Monday, October 29, 2012

Preserving: Freezer Canning Mandarin Oranges

This time of year, you can buy Mandarin oranges for a very reasonable price.  They come in large boxes or bags, so it's hard to eat them fast enough.  That's what happened to us.  We made it through half of the box and decided we needed to do something quick with the rest.

At the condo, so I didn't have my canning equipment.  If you do, there are some excellent videos on YouTube such as the  one by 255sage about canning Mandarin oranges. All I had at the condo was my freezer canning supplies, so I decided to experiment.

First, you need to make sure you use seedless Mandarins. Peel and section removing as much of the bitter white outer flesh because it's bitter. Since mine were pretty ripe, they were harder to section without squeezing out some of the juice out.  Set the orange sections aside.

You can pack the fruit dry, or in water, fruit juice, or a simple syrup made with sugar.  The latter is recommended to preserve the colour and texture.  Sugar does not act as a preservative, so it isn't required. I chose the simple syrup process using a light version.

For the syrup, I used 1 1/2 cups sugar, 5 3/4 cups water, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and brought it to a boil.  I used the hot pack method, so I put the orange sections in the syrup and brought it quickly to a boil. I removed it from the heat and immediately filled my Ball plastic freezer jars.

I left an inch of headroom for expansion during freezing. After cooling, I capped the jars and put them in the freezer.

As with all food preparation, using clean utensils and surfaces is very important.  Once thawed, the Mandarin oranges should be used immediately or refrigerated. We had them in our salad tonight. I also plan to use them in Mom's breakfast fruit medley. Now my investment won't go to waste. -- Margy

p.s. Next time I think I will use the cold pack method with the hot syrup. That way the sections should stay firmer.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween is in the Air

All around town there are events celebrating the upcoming Halloween holiday. Yesterday at the Town Centre Mall here in Powell River they had a free Pumpkin Fest.


Here are entries from local businesses.  The Cut is a local hair salon.  See how Mother Nature used flowers to decorate their jack-o-lantern? It's a wonderful pet and gardening store.


And here are hand carved entries from the kids who attended. It was evident, a great time was had by all.

What are your plans for Halloween?  We'll be up the lake.  Hope no ghosts or goblins come to scare us. -- Margy

Saturday, October 27, 2012

National Cat Day

October 29, 2012, is National Cat Day.  I can't think of a better time to share the wonderful cat in our lives.  He goes by many names, Norwegian (he looks a bit like a Norwegian Forest Cat), Stick Tail, and recently Pepper and Kitty Cat.

Stick had a close encounter of the hurtful kind with a coyote.  Shortly thereafter, he came to us and we took him in.  The coyote had bitten off the tip of his tail, so we took him to the vet. His tail was promptly shaved and stitched, hence the name Stick Tail.

At the ripe old age of 12, he moved north from our home in Pomona, California, to live full time with my mother in Bellingham.  He didn't like the airplane ride under the seat, but settled into his new surroundings quickly.  Since then, Mom and Stick have been inseparable.

Now he's 18 and still going strong. Well, as long as he gets his cat naps.  Mom calls him Pepper (after a former black cat), or just Kitty Cat. Both are a bit deaf, so a lot of communication occurs through body language.

Stick is even more important now that Mom has lost her mobility. He keeps her company, entertained, and warm when he sleeps on her lap. I don't think he misses his outdoor wandering days one bit. Condo life seems to suit them both just fine.

Do you have a special cat in your life? Let us hear about him or her for this special day. -- Margy

Friday, October 26, 2012

Season's First Rainbow

The last two weeks we've had unsettled weather. One day it was overcast in the morning, cleared to partly sunny with puffy white clouds by noon, followed by a storm with cool temperatures, high winds, hail, and heavy rain.

That was followed by a quick clearing and a beautiful rainbow between us and Goat Island. In Powell River, they say, wait a couple hours, and it will be a whole different season. That day it was really true, a bit of fall, a bit of summer, a bit of winter, and then back to summer. -- Margy

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Time for a Little R&R

We're headed up the lake for some well deserved rest and relaxation after a few days in town. We got to see the Kings win a hockey game and two fights, so it wasn't all bad.

I'm sure there'll be lots of stories when we get back in Internet range.

Our cabin on Powell Lake inspired Wayne to write the Coastal BC Stories series. You too can head Up the Lake and Farther Up the Lake through his books.

Do you have a place that inspires you? Maybe it's where you live, or a vacation home or destination. Maybe it's that special place to sneak away to when you want to be alone. Let us know about it and why you like it so much. -- Margy

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mastercraft Gas-Powered Generator

Yesterday you read about our new Yardworks 4-ton electric log splitter. Wayne and John talked about whether or not our Coleman 1850 watt generator would power the unit. They agreed it would be on the ragged edge.  When we hooked it all up, the Coleman just didn't have enough juice to get the splitter's engine to turn over.

The next day, John came back with a rented Honda 2800. That did the trick and we got our stack of logs split.  That same day, John brought a clipping from the Canadian Tire add for a Mastercraft 3300 watt generator. It was on sale for $297.  Wayne went down the lake to town the next day to get the last one in the stock.

