Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

Archive for the 'Cottage' Category

Call to Arms… and Legs… and Hands

Phew.  I took the ‘labour’ part of Labour Day Weekend a little too literally and spent WAY too much time mixing bags of concrete by hand and playing jigsaw puzzles with cinder blocks in what is starting to look more and more like a proper foundation for my shed.  It’ll all be worth it when the shed doesn’t collapse under the weight of winter snows this year, but there’s still more work to be done and I’d better hurry if I want to get any new cement in before it gets too cold to have it set properly.

So, if anyone out there is interested in a free cottage weekend and getting to fiddle around with concrete and power tools, let me know.  Consider this a chance to learn some new construction skills in an environment where mistakes you can learn from  are not only expected, but kind of looked forward to.

After the padlock on the shed seized earlier this season, I had to come up with a way to get it fixed.  Well, this weekend I managed to take care of it and I was surprised at how easy it was.  I’ll write more on this later (with photos!) but suffice it to say that I now have WAY less faith in even the best steel padlocks.


Lifting Buildings With my Bare Hands

With a big thanks to Tom and my dad, our cottage shed is now much less saggy than it was before and it’s on its way to being even less saggy.  It was a lot of hard work, but the old building got its first facelift in at least 60 years and she’s looking great.  (Photos to come)

Thanks to my new 8 tonne hydraulic bottle jack (which is no bigger than a 2L pop bottle) was able to lift entire front of the building with little effort by just using one hand.  Technology is awesome.

We’ve dug out the front foundation where it was collapsing and jacked up the interior rafters which are now being held by a huge crossbeam and a jackpost.  We poured concrete footings in holes dug to the bedrock and my next job will be to build up from the footings to the foundation and install permanent jackposts to take the load of the shed.  That’s the easy part after all the hoising and jacking we did on Saturday.

While the men folk were getting muddy and sweaty, the ladies weren’t just lazing around.  Danielle and her mom cleaned and painted our dining a room a beautiful new shade of (aptly-named) Cottage Yellow.  When my mom saw it, her jaw nearly dropped.  It’s almost the exact same colour my great-grandmother had painted that room when they first moved in back in the ’50s.  As the good book says, there’s nothing new under the sun.

Thanks again to the in-laws for all their hard work, great food and awesome company.  I think my next trip up there deserves to be a restful and contemplative one after the the last three weekends.

It wasn’t all sunshine and roses this weekend as we came home to find out that our garbage pickup is on indefinite hold after the announcement of a city worker strike here in Toronto.  I fonly remember the last one, where garbage piles in Chinatown lead to a huge rat infestation and a terrible smell in the entire downtown core.  At least we’re in the throes of our first heatwave of 2009.

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The Lucky Horseshoe

Last night I was treated to a great concert as I got to watch some friends fulfill every Toronto musician’s dream; playing live on stage at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern.  Silver Speakers, with special guests Jared and Silas, rocked an awesome show, especially for a rainy Wednesday night.

Probably the highlight of the night for me was hearing a new tune called “The Wrong Blood” that blew my mind.  Sadly, it sounds as though it hasn’t been put to a recording yet, but when it does, I’ll share a link.  It was made all the more awesome when it was introduced with a reference to one of my favourite Southern US writers, Flannery O’Connor.  I really got into her work after taking a course on the literature of the American South back in 2001.

In a completely unrelated piece of luck, my dad did some measurements of our shed foundation up at the cottage and passed along some news that will help in its reconstruction this weekend.  Namely, that the Canadian Shield bedrock is only a few inches below the ground, so resetting the foundation onto some of the most solid rock in the world will require very little digging and very little concrete, hence WAY less work and cost than I’d planned.

Also, while it looks like rain for most of the weekend down in the Golden Horseshoe, Environment Canada is still calling for partly cloudy with very little chance of rain in the Ottawa Valley.  Everything’s coming up Milhouse.

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The Cottage: Now Mojo-Approved

We’re all back from the cottage and the lawn has been mowed (the ‘grass’ was almost knee-height), the house has been cleaned and Mojo has put his stamp of approval on the entire cottage experience, even the long car ride.

We arrived on Friday night after a relatively traffic-free drive and he settled right in while Danielle carefully inspected my cleaning from the previous weekend which recieved a resounding A- grade (she found some mouse poop under a dresser).  After the ‘white glove inspection’, we all went to bed.

On Saturday morning, I headed off to buy supplies and Danielle stayed home with Mojo to welcome Danielle’s sister and her lab Tia.  The two dogs very quickly became the best of friends.  They went to the beach together and frolicked in the Ottawa River for part of the afternoon and then my parents and grandma came down for a brief visit.  My grandma was very pleased to see the improvements to the cottage floor after nearly a half century of seeing it sag.

I spent most of the afternoon mowing the lawn while the dogs played in the yard and Lisa and Danielle BBQed some awesome organic steaks for dinner.  For dessert, we headed into Shawville for soft ice crem and walked the dogs around town.  Then we spent the evening playing games.

On Sunday, Danielle and I headed to the church where we were married for its 175th anniversary service.  Seriously, 175 years!  Congratulations, Shawville United Church!  Afterwards, we said goodbye to Lisa and Tia, lounged around the house for a few more hours, packed up and cleaned house and headed off in into raging thunderstorms that plauged us for most of our trip home.

Just outside of Renfrew, I stopped the car to check out a huge snapping turtle that had just crossed the highway.  I didn’t get any pictures, but he was pretty huge, and Mojo didn’t know what to make of it so he just barked his crazy little head off.

