Friday, July 16, 2010

The Reason We Put Up With the Idiosyncrasies of the Cottage.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away.


Aside from the trip to the dump, there are always a lot of things to do at the cottage. There are the traditional outdoor activities like:

  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Hiking
  • Camp fires
  • BBQing

For indoor activities we often turn to a deck of cards to keep us busy. We have a giant hand crafted Cribbage board given to us that seems to attract lots of attention from guests. Feel free to take it off the wall and use. There are also lots of board games and puzzles on the shelf.

We come to the cottage to get away from it all. One spring week-end many years ago during NHL play-offs, I broke down and bought Terry a new TV to watch the game. It was the the first brand new thing we ever bought for the cottage. Unfortunately I did not realize we do not get any channels up here without satellite. We have hooked up a VCR and DVD player to it. The 25 year old VCR works fine. The 2 year old DVD player is rather sketchy. We did get satellite hooked up one summer but it never worked properly. I thought it was a sign from God telling us we shouldn’t be watching TV at the cottage, so we canceled it. We still have the useless satellite dish at the end of the drive way.

The ancient portable TV in the bed room does get two channels with the help of the antenna. It gets very fuzzy CBC and it clearly gets CTV from North Bay. I love the CTV station news as we get all of the kitchy news from the northern station. News stories about bear attacks and community events. I have yet to hear of a gang related shooting happening in the north.

Climate Control

We have a propane fire place. It heats the place up great in the winter, spring and fall. In summer we use the electric fan on top. Very high tech.

When we first bought our cottage we had a wood burning stove. It was fabulous. In no time at all it would heat up the place. Unfortunately our insurance company thought in no time at all it would burn down the place. We no longer have a wood burning stove. The remnant is a hole in the ceiling. Like all good Canadians we have covered the hole with duct tape.

Sleeping Arrangements

We have a double bed that originally belonged to my brother when he was a kid. He is now 51. The mattress is old. It is uncomfortable. But sleeping at the cottage is still better than in the city. Aside from the Bunkie, we have additional sleeping spaces inside the cottage.

The blue love seat opens up and sleeps one comfortably, or it works for two if they REALLY like each other. When we first bought the cottage we had five kids in a tiny two bedroom cottage. There was no Bunkie and no room for anyone. Our old neighbour mentioned she had seen a “perfectly good” couch up the street put out for the garbage. Her son and Terry ran up and grabbed it and now it is the focal point of the cottage. Everything at the cottage has a story.

Terry has two speeds. Fast and stop. This is where Terry stops.

This flip chair came with the cottage. It flips open to be a very long single bed. To my knowledge, no one has every slept on it. It is perfect for holding our clothes which we are too lazy to put away in drawers.

The Pantry

The purpose of the pantry is of course to store food. Last summer I went out and bought some plastic bins. Prior to the bin purchase, on a quiet evening you could hear rustling in the cupboard. I was always unsure of what the sound was but upon further inspection, I found nibble marks on the chip bag, gnawing marks on the potatoes and little round black things on the shelf. My diagnosis was MICE!! We have installed mouse traps and/or mice poison through out the place but just in case I now keep food in the mouse-proof bins.

Our Recycling Centre

Underneath the counter are several bins. They are hidden by wicker blinds. Terry and I fight about these blinds all the time. Bicker is probably a better word. I think they are perfect to hide the mess of garbage etc. Terry just thinks they are a pain in the ass because they don’t work properly. I make them work to suit me. Each bin has its own unique purpose. There is a bin for plastic and cans. There is a bin for burnables, and of course there is a garbage can for the rest of the stuff. We need to take our garbage to the dump. There are a couple of dumps around with the closest being the Little Hawk Lake Land Fill. The hours and locations are posted on the inside of one of the cupboard doors. When you arrive at the dump you have to show a special card which indicates you have paid your taxes for the privilege of using the dump. You are also mandated to recycle. The garbage must be in clear plastic bags so you can’t sneak any recyclable stuff into the land fill. One of the events of the cottage is to take guests to the dump. First stop is the “cottage mall.” There is a shed you can put things you no longer want but are in good working order. The old adage, one mans junk is another man’s treasure is proven at the dump. You never know what treasure you will find and like the best things in life, it is free! The other dump attraction is the bears. Last year electric fences were installed but the baby bears still manage to find a way in. They are very adorable but remember where there is a baby bear, not too far away is a Mama bear!! Just saying………..

Telephone at the Cottage

This telephone pictured on the top was the original in the cottage. It does not work. The telephone pictured on the bottom is my Blackberry. It does not work.

There is no cell phone reception at the cottage unless you stand on one foot in the middle of the highway pointing north with your tongue sticking out. We do now have a regular telephone hooked up. Just last year we also got 911service. The number on a sign at the end of our driveway indicates our location for 911 purposes. Again….just saying……hopefully you won’t need to use this number.


This four-slice toaster also came with the cottage although I cannot attest to its age. It also works perfectly fine if you call toasting one side at a time fine. My only advice, don’t put a knife into it when it is plugged in!! If you have to ask why, you shouldn’t be renting our cottage!

