Saturday, November 30, 2019

"Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir" by Aaron Williams

Wayne and I are on a Snowbird RV Adventure in California (click here). We've driven through smokey haze as strong winds drove flames through tinder dry foothills.

British Columbia's fire season typically runs from July when the forests dry out through October when fall rains arrive.

Chasing Smoke: A Wildfire Memoir by Aaron Williams (Harbour Publishing, 2018) seemed an appropriate reading choice considering what was happening around us.

Aaron Williams was a BC firefighter with the Telkwa Rangers from 2006 to 2014. Chasing Smoke focuses on the 2014 forest fire season, his last.

Ash layer along Powell Lake shore.
The last major fires along Powell Lake were in 1915 and 1918. We found evidence of the ash layer while digging on shore near our Powell Lake float cabin.

Goat Island disappeared in the smoke.
We do get thick smoke that blows west over the coast range from fires in BC's interior. Everywhere, firefighters and other first responders are putting their lives on the line for all of us.

Through his memoir, Aaron takes us through a summer of preparing for and fighting forest fires. You meet the Telkwa Rangers and learn how they work together to contain some of BC's worst fires like the Euchiniko Lakes fire, the China Nose fire, and two tours on the Chelaslie River fire that became the third largest in BC.

Training begins in May with a Rookie Week for the new recruits, some of whom are students looking for a summer of adventure and a way to earn money. Not an easy way for sure.  In telling the story, he gives you a good feel for life at base camp, in camps where firefighters stay during fourteen-day deployments and on the line fighting and mopping up after fires. Life is filled with highs and lows, and a lot of camaraderie in-between. Here's an informative video by CBC's The National.


As the fire season winds down, so does Aaron's career. You don't know what will happen next, but you do know that he will become an author with a strong voice and the ability to carry a tale to it's end.  

Chasing Smoke is available online at Harbour Publishing and Amazon. It's also available in bookstores and Kindle format.


If you want to read about BC fires from the perspective of people living through them, here are two recommendations. One is written by an author I've become acquainted with, Chris Czajkowski. The other she co-authored with a friend who lived through the same fire.

Wildfire in the Wilderness is by Chris Czajkowski (Harbour Publishing, 2006). You can read more about his amazing woman on her blog, Wilderness Dweller. The book tells about the life Chris lived in a remote cabin/resort she built called Nuk Tessli and how she lived through and was evacuated from her wilderness home during the Lonesome Lake fire of 2004.


Captured by Fire is co-authored by Chris Czajkowski and Fred Reid (Harbour Publishing, 2019). In 2017, fire returned to the region at Kleena Kleene and Colwell Lake. By now, Chris was living in an off-the-grid homestead. She and her friend, Fred Reid, also a homesteader, both refused to evacuate during the massive fire. The book alternates between their stories about how the fire affected their lives, homes and how it was fought.


There's also the monthly Book Review Club for teen/young adult and adult fiction over at Barrie Summy's blog.

Also shared with Your the Star at Stone Cottage Adventures. -- Margy

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Wayne and Margy's Snowbird RV Adventure

Wayne and I have been planning for our first Snowbird road trip in the new RV we purchased last April. It's a Forest River Sunseeker 2250 that we selected specifically for this adventure.

It's getting darker, colder and wetter at our float cabin on Powell Lake. Sun and warmth is calling. Just like the geese, we are migrating south.

I invite you to come over to my Margy Meanders Blog to follow along on our trip. Here's a preview of my first post to get you started.

The overall 24'4" length of the Sunseeker packs in a lot of living space.

An early November departure is perfect. We can beat snow and ice in the mountain pass between Oregon and California, and we can skip winterizing our RV. That's a win-win.

We've planned a three part trip.

Part 1 - takes us south from Bellingham, where we store our RV, to Southern California. We'll explore and camp along the way. In mid-December we'll put the RV in storage and go to USC for basketball. Then we'll fly back to Bellingham for a break.

Part 2 - starts in early February when we fly south to pick up our RV. We'll drive to Arizona for more exploring and a stay in Tempe for Arizona State University softball. Are you seeing a trend here? College sports? In late February we'll store our RV in Tucson then fly back to Bellingham for a second break.

Camping in public parks gives you more privacy and nature.

Part 3 - starts in late March. We'll fly to Tucson to pick up our RV for the final leg. There'll be more ASU softball before heading back north. We hope to make it to Oregon State University for more softball, and anticipate arriving back in Bellingham in mid to late April, after all of the freezing weather has passed.

Private RV parks offer more amenities and full hookups.

