Jennifer Cockrall-King | Cottage Life
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Cottage Life


Cottage Life West, Spring 2017

Many years ago, my parents and their longtime cottaging friends came up with a way to get competitive about the arrival of spring. Each side—they literally live across the water from one another—casts a few bets on the date that the lake ice will “go out.” We’re not talking break up in the bays. There has to be open water in the middle of Lac Ste. Anne. (It’s usually a couple of weeks after the geese return and just seem to stand around on the every-darkening ice. Maybe they have their own bets going too.)

The side that comes closest to the actual date wins “a really good bottle of wine.” The neighbourly custom is to share the winning bottle(s). In other words, everyone wins.

So begins the rituals of spring at our family’s cottage. Friendly betting pools. Monitoring the ice breakup. Planning the garden. Washing down outdoor furniture. Cleaning and organizing the garage. Repairing pier sections. And devising new ways to keep the geese and ducks from turning those pier sections into a slippery mess.

Every year, of course, unexpected projects pop up. For instance, the lack of snow in Central Alberta this past winter meant the cold snaps penetrated down further than normal. It’ll be May or so until my parents can dig up and repair the frozen, burst pipe to the septic tank that froze back in December. According to the plumbers we spoke to, this was not uncommon. I predict that sales of portable toilets, and rentals of heated outdoor Porta Potties were up in the prairies.

In other words, while spring might seem like a dormant time until nature roars back to life, cottagers are busy. This is why our annual Spring issue is jam-packed with useful advice and helpful reminders to get you ready for the year ahead.  We’ve got your covered, with everything from—finally— repairing that hole in the screen to building a covered, deer-proof herb garden. And a kitchen inventory and restock is critical because we all know the frustration of reaching for something at the cottage mid-recipe only to realize that we surely do have three tins of baking powder. In the city.

For those of you dreaming and scheming of getting into the cottaging game—by purchasing your own dream property or availing yourself of the many rental options now—we know it can be daunting. We hope you find helpful and pertinent information in our Real Estate Block. While we can’t help you with the bore who won’t stop boasting about the steal of a deal he got “just before the market went up,” at least you can quote a useful statistic back at him. That 94% of Canadians value peace and quiet—hint, hint—above everything else at the cottage (as we learn in our In Like Zim column).

It’s been 10 years since I took the scary plunge of buying a recreational property in the Okanagan. This past winter, I was busy turning it into a full-time home. Perhaps it’s fitting that it was such a long, cold winter in the BC interior too. It’s the first time I saw the lakes here freeze over. Even mammoth Okanagan Lake had an icy necklace from December to end of January. Currently, the geese are standing around on the ice wondering what the heck is going on.  And I’m looking across the lake thinking of all the great winemakers I know. I guess it’s time to start my own betting pool.