Saturday, August 27, 2016

Something from Nothing - The Big Bobber

One thing we try to do at the cabin is use and reuse items to their fullest potential. Here's a recent example of making something from nothing. On a recent boat trip, our good friend John found an old black rubber float washed up on the beach. Upon inspection, the crustacean and algae encrusted discard was still watertight and able to float. John brought it home to us and Wayne transformed it into what we call "The Big Bobber."

A little elbow grease and paint, and now it looks like a huge red and white fishing bobber. We've given it a place of importance at the end of our entrance boom. Now passing boaters can see our breakwater logs (for safety reasons) and we can easily find our front "gate."

Do you reuse or repurpose old items? I invite you to share some of your stories. -- Margy

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Canning: Small Batch Pickle Relish

My cucumber plant has been struggling, but I found two yellowing ones hiding underneath the leaves and one nice new one near the top. The yellow ones weren't good for eating raw, so I decided to make all of them into pickle relish. I couldn't find a recipe that small, so I took one from my Farm Journal's Freezing and Canning Cookbook and adjusted it down.  

Small Batch Pickle Relish

3 medium cucumbers (2 cups) diced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped mild peppers
1 tablespoon pickling salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow prepared mustard
scant 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
scant 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
scant 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
scant 3/4 cup sugar

Dice the vegetables.
You can use a food grinder or processor set on course. Up at the cabin I chose to use the old fashioned manual method, a sharp knife.

Make a brine and soak vegetables.
Finely dice the cucumbers, onion and peppers. I used my homegrown dried onions (the small ones get used first) and a mix of banana peppers and one Anaheim chili.

Strain and rinse away excess salt.
Dissolve the pickling salt in two cups of water. Do not use table salt because it has additives and iodine that can turn pickles dark and unappetizing.

Cover the vegetables in the brine and let them rest in the refrigerator for a minimum of three hours.

Strain the vegetables and rinse them well to remove excess salt. Use nonreactive utensils, bowls, strainers and pans to prevent the acidic ingredients from taking on a metallic taste.

Mix the vinegar, sugar and spices.
Mix the vinegar, sugar and spices in a non-reactive sauce pan. I used the enamel lined pot that I found at the thrift store for $2 several years ago.

Simmer until vegetables are tender.
Add the vegetables and simmer over medium heat until they are tender and the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce.

Follow safe canning procedures.
It was a really hot day so I used our outdoor BBQ for the cooking portion of this recipe. And the view wasn't half bad standing there to stir the mixture to keep it from sticking to the bottom.

One half pint in my small canner.
If you eat a lot of pickle relish, you can let the mixture cool and store it in the refrigerator.

If you want to preserve your pickle relish for longer storage, use the water bath method (click here for step-by-step directions) and process for 10 minutes (adjust as necessary for your elevation).

Since I do small batch canning, I invested in a Norpro Asparagus Stainless Steel Cooker/Steamer. It doubles as a small canner that can hold one half pint or one pint with the required one inch of water over the lid. I cook with propane (even in the kitchen), so I don't have to heat or maintain a large volume of water at a rolling boil for small batches.

And there you have it. A small batch of great tasting pickle relish. This recipe will give you two half pints, or one pint. I processed one for saving and put the second in the fridge for immediate use.

My dad would have been proud of me. He was the pickle and relish maker in our city-folk family. The funny thing is that I don't remember watching him do it.

The finished pickle relish.

Do you make pickles or relishes? What are some of your favourite recipes? Do you have to adjust recipes for small batches? -- Margy

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Coastal BC Plants: Swamp Gooseberry

Swamp Gooseberry

Gooseberries can be distinguished from Currants because they have prickles and spines on their stems. Otherwise, they are members of the same family. The Swamp Gooseberry is very common along streams, lakes, swamps, and moist forest slopes. We found this example next to Bob’s Lake on Texada Island growing in the shade of a fir tree.

Swamp Gooseberries grow at low elevations from northern California to southern Vancouver Island. The plants are from three to five feet tall and have reddish flowers in June. The glossy green leaves are small and maple-shaped with five indented lobes. Dark red or purple berries form in late summer. The berries are edible but don’t have the most pleasant flavour raw, but it is said that their juice can be made into wine.

