Spring Cleaning at Viamede

by Ben Samann, General Manager

My family has a long tradition of spring cleaning. There’s something so satisfying to seeing the first signs of spring, going outside in a t-shirt, taking a breath of (what seems like) warm spring air, then dashing into some unseen corner of the house to purge whatever’s accumulated there.

Both at home and at Viamede, we’re often surprised by what comes out, really.

Every year, Viamede closes in April to get ready for summer (we will be open for the Easter weekend!). Usually we do a lot of small projects we never get to otherwise, as well as just a general property clean up.

This year, we’re doing it a bit differently.

I’ve owned Viamede for over 8 years now, and honestly, there are crawl spaces and storage rooms I probably go into less than once a year. We have outbuildings that probably served a purpose at one point, but they’ve just been sitting here for a decade, housing wildlife and… stuff.

So, amid a dozen other projects (replacing some railings, building a more permanent sun shelter, changing our lock system, painting, staining, and similar), we’re also doing our first (annual?) yard sale, to raise money for Kawartha Land Trust.

We’re selling over 100 dining room chairs we no longer need, tables, old tools, mismatched wrenches, lamps, and just about anything else you can imagine. We have random odds and ends that came from the top shelf of a storage room that have been here longer than I have. There are kitchen implements we bought last year and just never used. There’s a box of St Patrick’s Day decor, and some oddly over-sized cocktail glasses (click here for event information).

Anything we don’t sell will be donated to Habitat For Humanity, or other charitable shops.

Now, as to our big projects for the season:
  • We are long-overdue to rebuild our railing on the second floor. We’re just waiting for the glass to arrive.
  • After a few years of an electronic keycard lock system, we’re ready to move on. That system is being replaced with a keypad lock, which will reduce plastic waste and cut down on guests who have lost their keys needing to find us.
  • We are getting rid of our umbrellas at the pool, and replacing them with a permanent shade structure. Additionally, we may or may not be able to make some changes to the pool fence to open up the view a bit more.
  • We’re replacing our conference tables (currently plywood) with solid maple tops, as well as replacing the bar in 1885 with a solid maple end grain butcher-block.
  • Plus lots more spring cleaning. Keep an eye on our Instagram to stay in the loop on what’s going on!

Winter Fishing

by Ben Samann, General Manager

As many of you know, I kinda like fishing. Kinda. In the spring, I go fly fishing for sunfish. In the summer, I cruise the lake for bass. In the fall, it’s muskie. A few times a year, I head to Bermuda to catch pathetically small fish off the dock. All told, I probably put in a few hundred hours a year fishing.

But now, it’s happened. Fishing is over, for a few months at least. I just got back from Bermuda, and the lake is frozen. Ice fishing holds little charm for me, so it’s time to hang my hat, and my fishing rods.

What do I do all winter? Aside from work, playing with Toby and Daisy, and getting to play with my aquariums? I keep myself excited by keeping my fishing gear in top shape. Come spring, I can grab it and go.

Here are the things I do annually, and if you like fishing, you should too:

Tackle box:

  • Empty and clean your tackle box – take out everything in there, and rinse the box. Make sure to let it air dry. Depending on the style of box, you may need a soft toothbrush to get into the corners.
  • Now that all your stuff is out of the tackle box, sort through it. Empty spools of line? Bits of plastic? Lures that were stuck in the same tire you caught? Throw out stuff you don’t need, wash the rest. Let it all air dry, then sort it back into the box.

Reel care:

  • Take a close look at each reel, give it a few spins and really get a feel for how it’s working.
  • Lube ’em up – go to a quiet room, and really listen and feel it. The mechanism should be smooth and quiet. If it’s not, pick up some reel oil (I use the pen type, which lets you carefully put single drops where you need them). Sometimes it’s internal, sometimes it’s in the top, or bottom, or wherever.
  • Rinse them off – use warm water, and maybe a drop of soap, to rinse off any grime.
  • Check your line – After a season out in the sun, the first 100′ of line are probably worse for wear. Strip that off, cut the line, then use a nail knot or similar to put new line on. (Tip: you will rarely need more than 100′ of line, and usually a lot less than that. You can spool a cheap “backing” line onto your reel for the bulk of it, and top it off with a premium line.)
  • Rods, nets, pliers, and other tools:
  • These mostly need a rinse and an inspection. Pliers may need a drop of oil if they’re a bit rusty

Lures:

The most important thing: sort. Everyone has way more lures than they use, so really look at the lures you used this year, and toss the rest in a drawer.

