The End Of An Era

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It’s gone. There isn’t much more to say. The cabin we loved for just shy of a decade is gone. It was lovely. It was where we spent our best time as a family. Babies learned to walk. The kids caught frogs. We saw fireflies, owls, and pelicans. But it couldn’t be saved.

An insurance fight of epic proportions. Being led on that it could be repaired. All to end with a bulldozer.

We put off going up to see the lot as long as we could. We could never have been prepared for the sadness. Seeing parts of our life broken in the dirt. Little toy cars, a mug handle, some spoons.

Our kids tried to play as if they were “at the cabin”, but it was gone. It was strange, we still owned the lot but it was dead. People have said to us “this is an opportunity”, it isn’t, we have lost a huge part of our life and a huge part of our family.

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What people don’t realize is you can’t rebuild memories. The cabin wasn’t a building it was a memory maker. None of us have the heart to try to rebuild on the lot. It will never be the same.

We knew our neighbour was interested in the lot, but no official offer had been made. On Friday we went to see what to do with the property. Do we sell, rebuild, camp? We tidied it up as best we could, weeded the flowerbed, trimmed back some saplings, but it was like dressing the dead for a burial.

We pretended it was normal. Took pictures of the trees. It was all wrong.

We did one last picture of the family, like we had done every year since buying the cabin. The kids are bigger, everyone smiled, but the cabin was gone. A family standing in front of nothing.

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What an ending. We remember what we had and it is so sad to see it gone.

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Our little cabin was lovely. It was home. It was family. It felt right. Nothing else will ever be the same.

Pretending all was normal, pretending all was fine, we took one last look at the lake.

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On Saturday we received the formal offer. The lot is being sold. It is a very sad end to an era.

Reflections and Thoughts

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaIt seems like it has been ages since I have done a proper post on this blog. Life has been busy and a bit out of sync being the first year we have been without the cabin. Being in town all the time has been an adjustment, especially for myself as when you work for yourself it has meant this year has felt like I haven’t had a weekend. Getting away to the cabin was the only way to differentiate weekdays from weekends. We were unplugged there. It was down time. We were able to recharge ourselves. We have discovered when we are at “home” (and on the coast), mostly we just “work”.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaThere have been a few benefits to a year mostly spent in the city. Children have been able to attend birthday parties and spend time at the outdoor pool. The vintage garage is getting its overhaul and being transformed into a workshop. We also spent a bit of time rediscovering parts of the city that we usually visit mostly in the winter.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaWe’ve tried a few urban activities like attending the Saturday Market, however the places we return to are always ones of nature. It explains why we have missed the cabin so much.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaWe have spent many days and evenings out walking over the spring, summer and fall. Barrett Park, Coronation Park, Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary and Mackenzie Trails have all been favorites. We are lucky to live in a city with an expansive trail and natural area system. We can literally be in a tree canopied park next to a babbling creek 100 meters from our front door.

mackenzie trails, red deer, alberta, canadaSunday, the day these fall images were taken, was another day of local exploration. This time at MacKenzie Trails. We were treated to Canadian geese, fall leaves, bright red rosehips, raindrops, and mud. We walked, we took pictures, and the kids played catch. It might not be a weekend at the cabin, but we embraced the beauty that exists not far from our front door.

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Photography by Debra Hunter
Hunter Photographics

www.debra-hunter.com

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Winter Cabin Visit

Today I am sharing a few more images from our February visit to our cabin. I am focusing on the beautiful rural scenery rather the disaster happening inside the actual cabin. Blue sky and snow make for stunning images.

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Trees in the cabin’s backyard.

Winter roads.

Winter roads.

Footprints and trees.

Footprints and trees.

Blue sky and leafless trees.

Blue sky and leafless trees.

The last picture is one of my favorites. It sums up why it is so great sneaking away to this part of the world.

blog lake isle_3902 aPhotography by Debra Hunter.
www.debra-hunter.com

 

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Saturday, Saga, Site, Shock, Snow, and Shopping

blog snow_3889 aToday’s blog post is brought to you by the LETTER S.

(teeth together, smile, make the snake sound……too many kids in speech therapy)

I thought I would put a Sesame Street spin on today’s blog post with the hope of adding some whimsy, as life in general isn’t feeling so whimsical.

