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: Mike@Mikesjournal.com
July 19, 2014, Waiting
It is a rainy day. Nothing to do now but wait it out. I walk to the Home Depot to look at toy chainsaws and axes for the weekend woodsmen. I study the Dominion Seed Catalogue and You Tube videos about solar power and how to cut down timber. The bank is supposed to have the money for us on July 30. The closing is not until August 7. After that the land will be ours...but not really. You cannot own the land really; land is something shared with the past and future.
I know if we go into the woods attempting to tame it we will not succeed. That is a wild place and although only 28 acres it is large enough for us to get lost in it. Our monuments to human ingenuity will disappear in time and the makers will be forgotten.
August 09, 2014, Going Green
We finally made it! The land and cabin are ours. Here are views up and down the river. We have more than 1200 feet of shoreline. There is a lot of brush to cut as no one has been using the land for years however we have a choice spot on the river. It is wonderful for swimming and I caught a big Walleye on the second cast. The 28 acre forest is quite tall with many very old trees and a wide assortment of ferns, mosses and maple saplings. Plenty of deer tracks. On our way home we had to stop on the road to wait for a moose who looked at us then calmly walked away.
August 16, 2014, Spent the Weekend
Slept overnight at the cabin. Most of the time we were clearing overgrown brush all around it. This time I wore long pants and saved my legs from serious scratching. At night there were millions of stars and it was very quiet. The river at sunset was steaming and its surface reflected the clouds.
Cabin in the Woods
Needle Eye Rapids
August 25, 2014, The weekend was mostly spent clearing
brush. We can now see the river from the cabin. The weather was lovely. We
walked to Needles Eye Rapids and enjoyed the forest. The river was at least a
foot or so higher than it was last week.
Perhaps ten years ago several large trees were cut to provide a view of the river. After that I don't think they spent an hour clearing with the result that many saplings have grown up to obstruct the view. Any salvageable deadwood will be cut for firewood. Meanwhile the saplings will be removed along with weak lower branches of the mature trees. After we clear the obstructions and find a natural trail to the lagoon we will focus on the moss and many types of ferns. Wild irises are already growing so we will supplement them with a colourful assortment of wet land bulbs along with many Hostas.
Walking Trail to Needle's Eye
Resting at the Needle's Eye Rapids
September 07, 2014 Work Started on the Road. Ongoing Plans
We spent a short weekend from late Saturday until about 5:00pm on Sunday working on the land. We had fine sunny weather, about 70 degrees F. The river was very beautiful on Sunday morning because it was all steamy in the cool. Marisol and I tried our hands fishing but we were not lucky so breakfast was bacon and eggs.
Javier moving in
The dirt road from our property line to the cabin is over 1600 feet. We have been using the wheelbarrow and dolly to move in. We need to fix the road so the car can get all the way to the cabin.
Repair to the access road began in earnest. Javier began filling in the pot holes while I tackled the big pile of pre-hardened cement. The previous owner left a skid of about 50 bags of cement but these were out in the rain for a half dozen years or so and are as hard as...cement. I wheeled the 30kg bags one at a time with the wheelbarrow up the road from the cabin to wherever Javier was working. I removed the plastic covering from the bags of cement and pounded them over and over with an enormous sledge hammer until each bag was reduced to gravel. This was added to the road to provide traction and to help prevent erosion. We are about 1/3 done. We need to put in a culvert and were fortunate to find one left behind by the previous owner.
Meanwhile Mari and Marina, armed with their trusty machetes continued to chop away at the brush. We brought a few bunches of Hostas and purple Irises from the city and the girls transplanted them at the entrance way to our road.
In the morning the river is warmer than the air so it steams.
September 01, 2014 Enjoyed the long weekend working at the cabin. This week we continued to clear brush down the hill to the lagoon. Directly in front of the cabin there is a forest lagoon that is under water each spring. The river is also subject to fluctuations and when it goes up a foot or so like it did last week the water makes the forest quite soggy. It is a lovely shaded spot with a floor of ferns, driftwood caught in the spring floods and crouching old trees.
View from Lagoon Forest to Mainland
The first image above shows the trail coming down the ridge. Currently it is necessary to swing away from the water to reach the river. It can flood up to ten feet in spring so a dock or a boardwalk across the marshy section will be problematic. I think a suspension bridge would be neat. There is a spot with several sturdy trees lined up at a perfect spot just down the hill from the cabin. A three or four stage hanging bridge made of sturdy nylon, floor of nice 4" maple poles hung six feet or so off the ground should work. Here is the proposed location of the bridge.
Proposed location of suspension bridge
View from the Beach
It is very nice to swim in a river. The current pulls against you and you can swim slowly for as long as you like and be in the same place. I worry about weak swimmers though. It gets very deep very fast.
