Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving from Powell River Books

For all of my American readers and friends ...

Up the Lake

the home of

This year Wayne and I will be celebrating our second Thanksgiving of the year watching USC football vs. our old nemesis, UCLA. We'll also be able to reconnect with some friends we left behind in that nameless mega-metropolis south of the border.

Thanksgiving is a great time to step back and reflect on all of our blessings. Wayne and I live in the best place on earth and have many good friends. So, if you're in the States, we both hope your Thanksgiving is peaceful and filled with joy. -- Wayne and Margy Lutz

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Thimbleberry

T is for Thimbleberry

The Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) is a prolific shrub along roads, in clearings, and logging slashes in Coastal BC. 

Thimbleberry is in the rose family like blackberries and raspberries. Thimbleberry plants grow in dense thickets up to 2.5 metres tall, rapidly spreading from underground rhizomes. The large green palmate shaped leaves are fuzzy and have five points.  Unlike the other berries, the canes do not have thorns.

The flowers are white with five petals and yellow stamens. They have the distinction of being the largest of any plants in the Rubus genus.

The berries ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer. Their shape resembles a thimble, leading to the plant's common name. Thimbleberries are a favourite with forest animals and birds.

Pick thimbleberries when they are bright red and juicy. They can be eaten raw, but because they have many small seeds they may best made into jelly or jam.

References: E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online) and Eat/Drink/Breathe: Recipes and Reflections from the Westcoast (online).

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

"There's a Seal in My Sleeping Bag" by Lyn Hancock

When I find authors I like, I purchase more books to enjoy. One author I discovered in the last year was Lyn Hancock. She is well known in British Columbia for the books she has written since the early 1970s and for nature presentations she made in schools along with her then husband David.

I haven't read her books in order, and you don't need to. Each one can stand alone, but as you read more of her titles there are common threads and each book expands on previous topics and adventures. The first book I read was There's a Racoon in my Parka and then Love Affair with a Cougar. The newest book for me was There's a Seal in My Sleeping Bag (Alfred A. Knopf, 1972).

Sea lion (not a fur seal like Sam) at Powell River.
One animal that's prominent in many of Lyn's books is Sam, a northern fur seal that came into her life only one month after her honeymoon. David was always bringing home animals and birds, and a lot of their care fell on Lyn. Overcoming many challenges including lack of experience, having to force feed unwilling animals, and an initial deep seated dislike of fish, she became a strong force in the couple's conservation efforts.

Lyn had a complex schedule for animal care wrapped around her career as a teacher. Her work load compounded when David was away on speaking tours or scientific studies. She also took many of her animals to school to give students first hand experiences with nature.

Seagulls on Mittlenatch Island.
While Sam's story threaded its way through the book, Lyn also shared about adventures with David to study eagles, seabirds, seals, whales, otters, and much more. I could feel Lyn's fear of heights and could relate to her climbing cliffs on hands and knees, and sliding down on her bum. But I have to admit, she handled it much better than I could have. And all the while they were filming their experiences for conservation presentations and school tours.

I still have seventeen of Lyn's twenty books left to enjoy. You can find more information about her books and speaking engagements at the Lyn Hancock website or Facebook. I highly recommend you try or even reread one of her books. They are timeless. more exciting book reviews, head on over to Semicolon's Blog each weekend. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Sitka Spruce

S is for Sitka Spruce

Young Sitka Spruce along Daniels Main.
On our quad ride at the Head of Powell Lake, I noticed silver coloured evergreen trees mixed in with the more common cedars, firs, and hemlocks. After taking several pictures, I came home to look it up.

It turned out to be a Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis). The tell-tale sign was the sharp needles I felt when it rubbed my hand over a branch. Sitka Spruce grow along the coast from Northern California to Alaska. They are commonly found in low to middle elevations in moist to well drained soil. The ones I saw grew in disturbed soil bordering the logging roads, and in slashes that are starting to regrow. They are also found on river floodplains, headlands, and avalanche sites.

Sharp blue-green Sitka Spruce needles on a young tree.

The trees I saw were young and small, but at full growth they can reach 70 metres tall and 2 metres in diameter. The branches are long and drooping, covered with yellow-green to blue-green very sharp needles. It was the blue-green (almost silver) needles on the growth tips that caught my eye.

First Nations peoples used spruce trees as a source of food, medicine, and building material. The inner bark was eaten fresh or dried in cakes, and young shoots were high in Vitamin C. Pitch was chewed much like we do gum, and it was used medicinally for skin irritations, colds, sore throats, toothaches and other internal aliments. The roots were processed and split to weave hats and baskets.

