Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cottage Opening Weekend

The long weekend in May is traditionally the time when those of us who don't have winterized cottages open them up for the summer. Thousands of people load up their minivans and pickup trucks and haul a load of furniture, mattresses, swim toys and/or their boat up north. Sure enough, the traffic report I heard first thing this morning advised that one lane on the highway was blocked by somebody's barbeque. You can be sure that BBQ should have been on it's way to a cottage. (Looks like those folks will be eating out tonight.)

Some years, like this one, the 3 day weekend falls a little bit earlier in the month - the statutory holiday upon which we Canadians celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria is held on the Monday on or before May 24th, so it varies with the calendar. Depending on the weather and how warm a spring we've had, we might have been up to the cottage several weekends in a row by now. Not so this year, when we've had a very cool spring. In fact, the forecast for this weekend calls for single digit temperatures overnight and frost warnings for some areas around the city. [My mother, the gardener of the family, has always told me never to plant before May 24th (the date, not the holiday weekend) and the one year I did, I learned why she is always right.] Add to that a wind blowing in off the lake, and the temperature feels even colder.

For us, opening the cottage starts with getting the water running. It's a semi-mysterious process, the details of which were passed to my dad from the previous owner when we bought the place 34 years ago and which he passed to my sister. She has a little notebook where she keeps track of the details. I know it involves priming the pump using buckets of water carried up from the lake but that's about the extent of my knowledge.

Once the water is running, we can turn on the hot water tank and/or plug in the kettle to heat up some water and that's when my job starts: cleaning. The first item to get cleaned out will be the fridge. We leave it plugged in over the winter which keeps it from getting all moldy but the trade off is that the freezer compartment ends up looking like this:

In a word, scary!! Job one involves a lot of boiling water, a squirt bottle and an ice pick (I picked up a lovely vintage one at an antique market last year. Before that, I just used a regular dinner knife). It usually has to be done at least once during the summer as well but it's worth it. We have a charming vintage fridge from the 50's or early 60's that we love and it's important to keep it clean and fresh inside.

After that, every cupboard, drawer, floor and surface, every cup, plate, bowl and utensil needs to be cleaned, both to remove any dust or dirt that might have accumulated over 6 months of not being used but also in case a mouse has run over it. They tend to make themselves at home in our place over the winter months and when we arrive in the spring, there are little mouse droppings everywhere to show they've been there. So everything needs to be cleaned and disinfected, just in case. Plus it's always nice to start with a clean slate.

So I'm packing up my rubber gloves, cleaning products, scrub brushes, SOS pads and sponges and heading up to the cottage to engage in the labour of love that begins every summer. When the work is done (having climbed a ladder to take the cover off the chimney and hauled in a load of firewood and dusted and vacuumed the living room), we can sit by a roaring fire and look out the picture window at our beautiful lake view and it will be worth every sore muscle.

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