Caution should be taken because the spines can cause an allergic reaction in some individuals. -- Margy

References: Wild Berries of the Pacific Northwest by J.E. (Ted) Underhill (Hancock House, 1974), and Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (Lone Pine, 1994).

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Coastal BC Animals: Black Slug

 Black Slug

There's lots of moss, sticks, leaves and other debris lying on the forest floor. That's called duff. I found this slimy visitor taking advantage of this buffet of blow down.

Slugs are in phylum mollusca and genus gastropoda. The Black Slug (Arion ater) is from Europe, but was introduced into British Columbia in 1941 and has been considered a serious pest since 1962. They can grow up to 18 cm, pretty big for the slug world.

They are characteristically black in colour, have tentacles (eyes and sensory organs) at the front, and tubercles (rough projections) on their back. They have the distinction of being hermaphroditic and can self-fertilize. This makes reproduction quick and easy. They start at about three months and lay about 150 small round eggs at a time. During their 1-2 year lifespan, they can produce a tremendous amount of offspring, and so on, and so on, if you get my drift. That is one of the reasons they are such a tremendous pest.

Touch one and they roll up into a ball and sway from side to side.

I haven't found any in my garden, only up on the cliff or out in the forest along shady trails. They typically feast on feces, dead animals, fungi, algae, lichens and decomposing plant matter. That sounds pretty beneficial, but they also enjoy ingesting live plants and can dramatically alter the ecosystem. Eradication is near impossible, with mechanical removal the most successful method. That may work in a small garden, but not in the open forest. I guess that means they're here to stay. -- Margy

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sunrise Backlight

For three days each summer there's an unusual occurrence at sunrise. The sun comes up in the notch near the top of Goat Island. It then sets behind the hill to rise again near the peak.

When that happens, sunlight backlights the treetops, giving them a brilliant halo.

Fortunately, even though it's summer, sunrise doesn't occur until 8:50 am because of the peak.  That makes it easy for me to catch the beautiful sky view. -- Margy

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Heriot Bay Inn and Marina

Heading up Lewis Channel on the way to Quadra Island.
Even people who live off the grid like to have a vacation on the grid. Last weekend we treated ourselves to a short holiday at one of our favourite places, the Heriot Bay Inn and Marina on nearby Quadra Island.

Rounding the north side of Cortes Island.
We went by boat from Powell River. There are several routes, but we chose the scenic one via Desolation Sound and the north side of Cortes Island.

BC Ferry leaving for Cortes Island.
If you aren't travelling by boat, you can reach Quadra Island by car via BC Ferries from Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

Heriot Bay is on the eastern side of Quadra. The original inn was built in about 1895, rebuilt in 1912 and updated since.

We chose to stay in the marina with our Bayliner 2452. They have diesel and gas, and offer slips for boats large and small.

Our Bayliner (the small one) at the Heriot Bay Marina on the second dock.

There's also a dinghy dock for people from the nearby anchorage at Rebecca Spit to tie up. Call ahead for a reservation or check in on Channel 66a to get a spot. Amenities include water, showers, laundry, Internet, and some power hookups. The village grocery store is within walking distance for re-stocking.

Getting to the Inn from the Marina.

Other accomodations options include rooms in the inn, suites and cabins, or oceanside tent and RV campground spots.

The Heriot Bay Inn.

We love to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Inn's Heron restaurant. There is inside seating, but we love the outside deck with marina and ocean views. There's also a pub for music, watching games on TV, or dancing.

Dining on the deck at the Heron Restaurant.

The Heriot Bay Inn and Marina are open all year long. Travelling in winter or shoulder seasons offer a substantial discount, but with such reasonable prices coming during the summer is your best bet.

Heriot Bay Inn and Marina
1 (888) 605-4545
(250) 285-3322
Marine Channel 66a
673 Hotel Road, Heriot Bay, BC V0P 1H0

Have you been to the Heriot Bay Inn or Marina? How was your stay? -- Margy

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Banana Peel Compost Tea

Step 1: Chop banana peels.
Following homesteading blogs gives me some great information. Because my floating garden and deck pots drain into the lake, I’m always interested in finding organic means for pest control and plant nutrition. I learned at about Banana Peel Compost Tea at Survival at Home.

