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.

Around the House

The weather has been hard to work with this spring. It was so cold for so long and then bam it was 30 degrees, Which I love and I am not complaining at all, I just feel late getting the garden in.

Crocus popping up through the dusting of snow.
Hyacinth starting to bloom
The daffodils sprouting up, They all came up early and got their tips burned from the ice storm

May was slow to start and it was quite chilly for Ava’s 4th birthday. She had a wonderful day and celebrated over several days, I am sure that is every kid’s dream presents every day for almost a week! I successfully made a cake in the shape of a hedgehog for her birthday. I think its pretty cute, however, I know more than ever that I need to work on the making good icing and cake decorating skills.

Ava celebrating her birthday.
A cake that sort of resembles a hedgehog.


Ava got a Wheelbarrow for her birthday and you can tell with these pictures I used my phone. The image quality is not quite the same, but Ava is still just as cute.

The garden has grown and changed so much since we moved in almost 5 years ago. We have added so many bulbs and flowers, each spring is a surprise. We got some wonderful new tulips that I bought on a whim and they turned out great! We are going to order some more this year and finish putting a border on that garden, They look so cute mixed in with the forget me nots, The blue and yellow match so well.

Honky Tonk tulips and forget me nots looking great. I am going to be getting another case of these.
Honkey tonk tulips.
Double Pam Daffodil
Daffodils
The driveway in full bloom
Cream Primula
Red primula so happy in it’s spot under the lilac tree
The hops have started their ascent, Ginger likes to eat the tips.
The hops about 6 days later. The grow so fast, you can practically watch them.
The tulip garden looking beautiful. It is starting to come together.

We took most of the side garden apart today, and rebuilt it. We have a few new Hydrangeas to put in and some of the lilies and the Anemones needed to be divided. I got all the plants out of our bedroom where they stay warm and safe during the winter. It seems like I regained at least half of the floor space. I got a bunch of leaf litter and sticks from the maples all cleaned up and ready to go to the curb on Thursday (at least I hope its compost week this week) It was so satisfying to get all of the work done. Nick’s mom came to visit today too. She spent most of her time playing with the girls, which gave us a few less interruptions and we got more done today than we have in months. I got the vegetable garden weeded and prepped for plants on Friday. We seeded in beets, beans, peas, and dill. I planted some peppers and tomatoes that we picked up from Colour Paradise (http://www.colourparadise.com) They have an awesome selection and have so many plants that they start early so they are a really good size when you get them home, It is great for when you know little children want to help.

Getting the planters ready to go.
Nick fertilizing everything.
All the little basils ready to grow.
Tomatos all planted
The yard all cleaned up after a day of work.

So much work to do so little time. I am hoping to get a some house work done over the weekend, but I know that I will probably just play outside instead-the kids have more fun anyway.

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!

 

Welcoming the New Year

I finally have 10 minutes to spare. Well, I guess I will see how long this lasts before a small voice calls for 1 more cup of water or another hug and kiss good night.  It is good to finally be getting back into the routine after two weeks of holidays. The girls had so much fun being together, however I think I finally understand why parents want the kids back in school so much.

We have enjoyed the family time we have spent together. It was a games and puzzles Christmas for the girls, so we have spent many days playing the new games and being outside. Even though it was cold we got a few toboggan runs in. The new sleds the girls got are almost like the crazy carpets I had, but have a bit of padding and don’t go quite as quickly.

Rouge Bella Bar in Pink
Rouge Bella Bar in Pink!

Surrounded by presents! Which thing do we try first!

 

Leah testing out her new sled!

Ava loves her new sled.
Tobogganing at Granny’s. Always a blast!
Ava loves to ride with Granny on the sled. Kodi likes the trip too!

It has been a busy January for us. I have been spending a bit more time at Crossfit Rebuild( http://www.crossfitrebuild.com  ) preparing for my competition that was on Saturday. I was thrilled to place 3rd in the women’s scaled division. It was great to get back into the competition space. It had the same feel as a dance competition and I was at home right away. I met so many wonderful people and got to cheer on a few others who were competing from our box. Check out my instagram page for some pictures from the event!

Leah has discovered a love for Flamingos and had asked for Flamingo Pyjamas for Christmas. Turns out finding kids clothes with flamingos on them in December is a very hard task! So I made a trip to Len’s mills and got some awesome pink flamingo fabric and made up a cute set of PJs for her. She hasn’t really taken them off since. I am going to have to find a “stain” on them and get them washed soon!

Ava is growing like a weed and becoming a great helper in the kitchen. We have started making cookies together on Fridays after we drop Leah off at school. She loves to measure and wash the dishes. I can’t believe she will turn four in just a few short months. She is begging to start school in the fall. I don’t know if she will be ready, or for the most part will I be ready?

Ah, there’s the small voice. Someone needs to be tucked in again. I remind myself that they are only small once, and one day they won’t want to be tucked in anymore.

