Summer Fun

What a busy summer! The kids spent their first summer free from daycare. They had many lazy morning and adjusted to a “summer sleep schedule” pretty much the first day after school ended, sleeping in until 8:30 or 9.

We spent many weekends at the cottage exploring the swamps and lakes behind our cottage, and getting out into Georgian Bay exploring some of the bigger islands and getting all the way out to the French River. The water was so warm and great for swimming this summer. The girls have gotten so much more comfortable in the water and Leah is starting to swim a lot more without her life jacket!

By the water
Swimming!
Finally without a life jacket!

Our August week was spent doing some work on the dock and lots of swimming! We also got a bunch of cleaning and rearranging of furniture and removing some of the really old stuff. The weather was a bit unpredictable and we got some very strong winds and rain on a couple of the days, great for naps and catching up on a good book. There were lots of blueberries to be had, so there were many blueberry pancakes and a couple blueberry pies. Ava and I went on a bike hike to one of the lakes in the back, We built a little teepee and collected pretty rocks. Ava decided to name one of the hills we climbed after herself because it was the prettiest rock with a good view. Hopefully we remember which rock it is in the spring so we can take her back to see it again.

Drying off in the sunshine
Enjoying a s’more at sunset
Sunset
Blueberry picking
I get the feeling this munchkin did more eating than picking
Baby painted turtle. Taught the kids about safe handling and where they like to live and what they like to eat
Our Sporting Poms out on a hike. They love the cottage as much as we do.
Picnic Lunch on our Piney Island
My Girls

Nick and I took the kids to Kingston for a weekend this summer to celebrate Nick’s Grandfather’s 90th Birthday. It is wonderful to spend time with family to celebrate such a huge milestone.

September was beautiful. A lot of people close up the end of August or just after Labour Day so the river was quiet. We went on a boating adventure all the way to the mouth of the French River past what used to be the French River Village. There really isn’t much left of it now – it was decommissioned in the ’40s or ’50s. It’s fun exploring the small islands and seeing some of the old fishing camps. My dad has so many stories that have been handed down from his father that we can share with the kids. It is so much fun taking the pontoon boat out for picnic lunches. We have traded the sausages on the a fire pit for more of antipasto style lunch. Lots of cheeses and some meats as well as some couscous and fresh bread. Something about a huge forest fire going through last year makes people a bit touchy about having a campfire.

Sunsets are so different every night its hard to not take a thousand pictures.
A view of the La Cloche “Mountains” from the cut through to the French River.
Found a cranberry patch way up on a cliff.
My kids being their wild selves.

I can’t believe how fast the summer seems to fly by. We had so many great evenings planning and dreaming about what projects we are going to do next. It seems that we have run out of small and relatively inexpensive projects. Time to save up for the big ones – raising the cottage, septic system, perhaps even building a new cottage… dream big they say. We are probably going to close up for the winter the weekend after Thanksgiving. Its usually fairly miserable, cold and wet, which makes a bit easier to go home. I am already looking forward to next season.

We are all starting to get back to the fall routines. The kids are having a blast with school. The reunion of friends for both the girls has been fun to watch. I am getting to volunteer in Ava’s class again this year. I really enjoy watching the kids grow and change over the year. I got my dad to order a pack of daffodil bulbs for the kids to plant in the school garden so they can watch them grow and flower this spring!

The kids will start back to CrossFit Kids in a couple of weeks, and Ava has started back to dance classes. Its good to get back into a solid routine. My house might actually get some much needed attention. We spent yesterday working in the gardens. I think we are going to make a more low maintenance garden here and plan bigger ones up north. We had great success with cucumbers, hot peppers, tomatoes and potatoes up there, They love the heat from the rocks the soil warms up and stays warmer longer up there. I got 4 jars of pickled jalapeños off of one plant!

Off I go, its a good afternoon to get the cars all cleaned and get some stuff in the garden done so it’s ready for winter.

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!

 

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!

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

Cottaging

There is something so special about cottage country. The air, the water, the rocks, and not to mention the people. It is as if time kind of stops up there and things are done as they used to be. Outhouses and open cook fires are pretty much the norm, most of the cottages out on the bay don’t have electricity and rely on propane or diesel generators, some have upgraded to solar. Giving the kids a bath involves an old wash tub and using lake water that is run into the tub early in the morning so it has a chance to be warmed by the sun.

Wash tub bath

enjoying a wash tub bath together!

Mornings are for the odd jobs, fishing, and hiking in the bush.

Fishing on the dock. Sunfish and perch are fun for the kids to catch

Leah mucking in the swamp

Afternoons are spent watching the boats go up and down the river, swimming and lounging on the deck with a good book.

Leah loving swimming in the lake

Ava napping while out on a shore lunch

Shore lunches have to be one of my favourite traditions. We all pack into our neighbour’s big boat and head out to an island in the bay and spend the day exploring, fishing, swimming and grilling the sausages we brought for lunch because none of us are avid fishermen.

Papa telling a story to the girls

Driving the boat

Nick has been working on getting my grandfather’s smoker up and running, and we are getting ever closer to homemade smoked ribs, Let me tell you they are SO yummy!

Nick tending to the smoker

We went on a blueberry picking expedition, and turns out there weren’t really many out there. Just lots of horse flies and mosquitos. We did get enough for some waffles and pancakes though.

Hiking to the blueberry patch.

Leah hunting for blueberries.

Ah sunset, my favourite part. We sometimes take the boat out and do a sunset cruise, other times we just sit in the Muskoka chairs on our point and enjoy it from there.

Watching the sun set over the Key

Crescent moon in the sunset.

Now we are home again, and the garden is crying for weeding and the tomatoes are ripe for the picking.