Does this sound complicated for a relaxing winter vacation? Maybe, but we aren't the kind of Snowbirds that like to stay in one spot. Our good friend John says we live a complicated simple life. But that's the way we like it.

Come along with us at my Margy Meanders Blog to see what's happening on our Snowbird RV Adventure. I'll write posts along the way when we have Internet. I hope you enjoy our trip as much as we do. -- Margy

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Annual Boat Maintenance at Valley Marine in Powell River

Valley Marine boat services in Powell River.
Winter is a good time for annual boat maintenance. The shops are less busy, and long months of inactivity are hard on boats. Having ours in top shape makes us confident it will be ready whenever the weather is good.

Our Bayliner 2452 called Halcyon Days needed to be scheduled for annual winter maintenance, so we asked Jeff Munro at Valley Marine to arrange for transportation from our moorage in Powell River's North Harbour to his shop in Paradise Valley.

This week Jeff called to let us know everything had been completed. He met us at our storage hangar and backed Halcyon Days right into her spot. Now that's great service!

Jeff backing Halcyon Days into her hangar winter storage spot.

Here's Halcyon Days all tucked away for the cold, wet, windy winter months. Looks like she'll have lots of good company and a great view.

Halcyon Days will have protection and good company all winter long,

Halcyon Days will be back in the water in May, ready for new adventures like the ones in Wayne's books Up the Strait, Farther Up the Strait and Up the Inlet (shameless plug).

Thanks Jeff and Valley Marine! If you are in need of excellent boat maintenance and repair services, give them a call:  

Valley Marine
3407A Padgett Rd
Powell River BC,
Phone: 604-485-9257

They also have boating supplies, shrink wrap service, storage and an upholstery shop onsite.

Say "Halcyon Days" sent you. -- Margy


Thanks for visiting part of my world this week. For more great posts from Our World Tuesday, click here.

Also posting to a meme called Through My Lens by Mersad.

And Tuesdays with a Twist at Stone Cottage Adventures. -- Margy

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Remembering a Fierce Fall Storm

Our float cabin in 2001.
Storms in fall and winter are the worst. Low pressure systems build in the Gulf of Alaska, swoop down Vancouver Island, cross the Strait of Georgia, and head up Powell Lake. With the lows come rain and high winds. It's the wind that causes the worst damage.


Our first boat.
We bought our cabin in Summer 2001 and had several weeks of wonderful weather. The next Thanksgiving (the U.S. kind in November), I got a week off from work and went to Powell River on my own. The weather was partly sunny for my boat trip up the lake. Good thing, I'd never driven a boat alone before. Thankfully, John rode in formation to make sure I made it okay.

Stiff leg at low water.
After a few nice days a storm moved in. The rain was heavy and strong winds made the cabin jerk forcefully back and forth on her ¾” steel cables anchored to the cliff. On the backwards swing, the stiff leg (a log that prevents the cabin from hitting the cliff) bounced off the rock, sending reverberations through the float and into the cabin. With daylight, everything calmed. Whew!

Cliff anchor bolt with cable needing replacement.
The next evening a new low slammed into Coastal BC. The steel cables and their anchor bolts had been weakened the previous night. Just after dark, the wind blown motion of the cabin ripped a steel cable free. With the greater range of motion and stress, another cable snapped. With each gust of wind, the cabin swung far out into the lake, only to snap back, causing the stiff leg to ram into the rock wall.

Adding a second anchor cable for future storms.
The motion was constant and nerve wracking. The lake wasn’t safe to navigate, so there was no way to leave. To say the least, it was a very long night. Fortunately, the remaining cables held and I could talk to Wayne (still in California) via our satellite phone for moral support. You might think a night like this would have scared me away, but I love the cabin, and knew John built it skookum (strong) to be safe in all kinds of weather.

You can read the whole story in Up the Lake and learn how I got the nickname Frontier Jane. If you have a kindle or e-reader, Up the Lake is free from Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, and many other online e-book sellers.


Thanks for visiting part of my world. For more great posts from Our World Tuesday, click here.

And also a meme called Through My Lens by Mersad.

And  Tuesdays with a Twist at Stone Cottage Adventures. -- Margy

Friday, October 11, 2019

Airplane Noise and Blue Skies

If you love to watch military aircraft, Whidbey Island in Washington State is the place.

You can camp at Deception Pass State Park or enjoy the beaches near Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.

Take a seat and hear the jets roar or watch the marine patrol aircraft take off and land.


If you have a military ID, you can enter the base for an even closer look at the EA-18G Growler fighter jets ...


... and the larger maritime patrol and reconnaissance P-3 Orions and P-8 Poseidons. All of these planes and their personnel keep our country secure and safe.


