In an ideal world, we would arrive at the cottage on the May long weekend and everything would be ready to go. The yard would be free of debris, the dock would already be in the water, and the boat would be full of gas. The windows would be cobweb-free and there wouldn’t be a spot of dust on any surface. All we would have to do is pull the Muskoka chairs out of storage and bask in the glory of the first sunny and warm day of the year. (Because, of course, in this hypothetical scenario, the weather would also be perfect all weekend long.)
But unless your cottage is home to some very industrious magical little elves, chances are your first weekend up north will be spent getting down and dirty in preparation for the season.
In anticipation of that first spring weekend at the cottage, here are a couple of things you can do this fall that will make your life easier next year.
1. Clean out the boathouse
If you have five years worth of broken water toys piling up in your boathouse or garden shed, it’s time to do a purge.
Once you’re done clearing out the junk, make sure all your tools are in working order, including sharpening lawn mower blades. If necessary, this is also a good time to take any of your small motors (chainsaws, weed trimmers, boat motors) in to be serviced, so that they’ll start better in the spring. Next, add good quality fuel stabilizer to fresh gas and fill up all your tanks—this will reduce the chance of water condensing and mixing with the fuel.
Finally, for the really ambitious, clean the scum off the bottom of your boat before you put it in storage. (You’ll thank yourself later.)
2. Get septic system pumped out
If your septic tank is more than three-quarters full, now is a good time to have it pumped out. This will prevent the contents from freezing and expanding, which can potentially crack the tank.
If you’re closing up the cottage immediately and it’s not that full, wait until next year—an empty tank can float in high spring water tables.
3. Cut wood in preparation for next summer’s s’mores
The longer wood ages, the less likely it is to produce smoke. In fact, it takes six months for freshly cut wood to be properly seasoned and ready for the fireplace or pit. Start chopping now and you’ll be ahead of the game—just make sure to store the wood in a dry spot, where it can still have access to airflow and sunlight.
4. Prevent pests
Half of the challenge of opening up the cottage is cleaning up damage done during the winter months, including mess created by pests. If you give rodents less reason to nest in your cottage, you’ll also have less to clean up in the spring.
Make sure to remove all the food from your cupboards and fridge—save for a box of baking soda to absorb ordours. To make your home even less inhabitable to critters, store linens in tight plastic bags or containers, and stand your mattresses on end.
And don’t forget about those other potential invaders. Before you lock the doors for the last time, be sure to crime-proof your cottage.
5. Finish your “honey-do” list
There’s no better time than the cool days of autumn to check off those projects that you’ve been putting off all summer long (or, let’s be honest—for multiple summers in a row). Chances are, you’re not going to want to complete them during beautiful sunny days of summer, so now is the best time.
Start by de-cluttering your cottage and donating unwanted goods to charity, then move down the list until all the cracks are caulked, the garden is weeded, and the walls are painted. And who knows—maybe if you manage to make it all the way through your list, springtime might feel a little magical after all.