Ah June 01 ! In Canada this marks a ritualistic date in the calendar (in my mind). For the past couple of decades it has meant that it is time to think of opening the cottage. I must pause here to articulate that after living in Toronto for 30 years, I have adopted “cottage” as the general description of the place where folks enjoy recreational time with family and friends in the summer. Naturally anyone between Sault St Marie and Winnipeg would refer to it as “camp“. I’m not sure if it is in Saskatchewan or Alberta where the western monicker shifts to “cabin“. Nonetheless, you will all appreciate that special place that you and family and friends have come to know as your “summer place”.

It is a time for renewal, to kick off a new summer season. The water system that should just “turn on” with the expected challenges of a foot valve that has cracked in the ice over winter, or a plastic hose that miraculously has obtained a pin head leak above ground, or a copper elbow that had water resting in it near a faucet that wasn’t left open, or the pump that seems to take forever to “prime”. All of this in the good fun and part of the ritual of opening “camp” in preparation for a long summer of fun.

And it is fun, preparing the dock with bumpers that are in need of “air”, after a long winter’s storage in the shed. The corners and windows in need of dusting and removal of cob webs – how is it that ants and flying skeetos find life after the depth of winter !? The BBQ hooked up again with a fresh tank of propane. Running the boats and topping up with fresh petrol. Launching the boats after a long winter’s sleep. Checking the kayaks for spiders before a quick paddle in the bay. Removing the tarps on the screened in porch. Lighting that first indoor fire to take the chill off. Preparing the wood BBQ with a fresh set of twigs. Acquiring the fire burning permit to burn off the brush that was felled in winter. Raising the flag pole with Canadian flag up the mast. Moving the “buoys” back in place to mark the rocks entering the bay. Monitoring the loons for nests. Monitoring the Eagle who is monitoring the loon for its nest. Listening to a late night symphony of sound in the wetland.

It is so amazing to see the new growth of grass, the hope of a perennial returning and the need to plant “marigolds” to ensure that the deer won’t eat the gardens. Trust me, I’ve tried them all…marigolds are a pretty sure bet – unless of course you have mink or otters, which seem to like to pull them up in search of grubs.

Each spring, one keeps one’s fingers crossed regarding what ice damage may appear from the ice freeze up and breakup. Fortunately enough for us, the great master carpenter Bill Holm created a system that allows our floater to move in and out with the ice on a steel “sleeve” with large springs to return it “to position” in the spring. It’s as easy as popping the pins back in. Nice design Bill !

This year in particular for me was a totally new experience. Being “semi retired”, I had the opportunity to travel to the lake in early May. In fact, on the Friday night that we arrived, we were unable to access our dock from the main bay due to persistent ice remaining in our bay. After a night’s sleep and return we were amazed and relieved to dodge small ice flows on the way to the island to be surprised that the south wind had blown the remaining ice across to the other shore.  With snow still on the shore across our bay it was an amazing experience to behold. Naturally it was capped off by a polar bear dip by my daughter.

At the end of a day full or “opening chores” there is nothing quite as satisfying as a nice cold Molson Canadian and BBQ delight.

So what’s your “favourite” opening the cottage chore or ritual ? And no, that does not include “someone else does it for me”…smiles. @FergDevins