Monday, October 05, 2015

Off the Grid Propane Refrigerator Repairs

The Never-ending Story Part Done (We Hope!)

Dave and Wayne tip the fridge on its side for repairs.
After a week of monitoring our Unique propane refrigerator, we knew Dave’s adjustments weren’t enough. We were pretty sure the problem was in the thermostat, so we ordered a new one from the factory. In the meantime, we had to empty the fridge for another trip to the States.

We scheduled Dave to come back up to the cabin right after our return. Coordinating the part pickup at the post office and Dave’s arrival was tricky, but it all worked out.

Four months of working around a fridge in the middle of my kitchen.

It was a very good thing that the fridge was empty. It had to be tipped on its side to install the thermostat on the bottom. Of course, there was very little space to work around pipes and tubes to get things out and in properly.

The hardest part was getting the capillary temperature sensor installed from the back of the fridge into the food compartment. This tube is what tells the burner to go higher or lower to regulate the temperature.

Dave installs the replacement regulator from Unique.

Getting a hot fire to cool and freeze food is a “unique” process. Now I understand it a lot better. Here are some links if you are interested:

Unique Off-Grid Appliances
How Propane Fridges Cool PDF by Unique
How a Propane Refrigerator Works by Ben Campbell
RV Refrigerator Operation Video by ABCsofRVs

Propane appliances are a good solution for off-the-grid living, but they can have their own issues. If you aren’t able to do repairs by yourself, it’s really important to have someone who’s willing to go “the extra mile” to get the job done. Thanks John and Dave.

D and M Burner Services
1-8425 Sunshine Coast Highway
Powell River, BC
(604) 487-4516

Without your assistance from both of you we’d be cooling our food in a ice chest like the old days.

Thanks for visiting part of my world this week. For more great posts from Our World Tuesday, click here. -- Margy

Friday, October 02, 2015

Off the Grid Propane Refrigerator Repairs

The Never-ending Story Part I

In 2011, we remodeled our kitchen at the float cabin and added new propane appliances. We chose a Unique 11 cubic foot refrigerator to replace our old 8 cubic foot RV style Dometic. The Unique was flawless until last March when the temperature started fluctuating wildly. As long as we were home, Wayne could chase it with the temperature control knob. But if we left for more than a day, we never knew what to expect.

We came home from a trip to the States to find the fridge off, mildew growing, and food spoiled. Not much, but all those condiments cost a lot to replace. We called our good friend John to come have a look. He’s installed all of our propane devices.

To get ready, we pulled the rug up and moved the fridge into the middle of the kitchen floor. Then off came the burner’s safety cover, and we spent hours, days, even months monitoring the strength of the flame as we moved the temp knob up and down, chasing that ideal 4°C.

We talked to lots of people, but no one wanted to come up the lake. One suggested replacing the propane regulator. That was a job Wayne could do. But it didn't solve the problem. Wayne created a graph of the fluctuations and called the Unique factory for assistance.

We reached Tim, and he was very responsive, but none of the suggestions helped. We leveled the fridge to make sure the propane would flow properly. We cleaned the flue and burner’s gas jet according to instructions sent via email. Finally, we asked for a local repairman. There was only one, but he worked exclusively on Savary Island. We checked with Rona where we purchased the refrigerator, but all of their certified gas technicians said, “Bring the refrigerator to me.”

Dave from D and M Burner Services in the propane shed adjusting the flow.

John saved the day. He lead us to the perfect gas technician, Dave from D and M Burner Services.

D and M Burner Services
1-8425 Sunshine Coast Highway
Powell River, BC
(604) 487-4516

I highly recommend Dave for any of your gas and propane needs. He’s a great guy, and has years of experience in the business. And most important of all, he willingly met us at the Shinglemill dock and brought his tools and talents to our float cabin up the lake. What a relief.

Dave testing and adjusting the propane flow with the manometer.

On the first trip he tested our propane flow. He used compressed air to flush the line and tested the flow with an expensive digital manometer. This device measures the pressure of the propane in the line so it can be adjusted at the valve. While Dave worked, he talked by cell phone to Tim back at Unique in Ontario. At the end of the day we didn’t know if the problem was solved. Only time would tell.