We frequently eat bananas for breakfast and I always cut up the peels to go into my compost pile, but thought this new way of using them was worth a try.

The article said banana peels are high in three major nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Here are the directions to extract these nutrients for garden use.

Banana Peel Compost Tea

Step 2: Add peels to water and refrigerate.
1. Fill a container about ¾ full of water.
2. Chop banana peels and put in the water.
3. Refrigerate to preserve the liquid.
4. Continue to add chopped peels until full.
5. Strain the liquid into another container.
6. Store in the refrigerator until use.

Soaking the banana peels extracts the nutrients and chopping the peels makes this process easier. Once you strain your first batch, start over again. The remaining banana peels can be added to the compost pile. The banana peels will turn black, but refrigeration will keep the compost tea fresh.

Uses for Banana Peel Compost Tea

Step 3: Strain the liquid and store in fridge.
1. To use it as a liquid fertilizer, mix one cup of the compost tea in one gallon of water. Use it to water around the base of plants.

2. To use it as a natural aphid control, mix the compost tea 1:5 with water (one part tea and five parts water) in a spray bottle. Spray plant leaves and stems. Aphids hate bananas, plus the plants will absorb the mixture for extra nutrients.

Step 4: Dilute with water before use.
Last year aphids attacked my kale with a vengeance. Insecticidal soap didn’t faze them one bit, so I was curious about this homemade remedy. I don’t know if it was the crushed Marigold flowers or the Banana Peel Compost Tea spray, but this year’s aphids have disappeared completely. Just in case, I’ll keep doing both applications throughout the hot summer months. -- Margy

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

My Perfect Day

Recently, someone asked me to describe my perfect day. Here it is. I wake to twinkling reflections of sunlight on the ceiling of the loft bedroom of our float cabin on Powell Lake in British Columbia. The sun rises over Goat Island and the rays bounce off the water.

I brew coffee laced with cream to enjoy on the front deck, watching work boats head up the lake. When summer crowds are gone, and we get to have our little piece of paradise all to ourselves. Even in fall when there’s a chill in the air, golden maple leaves shine with a radiant glow.

After breakfast, I work in my floating garden. I grow tomatoes, onions, beets, lettuce, spinach, carrots, kale, chard and herbs. I also grow a wide variety of things in pots on the deck. Just a little weeding and feeding keeps everything in top shape. I pick some fresh veggies to clean and chill for dinner.

While I'm gardening, Wayne often uses his chainsaw to cut wood for our winter woodpile. Wood floats right up to our deck begging to be added to our supply. When he's done I use my log splitter to make stove-size pieces, and the fruits of our labor stack up fast.

Lunch is a quick snack so I can get ready for work. At least that's what I call it. In the summer I like to read on the deck while soaking up the rays. Living in the north makes taking advantage of the sun important. From October to May there just aren't many days to see, let alone soak up its rays.

Just before sunset we get our poles and climb in the tin boat. We troll out into First Narrows and over to the waterfall. If we're lucky we catch a trout. And lucky for him, we catch and release. If we aren't lucky, we still catch a beautiful sunset over the Bunster Hills.

Dinnertime is my favourite. Wayne is the cook and BBQ is his specialty. We start with our garden fresh salad then have our meat right from the grill, maybe accompanied by an ear of corn wrapped in foil. After a meal like that I don't mind washing the dishes.

While summer is my favorite time of year, I've been known to wish for cool evenings. That's because I love a fire in my wood-burning stove. It is so efficient at heating our cabin that it really needs to be a cool evening, or we have to open the sliding glass doors. If the loft gets hot, it’s hard to sleep.

Some people might not think that my perfect day is all that exciting, but sharing it with Wayne in this wonderful place makes it so. If we need a little more excitement, we take our quads out on the barge to ride logging roads into some of the most beautiful country in the world, or take our sailboat out for a spin around the lake. Or we can take our Bayliner out on the chuck (ocean), kayak in protected bays and inlets, or hike the Sunshine Coast Trail.

