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.

 

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!

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.