Sunday, December 13, 2009

Boys And Their Toys, I Mean Tools

I felled a large dead poplar on Thanksgiving weekend, leaving it bucked up into roughly eight six-foot lengths. I own a beautiful mid-size Husqvarna 353 with a 20" bar putting out just over 3hp, which doesn't have a huge issue with cutting 18" diameter logs, but does have to run longer to do it.

I found three saws for sale as a package right around the corner from my sister in Ottawa, worked out a deal, whereby they would buy one for me for work received in kind, I would buy the other one, and sell off the third. I was interested in the two Husqvarna's, a 335xpr arborist saw, and a 385xp professional saw putting out close to 7hp.

A few weeks later, after cutting down two dozen or more dead Elms and a few scrubby Manitoba Maples at their property, I was able to get the 385xp to the cottage to finish bucking up the poplar logs. It was amazing to rev up the big saw and lower it onto each log, watching is easily cut down like a hot knife through butter, depositing an ever growing pile of little wood chips at the base of each cut. My original 353 would take about 20 seconds to make a cut through these logs, the 385xp did each cut in six or seven seconds.

THE SAWS (Clockwise from top): Husqvarna 335xpr Arborist saw, Stihl 041 chainsaw (now owned by Mark, Pam and Jeff's contractor), Husqvarna 385xp professional forestry saw, Husqvarna 353 chainsaw (which has a place close to my heart - down a bit, and to the right, actually!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The entire Chiles Clan met at the cottage Sunday for Alexander's second birthday and Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately although we are spread out over Ontario (Southwest, Toronto, Barry's Bay, and Ottawa) It is not uncommon for most, or even all of us to get together at the same time.

Rudi and Natalie pulling their adorable 'Gap Kids' pose... a bit too adorable for my liking actually, it looks like they are planning something devious!

My father Roger (aka 'grampy'), with Sophie (Ackert) and the birthday boy Alexander (aka 'number last'), just turned two on October 9 2009.

Most of the Chiles Clan at Alexander's Birthday Party, from left Rachel Artymko, Roger Chiles (Grampy), Susan (Chiles) Artymko, Katherine Vlossak, Natalie Artymko, Alexander Vlossak Chiles, Jean Chiles (Nana) and across the table Rudi Vlossak Chiles, Eileen Leslie (good friend of Katherine) John Artymko, and Sophie Ackert. Missing Pamela Chiles and Jeff Ackert, and me the photographer! One can also notice Buddy the wonder poodle snuffling around for chocolate cupcake crumbs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


It was absolutely beautiful at the cottage this weekend, the weather fair, with the leaves showing their magnificent autumn splendour in a dizzying spectrum of yellows, golds, oranges and reds. And all I could think was "What an absolutely beautiful day...a beautiful day to die..."

Thanksgiving, for us at least, was sad and somewhat muted, as a dear friend of Katherine, Karen Livesey, passed away on Saturday morning after a long battle with cancer. Karen was a teacher at Madawaska Valley District High School, and leaves her husband Mel Schulist, three wonderful step children, and an incredibly vast group of heartbroken family and friends.

I did not know Karen too well, but I can tell you her voice, and her laugh, and her smile, were just some of the things forever burned into my mind. She spoke like in song, with a wonderful, lilting voice, like a clarinet or flute, played beautifully solo. Her laugh was free, unrestrained, and rich, not feminine, yet magnificent because of that, perhaps. And her smile, like her laugh, brilliant and comfortable, quick to appear, and very slow to diminish and fade.

And now sadly she is gone, taken by a disease that claims far too many women's lives across the country and around the world. If you knew her, you would have loved her also. Sad also was the fact that after Katherine had moved away from Barry's Bay, she (and I) didn't see enough of Karen and Mel, though the times we spent in her company were memorable.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Just The Boys

I returned to the cottage the Saturday before last after returning to Tavistock, helping Jeff out for a day, and then taking a half dozen canoes to the Paddle Shack in Gravenhurst. On Monday Katherine left with her parents, and returned home for her first two PD days, while I stayed at the cottage with the boys 'til the weekend. Here is Alexander playing with some of his favourite toys, and Rudi doing his best Michael Phelps imitation (in spidey underwear, no less)!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Digging in the Dirt Part 2

Dropped by the cottage last weekend to install the 'new' washing machine and clean between guests, of course after the Shoemakers (name changed for privacy considerations) there wasn't anything to do except wash the linens and towels! I decided also to inspect the transplanted Norway Maple, keeping my fingers crossed that it survived its bare root transplant from Tavistock. Lo and behold, although all but a dozen leaves had died and dropped, it was sporting at least twenty or thirty new buds! Wonderful news, as I am confident it will survive the winter, and bud again next spring.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Trio Of Cottage Classics!