A view from the cabin to the river September 01, 2014
September 14 , 2014 Teresa Visits the Cabin
We could not come up on Saturday so we had only a few hours on Sunday. We brought Teresa up to visit the cabin for the first time. It was a bit chilly so I made a fire in the wood stove and very soon the place was nice and cozy.
September 21 , 2014 Planting in the Rain
It rained all weekend, sometimes heavily but we did not care. Andrew brought Franny and some boxes of perennials. He and Marisol planted them (not Franny just the flowers) around the cabin. They also found some pine and oak seedlings in the deep forest, dug them out and transplanted them near the cabin. The garden is starting to look great and the soil is very rich. The plants put in during the last two weekends are still fresh and green and so far apparently undiscovered by the deer.
Javier enjoyed the heavy rain because it helped to plot the watershed on the road. He dug one crossing to put in a culvert and was pleasantly surprised to discover an old culvert already there. That was cleaned out and put along with another. I carried bags of hardened cement with the wheelbarrow from the cabin up the road and dropped them one by one along the way. The sledge hammer got a rest until next weekend. I dropped about 15 bags before calling it a day.
It is too late in the year to season green wood for the fireplace but we need wood for winter. I concentrated on big deadfalls and river wood that got hung up on the lagoon during the spring floods. Many of the logs are bone dry and almost ready to burn. The chainsaw made short work of them but it was still quite a chore hauling the wood up the ridge with the dolly. The last 40 feet are almost vertical and the mud slippery with clay in the rain.
Marina found legs and a second drawer in the cedar chest. Javier repaired the hinge and Marina organized the cutlery. It seemed that the colours are changing by the hour. It was a nice weekend. A weekend with miserable weather in paradise is still a weekend in paradise.
Planting in the Rain
Flooded Trail to Cabin
Road to Cabin September 21, 2014
September 28 , 2014 Left the Camera at the Cabin
Oops left the camera at the Cabin so I was not able to upload any pictures. I did take some time to take a few photos but that had to wait a week. The weather was beautiful and we had a lovely time.
Morning Mist 1 to 3
Sometimes in the morning I am a little sleepy and things like checking the focus do not occur to me. However I like the moodiness of this. Some of the soft focus was because of the mist.
Sitting Around the Campfire
Forest Canopy September 28, 2014
The leaves are changing rapidly. It seemed by the hour to us. The forest floor is carpeted with leaves however quite a bit of green remains.
October 5, 2014 Another Rainy Weekend
It rained most of the weekend but we kept ourselves busy fixing the road and the body heat generated by hard work kept us warm. Marisol could not come and we missed her but we had a nice time anyway. Marina brought a lovely soup base made with squash and two kinds of juice made with her magic blender. I brought Pizza from Tre Maria Bakery and we heated it on the wood stove.
After dark it rained really hard and it was fun to sit in front of the wood stove listening to conspiracy radio beaming through the internet and broadcast on the portable speaker through Blu Tooth, the cabin lit by the soft light of candles and naphtha gas. We are cowboys living in the woods but with technology. For the last two weeks I have been afraid to burn green wood in the woodstove because of the risk of a creosote fire so on the way up I bought bags of wood from the general store much to the consternation of Javier who declared it a waste of money. This week I brought along a moisture meter and learned that the general store wood is soaking wet! The stuff I cut from deadwood hung up off the ground is perfectly acceptable....live and learn.
Meanwhile another lake in the middle of our dirt road was filled in. Only three rough spots to go. For pictures I experimented with the 10mm fish eye. That is why the trees seem to bend. The forest floor is carpeted in leaves and the canopy is bare compared to last week.
Legs of a Tree
October 13, 2014 Autumn Water Abstracts
I heard that when the group of seven painters showed their works many dismissed them as being too bizarre, too abstract. Such crazy colours and shapes! Yet in reality it is all there. Here is a larger shot of the fall colours being reflected on our river. Then I focused in with the 55mm lens on some close ups of the water.
For thanksgiving we roasted a big chicken over the fire. The battery powered turner seized up because of the heat after an hour. The bird had to be given a 1/4 turn every few minutes or so by hand after that. The meat eaters in the group said it was delicious.
October 19, 2014 Roadwork Continues
This weekend the girls stayed home and so it was just Javier and me. The river is higher than I have ever seen it so our lagoon is quite flooded and the little isthmus in front of our property is now clearly an island. The weather is distinctly fall-like. It rained all week so everything is quite soggy but on Sunday the weather was clear and sunny.
Although the thermometer read only 4 Celsius it was surprisingly warm in the forest. After an hour of digging it was necessary to remove our jackets. I suppose it is the high relative humidity and absolute lack of wind.
