A River Runs Through It (and more) – land shopping

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We are currently on a quest looking for land to rebuild our cabin on. Just across the Alberta border and into BC has caught our eye. We want more space than before, but are willing to forfeit being 100 meters from a lake. We also know that to make the project work we will have to do a lot of the construction, especially interior finishing, ourselves.

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Before we even get into talking about the build, our first task is finding some land. This is our second look at this plot. It has realistically one snug building spot as seen in the picture above . A snug building spot with beautiful views. However the piece of land also has some weird features too. Firstly, it is almost entirely on a steep incline. Secondly, a disused highway runs through it.

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And then train tracks run through it…..

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And a river too.

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Yes, a very strange property. But it is beautiful. There are lots of logistics to work out on this property before moving forward, it isn’t straight forward. Working out developing this piece of land is going to take a bit of imagination.

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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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Works in Progress, Finished and Things

It seems to have been another busy week that has whizzed past at break neck speed. A combination of trying to finish the order for Woods on Pender, working on Handmade in Canada, plus life, has made for a week of very late nights (well technically early mornings when you work until 3 am!).

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Work in progress. Acrylic on panel. 24″x24″.

I finally managed to put in a few hours painting the panel that I had started before Easter. It is still a work in progress but coming along. The piece measures 2 feet by 2 feet and continues with the Roe Islet theme. This theme seems to provide never ending material. A couple of weeks ago I shot several hundred reference images while walking the ever changing islet, including macros of spring lilies. Hopefully I will get a few of these images up on Island Home Blog sometime soon.

blog painting wipI work on panel differently to canvas in that I tend to prefer to work flat instead of on the wall easel. The upside to this is that it is a much more social way of working. Mark and I each choose our ends of the table, we turn on the “wireless”, he works on “something”, and I paint and argue with CBC radio (and their endless agendas). Sometimes it is BBC Radio 4. We fell into this habit out on the coast and it has now become a great way to spend an evening no matter where we are.

1_coffee press sweater 6x6_7642The order for Woods on Pender is complete. Knit, finished, blocked. I will do the packaging this evening and then the order will be ready to ship. The complete group of items can be viewed by clicking HERE. Each piece is completely unique except for the resort’s logo that is featured in the center panel.

blog planA few days ago I also tackled playing with cabin floor plans. We still don’t know exactly what insurance is going to do. If they can fix the situation it will be great as we won’t be without the use of our cabin for as long, but the reoccurring dreams of the cabin collapsing makes me wonder if the verdict is going to be that the cabin is a tear down. It has been full of water for so long. Common sense tells me that I need to consider all the options for how we may need to deal with this property

So in an effort to be proactive I started drafting floor plans. My goal is to shrink the actual foot print from that of our current cabin. I know this seems counter-intuitive considering the size of our family, but more land and less building makes sense to me when we are at the cabin. The plan above is the ground floor at 780 square feet, plus we would add an enclosed loft portion over part of the cabin to work as a bedroom/studio/study space. The portion not enclosed would become a covered balcony which will give lake views. We’ve learned from the house out on the island that big spaces with high ceilings are hard to heat when you aren’t there full time, so the goal is to scale it back and make heating the rooms, especially the bedrooms, easy.

We are also thinking of putting the water tank and pump in a separate utility building and going with on demand hot water. We are determined to never have another water disaster again.

I figure if we have plans of action in place for all the different outcomes that things will be less daunting when the time comes.

handmade in canada badgeHandmade in Canada is ticking along. We spoke with another interested artisan the other day. Hopefully in a few days I will have another maker’s profile to share.

Well off to package and paint. I have a chance to actually accomplish a few things this evening as the rest of the family sits in front of the hockey on T.V. …..or plays Minecraft.

( I may have been premature in thinking everyone would be firmly parked in front of the T.V. (A.K.A. “out of my way”). Interest is now lagging as the Canucks have scored twice. Hmmmmm.)

What we’ve been up to……..

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Stealing a few minutes from a very busy life to paint a small watercolor.

So I thought I would take a quick moment to do an “update” post as my blogging has been a little sporadic recently. Life has been busy to say the least.

blog _3193Over Easter we went for a longer than usual break out to Pender Island on the west coast of Canada. It was a break we desperately needed as all the major issues we have been dealing with all collided the week before Easter; what a week it was.

blog vanAfter over a month without our vehicle the van replicated the problem with a flashing dashboard while the technician was setting off for another test drive. First, it proved I wasn’t crazy. Second, they finally had something to go off. In the end they decided the remote start was the culprit, they removed it, and the van made it out to the coast and back without issue. The Uconnect still has issues…looks like it’s a case of “suck it up buttercup”….I guess you can’t win them all.

blog snowy cabin_3878That same week we also met over the cabin issue and it was determined that we were right when we first reported that we thought the issue was caused by the hot water tank. However the exploration that the most recent crew did discovered HUGE issues. Structural issues. Potential mold issues. We’ve been told NOT to go in the cabin. We are now waiting to hear more. It is going to be an interesting spring, summer and fall as we won’t be spending our weekends at the cabin. Perhaps we will go back to tenting this year and let our children discover Banff, Yoho and Kootney National Parks. I’m trying to somehow put a positive spin on things.

handmade in canada badgeOur time on the coast was a little bit of fun and a little bit of work. We met with a woodworker and a musician who is joining our Handmade in Canada site. It is exciting to get the project moving along. An author from Alberta is also hopping on board; her profile will be up on the site in a few days.

blog knit items_9716 aOn the coast I also met with the new owner of a resort on Pender Island who has decided to use some of my hand knits in the rooms, cabins and Airstreams at the resort. I’ll share more about this very soon. Needless to say I have been knitting A LOT which explains the rather patchy blogging.

