Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Can you tell a book by its cover?

The cover of a book is very important. When I go book shopping, the first thing I see is the spine. I prefer books that have a prominent title. The next thing I do is look at the picture. Does it portray the contents of the book? Lastly, I read the synopsis on the back. If a book's cover makes it through my scrutiny, then, and only then, will I open it to explore the inside.

Recently, I went to Cozy Corner Books and Coffee in Bellingham and a book caught my eye. It was The North Runner by R.D. Lawrence. First, the word "north" sparked my interest. I'm always looking for books about Canadian adventures. The cover pictured a man and his dog hiking through the snow covered forest and with a description that said "set in the majestic wilderness of British Columbia." I was hooked even before I made it to the back cover.

RD (Ronald Douglas) Lawrence lived The North Runner in the late 1950's and put it into print in 1979 (reprinted in 2004). RD immigrated to Canada to experience a more natural lifestyle. I can relate to that! He purchased a homestead in Ontario and that is where the story begins. He purchases an abused half dog, half wolf from an Indian to become the lead for his sled team. He names him Yukon after the wild, rugged, exciting northland of the Yukon Territory. The story follows man and dog as they build trust in each other, become partners in life, and have adventures in the Ontario woods and the British Columbia wilderness. It's one of the best books I've read in a long time.

RD Lawrence was a renowned naturalist. He learned by observing plants and animals in their natural habitat. His extensive knowledge and research are woven throughout his books and stories in such a way that you feel you are following in his footsteps. RD passed away in 2003, but his writing focusing on Canadian natural history will live on forever. You can read more about RD at the website Cry Wild. His wife, Sharon, has a guest book there and will answer any questions you may have. I hope you enjoy his books as much as I do. -- Margy

Sunday, March 29, 2009

CCGC Cape Caution

On Saturday, Wayne and I came to town. That afternoon, a storm front passed through with lots of strong wind. From our condo we watched the building swells and white caps and heard the loud clanging of sailboat tackle from the marina. I looked up just in time to see the Canadian Coast Guard heading back to port in Powell River's north harbour. I grabbed my camera and got some video of the men and women on the CCGC Cape Caution having a rough (but probably fun for them) day on the chuck.

The Cape Caution is a 15 metre self-righting lifeboat used for search and rescue operations along the Strait of Georgia. She went through a commissioning ceremony when it arrived on Powell River on September 15, 2005, and is a regular fixture in our coastal waters. She can travel up to 100 nautical miles with a top speed of about 25 knots when needed. The men and women of the crew stay in one of the condos in our building and have their headquarters out front. It's good to know we have such wonderful neighbours.-- Margy

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Big Yellow Banana

Wayne and I tend to name things that are important to us. There's Mr. Boat, our Campion that takes us to and from our cabin, Mr. Seagull, the rubber toy that keeps our Bayliner safe on the seas, and Mr. Pee Bucket, who help us out so we don't have to climb the hill to the outhouse every time.

On our first visit to Powell River, we decided to try kayaking. We drove up to Okeover Inlet and rented two single kayaks from Y-Knot. We had a great time, so we returned and rented a double from Powell River Sea Kayak. When we purchased a kayak, we went back to Powell River Sea Kayak and got a used one for a really good price. That's how Mr. Kayak, our Current Designs Libra XT sea kayak, came into our lives. Mr. Kayak also has a nickname, the Big Yellow Banana. When he is on top of our little Ford Tempo, he looks just like one.

The Big Yellow Banana takes us on many great adventures. We've been out in the Strait of Georgia to Harwood Island, south to the Gulf Islands and Sechelt Inlet, and north to sandy Savary and the rocky Copeland Islands. Our Big Yellow Banana has also taken us on several lake camping trips including Lois, Khartoum and Haslam. In addition, he enjoys hanging out at the cabin for fishing and exploratory trips on Powell Lake. There's nothing like a Big Yellow Banana to get you there.

Don't have a Big Yellow Banana of your own? There are lots of places to rent kayaks in Powell River including Y-Knot, Powell River Sea Kayak, Skeeter Jacks Outback Shack (only sport kayaks, but they also have a great restaurant), and Alpha Adventures. Most locations will transport your kayak to the departure point of your choice. -- Margy

Friday, March 20, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Powell River this Spring

Today is the first day of Spring and I'm headed for my favourite place on earth, Powell River, BC. Spring break is coming and people are heading for vacation spots. Here are 10 reasons you should make Powell River your spring travel destination.

10. An exciting ferry ride to get here. BC Ferries serves Powell River. You can easily turn your visit to Powell River into a Circle Route vacation. Check out the Experience Card for extra savings. On the Vancouver to Powell River route you will travel through majestic fjords and pass towering snow-capped peaks. It's an E-ticket ride for sure.

