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Watercolour Portrait: John and Joan Buma

Written by Land Ark


November 25, 2021

You don’t need to suffer cottage headaches to live the cottage life

A cottage is a dream. But any cottage owner will tell you that fallen trees, power outages, and broken septic pumps can turn the dream into a weighty weekend burden. For as long as Joan Buma can remember she wanted to retire to a cottage near Westport. Her family had roots there. But John, her husband, wasn’t so sure and eventually they had to figure it out.

“I don’t think we want to own two properties,” said John quietly over lunch. “And I don’t think it would be good at our age to live in isolation at a cottage.” Joan Buma was a science teacher. That suggests logic and linear thinking. But she’s also an author and she dreams like an artist. A younger couple might have quarreled. But after 46 years Joan knows her husband. He’s a good man. And she’s patient.

And so, Joan shelved her lifelong dream of living in a cottage. She didn’t toss it away but she knew he was right. Cottages are hard work and the winters would be long. And owning a house and a cottage would double the maintenance duties. 

“I need to go into town to get drinks for us to bring to dinner,” said John. They were renting a cottage near Westport for the week and would spend their evening with family nearby. On his way into town, everything changed. John, being a curious person, stopped in to check out the Watercolour development. Two of the representatives onsite were graduates of Redeemer university where John served for several years on the board. This connection made him want to learn more, and further explore, with Joan, the vision of the development.

“It’s like a cottage but you can walk to everything,” says Joan. “You don’t have isolation, you have community, you can go swimming at Sand Lake, you can walk to the harbour.”

Joan’s family has deep roots in the area. She and John often cottaged there with their three kids. Westport was one of John’s favourite spots to visit. “It’s a little village that has a lot of life, particularly in the summer,” he says. “There’s a little bridge over the harbour. You can watch the boats come in and out. There’s Foley Mountain to climb and Spy Rock.”

Westport is a quaint and functional town. As Joan says, it covers all your basic needs. “When you live in big cities, getting your basic needs becomes complicated by the distractions around you,” says Joan. “When you leave the city there’s peacefulness that comes. You’re outdoors, in creation. Your heart comes out instead of your head.”

The Bumas built a life in Grimsby. They had good community. But every time they come to the Westport area there is a feeling of rest and unwinding that happens. “Even now in retirement, there’s a feeling of renewal that comes with simplification,” says John. “The busyness of city life and the 400 series highways all around and the population density in Southern Ontario all impact your overall wellbeing.”

Two of their three children live near Muskoka. But that version of cottage country has become very congested, busy, and expensive. There’s also a sense of freedom in owning only one property. As John says, it’s quite an investment to have a cottage property sitting empty for eight months a year. “Freedom lies in not owning so much,” he says. “If we own two houses we have to dedicate our ‘free time’ to maintaining them. You come to the cottage and open it up, start the water system, fix what’s falling apart, cut trees, haul out docks.”

Now, the Bumas get to live in a modern, brand-new home within walking distance of everything they’ll need, including a cottage lake. “The front porch and the back porch appeal to us greatly,” says Joan. “We’re outdoor people and we really enjoy connecting with other people. That front porch takes us where we want to be.” John retired as the CEO of a seniors’ campus of housing and care. In Grimsby they had an excellent hospital nearby. While the proximity of health services can be a factor in relocating, John did not want that to hold him back.

“I can’t be held captive to a geographic location solely by virtue of proximity and forego the benefits of living in a preferred location for years to come,” says John. “Between the medical centre in Westport, the hospital in Perth, and the teaching hospital in Kingston, we know that medical care, if needed, is within reach.” No one wants to be a prisoner of a demanding cottage property or a congested city. Watercolour Westport is freedom from both. You get the best of cottage life with the safety and convenience of nearby services in a quaint and functional town. 

Joan knows when her heart has connected with something. Once she visited Watercolour there was no going back.