Two stories about cottage life in a climate with a tough winter.

When I come to my cottage in Minaki, Ontario, Canada, which my grandfather built in 1921 or 1922, I start to develop skills at fixing little things and then those skills atrophy through the other 49.5 weeks of the year. This year was no different.

But what’s striking is the snapshots of technology I get every few years that, if I’m willing to spend some money, make things better.

Two things stand out this year.

The Water Pump

Each year I put out a hose with a foot valve on the end out in the water, attach the other end to a water pump under the cottage, prime the pump, and then pray that it works. This time a record 7 primes was a charm. But a day later, it broke down in another way. I texted a pic of this to my cousin in Texas, who’s the guru on this. He suggested a fix, I did his fix, and it worked. Right there, you can see the role of technology. I wouldn’t have been able to text him a picture 15 or 16 years ago. Then a few days later, it broke down again but that time I figured out what was wrong and fixed it without consulting my cousin.

When I was going through this, I talked to some neighbors (oops, I’m in Canada: neighbours) who told me I could buy a submersible pump, connect it to a hose that expands and contracts with changes in temperature, and them, when I get to the cottage, flick a switch. I may or may not do that. I really think that this time I’ve got the old pump solved. Still, a nice option at C$3,500.

The Roof

Shingles on my roof badly need replacing. They have been up there for about 30 years. I got a local contractor to look, but he’s pushing me into a metal roof. One of my big pleasures is sitting in the verandah during a rainstorm and hearing the rain on the roof. If it were a metal roof, that wouldn’t be fun.

But yesterday morning I looked out and saw a young guy kayaking into our bay. I went outside and hailed him. We had a nice talk. I found out he’s from eastern Manitoba. I asked him what he does for a living. “I’m a roofer, ” he answered. “Do you ever do roofs here?” I asked. He said yes. “Come on in,” I said. I served him a piece of my just-baked chocolate zucchini cake and we talked. Then he went on the roof and did measurements. He sat on the roof for about 30 minutes as we talked measurements, options, and big picture issues like marriage. He said it was easy for me to avoid metal. By last night, I had an estimate. The price is steep relative to my expectations and I need to involve my co-owning cousin, but I think it might be a go. He told me that given that the shingles had held up for about 30 years and the new shingles are much better, this new roof would last a long time.

Technology rocks. Pinch me.