Water Pumps, Frogs and Memories of May 2013

blog cabin family

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.

blog water pump

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.

blog empty water tank

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.

view from the club house

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.

frog

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.

field

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.

empty road

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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 .

Mayflies!

Here is the post everyone has been waiting for!

(Yeah right!)

Every year at our cabin we experience one or two mayfly weekends. A mayfly weekend is pretty hard not to notice. The sides of our cabin are coated with mayflies. There is a constant buzzing and humming as the mayflies swarm. A step onto the grass sets off another swarm, and if you dare open the door to the cabin the little invaders invite themselves in to fly near the house lights all evening long.

Mayflies

Mayflies

We went to the lake and got swarmed. We tried to rake the flowerbeds and got swarmed.

Mayflies on the fence.

Mayflies on the fence.

We went to check out the noise at our neighbours and saw this…….

Mayflies swarm over the roof.

Mayflies swarm over the roof.

Even sneaking into the cabin meant dealing with these flying creatures. We left the light on at the front and went in the back door in the dark hoping to lessen the number of indoor mayflies.

Mayflies by the light over the door.

Mayflies by the light over the door.

Mayfly weekend is definitely something to see, however remember to keep your mouth closed when outside or you’ll have a not-so-tasty flying treat in your mouth!

Cabins and Snow

It seems like this week we have been on the move a lot. We drove back from the coast (close to 24 hours door to door), got everyone settled in work and school, then discovered insurance didn’t cover snow load on the cabin so it was off to the cabin this weekend to sort that out.

As usual we didn’t get going early in the day, so by the time we made the almost 3 hour drive we were starting to see the sun go down. The clear winter sky gave us a beautiful sunset over a frozen Lake Isle (Lac Ste. Anne County, Alberta, Canada).

last turn in the road before the cabinThe last bend in the road before the cabin gave us golden light to admire and then it was time to get down to business.

snowed in cabinThe cabin had definitely seen its fair share of snow. We were able to slog through the thigh high snow however our two youngest that joined us on the trip had a few more problems.

kids navigating snowOnce the snow passed their waists we realized that playing in the snow at the cabin wasn’t exactly working as they were completely stuck. While Mark pulled out the ladder and started clearing the roof I shoveled out a mini road through the snow for the littles so that they could at least walk up and down and play a little. Littles settled, up I went to help Mark on the roof.

clearing snow off the cabin roofclearing snow off the cabin roofThe snow was heavy and thick once we got on the roof. It was much deeper than it appeared from the ground. Mark took one side and I took the other and got to work (and moaned a bit about how much snow there was!). We shoveled until we were out of light and then called it a day.

winter cabin at nightWe managed to get about two feet of snow off the roof before darkness set in . It might not be perfect but a lot of the weight was now off the roof. We took a quick moment to take a look inside the cabin and all was safe and sound exactly how we left it when we put it to bed in October.

cabin interiorcabin fireplaceThe cabin was tempting us to stay, but we were three kids short (they were having dinner with the grandparents) and hadn’t brought water. Now we are thinking “maybe next weekend”. Perhaps this is the year we should open it up early, go for a snowshoe and get a big old fire roaring in the fireplace.

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The cabin, close up, and other things.

cabinAs fall is in full swing, and the temperatures have started to dip at night, we decided it was time to start closing up the cabin for the season.

empty roadThe roads are empty.

lake isle, albertaThe lake is quiet.

fieldfieldThe colors in the field are golden.

stacked woodThe wood is stacked.

last fire of the seasonYet we enjoy one last fire.

kitchenliving room

We tidy the cabin.

bed put to bed beds put to bed

We put the beds to bed.

emptying the bird boxWe empty the bird boxes.

empty chairsThe chairs are empty.

family timeWe treasure the time we had as a family.

I often blog about time at the cabin and I am sure many wonder just where it is. Our cabin area has unfortunately been in the news lately. The train derailment that occurred at Gainford, Alberta this past weekend is just across the lake from our cabin. We hear the 1 a.m. train every weekend and that very same train is the one that derailed and sent fireballs flaring. We were lucky this past weekend, a few kids fighting colds kept us from going up for the final close up. Luckily we avoided the smoke and the traffic problems, which is minor compared to the families that have been evacuated and have had farmland burned to the ground. Hopefully final close up will happen this weekend.

(Warning: today is municipal election day in Alberta. As I watch the numbers roll in this evening I know the scene is building for a very immature post from me tomorrow. Just thought I would throw out the warning!)

Paddling on Lake Isle – Lac Ste. Anne County, Alberta

Lake Isle, AlbertaWe finally took the plunge and decided to put the canoe in the lake. It has been ages since we have canoed, years in fact, as we had abandoned canoeing the minute we bought our first kayak. Let’s face it, kayaks are toys. They are fun, and our little 9 footer turns on a dime making our canoe feel like it is plodding through the water. However now that our kayaks are happily living on Pender Island, we decided it was time for the boat that had been sadly leaning against our fence to finally hit the water again.

The other weekend the lake looked good and smelled good so we decided it was a good day for a paddle. I had bad memories of a wobbly canoe and panicky kids from times canoeing in previous years, but none of this came true on this outing. Clearly kayaking in the ocean had made us stronger paddlers, braver paddlers and also made for braver passengers ( our children). I had forgotten how wide a canoe was compared to a kayak and how much space we had, that took a little bit to get used to.

The outing was successful. We never get to paddle very far as we take turns rotating through which children get to ride and which ones get to paddle. It is pretty much like a lakeside fairground ride. We had missed the bloom of the water lilies this year, but we still managed to paddle by all the lily leaves floating on the surface of the lake. We paddled back and forth along the lake’s edge; most of the cabins had not put docks in this year which made this an easy task.

Hopefully this coming long weekend we will get another windless day and be able to put the boat in again. The kids were thrilled to canoe, and we were pretty surprised with how much fun we had.