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Our new playground

Water. Peacefulness. Family. Play.

So far this summer those words keep swirling in my head. For the first time, we have a pool and on such a scorcher of a summer, it is being used, a lot. By our children, grandparents, nieces, nephews, friends and critters. Critters? Yes, I have quickly become the champion saviour of little chipmunks, mice and frogs who mistake our pool for a fresh body of water, (or don’t see it in the night when they are out and about) and fall right in. My new set of skills as a critter rescue agent are becoming very developed. My son, B. well his sharp five-year old eyes spot those critters right from the windows and he tugs on my hand, I grab the skimmer and we try to save these poor little things. I have to move fast, disoriented and water-logged, oftentimes they jump right back into the pool out of the net and I have to resort to my hands to convince them to relocate to safer and dryer conditions in our lawn.

The best mornings are when Mr. L is working from home. He diligently gets up or takes a break from his office to help skim this pool, checks the levels while I scramble like crazy cleaning before the next set of guests. I hear a holler at some point, usually when I’m in the middle of something,

“Beck! Beck! Rebecca! Come here….”

And I know, a poor unfortunate critter soul is in the filter and guess who has to fish it out? Not the urbanite who is a foot taller than me who stands by the side of the pool that he desperately wanted, pointing down his face a mask of horror as a bloated mouse goes round and round. Not him but me, the once a long time ago small town gal must get down on her knees, try to get the critter out before the kids see and dispose of it.

Living on the Bay of Quinte also means we have a gorgeous body of water to play in and we have taken advantage.  Our boat, well-suited for the choppy waves of Lake Ontario is problematic on a shallow bay with multiple sandbanks. We soon figured out the proper routes for the deeper water, but discussions are underway to downsize. In any case, until that happens, we take it out, cruising on the smooth blue waters, in awe of where we live. The sunsets are amazing and even our kids got into the spirit, meditating at sunset on the balmy nights, (a practice that lasted exactly a week) and I got my fishing licence.

I got wind of a great winery with delicious lunch so when my girlfriend and her three kids visited, I figured we should check it out. Norman Hardie winery did not disappoint. With music playing, people buzzing around and an energetic vibe on the open patio and upstairs tasting bar, I knew I had found a new favourite place to visit. When the kids found the trampoline in the back and as soon as we sat down our served asked, “Do you want me to put on the kid’s pizzas right away?” I knew I had found a perfect place to wine and dine my friends for the summer.

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Norman Hardie Post Lunch Photo Op

I sampled their crisp but buttery Chardonnay that first visit and it went perfectly with, well, any of their mouth-watering pizzas. The kids also declared them best pizza to date. Of course, I’ve been back every week with a different set of friends and the rest of the wines do no disappoint. A little pricer than some other wines it is well worth the cost for a great PEC wine. Of note: County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Mr. L bought a bottle of Riesling on one visit being a sweeter wine drinker and really enjoyed it too. Make sure to take the Pinot challenge, compare their County Pinot Noir with their Niagara Pinot Noir. Find your favourite. Norman Hardie is definitely worth a visit in Prince Edward County if you are driving down Loyalist Highway during the summer take a turn onto Greer Road, follow the long road through the fields and enjoy.

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Norman Hardie, PEC, Chardonnay (Don’t mind kids in background. They photobomb everything!)

 

Friendly Places

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Our first few weeks here have been a blur of activity. Unpacking, organizing, people in and out fixing this and that. Re-setting up our life. Finding out how the local cable company and Internet providers work. Getting back to reality with work and deadlines and managing new schedules.

At about two weeks in, I threw up my hands and realized I had unpacked all that I could for the summer. The three monkeys are home full-time, Mr. L went back to work, I still had a bit of time before my client emailed asking for more blogs and people flocked to our new home, curious to see what drew us out to Prince Edward County, wondering if the pictures did the house and property justice.  I had a calendar that looked like a confusing muddle of names trying to keep track of who was coming when. Mr. L joked that maybe we should open a B&B.

But I didn’t mind. Having people visit forced me unpack a bit faster what needed to be done and to clean, daily. It also made the kids happy seeing their friends and selfishly, having other people here to distract my trio was welcome. With each visitor that passes by our door, this place feels a little more like home instead of a very, very nice cottage we rented for the summer.

Most importantly, I get a chance to drive around and explore PEC. I am becoming familiar with the country roads and certain places know my face as I seek out my new favourite places each week bringing with my crew and their families in tow to experience the local hospitality.