9. Friendly people. One of the first things we noticed about Powell River was that everyone was friendly and welcoming. Stop at the Tourism Powell River Visitor Centre in the Crossroads Village Shopping Centre next to Quality Foods on Mondays through Fridays 9:00-5:00. Pick up a free Powell River Living magazine or Powell River PEAK to see what's happening around town.

8. Great places to stay. In the middle of town is the Town Centre Hotel, check into the Harbour Guesthouse hostel, lounge on the beach at the Oceanside Resort and Cabins, or immerse yourself in history at the Townsite's Old Courthouse Inn. There's a place for everyone. We have a special place in our hearts for the Willingdon Beach Campsite. That's where we stayed when we first discovered Powell River.

7. Tasty restaurants. From everyday to fancy, we have it all. The Vancouver Island University and Brooks Culinary Arts Program restaurant is open for lunch. Start the day with coffee and a cinnamon bun at Rocky Mountain Pizza, get a fantastic omelet at Starvin' Marvins, or grab lunch in the mall at Moose n' Eddies. Don't leave town without a brew and steak at the Shinglemill Pub on Powell Lake. Sit and watch boats coming and going from logging sites and float cabins up the lake.

6. Quaint shops on Marine Avenue. Marine Avenue in the Westview section of Powell River is a mix of new and historic buildings. You'll find business as usual (banks, lawyers, hairdressers, restaurants) and specialty shops. Get a tattoo at Ink Fected, a souvenir at the Paperworks Gallery or a book to read at the Hidden Treasures Bookstore. In August, the whole street closes for the annual Blackberry Festival.

5. The Mill and Historic Townsite. Powell River was founded as a mill town for the Powell River Paper Company. The paper mill is now owned by Catalyst, but Powell River is no longer a company town. Homes are now privately owned and the Townsite was designated a National Historic District by Parks and Monuments Canada in 1995. Discover Powell River's history at the Museum.

4. The Open-Air Market. Powell River's farmers market is open April to September. Watch Around Town in the PEAK for opening and special event dates. Come for fresh produce, flowers, home baking, hand crafts and local entertainers on the Open Mic Stage on Saturdays 10:30-12:30 and Sundays 12:30-2:30.

3. Lots of outdoor activities. Whether you favourite activity is boating, hiking, ATVing, winter sports, kayaking or just relaxing, Powell River has it all. We are famous for our scuba diving, Sunshine Coast Trail, Powell River Canoe Route and rock climbing. Forest campgrounds and easy access to the back country make it paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

2. Fabulous sunsets. Powell River is located on the mainland of Coastal BC. The town is built on along the waterfront with sweeping views of the Strait of Georgia and Vancouver Island. The Seawalk Viewpoint is a great place to take in the view, or add some fantastic food and see it from the Savoury Bight restaurant at the Beach Gardens Resort.

1. Heading up the lake. Powell Lake is a land-locked glacial carved fresh water fjord. I love living in a float cabin up the lake in Hole in the Wall. You can rent a float cabin or houseboat to experience life on the lake for yourself. You can also read about off the grid living on Powell Lake in Up the Lake and Farther Up the Lake by Wayne J. Lutz at www.PowellRiverBooks.com.

Need more reasons to come? Visit Tourism Powell River. I'll see you here! -- Margy

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Woodstove Sock Puppet

They say, "Necessity is the mother of invention." I've written frequently about the wood stove that is the heart of our cabin, especially in winter. Over the years, we've learned a lot about living with a woodstove. Not all of those lessons have been easy. One of the most difficult was smoke blowing back into the cabin, especially during windy storms. One solution was the installation of a revolving weather chimney cap.

The cap works well, but only if creosote is cleaned from it's underside and the chimney pipe. Because we use our stove almost 24/7 during the winter, we find that we need to do that cleaning once a month. We pick a fairly warm day and let the fire die. First we disconnect the interior pipe and manually clean it's interior, paying special attention to the 90 degree turn through the cabin's wall.

Next, Wayne goes up on the roof to clean the chimney cap and exterior pipe. When our good friend John installed our new cap, he also installed a new section of outdoor pipe with a T-joint and a built in clean-out hatch. This really works well for cleaning the vertical pipe, but it actually makes it harder to clean out the exterior portion of the 90 degree turn as the pipe goes through the cabin wall.

Here's where my invention comes in. I call it my wood stove sock puppet. We needed a device that was flexible enough to feed through the bottom of the pipe and up into the 90 degree bend to scoop out the creosote. A bent wire coat hanger, an old sock and some twisties from bulk food bags were recycled into the perfect tool. Now our chimney pipe can be clean from top to bottom.

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Powerful

Earlier this week I wrote about capturing the power of wind with our AirX wind generator. It's good to be able to use wind create extra electrical power at our float cabin. But the wind doesn't always bring good. Sometimes it's bad.

