Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Coastal BC Plants: Grass-Leaved Pondweed

Grass-Leaved Pondweed

Last summer's kayak trip on Nanton Lake near Powell River revealed quite a few aquatic plants in the shallow back bays. Grass-Leaved Pondweed was one example.

The majority of the plant was submerged, but the oblong floating leaves were quite evident. In some places, they formed a solid mat. In others, solitary plants were visible all the way down to the lake bed.


Grass-Leaved Pondweed is a perennial aquatic plant that grows from underwater rhizomes in ponds, lakes, ditches, and slow moving streams. Stems rise towards the lake surface. There are two types of leaves on the Pondweed. Below the water level there are small, thin, lance-shaped leaves along the stems. The stems branch at the surface and end in the oblong floating leaves.

The plants weren’t flowering when we were they, but when present, they are normally tiny and inconspicuous. -- Margy

References: Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (Lone Pine Publishing, 1994) and E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online).

Monday, March 28, 2016

Cabin Cooking: Homemade Vanilla Extract

I bought a bottle of vodka to make several products. The first was homemade vanilla extract. I bought my vanilla beans in a small sealed tube at the grocery store in the bulk foods section. It included two beans, so I made a small bottle for my first try.

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Ingredients:

Name brand vodka (70-90 proof)
Vanilla beans

Directions:

From my research, the kind of vodka you use matters. It’s like cooking with wine. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t use it.

Cut the vanilla beans in half crosswise. Drop the cut beans into a bottle or jar of straight vodka to cover the tops.

Put the top on tightly and shake gently and store in a cool dark place.

Vanilla extract ready to infuse.
Turn the bottle every 2 days and the extract will be ready in 8 weeks.

My good friend Jeanne showed me how to make vanilla extract. She does lots of baking, so she makes large batches. I don’t use much, so my small bottle should last me quite a while.

My beans cost about $4.00 for two and I only needed a small amount of vodka. In total, it cost about $4.50. That’s about half the cost of store bought for the amount I made. And making it yourself you know exactly what ingredients are included. That’s worth more than money.


Come back next Sunday and see what I made next with my bottle of vodka. -- Margy

Friday, March 25, 2016

Signs of Spring

Spring is here! Up the lake, there are many signs.  I'm busy picking the last of my my winter crops including chard, kale, carrots and beets.


In their place, I added manure to augment the soil in my float garden for new planting.


Meanwhile, my daffodils are blooming in time to give Bunny a bright yellow bouquet for Easter.


Nearby, the early to arrive Song Sparrow has discovered my new hanging bird feeder.


Up in the bush, the Salmon Berries are blooming, a hint of the tasty fruit soon to arrive. I can't wait!


What are some of the hints of spring where you live? -- Margy

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Coastal BC Plants: Kinnikinnick

Kinnikinnick

A common native plant seen covering rocky cliffs, gravel forest roads, and rugged open slash areas is the low growing shrub Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), also known as Common Bearberry. It has small dark green leathery egg-shaped leaves. Plants cluster together forming large mats. In late spring, they have pinkish bell-shaped flowers on short stalks. From summer to fall, bright red berries appear. 


Leaves from the Kinnikinnick plant were used by First Nations peoples for its diuretic properties and for urinary tract infections. In the cultivated garden, it serves as a drought resistant ground cover plant. The berries are edible (according to some sources), but not commonly used except by forest creatures. -- Margy

References: Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (Lone Pine Publishing, 1994) and E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Powell Lake Off-the-Grid Living in "Soar Magazine"

This year we've had several opportunities to share the story about our off-the-grid lifestyle at the float cabin on Powell Lake. The most recent coverage has been in the Pacific Coastal Airlines Soar Magazine.

Pacific Coastal Airlines serves Powell River, In fact, its early history has strong ties to our small coastal town. It's a great honour for us to be supported by this great British Columbia business.

Wayne wrote an article about our float cabin that was published in the February-March 2016 issue of SOAR. You can link to the online version of the magazine by clicking here. You'll find us on pages 18-19.


