Monday, November 20, 2017

Stocking Up the Woodpile

Living off the grid has a lot of joys. It lessens our environmental footprint, we have a simple lifestyle, and it challenges us to do things differently. Colder months are coming, and our heat is 100% from wood. Our Kozi woodstove does a great job, but it needs lots of wood.

Summer through fall we gather wood. Much of it floats up to our cabin begging to be captured. Our flatbed barge now allows us to gather drier wood from nearby beaches.

A visit to Sandy Beach.

Our first choice is chunks already woodstove size. Our second is larger pieces that need splitting. Because we see lots of wood on its way down the lake, we can be choosy.

Our cedar log float is instrumental in our wood gathering and processing process. We can tow it to a location to pick up wood, store collected wood until cutting, and it even serves as a cutting platform that can be placed directly across from our woodshed float.

The key component of our wood storage system is a floating woodshed. It keeps weight off our cabin deck, yet the wood is handy for restocking our indoor wood shelf. To give us more space, our good friend John added a third bay.


Our woodshed has one section for kindling and our log splitter. The other two sections hold about two cords each. Now all we need to do is saw and split the last lengths.  Then we'll have enough wood to get us through the worst of winter, with an extra load waiting on the raft for future needs.

Our Kozi woodstove will keep us warm all winter.

All that wood will keep us "Kozi" warm for months to come. How do you heat your home in winter?

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

And also a meme called Through My Lens by Mersad. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Coastal BC Fungi: Fly Amanita

Fly Amanita

Fly Amanita mushroom, Powell Lake BC.
You can tell it’s mushroom season in Powell River when buyers arrive and ‘shroom shacks pop up in storefronts as fast as their namesakes.

I was walking up the cliffside stairs twhen I saw a red “ball” next to the steps. My first thought was a critter raided my compost pail and dropped a ripe tomato on its way up. My second thought was, it’s October and there are no more tomatoes, even in my garden clippings.

A small Fly Amanita also called Fly Agaric.

When I got closer I noticed it was a round, red mushroom. I’ve never seen one like it before. I went online to Google images and almost immediately found it, a variety of Amanita with the scientific name of Amanita muscaria, more commonly Fly Amanita or Fly Agaric.

Surrounded by moss and decaying Salal leaves

Fly Amanita is one of a family of poisonous gilled mushrooms. It’s easy to identify and avoid with its red, orange or yellow cap. It starts rounded then flattens out and turns up as it matures. Around the edge, and across the surface, are cream-coloured to white spots or warts.

Side view showing white spots or warts.

The immature one I found was about an inch in diameter, but they can reach up to twelve inches across when open. I went back to get a picture of the mature state, but alas, some animal had eaten it down to the ground. I guess the toxic components aren’t deadly to all critters. Animals usually know not to eat poisonous things.

One mushroom all alone next to the stairs.

The Fly Amanita is most commonly found in or near coniferous forests during the fall. It’s well known as the mushroom depicted in fairy tales. The unusual common name comes from the belief that you can make a product that will kill flies.

Have you ever seen a Fly Amanita? What do you think?

References: The Savory Wild Mushroom by Margaret McKenny (University of Washington Press, 1971) and First Nature (online).

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

And also a meme called Through My Lens by Mersad. -- Margy

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Candied Citrus Peel

Last summer when I made orange marmalade, I candied the leftover peels. What a treat!

Since then I've been saving citrus (orange and grapefruit) peels from our breakfast fruit bowls for another batch.

I selected a recipe from Bright-Eyed Baker's blog for Candied Orange Peel to follow. She has excellent directions and photographs for the steps to follow. Here's her recipe with my modifications in italics.

Candied Orange (Citrus) Peels

Ingredients:
  • 3 navel or valencia oranges
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup water
    Directions:

    Wash oranges and remove peels. Slice off excess white pith and cut into ¼" strips. Save fruit for another use.

    Poaching the citrus peels to remove bitterness.

    Place the peels in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil then drain. Repeat two more times to remove some of the bitterness.

    Each time I made a fruit bowl for our breakfast, I processed my orange and grapefruit peels. Once cool, I froze them in plastic bag so they would be ready to use.

    Thawed citrus peels and preparing the syrup.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and water. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let the syrup mixture cook for 8-9 minutes at a constant simmer.

    Add the peels and cook for 45 minutes to an hour until they are translucent and the syrup reduces. Adjust the heat as needed to maintain a simmer.

    Simmering the peels in the syrup.

    Avoid stirring, as this will cause crystallization. If necessary, swirl the pan to make sure that all of the peels stay covered with syrup. This is where I goofed. The syrup on my peels crystallized. They taste fine, but aren't attractive. Visit MakeMessy's blog for more information.

    Removing the finished peels from the syrup.

    Drain remaining syrup and set aside for other use. There will probably be about a tablespoon or two left. Spread the peels out on a drying rack and leave to dry for 4-5 hours. Store in an airtight container.