This is our fourth “new” refrigerator at the cottage. We have very generous friends and family. As a fridge is being replaced for reasons of aesthetics, they donate their “perfectly fine” refrigerator to us. It is very much appreciated as we often have lots of company at the cottage and we need as much fridge space as possible. Unfortunately, it seems as soon as a fridge arrives at the cottage it decides to not be “perfectly fine.” One actually broke within one week of ownership. One week-end we had a new to us fridge we were excited about and the next week-end we arrived to a stench that was shouting …..the fridge is broken!!! The fridge we have now works perfectly fine except for the horrible sound it makes.

The beer fridge dedicated to liquid refreshments does work perfectly fine. It is the fridge that came with the cottage and is approximately 60 years old………………really. We have to defrost it about once every week or so but that can be a fun thing, if you call throwing snowballs at people in July fun.

Drinking Water

As mentioned, our water comes from the lake. We have been told it is safe to drink and we do use it directly for cooking and washing dishes as it is boiled in the process. Just to be on the safe side we have a water cooler for our drinking water. It has two tabs, the white one is room temperature and the blue one is for refrigerated water. There are extra water jugs in the pantry. When they are empty we go to Halls Lake- 2.2 kilometres up the road. A natural spring is there beside the road-side Fish and Chip stand. A tap beside the picnic tables will fill up the jugs. The water gets tested regularly and all that is asked is to make a donation of a loonie or toonie in the little wooden box.

The Shower

The cottage shower works great. It is however meant for one at a time. It is small. Make sure you adjust the temperature before you enter the shower as I mentioned before, the water is HOT. Also, we have not one, but two hot water tanks. They are both small. If you intend to take a shower lasting more than 5 minutes, the one tank will empty and the other tank will kick in. You will be notified because the water will become suddenly VERY COLD and then just when you adjust to the sudden change in temperature it becomes VERY HOT. Just saying. A message for the city folk: If you think you are having a shower apres swimming to get rid of the “lake water”…….the water in the shower is lake water!! That is where all of the water comes from. A pump underneath the cottage brings the water from the lake, through the hot water tanks, up to the sinks/tub in the cottage. As the water level drops throughout the year we do have to keep on eye on our water intake hose to make sure it remains in the water and not in the sandy bottom of the lake. Just another one of those cottage details.

The Sink

The bathroom sink works perfectly fine. Warning, the water is HOT. We have a hot water tank underneath the cottage. For the first five years of cottage ownership we did not have hot water assuming the water tank was broken and after actually purchasing the cottage did not have money to do any repairs/renovations. As time went on we saved a bit of money and discovered hot water tanks weren’t that expensive after all. We headed to the Home Hardware Store in Minden to price them out. We met a very helpful man there who informed us the problem with hot water tanks is usually the element. Sure enough, after paying $5.99 for a new element we have HOT water. Five years with having to boil water to wash dishes and bathe kids and for a mere six bucks we had scalding hot water. Which is the point to my story, the water is VERY HOT. Use with caution.

We have a wide arrange of toothbrushes because guests seem to leave them behind and I am afraid to throw them out in case they come back looking for them. I would advise the renters to bring their own toothbrush……or not……your choice.

The Outhouse

Our outhouse underwent a minor renovation a few years ago. I actually wrote a piece in Cottage Life Magazine about the experience. In one week-end a bunch of girls changed it from a run down ugly outhouse to a run down sunflower themed outhouse. My husband still prefers the outhouse to the inside bathroom. By keeping the door open while you are doing your business your eyes are drawn to the beautiful view of the lake instead of the cobwebbed corners of the outhouse, which to be honest does not get cleaned frequently. It is a great place to go when you want some privacy away from the madding crowd.

Plumbing at the Cottage

The Toilet
The first rule of any cottage is the toilet. While we do have indoor plumbing, our toilet is very particular. To keep our septic tank running as long as possible we have invoked the old cottage adage “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” You can’t just push the handle and walk away like in the city. With our cottage toilet you have to hold the handle down until it is finished flushing. Sometimes that is not enough. When we have a crowd at the cottage the toilet gets used many times in a day. The toilet does not like this and sometimes gets tired. We keep an old bucket in our bathtub for such occasions. Fill the bucket and empty it in the toilet bowl quickly…………and it will all disappear.

Cottage Life

Well we did it. We rented out our cottage. Terry’s work schedule has changed and we wouldn’t be able to come up as often as we would like and the place was just sitting here empty. As we still have to pay extraordinarily large hydro bills (Why? Why?) as well as property taxes, we thought we would let the place work for us. I placed an ad on Kijiji which linked to my facebook page and before I knew it I was inundated with emails. We were finally able to make arrangements with a group from the Sarnia area.

We have never done this before and to be honest we don’t know what to expect. We want the renters to love the place as much as we do. As every real cottager knows, a cottage has its own character and there are special rules to be followed. I thought I would put together some notes for our renters so they can enjoy the place to its full potential, as well as prevent any surprises.