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Saga – we are still dealing with the ongoing saga of our cabin and its damages. The way the whole situation has been dealt with has left me seething and quite honestly spiteful. Perhaps I am unreasonable in thinking people should be dealt with in a decent and professional manner. Now I am not one to sit around feeling sorry for themselves, sometimes it is just better to channel your energy into a solution, so last night I decided to create a site (website) which will help others to publicly out all the problems they are having dealing with the insurance industry. It is amazing what can be accomplished with four hours of time, five cups of tea and a lot of frustration from dealing with the insurance industry. The site is ready to go live, has interactive elements, plus I have worked out a way to make an income off it as well. One more unprofessional move by our insurance company is all it will take to set me off and then it will hit the good old world wide web. I feel happy having this in my arsenal….plus it has the potential to be a nice little business….funny how a bad insurance dealing can inspire you to create a business opportunity.

blog sites_3975Shock – continuing with the cabin theme, today we had a shock….or potential shock. Remember my post from November ? Well the insurance company is looking at the cabin again. Different adjuster. Different contractors. They really looked this time at the situation which is a step forward. Today’s experience was professional. Now if you read my post from November you will remember me mentioning that we had to do our own exploration for insurance purposes, and an incident with tiles. Old tiles. I felt uncomfortable about the tiles in November, but now we are plain shocked. The tiles are being sent for asbestos testing. You don’t get a good feeling when people in masks are bagging a piece of tile for asbestos testing when just a few months ago you were picking the tiles up with your hands, not wearing masks and your children are sitting feet away from shattering tiles. This was part of the exploration we were told to do by the insurance industry. They’ve also told us to not do anything else in the cabin for now. So now on top of worry about the damage to the cabin, we get to worry about damage to our health; mine, my husband’s and our 5 children’s health. This is the nightmare that never ends.

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Snow – the one bonus today was we had the opportunity to view some lovely rural scenery that was crisply coated with snow. It is still deepish in spots, but not the insane amount of snow we had last year. Taking some snowy landscapes was one positive thing that happened today.

blog shiverShivering – yep, this morning en route to the cabin I checked the weather, -19C with windchill. I checked it a little later in the day and it read -21C with windchill. Thank goodness the sun was out or it would have been brutal. The sun made all the difference. I will say the trip to the local outhouse was “crisp”.

blog shopping 2Shopping – our kids were hankering Ikea for supper so we detoured into Edmonton for a quick shop and supper. Everyone stopped in their tracks at the sight of the above picture of “Oat pastry with coconut”. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but there is nothing that makes me want to try an “oat pastry”. The picture didn’t sell its tastiness either. I am thinking there is a reason it is on sale!

blog shopping 1We did pick up a couple of items at Ikea and one of them was in the self-serve area. Now if you aren’t familiar with Ikea, they have these little cards and pencils so that you can write down the aisle that the product you need is in. Our seven year old was carrying the card and pencil and my husband told her the aisle number and asked her to write it down on the card. This was another event where something was lost in translation as she decided to DRAW the item. Looks just like Ikea’s instructions don’t you think?!

Supper – we had Harvey’s burgers……………we just couldn’t get past the concept of “Oat pastry with coconut”.

Thank you for reading my blog post brought to you by the LETTER S!

(I’ve clearly watched too much kid T.V.!)

Water Pumps, Frogs and Memories of May 2013

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At the cabin October 2014.

 

So I have been watching the stats for my blog over the last 12 hours and noticed significant interest in our water situation. I even noticed a few people looking back to a cabin post from May 2013 where we were talking about setting up the water system for the season.

It was really fun to re-read the post and step back in time, so this post is going to be a little reminiscing and a little bit of comparison.

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The water pump.

 

As I re-read that post from over a year ago I was thinking, I bet most people on municipal water have no idea what a water pump looks like for a cabin. So I thought I would share a picture. Luckily  on October 4th I had taken a picture of the pump .

The pump sits in the pump house, a tiny room connected to our cabin yet accessed from the outside. The pump sits on a metal grate so if there is ever any leakage the water goes down into a pit below. The incoming water comes from an external 1250 gallon tank through the water line you see on the right. The water then goes through the pump and goes into the cabin through the water line on top. A little different to just turning on the tap for municipal water.

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The external water tank.