It was heavy, but Wayne got it into the truck, down the dock to the boat, and up to the cabin.  I gave a little assistance, and we put it in the back of the Gemini writer's retreat.  That's a handy location to power the splitter on the wood float and anything extra needed on the cabin's back deck. It also adds some extra ballast for the Gemini that no longer has an engine. 

For about $500, we got a wood splitting system that will pay for itself in one season. Not bad, if you ask me.  I'll take Christmas in October any day. -- Margy

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Yardworks 4-Ton Electric Log Splitter

This year Christmas came in October. I knew something was up when John called and was very evasive when I answered.  After we arrived in Powell River, I opened the car trunk, and there was a log splitter. Probably some women would think a log splitter is an unusual present, but for me (us actually) it's perfect.

Logs come in various sizes. We like skinny ones that only need to be cut with the chainsaw, but most are 25 centimetres (10-inches) in diameter, so they need splitting. Before, it was a two-person job. I held the ax and Wayne wielded a sledge hammer. It was hard and noisy (ear plug time) work. Now, with the push of a button and a lever, it's automatic. In one hour our new Yardworks 4-Ton Log Splitter from Canadian Tire did the work easily and quietly. Plus, John got it for us on sale for half price, $199!




Now our first batch of wood is spit and stacked in the floating wood shed, ready for winter.  Of course, there's lots more we need to cut and split.

As you know, we live in an off-the-grid float cabin. We have to run our electric splitter using a generator. Come back tomorrow for the rest of the story. -- Margy

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Lull in the Storm

Last weekend we had our first fall rainstorm.  Basically, we've been pretty dry for about two months.  Sunday evening, just at sunset, there were some breaks in the clouds just at the Island Princess was arriving from Texada Island.


It didn't last long, but the colours were spectacular. Even the sea turned a shade of purple.


For a brief moment, it was like waves of fire licking across the sky. -- Margy

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What's in a Name? Vector

When we're in the Powell River condo, we keep our eyes on the Strait of Georgia.  From our waterfront location, it's almost our front yard.  Last week we saw a red boat heading our way.  As it got closer, it was evidently a Canadian Coast Guard ship.

Her name's Vector, is registered in Ottawa, but has the home port of Patricia Bay in BC. She's a mid-shore science vessel that does hydrographic surveys along the Canadian pacific coast.

It was approaching dark. First she launched her Zodiac to investigate our wharf. After retrieving her inflatable, she approached from the south (with the prevailing wind), and snugged right up against the pier.  Here she spent the night, but was gone by morning.

The Vector is a steel hulled vessel built in 1967 by Yarrows, Ltd., in Victoria. She's 39.7 metres (130 feet) in length and 9.5 metres (31 feet) in width.   Cruising at 10 knots, she has a range of 3500 nautical miles and 16 days for her crew of 13. As you can see, she has a powerful crane to launch her Zodiac tender and other scientific instruments. -- Margy

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Never Saddle a Dead Horse

Now that winter is near, we want to make sure our float cabin is ready for heavy winds.  During my first solo trip to the cabin in 2001, one of the worst storms hit. The winds were so strong they broke two of our steel anchor cables (Up the Lake, Chapter 4). 

Now we've made some improvements. Of course, our good friend John did the work (with a little help from Wayne). He installed double cables at the critical end points.   Both are attached to the granite wall half way between the high and low water mark.

A year ago, one of the double cables broke.  We've been waiting for low water ever since to reach the attachment point.  After John installed a new (shiny steel) cable, he noticed that the loop of the other cable was frayed at the anchor bolt.  There was enough slack for a repair.

First they tied off the cable so it wouldn't fall in the water. Then John used a grinder to remove the rusted cable clamps.  Using muscle power, they pulled the cable up to a better spot. Then John used new cable clamps to make a loop through the anchor bolt eye.

He was very careful to follow the rule, "never saddle a dead horse."  As Wayne described in his book Cabin Number 5, "It’s a good way to remember how to install the cable clamp on the loop. The tail (dead end) gets the U-shaped bracket of the cable clamp, assuring maximum holding power. Each loop gets two clamps, with the bolts tightened to John’s industrial-strength torque standards." We should be set now! -- Margy

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mushroom and Crab Casserole

MUSHROOM AND CRAB CASSEROLE

This popular recipe has been updated and moved to the Margy Meanders blog. Please click here. -- Margy

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"To bed, to bed" says Sleepy Head ...

"Tarry awhile," says Slow;
"Put on the pot," says Greedy-Gut,
"We'll sup before we go."

I loved it when my dad would tell me this nursery rhyme at bedtime. And that's what came to my mind as it was time for my garden to go to bed for the winter. It hasn't rained for two weeks, so the soil was dry and soft, perfect for what needed to be done.

I have two small asparagus beds (about 1' x 3') at the ends of my float garden. In spring, they produce nice sized spears. In summer, the tall ferns give my other plants some shade.  I cut the fern stalks about 2" above the ground, saving the tops of the fronds.

I put them on top of the cut stems.  We get some freezing temperatures, including light snow. The fern tops insulate the soil to protect the asparagus roots.  I also removed a bed of strawberries. My space is so limited, I can't spare it for something that doesn't produce.