It was great news when Javier discovered sand pits on the land quite close to the road (on the road actually). He was digging down to remove a big boulder and struck sand. The farther down he dug the purer it became. We seem to have an endless supply which will be spread over the squishy parts of the road.
Meanwhile now that the culverts are working my task was to follow the streams up and down, clearing the fallen logs and leaves that keep the streams from flowing and result in bogs and swamps. We have a natural slope from the swamp and it should be possible to trace the original watercourse and create a lovely stream and walking trail. The water table is very high. When Javier dug into the sand he struck water right away. I hope we can lower the water table a bit to eliminate some of the mosquito breeding grounds. Also having the water moving should keep it cleaner.
I finished planting the perennial bulbs. I got a big box in the mail from Veseys Seeds in PEI. Said to be shade loving, deer resistant, butterfly attracting beauties. We shall see in spring.
October 26, 2014 Roadwork Continues
The roadwork continues. Javier continued to dig away at the sand mine. He reported that the deeper he dug, the better the quality of sand. He excavated a trench about 3 feet deep, 3 feet wide and 9 feet long. The sand was piled in a low, very wet area of the road. I brought a dozen or so wheelbarrow loads down the road and spread the sand on another wet area with little effect.
Later I discovered the source of one of the streams which is the back end of the swamp. I started to clear the creek of leaves, branches and probably hundreds of years of root filled compost that forms the top foot or so of soil and completely blocks the natural flow of water. I believe if we clear the watercourse we should be able to drain the swamp. I won't completely drain it as there is a lovely pond which could be preserved for frogs and such.
We explored a bit more of the forest as we traced one of three natural creek beds upstream. I discovered a very nice stand of birch trees and also the source of the little creek that drains the swamp.
The weather is a lot cooler but we were able to keep the cabin quite warm with another log on the fire before bedtime and another in the morning. I put the coffee on the stove when I went out at dawn to fish and it was apparently ready about 5 minutes after I let. Perhaps I will stick around next time. Working outside in the cold is quite pleasant. No bugs. The denseness of the forest, even without leaves is a natural wind break. The relative humidity is also quite high so after a half hour or so of heavy lifting I was able to work in short sleeves quite comfortably.
We played dominoes at night to pass the time. (My team was beaten decisively two out of three games) Food was good. Oatmeal in the morning, potato soup and fire roasted quails for the meat eaters. The fruit and vegetable smoothees brought up from the city provided a lot of energy.
Walking the Trail
Another Weekend with a Grizzly Hoe
Javier Playing in the Sand
November 02, 2014 First Snow!
Friday it was raining and then overnight the temperature dropped and there was a heavy snow that stuck to everything including the sides of the trees. It was just Javier and me this weekend. He continued to slug away at the road which was particularly difficult because you could not see the road because of the snow.
I sawed a number of logs into chop able sections for firewood and spent some time taking pictures. I tried shooting star trails at 3:30 in the morning after the moon set. It was ten below zero (Celsius) but surprisingly it did not feel too cold. The cabin of course was very snug and warm. We cracked open a pouch of survival food which to my palate was almost inedible because of the very high salt content.
Down by the lagoon the snow on the branches began to melt and fell to the water resulting in musical notes that flowed out from the impact as music and circular waves. Remarkably beautiful in the stillness.
There were a number of fresh deer tracks in the snow. They do come close to the cabin.
Snow Falling in the Lagoon Like Musical Notes
November 09, 2014 Digging, Chopping and Staying Warm by the Fire
We passed another nice weekend at the cabin. It was warm and rainy all week so we were fairly confident we could drive the car all the way to our access road. After that it is only 1600 feet to the cabin so we can walk in from there. But it is clear that winter is arriving quickly. On the highway it was snowing heavily, the temperature was at the freezing mark and passing was a white knuckle experience.
The access road is not ploughed and soon we will have to park at the farm house about three kilometres from the cabin and hike in. With snow piled up to eight feet with drifts we will need snow shoes. Javier found a big plastic sleigh which came in handy to haul in supplies from the car.
The girls spent the weekend cleaning the cabin - we left it messy last week. The survival food that I found too salty last week was supplemented with cooked hamburger and freeze dried corn. Not too bad. I chopped up all of the logs. Later Javier and I worked on the last flooded section of our road. We excavated a river leading from our road to the swamp. It was back breaking work because of all the roots but below the first six inches we hit sand and gravel.
The only time we saw the sun was for about 45 minutes at sunrise so I went down to the river to get a few more photos. I did not bring the telephoto lens. There was a pretty big beaver. Every time I moved it slapped the water with its tail and dived. I cropped the photo heavily so you can see it is an animal.
