Thursday, August 30, 2012

Float Cabin Living in the News

This has been quite the year for Powell River Books and our float cabin to be in the news. It started with the Travel Channel for an upcoming show Extreme Houseboats. That was followed by an excellent YouTube video about float cabin living by Kirsten Dirksen of Several sites picked it up and created news articles including Business Insider and The Blaze. Then there was the interview and article for the Huffington Post.

To cap it all off, reporter Kierra Jones of the Powell River PEAK came out to the cabin for an interview and to take some pictures. We picked Kierra up at the Shinglemill Marina for lunch with us at the cabin and an onsite interview. This week her article "Lutzs love life up the lake" was published. Were we surprised when we got our copy of the PEAK and found ourselves on the front page, both online and in print.

Thanks Kierra for sharing about our life up the lake and Wayne's Coastal BC Stories and Anomaly at Fortune Lake science fiction books. -- Margy

Monday, August 27, 2012

Canning: Blackberry Jamin'

This year the blackberries have been exceptionally big and juicy. Each time we head up the lake, I pick a some from the bushes in the Shinglemill parking lot. They come in waves, so there've been lots for the picking. My cupboard was bare, so I decided to make some blackberry.

Blackberry Jam Recipe

I used two resources to make my jam. The first was a book I found at Kingfisher Used Books here in Powell River, the Farm Journal's Freezing and Canning Cookbook. I got mine used for $3.95, but they are much pricier online. I also used the directions from the Certo Pectin Crystals box.

The ingredients are simple.
Yields about 8 cups. Do not double the recipe.

5 cups crushed blackberries
1 box Certo Pectin Crystals
7 cups granulated sugar

Thoroughly crush berries. You can remove some of the seeds if you wish, but I like them included. The Farm Journal cookbook recommended lemon juice, so I added two tablespoons of fresh squeezed to the berry mixture.

Mix the crushed berries and the Certo Pectin Crystals in a large pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then add the sugar all at once. Return it to a hard boil and let it boil for one minute. The cookbook says to be very accurate, so I used my timer. Remove from heat and stir and skim for five minutes.

Pour into warm, sterilized jars to 1/4" from the rim. I used 250 ml (8.5 oz) jars. Wipe the tops clean of any spilled jam and place sterilized lids and screw caps on, making them finger tight. The Farm Journal book recommend five minutes of processing in a boiling water bath (the lid was off only for the picture), so that is what I did.

The trick to jam making for the novice is to have things ready to go. I boiled the water to sterilize my jars and lids first. Then it was held at the ready for the boiling water bath at the end. The whole process took me about two hours, but the end result was some really tasty jam that will last us through the winter, reminding us of the warm, sunny days of August. -- Margy

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Release Your Inner Turtle

I've never seen a turtle in Powell Lake. But this summer when our good friend John brought up a large rock from the bottom of our natural swimming pool, that was my first thought. On a lark, John left the heavy rock sitting on the stump that rises from the middle of our pool during dry months.

I took out our float called Utopia, loaded up the heavy rock, and brought it over to the cabin deck. I got out my acrylic paints and started to bring out its inner turtle. Wayne was a bit skeptical when I started. He joked it looked more like Kobe Bryant's basketball shoe. So now, his name is "Kobe the Turtle."

After several coats of clear acrylic spray to seal the paint, Kobe is ready to take his place of honour on a cedar stump on our cabin's transition float to shore. Here he'll be able to bask in the sun and remind us of summer days all year long.

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, August 24, 2012

Corduroy Skies

As we were coming down the lake on Tuesday to pick up a reporter from the local PEAK newspaper, the clouds in the sky look just like corduroy cloth.

Wayne (my resident weather expert) said it was a form of Mackerel Sky, altocumulus clouds hinting at possible rain. On our way back up the lake, they persisted, but with a little less definition.

Altocumulus clouds range from 6,500 to 16,500 feet. They may indicate the approach of a frontal system. We got the wind and cloudy skies, but only a misting of rain. I love the summer weather, but a real rain shower right about now would be pretty nice. -- Margy

Monday, August 20, 2012

Off-the-Grid Scifi: Anomaly at Fortune Lake

A New Off-the-Grid
Science Fiction Book
by Wayne J. Lutz

On a remote lake in Canada, Ashley and Justin live off-the-grid. But their idyllic life is interrupted by two mystifying anomalies. A distant galaxy exhibits unusual characteristics in Justin's amateur telescope, and something under the lake is stirring. Can a determined woman bring clarity to the events that are rapidly unfolding?

Go to for more information.
Kindle for $5.99
E-book for $6.99
Print for $9.95

Sunday, August 19, 2012

If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?

