Last summer visit before school

Somehow, it’s been about two weeks since the last Estate visit and nearly two months since we were there alone to focus on getting stuff done. Leading up today, we spent our last extended weekend at the Estate before classes start up. There was a sense of urgency because the next visit will be nearly a month away (after Labour Day weekend of labouring in the city, a Washington DC visit, and then a wedding in Guelph area). Also, hard as it is to imagine, heating season is probably no more than a month away and I (Liam) detest the idea of electric heating when there’s an abundance of forests and dead trees lying around. The next visitors are the Mediterranean, heat-loving type.

So we got to work and basically didn’t stop for three days. Liam finished building the outdoor shower and concrete woodstove pad (with a lot of help from Nina), while Nina finished framing a window seat and did a major overhaul and clean up of the interior. A few pictures below.

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Concrete pad, pre-concrete. We had elaborate plans to have inset river rocks, but in the end the concrete was too coarse. It should work out.
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Nina’s beautiful window seat with built in mouse-proof storage. It just needs a custom cushion and this will serve as a sleeping spot for a (petite) guest.
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Outdoor shower with hot AND cold water connected. This tool far too long, mainly because I was nervous about leaks. Not a single joint leaks! I’m not too sure if I should be worried about the long runs of unsupported copper pipe. With no Ernie drop-ins, we got fairly confident in minimal attire to fight the muggy weather.
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New sawhorse in preparation of winter. We’re way too late to cut green wood. However, there’s so much dead sumac and apple around that we’ll make it through 10 winter weekends without issue.

Nina’s subtlest contribution to the cabin was to work on mouse-proofing. It was highly necessary as we discovered not one, but two nests full of mother and babies. The first encounter was pretty adventurous. Mother had made nest out of fluff between board games. Liam tried to scoop the whole thing into a pot to bring outside (and far away). But the mother took a big leap, all five babies teat-clenched followed and hung on for a 10-minute chase behind fridges and up a wall. The odd baby let go a little later on (see below). Liam brought those ones across the road and lay them in grass. Something had a nice lunch. I think the mother eventually escaped with one baby. The next day, Nina found another nest but this time it was more contained and she brought the whole thing outside.

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Aside from the hard work, we had many nature walks and canoe rides. Liam was inspired by a lengthy day visit to Algonquin Park and the tons of literature on trees and animals that we bought. On day 1, we walked down to our canoe and saw 6-7 fairly tame beavers swimming around within 20 m. On the last evening, we caught a glimpse of a beaver on land. It was huge! Liam set up the wildlife camera towards the shore, but captured exactly zero beavers in 48 hours. We did however capture a red fox right near the cabin. A few other highlights are below.

One of Liam’s objectives was to identify and tag (with orange ribbon) the viable sugar maples. Despite the size of the property, there aren’t that many mature trees. The ones that are really mature (as in 80-100, probably) are almost entirely Oak. Oak is nice, but not when you’re excited for sap. But the point is that Oak and Maple are fairly hard to tell apart unless you follow the trunk all the way up to the sky and look for the leaf silhouettes. We tagged about a dozen trees that are just above the 10″ diameter that’s recommended. Apparently that will yield 12-24 litres if all goes well and we actually collect all the sap. We use 3-4 L/year. But who knows if sap season will coincide with a busy time at school. Nina says I’m (Liam) crazy and oblivious to the amount of work it takes to lug sap and turn it into sweet, sweet syrup.

The other prevalent tree is Red Pine, but they’re all in plantations. It’s not clear why they were planted; maybe because of some tax break that the real estate agent mentioned in passing.

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Meadow with little stream connecting to our backyard creek. The stream was big enough for a leech, believe it or not. It’s about a foot wide (the stream).
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Beaver highway.
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Turtle eggshells, I think. Probably raccoon scavenged, based on my readings.

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Bonsai Oak
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Remnants of earlier times when settles actually believed this land was viable agricultural land. Apparently the land used to be so cheap that fences were not worth the cost for the most part. Nevertheless, the combination of the odd surprising stretch of barbed wire and sharp beaver-carved stumps nearly impaled Liam the first visit.
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Some carnivore. This site suggests it’s coyote. We heard two packs or groups of coyotes howling with puppies yapping the night before (different area). So this seems highly probable.

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Back in the backyard, we transplanted about 30 trees from Liam’s cottage to encourage more diversity and long-lived trees. This one’s an Eastern Hemlock. They grow so densely that deer like them in the winter because the snow doesn’t get deep below. This will be perfect for shading the cabin from summer heat. So many of the existing trees are the type that live to be 20-40 and then die (like Sumac). We want big rich forests one way. The brush in the back is Liam’s assault on prickly ash. It burns well after just a month of being cut 🙂

Liam discovered that one of the biggest trees around the cabin, along the creek, is a black walnut. It’s hard to identify trees (to the amateur) until they fruit. Coincidentally, Liam found a pile of 100 or so walnut shells about 50 ft from the cabin.

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Big bullfrog
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Our biggest apple tree; hundreds if not thousands of apples were ripening. Hopefully they’ll await our next visit in three weeks.
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Concord grapes. They are plentiful but the size is pretty discouraging and they’re very seedy. Maybe next year we won’t have a major drought all summer.



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