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Seasons (page 2)...

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Winter Use

When using the cottage in winter, there are a few things you can do to improve your comfort:

Arrive Early in the Day

You should arrive early enough in the day to be able to warm the cottage and the beds (with electric blankets preferably) before you go to bed. When it is very cold, it can take several hours to bring the inside air temperature up to a reasonable comfort level. Remember that you are also heating up all the contents of the cottage, and that they will absorb much of the energy initially. Once you have the heating started up, you can then get outside and enjoy your winter sports and activities. On several occasions, we have arrived in early evening, with the inside temperature many degrees below freezing. On serving a meal, we have been enveloped in clouds of steam from the food, and have had to wear full outdoor winter clothing inside until the beds had warmed up enough to call it bed time.

Snowy Branches

Prevent Heat Loss

If your cottage windows are single-glazed, you can prevent a lot of heat loss by hanging clear plastic sheeting on the inside of each window. It's amazing what a difference this makes. We have small nails around each window frame for hooking on the sheeting. Alternatively, you could put the sheeting on roller blinds above each window, and pull it down through channels on each side. It does not have to be airtight to make a difference.

Water Usage

If you are not able to turn on your water system, you will have to carry in water from your well or outside source. If this is the case, then you will discover very quickly that it is possible to make do with a lot less water than normal. It will also be necessary to boil up any hot water needed for washing dishes or for personal uses. Because your water filters or purifiers will be out of action, you will either have to carry potable water from home, buy it at the nearest store, or boil it yourselves for at least five minutes. You will also need water to flush the toilet. We make use of several large pails to carry water in from the well pump, and to have it readily available in the kitchen and bathroom. Remember to have potable water available for brushing teeth too. Use of the shower is out of the question, so periodically we take sponge baths. We may be a little smellier by the end of our stay, but we are reasonably clean. Before you leave, be sure to pour plumber's anti-freeze into the traps of any sinks or toilets you have used.

Spring Opening

When to Open Up

Opening up your cottage in the spring is generally the reverse of the closing procedures, but the first question is "When should you open up?". Clearly, the water system should not be started up until there is no more chance of it being damaged by freezing, so the weather must have warmed up sufficiently that the temperature is unlikely to dip below the freezing point. Typically, in southern Ontario, people open up their cottages at the end of May (on the Victoria Day long weekend). If your cottage is significantly further to the north, it may be later still.

Red Trillium

You may decide to open up the cottage to some extent prior to that, but other factors may then come into play. Around the end of March and the beginning of April, the snow is melting and the frost is leaving the ground. The effect on gravel roads can be severe, and washouts may occur. Often, the first few inches of surface thaws out, leaving a suspension of water and sand, i.e. mud. Because of this, many gravel roads become problematic, and local residents will tend to park their cars on a firm roadway, walk to their homes, or use snowmobiles or all-terrain vehicles to get there.
I recall driving to the cottage in mid-April, when, 100 yards from reaching the cottage, the front wheels of the car sunk up to the axles in mud. We had to leave the car there (there was nobody else so silly as to use the road anyway) for two days until a kind local resident pulled us out with his four-wheel-drive truck. Some people I knew once rented a cottage for a long weekend in early spring, and got their car stuck in the driveway. When they called for a tow truck, it too got stuck, as did the larger truck that was sent to extricate the first. The towing company spent the whole weekend trying to get the vehicles out, and eventually had to winch them out on cables. My friends missed a whole day's work as a result, and the only saving grace was that the towing company charged them just the regular rate for towing their car. The moral of the story is that if you go up to the cottage in early spring, check with the local residents about the state of the roads first.

Turning on the Water System

The business of turning on the system is far less complicated that closing it down. First, ensure that all the taps in the cottage are closed, including the drainage taps on the water tank and water heater. Second,you will need to prime the pump (if it is not a submersible) by screwing in its drain plugs and filling it and the down pipe with water through the priming plug openings. Screw in the priming opening plugs and turn on the pump. I use Teflon tape on all the plugs to eliminate any seepage. Third, check the whole system for leaks. These may occur if any residual water in copper pipes has frozen during the winter and caused the pipe to crack. Such cracks will necessitate replacing pipe or fittings. Even plastic fittings may sometimes be affected by freezing, and may have to be tightened or undone and re-tightened.

Health Considerations

You want to be sure that your cottage environment is healthy. Remove any rodent poisons you left out in the fall before your children and pets can get to them. Sweep away cobwebs (and hopefully any spiders at the same time). If you have had significant mice infestations, you should be careful about cleaning up mice faeces, as these can carry diseases, including hantavirus, salmonella and leptospirosis. Mice may also suffer from Lyme disease, and this may be transmitted to humans by ticks. If necessary, wear a facemask when cleaning up mouse poop, to avoid breathing in faecal dust. If there are any signs of mice having run over your cooking pots, cutlery, dishes and plates, wash all of these before using them, and clean all kitchen counters and tables. The same is true of beds; change the bedclothes, and wash the ones you have removed. Vacuum all plush chairs or sofas.

Other Opening-up Tasks

Other tasks such as launching boats, putting out the dock and cleaning up your lot are secondary to getting your living accommodation in good shape, and can be tackled when the need or desire arises.

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© 2009, David Mallinson. --- Last updated 01-May-2014