So now I have another week of boring work before we head up there again for a weekend of hard work with Danielle’s mom and stepdad repairing the foundation of the shed that has been slowly collapsing for about 50 years.

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The Cottage Pile

As the evenings grow longer and the afternoons get warmer, I’m also noticing that a pile has started to grow in our house.  This pile is an annual tradition and it’s a well-known phenomenon to many families in North America.  It’s the “This stuff is going to the cottage” pile.

For cottage-owners, there are only three classes of ‘thing’ in your home.  There is a thing that is in good condition and still worthy of being in your house, a thing that is completely broken/soiled/destroyed and is only destined for the garbage (or perhaps Goodwill) and then everything in between, which is considered good enough for the cottage.  In some cases, this middle group is just a way of holding off on throwing out something useless that still has emotional value.

This class of object can include things like ugly lamps, slightly frayed towels, toasters that either over or undercook and pots and pans with loose handles or years of scouring marks.  Board games with missing pieces and tools that don’t quite work as well as the ‘good’ tools get the same treatment.

The outcome of all this is that you have a slightly older and less functional replica of your own home at the cottage, and you’re surrounded by things that might not work as well as they should, but you’re familiar with them.  Also, at the cottage, you have A LOT more patience for a finicky toaster or a circular saw where you have to hold the cable ‘just so’.

This year’s batch includes a new shipment of ‘cottage clothing’ (which the mice and moths will make short work of over the next few years) and a resupply of some of the basic kitchen implements which are near non-functional up there.  Shockingly, they also include some NEWLY PURCHASED items, albeit of inferior quality and on super-cheap sale.  Be warned friends, if you help prepare a meal at our cottage and use the new kitchen knives, you just might lose an eye.

Now I just need to draw some diagrams to figure out how I can pack it all in our Hyundai to get it up there, especially if our next trip includes a 60 pound four-legged kibble-eating machine.

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Outhouse or Icehouse? Stop, You’re Both Right

Well, I made it back safe and sound from a relaxing weekend up at the cottage.  I measured out all the dimensions of the main floor and will spend the rest of the week putting all the measurements into a drafting program to create a 3D model that will serve little purpose aside from looking really cool.

The weather was fantastic up there all weekend, and through little effort, I got the indoor temperature up from 3 to 12 degrees with just a small heater and the woodstove.  It was still quite comfortable for my needs.

It’s kind of sad seeing the old house socked in with snow and ice, but it’s even weirder to hear how much quieter it is up there without frogs, blowing leaves and the countless birds that sing at all hours in the fairer seasons.

It’s also nice not finding the door to the outhouse frozen shut by nearly 6 inches of solid ice, but that’s probably enough said about that.

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All Things Being Equinox…

You wished for it and now you’ve got it.  The long winter is over today, thanks to the sun reaching equinox, which means today is the first day of spring.  I wouldn’t pack away the snowshovel and winter jacket just yet, but for those of you who couldn’t wait for winter to be over, you don’t have to wait for winter to be over, in name at least.

I’m celebrating the coming of warmer weather by heading up to the cottage to take some measurements in preparation for some minor interior renovations this summer.  We’re hoping to repaint the ground floor and re-do the interior of the kitchen, complete with actual cupboards!  Although we haven’t discussed it, I’m share Danielle would agree with me that also need a 47 inch flat screen LCD and a bar fridge next to the couch.  Even if she doesn’t agree, I’ll measure it out, just in case.

I’m really looking forward to going up there.  It can be kind of sad to see the old house socked in with snow, but it’s been a long winter without spending time up there.  I just hope I can get the heaters up and running.

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Woodland Vampires and Other Monsters

A late summer weekend at the cottage is usually one of the best times to hang out in the great outdoors and soak up sun as the summer mosquitoes have all died off and the fall mosquitoes have yet to hatch and begin their feast.  Days are still plenty warm and the evenings are cool, but not cold.  Well, yet again this summer turns the norm on its head and we had a strange weekend up at the cottage.

First off, the fall mosquitoes are alive and well.  Smaller than their summer brethren, these little buggers are some of the most aggressive blood-suckers I’ve ever seen.  Repellent, citronella and pick had so effect on them, and they can seemingly find even the tiniest hole in a screen through which to invade a home.  They don’t buzz very loudly, so they’re hard to hear and being so small makes them hard to spot until you feel the sharp sting of their probiscus in your skin.  Nasty little buggers.

Second, the cool nights were extremely cool, which is no surprise this summer, but even in the heat of the day, brisk winds keep things quite cool.  Despite all that, there was no rain.  Woo hoo!  Even some spots on the property that have been pools all summer were dry, which meant fewer frogs hopping around and more snakes and grasshoppers.

One of the greatest moments this weekend came when we bought corn off the back of a pickup in town.  We bought six ears and there was no sign saying what it would cost, so I pulled out my wallet preparing to grab a big bill when the total came in at a whopping $2.50!  I paid in change.  My mouth is watering right now just thinking about the corn.  Mmmm.

For those of you who were out in the country this weekend, you might have noticed the trees have already started changing colour.  Apparently with all the wet weather and cold temperatures, the trees think that fall is upon us and arborists are worried that having hit their fall cycle early, we might get some slightly warmer temperatures and the trees will bud thinking it’s spring.

Which brings me to the ‘other monsters’ in the blog post title… us.  We’ve actually broken nature.  Tsk tsk, mankind.

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