24 May

Andrea, Ugo, Leigh and I went out with 4 dogs to brave the bugs and ticks on a path making adventure.  We made a good path on what Dad described as the glade path on this hand drawn map.

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Early in the wildflower season but in many places, the ground was covered with round-leaved hepatica, both blue and white varieties.


The path begins at the top of the incline above the aspen glade.  Look for the power line, you should find it.


Lots of work was done with the brush axe, trimmer and a chain saw that the Feunekes brought with them.  Both dog power and human power was employed and the path edges were trimmed in places with logs that were cut to make way for the path.


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The path forks about 1/2 way along – you’ll know it when you see this…


At the fork, you can go to the right, leading to a lake lookout


Or turn to the left to go past the rocks and back to the drive

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Thanks to all the hard workers.  I hear that Ian has since gone and done some additional work on this path.

So, which path do we tackle next?



22 May

April 28 to May 4, 2015

It was dog days at the cottage with 4 dog cousins and their humans. Piper, Tilly, Lucy and Bella brought Jennifer, Leigh, Andrea and Ugo together for a wild play and romp. This was the first meeting of the cousins and it went splendidly. They all got along beautifully – and they all got more exercise than they have had in awhile.

IMG_0025 IMG_0027 IMG_0030 IMG_0038 IMG_0062Just before leaving for the cottage, Piper was diagnosed with Lyme Disease – most likely from a tick she picked up at the cottage on a previous visit last spring or fall. The ticks are REALLY on the rise! After each walk with the dogs, we would give them the once-over looking for the little beasts. We always found several. I have removed 3 off myself, so humans are not immune. Tick season is spring and fall so summer visitors may not be afflicted too badly, but I’d suggest that all dogs get good tick repellant and humans do regular checking. Andrea is now a tick removing expert.

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All in all, except for the tick bonanza, the dog party was a barking success!


Good night to all good dogs.


Our cottage septic system – a ticking time bomb?

22 May

Most of us haven’t thought about our cottage septic system – I sure haven’t, I don’t even know where the tank and leaching bed are. But I’d say we had better start thinking about it.

A conventional septic system includes a tank, an effluent filter, and a leaching bed. Wastewater travels to the septic tank, where the solids settle to the bottom of the tank. There, anaerobic bacteria take over and break down the organic matter. The effluent filter keeps these solids inside the tank while liquid flows into the leaching bed. There it’s filtered into the ground, and soil bacteria kill pathogens and continue to treat the water.

In most cases, repairing a septic system will cost between $2,000 and $25,000. Replacing one can cost about $6,000 to $40,000—depending on the system’s size and location. Septic systems last for 20 to 30 years if they’re well maintained.

Ours has got to be at least 20 years old, has never been maintained or pumped out and we don’t even know where the lid of the tank is! Uh-oh.


Here are ways to keep our septic system from imploding.

1. Know where it is (we don’t)

It may sound obvious, but it’s important to know your system’s location and have easy access to its tank and leaching bed. Avoid driving, parking, or building on or near any part of the system.

2. Conserve water

Excessive water use overloads septic tanks and prevents solids from settling on the bottom. The solids get pushed into the leaching bed where they cannot be filtered out effectively. The clogged soil will not accept more water and backups can occur. The cottage does not have an unlimited water supply.  To save water: Flush only when necessary, tell guests to be conservative with their water use, run the washing machine only when necessary. Maybe we could install a low-flow toilet and high-efficiency taps and shower heads?

3. Flush organic only

If it isn’t human waste or toilet paper, don’t flush it. Flushing paper towels, disposable diapers and wipes, condoms, sanitary napkins, tampons, facial tissues, coffee grounds, grease, and such will quickly fill our tank and clog the system. Septic systems cannot digest oils, grease and fat. Poured down the sink or toilet, they congeal in pipes sometimes plugging them.  All oily waste should go out with the garbage. Even if a product’s packaging claims that it’s flushable, don’t.  No, really – DO NOT!