This summer we decided to keep our quads near the cabin so we can use them more often. Last week we took a ride west of Powell Lake. To leave Hole in the Wall, we followed an overgrown track to more recent logging roads leading towards Chippewa Bay. This area has log booms, a dock for work boats, and a barge ramp for heavy equipment. Logging has been active here since the beginning of the 20th Century.

A side road is called Museum Main. It leads up from the dock on Powell Lake to a historic logging area where steam donkeys were once used as the power to haul logs out of the bush and down to the lake for transport to market. The logging road passes two donkeys, hence its name. But as we headed up the main, we encountered an obstruction larger than normal.

We get some wicked winds up the lake during winter storms. What do you think it sounded like when this old giant split from its roots and fell?

Can you imagine how hard it must have been for a steam engine to move such a massive log? They did it all the time. There's just enough room to squeeze a quad and rider under the butt end. Next time we'll go back and ride the additional four miles to the first donkey. -- Margy

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I've been watching Bullfrog pollywogs grow in our natural swimming pool at the cabin. When I first saw them, they had no legs. Just very large tails.

Then back legs started to grow. From little bumps, they matured into legs with webbed feet perfect for swimming faster and deeper.

About two weeks later, here's what I found. I call it a pollyfrog. All of the legs have matured and from the front it is very frog like, except still a bit pudgy.

From the back, you can see the remnants of the diminishing tail. Lungs have developed so now the young frog can emerge from the water. But he better look out, Buster the Garter Snake may be nearby, and he loves the taste of a fresh, young frog. -- Margy

Friday, August 17, 2012

Summer Skies Over Powell River

Taking off on Powell River Airport's Runway 27, the Historic Townsite spreads out below the wings of my Pacific Coastal Airlines plane.

Looking back, the cement ship breakwater at the Catalyst mill called The Hulks is clearly visible with the Bunster Range and Powell Lake in the background. The only better view is returning home and landing on Runway 09. -- Margy

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cool, Clear, Water

What do you need on a hot day like today? Just listen to the lyrics from the Marty Robbins song:

Dan, can ya see that big, green tree?
Where the water's runnin' free
And it's waitin' there for me and you?
It's water, cool, clear water.

Here's a bubbling brook heading from a beaver pond down to Powell Lake. Just the thing you need to feel and hear on a hot summer day. -- Margy

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Carrots Gone Wild: The Final Result

Over the last three years I've been conducting an experiment with carrots. To be honest, the first year wasn't planned but it was crucial to the result.

In Spring 2010, I planted Scarlet Nantes carrots from commercial seed in my float garden. I like Scarlet Nantes because they have short, stocky roots. By late summer, I can start harvesting, and they last in the ground through winter. But in September 2010, Mom had emergency back surgery and I didn't get back to the cabin until late January 2011. The carrots were still good to eat, so I left them in the ground.

When spring 2011 rolled around, the carrots grew tall flower stalks. I decided to let them go and see what would happen. Once the flowers started to dry, I covered some of them with cheesecloth to capture the seeds. That wasn't necessary. I was able to save lots of seed just by cutting the dried flower heads. In addition to the seeds I saved, there were lots that fell directly onto the soil.

I left the extra seeds in the empty bed and dug them in to see what would happen the following spring.

This year, the seeds grew into nice, large, crisp carrots. I would say my experiment with "carrots gone wild" and seed saving was a success.

Do you save seeds for future planting? What are some of your success stories? -- Margy

Monday, August 13, 2012

Available Online" "Farther Up the Lake" by Wayne J. Lutz

This is a rare week for us up at the cabin. We're having company. Jeanne and John are good friends from our Los Angeles days. Jeanne now lives in Bellingham near Mom, but John drove all the way from LA to experience more of our up the lake lifestyle.

Are you interested in off the grid adventures? Farther Up the Lake is filled with stories about living in a remote water access floating cabin.

A Great Book
for the Outdoor Enthusiast

Farther Up the Lake
Coastal BC Stories

Want to know more about float cabin living? Following in the footsteps of the most successful book in the Coastal BC Stories series comes Farther Up the Lake. Head up Powell Lake to experience life in an off the grid float cabin, experience winter on the lake, spend the night up at the head, go beachcombing for logging history, and much more. Read Farther Up the Lake by Wayne Lutz and see how much fun it can be to go up the lake.
Go to for ordering information.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Recovering from "Attack of the Tent Worms"

Last June, in "Attack of the Tent Worms" I shared the devastation that Tent Moth caterpillars caused here in Powell River, BC. For some unknown reason, every 5-10 years there's a population explosion. And this was our year. They prefer to eat the leaves of deciduous trees. In our case, the alders took the brunt of the attack.