  • I do a lot of different types of fishing, so I end up with a few tackle boxes. Why keep my carp rigs in my bass tackle box if I don’t even have my rods with me?
  • Check the hooks – A good sharp hook is the key to a lot of fishing. I buy hooks in bulk, and keep a close eye on rust, bent hooks, or even lures that came with cheap hooks. Saltwater destroys hooks and split rings, so I tend to replace these at least once a year, depending on use.
  • Pick up a small diamond hook sharpener and give a quick once over to every hook. I use a fly tying vise to secure the hooks, but you don’t need one. I test my hooks on my thumb nail – a sharp hook should scratch your nail with almost no pressure.

Important note: be careful when throwing out hooks. I use empty plastic bottles to keep them from puncturing the bag or getting jammed in someone’s finger. 

Other stuff: 

There are lots of other things I do to keep myself excited. I research new techniques I want to try, consult lake charts to find contours I might not know about, and keep an eye out for sales on common supplies (those people who have come out with me know all about my obsession with whacky rigs – I usually find the bait for 30% off in the winter).

One thing I’ve learned over the years, and enjoy forgetting – you don’t need every lure in the books. You need the stuff you enjoy using. There are always countless lures to be found that look good, and my wall of lures attests to how few I use – the ones on the wall don’t usually end up in a tackle box. But… look! that lure looks really good!

That’s about it.

 

You can follow Ben’s exploits on Instagram @BenSamann.


A Weekend Fit For A Queen

I’m sitting here, on the tail end of the first real weekend of summer. Slightly exhausted, generally soaked, and really, really happy.

There are countless stories among guests, staff, and even the poor poor sunfish that decided to be near our shore, but we’ll have to keep it to the highlights for now.

Culinary:

This weekend, Mount Julian really came out in its full splendour for the summer. Chef Alexander and I spent the week foraging, and we found countless edibles – wild leeks have been out a few weeks, but the spruce tips only opened on Thursday. Clover, dandelion (leaves for salad, flowers for cookies), garlic mustard (an invasive plant we love to eat), wild chives, mint, trout lillies, and even wild purple violets. I don’t think Chef was happy when I described his lovingly crafted salad as “lawn trimmings,” but, well, I thought it was apt (and delicious).

 

Finding Friends:

One of our new initiatives is the “Find A Friend” board  – after years of recreation programming, we have realized that guests make the best memories on their own. We still offer a recreation program, but also have a board for guests who share interests to meet.

This weekend, a family of 8 decided to organize a scavenger hunt, of sorts, based on the letters of VIAMEDE – draw an Ant. Eat an ice cube. There was a great turn out, and the kids all came away with new friends.

 

Guests:

Our guests were, unsurprisingly, awesome. The rain on Saturday brought people together in the dining room. The sun on Sunday created a rush for our boats. Our pool decks had more water on them than the pools had in them, thanks to splashing kids. BBQs at cottages and our new BBQ patio, The Porch, got heavy use.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention fishing. This time of year, for someone like me, fishing can be a bit boring – pickerel aren’t all that fun to catch, and not much else is in season. But for kids, this is the best time of year. My fly rod’s been working for a few weeks, but the hot sun finally got the sunfish, crappy, and perch biting. On Friday, some guests had rods from their friends with some very strange lures until I got them some simple jigs, and worms the next day. The rest of the weekend, rain notwithstanding, kids were passing around half a dozen fishing rods, catching hundreds of fish in total. It was great to watch!

 

The Farm:

After a late start, our piglets are off to the races. They’re still too small for the big pen (they’d easily escape the fence holes), so for now, they’re in the turkey pen. Our Easter chicks are doing well. This week, we should be getting turkeys, ducks, and quail. Bob, our gardener, has the veggies off to a strong start, and we should get more than we’ve ever gotten from our gardens.