4. Use biodegradable cleaners

We need to stop using heavy-duty cleaners (especially those with bleach), and all antibacterial soaps. These products kill the bacteria that keep the system running effectively. Use biodegradable products for tasks that involve frequent water use (such as washing dishes) and NO fancy shower gels.  Some household chemicals can be eliminated or reduced and some can easily be replaced by suitable substitutes, for example:

  • Automatic Bowl Cleaners – do not use.
  • Deodorant Soap – Use regular soap – Not antibacterial
  • Hand Soap – Use regular soap – Not antibacterial
  • NO Chlorine Bleach
  • Dishwashing Liquid – Use only completely biodegradable & Not antibacterial
  • Laundry Detergent – Use only Liquid & completely biodegradable.

5. NO chemicals!

Never put paints, solvents, pesticides, gasoline, or other toxic chemicals in our system. Flushing even small amounts of paints, solvents, thinners, nail polish removers and other common household compounds (or pouring them down the drain) can poison the organisms that break down organic material. Don’t flush any medication either. Not only will these kill the beneficial bacteria in the tank, they will also end up in the groundwater.

6. Keep trees and shrubs away – I think we have a problem here

The roots of trees, especially aggressive species will travel as far as needed to get to water. Roots can plug up and wrap around distribution pipes in the leaching bed, causing all sorts of damage.  We need to identify the limits of our system and make sure we have properly cleared the area.

7. Insulate our system?

We should think about insulating the pipe running from the cottage to the septic tank to prevent freezing during the winter.  And while we are at it, I wonder if we can’t insulate our whole water system a little better – not only from cold but also from animals and UV.


10. Inspect and pump – I don’t ever remember this being done

Generally, a system should be inspected and its contents pumped out by a professional every three to five years (or when the tank’s volume is about one-third full).  

A boat rack to save our backs!

13 Nov

Think about one of the worst jobs to do at the cottage…carrying the boats and canoes up and down the hill has got to up there at the top of the list.  Well, I have an idea that could save us a whole lot of effort and a bunch of space in the shed!

How about building a boat/canoe rack right down by the water?  The old, moss covered deck down by the lake is going to have to come down soon as it is rotting and will soon fall down.  I haven’t seen anyone use it in years.  That might be the perfect place to build a sturdy boat rack  to store our boats.


Cottage Life has a great article on how to build a boat rack, complete with step-by-step plans and a full materials list.


We might have to slightly modify the lower cross arm to accommodate the Laser but this could be the  answer to having the boats accessible to the water at all times, even when you come to the cottage alone.


Strategically placed hooks could also provide a place to hang those towels, cover-ups, life-preservers and other things you take down to the lake with you but don’t want to leave on the ground. 

The roof would keep the elements and tree debris off the boats in the summer and we could throw a big tarp over it in the winter.


Part one of the project would be site review (will the area where the old deck is be suitable?) and site preparation (tearing down the old deck).

Part two would be building it.  We could attempt it ourselves…but I think we might be happier with the result if we had someone a little more skilled do it for us.  Perhaps the deck builder?


Well,  what do you think?  Love it?  Hate it?  Think we should do it?  Put it off till another year?  I’m always looking for feedback!

CLICK HERE to see the complete plans and materials list and download it all in PDF.

More cozying

13 Nov

I have been haunting the Value Village and vintage clothing stores lately, hoping to find some thick blankets or quilts to make into dog beds.  This week I hit the jackpot…but not for dog beds.

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I picked up this thick, hand-quilted twin size quilt at Value Village for a mere $9.99. It was clean, no stains or smells, and in really good shape. I’ve washed and dried it and it’s a beauty -  all ready to cozy up a bed at the cottage.