    Making candied citrus peels into a fruit leather.

    I decided to use the leftover syrup to make something like a fruit leather with embedded candied peels. I covered a cookie sheet with parchment paper before pouring the syrup over the peels.


    I don't have a dehydrator so I used my oven on low (150 degrees) for the drying process. It took several hours for the syrup to thicken into a fruit leather consistency. 


    I removed the pan from the oven to cool. It was still quite sticky, so I rolled it right in the parchment paper. Then I used a Ziploc bag for storage. To enjoy my concoction, I unrolled the paper and pulled off as much as I wanted for a serving. It was finger licking good with a hint of orange bitterness!


    Do you candy orange or citrus peels? What method do you use?

    Hop on over to the Not So Modern Housewife and see some great ideas for homesteading and simple living.

    http://nancyonthehomefront.com/Want more ideas? Try Nancy's Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop. -- Margy

    Saturday, November 04, 2017

    Coastal BC Bird: Song Sparrow

     Song Sparrow Antics

    Several years ago I purchased a Bushnell Trophy Cam. You can read about it here. I've been very happy with it. Rather than getting a critter cam to hunt wild game, I use it to discover who's hanging around the deck of our float cabin home.
    Usually I set it up during woodrat (packrat) season. When I suspect one is in the vicinity, I use the camera to make sure before asking Wayne to set up our Havahart live trap. While I don't like disturbing wildlife, I need to protect my garden plants. Trapping and relocating critters is a compromise.

    This week when I found dirt on the cabin deck around one of my empty pots, I decided to use my camera to determine what was going on.


    I discovered the Song Sparrow that arrived this week was the culprit. He was looking for seeds in the soil, and flicking dirt out onto the deck in the process.

    It's hard to get mad at this little guy. With all of our summer birds gone, it's nice to have one around to keep us company. Do you have any winter birds to brighten your days? -- Margy

    Saturday, October 28, 2017

    "Harry: A Wilderness Dog Saga" by Chris Czajkowski

    Chris signing books at the new Powell River Library.
    Earlier this month I shared about having author Chris Czajkowski as a guest at my condo here in Powell River. She was on her new book promotion tour and was schedule to make a presentation at our new Powell River Public Library.

    You can read more about that visit by clicking here.

    https://www.amazon.com/Harry-Wilderness-Saga-Chris-Czajkowski-ebook/dp/B0755MZZH8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1506971212&sr=8-2&keywords=harry+chris
    As a thank you for being her host, she gave me a signed copy of her new book Harry: A Wilderness Dog Saga. Since her visit I've had time to to enjoy this wonderful new book.

    Chris is a prolific writer about wilderness adventures. So far she has published a dozen titles about her rustic life in the Chilcotin region of British Columbia.

    Dogs are an important part of Chris' life. They are of course companions, but also work in their wilderness home. Each one was trained to carry packs to help Chris reach her Nuk Tessli wilderness resort. Now that she lives on a homestead closer  to (but not in) town, they still carry loads on solo hikes or excursions for guests.

    Harry isn't Chris' first book written from a dog's point of view. Lonesome: Memoirs of a Wilderness Dog took the reader through the early years setting up and running the hand-built Nuk Tessli resort. Now Harry and his companion Badger continue the saga.

    Chris has had many dogs over the years. The book begins with Harry traveling to the homestead via airplane and a long van ride. When they arrive, he mets his new pack mate, Badger. Older and wiser, and after a shaky start, Badger took the young Harry under his wing and started to tell the tale of the other dogs that had shared Chris' life.

    In addition to Harry and Badger, Chris' current canine companions, you'll meet Nahani (Badger calls her a piece of work) and Lonesome (who was with Chris at the beginning of her wilderness adventures). You'll experience the rustic resort Nuk Tessli and meet Taya (a former sled dog) and Sport (Taya's pack mate) followed by Max (the puppy) and Ginger (of two nasty habits). As one dog left, another arrived. Next was Tessa from the SPCA, but when she didn't work out Bucky (Bucket Head) took her place. Then Raffi had to be rescued from a "rescue" agency. Next came the move from the mountains to the homestead at Ginty Creek. Bucky had to leave for a new home and Nahani arrived, then Badger and finally Harry. And now we've come full circle.

    Badger, Harry and the other dogs who tell the tales have a good sense of humour, interesting names for the critters and things they encounter, and tell the story of Chris' life in a unique way. You can purchase Harry (and Chris's other books) online at Harbour Publishing, Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, in BC bookstores and on BC Ferries. -- Margy

    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    Fall Quad Ride to Chippewa Bay

    Unloading the quads at Chippewa Bay.
    Summer rides are fun because the weather is usually sunny and warm. The down side is dusty roads and trails. Fall rides are just about perfect, the weather is pleasantly cool and the roads have received enough rain to tamp down the dust.