I kept the strawberry leaves and added them on top of the fern fronds.  They will increase the insulation and give added soil protection.  And through the winter they will break down and become a layer of compost to replenish the soil by spring.

Lastly, I covered the strawberry leaves with soil from the garden.  It will help hold everything in place during rains and wind until the organic matter starts to break down.

Now my asparagus is tucked in bed for a long winter's sleep. I can hardly wait until they start to awaken in the spring and give us some more spears to go with one of Wayne's BBQ dinners. -- Margy

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Asparagus Berries

It's the end of the season for my asparagus plants.  Last spring, they provided tasty spears. Over the summer, they grew into large ferns.  This replenishes the roots for the following season. If well cared for, an asparagus bed can last twenty years.

Some plants have bright red berries in the fall. That's because some are female and others male. The female plants produce the berries filled with asparagus seeds for another generation.

Because asparagus takes several years to reach maturity, it's not recommended to use seed to start your beds. One or two-year old bare roots can be purchased in the nursery for planting.  Even then, it's recommended not to harvest any of the shoots the first year. I tell you, it's hard to see those yummy spears and not pick them! -- Margy

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hazy Shade of Grey

After one of the longest lasting summers that I remember here in Powell River, we finally have our first major storm.  In fact, there are three scheduled to hit this weekend in waves only hours apart.  The first was fairly mild with a good soaking of rain. The next two are supposed to blast in with high winds.

Here's the Queen of Burnaby coming into the dock in Powell River. The cloudy skies made me think of the song title, Hazy Shade of Grey. -- Margy

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Spud Gloves

I grow potatoes in pots on the deck. When it's time to dig them, I get out my spud gloves. Actually, they're latex gloves I buy at the drug store.  I have a hard time working in regular gardening gloves. They're too bulky for me to feel what I'm doing.
 
The thin latex ones (or nitrile if you have latex allergies) feel almost like a second skin.  Yes, I do sweat inside, but once I'm done digging I can peel them off and my fingernails don't end up caked in crud.

When I dig in the garden bare handed, it takes days of scrubbing to get my hands clean. Now a good washing with soap and hot water does the trick.

Do you have any good gardening tips to share? -- Margy

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Boulevard Park Boardwalk to Fairhaven

This popular post about Boulevard Park in Bellingham, Washington, has been updated and moved to Margy Meanders.

Come on over and take a look. - Margy

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Coastal BC Animals: River Otters

River Otters

I was standing at the kitchen sink and saw something swimming towards me. I guessed Merganser ducks since they are quite common, but when I got the binoculars, much to my surprise, it was three River Otters heading my way.

They swam at a fast pace, quickly dove under the log boom surrounding our cabin's water lot, and then under the cedar log float.  I didn't want to scare them, so I walked as quietly as possible to get my camera and go outside.


I could hear them underneath splashing around and making soft grunting sounds. One almost came out, but when I moved he ducked back under the cabin's float.  We played "cat and mouse" for over half an hour. But when I was out back, they slipped out the front. Before I could get there, they were outside the breakwater and heading away.


All I got were a few long distance shots. Maybe there'll be a next time. -- Margy

Friday, October 05, 2012

Indian Summer Up the Lake

This has been an incredible fall up the lake. I guess you would call it an Indian summer.  We've had more warm weather than I can remember for late September and early October.  And the winds have been calm.  This was a perfect day looking down Powell Lake from the logging road between Hole in the Wall and Chippewa Bay.

Even though the days have been warm, the nights are getting longer and cooler.  We don't need it every day, but last week we had the first fire of the season.

Guess we better get busy with wood cutting! -- Margy

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Coastal BC Plants: Shaggy Mane Mushroom

Wayne and I went for a quad ride last week.  We were searching for a steam donkey, but ended up missing the right (or left) turn. But any ride around Powell Lake is a good one. There's always something new to discover.

This trip it was a new kind of mushroom. It's only sprinkled lately, but it must have been enough to encourage the growth of a small patch of Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus) mushrooms.


They weren't familiar, so I went back to the cabin and used The Savory Wild Mushroom by Margaret McKenny and revised by Daniel E. Stuntz (University of Washington Press, 1962, 1971) to figure it out.  This was a great guide book I found at the thrift store for $.50. It's still available in a newer paperback version at Amazon.com.


Here's the description from the book.

Cap: white and gray covered with fluffy scales, standing erect like a closed umbrella on its handle, spreading with age, four to twelve inches in height; flesh white at first, then darkening.

Gills: white shading to pink, in flat folds against the stem, turning black with spores and melting into a black fluid.

Stem: white, hollow with small movable ring, slightly thicker at the base, four to ten inches in length.

When and where found: Spring or fall after rain; in the open, on the ground, in gravel by roadsides, near garbage dumps, or in decaying sawdust near old logging roads.

Remarks: A well-known, edible mushroom of good flavor and consistency if gathered when young. Easily distinguished from the similar inky cap by its height and fluffy scales.

Since I'm not absolutely positive in my identification, please do not use this post to determine whether or not this is an edible species. -- Margy