Three elements of cottage life. The traditional floral oilcloth used as a tablecloth, on sale at Home Hardware for $2.99 a yard, the iconic fake wood panelling, probably still decorating many a den even today, and the cold bottle of beer, in this case a Sleeman Honey Brown Lager.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cottage Art

This is one of my latest pieces, which used up a dusty shoebox of beer coasters, an old storm window from the Field House, and about two hours of time with some melamine sheet, a screw driver, and a hot glue gun. I think I have sampled about four of the brews represented here, which I decided to group by region. I think a far better means of displaying these interesting artefacts than piled in a shoebox. I am now accepting commissions to turn your old collection of beer coasters into a fine work of kitschy cottage art like this!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Digging In The Dirt

Did a bit of digging this last week, as I decided to run the overflow from the rainbarrel directly down toward a Norway Maple I had transplanted the day before. The Maple came from our neighbor in Tavistock, who wanted it removed, and new I was in the business of playing "musical trees". So I hand dug a trench about eight inches deep, just wide enough to place in a sump hose, which I then connected to the now 'jury-rigged' outlet of the rain barrel.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rain Barrels

One of Katherine's colleagues recently visited an Oxford County composter sale, where they had composters, rain barrels, and similar 'eco-friendly' schwag for sale at reduced or promotional prices. Katherine had asked her to see if they had any decently priced rainbarrels, thinking that we may put one to good use at the cottage. Evidently the price worked out to the cost of a bike tune up and a toddlers helmet (about $45) so we happily took possession of the rainbarrel. On my first trip to Frontnac Outfitters I swung by the cottage with a few things to drop off, rain barrel included.

This last week I took the time to install the rainbarrel under the downspout at the back corner of the house. It was a fairly simple job, the only complication being I had no proper tool for cutting the downspout, but found that the bucksaw and a pair of kitchen scissors did a half decent job! Peter and I roughly calculated that about a centemeter of rain on the side of the roof that the eavestrough collects from will fill the barrel, which we figure is over 150 litres capacity.

Chores, Actually!

In case you all were assuming visiting the cottage is just fun and no work, this is a picture of the pile of wood I cut and stacked during our last visit. There are actually two stacks of wood here, one of mostly unsplit logs sitting against the shed hidden from view, with this one of mostly split wood stacked in front of it. The round logs at the bottom are roughly 60 pounds each, so there is probably well over over one ton of wood here!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Another Neat Toy!

Following a gruelling ten hour drive to Kingston and back with another ten canoes for Frontenac Outfitters (left Tavistock 3:45am, dropped boats Kingston 8:15am, returned 1:30pm), I returned to the H20 Composites Inc. World Headquarters in Tavistock to help Jeff with a racing boat destined for a customer in Western Canada, and to put together the Mission Racing Offshore 21 rowing shell for myself. It was a scramble to get everything together, get the kids, and then pack everything up, but I finally made it to Toronto for dinner at 7, and then the cottage the following day.

I drove up with Uncle John, Rudi and Alexander, and after unpacking and cracking open a couple of beers, I fitted the rigger and oars to the shell, and John and I got the boat on the water. I knew that there would be no chance of me actually figuring out how to use one of these without a bit of instruction, but I gave it a go anyway. Falling out of the boat about twenty times, and not making it further than about a boat length proved me right, so I finally gave up. Katherine's sisters instruction the following day proved invaluable, when as I went out to embarrass myself, she yelled out 'Use the oars flat to keep your balance!' ('you dummy' being implied!) That was the secret! As soon as I flattened the oars on the water, I could immediately control the side to side pitch of the boat (the yaw, maybe?) and keep from tipping over. Soon after that I was cruising along, working on my stroke, and actually getting well out into the lake!

