From the archives (written approx. 2008)
For most cottagers, closing up for the season often involves getting the boats out of the water, taking out the docks and servicing the water system. At my in-laws’ cottage near Haliburton, Ontario, there’s another time honoured tradition that may be slightly less familiar to many: wrapping the gazebo. The ten sided gazebo plays a pivotal role at the cottage: it provides a welcome respite from the bugs in the evening, and its proximity to the water means that on hot nights, it’s the best place to catch a breeze off the lake and cool down before euchre or bedtime. What’s more, the gazebo offers invaluable storage space and is the winter home of everything from chairs to the concrete fishermen that in summertime adorn the dock. Naturally, maintaining the gazebo’s integrity from the snow and winds of Haliburton is a job taken seriously by the family.
The roof is shingled and so the vulnerable part of the gazebo are the ten screened sides. Solution: two large polyethelyne tarps. A host of naysayers greeted my father-in-law with derision when he shared his tarp strategy with them. “The tarps will never last a season” was the general consensus. The tarps we recently used for the wrap are now starring in their twelfth year as gazebo shield.
The method may be a tad time consuming, but it works. It generally requires at least three workers. One tarp can make it around about half of the gazebo. Once an initial finishing nail is in place, one recruit pulls the tarp taut at the far end while the other two work at fastening the tarp panel by panel. Essential to the process is the narrow wooden 1½ by 1½s that are stored under the cottage during the summer. These thin pieces of wood that could be mistaken for tomato stakes are lined up to match the panel frame beneath them. The tarp then gets sandwiched between the wooden stake on top and the wooden panel beneath courtesy of wood screws and the ever handy electric drill. The process continues around the gazebo, including the westernmost point where a slender foothold is all that keeps the worker from a dance with the lake. One key moment is the positioning of the second tarp to avoid excessive overlap which could allow the winter wind to gain an edge. The door is not wrapped until all of the odds and ends have been stored in the gazebo for another year. The bottom of the tarp is folded under twice and then secured with local rocks. The final touch or what my father-in-law refers to as insurance is the wedging of a long 2 x 2 with a “t” on one end (which looks like a prop out of some Monty Python period piece) between the gazebo floor and the ceiling. The whole procedure can usually be done in about an hour if focus is maintained and someone doesn’t drop by to say hello. While it might not require the brute strength of removing the docks or the acquired know-how of draining the water lines, wrapping the gazebo epitomizes the teamwork and resourceful use of home made remedies that so many cottagers relish.