So, life is good. Summer is here!

 

Cheers,

Ben


Calvinisms to get us through

Summer is upon us!

….well, “summer.”

Despite doom and gloom forecasts by foreboding dogs named “Storm“, Viamede is getting all the sun it needs.

Plenty of guests are getting out in the boats, 1and most aren’t getting soaked. And let’s be honest, it has its upsides.2

Character-building aside, we’re having one of the least buggy summers in years.3

Right now, we have a few avid fisher-kids here, and they’re having a great time. I have never seen so many sunfish caught off our dock, and some kids have even stopped using worms. Except sometimes – as John said, “suddenly the small ones stopped biting.”

giant-fish

 It comes down to packing –

4

bring the sunscreen and bug spray, but also the raincoats, quick-dry underwear, and lightning-proof iPhones.

Ultimately, everyone’s having fun – when the sun comes out, the beach fills up, the water trampoline gets used (even by a surprisingly athletic fawn), and we have a line-up of kids to go tubing. We’re building memories5

and friendships.

6

No matter what the weather, the kids are having fun.

As the sun sets on another glorious day on Stoney Lake, we’re all thinking the same thing.

calvin2


Apologies for any unprofessional e-mails

Apologies for any unprofessional e-mails

By Ben Samann

 

Spring is here, and with spring comes putting in docks and other outdoor work. Yesterday, the team and I were working on several docks. The resort dogs, Toby and Daisy, were around as well, being their usual rambunctious selves.

Over the course of the day, shirts and sweaters would come on and off, and invariably, Toby would steal mine. It’s kinda his shtick – “if you won’t pay attention to me, I’ll hang out with your stuff.” Retriever indeed.

At the end of it all, I noticed my phone was missing from where I thought I had left it. I looked, but it was nowhere to be found. Calling it didn’t help, since it’s always on silent. I finally realized that Toby must have run off with it.

I went through most of the day without it, and warned the staff that I wasn’t getting text messages. More importantly, any requests for treats or belly rubs should be verified with me.

At around 10 pm, I called the phone and looked for the light. I found it in the tall grass, most of my data used up on pictures of tennis balls and new dog beds, but luckily, I don’t think he figured out how to write e-mails.

If, however, you received any suspicious messages from me, please let me know. I will be forwarding any Amazon orders to Toby as well.


Preview to the Weekend – Forage Better or Worse

 

Preview to the Weekend – Forage Better or Worse

By Ben Samann

On Thursday, I have an exciting afternoon planned – taking our kitchen apprentice Jenny into the woods to eat whatever we find. Some, we find and use often, from wild leeks to cattails. Others we use more sparingly, like garlic mustard. And some we never use, because…. well, in theory it’s edible, but if it’s all you have to survive on, consider starving. Seriously. Lookin’ at you, lamb’s ear.

Regardless, it will be a great time to make Jenny decide what she likes on her own.

This means that Chef Jay will have an interesting chore –  everything we forage will end up on the menu. (In order to get him to agree to this, I had to promise no lamb’s ear.) So this weekend, Forage Better or Worse, there’s gonna be a lot of this on the menu.

Watch our Instagram for updates on Thursday on what Chef Jay gets to work with.


The Dangers of Food Tasting

by Ben Samann, General Manager

image1I have an annoying, but useful, habit – whenever I pass through the kitchen, I take samples of anything in front of me. Half a spoonful of butter (in Chef Jay’s words, “with good butter, bread is just a courtesy to the other guests at the table”), a piece of carrot, a slice of fresh fruit, and just about anything else is fair game to steal right from under the Chef’s knife.

That’s a dangerous game, but I’m willing to take that risk for delicious foods.

Today, my habit backfired on me. On a tray, fresh from the oven, lay tasty looking croutons/soup crackers. No one was around, so I took one. It wasn’t very good. Dry, powdery…. I made a mental note to mention it to Chef Jay.

A while later, one of the other kitchen staff approached me with a jar of the same croutons.

“We’ve been experimenting with dog treat recipes. Do you want to take some home for Toby and Daisy?”

….

Ah, kitchen humour.