This boat is a demonstrator, and will be made available for sale to anyone interested at the end of the summer. The regular price is $3995 plus taxes excluding oars, but this one can be had for a bit less than that, depending on the type of oars, foot stretcher, rigger, and seat finally fitted (right now it has some really basic used stuff in it just to try it out). If anyone is interested in trying this or a similar rowing shell out, I will probably be having a couple of demonstration days at the cottage this summer. Look for additional postings with details!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Musical Canoes

I spent Friday playing a game of musical canoes, trading canoes from one place to another, for one purpose or another, and still I am only halfway done. I left Friday for Kingston with two boats for customers of Frontenac Outfitters, and picked up my own boat, an H20 Composites Canadian 16-6 in kevlar, as well as a carbon fibre Canadian 16-6 owned by Jeff that is in need of some repairs. They had been 'lent' to Frontenac as we simply hadn't built enough boats for them early in the season, and were now finally caught up. My red boat was dropped off at the cottage, where I picked up the 30 year old Coleman to be brought down here for repairs. I met our renters at the cottage, Jacek and Eva, who were up for just the weekend. Jacek appeared happy with the arrival of the newer lighter boat, and also seemed quite interested in the possibility of using a rowing shell at the cottage when I bring one up in a few weeks.

Monday, April 6, 2009

How's This For Sweet!

I recently started a new job, which seems will work out perfectly for my semi stay-at-home dad situation. It features a ridiculously short commute (under five minutes by car or 15 minutes by bicycle), reasonably flexible hours (9am to 3pm, so I can get Rudi to the bus and pick him up after school), and half-decent pay! The other bonus is that I am helping build (manufacture) some of the world's finest canoes and rowing shells. I first saw the companies products at the Tavistock Fall Fair in 2008, and immediately began drooling over the gorgeous carbon fibre/kevlar composite canoe the owner of the company had on display. The quality of construction and finish on this baby was absolutely immaculate. I have always dreamed of owning a boat like that for using at the cottage, but realistically would never really be able to afford the two or three grand price tag associated. A small placard displayed near the canoe read "Please speak to us about possible employment opportunities". So I did, and about eight months later there I am!

The company is known as H2O Composites and is located just outside Tavistock. H2O composites was founded in 2005, and manufactures canoes in a variety of materials, including fibreglass, kevlar, carbon fibre, and carbon/kevlar blend. They also manufacture both recreational and racing rowing shells in similar materials. In addition to exceptionally high quality construction, H20 has some of the most beautiful paint schemes available. Check out the photo of the rack of their canoes in the video on the main page of their website. The boats are presently available at several Ontario and Maritime locations, including Frontenac Outfitters just north of Kingston, so if you like what you see (and I know you will!) get your derriere out to them, take one for a test paddle, and then buy one! Remember these canoes are 100% made in Canada, and virtually all of the materials (fibreglass, kevlar, carbon fibre, foam, plastic, wood and aluminum) used in construction are sourced from manufacturers in Canada or the United States.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Easy Come, Easy Go

We visited the cottage for a good part of March Break, so Katherine could visit with some of her old friends, and I could install the new stove. John came over and helped me out, and within half an hour the old decrepit malfunctioning unit was in the back of the van ready for a trip to the dump, and the new one was sitting in position ready to go. Sweet! I had walked in to TA Appliance in Kitchener three weeks earlier, and they had a GE on sale for $399, which compared well to units with a regular price of $550 to $600. It seems in all my research on new stoves, the typical discount was on a basic stove was $50 or perhaps even $100 off the regular price, so this one turned out to be an exceptional deal.

While at the cottage there was some excitement for Rudi as we watched a car drive across the lake to near the front of our neighbors place, evidently setting lines for some ice fishing. Rudi and I walked out to talk with the driver/fisherman a bit. He was an older local, with a bit of a french accent. I asked him how thick the ice was, and after he drilled a new hole he announced the thickness at 23 inches! I asked him, given that it was March, was that thickness good for only a week or two, or just a few days. He looked at me quite strenly, then chuckled and replied "Only today! That is good only for today!"