We get gale force (and a few times hurricane force) winds as storms move in and out. We've learned the hard way to keep our deck clear to prevent precious items from diving overboard to a watery grave. Even so, we lost an empty propane tank (fortunately our friend John found it floating in the Hole), a large heavy sawhorse, numerous plastic barrels and buckets, and the top to our BBQ.

Recently, I woke to the sound of wind roaring in like a train from the north. When it hit, a picnic tabletop Wayne salvaged tore loose and became a giant Frisbee. The loss would have been bad enough, but during it's brief flight it took out both antenna on our boat moored nearby. Not a good thing for sure. Whether good or bad, the wind sure is powerful. - Margy

Sunday, March 15, 2009

AirX Wind Generator

Our float cabin in Hole in the Wall is off the grid. We use solar, but from October through March the amount of sunlight available for power generation is limited because our cabin is in a water filled valley. On the shortest day, "sunrise" over Goat Island is at 10:00 and "sunset" behind the trees on the other side of Hole is at 1:00. So, as you can see, even on a sunny day we can't store up much electricity in our batteries.

One day while walking through Canadian Tire we spotted an AirX wind generator. We thought it was worth a try. The AirX is a 400 watt wind generator manufactured by Southwest Windpower. The blades start turning at 8 mph, but power generation doesn't start until about 10 mph. To reach the 400 watt capacity, there needs to be a steady breeze of 28 mph. Two special features include a charge controller that stops power generation when the batteries reach full charge, and overspeed protection to prevent damage during high wind conditions.

We only get winds in the Hole during storms, but now that we use the wind for power generation you won't hear us complain too much. Now you'll hear us chant, "We're making power, we're making power!" We'll, at least until something is swept off the deck. Here's our AirX in action during a recent storm.

Do you generate your own power? I would be interested to hear about your experiences. - Margy

Friday, March 13, 2009

Winter 2009 British Columbia Snowpack

This week we had a cold snap with a light dusting of snow.

It stuck on the ground long enough for a few good shots against the clearing sky.

A March 11 bulletin from the British Columbia Ministry of Environment states that the snowpack for the South Coast is well below normal (63%). Peak snow accumulation will be over by mid-April, so there isn't much time left.

That doesn't bode well for river and lake levels this summer. Right now, Powell Lake is almost at it's lowest level since our arrival in 2001, and it's only March.

Low water input combined with high water extraction for electrical generation is going to make it difficult for many float cabin owners. Our cabin is in 80' of water, but others have much less depth to work with. Unfortunately, beached floats can be easily damaged. -- Margy

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Power Pack Backpack by Outdoor Products

Wayne and I do quite a bit of traveling, and every where we go (for better or worse), our computers go. We carry all kinds of stuff, so backpacks with lots pockets help us stay organized. When we were in Eugene, we walked to REI. While browsing the aisles, I found the world's best backpack! It's the Power Pack by Outdoor Products.

What first caught my eye was the pockets. Next came the quality construction, and the added bonus was the laptop compartment. The Power Pack comes in two colours. I chose the black, and Wayne took the brick and black combo. There's a small zipper pouch on the lower front, a padded zipper pouch for glasses near the top, two side zipper pockets covered with mesh pouches and a large "quick stash" pouch with clips and a velcro closure.

Unzip the first compartment and there are numerous slots and zipper pouches to stow your digital gear and other small items. Right now a lot of my things are in ziploc baggies hiding in the bottom of my current pack's main pouch. Trying to find them is a challenge. I'm really looking forward to having all of these organizational tools.

Unzip the next compartment and there's a section they call the media organizer. The media folders at the bottom keep books, papers and magazine in order. The folders can be compressed to make this center section into a main compartment to carry things like a change of clothes for overnight trips. Often, Wayne and I will only take a backpack so that we can easily walk to our destination.

Unzip the last compartment and there's a padded section for a laptop computer. It can handle both large and small laptops because of a removable padded cradle. Because of the placement at the back of the pack, the computer is easy to remove for those trips through airport security.

But that's not all. Tucked up against your back are two security pockets. The top one includes a retractable identification holder for tickets, passports, etc. The bottom one is a zippered storage pocket for other valuables. The comfortable padded straps include a mesh cell phone pouch (actually too small for my old style phone) and several accessory loops.

Next week I'll get to give my new backpack a full test when I use the Quick Shuttle and Pacific Coastal Airlines to head back to Powell River. It probably won't be any lighter, but at least I'll be able to find my things a whole lot easier. - Margy

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"One Man's Wilderness" by Dick Proenneke

Living in a float cabin on Powell Lake BC makes me interested in reading and watching films about other people's wilderness experiences. Tonight I saw Alone in the Wilderness for the first time. I just happened to find in on PBS while clicking through the channels. It's about Dick Proenneke who built his own wilderness cabin in the Alaskan bush country back in the 60's. He lived there alone until he was in his 80's. The film is old, but the story is timeless. If you can't find it on TV it is available on DVD or VHS.