Hop on over to the Homestead Blog Hop at Idlewild Alaska and see some great ideas for homestead and simple living. more ideas? Try Nancy's Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop. -- Margy

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Yellow Pond Lily

L is for Yellow Pond Lily

There are several varieties of Pond Lily (often called Water Lily) in British Columbia on ponds and in quiet corners of larger lakes.

Yellow Pond Lilies are floating perennial herbs that are held in place by rhizomes on the lake bottom. Long thin stems allow the flat leaves to reach the surface. There they float in masses to gather sunlight and reproduce.

When kept in check by natural conditions, pests and predators, they are lovely. But on Cranberry Lake in Powell River they are a problem. As the water flow has decreased, the lilies have proliferated. Remediation isn't easy or cheap, but homeowners are working to see their lake restored to it's original beauty.

Wayne and I were paddling our kayak on Nanton Lake at the end of summer. The water was so clear that you could see this Pond-Lily plant all the way down to where its stems reached lake bottom under which their large rhizomes anchor them down and extract nutrients.

First Nations people used Pond-Lily rhizomes for medicinal purposes to treat illnesses such as colds, tuberculosis, ulcers, heart conditions, cancer, and contraception. Heated leaves and roots were used as a topical for chest pains and rheumatism.

References: Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (Lone Pine Publishing, 1994) and E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia.

For ABC pictures from around the world, stop by the ABC Wednesday blog. This is the sixteenth round of the meme established by Denise Nesbitt and now maintained by a team including Denise, Roger, Leslie, and other hard working volunteers. -- Margy

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sweet Potato and Kale Stir-fry

I grow kale in my floating garden. It’s a long lasting, hardy relative of cabbage that’s easy to grow and tasty to eat. I plant seeds directly in the soil spring, and the plants produce through winter unprotected in our mild Coastal BC climate.

My favourite is Curly Kale. That’s the variety you find frequently in the grocery stores. Early in the season, the leaves are relatively flat, but come cold weather they get curly and thicker.

Just pick the leaves you need. It’s like having a root cellar right in your garden. The following spring, the plants flower and form seed heads. I pick some of the beautiful yellow blossoms for table bouquets.

A tasty side dish on a cool evening is sweet potato and kale stir-fry. It’s quick and easy, and you don’t have to grow the ingredients for yourself. Just check your produce aisle.

Sweet Potato and Kale Stir-fry

Here’s a recipe for two hungry people. Peel and dice one sweet potato. Wash and chop about three cups of fresh curly kale (it will reduce in volume as it cooks). Chop half a small onion and a clove of garlic.

Sauté the onion and garlic in butter. Real butter gives it a special flavour. I always keep individual measured and wrapped pieces in my freezer for this purpose. When the onion is limp, remove it from the pan, and add a little more butter.

Put the diced sweet potato in the pan and cook on low until the bottom is lightly browned. Turn and brown the other side. When tender, add the cooked onion and garlic, and kale. Stir until the kale has warmed and wilted slightly, but still green and a bit crunchy. Salt to taste.

It takes about half an hour to cook (mainly to slowly brown the sweet potato), but well worth the extra time to prepare.

Do you have any favourite kale recipes?

Head on over to A Peak into My Paradise for the Happiness is Homemade Link Party to see more recipes, crafts and DIY projects. -- Margy

Friday, September 25, 2015

Update: Float Cabins for Sale on Powell Lake BC

Fall is here, and it's one of the most beautiful seasons of the year!  The maple leaves are turning red, yellow and orange, casting a warm glow. Sunny days are interspersed with rain, but cabin owners are still enjoying time up the lake. Several properties sold over the summer, so don't wait for the last few to get gobbled up along with that Thanksgiving turkey. Purchasing our float cabin home was the best thing we ever did. Why don't you come up and see what Powell Lake has to offer.

Powell Lake Cabins and Properties

Are you interested in getting a cabin of your own? Here's an updated list of cabins and properties up the lake that are for sale. Some are through real estate agents, so you can get more information via their websites. Also, there's a unique opportunity to lease a float cabin, you pick the start date.