We both worked long and hard at busy city-folk careers. We still work long and hard, but at enjoying our off-the-grid lifestyle. Want to read more?

Go to and look at Wayne’s books in the Coastal BC Stories series. Our perfect days just keep on coming. -- Margy

Monday, August 08, 2016

Update: Float Cabins for Sale on Powell Lake BC

Wayne and I love living in our float cabin home on Powell Lake in all seasons, but summer is the best. The skies are blue, the sun is warm, and the lake is perfect for swimming and other water sports. It's also a time when my floating garden starts producing all those wonderful veggies for our meals.  Several properties have recently sold, so don't wait too long. Summer will be here before you know it. Purchasing our float cabin home was the best thing we ever did. Why don't you come up and see what Powell Lake has to offer.

Powell Lake Cabins and Properties

Are you interested in getting a cabin of your own? Here's an updated list of cabins and properties up the lake that are for sale. Some are through real estate agents, so you can get more information via their websites. Also, there's a unique opportunity to lease a float cabin, you pick the start date.

Powell Lake Cabin for Rent or Lease

CLASSIC FLOAT CABIN FOR RENT OR LEASE ON POWELL LAKE: An off-the-grid float cabin is available for rent by the day, week, month, or year. It comes fully furnished and ready for immediate use. Accommodations include two bedrooms plus a spacious loft, a large living room with woodstove, a kitchen with propane range and refrigerator, sink with a hand pump for easy access to lake water, and lots of outdoor deck space. It's located in a protected bay twenty-five minutes from the Shinglemill. Call now and be ready to experience all that Powell Lake has to offer. For more information, contact John at (604) 485-2471 (evenings only).

Powell Lake Cabins and Properties For Sale

CRAIGSLIST LISTING: Small, rustic, cedar shake cabin on Goat Lake. It is one of only five float cabins on this remote lake that boasts good trout fishing. This cabin can be reached by floatplane, or road and boat. From Powell Lake, there is boat access through Goat River except at the lowest water levels. It has a strong breakwater and a 20-year water lease. All of this for $40,000. Click here for details.

MLS LISTING:  Max Pagani at Royal LePage has listed a float cabin just 15 minutes up the lake in tranquil Hendersen Bay. This 560 sq ft cabin has an open layout on one level with two bedrooms, kitchen/dining area, a living room, and a wood burning stove for heat. A composting toilet is in a separate but easily accessible building. The expansive 1600 sqft deck has been rebuilt and has new stained boards. A protective log breakwater is heavily anchored.  All of this now for only $109,000. For more information, contact Max at 604-485-4231 or click here.

MLS LISTING:  Max Pagani offers another float cabin at the mouth of Goat River. This rustic 480 sqft cabin has room to sleep eight and one bathroom. Included are beds, bedding, dishes, generator, solar power, woodstove, and a 10 ft boat with an outboard motor.  The cabin is built on sturdy logs with cedar decking. A strong boom of logs provides protection.  The complete package is only $114,900. For more information, contact Max at 604-485-4231 or click here.

MLS LISTING: Call Harry at RE/MAX about this float cabin in a beautiful protected location on north end of Goat Island.  With a cozy woodstove, this one level float home makes a perfect getaway in all seasons. The 24x30, 720 square foot cabin has two sets of queen bunks (sleeps 8), a sliding front door leading to a spacious deck, and a great walkway to the island where you will find a beach and outhouse. This very tranquil setting is perfect for adults, and a fun place for kids. Annual costs include a $500 yearly water lot lease and low annual regional district property taxes. Get all of this for the very reasonable price of $99,000. For more information click here, or contact Harry Zroback at (604) 483-8333 or

MLS LISTING: Call Harry at RE/MAX about this rustic float cabin listed in the May 2016 Powell River Real Estate Guide. The float home is located in a beautiful protected location in the Rainbow area north of Goat Island on Powell Lake.  It's being offered for the very reasonable price of $69,900. For more information contact Harry Zroback at (604) 483-8333 or