If you're flying on Pacific Coastal, just look in the seatback in front of you and you'll find a copy until the end of March.

I love flying home from Vancouver Airport's South Terminal on Pacific Coastal. It takes only 25 minutes vs. over five hours on the ferry.

Watch for their Smokin' Hot Deals to destinations throughout British Columbia, or just book a trip to Powell River. You won't be sorry. We have so much to offer in arts, culture, music, history, outdoor adventures, sports, excellent restaurants, shopping, oceanside resorts, campgrounds, friendly people, you name it. Come for a vacation, stay for a lifetime. We did!

Want to know more about our float cabin? Read Up the Lake. It's even on a free promotion for Kindles and e-books or available in print from Amazon. It's the first book in Wayne's twelve book Coastal BC Stories series. -- Margy

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Cabin Baking: No-Knead Sourdough Bread

I’ve enjoyed making No-Knead English Muffin Bread, but I also like to make sourdough bread. I found a recipe that combined both.


No-Knead Sourdough Bread


Ingredients:

3 ½ cups bread flour
½ package active dry yeast
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
2/3 cup sourdough starter
1 ½ cups water

Directions:

Combine flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Combine sourdough starter and water in a large mixing cup and add to flour mixture. Mix with a rubber spatula to form the wet and sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 18 hours.

After 18 hours the dough will be dotted with bubble and it will have doubled in size. Dust a wooden cutting board with flour and turn the dough out in one piece. The dough will be loose and sticky. Do not mix in any more flour.

Dust the top lightly with flour and cover with a clean cloth. Let dough rise an additional 2 hours.

Thirty minutes before the rising period ends, heat a 3½ quart cast iron Dutch oven in the middle of the oven to 425°F. Once it reaches temperature, remove the Dutch oven and carefully place parchment paper in the bottom and up the sides. It'll be extremely hot!!

Uncover the dough and use plastic dough scrapers to shape it into a ball by folding it over onto itself several times. Lift the dough with the dough scrapers and let it fall onto the parchment paper in the heated Dutch oven.

Cover the Dutch oven and bake it at 425°F for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake for 15-20 additional minutes or until the top of the loaf is brown.

Take the Dutch oven out of the oven and carefully remove the bread with a spatula and place it on a rack to cool. It may be hard, but it’s recommended to let it cool completely before slicing.

This loaf is rustic looking, crusty, airy, and has that distinctive sourdough taste. It’s now my favourite homemade bread recipe. And it’s so simple I'll be making it all the time.

Check out the Creative Muster Linky Party for more great ideas. -- Margy

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Riding to the Snow Up Heather Main

Chippewa Bay barge ramp.
Down at the cabin we haven't had much snow this year. But up in the high country, we are getting a good pack. Our good friend John tried to cross Heather Main from the Theodosia side in late February and couldn't make it through. He asked if we would try from the Powell Lake side and we were happy to do so.

We've been talking about riding to the snow, and now was our time.

Our quads are always loaded on the barge and ready to go. We motored across to Chippewa Bay and offloaded at the Western Forest Products barge ramp.

From this starting point we rode up the logging road towards Heather Main.

The beginning follows Powell Lake heading north then switches back south and up to a ridge. This is where we first encountered light snow.


It got deeper and harder to navigate before we reached the junction with Heather Main.

Now we had a report for John about the snow level.

And the ride did have a side benefit, an impromptu snowcone with some pop we brought with our lunch. -- Margy

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Marbled Sky

Our weather has been very changeable.

Powell Lake, BC

On a recent day while heading down Powell Lake we saw a marbled sky reflected back from the calm lake surface. -- Margy

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Cabin Cooking: Reseasoning a Cast Iron Dutch Oven

I wanted to use my cast iron Dutch oven to bake bread, but when I got it out winter moisture had given it a coat of rust. I knew it was time to reseason.

I found The Irreplaceable Cast Iron Pans. This website has excellent recommendations for seasoning and using cast iron pots and pans.