In our first few days of exploring we revisited Prince Edward County Lavender. A beautiful farm on Closson Road that we had discovered on an earlier scouting trip in the spring. Hoping to see the plants in blossom, we were not disappointed and the kids enjoyed running through the neatly lined rows of lavender, stopping to inhale the scent or listen to the buzzing bees. A guitarist provided some afternoon entertainment, there were shade-covered muskoka chairs to sit and enjoy the scenery and of course, a visit to the store where I found my new favourite face cream. A definite must visit on any trip to view the fields, visit the store to pick up a local product and snack on some delicious lavender shortbread.

Of course, no journey into Prince Edward County is complete without a stop at a one of the many fabulous wineries. I confidently told Mr. L that I was going to visit one new winery each week until I got through them all. Our first choice, Closson Chase, the purple barn winery just down the road from the PEC Lavender. With a lovely tasting bar and freezies for the kids, we enjoyed their buttery Chardonnay and peppery Pinot Noir while the kids explored the barn and sitting area outside.

 

Our first week touring the county was filled with warm sunshine, friendly service with the aromatic smell of lavender filling the air. The perfect combination to welcome us to The County.

 

Bugs, Birds and Blips

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County living is filled with blips. Now, don’t get me wrong, everyday life has ups and downs that permeate life whenever people try something new. Living by a body of water is also not something new to our family, we did live near Lake Ontario for the last twelve years. Bugs are a part of the deal.

Well, Mr. L, hates bugs. He’s done well over the years, hiding his phobia from the kids and getting rid of said spiders or gross lake centipedes that we have had to contend with, but what he hates the most? Flying bugs. You know,  the ones that don’t really hurt you. Prettily painted butterflies, zippy dragonflies that circle our new pond, bees and moths. He nimbly moves back into the house when they appear. What I am not a fan of? Mosquitos and flies. Big ones that bite through clothing.

Being a fan of using all natural products, I pulled out my trusty all-natural lavender oil one of our first few nights sitting out with what would be a steady stream of welcome visitors to our new home and diligently spread it on all the vulnerable spots. The next morning my legs were filled with red, itchy bumps.The greedy suckers had ignored the smell and went right for the skin. Our second set of guests were victim to the flies, the big horse ones that bite chunks out of children’s backs. Giving up, I went out and got the strong stuff trying to ignore the chemical smell and nose curling by the kids. By the time my third set of visitors had arrived, I had Deep Woods, Family Friendly Off, Citronella candles, and what worked best, the OFF lanterns. A small fortune spent on bug control. Wanting to enjoy the peaceful nights and gaze at the stars soon became an exercise in applying the right cocktail of preventive bug repellent, and ten minutes spent lightning all the appropriate candles and lanterns.

Birds are also common, but in the country, they live in harmony with your home or property. You learn to accept the nests tucked away in different nooks and crannies, or the baby Mourning Dove fledgling that lands at your feet one sunny afternoon as you try to find a pair of gloves in your yet unpacked boxes while keeping the dog and kids away to tuck it under a nearby bush. You try to ignore the cat from down the road who stalks the birds in your backyard peeking behind your fingers at the inevitable cycle of life and hope you hid the baby well enough. Time will tick away as you watch hawks and falcons swoop on the high winds in blue skies and you try to ignore the wild call of whatever bird lives in the tall treetops who sends out warning screeches multiple times a day. Geese wander up to your property, until your urban dog goes berserk and scares them away. And you try to tell Mr. L that no, birds don’t fly at night, those are bats swooping over your backyard. Nature is a wondrous thing.

Blips, another commonality in life, take on a whole different meaning in the country. Each week brings a new one to contend with. After all, country living means more property to deal with. We are fortunate to have moved to a property with some beautiful garden beds already placed. But keeping those flower beds watered during one of the driest summers is challenging. Especially when you invested a little money in planting numerous perennials at the start of the season. So you hope the sprinkler system, already set up for the beds, works well. Until it doesn’t and you watch as the plants get drier and yellowed. You put a call into the one technician for the area, and wait, hoping he gets there soon. Then you try to hand water the plants yourself and get your kids on the job, teaching them to trickle the precious water over the most vulnerable plants, not wanting to use too much as the hose (unlike the sprinkler system that draws from the nearby bay) is hooked up to the well. Or, one night you try to use your outdoor lights, wanting to ensure your invited guests can find you in the blackness of the county road. But you find, a blip, in the wiring and wait, until the electrician can get to you and find the issue. Or your hot water is suddenly gone, and you hope it’s because the washing machine was running but come to find out, your huge hot water tank, has burned out an element. Then you realize, you have no idea if your hot water tank is propane or electric and what exactly is an element, but it gets fixed thanks to Carl, your inherited handyman and you can breathe. Your kids and next round of visitors can have hot showers. And so it goes, little blips that make life interesting in the country but help you learn a lot about your house.