In between sorties there are blue skies and white clouds to enjoy. -- Margy

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Available Online: "Flying the Pacific Northwest"

Perfect for Pilots
and Aviation Enthusiasts of All Kinds

Flying the Pacific Northwest

by Wayne J. Lutz

Description: Airports of Western Washington and Oregon form the backdrop for adventures in the Pacific Northwest. Take the controls of a Piper Arrow, as your personal flight instructor leads you to out-of-the-way spots where recreational aircraft give us the freedom to pursue personal goals. Hints for cross-county and local flying, as presented by a 7000-hour FAA certified flight instructor. For armchair pilots and experienced pros, this book is an escape so realistic you’ll swear you’re airborne.  

Kindle $5.99
Print from Amazon.com $10.95
Check with your favourite e-book dealer 
for other formats.

Check here if you need a Kindle 
or free Kindle App.

If you enjoy the book, consider writing a review at Amazon.com
Happy reading! - Wayne

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Coastal BC Plants: Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe poking up through the moist duff.
I was walking through a grove of mature hemlocks and firs when a spot of white caught my eye. What I thought was debris on the ground turned out to be an exciting find, Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) emerging after days of rain with warm temperatures.

These pictures were taken on July 11. We were supposed to have a dry, hot summer, but unexpected rain changed growing conditions, especially in the shaded forest understory.

These specimens were just emerging, so they were a brilliant white. At maturity, they turn dark or black. Another common name is Ghost Plant, you can see why.


Indian Pipe is a herbaceous (non-woody) perennial (lives from year to year) plant. It's white because there is no chlorophyll. Nourishment comes from underground fungi associated with tree roots. You can find Indian Pipe in temperate, moist zones of Asia and North America.


They appear after dry spells followed by periods of rain. The white stems, rise from a fleshy root mass. The plants reach their full height (5–30 centimetres) in just a few days. Small leaf-like structures are translucent, giving them their ghostly appearance. At the top there is a single flower that droops downward, looking like an upside-down pipe, until the fruiting body is mature.


Have you ever discovered an unusual plant? What was it? Where did you find it? -- Margy

References: E-Flora BC Atlas: Monotropa uniflora and Wikipedia: Monotropa uniflora.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Growing and Preserving Garlic

Garlic harvested from three containers.
I've grown garlic for years. In the beginning, it was in small containers. I got plenty, but the bulbs were on the small side.

I'm always changing the plants in my float garden. After I removed an old asparagus patch, there was room to grow garlic in the empty space.

Garlic takes very little attention. Plant cloves with the growth point up, mulch, water, feed periodically, dig, dry, and enjoy.

Fall planted garlic heavily mulched with chopped garden waste.

I purchased garlic bulbs good for my climate at the nursery. Now I save my best bulbs for fall planting.  A few bulbs go a long way. You pull the cloves apart and plant them seven inches apart for growth room. I plant in fall and mulch heavily through winter.

Fall planted garlic sprouts in early spring.

When the tops start to brown, wilt, and fall over, it's time to pull the bulbs. If the weather is dry, I leave them on the surface to dry.

Initial drying in the garden after pulling the garlic bulbs.

After the surface of the bulbs have dried, I brush off as much of the dirt as possible, tie the tops of half a dozen together, and hang them in a protected spot outdoors.

Hanging to dry in the shade under the side porch.

This starts the preserving process. I leave them outdoors until the skin on the bulbs is dry and flaky. I trim the tops shorter and hang the bundles in the cabin's storage room. By this time there's no odour, and they're handy to grab for cooking.

Dried garlic hangs in our storage room ready for use.

If you live in an apartment with a balcony, or a home with limited garden space, you can still grow garlic and have plenty left over to share with friends and family. -- Margy

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Renewed Raised Bed Floating Garden

My float garden in 2007.
My floating garden was built by our good friend John in 2003. It's served us well over the years, but the cedar siding on my four raised beds and the center walkway are rotting away. It was time for the wood to be replaced.


Over the years my garden has been highlighted in the media.
I called John for the renewal of my floating garden. He purchased cedar 2x8s and nailed them to the outside of my existing bed borders. That was the easiest solution without tearing off the old boards and losing precious soil in the process. 

Closeups of the new raised bed siding and center walkway.

Each bed is four feet wide and eight feet long. Soil depth is seven inches, but you would be amazed at how much I can grow in this little space. Click here to read more about float gardening.

New cedar boards outside and in.

Heavy fiberglass cloth called mill felt is on the bottom of each bed. The mesh is fine enough to keep the soil in, yet porous enough to allow water to drain. Click here to read more about the construction.