    We loaded up the barge with what we would need for a day quad ride to Chippewa Bay. The quads stay on the barge all year long, but in the rainy season we take everything out of our cargo boxes to keep it from getting damp and possible damage. Plus it's always good to take along a chain saw just in case a fallen tree blocks your way.

    Riding well used Museum Main to find the new logging roads.

    We wanted to ride over in the Chippewa Bay area on Powell Lake because Western Forest Products has been building new roads into future cut blocks. We like riding through the trees before logging begins. We've been able to experience such rides in the Eldred River Valley, at Chippewa South, at Pickles Point and now in Chippewa Bay.

    Large fir trees along Chippewa Main.

    After the roads are completed, the logging company waits for several months for the newly compacted dirt and rock to settle before heavy logging trucks and equipment begin their work.

    Wayne coming down a new section of road.

    We missed seeing all of the large trees cut down to make way for the new road beds, but a few were still resting at the side of the road.

    Wayne next to two sections of a huge fir tree.

    This fir tree was over a hundred years old based on the tightly spaced rings. Just think of all the lumber that could come out of each section and how many new homes it could help to build.

    Tightly spaced rings make this tree well over a hundred years old.

    There are sections of road that are too steep for me to feel comfortable. Wayne rides ahead while I get off my bike to explore and take pictures. I found a Western Toad hiding in a hole. Right now her looks pretty secure, but I'm not so sure it will stay that way when huge trucks start rolling with their massive log loads.

    A Western Toad in his hidey at the edge of the new logging road.

    And there were still a few flowers to be seen.

    Pearly Everlasting doing what it does best, lasting forever.

    A bee enjoying a last few sips from a Butterfly Bush.

    We stopped by the log skid and could see a boom of logs already boomed together. These came from road clearing. It's good to see nothing being wasted.

    Looking down the skid to the first boom of logs.

    Wayne checking his iPad GPS to see our track for the day.

    Using the iPad GPS for road identification and tracking.

    Western Products Products has online geo-referenced maps that can be used with handheld devices. Click here to find WFP map and other road building, logging and hauling information. Click here to find information about the Avenza map app. The basic app and WFP maps are both free.

    Have you been riding this fall? What are some of your favourite destinations?

    Want to read more about how we use a barge to take our quads to ride the logging roads surrounding Powell Lake?

    Powell Lake by Barge and Quad is available in both print and e-book formats at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. It's also available at other online booksellers and Coles bookstore in Powell River. -- Margy

    Saturday, October 14, 2017

    How to Improve a Twirling Bottle Bird Feeder

    My twirling bird feeder in summer.
    A little over a year ago, I saved directions about how to make a twirling bottle bird feeder from one of my favourite blogs, Wanderin' Weeta (With Waterfowl and Weeds).

    I made one of my own last summer. Click here to see the directions. It worked fine until the rains came. The u-shaped openings that allow birds to feed also allowed rain water to get into the bottom with no way out. The result, soaked and swollen birdseed.



    Using a nail to drill holes in the bottom.
    It was time to make some modifications or take it down until next summer.

    I chose to make some changes to improve performance.

    Improvements for the Twirling Bottle Bird Feeder:
    Cut a small hole in the pan's middle.
    Tape the edges to prevent leakage.
    • Drill small holes in the bottom to allow rainwater to drain.
    • Use a small metal pie pan for a roof. 
    • Add plastic beads to the bottom to reduce the amount of seed near the drain holes.
    • Use a fuel funnel to fill the bottle through the small top opening.
    • Screw the cap back on above the new roof.
    • Hang the bird feeder from a tree or post. 
    • To keep squirrels off, hang it at least a foot away from any branch. 
    Insert plastic beads to fill the bottom area.
    I hung my new and improved twirling bird feeder back on the bridge railing.

    It is in a perfect spot for me to watch the action from my side of the sofa in the cabin.

    So far, two Oregon Juncos have been using it.

    Beads fill area below the feeder openings.
    Plus a chipmunk who's learned how to leap about two feet from the bridge deck up onto the smooth round perch.

    At least he eats daintily and doesn't flick the seeds into the lake water below.

    Using a fuel funnel to fill with seeds.
    Now I use a plastic fuel funnel to fill my bottle.

    The bottom of the funnel fits nicely into the top opening. No more seeds spilling out of my rolled up paper funnel.

    Did it solve my problem? So far, but the really heavy rains haven't arrived yet. I'll keep you posted.

    The improved twirling bottle bird feeder hanging from our bridge to shore.

    Here's my feeder ready for whatever the fall and winter may bring, or at least I hope so.

    Thanks again to Wanderin' Weeta for this great idea. And for my readers, I highly recommend visiting her blog. She's a nature expert, superb photographer and takes us along to explore Vancouver Island's many trails and back roads. -- Margy