unplugged and just waiting to be used. Its a Crosley Shelvador from roughly the 1950s, and it started up and ran no problem. So we took our rotten fridge and set it out at the end of the dock for clean up. The city paid for the clean up of old appliances. Practically everyone had at least one fridge sitting on the dock.

Cleaning out the fridge.
Getting rid of the rotten fridge. So glad we didn’t have to haul it out.

It was so great to be able to spend a week at the cottage. It was a much needed break for everyone. The girls swam two or three times a day and I joined them at least once a day. The water was beautifully warm and so clear from the lack of boats stirring up the bottom. There were helicopters flying overhead at least 5 times a day, we got quite used to hearing them buzzing around and watching. A couple of them flew quite low over our cottage and the dogs thought that they could take it on and proceeded to chase it as far as they could. It must have been quite a laugh for the pilot to see two Pomeranians and a beagle chasing him.

 

 

Ava enjoying the sun.
Ava and hazel enjoying the morning sunshine.
Leah getting ready for breakfast
Nothing like breakfast outside! The noms are watch closely for spilt food.
Harvesting soe yummy potatoes
Splashing in the puddles
Sunset. This year the sunsets look very tropical.

 

Leah is finally tall enough to paddle the little paddle boat all on her own. She loved that sense of freedom. She and Ava spent many hours just paddling around our little bay looking at water lilies and watching the crayfish, turtles and fish swimming around in the shallows. We did get some good sunset cruises in, even with the restrictions. Dad and I took Leah out to explore one of the islands we go to a lot. It has great swimming and a nice place to pull up the boat. Hopefully when we go back up for our week in September we will be able to have a picnic lunch somewhere, and explore a new island.

Leah and Ava took Hazel for a ride in the boat. All three of them loved it.
Conservation officers making sure everyone is safe, and obeying the travel restrictions.
Last sunset of the week

With the summer drawing to a close, I am looking forward to one more full week at the cottage and perhaps a couple more weekends in the fall. Wow did that season fly by.

 

Summer Weekends

I have been so busy with life that it is hard to keep up with my blog as well. June seems to have promptly disappeared, and we have survived the first full week of summer vacation (wish it was for adults as well – guess I should have been a teacher?) Most of that week has been spent at the cottage doing summer things. Swimming, fishing, hiking, being eaten alive by mosquitos, and a camp fire for s’mores.

One of many sunsets!

Leah has finished her first year of school and is looking forward to starting grade one, and being able to show her little sister the ropes as she starts junior kindergarten.

Leah on her last day of kindergarten!

Leah had her birthday at the end of June, I had a party for her with 8 of her friends. It was a bit wild, but the kids were such a good bunch, and so well behaved. It was a good first experience so I guess she can have another one next year.

A whole crowd of kids for Leah’s Birthday!

The two girls have grown and changed so much this year. I can’t wait to see how they take on the new challenges of the new school year. For now though, it is summer, so let the kids be kids!

The water has been maintaining a good level this year, which makes our river quite nice to go swimming in. It was up to 72 degrees this weekend, perfect for a cooling swim after spending the day replacing water pipes under the cottage. The girls are loving being able to swim two or three times a day. They are also getting better at self entertainment and have their own games they play while we get some work done or just enjoying a good book.

Ava enjoying the water.
Leah is getting brave and fast, as long as she has her lifejacket.
Nick and the girls watching the Canada Day Boat Parade.
Hazel loves the water too.

Nick and I put in a new water system this weekend. We have changed over to  new pipes and run through a UV filtration system and we have an RO system that we should hopefully be able to drink. This will be great to reduce the number of water bottles we need to buy and hopefully we will be a bit better about drinking more water.

Nick working on the plumbing under the cottage.
After I had to hacksaw a tap right out of place! This is a reason why I am not a plumber. Cheers to those who are. Its tough work!
Working on installing the UV system.

This summer has been busy, and the weekends just seem to fly by. I can’t wait to get back to the cottage for our August week. It is so great to spend more than just a weekend.

