Sunday, July 15, 2018

Red Currant Jam

Last year I planted a small bare root red currant. This year it’s grown considerably and developed clusters of berries on previous year’s branches. I was surprised at how many. Last week they all started to ripen at once.

I’ve tasted a few and found them too sour to eat raw. The label said they make good jelly, wine and preserves so I thought I would try.

Removing seeds in a food mill.
Red currants contain a lot of seeds, they’re edible but I didn’t want them in my jam. I washed the tender berries then warmed them in a saucepan while crushing with a potato masher. Still warm, I processed them in a food mill to remove the seeds.

Half seeds, half pulp.
From two cups of mashed berries I got one cup of pulp and one cup of seeds to be discarded.

I added one cup of sugar and one tablespoon bottled lemon juice to my one cup of juicy pulp. Because the berries are tart, no pectin was needed.

Cook until jelled at 220 degrees Fahrenheit.
I heated the mixture to a rolling boil and kept it bubbling until reaching 220 degrees Fahrenheit (the jell point). Because I was using a small pan, it was hard to keep the thermometer away from the bottom so I backed it up with the cold-water test for jelly.

Result, one half pint of jam.
I prepared two half-pint jars and my small water bath canner, but in the end I only got one half-pint jar of jam.

I chose to use it as refrigerator jam. Maybe next year I’ll get a bigger crop to make enough to put up for the pantry.

I'm pleased with the taste. It's a tart tang, but not sour like the raw fruit. The label on the bare root stock was right. The fruit does make a good jelly or preserve.

Do you grow red currants? How do you like to use them?

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

Want more ideas? Try Nancy's Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop.

Head over to Blogghetti for Happiness is Homemade to see more recipes, crafts and DIY projects. -- Margy

Monday, July 09, 2018

Float Cabin Living: What Do You DO?

Sometimes it's hard to find time to just relax.
What do you DO with all your time? There's never ENOUGH ! We love to be at our float cabin on Powell Lake, but there are lots of things that keep us busy in Powell River like clubs, civic events, quadding, hiking and boating. But of all our activities, we love being at our cabin best.

What do we do when we're up the lake? Here's just a few:
    • Weather Watching. Unlike the city, we are more aware of changes in weather. Our HDTV sliding glass door gives us full view day and night. Plus, Wayne has all his "weather toys" to follow the trends.
    The author at work.
    • Writing. Cabin life generates stories and a unique space for Wayne to write. I write grants in my consulting business and this blog about off-the-grid living.
    • Reading. There's nothing better than a warm sunny day on the deck or a cold winter night by the fire to enjoy a good book. Wayne is a scifi fan and I like local books and memoirs. Using Kindles with built-in reading lights makes night reading so easy.
    The Hewescraft parked at home.
    • Boating. The cabin floats on Powell Lake, so there's lots of places to explore by boat and kayak. For local jaunts we like to use our 14' tin boat. Our 22' Hewescraft makes lake travel safer.
    Snowshoeing up Chippewa Main.
    • Hiking. Loggers have built many roads to their timber lots along the lake. On weekends or when logging isn't active these make excellent hiking trails. In winter, boots can be exchanged for snowshoes. The Sunshine Coast Trail can be accessed from Powell Lake in several locations.
    • Fishing. Whether it is from the cabin deck or trolling, fishing is fun. Every summer night fish tease us by jumping inside our log boom. But, oh, are they wily fish.
    Enjoying the backcountry.
    Of course, there's taking a sunbath on a warm summer day followed by a swim in the lake. Nothing feels better than that!

    So, as you can see, the question should have been -- How do you find enough time to do all that you do at the cabin?

    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.

    And Tuesdays with a Twist at Stone Cottage Adventures. -- Margy

    Friday, July 06, 2018

    Float Cabin Reflections

    Summer is a wonderful time to live up the lake in a float cabin.

    Heading out early in the morning I ltook a picture. When I looked at the result I was pleasantly surprised how the sunshine, calm water and boat wake ripples made a lovely image.

    Today is Sky Watch Friday. Go to the Sky Watch Friday website and you'll see sky photos from all over the world!

