As I sit in my salvaged adirondack chair rescued from a neighbor’s thrift pile, with the heavy reassuring weight of my porcelain mug in hand I find myself catching my breath and sighing into the peaceful morning after the insanity of last night.
I’ve come to realize along with the joy of cabin ownership there are also deep moments of despair and self doubt.
This past winter with the severely needed snow pack also brought extreme amounts of damage to so many cabins. My immediate neighbors and I got off light. Minor deck damage, some broken shutters, my disintegrated door, flooding in low zones, and various swelling and shifting of wood. We were so lucky. Some neighbors across the lake had massive structural damage, a resort on Tioga Pass looked like it had been wrung like a dishrag by a passing giant.
The weather was crisp yesterday afternoon when I arrived, it almost had a touch of fall in it already, warning signs of a possibly exceptionally short summer. I loped about the cabin opening windows and inhaling deeply. It always feels so incredible to be out of the car after that 5 hour drive. There’s a deep layer of delight in lowering the heavy wooden shutters and opening the cabin up for the week.
When I reached the bedroom and went to open the window I realized after much pulling and pushing it was stuck firmly shut.
As the summer progressed the wood of the cabin had been on an ever evolving journey of self discovery. In most cases it seemed best to just let it go through it’s paces like an emotional teenager trying on it’s personality for the first time. Best to give it some space and hope it all settled in for the best of all involved.
When it didn’t budge after an acceptable amount of trouble shooting I let it be with the patience of an indulgent grandparent knowing that at some point the toddler will stop blowing the whistle. Acceptance is sometimes the best defense.
Per my usual routine that evening I went about the cabin switching on lamps and enjoying the glow of light bouncing off the wood beams.
I was busy flitting about doing some first night chores so failed to notice the festivities unfolding around the lamp in the bedroom.
By the time I waltzed into the room book in hand, ready to collapse into an evening of chivalry and poets a festive monster’s ball had unfolded around my bedside milk glass lamp.
The window that wouldn’t open had contracted in such a way that a small gap existed between the outside and the box the window dropped into, causing a tiny speakeasy door for the thousands of gnats beating against the pane of glass anxious to get close to the belle of said ball, the warmth of that stylish 40 watt light bulb.
Scarlett O’ Hara never had it as good as Ma Bell this evening.
The image that flitted through my mind as I watched them enter in, one and two at a time from the corner of the window, was that scene in The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland of the ghosts in the ballroom waltzing in and out of vision, floating in and off through the wall.
As they entered through the window I watched them dance their way up and under the shade and descend serenely into their deaths. The amount of tiny carcasses dropping onto my nightstand and pooling in the bowl of the lamp were too numerous to count and disgusting to behold.
There were so many in the room there was that brief moment of thinking “Are they going to suffocate me?”
I didn’t think I needed to add “Death by insect suffocation” into the hazards of the cabin but who knew at this point? After quickly scanning the insect party busting options it seemed the most effective line of defense was to shut off the disco ball and plug the hole. That seemed to stem the bulk of the tide and I drifted off to sleep with the smell of burnt gnats tickling my nose.
I awoke and started my day with a firm resolve to resolve this issue with the window. After my morning coffee I pulled together my little cabin assistants- Hammer, screwdriver, wrench, and an old beat up coffee can full of nails and the rusty hum of tetanus.
I figured I should start with getting the window to actually open and go from there.
The wood around the window had swollen so much from the moisture that it was pressing the window in a crushing grip of immovability. The remnants of the wet dog atmosphere of the winter of no power in the snow buried bedroom.
It was an easy enough fix. Although it was a trick to not break the window with the hammering, a couple of nails to secure the loose bits tighter resulted in a window that now functioned the way that it was designed.
Plugging of the gnat hole proved to be slightly more challenging. I tried hammering in a new exterior sill in the hopes that this would block the little guys entry, but alas that night it was back to a stuffed shirt and a miniscule dance party. In the end a piece of wood inserted into the inside sill worked as a temporary fix until the day I could finally get real screens installed.