Such a nice way to finish the evening!
Sunset on our cruise out towards Georgian Bay.

May Days

I finally put my office back together after having it torn apart for the better part of a month to redo the flooring. It is much easier to use my computer when I have a desk to work at, being home helps too. I was away for the first 3 weekends in May. I got to attend a fantastic Symposium for Animal Health in Quebec City. I learned so much and had some awesome networking opportunities. I also learned that I really need to go back there and eat more food and tour around a bit more. We went to visit Nick’s relatives in Kingston the following weekend. It one of my favourite cities to visit for the food and time with family. We always stop in at Pan Chancho’s and I finally got to eat at Wooden Heads (http://woodenheads.com) The pizza was awesome, and some of the conversations we overheard were very entertaining.

We finally made it to the opening weekend of the cottage, with a new boat in tow. That drive up with the boat attached is one of the most nerve wracking things to me. Which is why we make Nick drive the truck up. It was one of the most smooth launches we have ever had. The trailer handles really well. We had been itching to get to the cottage since we closed it. Friday afternoon the weather was perfect! We got the water all hooked up, the composting toilet set up, and we discovered a family of mice had moved in for the winter. I spent most of the rainy day on Saturday cleaning up. I was glad that it was raining because at least I didn’t feel bad about wasting the sunshine being inside.

Saturday morning was spent getting the garden cleaned up and planting in the potatoes, they grow so well in the compost we have. As the weather gets warmer we will be taking up some tomatoes, and some herbs for cooking. The girls were so desperate to go swimming that I finally agreed to take them. The ice had only been out for maybe a week or so and the water was at most 60 degrees. Leah hopped in a refused to admit she was freezing until a boat went by and splashed her. She was in cottage by the fire in no time after that. Ava managed to get her toes wet and said that was enough until the water warms up.  There was a power outage while we were there. I am so happy that we use the BBQ for most meals and we have some beautiful cast iron pans that we use on the wood stove to make breakfast. Bacon cooked in a heap in a pan is so delicious and it makes the cottage smell so good.

breakfast cooked on the wood stove! So yummy.
First toe in the river, She was so brave. I probably won’t get in until end of June.
Ava followed suit and was chasing her sister in.
Getting the compost turned into the garden and planting the potatoes

On Sunday it was sunny but cold. We got the smoker up and running we made a great chicken, we brined it and then did a dry rub and smoked for a couple of hours. It was so tender and flavourful. I definitely want to give that a go again. It was great to catch up with everyone after the winter and relax in the fresh air. The Beavers were busy in the swamp this winter, building lots of new dams and creating quite the large mosquito breeding ground.

Our smoker all ready for the chicken!
Wood all chopped and ready to use, mostly Maple and Birch.

The weather is always the best on the day we have to leave. The girls had their bikes out and we enjoyed several cups of coffee on the deck watching them play and the river lazily flowing by. We took the boat out into the bay for a few minutes. The wind was just a bit too cold to last long, I found myself wishing for a toque. Then we came home and slowly ate our lunch, and then packed with a mad dash after noticing the time. We seemed to lead a bit of a mass exodus from the river. I’m guessing everyone does the same thing. At least the drive wasn’t overly long either way this time. As summer progresses the traffic will get worse. One day I would love to just stay there for the summer,I guess that is for when I can retire.

Fist sunset of the season, there will be plenty more to come!

The cottage box is starting to build up in the front hall again. I sense another trip soon!

 

Fall Things

October is coming to a close and I’m finally finding some time to catch up on the many things that have happened since the last time I posted.

We enjoyed a beautiful weekend at the cottage. It was the last one of the season for the girls and myself. With such perfect weather it is really hard to close up and say goodbye for winter. We enjoyed a morning in the bush picking cranberries, and hiking around the swamp.

Learning about cranberries.
Cranberry in the sun.
Cranberries.

We stopped for a snack on the top of one of my favourite rocks and actually took a family photo for once. (see, we do things together)

All together!