Alder trees grow almost like weeds here, especially after logging companies cut down a new tract of mature firs and cedars. After vines and small shrubs, it's the alders that naturally reclaim the barren soil. They gave the caterpillars an abundant food source. Tent caterpillars, and the subsequent moths, are named for the structures they build for protection while not eating.

Here's an alder in the parking lot of the Shinglemill Marina on Powell Lake. You can see what the caterpillars voracious appetite can do in just a few weeks.

The dark spots you see are the tents attached to the now bare branches. They say a healthy tree can withstand such an assault when the six weeks of munching are finally through, and the caterpillars enter the pupa stage.

Here's the same tree on August 10. It's not back to its normal full foliage, but it's well on the way. By next spring, you won't know anything unusual happened. Look close, you can still see evidence of the tents in a few places. -- Margy

Saturday, August 11, 2012

First Flight

Hey, wake up, it's time to fly.

Aw, ma, can't we just hang out here a little longer and have a few more of those bugs before we go?

Our tree swallows fledged last week. We'll miss their cheery peeps. But our Barn Swallow nest has finally been rebuilt and mom is sitting on eggs. Good thing we put up the avian trampoline on the hot tin roof after all. -- Margy

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Break in the Weather

After a long, wet spring and early summer, we've finally started into a nice summer warm spell. Then after a week of sunny, cloudless skies, the weather changed. Clouds rolled in and the air became muggy.

At sunset, a brief shower began with large drops pelting down on the lake. You could see the storm "walking" across the surface on its way to our front porch.

But the amount of rainfall wasn't even enough to register on our rain gauge. Nor did it have any affect on the soil in my garden. I had to take care of that with a good watering with the hose. -- Margy

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Uncle Whale Rejoins his Ducky Cousins

I've shared how we like to recycle, reuse, and repurpose at the cabin. It saves money, but also keeps things out of the trash. Yesterday, I practiced what I preach on a very small scale.

I took some kitchen scraps out to a bucket on the transition float. I keep it there while waiting to go up the hill to the compost pile. I looked down through the cracks in the deck and saw two eyes staring back up at me.

We get some interesting flotsam, but this item was securely wedged under the cedar log float. I reached down and wiggled it out through a small opening. To my surprise, it was Uncle Whale. He was a swimming pool toy similar to a rubber ducky that we tied to the transition float way back in 2002.

The bright blue stylized killer whale soon disappeared in a rough winter storm. He must have been forced under the float, where he's remained ever since desperately hoping for rescue. He faded to dull gray, but some blue acrylic paint and he's ready to rejoin his Ducky cousins. Maybe this time Uncle Whale should get a less dangerous job. -- Margy

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Harvesting and Storing Potatoes

Each year I grow potatoes in barrels. I get enough from three barrels for Wayne and I to enjoy through the winter. I've found that Yukon Golds make a nice sized spud that stays firm and fresh when stored for months. Any that do sprout by spring I use for seed potatoes. The barrel on the left is ready to dig because the plants have died back. The one on the right isn't ready yet.

This week I dug up two barrels worth to store for winter use. First I let the soil in the barrels dry. I find digging the potatoes out with my hand is easiest on me and the potatoes. Eliminating cuts from sharp objects helps the potatoes store better. To help keep my digging hand and nails cleaner, I wear a latex glove.

As I dig, I remove the dry dirt to make it easier to find the potatoes all the way at the bottom. I save the soil for use again in next year's potato barrels. For storage, I put the soil in plastic yard bags and let it dry some more. After sealing the bags, I store them in the shed. Using my own seed potatoes and saving my soil greatly reduces the cost of growing potatoes each year.

Here's my bounty from just one half 55-gallon barrel. I left them in the sun to dry and to allow the skin to firm up. It's best not to wash potatoes before storage. Just brush off any excess dirt and then inspect them for damage. Damaged spuds should be eaten as soon as possible. They do not store well and may damage your good produce.

Always store potatoes away from light and temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius are best. If they get too cold, the starch will turn to sugar and cause them to be sweet. Paper bags, burlap bags or cardboard boxes are good for potato storage. Do not use a plastic bag. Trapped moisture will accelerate spoilage. Avoid storing potatoes with apples, onions or garlic. They produce a gas that causes potatoes to spoil quickly. If potatoes are exposed to the light they will turn green. Remove any green portions before eating. Potatoes are a member of the Deadly Nightshade family, and the green part is poisonous.

I wrap my potatoes in newspaper and store them is open sided plastic baskets ($1.00 each at the Dollar Store). This keeps them away from the light and separates them from neighboring potatoes. The paper allows the potatoes to "breathe" but also prevents too much moisture from escaping. I keep the baskets under the bed in the downstairs guest room, the coolest place in the cabin. Properly stored potatoes will remain dormant and will not sprout for about three months after harvesting. That makes for lots of comfort food meals throughout the winter months. -- Margy