Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Retrospective from Powell River Books

2008 was a great year for Wayne, me, and Powell River Books. Here are a few exciting moments:

January - Two of Wayne's books (Up the Lake and Up the Strait) are released in Kindle format. After the holidays in the States, we returned to our beloved float cabin on Powell Lake.

February - After almost a two year wait, Wayne and I received our Canadian permanent residency. Back at the cabin, I learned to bake bread inside my woodstove.

March - Up the Airway is launched at Cole's bookstore. Low water levels on Powell Lake expose "treasures" from early 20th Century logging cabins and camps. Powell River Books joins YouTube with several videos.

April - Bumblebees make a home in daffodils in my newly planted garden and Wayne and I go to Comox to see the Canadian Forces Snowbirds Demonstration Flight Team put on their annual free show.

May - Our airplane 997 takes us on a flight to the San Juan Islands. Back at the cabin, spring birds include Crossbills, Swallows and Canada Geese and we join the ATV Club for the annual Nanton ride.

June - My floating garden produces lots of vegetables and Mr. Float Cabin heads "up the lake" on a book tour. Back in Bellingham, I meet Betty, my blog's most faithful reader, in real life.

July - Our cabin gets a boost from twenty blue barrels. Book signings take us to the Texada Airport Fly-in, Sea Fair and a book launch for Farther Up the Lake at Breakwater Books. For fun, we join the ATV club on a Poker Ride.

August - Slide show tours take us to Gibsons, Sechelt, Powell River Library, Bellingham Museum of Flight, Chilliwack Air Show and Blackberry Festival. Halcyon Days takes us on a cruise to meet Dave and Marg at the lodge.

September - I pick and store onions, potatoes and tomatoes. Our float cabin is highlighted in an article in Our Canada magazine and Wayne gets a flood of e-mail.

October - Fall colours make Powell Lake beautiful and I invent Margy's Mouse Mechanism to keep little critters off the float. Wayne and I set up a booth again at the Powell River Newcomer Social.

November - Our float cabin is showcased on Tiny House Blog. PRB is honoured at the Horizon Business Awards and Wayne is nominated as an entrepreneur of the year. Best of all, we get lots of time at the cabin.

December - Snow, snow and more snow - and lots of really cold weather. We get a new chimney cap and use our wood stove almost 24/7. The PRB blog had a great year with over 21,750 visitors.

It's been a great year and I've had fun sharing it with you. Wayne and I wish you and your family a happy new year. May it bring you peace, love and contentment. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Now Available Online: "Up the Winter Trail"

A Great Book
for the Outdoor Enthusiast

Up the Winter Trail
Coastal BC Stories

Your winter plans won't be complete without a visit to Powell River and its uncrowded winter vacation opportunities. Hike, snowshoe, cross country ski - we have it all and more. Want a preview? Read Up the Winter Trail by Wayne Lutz and start your adventure. Available in print and e-book versions at Amazon and most online booksellers.

Go to for more information.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Head Up the Winter Trail

In Coastal BC we are currently experiencing some unusually long, cold, snowy winter weather.

Powell River is a wonderful place to be in the winter. It is easy to get to the snow in the back country for a variety of sports and activities. Of course, right now you only have to go out your front door to experience fun things like boot skating and butt sledding (just kidding).

Winter hiking is possible on many of our local trails. Wayne's book Up the Winter Trail includes many of our favourite winter hikes. The Sunshine Coast Trail Guidebook and Along the Edge of the Salish Sea by Eagle Walz are excellent trail guides. They are available at Coles, Breakwater Books, the Powell River Visitor Centre.

One of our favorite winter activities in Powell River is quad riding to the snow in the backcountry. Quads can handle quite a bit of snow, but if you have a snowmobile there are even more logging and forest roads open for you to explore.

Other activities include snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Up in the Knuckleheads winter recreation area there are even two wilderness cabins. These cabins are free for public use through the dedicated support of many volunteers.

And then, what would winter be without hockey? The Powell River Kings give us plenty of action at home games. Include Powell River in your winter vacation plans so that you too can enjoy our beautiful land. Coming for the 2010 Winter Olympics? Powell River is just up the coast, but it's worlds away from the crowds and hectic pace.

You can read more about winter activities in the Powell River area in Up the Winter Trail by Wayne J. Lutz available in print and e-book formats at Amazon and most online booksellers.  For more information, visit -- Margy

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Powell River Paper Mill

Whether you arrive in Powell River, BC, by land, air or sea, one of the first things you will see is the paper mill. The City of Powell River was born and grew up as a company town, and its present and future are still strongly linked to this major industry.