After our hike, Leah and I tested the water, it was still pretty warm being the last day of September, however it was still chilly and the swim turned into more of a quick dip. However that is something that can go on the calendar as the latest swim of the season.

Leah deciding that the water might be just a little on the cold side.
I went for quick dip after supper, I’m so glad I did, but I am so glad that there was a fire in the cabin to sit by after!

Back home we got our apple picking done (look – another family photo! We are getting better at using the timer on the camera) and made several batches of apple sauce, a bunch of apple pies in the freezer and a couple apple crisps for the freezer too. I also made 11 jars of poached pears. I can’t wait to try them! The garden is finally producing some beautiful tomatoes and I grew enough tomatillos to make a jar of salsa verde properly rather than making it with mostly green tomatoes.

The girls enjoying the fall sunshine and a wagon ride!
Leah showing Dad how the wagon works.
All together again!
A beautiful apple catching the evening light.
Fresh heirloom tomatoes from the garden!
Salsa verde stewing.
The girls love the leaves that fall in the backyard.

This weekend I got most of the spring bulbs planted. I think this is the best weather I have had for planting. Im usually out in mitts and a hat, hoping that its still warm enough for the bulbs to settle in for the winter before frost sets in.

Cyclamen in full bloom, they are loving the heat too.
Planting bulbs. Loving the new Felco secateurs that my mom got for Nick for his birthday. Naturally, I use them whenever I can get my hands on them.

Im hoping that the weather holds out for a few more days so I can get the last 120 bulbs in. The girls are getting excited for Halloween, They have their costumes ready and I will hopefully get some pumpkins this week. Pinterest has some new and great ideas (as always) that I am excited to try. Off to bed now, school in the morning.

September…

Where did September go? It feels like the summer slipped through my fingers faster than ever.

September started off pretty miserably, We went for the first week to the cottage and it rained for the weekend, and then it was cold for most of the week. We did get some much needed cottage maintenance completed though. I also got to harvest a very full crop of fingerling potatoes. They grew very well in our compost and beaver muck mix. I tried to change things up a bit and worked on getting some sunrises rather than the typical sunset. It is a bit easier this time of year as the sun gets up at 6:30ish rather than the typical 4:30/5 that happens earlier in the summer.

A juvenile gar pike.
First sunset. The wind was very strong.
Washing our potatoes! What a good sized crop.
Interesting mushroom growing behind the cottage.
Mucking in the beaver swamp.

Boys will be boys they say. Well these two enjoy mucking in their unintentional cottage uniform.

On our second last day we visited Piney Island, It was a great hike even though the kids weren’t all that thrilled by the end.

Visiting Piney Island.
Boat ride with the girls!
Another stunning sunset!
Warming up by the wood stove.
Papa teaching Leah the fine art of Michaud cooking.
Sunrise at the Key!
Sunset right down the middle of the river.

With the return from our holiday, so began Leah’s elementary school career! So far she has been having a ball! She has made so many new friends and enjoys most of her time there. It was a bit of an adjustment period, but we are working out the kinks and she comes home with so many happy funny stories everyday.

Leah’s First day!

It also seemed that with the return of school came a hot, beautiful Indian summer! The last couple weekends at the cottage have been spectacular. I have swam more in the past two weeks than I have all summer.

Another beautiful sunrise
Examining a crow that I found by the water’s edge.
Turns out it probably hit a tree, and then had a bit of heat stroke. Cooled him off and away he went!

We are heading back for a weekend or two more before close up, hard to believe that time of year is upon us. I already bought one Christmas present and the crafts are starting to get planned out! Off to the kitchen there is salsa to make!

The summer house

We have spent most of August up at the cottage this year. We only missed one weekend. It is wonderful to spend the time there, our northern garden seems to be much happier than its counterpart in the south.

We started off august with a full week at the cottage. It really helps everyone unwind and enjoy life at a slightly slower pace. One of my favourite things is watching the kids play in muddy puddles and splash in the river.