On our last day there, I was doing the laundry, and when I went down to check it, the washing machine had finished its cycle, but the unit was still filled with water. After re-starting it a few times, it appeared the machine would not work, so I had to bail it by hand, and then rinse and wring out the clothes in the laundry sink. Well, at least the oven works fine.....As the saying goes, easy come, easy go.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Renting Our Cottage

Since we don't come up for the whole summer, the times that we aren't up we make available to others to rent. If you are thinking of renting our place, I generally have ads posted on KIJIJI.CA in the major market areas (generally Toronto, Ottawa, Kitchener, and Hamilton, possibly Kingston and Peterborough also). The simplest way to find one of my ads is to use "Barrys Bay" in a keyword search, and ours and perhaps a couple of other ads will come up. All of the specifice details on renting are included in the ads, including up to date availabilty. One can also simply email me (check my profile for email addresses) and I will get back to you within a day or two.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

To Buy Or Not To Buy - That Is The Question

People often remark that it must be nice to own a cottage, to be able to go up and enjoy it any time, and relax, as if it is the perfect instance of utopia on earth. Well in a way it is, but in a way it is not. Like any property, there are chores that need doing, equipment that needs replacing, and things that need fixing. To be honest, probably the only thing better than owning a cottage, is being able to rent someone elses, never having to worry about paying for repairs, service, taxes, insurance, or the mortgage.

From a simple economics standpoint, with the average price of a lakefront cottage in Canada being over $400,000, that is the kind of money that can keep you renting someone elses cottage for 3 weeks a year for the next hundred years, or take an incredible vacation every three years or so for the rest of your life, or anything else you can imagine. But in defense of owning a cottage, yes the value will rise as it is an investment, and yes you can use it much more than say three weeks a year. What it all boils down to is the fact that many people don't really think about all the costs or benefits of doing something in a particular fashion (in this case cottage ownership, versus renting): Is the grass really so much greener on the other side of the fence?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Yes, Some People Love The Place

As with any cottage, the cost of ownership and upkeep can be challanging to manage. That is one of the reasons we rent the place for those weeks we don't use it during the summer. The other reason, to be honest, is more altruistic. We love it up there, and don't think it would be fair to keep it just to ourselves, sitting empty when we are not using it. A fair number of people we know also enjoy and love the cottage nearly as much as we do! I received this email recently from a guest who rented it for a long weekend last September:

Thank you for the invitation back to a little paradise. It is truly beautiful and the perfect getaway from the hustle of everyday Toronto. The drive alone to Barry's Bay is absolutely fantastic as the fall colors had started to come through. The cottage was very comfortable, neat and tidy. It's a cozy place where you feel relaxed and at home as soon as you walk in. I wanted to thank you and Katherine again for a great weekend last fall.

Nancy G. Toronto

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009

Barrys Bay, Ontario

Barrys Bay is a small town of about 1200 people, located two hours drive West of Ottawa, or two hours North-East of Peterborough. It is quite well served for a town its size, probably as it is the hub of the local geographic area. It has two large grocery stores, an LCBO and a Beer Store, as well as a couple of banks, a regional Hospital, and the usual array of professional services. There is also a newspaper, the Barrys Bay This Week, which does a wonderful job reporting all the local events, as well as the usual OPP reports of drunk persons and snowmobiling accidents!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Welcome To Our Cottage!

Well this is it, our little piece of paradise near Barrys Bay Ontario. The cottage is on one of the larger lakes close to town, and is actually a proper four season house, fully liveable year round. As can be seen in the photographs, there is a nice fine sand beach, which slopes very gently into the water, before dropping off into the deep around 200 feet from the shore. The house itself has a kitchen, livingroom/dining area, a full bathroom, two bedrooms, and a sunroom. There is a door from the sunroom onto a small deck, and steps from the deck onto the lawn. The basement has full laundry facilites, a spare room, and an unfinished area for storage, which also houses the woodstove. Water is provided by a well near the lake, and it is brought to useful pressure with a new pump and large pressure tank. It is also filtered, and UV treated so is always safe to use and drink. The location of the cottage is very private, with no neighbors on one side. It is near the end of a paved road with access to an abandoned rail line that is now a public community trail, suitable for walking, offroad biking, and ATVing, as well as skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. It is about 6 km via the rail line into town, and roughly 10 km by car along the lake road and highway. Click on the pictures for a better look, they are high res 10Mbyte taken with a Nikon D100.

photos: D Chiles