My renewed floating garden back out on the log boom to deter critter invasions.

Do you garden in raised beds? What are some of your favourite crops? -- Margy

Friday, August 16, 2019

Cabin Journal: Homemaking

I grew up in the 50s and 60s. In junior and high school, classes in sewing, cooking and homemaking were "electives" girls had to take.

When I was working, homemaking was farther from my mind than algebra. I did the minimum possible and Wayne shared in the duties. Now I enjoy homemaking, especially up at the float cabin. You'll find me sewing, cooking, baking, canning, gardening and even housework.

June 27, 2019

With cooler weather we had a fire in the woodstove and I turned on our battery powered inside decorative lights. It's the first time since we've been home that it was dark enough to enjoy them. Unless we stay up past 10:00, there's plenty of sunlight to keep the cabin bright. I used the indoor time to do some hand sewing. I patched a cloth grocery bag and covered new holes and thin spots in my work sweat pants. I had them before I met Wayne, so they must be pushing 40 years old. Wow!

I call my sweatpants Patches for obvious reasons.

Click here to read "The Story of Patches".


July 2, 2019

We are running low on fresh food. Yesterday was the last doughnut and the bread ran out on Saturday when I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our breakfast while driving the barge to the Shinglemill. I had a banana and a half going brown, so I looked up a recipe online for banana bread. I was short some mashed banana so I settled on a recipe or pineapple banana bread. I didn't have any crushed pineapple, but I did have some tidbits left over in the fridge from our fruit bowls. I diced them finer and had everything needed to make a late breakfast with fruit, a hard boiled egg for Wayne and yogurt for me. Yum! Plus we have extra for dessert or breakfast tomorrow.

Cooking and baking are now fun.

Click here for the recipe and directions to make Pineapple Banana Bread with Pecans.

Did you take homemaking classes in school? Or were you a lucky guy who got shop? Educational offerings have changed a lot over the years. More classes are co-ed, but unfortunately many of the home arts and shop classes have been eliminated. -- Margy

Monday, August 05, 2019

Quads and Camping on North Vancouver Island

Our truck and double quad trailer.
Wayne and I like to take our quads on barge trips around Powell Lake and truck and trailer trips to land based destinations. We took our Tucson SUV to North Vancouver Island to plan a future ride.

Read more about that road trip at my Margy Meanders blog.

The Campbell River ATV Club has been instrumental in developing off-road routes using logging roads throughout North Vancouver Island. They have also worked with RCMP precincts to allow access to lodging, food and gas. Click here for more information.

There are map resources for Forest Service and logging roads.

A section of the North Island route map from the Campbell River ATV Club.

Here are some of the campsites we discovered on our trip.

Picture from Rec Sites and Trails BC.
Elk Creek Recreation Site: Seasonal campground south of Highway 19 near the the Sayward turnoff. Seven site campground with good availability but no direct access to logging or forest service roads but could make a good homebase then transport quads to off-road areas.

Montague Creek campground.
Montague Creek: Two small primitive sites along the river just past Sayward via Eve Main. Direct access to logging roads but too tight for us.

Upper Klaklakama Lake Campground: Small site at the top end of the lake. Too tight for us but direct access to logging roads. Another large campground farther down the lake.

Woss Lake Recreation Site campground.
Woss Lake Recreation Site: Twenty-four sites with good availability on upper Woss Lake with easy dirt road access via West Woss Road. Sites large enough for our truck and trailer and direct access to logging roads. Logging railway historical display in town.

Georgie with empty lakefront site.
Georgie Lake Recreation Site: A nine site lakeside campground reached via the Holberg Road out of Port Hardy and Georgie Lake Forest Service Road. Sites are large enough for us and there is good access to an extensive logging road network for riding. However, it is too far on rough roads for us, but we did find a travel trailer there.


Link River campground on Alice Lake.
Link River Regional Park: A 22 site campground on Alice Lake near Port Alice. This is the one for us. Good access via SE Main and there was good availability even on a holiday weekend. It has a host and reservations in summer and first come, first serve the rest of the year. Lots of logging road access in all directions.

We could stay here many times and still not explore everything. Plus there is fuel and shopping in nearby Port Alice for extended stays. Don't know when, but we will be returning with our truck, trailer and quads for a new kind of adventure up North Vancouver Island's mains.


Want to read more about our quad adventures? Three of Wayne's Coastal BC Stories books focus on backcountry adventures including Up the Main, Farther Up the Main and Powell Lake by Barge and Quad.

All three are available in print and e-book formats at Amazon and most online booksellers. In Powell River they are available at Coles in the Town Centre Mall. -- Margy