The kicker? You tell tales of your blips to a local shopkeeper, (who you have gotten to know because you frequent their store at least once a week, and is also an ex-urbanite), and he nods in sympathy. When you are done and paying for your wares,  he pushes up his glasses with a twitch of a smile says, “Wait until winter.”

But, then you look in awe at another spectacular sunset, watch as your dog and kids run free in a huge backyard, and realize the bugs, birds and blips are part of the deal, and what a deal it is turning out to be.

Bay of Quinte - Sunset
Bay of Quinte – Sunset

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Wells and Water

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What is the biggest change when you move from an urban home to a rural one? Figuring out the well system. I arrived to our new home, boxes scattered throughout the house and a strong but familiar smell permeating through the house.

“What is that?” I questioned Mr. L who had arrived with the movers the day before.

“The water.”

Since he had arrived, Mr. L had been desperately trying to figure out why our tap water smelled like rotten eggs. The culprit? Sulphur. The bane of any person living in the country. Now,some people may be okay with sulphur water. I had more than one person tell me it was actually healthier to drink and use.  Who knows. The little research I did indicated it should be fine. But, being a city gal for the last twenty years, well I was accustomed to highly treated water, and most certainly my kids (due to arrive in two days) were not going to tolerate sulphur water. Our aim had been to make the transition easy and fun for them. Dealing with water that smelled funny was not going to be a great first impression.

“Not a big deal.” Mr. L said handing me a bottle of water. “Carl and I are on it.”

Carl was the handyman that we inherited with the property. He had been helping Mr. L prepare for our move, doing small odd jobs that needed to be done on a home that had housed one single, male tenant for almost two years who kept the interior clean but did not utilize the other amenities or apparently really cared about sulphur water.

When I met Carl the first question I had was about the water and the well. I had a vague recollection about wells from my grandparent’s farm. The smell I had encountered when I opened the door to my new home was a throwback to their home, until now I had no idea their water had been sulphur water for years.

Fortunately, Carl knew more about the well than Mr. L. “It’s been very dry here and I changed the filter on the tanks. Should be fine.” Well four days later with no showers, it felt like we were camping. But we weren’t, this was our new home and we were getting a bit desperate. I had held my nose and showered once but resorted to jumping into our pool and did the same with the kids. I considered going to join a local community complex in town where I could take the kids to at least shower properly.

For the next five days, a harried Mr. L (who was getting a fast tutorial on wells and well water while questioning this whole move), made constant calls to the company servicing the well and even a frustrated Carl could not figure out why the sulphur issue wasn’t clearing up. The systems were all working, the well looked okay, and we had flushed all the lines in the house. No change.

At last, after many desperate calls from Carl and the previous owner of the house, the owner of the water company promised to come to the house as soon as possible. None of the other patches or filter changes his dutiful technical had tried had worked to this point. The poor technician had been at our house multiple times trying to figure out why nothing was working, would fix something, it would seem okay and then right after he left, the sulphur smell came back. At this point, Carl had resorted to dumping chlorine down the well to kill the sulphur, but then had highly chlorinated water, still undrinkable.

“Go get a water cooler.” I instructed Mr. L thinking ahead to the guests due to arrive the following week. So Mr. L lugged home a water cooler and the corresponding huge jugs for us to drink and I tried not to lose faith that one of the most important things, useable water was in our future but I admit, I contemplated heading back to the city.

At last, our saviour arrived, Mike, the owner of the company came to figure it out. Four hours later, a test on all the systems and the water softener, we had it. Clean, drinkable, non-chlorinated water. Eureka! Mr. L could breathe at last. He had passed his first real test about country life, keep on top of your well water.  The last thing to do was to test the bacteria levels again in the well to ensure all was as okay when we had done the inspection six months earlier. It had taken over a week and a half, countless man hours, but we had water, for now.

“Welcome to the country.” Carl joked as he handed me a bottle of red wine right from a nearby winery. “Now let’s hope the sulphur doesn’t come back too soon and we stay ahead of the problem.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you will have a small water treatment centre in your basement at that point. It’s the last system available to control the sulphur levels and it’s not going to be cheap.”

Another problem for another day. For now, the water is fine and Mr. L is an expert in our well system and I have come to realize that wells and water are rites of passage when you move to the country.

 

 

 

 

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