John and I met and quickly became friends almost 20 years ago. We had an easy friendship but we had other commitments and life had other plans for both of us. It wasn’t until 15 years later that our paths would cross again and we would begin our journey together. Our career paths have taken both of us in several directions and as time tends to encourage us to become wiser, we have both learned to focus on what is important to us and on what makes us happy. John is a real estate broker, farmer and owner of the family business , Fincham’s Harness and Feed, in Burks Falls. I have spent the last several years involved in the business of maple syrup, and am a photographer and an artist. Together we take a hands on approach to life, exploring the outdoors and excited for new adventures. We work, farm and play while establishing some sort of a balance in our lives. Sharing those varied experiences with you, ideally will impart some familiarity of cottage country, which may in turn help you to achieve the lifestyle that you desire.
"With John’s building experience, our shared vision, a lot of creativity and a willingness to learn, we headed off on the beginning of a new adventure."
In 2020 the two of us and our 13 year old golden retriever, Kahshe, took a leap of faith and moved off the beaten path into a tiny cabin on a small lake, just outside the edge of Algonquin Park. This was something we both had dreamt about for many years. Our kids were all off on their own journeys in life so the timing seemed right. Our first taste of winter on the lake began in early March. It was possibly not the best time of year to take up residence in a very drafty, 1970’s cabin with gapping holes and little to no insulation, no running water nor indoor plumbing but we have no regrets. Our bathroom facilities consisted of a rather sketchy outhouse and an old enamel wash basin from days gone by for washing up. It certainly didn’t resemble the romantic notion of a cabin in the bush but we loved the life. Maintaining our usual healthy environmental practices we properly disposed of our grey water keeping even our biodegradable shampoo and soap a safe distance away from the lake and from all other water sources. We gathered our courage and built resilience swimming in the lake pretty much every day, from ice out to freeze up. The term “wind chill” began to take on a whole new meaning!
As winter hung on as it often does, we spent as much time outside as we could on skis and snowshoes exploring and roughing out trails from our cabin, through the bush to a second tiny, lakeside cabin that we have named “the outpost”. We worked and played hard clinging to the lasts bits of ice and snow for as long as we could, knowing that spring would be the start of our busy season. Kahshe happily lived her last days with us at the lake. Not long after ice out, with her health rapidly deteriorating we found ourselves having to make the heartbreaking decision to say our final goodbyes
There was a time when unknown to me, one of John’s many hidden talents, included the skills of a wannabe barista. Those cold early mornings most often began with the welcoming aroma of hot fresh coffee. As we sat and enjoyed our steaming mugs of java, it became obvious that the structural integrity of the cabin was becoming more questionable with time. Over many more fireside mugs of coffee we began to design a plan to build on the footprint of the original cabin. With John’s building experience, our shared vision, a lot of creativity and a willingness to learn, we headed off on the beginning of a new adventure.
Just before the arrival of the blackflies with their insatiable appetites for our blood, we moved into our tent. John’s Dad was eager and ready with his excavator to get down to the business of knocking over the old cabin. Once the dirty deed was complete, we brought hydro in and the began construction of what would become our home. We considered building a log cabin but due to the size restrictions of our 10 x 10 footprint we chose this time to go for a more modern design, with many windows to capture the view. We detailed every inch of space to be as useful as possible while still trying to maintain the functions and aesthetics that we felt were important to us.
As the summer transformed into fall the push was on the get into the cabin before the warmer weather fell behind us. We put our camp gear away and moved into our cozy new home in mid November. All we needed now was a new puppy! That fall, Tilley joined our family. Then the following summer Ollie found his way into our home and hearts as well. Why not have two large dogs in a tiny cabin?
In addition to our cabin plans designing and building a small greenhouse was in the works as well as a chicken coop, home to what eventually became 11 laying hens. Both the greenhouse and the chickens were a new experience for me and I was happy to find such great fulfillment in caring for both. Throughout the summer a very determined racoon was interested in the chickens and on more than one occasion we were outside in the middle of the night running , one of us naked, with flashlights trying to scare away the intruder. Fortunately, other than a few missing feathers and some frightened chickens we all got through the incidents with little harm. We gained satisfaction in raising and growing some of our own food, sharing the abundance with friends and family.
More recently John and I have taken to task the renovating of the house at the farm. Over the past 4 months our time has been split between the farm just outside the town of Magnetawan and the cabin on the lake. Since the snow fell we have been working on establishing a hiking and snowshoe trail around the 100 acre property and exploring more local trails.
"So if you see a baby blue Westy with a bright red canoe on the roof and two very happy Golden Retrievers, give us a wave."
While our chosen life style requires that we wear a few different hats our hikers are always on the ground. John’s job and commitment as a Realtor® can be busy and unpredictable. We never really know what a new day will bring but we often meet interesting people and are always on the lookout for new trails to explore, water to paddle, and tales to tell. Establishing that balance of home, work and play can be tricky, not always going to plan. Remaining flexible and rolling with the challenges helps us manage to keep life in perspective in a way that is comfortable for both of us.
So if you see a baby blue Westy (aka the “hippy van”) with a bright red canoe on the roof and two very happy Golden Retrievers, give us a wave.
Better yet, stop and say hi
Sue & John