Another young Sitka Spruce sporting blue-green needles.
One interesting fact is that the coastal Sitka Spruce can hybridize with the interior White Spruce when they come in contact. The resulting hybrid is called a Lutz Spruce (P. x lutzii) named after Harold John Lutz who discovered it in 1950. He wasn't a relative, but Lutz isn't a common surname in North America.

References: Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Lone Pine Publishing, 1994) by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (It’s one of my favourite botanical guides.) and E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online).

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fall Cleaning and Relocations

Usually spring is the cleaning season, but we picked fall for our storage shed on shore because it was time to put away our summer things.

Before everything was a mess and hard to reach.
The shed is suspended just about the high water mark next to the stairs leading to the upper cliff. Here we store things that can't be harmed by small critters like squirrels, mice, and woodrats (packrats). The shed has become quite full with things we no longer need or want, so one sunny fall day Wayne and I tackled this messy chore.

We hauled everything out and created two piles, trash and save. Fortunately the trash pile was larger than the save one.

Now everything is organized on shelves and in barrels.

Everything that comes up the lake has to stay, or go back down the lake to the dump. We bagged everything from old carpet remnants from when John built our cabin in 1999 to deflated water toys from summers gone by. Made me wonder who the packrats really are.

The empty shed got a good sweeping high and low. Over the years woodrats have used our shed to store their winter food supplies, and the hidden piles of foliage and scattered droppings left a huge mess on shelves and in back corners.

We purchased a small table at Canadian Tire to give us more storage space and easy access. The results were amazing, neat, tidy and clean. We vowed to keep it that way from now on.

Woodrat's cedar nest.
We started noticing that the cedar tree on our deck had branches missing. On the way down the hill, Wayne stopped in at the shed. This is what he discovered. Ms. Woodrat had moved back into her now clean home and used our beautiful tree (and many others) to made a sweet smelling cedar nest.

Ms. Woodrat ready for her boat ride to a new home.

So, it was time to catch Ms. Woodrat and take her on a boat trip across the lake. We want to save our beautiful cedar tree and other deck plants, and we want to keep our clean shed neat and rodent free. The only problem, where there's one woodrat there can be many. It may be a long fall of cleaning and relocating until winter finally arrives.

Camera Critters 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

Friday, November 13, 2015

Saving Dahlia Tubers in Pots

Step 1: Wrap the pot in bubble wrap.
Last year I dug up my dahlia tubers and kept them all winter long in town in my spare condo bathtub. The tubers were hard to dig up, and needed added moisture in their protective sacks ever few weeks. Most of them did survive for replanting.

Step 2: In fall cut back to a few inches.
Last summer the dahlias gave me beautiful flowers, but I wanted an easier way to save them.

This year I'm trying to keep the the tubers in their pots. We don't get extreme cold, but we do have freezing nights, and several stretches of freezing weather.

Step 3: Crumple newspaper over the soil.
I started by wrapping the pots in bubble wrap I purchased at the Dollar Store. Each pot got $2 worth of bubble wrap held in place by duct tape. My thinking is that the air pockets will help keep the freezing air away from the sides of the pot, much like an insulated water pipe.

Step 4: Place cardboard over the newspaper.
When the weather started turning cold, I cut the dahlia plants back. I crumpled newspaper over the soil to give the tubers an insulation barrier. Over the top of the newspaper I put a layer of cardboard, and topped it off with soil to keep everything in place on windy days.

Step 5: Cover with a thin layer of soil.
I don't have any place to bring the pots indoors at the cabin where temperatures won't get below freezing sometime during the winter.

Have you ever kept dahlias outdoors through the winter? Do you get freezing nights? Was it successful for you?

Dahlia tubers in pots ready for winter.

I'll give everyone an update in the spring. Hope it works! -- Margy

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Glossy Red Bryum Moss

Glossy Red Bryum Moss

Up on the granite cliff at our cabin are large mats of Glossy Red Bryum Moss (Byrum miniatum). Early in the season it is green. Through late summer and fall it displays its glossy dark red coloration.

It grows near the coast at low elevations on rocky outcroppings, especially those with surfaces that get wet on occasion or exhibit seeps of moisture. It is found less frequently in the high mountains or interior.

It reproduces with saprophytes that rise on tall thin stalks. They start out light green in colour, but also turn a deep red when mature.

Glossy Red Bryum Moss is native to British Columbia. I like it in my natural cliffside garden because it provides a distinctive colour variation to the other green mosses and lichens. -- Margy

Reference: E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online).