Maynard van der Galien
In the spring of 1981, when I was paying off an FCC farm mortgage for the on-going dairy operation we’d bought in 1970, I bought something extraordinary that had most of our friends and acquaintances shaking their heads and frowning.
I bought a cottage at a nearby lake, a 15-minute drive from the farm.
I was a busy bachelor dairy farmer and cropping 400 acres. Most of that land was in hay and grain. Hay and straw was taken off in small square bales. Haying started the first of June and usually lasted into October. A massive amount of alfalfa hay was taken off in 2-to-3 cuts. It’s no wonder people were frowning.
My father, whom I had farmed with in a partnership since 1970, had passed away four years earlier, and he would have been very much against spending money on a cottage. He was all work and no play. Mother was much different. She thought it was a great idea having a cottage for a number of reasons. My two sisters were both city school teachers with summers off and they complained that coming to the farm wasn’t very relaxing for them. It was too noisy with tractors going early in the morning when they wanted to sleep in. They said it was work, work, work always going at a fast pace.
So mother and I thought if we had a cottage at a nearby lake the sisters could stay at the cottage and be away from the hustle and bustle of farm life. They’d be happy and we would go there on weekends. And so a cottage was bought that was listed with a local realtor. It’s on a deep lake with clean water. Mother loved being there.
The cottage is on a private road, 9 km from the farm and is nestled under huge oak trees on a 150-ft lake frontage lot. I called it “Bachelor’s Paradise” and painted a sign with those words and hung it in an oak tree by the laneway.
I was different than most farmers. I enjoyed swimming and being by water. And unless you had a cottage, that wasn’t possible.
Do I go roaring around the lake in a motorboat or a Seadoo? No, there are two boats at the dock — a paddle boat and an aluminum row boat.
Did farm work suffer because of the cottage? Not at all. Round balers soon came on the scene and that sped up haying. The past 10 years I have just grown corn and soybeans and have the entire summer to enjoy at the lake.
There is a lot of work maintaining a cottage. Taxes are high. So what? I had an addition put onto the cottage two years after purchasing it when my sisters got married and kids were born. We needed more space. Although the cottage wasn’t winterized, it did have running water, a bathroom and a shower. We used it until Thanksgiving and then drained the water lines.
That worked for 25 years and then in 2007 I decided we needed an all-season winterized place to enjoy all year long. So the quaint white cottage was torn down, hauled away to the farm to be burned and a two-and-a-half storey house with a walk-in basement was built on the same spot. We refer to it as The Lake House. It’s beautifully furnished and decorated and always ready for occupants.
Some people choose to rent out their cottage for part of the year. I have never collected any rent in the 42 years of owning it. It wasn’t bought or built to rent out. Family members staying there cut the lawns in the summer and leave the place spic and span when they leave.
It’s been a wonderful paradise all these years with many family gatherings held there. We had friends over, church groups over and visitors stayed there from faraway places. There was fishing, boating, hikes, dinners, potlucks, and lots of laughs and fun.
Relatives from The Netherlands stayed there a few days mid-week in June one year when there wasn’t a soul or a sound on the lake. Only the loons. They couldn’t believe it as they were accustomed to European beaches packed with people every day. They didn’t like the quietness and found it so eerie.
But that’s what we like about the place.
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer. His nephew Adam, who lives in Hamilton, is coming mid-April for a week of relaxing at the cottage and help with cleaning up the leaves. He’s been coming a few times every year for 36 years now.