Instead of steel wool, I used SOS pads. They're made from steel wool and soap.

Hot water and strong scrubbing came next. The outside of the pot was the worst. Fortunately, the inside wasn't affected. All it needed was a gentle cleaning. When the SOS pads didn't remove all of the rust, I went to wet fine grit sandpaper.

When the rust was removed, I washed the pot and lid with warm sudsy water and dried it thoroughly in the oven under pilot heat.

The next step was to lightly oil the pot and lid inside and out. I used Canola oil. They then went onto separate racks in a 450 degree oven for thirty minutes. After cooling in the oven, I repeated the oiling and baking process.

You can use aluminum foil to protect you oven (I didn't need any) and expect some smoking and odour during heating.

Reseasoned cast iron Dutch oven ready for baking bread.

Now I have a clean, well seasoned cast iron Dutch oven ready for baking. I'll use it more and keep a better eye on it in the future.

Do you have cast iron pots and pans?  What are your favourite uses? -- Margy

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Our Cabin Highlighted on Small House Bliss

Our float cabin home on Powell Lake was recently featured on a website called Small House Bliss. I enjoy sharing our off-the-grid lifestyle and they were so gracious to give us this opportunity.


You can see more small houses, cabins, and cottages online at Small House Bliss and their Facebook page. Wayne and I want to thank them for highlighting our home in such a thorough manner.

If you would like to learn more about our float cabin home and the Powell River region, check out these books from Wayne's Coastal BC Stories series. They're all available in print and e-book formats.
Up the Lake (free for Kindle at Amazon.com)
Farther Up the Lake
Off the Grid
Cabin Number 5
You can also see videos about cabin life at our YouTube channel.



If you have any questions, please leave a comment or send an email through the link on my profile page. -- Margy

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Bushnell Trophy Cam HD

Bushnell Trophy Cam HD
We wanted a critter cam for the cabin, so after a fiasco online we went to see George at Marine Traders in Powell River. He went through the products he had in stock, and also catalogues for other options. I appreciated the personal service, and I know they will help if there’s ever a problem. That’s something you don’t get online.

Here what sold me on the Bushnell Trophy Cam HD. It’s rugged and waterproof, picture quality is up to 8MP (I want to photograph birds), it accepts a 32GB SD card for 15,000 photos or 18 hours of video, and best of all, it has a USB connection to download photos straight into a computer. 

It can be tripod or strap mounted.

Here are some of the other features that I found to be helpful:
Fast 0.6-second trigger speed
“Stealth” flash at night with black LEDs
Colour day and black and white infrared night photos
Night infrared range of 45’ (14m)
Socket for tripod use (or tree strap)
2.4” full colour view screen
Long life using 12 AA alkaline or lithium batteries
Easy setup with an understandable manual

We don’t get large game around the cabin, but in a test shot in low light I did discover a bear-like animal rooting around a laptop, and a woodrat-like critter rummaging through the refrigerator. I can hardly wait for my first “real” trophy photo. -- Margy

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Coastal BC Plants: White-Flowered Hawkweed

White-Flowered Hawkweed

White-Flowered Hawkweed along a logging road.
In logging road cuts and old log dumps I found lots of low growing plants with hairy, basal leaves arrayed in a circle flat on the ground. At first I only saw the basal leaves, but in another road cut I found evidence of a tall stalk topped with a few remaining flowers and seed heads.


White-Flowered Hawkweed (Hieracium albiflorum) is a perennial herb with a milky juice, similar to milkweed. Hawkweed grows in closely spaced groups from fibrous roots that reach down into dry rocky soil to obtain enough moisture.

Hawkweed flowers and seeds.

Hawkweed can be found in low to middle elevations. In addition to roadsides and clearings, it grows in open forest areas and dry meadows.

The flowers and seed heads look something like tiny dandelions, except the petals are white and the centers are yellow. There’s a resemblance because both are members of the Aster family. -- Margy

References: Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (Lone Pine Publishing, 1994) and E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online).