Cheers!

A trip to the zoo, and other stories.

We have been busy as always since the last time I was able to check in. We made a family trip to the Toronto Zoo with my mom and dad. Going back as a guest was kind of strange after having spent many summers working with the pony ride, that appears to no longer be there. It was also so much fun watching the kids see all the animals for the first time.We packed a large picnic lunch and spent the whole day and saw pretty much everything. I forgot how big the zoo really was.  Leah’s favourite animal turned out be the flamingos. She also really liked seeing the giraffes and the tigers. Ava’s favourite was the gorillas. It was a cool wet day and many of the animals were very close and active.  I am looking forward to taking the kids again maybe in the summer when it is a bit warmer.

a visit with the Giant Pandas
Leah having a bite to eat, the Komodo dragon was watching closely.
A gorilla, contemplating the meaning of an opposable thumb…
Leah, Ava and Granny checking out a pigmy hippo.
Zebras up close and personal.
Giraffe! Leah asked the see these first.
Sumatran tiger.
A pile of baby snow leopards. One of my favourites.
Leah, Ava and Granny reading some signs.
We found Dory!

Halloween was also a a bunch of fun. The girls enjoyed dressing up, Leah was Elsa again and Ava was a genie.

Elsa and Shimmer. They couldn’t stand still. Thus, this is the best photo we got.

Nick and I finally got most of the fall clean up done in the last week or so. It seems just in time to get the yard waste bags out for the last pick up. Also just in time as the first snow was upon us that evening. The girls were so excited about the snow they woke up early so that they could play outside before Leah went to school. Ava enjoyed the first sled run of the season.

On a mission!
The first run is always the best!

Christmas is coming! Having kids of a certain age has really made me enjoy celebrating the season a bit earlier. We got the lights up on the house outside and my dad came and built our winter planter. It is looking very festive. Our Christmas tree has also made an appearance. It will have to wait a few days until we can put any decorations on it and with that, the Christmas season is upon us. I have been busy making lists and planning various Christmas cooking expeditions for dad and I to embark on. The LCBO’s Food and Drink magazine always has so many fun and different recipes to try and play with. It is time to stock up on things before the mad rush at the end.  I got some beautiful alpaca wool today, I have some projects in mind for that. Well, off to check out some cyber Monday deals. I’m sure it will be just as successful as black Friday i.e. nothing purchased.

Birthday celebrations and berry picking

Leah celebrated her birthday recently with a trip to the Cambridge Butterfly conservatory. She took one of her best friend, and they had a blast!

Leah really enjoyed not taking her sister along for the trip. The girls liked the waterfall and the fish pond.

Leah and her friend at the Butterfly Conservatory
Meeting a giant centipede
Giant Centipede
Skipping to see the waterfall

Last week we went berry picking. I have always gone to Marcy’s Berries. On Valens road and 97. Close to Freelton. It is a family owned and operated business that produce some of the best strawberries around, Their raspberries and other fruits are awesome too.

We managed to pick a flat and a half of strawberries and raspberries. The girls had lots of fun, although it was a bit “hard, and boring” for them.

Picking raspberries
Strawberries
Helping find all the good strawberries

 

Walking in the fields.

Once we got home, we got to do all the hard work of prepping the strawberries and making jam. I usually just make freezer jam so its a bit easier, Leah likes mashing the fruit the best. We ended up making 28 jars of jam for the winter.

Leah learning how to hull strawberries.

 

Jam heading for the freezer.

 

The garden is calling, I have more plants to go in the vegetable garden, and the weeds are starting to take over the flower beds. It seems like I picked a rather hot day to get that project going… Perhaps a book and a drink on the deck is what will actually happen.

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.

The one about building projects

So many projects, so little time. In the last month or so I have completed two bigger projects that have been waiting longer than they should have, but they are done now.

The first is I completed building the sandbox! However, there isn’t any sand in it yet. It will come soon. I purchased a bunch of 8ft mini ties and made slots in each piece, then drilled them together, the kids are enjoying the space as is right now but I can’t wait to see the sand projects that will come from this. I also realized that one can never have enough tools.

Creating notches in the logs so they fit together.
One joint all hooked together.

The other project I finished was the Crossfit box jump. It has three different heights to jump on. We used a sheet of 1″ plywood that was 4′ x 8′.

Measuring out the cuts.
Making the first of many cuts
The last side going together.
Taking it for a test jump.

The kids got to work on their own project. They got to excavate a dinosaur skeleton! I got a kit from Costco called Discover Dinosaurs. It has a great activity book, poster, wooden build your own skeleton and a fossil excavation kit. It is a well put together kit that kept the girls busy for about an hour digging, washing and building their new dinosaur.

Starting excavation.
Some bones start to appear! Leah was very excited to see the bones
A junior archeologist in the making.

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!