 

I would like to thank whoever was reading that post for reminding me of it. I was really fun re-reading it and having the chance to think about cabin life and how it changes from year to year. The post from May 2013 discusses my husband hooking up the pump and fixing 4 leaks. As I look at the picture of our pump it tells the story. Look at how overdone the clamping is on our pump on the top section. Three clamps. This is the story of that weekend. That weekend while he re-hooked up the pump after winter, he would hook up the pump and it would leak at that junction. He would re-hook it up and another leak. Did it again at another angle and the pressure popped the tubing from the fixture. So after four attempts he said “forget the one clamp system”, clamped a longer section with multiple clamps and he never had a problem again. I am sure anyone who has ever set up one of these pumps is laughing at the number of clamps, our “security measure”, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

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May 2013

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May 2014 – no water in the back field

 

The picture above is also from that blog post of May 2013. This is the area behind the cabin beyond our fence. Our yard is raised about 2-3 feet from the area at the back that becomes wet in the spring. Looking at that picture I started to think about how the various years are different at the cabin. Actually the first thing I thought was “this year we had no frogs in our yard”. When we first owned our cabin we had tons of frogs in the spring; the kids would chase them, and hold them, and there were really big ones living in our wood shed. I am not sure if we even saw one on our property this year, quite sad really. I know we saw frogs in ponds at the Wagner Natural Area west of Edmonton, and frogs in Gaetz Lake in Red Deer (Alberta, Canada), but none at the cabin.

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Frog in Gaetz Lake, Red Deer, Alberta. May 13 2014.

 

I mentioned this to my husband as I re-read that blog post and then another thing hit me, the post talks about the septic holding tank, that is buried deep in the ground,  filling with groundwater in the spring. This is a real “thing” in our area. I remember many years ago, going through many of pump outs in the season. Once my husband asked the pump out company if it was normal, and they laughed and said it is happening to everyone and that they couldn’t keep up with the work load. This evening, after reading the post I turned to my husband and said “How many pump outs did we have this year?”. He wasn’t sure so we went back through our cheque book. In our true geeky style we decided to look back over a few years. In 2011 we had three pump outs. In 2012 we had four pump outs. We can’t find the 2013 cheque book at the moment, obviously in a “safe place” or filed with my business receipts. In 2014 we only had ONE pump out.

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Cabin marigolds 2013.

 

I knew the pump out bills were way down, and that I had to water the flowers a lot more, and that we had no frogs, but it is really quite surprising when you put it all together. The question is, was it a “dry year” or is it actually “climate change”? It is a little surprising to compare the years, to see the flowers struggle more for water and to see the frogs disappear, but when you realize the groundwater issue (even for a tank buried so deeply) has also disappeared that is interesting and worrying.

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I truly  thank he person that brought my long ago blog post back to my attention. I love looking back but I am also now thinking to the spring. I wonder if we will have frogs…..I certainly hope so……..but the trend isn’t looking so good.

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Now things REALLY aren’t as they seemed…….

 

A few of you may remember my post about our cabin titled “Not All Things Are As They Seem” . It was a post about discovering some water damage at our cabin. Long story short, we had set out to replace a bouncy floor board, discovered a saturated and disintegrating subfloor, and chalked it up to a wonky hot water tank incident 4 years ago.

So in the meantime we had talked with insurance and had an adjuster out. The adjuster suggested we go back and take a second look as water still being present 4 years after the fact made no sense.

Well, he was right. So right. Upon arrival at the cabin this is what we found………

what the area looked like upon arrival

fresh water.

Soaking wet in a localized spot. This time it was so easy to spot as the rest of the wood had dried out as we had removed the vapour barrier.

So the plot thickens. We have a wall between the tub and the hot water tank, finished on both sides with pipes going in, and a puddle of water under it. We have NO idea what is inside that wall, we don’t know how the pipes run and we don’t know if there is any electrical.

wall with pipes going in show no water damageThe floor is shot. The laminate is buckled. The sheeting is soaked. The supporting beams are completely gone in some places. This is only in the places we have opened up. There is a soft spot in the kitchen now, and one in our bedroom. I think we are realizing that there is a chance every piece of flooring, subfloor and support may have to be stripped out plus some structural work. This is big…..and not in a good way.

The short term solution….drain off the water supply and then figure it out.

The last two months have not been fun. Here’s the tally:

car accident – 5 month old vehicle, one oil change, never even through the car wash, written off while driving 10 km/h (tells you how fast the other driver was going!) . Impact was far greater than the time we hit a deer traveling highway speeds. Luckily all the kids were fine but my goodness have I been walking a lot for the last 3 weeks. Did you know a 20 minute driving errand is an hour and a half walking errand? Well now I know that first hand.

dead laptop – my husband’s had an early demise due to a cup of coffee incident

dead camera lens – 12 month warranty, died in month 13. The very same model of lens died at month 16 the previous year. I am unimpressed. One person implied maybe I “use it too much”…..in 13 months!

dead printer – my husband’s, to be fair it probably WAS used too much as work has been insanely busy for him this year

mouse infestation – so far 12 caught. Dead mice are my husband’s deal….I don’t do mice, snakes or bats, however both mice and snakes have been caught between my feet and a bat once flew into my head (true story….so much for sonar!)

squirrel relocation issues – 3 relocated so far, yet more still in our garage. Obviously they know they have another winter living in luxury as transforming the garage to a workshop/studio will be waiting until next year in light of the cabin situation.