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How to keep mice out of your boots!!!!!

On top of everything it appears the mice are back…or at least mouse (I saw it). Another story to share at some point. Mice make for a lot of hassle and a lot of work.

instagram-logoAnd last but not least, I have now set up two of my other blogs with Instagram. “Debra Hunter – Photography & Art” shares my paintings, handmade items, and business related photography. “Handmade in Canada” is my new project and will be of interest to anyone interested in Canadian artists, artisans, writers, musicians or growers. The project is in the building stage, so pass it on if you know of someone who is a Canadian creative.

If you are into Instagram you can check out the links here:

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(….and follow me!!!!!…..and share too!!!)

leaf red 3x3 square 100dpiIt has been a whirlwind the last few weeks. Hopefully life will start to calm down, my knitting will be completed, the car will continue to run, the cabin will be fixed (or rebuilt), the mice will be evicted, and I will once again have time to blog.

Thanks for reading!!!!

Deb

 

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.!)

November 23, 2014 – Trip to the cabin.

Our Trip To The Cabin

reason: Wawanesa REFUSED to do ANY exploration on our insurance claim. Wawanesa even used a reason NOT in the report (a report produced by their associates for the purpose of assessing the claim)  to deny it as did the Wawanesa Northern Alberta Ombuds Service……so WE, the ill equipped and uneducated insured, had to do this dangerous work completely ourselves. A cause was manufactured between the report being written and the denial letter being written. Manufactured out of thin air.

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time: we left home at 9 am, worked solid at the cabin, ate dinner at 9:50 pm (no lunch) and returned home at 12:17 AM (a 15 hour work day….with our children)

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temperature: below zero, freezing temperatures in an unheated building

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cast: my husband, myself, and our 5 children. One child had no feeling in their feet. One child was so cold they curled up into a ball and fell asleep. One child was panicked that the cabin would collapse on them. Wawanesa expects their insured to carry out their own exploration with their children in unsafe buildings.

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safety: four different people fell through the floor including one very bad fall and our 10 year old daughter FALLING THROUGH THE FLOOR. We were expected to deal with slicing open  walls concealing electrical and water, deal with mold, debris, falls, rusty nails, insulation, ice, water, and there was also some very old tile (that may or may not contain asbestos…it would be from “that” era). This is with 5 children roaming around in a freezing cold building. Clearly safety isn’t one of Wawanesa’s top concerns, denying claims on items NOT EVEN IN THE REPORT is their main focus.

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just for fun: Wawanesa delayed dealing with this claim until it was so late in the year that we wouldn’t have water to prove the claim because our water is seasonal (manipulative?) . They also delayed it so long that we are unable to fix the situation, claim or not, jeopardizing and compromising our investment through their petty manipulative ways. By the way, we were forced to do this NOW as the report Wawanesa accepted had LIES about when we discovered the problem. We discovered the problem on September 7, 2014….the report said “approximately 2 years ago”. I even have a blog post up showing discovery. Perhaps not “fun” but very dishonest business.

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Stay tuned…………..if Wawanesa continues to ignore us there WILL be video…..a lot of video…..

(it shows exactly what they are putting us through as they REFUSED to do exploration even though they sent out a restoration crew who on site REFUSED to look further…….I sense a lot of YouTube in my future…….if a picture is worth 1000 words, a video also adds 1000 emotions and a whole lot of context and reality)

PROBLEMS WITH WAWANESA INSURANCE?

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PS. By the way we have been told TWICE that we HAD to do our OWN EXPLORATION. The first time was by the Townsend & Leedham adjuster,hired out by Wawanesa, on September 29, 2014. The second is indicated in the letter from the Wawanesa Northern Alberta Ombuds Service that states “”If YOU are able to determine that the loss is not……” etc. ….after all the construction professionals supplied by the insurance industry refused to LOOK.

One more PS. …..two interesting things, first the letter from the Ombuds Service isn’t SIGNED by anyone, no one would take responsibility. Second, the independent adjuster didn’t forward all the clauses in our insurance policy to us, only items 7-12, concealing the rest. The independent adjuster went through our policy, tried to find a clause to get them out of the claim, even though it WAS NOT in the report, and then consciously conceals the rest of our policy from us so that we can not see what is actually covered. MANIPULATION or CORRUPT…you choose (I’m easy going).

If you want to read more about this situation click HERE (the discovery)

and HERE (the October 5th post)

and HERE ( lies on the insurance report……..we found even more today!!!)

and HERE (and the Ombuds Service collaborates without ever seeing the property…and a real person doesn’t even sign the letter!)

Oh, and one more little thing…….if our suspicions are right, we “followed the water”, we now suspect why we only had one septic pump out this year (compared to three or four in previous years)…….just a hunch…..but then we can’t “prove” it as WAWANESA manipulated the situation so that we would have no water to prove the claim.

Can you think of any other reason it takes 3 weeks to get an adjuster out to look at an interior water claim?….and that has happened TWICE with this claim….they consciously delayed the process knowing that the water would do more and more damage ……just saying…….the calendar doesn’t lie….6 weeks of delays……for interior lying water. We couldn’t “secure” the situation because they had to “see” the water. We were forced by Wawanesa to let our property deteriorate.

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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