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Sabbatical, 2004
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Of Mice, and Power, and People...

September, 2003


It was almost the end of my vacation; I was alone at the cottage, heading for bed late at night, when the mouse trap was triggered.  Rain pattered gently on the roof.

“Drat!” I muttered, “I forgot the trap was set!  Mouse must’ve come in because of the rain...

“...guess I’d better empty the trap and reset it.”

Which I did.  The mouse was surprisingly big – but its large ears were proof that he was a field mouse rather than a rat.

“You ought to have been too old and experienced to fall for this!” I admonished the limp grey form as it tumbled into the garbage bag.  I reset the trap, turned out the lights and went back into the bedroom.


Again?  C’mon guys!  I’m still here for five more days, it’s not your turn to use the cottage yet!

Lights back on, and soon another limp form was dropping into the garbage.  Once more I reset the trap.  Once more I put out the lights and went to bed.

I had not even managed to sit down on the edge of the bed, and

SNAP!!!  A third mouse came to a sudden end.

I emptied the trap, but didn’t bother to reset it.  If the first three were any indication, I’d be up all night resetting it, if I did!  I convinced myself the mice would probably hang around the eating area most of the time, and if any came into the bedroom, I’d be asleep and wouldn’t know.

The next morning I was sitting quietly reading when I heard a fairly loud scratching at the point in the wall where I suspected mice came in.  Moments later I saw a chipmunk in the living-room.

I stomped and shouted at him, and he left very quickly, but this was the limit!  The hole in the cottage, which I had not really looked at, must be pretty big for that fellow to get in, so I had better try to plug it.

The 1998 Ice Storm Leaves its Mark

In 1998 an ice storm had devastated the whole region where our cottage is.  Five years later, the forest around us still has many cracked, twisted, and broken trees as a mute reminder of that astonishing time.  One plummeting, ice-covered branch knocked down the cinder-block chimney of our cottage, cracking and breaking the wall beside it in the process.

We had not yet taken possession of the place – it had been standing empty for a number of years – but my brother cleaned up most of the mess, and nailed a few boards over the holes in the wall made by the falling chimney.

He did a rough job – his own cottage, and our sister’s, also needed a lot of attention – and it was only after the chipmunk came in for a visit this year that I took a careful look and found some very large openings in our house concealed behind the wood stove!!!  Our cottage literally has an “open door” policy for small wild critters!

A true repair was going to be a huge task, and certainly not for this year, because my vacation was almost at an end.

A Summer of Pleasant Visits

It was a good vacation, really, certainly more relaxed than the past two years!  In fact, for the first time the cottage began to be used in a manner normally associated with cottages: namely, visits by family.

We have two married daughters – Ariel and Rachael – both of whom live in Toronto, and both of whom have very positive memories of their childhood at this lake.  Toronto is only about five hours away, by car, and when we suggested they might want to pay a visit this year, both daughters jumped at the chance.

In fact, each of them decided to spend almost a whole week with us.

Rachael, with her husband, Kevin, was first.  They were to arrive not very many days after we ourselves got to the lake, so Heather and I went into a mad frenzy from the moment we opened up, preparing beds and bedding, and setting up some additional IKEA cupboards in the kitchen.

They came, complete with Annabelle the dog, and a very pleasant week was had by all.

Kevin, in fact, helped me with some of the clearing up of the aftermath of last year’s falling tree disaster!

Although the bulk of the fallen tree now lies on the forest floor waiting to be cut into fire logs, a huge branch remained high in the air, wedged in a fir tree (which it had half destroyed when everything came crashing down)!  There was no way to get at it, except by cutting down what was left of the fir tree!

So out came the chain saw, and down came another citizen of the forest!

No mistakes this time!  The defoliated fir tree, and the other tree’s top section – almost equal in size, and wedged 25 feet up its trunk – fell away from the cottage and went the only place it was safe to go: into the water.

It proved extremely difficult to pull this great mess of dead wood out of the water, but with Kevin’s help, and advice and the loan of useful tools from friends, the task was eventually done.  By the end of the summer I had cut everything but the main bulk of the monster tree into suitable lengths.  I should have firewood for many a year.  A fourteen foot log, two feet in diameter and as heavy as lead, remains to be cut up next year.

When Kevin and Rachael had returned home, Ariel came (unfortunately, her husband Shai couldn’t get away from his work).  Another pleasant visit ensued, at the end of which all the world nearby went dark!

How the Great Blackout Affected Us

Most of Ontario, and north-eastern U.S.A. suffered an enormous power blackout.  We, in Québec, were not touched, so, when Ariel phoned her husband, he said he was all right, but advised her not to come home until the power was back on.  For one thing, she might not get gas for the car, as gas pumps require electricity to work!

The cottage phone rang again, and it was Rachael.  She and Kevin were sitting in a dark, hot apartment, with no food, and they were thinking they’d rather be at the lake!  “But what about gas?” we said.  “The car is almost full, and we hear there’s a working gas station in Brockville!” they replied.

And so they came back!  And the cottage was really full for a couple of days.  But it makes the heart glad to have one’s grown children relaxing and enjoying the cottage with us!

Eventually, once more only Heather and I were there, and then even Heather was gone.  She had to return to her law practice, and flew home.

So I was alone, and among other things busily fitted wood to the mouse holes, and stuffed small cracks with plastic bags.

I thought I had done a pretty good job blocking off the rodent entries, but on the last night I was there...


Ahh well...

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Note: Adventures with this cottage continue.
Those of the summer of 2004 may be found by clicking here.

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