Early morning on the river. Mist rising off the water as the sun rises
Kids are up and ready for action!

My grandmother had a wonderful old washtub at the cottage. It has served as a bathtub for the youngsters for the last few summers. They are realizing that they both don’t really fit anymore. Amazing how much difference a year makes.

Wash tub fun.
Swimming. The water is always warm enough for the girls.
Evening swim, Best way to settle down for the night.
Hunting for frogs.

This photo isn’t the best, but it is a view from the kitchen sink. This may sound very housewifely but it just warms my heart to watch the kids play outside while I wash the dishes. I love watching them find fun new games and things to do without really being in their way.

Watching Ava play

We had a great reunion of a family that used to own our cottage. It was great to share stories about our time up there. Most of the things haven’t changed, Even most of the furniture is the same.

Reunion with the Long clan.

Out cottage is home to a somewhat rare lizard called the 5 lined Skink. They have established a viable colony under our cottage and we see them running through our garden and on the rocks. This year we were there for some hatchlings! They have a vibrant blue tail that stands out on the rocks. We also have had numerous sandhill cranes move into the swamp. They have a very interesting call, I think it sounds like what a pterodactyl would sound like.

Baby 5 lined skink.
Sandhill crane

Blueberries were fantastic this year. We had many breakfasts of blueberry pancakes. We also picked lots for the freezer. There is nothing like a hint of summer in the dead of winter.

Blueberries all ready for the freezer.

We had so many great sunsets. I will only share a few… I need to go through my photos and edit/delete some. One night I took 200 photos. The sun and sky change so fast every picture feels like its better than the last.

Sunset from the first night.

We went out into the Bay with our friends for the last night and the water was perfectly calm. One of the most beautiful nights this year. Leah loves to drive the boat. She’s learned all about the markers and what they mean.

Leah driving the boat. She loves to be the captain.
Sun setting into the Georgian Bay.
Almost gone.
Last rays of sunshine.

We are heading back for another week at the summer house tomorrow. It will probably be the last long stretch of time for the summer. The mornings are cooler and the days are shorter. I guess that time of year is upon us. Leah starts school in a week, and we will be able to get back to a good routine soon, I hope.

The one about cottage trips

We have been to the cottage a lot so far this summer and it has been awesome!

We found a Spotted Turtle. I love showing the girls all about the plants and animals in the world around them. It is a great opportunity to learn about the type of turtle, where they live and what they eat.

Learning about turtles. This is a spotted turtle.
Spotted turtle

A first of many beautiful sunsets.

First summer sunset.
My favourite Iris.

For Canada Day, We got all dressed up and decorated our neighbour’s boat and joined in the Canada Day boat Parade on the river. It was a great social event. It was fun to see so many people out on the water and we had a great fireworks display to end the evening.

Canada Day! It is next to impossible to have all the dogs and kids in the picture and have them all looking at me!
Canada Day Parade
The Canada Day Boat parade. The water was a little bit rough and it was a little cloudy, but we had a great time!
The winning boat!
Getting ready to “march”

Having a cottage isn’t always about having fun. There’s lots of work to do around the place. One of our current projects is getting a better water system in place.

Cottage projects never end. This is for our water system

The cottage air, and being outside most of the day tires a little girl out.

Cottage air makes you sleepy
The girls soaking up some summer sun.
Another beautiful sunset!

 

The river was warm enough for me to get in last weekend. It is fun being able to get out an enjoy the water with the kids.

Swimming! Summer has officially begun.

As we are installing the new water system. We need to drill some holes for tie down points.

The boys working hard drilling holes in the rocks.
The river at sunset.

Rising early means, fresh blueberries for pancakes.

Blueberry picking
Fresh blueberry pancakes on the griddle
Breakfast outside in the summer sunshine

I can’t wait to head back north. It has been so awesome to get up to the cottage so many times this summer.

