German insights into a very real Canadian cottage life show.

Smores and other dangers of cottage life
Did someone say cottage?

It is Sunday morning and I’m trapped in deep forest that surrounds a lake with astonishing clear water. No, I’m not lost. This is part of my training. I’m adapting to the Canadian cottage life. Obviously Canadians love everything that starts with c. Camping, cottage, cabin, campfire, canoe, Canucks (hockey), …

My first cold turkey exposure to the outdoors of the Canadian backcountry in October 2008 did not include a cottage. What seemed like an adventure turned into raw steak eating cuisine because we didn’t have a clue how to light a fire. We even had matches but no kindling. We woke up with icicles on the tent and had to deal with coin showers with a water supply that ended the exact moment you were ready to rinse off the shampoo. When I returned to civilization I was down for three weeks with the worst cold ever.

Wildlife in CanadaI’m at stage 4 of the learning process now. I have moved from hard-dirt-floor-tent accommodations to the sweet cottage life. I now have a mattress and a deluxe outdoor shower available and the only spectators are squirrels. I have learnt to delegate the barbequing process to men that know what they are doing. However, I’m still in charge of the rest of the delights served at the cottage.

And that is a challenge. At stage 3 for instance I was allowed to pack the trunk of a Toyota Four Runner. Now at level 4 this enormous trunk space has shrunk to the size of a business card holder. This is the time when you realize all your child hood time “wasted” in perfecting the skill of playing Tetris was good for something.

Besides being an exceptional packer, setting priorities is the next most important thing. You can live with only two sets of underwear for five days. But if your travel party consists of people that are used to 12-layer toilet paper instead of the usual 3-layers, your tight calculations might put you in an awkward position sooner or later.

Boat ride to cottageAnd no, you cannot just go and buy stuff. At level 4 the cottage life show is in a deep forest, with no roads and only a boat can bring you to this place. Knocking on the neighbor’s door and asking for eggs you forgot to bring is not an option. The nearest shop is a 2o–minute boat ride and half an hour car ride away. Can you see now, why I’m in distress?

Anyway. Here are the life threatening dangers of cottage life show I have to prepare for:

Threat #1: Getting eaten alive by mosquitos

If it weren’t for those little monsters, cottage life would be really enjoyable. Especially at dusk the trip to the outhouse becomes a race against blood sucking insects. Being quick doesn’t help because they are quick too. So you have to fight them off with things they hate. Unfortunately conventional mosquito repellent doesn’t only keep the bugs away but is full of nasty things you don’t want your body to absorb. So it has to be natural.

My mum actually suggested tomato plants. Apparently mosquitos hate the smell of tomato plants. I’ve worked this option through in my head but racing with a tomato plant in my hand on my way to the outhouse just doesn’t seem right. So I searched and searched and came across citronella.

Keeps bugs awayWell, what can I say? I guess if you were a mosquito and starving (and came across something so sweet like me) you would be eating citronella infused blood too. But I had worse long weekends without citronella. Look for a product that contains no less than 5% essential oil of citronella and give it a try. Oh and one more hint that I sometimes seem to forget. You actually have to put it onto your skin on a regular basis. Just having it lying around doesn’t cut it.

Threat #2: Dying of dehydration

Reusable water containerWithout water our life expectancy is about 3 days. So this topic requires attention. Two people, five days, two liters of water per day makes around 20 liter of water (stackable in a 100 liter car trunk). The options besides filtering lake water:

40 small PET bottles                $1.20 per liter        $24.00 for Pepsi tap water
1 large reusable container    $0.36 per liter        $  6.50 for pure spring water

Quality, amount of waste and money spend speaks for itself.Craft beer only

Yes you are right. There are other things that can contribute to lubricating your throat and actually have a little bit more flavor. I like to take teabags and brew my own ice tea. Little packages of instant coconut powder fit perfectly into any gap in the trunk and makes perfect coconut water without the vast amount of waste from the empty cans. Oh and craft or German beer is an option, too.

Threat #3: Losing considerable amount of weight because of lack of food

Everyone should have an edition of “The ultimate survival guide” on the bookshelf of his or her cottage. It not only contains precious information on how to get wood slivers of a porous toilet seat out of your bum. It also contains nice pictures of wild eatable plants or how to fish. I’m not quite sure when all this will be part of my training. Just let’s hope that I’m light years away from whatever level that will be taught at.

Anyway, here are the food items I find super handy when it comes to creating a meal on the cottage.

Old fashioned rolled oats

Oatmeal with blueberriesBesides having tons of health benefits old-fashioned rolled oats are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber and my most favorite gluten-free grain. One morning they are part of oatmeal with fresh berries the next morning they are hidden in my pancake dough. For lunch I grind them up and make wild salmon fish patties.

I wonder if they would work as fish bait too?