In the early 1900’s, entrepreneurial individuals explored Coastal BC looking for ways to profit from the abundant natural resources. Powell River is strategically located at the mouth of the Powell River and surrounded by lush forests. In 1909 the Minnesota based Brooks and Scanlon company purchased pulp leases and water rights to Powell Lake then incorporated as the Powell River Paper Company.

Two paper machines soon grew to four, and in 1911 the company name was changed to the Powell River Company. Thus, by 1912, Powell River became the first newsprint-producing mill in Western Canada providing for the needs of growing Vancouver and Seattle newspapers.

Over the last fifty years, ownership of the mill has changed several times. In 1959 the Powell River Company merged with MacMillian Bloedel to become MacMillan Bloedel & Powell River Ltd. In 1966 the name was shortened to MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. In 1998 the mill was sold to Pacifica Papers and then again in 2001 to Norske Skog Canada Ltd., soon to be called NorskeCanada followed by Catalyst Paper Corporation.

Today, Catalyst’s paper mill in Powell River is no longer the largest in the world. Downsizing over the last 10 years has significantly decreased the workforce and production output. Powell River’s economy has diversified, but the mill is still a driving force in our community. I invite you to come visit and see how our small company town has grown to be the “Pearl of the Sunshine Coast.”

If you haven't seen it yet, check out my post on the mill's unique cement ship breakwater called the Hulks. For more information try these links about the history of Powell River.

Powell River Museum
Powell River My Home
Paper Pioneers

If you want more information about Powell River, visit the Tourism Powell River website. -- Margy

Sunday, December 21, 2008

New Woodstove Chimney Cap

Our Kozi woodstove is the heart of our float cabin, especially now that the temperatures are below freezing. Without it, we couldn't live here year-round. Our stove works great except when storm winds blow, especially from the southeast. On those occasions, we've had problems with smoke blowing back down the chimney pipe and into the cabin. It sometimes gets so bad we have to stop using the wood stove and bring in our portable propane heater from the boat.

Our good friend John did some research and found a new stove pipe chimney cap that should do the trick. To me, it looks like a helmet. The fin sticking up vanes with the wind, moving the protective portion of the cap into the wind, thus protecting the pipe from its force. We haven't had a strong wind yet, but I'm sure it will work. I'll keep you posted.

If you need to more information about troubleshooting wood stove issues and problems, try some of these websites:

Do you use a wood stove for heating? I'd like to hear about your solutions to smoke problems. -- Margy

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Frozen Pipes

Wayne and I returned to the cabin after the first snowy day of the season. On Thursday, we went up the lake just to check things out. We returned on Friday to settle back in after three weeks away. Yes, I know it's winter (at least as of today), but we aren't used to long cold spells below zero degrees here in Powell River. In addition to the snow sticking on the ground all week, my kitchen water pump was a casualty.

The hand pump draws water up from the lake. It's a simple luxury of our float cabin life. I'm not sure what happened, but my guess is that water froze in the pipe below the pump. We left it alone for a day while the Kozi wood stove warmed the cabin. A bucket of lake water took care of our immediate needs. In early evening, we heard a sound like ice sliding down the pipe. On the second day, we poured some warm water into the pump and let it sit. After about 15 minutes we gave it a prime and up came lake water. It takes a while for the water to run clear after a long break. The pipe is PVC, but the water still discolours over time.

The pump is back working, but it won't hold its prime. The seal is either stiff from the cold, or it needs replacing. We keep a cup of water handy for now. When the tempuratures rise we'll know what needs to be done. Have you had any problems due to the unseasonably cold weather? Let us hear your stories. -- Margy

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snowy Days

On Tuesday night and Wednesday we got our first snow of the season in Powell River, BC. Cold arctic air has temperatures plunging and there looks to be another cold week ahead.

On Thursday, Wayne and I went up to our float cabin for the first time in three weeks. It was a winter wonderland with sparkling white snow and brilliant blue skies.

The snow was powder fine and crunched under our boots as we made our way to the cabin door. We built a roaring fire in our Kozi wood stove and settled back to enjoy the view of Goat Island and a cloudless sky.

Today we are heading back up the lake to settle back into our cabin. It's always such a good feeling to be back home. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

BC Ferries to Powell River, BC

Our trip to Powell River today was by car and the BC Ferries system. Powell River retains much of its remote charm because it takes two ferry rides to get there.

We take The Guide (Guide-Meridian) north from I-5 in Bellingham and enter Canada at the Aldergrove Border Crossing. Continuing north on 264th Street (Highway 13) to Canada Highway 1, we bypass downtown Vancouver, and follow the signs to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal.