    A new meme is All Seasons. Stop by and take a look.

    Shared with Your the Star at Stone Cottage Adventures.

    Stop by Weekend Reflections for more great photos from around the world. - Margy

    Tuesday, July 03, 2018

    Float Cabin Living: How can you live in such a small space?

    The living room side of the greatroom.
    Our float cabin is the third built by John, hence its name Cabin #3. Each cabin has a different design, but we like ours the best. It's small enough (675 sq. ft.) to easily maintain but large enough not to feel cramped.

    First Floor

    The first floor has most of the living space. There are two small bedrooms (7'x10'). One's for guests (we rarely get them) and the other is for storage. In the guest room we store a week's supply of firewood (Wood Storage Shelf Construction). That's handy, especially in winter.

    Sink with hand pump and propane fridge.
    Downstairs is greatroom style. The kitchen with propane appliances is on one side and the living room with a woodstove on the other. We have a portable TV for Internet streaming. It's compact and functional.

    Compost toilet, tub and storage.
    In 2011 we added an indoor bathroom off the guest room to replace our outhouse four flights of stairs up the granite cliff. This one change to our cabin made full-time living much easier.

     Second Floor

    The loft master bedroom with a king bed and view.
    The second floor is a sleeping loft. When we purchased the cabin it was wall-to-wall beds (from its prior life as a rental cabin). We removed all but two twins that we pushed together to make a king. The loft and high ceiling over the living room make the cabin feel spacious. If you want to "get away" for awhile, this is the place to go. A window placed high on the opposite wall gives you a view of Powell Lake's First Narrows and Goat Island. Between naps you can watch work boats and cabin owners zipping by.

    Here's a YouTube video tour of our float cabin home.

    Welcome Aboard
    Kitchen Kapers
    Sleeping Loft and Greatroom
    Bathroom and Guest Room

    Really, if we had more space it would feel like work to keep it clean and maintained. If you are planning on building or purchasing a cabin, think about that. Bigger isn't always better.

    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.

    And Tuesdays with a Twist at Stone Cottage Adventures. -- Margy

    Saturday, June 30, 2018

    Coastal BC Animals: Chipmunks

    Joining the birds for a snack.
    Up the lake at the cabin we have a pair of chipmunks that visit our float cabin almost daily.

    If there is food in the bird feeder they stop by for a try to get their share. Consequently, the Juncos have to go without for a few days between fillings.

    If the feeder is empty, they boldly come on the deck to see why we aren't attending to their needs. Many forest critters like to eat my crops growing in pots and containers on the decks. At least the chipmunks are polite about not digging into our growing food supply.

    Visitors from Powell River report that there are few chipmunks left in town. They surmise that the growing gray and black squirrel population may be pushing the cute little guys farther into the bush.

    Chipmunks can be distinguished by the stripes on their face and back. Their colouring is yellowish to brownish gray with black and white stripes. Often there is a reddish cast to their sides.

    Chipmunks are very energetic and agile. We see them climb the nearly vertical granite cliffs next to the cabin.

    There are four varieties listed for BC. I'm not sure which kind come to visit us. It might be a Red-Tailed. Can you help?

    Here's a link to a good (and free) manual for identifications: An Identification Manual to the Small Mammals of British Columbia.

    References: BC Adventure (online) and Nature Canada (online).

    Thanks for visiting my post this week. I'm linking up with Camera Critters and Saturday's Critters. Check them out for more great animal pictures. -- Margy

    Thursday, June 28, 2018

    Cabin Cooking: Chocolate Chip Muffins

    Making my own tulip muffin cups with parchment paper.
    Wayne and I will be going on quad camping trips and boat cruises this summer. I like to prepare foods in advance to make meal preparation easy. Here's a recipe for yummy muffins from Kraft Canada that pack well and eat even better.



    Mix dry ingredients first.
    • 2 cups flour
    • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup oil
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 3/4 cup milk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla


    Mix wet ingredients and sugar.
    Heat oven to 400ºF.

    Combine first 3 ingredients in large bowl. Stir in the semi-sweet chocolate chips.