MLS LISTING: Harry is also offering a float cabin located across from Cassiar Falls to offer. The cabin needs some TLC, so bring your tool belt and enjoy the peacefulness of Powell Lake for the very reasonable price of $63,500. Click here for more information and pictures. For more information, call Harry Zroback at (604) 483-8333 or

MLS LISTING: LandQuest Realty is offering 98 acres with 4,300 feet of lakefront on Powell Lake. In this location there is no zoning or building permits required. It is one of very few deeded properties on the lake, and by far the largest. The property is located in an area called “Rainbow” by the locals. This area is the calmest and warmest part of the lake. The price is $699,000.  For more information click here, or contact LandQuest at (604) 694-7626 or

MLS LISTING: Jamie and Jason Zroback of BC Land Professionals has the "Ultimate Fly-in" Cabin listed. It's a float cabin on Frogpond Lake on Goat Island in the center of Powell Lake. This all-inclusive float cabin is accessible by plane or boat and vehicle via a logging road on the island. Just a few of the amenities include: main cabin, guest cabin, shop, propane and generator for power, 3 boats, and all the furnishings. This secluded cabin is one of only three float cabins on the lake. The cabin and its lease for occupation are priced at $239,000.  Click here for more information and pictures. For more information, call Jamie at (604) 483-1605 or Jason at (604) 414-5577.

MLS LISTINGS: Five Powell Lake lots located on Atlin Road in Wildwood are now available. Each one has a total of five acres, 88 ft of road frontage, and stunning views of Powell Lake and the mountains beyond.  With A2 zoning, each one is ready for you to build the home of your dreams with the option to include a home-based business, agriculture, or a secondary income suite. Each one is on city water. Each lot is priced at $225,000. For more information, contact Max Pagani at 604-485-4231 or click here.

Powell Lake Cabins for Rent

Powell Lake Land Cabins for Rent: This 8.35 acre lakefront property is 16 miles from the marina. Five one and two bedroom cabins all have: pressurized drinking water; septic for toilets, sinks and showers; and propane stoves, lights and hot water. Lounge on your cabin porch, enjoy the meadow, or go down to the lake to fish, swim or just relax. Access is by boat or floatplane only. Water taxi service is available if you don't have transportation of your own. Rates are based on the length of your stay. Go to for more information or email at

Powell Lake Cottage Rental: Located in protected Henderson Bay. There are two bedrooms and a one bedroom suite. All amenities are included. There's a 5-night minimum at $180 per night and a $200 damage deposit. Transportation to and from the water access only cabin can be arranged.  Click here for more information, or email

Sunnyside Cabin Rental: Fifteen minutes up the lake past First Narrows you will find an all inclusive float cabin waiting.  Amenities include: hot/cold running water, solar power, propane fridge/stove/BBQ, Keurig coffee maker, sleeps 9 (1 double, 2 queens, fold-out couch, 1 futon), composting toilet, TV/DVD player (no cable), two kayaks, and occasional cell phone coverage. Rates vary by the season from May to September with a 4-night minimum. Transportation is $60 and only with weekly rentals. Click here for more information and to get their email address.

Powell Lake Cabin Services

Powell Lake Cabin Services: Already have a cabin up the lake? We are always looking for help with projects around ours. Our good friend (and float cabin neighbour) Justin Behan offers services such as cargo delivery, lumber packages, cubes, propane tanks, wood stoves, and anchor and rope supply. In addition, Justin is now a distributor for Sun-Mar composting toilets just like the one we installed in our new bathroom addition. For more information, call Justin at (604) 483-6527.

Powell Lake Real Estate: Want a real estate agent that really knows float cabins? That's Harry Zroback (our man Harry who helped us get our cabin) from RE/MAX. Harry owns a cabin himself, so he's an excellent person to contact for all your "up the lake" real estate needs at 604-483-8333 or

Powell Lake Stories

Want to know more about life up the lake. Check out these books from Wayne's Coastal BC Stories series:

Up the Lake (Free for Kindle and e-books)
Farther Up the Lake
Cabin Number 5
Off the Grid
If you have any questions about Powell River, Powell Lake or cabin living, I'd be glad to help out. Just leave a comment or use the e-mail link in my profile to send me a message. -- Margy