Wild Salmon canned

This is the most versatile and healthiest canned food you can imagine. It’s easy to digest, rich in calcium, magnesium, protein and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. And the best thing is you can actually leave it in the cottage for your next trip or some other stranded hiker. However it won’t attract wildlife. You can mix it with your breakfast egg, top it onto salads or mix it with some oats and egg and transform it into the delicious fish patties mentioned earlier.

However, if you want to make sure that the salmon you’re getting is really wild (which I highly recommend) than look for canned Alaskan salmon or canned Sockeye salmon, which can’t be farmed.


Cottage life fast foodEggs are so handy and nutritious. You can do tons of things with eggs and serve them literally at every mealtime. Sunny side up for breakfast, boiled with the salad at lunch and as vegetable quiche for dinner. However, quality matters here too. In the perfect cottage life we probably would have your own chickens but … Just don’t let’s go there for now.



Everyone loves bananas. They are packed with nutrients and can be served in fruit salad, mashed as pancake topping or as a quick snack before turning and tanning your back on the dock. Bananas can elevate cottage life to new heights. They contain tryptophan, which converts to serotonin a happy chemical. The best thing ever is they work wonderfully as melted dark chocolate holders when put on the BBQ.

70% dark chocolate

Melted chocolate in bananaBananas and dark chocolate are almost as good as smores. Smores are a traditional nighttime Canadian campfire treat. I once was lucky enough to watch a highly professional smore expert (thank you Mark) but simply haven’t reached that level of expertise. If you are not familiar with smores, the basic smore contains graham crackers with melted marshmallows and chocolate, prepared over an open flame (see featured image).

However, dark chocolate – in moderation – is loaded with minerals, has a great fatty acid profile and is a powerful source of antioxidants. What better sweet treat can there be?

Threat #4: Going blind or getting sunburned

Shades are crucial. Especially when you are on the water. The water reflects the sun and the rays hit your face and eyes. An extra wrinkly face is just one downfall.

Dock timeYes, yes. A pretty tan is important to some of us. After all that is how other people get to know, that we survived cottage life. However, sunburn is not only painful but a real threat to health. And there is no room in the trunk to pack cooling quark (a German Greek yogurt). Making my own natural cosmetic is not really on top of my health journey list. So therefore I highly recommend you see what the EWG recommends here.

Threat #5: Breaking up with your partner because of boredom

Yes, this is a test for the relationship, too. After three days in isolation nothing your partner can say sounds funny or entertaining (especially when it’s shitty outside). You start stealing each other’s dark chocolate to get at least a tiny burst of happy chemicals to the brain. Depending on each level of tolerance war is officially announced shortly after that. Good for you, that trees are good listeners.

To postpone the war, bring something to occupy your brain, like a book or release extra energy by scrubbing the deck.

“French Kids eat everything {and yours can too}” by Karen Le Billon

Book "French Kids Eat Everything"Maybe you remember my challenge of figuring out why we think that kids don’t like eating vegetables? Well, this book holds very important information. Karen exposes her family and herself to a year long of “viva la France”. She makes mind-boggling experiences of how culture and parents influence what and how children eat. Her “10 French Food Rules” hold valuable directions of eating healthy not only for children but also for adults. That was my great read for the dock.

Well, this article is proof enough that I mastered the long weekend of Canadian cottage life. And lucky me I have a Zen master as a boyfriend and teacher. No matter how bitchy I get, he keeps smiling at me (probably roles his eyes without actually rolling his eyes) and hopes for normalized hormone levels tomorrow. Happy cottage living everyone.

Yes, you probably had different things in mind when googled “cottage life show” and I might have misused the word. But I’m German and still adapting. Follow my weekly struggles by signing up with your email in the box on the right.

German insights into a very real Canadian cottage life show. by
Tanja Knapp
About the Author
Tanja Knapp

Tanja Knapp is an Explorer, Adventurer and Happiness Hunter currently camping in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. Her roots are in Germany where she grew up on a remote farm. A colony of abnormal cells in her cervix taught her the lesson that would change her life forever. Life doesn't get better by chance, it get better by change. She truly believes in creating happiness & health through constant adapting, growing and evolving. Her super power is curiosity. With her blog she likes to inspire others to explore uncharted territory.

If she is not busy writing, running, swimming or cycling, she is expanding her knowledge, exploring the World, and taking on new challenges.

She is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and graduated with an Honors diploma in Holistic Nutrition from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in 2013. She obtained a Hospitality certification in 1998 and a Marketing Communications diploma in 2004. She has worked both in Europe and North America.


  1. Terry McGrath says

    As usual your blog is informative and quirky. Both qualities that make it a very interesting read. You might want to take courses in Richmond called Edible Wild. I wish I has constant access to all wild plants that must have surrounded you. Keep up the good work German nutritionist!

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