Last Minute Trip

We had a great quick trip to the cottage. We left late Friday afternoon and came back on Sunday. The little time we had up there was perfect! The sun was shining and the breeze kept the bugs at bay.

a girl and her dog
Still best friends.

The girls spent the morning swimming. The water was warm enough for them, I think I will wait another week or two before I’m ready to get in.

Getting in the water for the first time this season!
Ava loving getting back in the river
Leah, acting like a fish. She didn’t want to get out!

We spent most of the day just relaxing and doing cottage things, like gardening, and playing with chalk, and a bit of fishing.

Leah practicing making patterns with chive flowers.
Ginger taste testing the chives.
Muskoka chairs, a drink and a dog. #cottagelife
Hawk, looking handsome.
Leah helping plant some tomatoes.
Ava planting some Jonny jump ups.
splashing in the puddles.

It is always hard to leave when you hear how hot the weather is at home, but alas we have to go to work. Then back we go next weekend!

The Opener

YES!

Summer officially started for me this weekend. It is the beginning of many warm summer nights with bonfires, plenty of mosquitos and all the cottage atmosphere a person could ask for!

This weekend was cold and wet – as it seems to have been for the last few years. This means that the wood stove runs 24 hours a day and the dogs and the people love to curl up in front of it with a good book and let the day slide by with not a worry in the world.

Ava enjoying the rain
Leah splashing in the puddles

We did get a bunch of work done this weekend though, a part of opening the cleaning up from winter, and preparing the cottage for the upcoming summer events. We worked on the dock, got some firewood chopped and did a spring clean around the cabins.

Vegetable garden all cleaned up
Chopped logs
Trilliums in the woods
Hawk discovering the joys of chasing geese

We had a quick visit from a family of geese. The girls loved watching the little goslings.

Geese!

It feels so good to be back up in cottage country. I can’t wait for the next visit!

Happy New Year

The holidays are over and the new year has begun. The Christmas decor has been taken down, and as usual there is always one thing I forget to put away, this year it is a cushion cover. With the putting away of Christmas comes the purge of no longer useful to me things. I cleaned out the linen closet and got rid of some of my old clothes. I finally said goodbye to my prom dress, its only been sitting there for 10 years. Its very therapeutic.

The holidays were very busy this year. I was working for most of it, but due to a cold ( nothing like a 100 degree fever on Christmas Day and Boxing Day) and a couple of snowstorms I did end up with about 5 days in a row home with my family doing all the wonderful christmasy things. Building snowmen, hot chocolate by the christmas tree with new and wonderful stories to read, and all the chocolate one could want (must resist eating the giant Toblerone with my name on it!)

Making a good track for tobogganing
Ava loves snow!
Ava after her first time down the hill by herself
Leah is a pro
Here we go!
Giant snowballs!
Hawk, Leah, Ginger and Ava in front of the christmas tree, It is so hard to get the to sit still!

It also turns out that we really didn’t take many christmas photos over the holidays, its hard to remember to actually take the photos when you are involved with the all the gifts and interacting with the people.

Ava and her Great Granny

The girls enjoyed helping out with cookie decorating and cake baking. I love making sugar cookies this time of year. It just feels so festive and gets me right into the christmas spirt. We usually have christmas music playing while we bake and decorate!

Decorating Christmas cookies

The winter weather has turned us to indoor activities. We got a wonderful set of Kapla blocks from my MIL. It is supposed to be for the kids, but I think I am having more fun with it right now. The blocks are all exactly the same size and the designs are really challenging and fun to topple over.

Kapla blocks.

Nick has been working on his pizza creations, we got a second stone for christmas so we can cook two at once in the oven now.

Pizza
Two stones in the oven.
Pizza is ready!

The warm weather has me itching to get back into the garden. The seed catalog arrived a couple of weeks ago so the planning is in full swing. We got a mini greenhouse from my parents. I cant wait to set it up on the deck and get growing.

Well thats all for now. Happy New Year to all! Wish all of you the best in the year to come!