As I was working next to the house, hammering and perspiring in the morning sunshine I was amazed to observe a man casually walk up to the open window and nonchalantly stick his head in and take a look around. I was relieved I was outside when this event took place since if I was inside he likely would have been greeted with a scream and a blast of mace in his face!
As I looked at him in astonishment he turned and shot me a beaming grin, I smiled and quizzically inquired “If someone did that at your house you’d probably call the police right?”
His smile faltered and he looked towards his girlfriend and back at me and questioned “This is your house?”
I replied amused “Yes, hence the hammer, nails, and manual labor.”
He then responded “I thought you worked for the resort and I was curious about the inside.”
My internal thoughts at that comment were “You thought I was an employee of the resort and still thought it was ok to stick your head in the window?”
He was extremely apologetic and I realized this fell in line with why people think it’s ok to sit and then move my lawn furniture around and occasionally walk into my mud room to have a look.
They don’t consider it someone’s property or house, while if I walked into their garage to have a poke around they would probably call the swat team or at the very least scream very loudly at me. To them it’s just part of nature’s Disneyland. Like the row of art directed shop fronts on Main Street Disneyland, something designed for their own personal entertainment and perusal.
We had a good chuckle over it and I gave him and his girlfriend a tour of the cabin but since this encounter I’ve considered getting a life size print out of Jason in his hockey mask, or maybe a half undressed woman with a scream on her face. Just something to advertise that peeking in people’s windows isn’t good for anyone involved!
After this interesting interlude I continued down my path of small cabin fixes and tweaks. I was excited to have my first batch of summer houseguests coming out the next week and anxious to get it in tip top shape.
I shouldn’t have bothered. If I had know I was going to have the Dr. & Dr. team of Mr. & Mrs. Fix It come out I would have just sat on my laurels and waited!
A person has never been luckier in the selection of cabin guests. I will not disclose their names as then everyone would be competing to have them out for a visit. (Or perhaps a remodel!)
As the weekend rolled around I informed the upcoming guests of two caveats.
- That the water still wasn’t working. As a point of fact it had barely worked the whole previous summer and the toilet had also gone on the fritz to complicate things even more.
- That because of all the heavy snowmelt there was a river flowing across the road courtesy of Horseshoe Lake overflowing and creating the only 3 time in 50 years “Horseshoe Falls” that was now raging down the backside of our cabin tract and while creating an absolutely stunning scene it was also now impossible to drive to the cabin and one had to wade across ankle deep frigid water with all of their baggage.
My adventurous friends were not put off and after the usual pleasantries and guest welcome cocktails the surgeon turned to me and asked “So tell me, what’s going on with your water system?”
After laying out the basics he looked at my boyfriend and suggested they take a walk up the hill to have a look.
An hour later while all the ladies in the cabin napped in an ode to Victorian times the men rejoined us having solved “The problem of water.”
After realizing that the old pipe was completely corroded and unsalvageable the boys cleverly used a piece of rubber hose to re-run the line and came up with a crafty solve to sediment seeping into the pipe. We now have this handy system of just lifting the hose out of the water basin each time we leave. Presto chango!
It was with great excitement that we started to connect the inside pipes and reconnect the new water heater to our in house system. I knew it was going all too well. As we pulled the heater out of the box we found it needed to be wired together by an electrician.
No hot water was a set back but I was thrilled to have any water, icy or otherwise!
The toilet however having suffered damage to the inside workings from sediment was filling at a snails pace. Dr. Fix It securing his place as officially the best houseguest in history took a look and told me if I went into town and grabbed the part he could fix it in 10 minutes.
The water system problem solved and the toilet repaired, it was like homesteading Christmas in July!
Bug invasions, no water, too much water, power, no power, peeping toms, bumps in the night, flooded roads, snow shoveling….was it all worth it? I imagine so.