Whether it’s getting a snake out of the cottage or unsticking a window on a hot day, these tips will help make you a cottaging pro.
Be a hero
Onto every cottaging trip, it’s inevitable that a little rain will fall, skinned knees will happen, or the canoe will tip. As long as you know how to deal with these minor bumps in the road, you’re golden. Save your friends and family from minor peril with a few easy tips that will make you look like an expert cottager!
How to quiet a dripping faucet
In one especially unpleasant circle of hell, the damned can’t sleep because the taps drip at night. If you find yourself there, try this temporary silencer: Drop one end of a piece of string an inch or so down the drain, and tie the other around the end of the spout. Now the drip descends silently. During the day, if the same taps screech like the dickens when they’re opened partway, the problem is very likely the washer, which needs tightening or replacing.—Martin Zibauer
How to rescue a swimmer from drowning
You’re out in your boat and come upon a swimmer in distress far from shore. What’s a hero to do? “Terrified people have superhuman strength and might pull you under if you get too close,” warns Barbara Byers of The Lifesaving Society. Most importantly: Stay. In. The. Boat. If you have a PFD—which of course you do—put it on. If you have a spare, throw it to the swimmer. No extra PFD? Extend your paddle or line (and of course you have these on board too) for the swimmer to grab. In a pinch, “even a towel or T-shirt could work,” says Byers. Tow the sinking swimmer to your boat while assuring him he’s going to be okay. Once he has calmed down, help him aboard. Return to shore for a hero’s welcome.—Michelle Kelly
How to survive the worst hangover ever
C’mon, admit it. You’ve been there. An afternoon beer turns into two, or three, a few pre-dinner cocktails, a bottle of wine with supper. Next morning, even the blessed loon call can’t soothe your head. Forget cactus extract, spoonfuls of honey, or any other homespun potion—they won’t “cure” a hangover. In truth, there’s no surefire solution. “A hangover is caused by toxic by-products the liver releases as it breaks down alcohol,” says Dr. Jose Lança, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Toronto. These toxins lead to general awfulness. All you can do is treat your symptoms. Dr. Lança recommends sports drinks to help rehydrate and replace salts and sugars, ibuprofen or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) for headaches, and antacids for nausea. (But never acetaminophen, which can derange a post-drunken liver and increase your chances of eventual liver failure.) And hair of the dog? Scientifically speaking, more alcohol will make things worse, but we suspect some cottagers wouldn’t mind giving it a try.—M.K.
How to smack down a bear
Chances of a bear encounter while hiking near the cottage are slim, and chances of a bear attack are even slimmer (you’re more likely to get murdered, or attacked by bees…or possibly get murdered while being attacked by bees). But if you come upon one—you’ll know it knows you’re there because it will probably stand up
on its hind legs for a better look at you—don’t run; bears can move as fast as racehorses when they feel like it. Don’t climb a tree either. Black bears are good climbers, and a grizzly could reach high enough to swat you before you get out of the way. Instead, back away slowly, talking, making no direct eye contact. If
the bear comes towards you, try to make yourself look bigger—raise your arms and hold your jacket above your head.
If a black bear attacks: Fight back any way you can. Bear spray! Sticks! Backpack to the snout!
If a grizzly bear attacks: Lie face-down, hands clasped behind your neck, and don’t move.
If a polar bear attacks: Get yourself back into the bear-viewing buggy, whip out your camera, and thank God you don’t cottage in the Arctic.—Jackie Davis
How to right a capsized canoe
If you come upon an overturned canoe and its hapless paddler while out for your morning toodle, fear not. Simply perform a canoe-over-canoe rescue.
A Position your canoe so the overturned craft meets the centre of your gunwale at a 90-degree angle. Calmly instruct the submerged paddler to push down on the far end of his or her boat, while you carefully lift the other end up and over your gunwale.
B With the help of your rescuee, haul the canoe across your gunwales amidships until the boats form a cross. (This is easier than it sounds.) Instruct the swimmer to hang on to the bow of your boat, which will help keep it stable while the water drains.
C Staying low in your boat, flip the canoe right side up and manoeuvre it parallel to your own. (Again, easier than it sounds.) Hold the near side steady while the rescued paddler climbs in on the other. Proceed with picture-perfect cottage morning. —M.K.
