Cabin in the Woods

Winter 2015

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Cottage Life

First Entries:  Cottage Life - August to December 2014

This summer we bought a cabin in the woods north of Muskoka.

 It is situated on 28 acres of forest with trees ranging in age from saplings to about 130 years

when the forest was last clear cut.

We get about 1200 feet of river, lots of rocks, some small creeks and a swamp.

Living accommodations are a one room hunter's cabin and an old trailer.

Looks like the last owner had big plans but no one has touched the place in maybe five years.

The access road is in bad shape so we cannot get the car in.

This is the story in pictures and a few explanations.....

To contact Mike:

February 28, March 01, 2015 --Back to the Woods
So for the first time this year we returned to the cabin. We came in the For F150 hopeful that we could get close but the snow was too deep and immediately we could see there was trouble. It meant a one hour walk to the cabin. Fortunately our neighbour rescued us and drove us the last half by snowmobile. The hard pack meant that we could walk out without snowshoes.
We had fun with the Ecofan which uses the heat differential between two pieces of metal to create enough current to operate a fan. The fan acts to spread the heat from the woodstove into the cabin more efficiently.  By the same manufacturer we tried out the Joi Light. This uses the same principal to generate 19 candlepower from a little tea light. The electricity is enough to run 8 led lights.
This week I posted two videos. Just click on the photo of the fallen snow or the Joi light to be taken to the You tube channel.

A lot of Snow

Minus 19 C
(Two below zero in non-communist temperature)

Joi Light -19 candlepower from 1 tea light
Click on the image to see the video


I Fell Down and I Can't Get Up
Click on image to show walking on snow without snowshoes

Walking on Water
(The frozen kind)

Across the River

March 14, 15 2015 --Tapping the Maple Trees

The weather has been below freezing at night and above freezing in the day so it is time to begin the maple syrup experiment. We tapped 26 trees.  We tried ten pails and 16 taps connected with a long plastic hose.
The stove we made last fall is still covered in snow. If there is sap in the pails next week we will have to dig it out and start cooking.
This week Javier brought his snow shoes. It was a blessing to have them as we had to trek through deep snow to tap the trees. Once the first person made the trail it was easier for the next in line. After a number of circuits we made a nice trail that leads to all of the sap buckets.
The power drill was quite useless but Javier brought a hand brace and we made short work of the trees. We also used a hand auger to drill 8 inch holes in the ice to try a little ice fishing. Unfortunately all we managed to catch was some ice. Perhaps I used the wrong bait. Perhaps the fish were still frozen. The ice is about 1 foot thick.

We rarely see animals around the cabin in the summer but they must be there. We see many tracks in the snow. I believe there may even be a lynx. I hope that one day I may get a photograph of that shy animal.


Picnic Table Covered in Snow

Javier using hand brace to tap Maple Trees
(Click on photo or this link for the Video)


Walking on Snowshoes
(Click on photo or this link for the video)


March 21, 22 2015 -- Boiling the Maple Sap

So this weekend we came to see if our little Maple tree tapping project netted any result. It did. We got about five gallons of pure tree juice. It tasted like wonderful spring water with just a hint of sweetness and fresh clean soil. Lovely refreshment.  A couple of the pails fell over the week because they were too heavy. Some of the tubing was too long, got covered in snow and the sap froze, We sorted that out on Sunday.

So eager we were to start the evaporation that in spite of the late hour on Saturday I fired up the stove we put together last fall and we began to boil.  The first effort was a disaster. Everything was going well until about 1am then the fire got too hot and everything burned. Our syrup looked like bad motor oil. Tasted a bit like the stuff they pour over crème caramel.  I brought a quart of the water home and boiled it on the stove. This time it was reduced to perfect syrup. Quite sweet and not unlike honey. Unfortunately only a teaspoon came out of that entire quart. We try again next weekend.

The pink insulation was badly infested with field mice. I did not think it was a good idea just to cover everything with drywall so we ripped all of the insulation out and tossed it. Good idea as it was disgusting. The idea now is to wait until the place warms up a bit and spray closed cell foam insulation. That should seal up the entry points and add to the structural integrity of the building.

On Sunday morning I walked to the river. There I found a set of snowshoe tracks headed down stream towards the trailer. I thought that was our tracks from last weekend. I felt like Robinson Caruso upon discovering the stranger's footprint when I noticed the tracks did not head to the trailer. Instead they continued downstream towards Needles Eye. They were not ours! I followed the tracks which wisely veered away from the river when they approached the rapids. Needle eye this time of the year is a frightening, unforgiving roar. To fall in would probably be fatal. I headed back to the cabin with reverence.