View Larger Map

Horseshoe Bay in north of Vancouver at the entrance to Howe Sound. On this ferry you can see the lofty peaks of the Coast Mountain Range that were the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

After landing at the Langdale Ferry Terminal near Gibsons, BC, we take Highway 101 north along the Sunshine Coast. This is a beautiful drive through lush forests with glimpses of the Strait of Georgia along the way. The 84 km (52 mi) drive takes about an hour and a half. The two lane road is good but has lots of winding curves as you near the Earl's Cove Ferry Terminal.

The second ferry takes us around Nelson Island to the Saltery Bay Ferry Terminal. As the name implies, there used to be a fish salting plant here in the early Twentieth Century. A short 34 km (22 mi) drive brings us home to Powell River, BC.

Here are some sites for additional information.

Powell River: Coastal by Nature
City of Powell River
Powell River PEAK Newspaper
Powell River Books
Powell River Living Magazine

I invite you to come see my home town, Powell River. -- Margy

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Upcoast Boating Adventures

Powell River, British Columbia, is a small coastal community on the Strait of Georgia.

Each summer our region is the destination for many boaters who are seeking upcoast adventures. They come from Seattle, throughout the Puget Sound, Vancouver and Victoria. Those of us who are locals also seek the pleasures of beautiful scenery and safe anchorages. Here are some of my favourite upcoast destinations.

Take several days to circumnavigate Quadra Island. You'll get a taste of tides and currents. In fact, make sure you go through Seymour Narrows at slack tide. Even the cruise ships traveling the inside passage don't mess with it.

For a piece of history, head on over to Refuge Cove. It has been a thriving outpost since the early logging, homesteading and fishing days.

Cortes Island has both marinas and anchorages to choose from. When we are looking for some dockside fun we head on over to Gorge Harbour.

I've saved my favourite for last. Theodosia Inlet is undiscovered by the summer crowds.

There is a protected spot at the entrance from which you can see beautiful vistas and watch loggers in action. You can read more about our upcoast boating adventures in Up the Strait available at -- Margy

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Hulks

Powell River in Coastal BC started as a company town for the Powell River Company. Brooks, Scanlon & Obrien joined forces to form the Powell River Company, western Canada's first pulp and paper mill.

Powell River was selected for the location because of the close proximity of huge timber resources and a rushing river to be harnessed for power. The mill was started in 1908 and the first roll of paper was produced in 1912.

The Hulks have been a common sight in Powell River since they were installed to form a protective floating breakwater for the mill's log pond in the late 1940's. They are all concrete ships originally built as transports for supplies in World Wars I and II. All ten are the last remaining representatives of their class of ships. The Peralta, holds the honor as THE last concrete ship remaining from World War I.

In 2002 the mill, then owned by Pacifica Papers, eliminated it's pulping operations, but decided to keep the Hulks. They were reconfigured to make the pond smaller for barges of wood chips waiting for their turn in the mill.

The waters off the Powell River coast are deep. It would be expensive, if not impossible, to build a traditional breakwater around the area. The concrete ships sit low in the water, thus providing protection from heavy wave action, even during storms. Huge concrete anchors and massive chains hold the ships in place. Occasionally, however, they must be reset due to the corrosive action of rust and the power of the sea.

Here are some resources to find more history about the hulks:

The Powell River Museum
The Hulks: The Breakwater Ships of Powell River by John A Campbell
Shotcrete Repair of WWII Concrete Hulks
Pulp, Paper and People by Karen Southern and Peggy Bird
Powell River's First 50 Years by the Powell River News

And finally, a shot of the guardian of the pond and its historic Hulks.

I invite you to put Powell River on your list of places to visit. -- Margy

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cabin Baking: Sourdough Biscuits

I always keep a jar of sourdough starter in the refrigerator. We were going to have my Easy Stovetop Chili for dinner, so I thought I would try some sourdough biscuits to go along with it. I got a great sourdough cookbook at the Economy Shop (thrift store) for 50 cents. It's Sourdough Cookery by Rita Davenport. It is available on Amazon for over $10.00, but maybe you can find one at your favourite used book store like I did. It's a great little paperback with 220 recipes from starter to breads to cakes to main dishes.


1/3 cup starter
1/2 cup milk
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon thyme and rosemary (or your favourites)
1 tablespoon cornmeal sprinkled on cookie sheet

Mix starter, milk and 1/2 cup flour in a large bowl and let sit in a warm place overnight or until the mixture is bubbly. When ready, add 1/2 cup flour and beat. Mix another 1/2 cup of flour with sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift over the dough and mix together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Knead about 20 times or until all the flour is incorporated. Press the dough into a circle with 1/2" thickness. Then cut it into wedges.

Melt butter and mix with oil and herbs. Brush each wedge with the butter mixture before placing it upside down on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Then brush the other side with the butter mixture. Cover lightly with a clean towel and let them raise about an hour or until they almost double in size. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Eat them warm. Leftovers are better reheated. Now that's comfort food.

