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Do you feel that? There's that recognizable chill in the air. Fall's back with its shorter days and changing leaves. It's time again to shut down the cottage for the winter.

You spend so much time and money on your family cottage, that it only makes sense to do all you can to protect it. By being as thorough as possible, you'll not only keep out the weather and little critters, but according Desjardins General Insurance, you'll also keep your property insurance costs down by reducing the chance of damage over the winter and any resulting claims.

Keep in mind that on average closing your cottage can take up to four weekends. Aim to be finished by the Thanksgiving weekend because the cold and frost tends to arrive earlier in cottage country. Here's a brief check list to help you stay organized:

• Take a good look around your entire property. Identify anything that may need an emergency repair before you close for the season and make sure there's time to get it done. A good example is roof repairs because snow and ice over the winter could make the problem much worse.

• Animal and weather proof your place:

Clean out the gutters and the chimney. Before you leave for the season, be sure to cover the chimney to keep out the weather and animals.

Check for and seal any small openings.

Secure and seal all the windows and doors.

• Make your cottage burglar-proof. Ultimately, you want to your place as uninteresting as possible. If you have a gate at the entrance of your driveway, chain it up. Tidy up outside, packing up all outdoor furniture and removing any fire hazards. Inside, close your blinds, curtains and/or shutters.

• Clean out your kitchen and fridge. Canned food can expand and possibly explode over the winter and other food items can attract mice. Leave your cupboards spotless so that you won't come back to any surprises in the spring. If you'd rather not bring it all the way back to the city, consider throwing an end-of-season party for your neighbors or donate it to a local food-bank.

• Turn off the water, electricity and in some cases the natural gas. Be sure to drain the pipes to prevent freezing and cracking. Pouring environmentally friendly non-toxic antifreeze (used in RVs) into your toilets is a good idea if you're unable to drain them completely.

• Last but not least - enjoy the winter!

For more tips on how to save money on your cottage insurance, visit Desjardins General Insurance at www.desjardinsgeneralinsurance.com.

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