Powell Lake Cabin for Rent or Lease

Classic Float Cabin on Powell Lake: An off-the-grid float cabin is available for rent by the day, week, month, or year. It comes fully furnished and ready for immediate use. Accommodations include two bedrooms plus a spacious loft, a large living room with woodstove, a kitchen with propane range and refrigerator, sink with a hand pump for easy access to lake water, and lots of outdoor deck space. It's located in a protected bay twenty-five minutes from the Shinglemill. Call now and be ready to experience all that Powell Lake has to offer. For more information, contact John at (604) 485-2471 (evenings only).

Powell Lake Cabins and Properties For Sale

MLS LISTING: Call Harry at RE/MAX about this float cabin in a beautiful protected location on north end of Goat Island.  With a cozy woodstove, this one level float home makes a perfect getaway in all seasons. The 24x30, 720 square foot cabin has two sets of queen bunks (sleeps 8), a sliding front door leading to a spacious deck, and a great walkway to the island where you will find a beach and outhouse. This very tranquil setting is perfect for adults, and a fun place for kids. Annual costs include a $500 yearly water lot lease and low annual regional district property taxes. Get all of this for the very reasonable price of $99,000. For more information click here, or contact Harry Zroback at (604) 483-8333 or

Powell River PEAK Ad (September, 2015): Updated 40X12 houseboat on Powell Lake. "New 140 hp Volvo engine, full 150 gallon fuel tank, 150 gallon sewage tank (NOT full!), 32" flat screen built in DVD player, sound system, portable gas fire pit, solar panels, 600 watt Yamaha generator, 1750 watt inverter, and much more." Priced to sell at $40,000.  If interested, call 604-223-9510.

MLS LISTING: Curtis Yungen of Re/Max has a float cabin located across from Cassiar Falls to offer. The cabin needs some TLC, so bring your tool belt and enjoy the peacefulness of Powell Lake for the very reasonable price of $65,500. And you even get an 18 1/2 foot Double Eagle boat along with the deal.  Click here for more information and pictures. For more information, call Curtis toll free at (877) 485-2742.

MLS LISTING: LandQuest Realty is offering 98 acres with 4,300 feet of lakefront on Powell Lake. In this location there is no zoning or building permits required. It is one of very few deeded properties on the lake, and by far the largest. The property is located in an area called “Rainbow” by the locals. This area is the calmest and warmest part of the lake. The price is $699,000.  For more information click here, or contact LandQuest at (604) 694-7626 or

Powell Lake Cabins for Rent

Powell Lake Land Cabins for Rent: This 8.35 acre lakefront property is 16 miles from the marina. Five one and two bedroom cabins all have: pressurized drinking water; septic for toilets, sinks and showers; and propane stoves, lights and hot water. Lounge on your cabin porch, enjoy the meadow, or go down to the lake to fish, swim or just relax. Access is by boat or floatplane only. Water taxi service is available if you don't have transportation of your own. Rates are based on the length of your stay. Go to for more information or email at

Powell Lake Cottage Rental: Located in protected Henderson Bay. There are two bedrooms and a one bedroom suite. All amenities are included. There's a 5-night minimum at $180 per night and a $200 damage deposit. Transportation to and from the water access only cabin can be arranged.  Click here for more information, or email

Sunnyside Cabin Rental: Fifteen minutes up the lake past First Narrows you will find an all inclusive float cabin waiting.  Amenities include: hot/cold running water, solar power, propane fridge/stove/BBQ, Keurig coffee maker, sleeps 9 (1 double, 2 queens, fold-out couch, 1 futon), composting toilet, TV/DVD player (no cable), two kayaks, and occasional cell phone coverage. Rates vary by the season from May to September with a 4-night minimum. Transportation is $60 and only with weekly rentals. Click here for more information and to get their email address.

Powell Lake Cabin Services

Powell Lake Cabin Services: Already have a cabin up the lake? We are always looking for help with projects around ours. Our good friend (and float cabin neighbour) Justin Behan offers services such as cargo delivery, lumber packages, cubes, propane tanks, wood stoves, and anchor and rope supply. In addition, Justin is now a distributor for Sun-Mar composting toilets just like the one we installed in our new bathroom addition. For more information, call Justin at (604) 483-6527.