How to dequill after a run-in with a porcupine
When something sharp and pointy impales you, instinct yells, “Yank it out!” But if it’s a porcupine quill, nuh-uh, according to Franco Mariotti, a biologist at Science North in Sudbury. A quill’s harpoon-like head is covered in something akin to fish scales. The more you pull, the more it’ll hang on, like a fish hook. So you’ll have to outsmart it. Quills have tiny, longitudinal air compartments. Grab one end and you’ll force air to the other (the end stuck in your butt), so it will be harder to remove. Split it, with scissors, lengthwise. Then, use pliers to yank out that oily quill. If the quill won’t budge or breaks off, head to the doctor; left there, that mini- torpedo can burrow its way deeper and possibly poke some vitals. Or eventually exit the other side. Seriously.—M.K.
How to get an animal out of the cottage
A bird Chris Earley, a biologist at the University of Guelph, says the way to get a bird out of the cottage is to catch it. With your hands. When the bird flutters against a window—and it will—cup it in your fingers, cage-like, so you don’t squish it. Be brave—small birds won’t hurt you (though, he warns, chickadees have a mighty beak-pinch). It’s unlikely, but if, say, a hawk or a screech owl—anything with scary talons—gets in, confine it to a darkened room with an open door or window for escape.
A skunk Almost anything you do will lead to getting sprayed. Throw a towel over it: You’re getting sprayed. Herd it with a broom: You’re getting sprayed. Attempt to hold its tail down, the only way to prevent spraying: You’re getting sprayed. And possibly bitten. Mark Engstrom, a mammal expert at the Royal Ontario Museum, suggests that you calmly, with no sudden movements, get everyone the heck out of the cottage. Create as many openings as possible from the outside. It’s an emergency: Slash window screens! Then wait until Stinky ambles out.
A snake “The first step is to calm down,” says Bob Johnson, curator of amphibians and reptiles at the Toronto Zoo. “Pour yourself a beer.” Thus fortified, clear the room of people, remove objects the snake can hide under, shut the door, and arm yourself with sturdy gloves or oven mitts, and a pillowcase. Invert the pillowcase over your arm, pick up the serpent, and pull the case around it. Then take your sack-o-snake outside. Gloves will protect you from a bite, but the snakes you’d get inside—milk, fox, black rat, or garter snakes—are harmless and have trailed mice indoors, says Johnson. In the highly, highly unlikely case that a massasauga rattler bucks its timid nature and wanders inside, put on a pair of rubber boots, and use a long-handled tool to push it into a garbage can with a lid. Then release it at the far end of your property, but not off your property. There’s no point; it will come back anyway, and if you take it too far from its home base, it will probably die. Then you’ve killed an endangered species—way to be a hero.
A bat If the bat hasn’t come in direct contact with anyone, shut it in a room with only one open window or door, and let it echolocate itself out. The bat probably followed a bug inside, says cottage-country bat expert Bill Scully. Having multiple exits to choose from won’t make it any easier for the bat to get out, he says, but it will bring in more bugs. What if someone wakes up in the middle of the night to find—gah—a bat crawling on their face? (Hey, we’ve heard it happens.) Bats can carry rabies, so any bat-on-skin encounter poses a health risk. First, catch the bat and hand it over to your local Ministry of Natural Resources office. Scully recommends thick gloves and a simple butterfly net to snag the bat, then putting it in a margarine or coffee container. Bats have tiny teeth and you can be bitten without even knowing. So—holy better-safe-than-sorry, Batman!—wash the area and get to a doctor. —J.D.
How to unstick a window
Summertime, and the livin’ ain’t breezy. Window won’t open? The likely culprit is a sloppy handyperson who’s painted the window sash shut. Reach into your tool belt, pull out your utility knife, and slide the blade between the sash and its channel, breaking the paint seal. If the sash of your unpainted wood window is sticking, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Dry and shrink the sash with a hair dryer. Once the window’s moving, rub the butt end of a candle in the channel for lubrication.—M.Z.
How to find a ring in the sand
First, drop the rake (tines down, so you don’t step on it later and self-concuss). A rake isn’t likely to snag the ring and may dig it deeper. Instead, knock together a sturdy wood frame with hardware cloth nailed over it. Shovel sand from the drop zone through the screen to sift bling from beach.—M.Z.