Old Soldier is a solar patio light. We put this solar light in last summer. It steadily gives off light every night even though it was sometimes covered in snow and suffered many nights where the thermometer dropped colder than minus 30 degrees C.

Sometimes technology is amazing.

Cabin March 22, 2015
(note the pink insulation on the left)

Shadow in the Morning

Tracks on the River

Mysterious Bump in the Ice

View from the Trailer

Needle Eye Rapids March 22, 2015

Maple Syrup Evaporator Stove
(Click on image or this link - Ranger Mike takes a little tour of the Maple Syrup operation)

Boiling the Sap

Old Soldier

Joi Light in the Snow
Made by the same Canadian company that makes the Ecofan.
Click on image or this link to see the video of Ranger Javier discovering
the only thing better than an Ecofan.

Walls after the insulation was removed.

Click image or this link to see Ranger Javier explaining work ethic.
(Still in his space suit he was slightly disoriented having so recently arrived on earth from the Moon)

April 3 to 5 2015 -- Caution advised when using Chainsaw / Easter Passover and Slaughter of the Lambs

The winter holds on but there are finally signs that spring is coming. The river showed signs of melting. The snow is rotting and we still need snowshoes or risk sinking down to the knees.  This weekend we removed the rest of the insulation from the cabin. It is quite a bit colder in there now, particularly so when the insulation was removed from the ceiling and there are two open ventilation windows in what used to be the attic. I covered them in cardboard but it went down to -12 C in the night. Even with two Ecofans blowing hard the place was quite cool. It had to be done because there were many mice, dead and alive and now there are none. We will spray pest barrier insulating foam and that should keep them out.

The Maple syrup boiling continued. We got a big batch going but unfortunately Ranger Javier who was using the chain saw to remove some trees that will be shading what will eventually be the garden fell through the snow, lost his balance and ripped out a hunk of his leg with the saw. (Lucky summer is coming because he also converted one leg of the Blue Jeans into cut offs)

The angels were watching over him. He hit no nerves or, most importantly, no artery or vein, otherwise on the hard hour walk back to the truck he could have bled out and died. I patched him up the best I could with our first aid kit and we hauled out to get him stitched up. He spent the night in the Parry Sound Hospital where they took very good care of him. It was a warning to be extra careful. We have special Kevlar fabric chaps to prevent that exact type of accident but it is easy to get careless. I don't know if we will be going up next week.

Since this is the Easter weekend the trip took on religious significance from the beautiful procession with cross we passed at the little white church in Dunchurch to of course Javier cutting his leg in a way that 1/4 inch the wrong side he would have bled out in a couple minutes, the hour long death march, blood dripping on the trail, drive to the hospital Saturday where they put him under to then resurrect Ranger Javier on Sunday morning.

When Javier cleaned out the insulation he just tossed it off the balcony. It was quite a mess. He is a killer. I started piling the bats neatly. It got to be too much so I grabbed the hoe and pulled the bats towards the pile. I felt like the Good Sheppard with his crook. The pink glass wool stained the pure white snow with what looked like the blood of lambs. The spirit of God is everywhere.

River Beginning to Melt

Ceiling after the insulation removed
Click on image or this link for the Passover slaughter of the lambs
(As explained by Ranger Mike)

Wood Stove with Two Ecofans

Checking the Sap Line

Cooking the Maple Syrup Dominican Style
To see the Video - Click on Image or this link

River Starting to Melt

Reminder to Javier
 Before making cut-off blue jeans with chainsaw
First take the jeans off!
(Photo by Javier Jr.)

In the Parry Sound Hospital
(Photo by Zoraida)

April 11, 12 2015 -- Spring Thaw on the River

Ranger Javier, still recuperating from the little chain saw incident, remained in the city. Ranger Marisol, alarmed at the prospect of Ranger Mike meeting a similar fate, came up to accompany me.
The river continues to rise.The property line post was quite visible last weekend but now is only an inch or so above the water. We boiled the sap and brought a jug of concentrated liquid to the city. Ranger Marina finished the cooking and we shared about a litre of precious maple syrup.

Property Marker Last Week

Property Marker This Week

Ranger Marisol Checking the Sap Bucket
(Click on image or this link for the Video)

Boiling the Sap

Cabin April 12, 2015
The snow is getting quite soft. Marisol has small shoes and sinks deeply into the trail especially in the afternoon. The snowshoes are helpful in the spring.
Click on the image or this link for the video of Ranger Marisol walking in snowshoes.


View from the Trailer

To contact me it is

Cottage Life

August to December 2014