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I found this quilt, done in the Dresden Plate design, at a vintage clothing store for $17.99.  This is a lighter weight quilt, I think it’s a double.  Just look at all that hand-stiching!  I don’t think the quilter was an expert because some of the “plate” designs are ever so slightly puffy (you can see that in the photo below) but it’s still quite a find. 

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In the spring and fall, when the cottage is pretty chilly at night, these babies will keep us warm.  In the summer, they’ll provide a comfortable cover to lie on. 

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I’ll take both of the to the cottage when I go in the spring and figure out which beds they will grace.  Cozy, cozy, cozy!

Deck design

3 Nov

OK, the beams are in, the cottage floors are flat and the house is stable again.  Now it’s time to think about the deck.  Wouldn’t it be great to have a nice new deck constructed and ready for this summer?  All we have to do is agree on size and design.  Once we’ve done that, I can draw up some specifications and send them to Bob, Tim M. and any local deck building companies I can find for quotes.  I’ll bet we could have everything lined up to be done in the spring.

I haven’t drawn up my potential design yet, but if you’d like to play around with some possible design suggestions, here are some pictures and dimensions that might help.

Go big or go home…just my opinion…

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Bird house project

31 Oct

Here’s a great family project for next summer…build a home to provide shelter to birds on the property. take a look at the state of some of our bird houses.

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A sad state of affairs. Wouldn’t it be great to have bird boxes all over the place to keep our feathered friends safe from predators and the elements? How about making it a project the next time you are up? There is plenty of spare wood and I’ll make sure we have some nails and screws…

Take a look at this chart before building your nest box, keeping in mind that birds make their own choices, without regard for charts. So don’t be surprised if you find tenants you never expected in a house you intended for someone else.

birdhouse sizes
Here are a few other things to keep in mind when constructing a home for a bird:


You should provide air vents in bird boxes. There are two ways to provide ventilation: leave gaps between the roof and sides of the box, or drill 1/4 inch holes just below the roof.


Water becomes a problem when it sits in the bottom of a bird house. A roof with sufficient slope and overhang offers some protection. Drilling the entrance hole on an upward slant may also help keep the water out. Regardless of design, driving rain will get in through the entrance hole. You can assure proper drainage by cutting away the corners of the box floor and drilling 1/4 inch holes. Nest boxes will last longer if the floors are recessed about 1/4 inch.

Entrance Hole

Put the entrance hole on the front panel near the top. A rough surface both inside and out makes it easier for the adults to get into the box and, when it’s time, for the nestlings to climb out.
If your box is made of finished wood, add a couple of grooves outside below the hole. Open the front panel and add grooves, cleats or wire mesh to the inside. Never put up a bird house with a perch below the entrance hole. Perches offer starlings, house sparrows and other predators a convenient place to wait for lunch.


A bird house with easy access makes the job simple. Most bird houses can be opened from the top, the side, the front or the bottom. Boxes that open from the top and the front provide the easiest access. Opening the box from the top is less likely to disturb nesting birds. If you clean out your nest boxes after each brood has fledged, several pairs may use the nest throughout the summer. Some cavity-nesting birds will not nest again in a box full of old nesting material.
In the fall, after you’ve cleaned out your nest box for the last time, you can put it in storage or leave it out. Leaving your houses out provides shelter for birds, flying squirrels and other animals during winter. Each spring, thoroughly clean all houses left out for the winter.

Limiting Predator Access

Proper box depth, and roof and entrance hole design will help reduce access by predators, such as raccoons, cats, opossums, and squirrels. Sometimes all it takes is an angled roof with a three-inch overhang to discourage small mammals.
The entrance hole is the only thing between a predator and a bird house full of nestlings. By itself, the 3/4-inch wall is not wide enough to keep out the arm of a raccoon or house cat. Add a predator guard (a 3/4-inch thick rectangular wood block with an entrance hole cut in it) to thicken the wall and you’ll discourage sparrows, starlings, and cats.

I plan to find a good birdhouse instruction document or website and post it here later. Happy building!