On Saturday night we played dominos until almost midnight. The fire keeps the cabin very nice and warm. Our team narrowly won four out of seven games. We played music from the iPad via Blue Tooth to the Beats Pill until it died then we used the Sony speaker with a fresh set of 4AA batteries. I introduced the group to Frank Zappa.
View From the Trailer
November 16, 2014 Reflections and the kindness of strangers
Javier and I went up to the cabin for the weekend. We managed to finish the last stretch of the road. This was accomplished by Javier digging a huge hole by the side of the road. He extracted sand and gravel and tossed it in the road. I smoothed everything with the hoe. By the time he got down about four feet that was enough so he broke through from the road to the hole and all of the water rushed off of the road and into the hole.
I was going to cut more firewood but the chain was too dull and I did not want to waste too much time changing it. There were snow squall warnings all week and I expected we would have to trek in 3 kilometres from the highway. That is one reason the girls stayed home. We were pleasantly surprised to find the drive in without any problems. It did snow all night however and by Sunday afternoon we could hardly see so we left early. Within 10 minutes or so I failed to execute an S-turn and the car ended up in the ditch. We could not get it out. A nice gentleman named Brian who lives near there came to investigate. He tried to rustle up a tractor but it had a flat tire and no gas apparently. We got through to a towing company in Parry Sound. They finally came out and hauled us out of the ditch. It took six hours for the tow truck to arrive. Meanwhile Brian let us rest and stay warm in his cabin while listening to the CBC and drinking his beer and listening to his interesting life stories.
November 30, 2014 Moose, Windfalls and Hauling Wood
After skipping a week we went up to the cabin on Sunday. It is a long trip leaving at 5:30 in the morning, arriving by 10:00 (after breakfast on the way) then leaving at 3:00 to arrive in the city well after dark. Even more so because now the road from the highway to the entrance to the cabin is no longer open to traffic - at least not the Lexus so we had to walk. It was an hour walk. I did not think we needed snowshoes which in retrospect was probably incorrect. We stopped at the hose of Brian who allowed us to stay with him last time while we waited for the tow-truck. I brought him a big bag of seeds for his bird feeders, a new Alan Cross book because I noticed a number of paper backs in his book case and a case of good ale to replace the bottles we drank while waiting for rescue.
Just up the road we were stopped by a Moose. Took a couple of photos through the front window of the car.
The little baby bobsled was a great idea. We were able to haul a 5 gallon jug of water without problems and on the way out we carried two small pine trees we will use to decorate our city home for Christmas.
Time was spent for the girls inventing a recipe using the freeze dried potato soup, the left over home fried potatoes from breakfast and two nice pieces of fresh cod fish, cilantro and some fresh greens. Like everything we eat up there it was delicious.
I scouted for a place to build our first bunkie and in the perfect location and in what appears to be Divine Providence a storm some time ago fell three big trees which acted to naturally clear the lot. The windfalls were off the ground, reasonably dry and should burn very well for the cabin and in March for the Maple syrup. Javier spend five solid hours sawing the fallen trees into chop able logs. I hauled the pieces eight at a time down the hill via sled to the cabin. It was back breaking work for the both of us. Javier slept all the way home. I resorted to two Tylenols to ease the discomfort.
Highway Checkpoint - Northern Ontario
Roadway To Cabin
Using Baby Sleigh to carry Supplys
View from Beach - November 30, 2014
Baby using Baby Sleigh to carry Christmas trees back to City
December 07, 2014 Moon, Animal Tracks Hauling Wood, Splitting Firewood @15 below zero (Celsius)
If you go outside at 3:30 in the morning under an Arctic high pressure system you are likely to be mooned by the sky. It was quite a bit colder than we were used to. We filled the stove with firewood and the cabin was close to 80 F when we retired. By 3:30 am I noticed my face was almost uncomfortably cold. The fire was out and the cabin temperature was down to 50. I filled up the fireplace with wood but it is still too wet and the fire did not get really going until morning. I went out to look at the moon which was very bright. At that time the outdoor thermometer read minus 16 C.
Javier spent Sunday working on the deadfalls. He sawed many fire sized logs and hauled them down to the cabin. I worked several hours splitting the logs and stacking the firewood in and beside the cabin. There was a light coating of fresh snow from last week but not enough to erase the many animal tracks. The place is alive with many creatures big and little. One of these mornings I will attempt to follow the deer tracks and see where they go.
The lagoon is getting frozen over. Soon we should be able to skate on it but I will want to make sure before I try.
If you venture outside at 3:30 in the morning you may get mooned by the sky.
December 13, 2014 No Cabin, No Woods This Weekend
Had to stay home with things to do. Meanwhile here are a few images from the last few weeks.
No Cabin This Weekend Javier
December 27, 2014 Last Visit This Year
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