Do you have any favourite sourdough recipes? I'd love to hear yours. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Introducing Powell River, BC

I would like to introduce where my husband Wayne and I live, Powell River, British Columbia, Canada.

Where is that, you ask? Just go up the coast about 145 kilometers (90 miles) from Vancouver to the "Sunshine Coast" and you'll discover the city of Powell River. Part of the charm (and sometimes frustration) is that it takes two ferry rides to get there. While technically Powell River is not on an island, it feels like island living because of the ferries.

Powell River is a small town, with about 13,000 people living within the city boundaries and a total of 22,000 if you count the surrounding region. The people are welcoming, friendly and helpful. Even if you are a new arrival, it feels like coming home.

The Powell River and nearby Powell Lake were named in honour of Israel Wood Powell, the superintendent of Indian Affairs for BC in the 1880s. The town of Powell River was started in 1910 as a papermill company town. Originally the mill was built and owned by the Powell River Company. It has gone through many hands and is now owned by Catalyst Paper. Once the largest paper mill in the world, it has downsized considerably in recent years.

Powell River is no longer a company town. Homes are now privately owned and the Historic Townsite was designated a National Historic District by Parks and Monuments Canada in 1995. The Townsite is now one of four distinct communities (Cranberry, Westview, Townsite and Wildwood) that unified into the Corporation and District of Powell River in 1955. In 2005, the municipality became the City of Powell River.

Wayne and I have fallen in love with the people and places in and around Powell River. Want to know more? Check the menu of topics in the side bar. Also, come back each week to discover a little bit more about Powell River.

View Larger Map

Thanks for visiting my home town. I hope you have a chance to come in real life as well. -- Margy

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coastal BC Birds: Raven


We have a resident pair of ravens at our float cabin on Powell Lake. While other birds come and go with the seasons, the ravens stay put.

It's amazing how many vocalizations they make. To me, the most amazing is the clicking sound. The raven has a prominent place in Sliammon First Nation and Coastal Salish history. In legends he was a shape changer and a trickster. If you've ever seen a raven, you know that describes him well.

Ravens are major scavengers. A favourite target is Brodie's dog food. Bro is our good friend John's dog. Every time they see John's backpack, they rip (literally) into it searching for food. One time we saw a raven fly off with a full can of sardines. He perched on an outcropping, ripped the can open and devoured the contents. Amazing.

Occasionally one raven will come down and roost near the cabin, but most often we hear them across the bay near John's cabin, soaring on the currents above the Hole in the Wall, or perched in the trees on the lookout for tasty morsels.

If you aren't familiar with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website All About Birds, it is a great online tool for bird identification and information. -- Margy

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Backcountry Ruins

If you look carefully in the bush, you can find lots evidence of past inhabitants. They were loggers, shake block cutters and homesteaders. The Coastal BC rainforest quickly reclaims the land, but if you know where what to look for you can find all kinds of ruins and treasures.

Our good friend John was walking along the shore at the head of Powell Lake and saw what looked like the remnants of a fence. A little farther inland he found the ruins of cabin.

The residents were shake block cutters. You can read more about it here. The cabin was gone, but the woodstove, a rusted bread pan, the root cellar, an outhouse and a refuse dump were still there. In the dump there was an old boot, the metal head of a peavy they used to move logs, food cans and lots of Copenhagen cans, the guys must have really loved their snuff. There was also a can of boot grease. Everything a few guys would need for a life of hard work in the bush. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Preserving: Freezing Tomatoes

Yesterday (Tiny Tomato Treats) and last October (Saving Green Tomatoes) I shared posts about how I handle unripened tomatoes when their vines have to come out. Wayne and I love the taste of fresh home grown tomatoes in salads including our favourite Chopped Garden Salad. But even with only a few plants, there can be more produce than we can consume all at once. I didn't have enough to bother with canning, so I decided to freeze my excess tomatoes.

Freezing tomatoes is very simple. You can do them whole, sliced or diced. You can do them with the skins on or off. Since I also had some remaining zucchini and green peppers, I decided to freeze my tomatoes diced (cut in half for the cherries) along with pieces of the other two vegetables. That way I could pop a container directly into the soup pot. You can use any tightly sealed container, but I purchased Bernardin freezer canning jars. They are plastic with tight snapping lids. They can also be saved and reused for the next season.

Denise, a blogger friend that writes the Vintage Log Cabin blog, shared a forum with me that is devoted to tomatoes called Tomatoville. You have to register to read and post messages, but it is free and a very busy community. Check it out, and stop by and meet Denise at -- Margy