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.

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.

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.

September at the Cottage

This week of the year tends to be one of my favourite weeks in the whole season. It was even better this year as the warm weather stayed the whole time. Most of the summers only cottagers head south on Labour Day, leaving us pretty much alone and the river is almost silent. It is an excellent time for hikes and being out on the water. We got stunning sunsets every night, this time of year the sun sets straight down the middle of the river.

My dad and I went out for a quick walk one evening, and he got a picture of me that pretty much sums up my life. You can dress the girl up, but that doesn’t mean you can take her out.

Out for a walk in my Ralph Lauren dress… Country girl at heart.

We saw lots of birds, bears and some very special red squirrels who claimed the cedar trees beside the cottage and they yelled at us every time we walked out the front door. We were fortunate enough to see a mother bear and her cub swimming while we were out for a sunset cruise with friends of ours. It was such an amazing site to see, I was very thankful to be in a boat and far away though.  We saw some Common Mergansers swimming in our little bay fishing out all the little minnows. I also caught sight of what I think was juvenile gar fish, most likely the spotted Gar. Leah caught her first fish, and I hope she will be as hooked, pardon the pun, as me.

Child catching a sunfish on a dock
Leah caught a sunfish
Common Mergansers
Common Mergansers

My dad got so much work done on the cottage this week. All the logs and sticks from the beavers this spring got burned.

 

bonfire at sunset
Dad supervising the bonfire

He and Nick did a lot of painting, while I worked on cleaning up the insides. We still have lots of things left over from my grandparents, and stuff that was left by the people before them. It is kind of like a museum going through some of the stuff.

Nick and I got the smoker up and running again this week, and we finally have a pretty good grasp of smoking ribs. They spend about an hour soaking in a homemade dry rub, followed by 6-8hrs on the smoker, followed by an hour or so being basted in a homemade BBQ sauce. Each time we do it, it gets a bit better. Some day my dad and I might actually get around to writing the recipe.

I got my old paddle boat out for the girls and leah learned how to drive it very quickly, and we spent a lot of time paddling around our little bay looking for fish and turtles.

Out in the paddle boat with the girls and the dog
Out in the paddle boat with the girls and the dog

The girls swam almost every day. The water was so warm and a great place to cool off after a hike in the bush.

Ava starting to swim on her own
Leah loving the water
Leah, Ava, and Ginger drying off after their swim

I spent most of my time with the camera at sunset, each day brought a new stunning view.

Sunset on the Key River
Sunset
Sunset
Sunset
Last sunset