 

My goodness we need a break. We just need to sort out the vehicle so we can head west and walk on a beach for a few days.

 

Not All Things Are As They Seem

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This cabin season we had noticed a few shifts in the floor. They were a little squeakier with the odd wobble . It had been a bad winter and chalked it up to frost heaves. One spot in the bathroom seemed to get worse each week. At first it was a squeak, then a wobble , then a bounce until this weekend we decided time to fix the wonky area. We wiggled out one piece of laminate and it was a bit spongy underneath. At further examination my husband decided we would replace the wood from the area where it seemed a little soft and put a concrete pier under it for good measure. Off we went to Home Depot expecting an hour fix when we got back to the cabin.

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Back at the cabin we decide to feel around a bit more. We lift back vapour barrier and pull out a few more pieces of the laminate flooring, the sheeting is soaking wet, so wet it starts to crumble as you touch it. Our hands are down the hole and it is wet in every direction. My husband keeps exploring trying to form a game plan and comments that the damp goes under the vanity . I comment that maybe we should look on the other side of the wall just in case. We slide the air hockey table out of the way, step near the wall and the floor gives way. Not good.

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We slice out a couple pieces of laminate, carefully, because I have this crazy notion that it will go back in place. My husband reassures me it isn’t going back in, but I still draw a perfectly straight line to cut along. If two holes in the floor isn’t bad enough, finding rotten joists just adds to the drama. If rotting joists aren’t drama enough, the ones are the ones supposedly supporting a wall.

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I think at this point we can say we have a problem.

We start walking around the one part of the cabin and start to notice more bouncy parts. More in the bathroom, one in the kitchen, all in a straight line.
All in a straight line that leads to our hot water tank (and the floor right in front of it is spongy too!)

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We start to figure out what had happened. The beams on the bottom still seem dry and fine, but the ones closest to the floor are soaking wet. All we can think is it is hot water tank related when we look at where it is wettest . We think back to a few years ago. My husband was up at the cabin one February checking on the cabin. He called me from the cabin and said the hot water tank looked funny, but as it was winter and we had drained it off we thought “frost heaves” and never thought anything of it. Right after Thanksgiving every year we empty our hot water tank, empty our 1250 gallon water tank, unhook our pump and take it home, so a water issue doesn’t happen. Once spring had come and we again could use water at the cabin ( we use water May-Oct only because of freezing ) we decided the tank didn’t look right and planned to replace it.

Replacing a water tank at a cabin is no easy task. After multiple phone calls over a couple of years, this June we eventually got a plumber who would come to our area and replace it. We were thrilled as we had been washing dishes with boiled water. We mentioned the bouncing laminate to him as we chatted , and he said it was solid under the tank. So all was good and fixed.

Looking at the floor, and the direction of damage, all we can conclude is that somehow there must have still been water in the hot water tank that one winter . We drained it until it was dry, but that is our only guess as to what has happened. Out of the habit of having hot water, there haven’t even been any showers or baths this year, so the water isn’t from that. But here is the peculiar thing, the winter when my husband came across the wonky tank there was no water on the floor. It was -30C, it should have been a skating rink in the bathroom, but there was nothing. All we can guess is that the water, if there was some left trapped in the tank, must have flowed under the bath tub and then soaked into the wood like water does with a sponge . It is the only place it could have gone and not been seen.

It is so weird to have never seen any water. You could not imagine the surprise we had today finding the rot and soaking wet wood.

Now we have the task of seeing how far the damage has spread. Now that a few pieces of laminate have been removed we are finding more and more soft spots . It was as if the laminate floor was holding the whole structure together. All this damage happening under our feet and we had no idea. We had noticed something was off since May. We thought the cabin had shifted in the winter and had been watching the joins by the ceiling for signs of shifting ……… and there were none. Were we ever looking in the wrong spot, we were looking up when we should have been looking down.

Who would have thought there would be such a disaster lurking under a floor board .