Powell Lake Real Estate: Want a real estate agent that really knows float cabins? That's Harry Zroback (our man Harry who helped us get our cabin) from RE/MAX. Harry owns a cabin himself, so he's an excellent person to contact for all your "up the lake" real estate needs at 604-483-8333 or

Powell Lake Stories

Want to know more about life up the lake. Check out these books from Wayne's Coastal BC Stories series:

Up the Lake (Free for Kindle and e-books)
Farther Up the Lake
Cabin Number 5
Off the Grid
If you have any questions about Powell River, Powell Lake or cabin living, I'd be glad to help out. Just leave a comment or use the e-mail link in my profile to send me a message. -- Margy

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Coming Soon: FREE Kindle E-book "Flying the Pacific Northwest" from October 12-14

Each month I have special offers for my Kindle readers. Don't miss this exciting opportunity to get a free book about flying in Washington and Oregon.

Click Here from October 12-14

for a FREE copy of

Description: Airports of Western Washington and Oregon form the backdrop for adventures in the Pacific Northwest. Take the controls of a Piper Arrow, as your personal flight instructor leads you to out-of-the-way spots where recreational aircraft give us the freedom to pursue personal goals. Hints for cross-county and local flying, as presented by a 7000-hour FAA certified flight instructor. For armchair pilots and experienced pros, this book is an escape so realistic you’ll swear you’re airborne.

Always free for Amazon kindleunlimited subscribers
or just $5.99 regular price.

Additional FREE Kindle Days
November 10-11

Check here if you need a Kindle 
or free Kindle App.

If you enjoy the book, consider writing a review at

Happy reading! - Wayne

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Adding Flotation Barrels Under the Cabin

55-gallon plastic barrels for extra flotation.
Last summer we worked hard on repairs and renovations when the weather was warm and conditions calm. One major task was to add barrels for extra flotation under the cedar logs in the back corner of the cabin. When we added a bathroom for our composting toilet that made extra weight on the float logs.

Pull line to get the barrel under the cabin.
We don’t want the logs to get saturated, so they needed to an extra boost higher in the water. In addition to extra flotation, exposing the logs allows them to dry on top and become more buoyant themselves. As usual, our good friend John helped us.

John sinking the first barrel at the edge of the float.
There was just enough room to tuck two more barrels between the cedar float logs where they were needed. We already have quite a few 55-gallon barrels underneath. But the two new ones had to slip under and between their neighbours.

John crawled under the cabin on the float logs.
Step one was to tie twine through a hole drilled in the top rim. This hole couldn't penetrate the barrel, which has to remain airtight. The twine was then tied to a length of floating rope. When installation was complete, the twine would be sacrificed to save the floating rope.

Wayne pushed the submerged barrel under.
Step two was for Wayne to use a pike pole to feed the floating rope down under the logs and existing barrels so it would ascend where John was waiting crouched underneath the cabin deck. John used a wire coat hanger hook to grab the yellow rope as it came into view. This rope would allow John to pull the barrel into place.

John using the pull line to maneuver the barrel.
Step three was to fill the barrel completely with water. When full, it becomes neutrally buoyant. This was the time to test the seal on the upper cap that keeps the barrel airtight underwater. Step four sent John back under the deck. He would man the pull rope while

The barrel on its way under the float logs.
Wayne used the 12-foot pole to propel the barrel down as far as it would reach and in John’s direction. The push and pull process turned the barrel from its vertical sinking position to the horizontal position needed to snug up between the cedar logs.

Wayne manning the compressor up on the deck.
Step five was to inflate the barrel. John has a compressor with a hose and wand extension he devised specifically for pumping air into barrels. The narrow slits between float logs make this procedure difficult, forcing many cabin owners have to hire scuba divers for this step.

John used a wand to fill the barrel up with air.
Wayne manned the compressor while John held the wand into the barrel’s open lower hole. After a few bursts, he stopped to make sure the barrel was in position. Then the compressor ran to push air in and all the water out. Here’s a video of the process from a few years ago.

John checking the barrel's position.
Once the first barrel was done, it was on to number two. The float log at the back corner rose just above the lake level. Then over the next month, as it dried, it rose even higher. Job well done.

Taking care of projects on a float cabin during the summer is best because both the air and water are warm. If problems occur during the cold winter months, they are much harder to complete. -- Margy