    Whisk the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl until blended. I will increase the sugar to 3/4 cup next time because I like a sweeter muffin.

    Adding the wet to the dry mixture.
    Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir until moistened. Don't over mix or the muffins will turn out tough. The batter should be lumpy not smooth.

    Spoon into muffin pan cups coated with cooking spray. I also used squares of parchment paper in each cup.

    Filling the muffin cups.
    Fill each cup until it's three quarters full.

    Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

    Cool the muffins in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire wire rack and cool completely.

    Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

    The recipe is for a dozen muffins, but with my smaller pan I got fifteen. Store in a sealed plastic bag or container for best results.

    Muffins ready for our quad camping trip to Goat Lake.

    Do you have any favourite foods to take on vacation trips to make meal preparation easier?

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

    Want more ideas? Try Nancy's Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop.

    Head over to Blogghetti for Happiness is Homemade to see more recipes, crafts and DIY projects. -- Margy

    Monday, June 25, 2018

    Float Cabin Living: Can you have a garden?

    My original garden log.
    Float cabins and homes are surrounded by water in marinas, on lakes and rivers, or the ocean. The typical location doesn't include land. That's especially true for our cabin anchored to a steep granite cliff backed by forest. But where there's a will, there's a way.

    First I tried a "garden log" with herbs and lettuce tucked into its notches. The sprouts were doing fine until Canada Geese ate them all.

    The floating garden John built for me.
    I've always liked gardening, so I had to think of a way. Our good friend John came up with the solution, a special float that holds four raised beds. 

    A rope pulley takes the float out to the front log boom where it's protected from nibbling critters.

    The solar panel for watering.
    For watering there's a solar powered boat bilge pump with a hose.  It's so much easier that stooping with a watering can and gentler on the plants.

    Rain and watering leaches nutrients from the soil. Each spring I augment it with compost and mushroom manure. Several times throughout the growing season I add plant food. Even out here I get pests, but I don't use insecticide. We don't want poisons in the water we drink.

    Bulbs are planted for spring flowers. The daffodils are my favorite. After they die back I grow radishes in their space. I also have a strip along one side for marigolds and alyssum for colour and pest control.

    My crops include onions, beets, carrots, kale, broccoli, spinach and a variety of lettuce. I leave my kale, beets, carrots and broccoli in the ground through winter to provide fresh additions for our meals.

    My floating garden with four raised beds and a solar panel watering system.

    Over the years I've also grown strawberries, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and peas in my beds. Crop rotation is good to reduce pests and provide variety.

    In addition to my float garden I have numerous pots and large containers on the cabin's many decks for additional plants, especially large ones that take up too much space. Here you will find tomatoes, pole beans, snow peas, cucumbers, peppers, squash, blueberries, red currant, and more flowers. I also grow my herbs in pots for easy access.

    Potatoes growing in plastic tubs and zucchini with a protective cage.

    Now that we live in our float cabin all summer long I can keep things well watered. I've learned how to can my excess produce to use during the off season.

    Gardening takes a lot of time from May through September, but the rewards make it worth it. We aren't self-sustaining, but each dinner has something that we have grown ourselves. Weekly trips to the grocery store fill out our food needs.

    An early spring harvest of lettuce, kale, onions, radishes, and broccoli.

    You can read more about my gardening exploits and other aspects of float cabin living in Wayne's book Up the Lake available in print and Kindle formats from Amazon, and many other online booksellers. Here are some quick references to other gardening posts on this blog,.

    Gardening Category
    Ready, Set, Grow
    Simple Pots for Container Gardening
    Simple Garden Hoop Tunnel
    Protective Plant Cages
    Watering with Sunshine 
    9 Crops for Winter Gardening
    Pressure Canning Carrots

    My float garden highlighted in the Powell River Library 2018 Calendar.

    Do you have any stories about gardening? Do you have any hints for gardening with unique situations? Let us hear from you.

    Shared with Your the Star at Stone Cottage Adventures.

    And Tuesdays with a Twist at Stone Cottage Adventures.

    And Garden Party at Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olsen. -- Margy