Dick Proenneke's life was also chronicled in the book One Man's Wilderness, An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke (1973).

Dick Proenneke retired at age 50 in 1968. His dream was to live alone in the remote Alaska wilderness. He brought his dream to life by building his own cabin using mostly natural resources found in the bush and skills he had learned to get the job done. Along the way, he kept a journal and took many still and video pictures. It took eighteen months to complete his log cabin, but by the first winter it was ready for occupancy. The book chronicles the cabin's construction. It also includes lots of observations about the land, plants and animals of the region. In 1973, Dick's journals and pictures were compiled into a book by his friend Sam Keith.

I enjoyed both the book and film. It amazed me to learn what one man could do with just hand tools, trees and rocks from the region, and a few construction items like tar paper and cement. I even got a hint about how to bake better biscuits on my wood burning stove. If you have ever dreamed about living in the wilderness, you will enjoy this book. You can find more information about Dick Proenneke and his Alaskan wilderness experiences at www.dickproenneke.com. -- Margy

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Coastal BC Birds: Canada Goose

Canada Goose

On Monday, I saw the first pair of Canada Geese returning to Powell Lake. It wasn't at my home in Hole in the Wall, but down at the Shinglemill marina. Maybe they will soon return to their regular nesting place in the back of the Hole. It's a sure sign Spring isn't too far away.

The Canada Goose is a very vocal bird. I could hear the pair coming from a long way away. The geese range from the arctic tundra of the Canadian north all the way south to the Gulf Coast. The long black neck with a brilliant white chinstrap makes them easy to identify. Geese mate for life, the pairs returning year after year to their preferred breeding grounds. Nests are made of dry grasses lined with down in a raised area near the water's edge. A clutch of 2-8 eggs takes about a month to incubate, then the babies grow for 6-7 weeks before they can fly. Soon there will lots of bird action to watch in the Hole. I can't wait.

Want to know more? See ...

Love Canada Geese
All About Birds
Ducks Unlimited Canada
Hinterland Who's Who
Thanks for visiting. -- Margy

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Woodstove Cooking: Firebox Baked Potatoes

I just had a wonderful, quiet week at my float cabin on Powell Lake in Coastal BC. It may sound like an expensive thing to do, but actually, it's a very economical way to live. Because the cabin is off-the-grid, there are few ongoing costs. But we have a few enhancements to make our life more comfortable. One of those is our wood stove.

Our stove kept me comfortably warm each day. The light from it's perpetual flame brightened the dark nights. An added benefit was cooking one of my favourite comfort foods - baked potatoes. It's simple, but oh, so satisfying.

All of my home grown potatoes are gone, so I bought a few Russets. Wash, dry and rub the skin with a little margarine. That's all except for double wrapping it in aluminum foil, carefully sealing the edges so that none of the margarine leaks out onto the stove.
I placed the foil wrapped potato on the shelf at the front of the fire box. Turn it once and in half an hour it's ready to eat.

I love my baked potato loaded. I planned ahead and had the toppings ready to go. Yum - just the right thing to warm up my tummy on a cold winter night in front of the fire.

Want to check out some of the other things I've cooked on or in my wood stove? Take a look at these:

Pouch Potatoes
Wood Stove Sourdough Wheat Bread
Baking Powder Biscuits
Dutch Oven Rustic Apple Pie
Dutch Oven Apple Crisp
Easy Chili
Dutch Oven Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Cabin Carrot Cake
Do you do any wood stove or stovetop baking? I'd love to hear your recipes. - Margy

Monday, March 02, 2009

Winter Garden Chores

While I was enjoying the solitude up at the cabin, I took some time to get my floating garden ready for spring. Before leaving town I purchased several bags of peat moss and manure. But before I could start working up the soil, I needed to clean things up a bit.

Each year I leave my root crops (potatoes, carrots and beets) in the ground throughout the winter. That way I can go out and harvest them as needed. So far they've survived freezing temperatures and snow on the ground. I pulled the last of them and discarded any that were damaged by the elements or insects. I still had more than my refrigerator could handle.

A really helpful book on preserving crops is Stocking Up: How to Preserve the Foods You Grow, Naturally by the Editors of Organic Gardening and Farming. Yes, this was another of my used bookstore treasures. It's a great reference for harvesting, storing, drying, freezing and canning fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, and nuts, seeds and grains. They gave me the hint to leave my root crops in the ground through the winter. Now that I have them out of the soil, I'm going to use their directions for storage (well, sort of).

They suggest placing root crops in boxes covered with straw or in wet sand. I didn't have either of those, so I used newspaper to wrap my carrots and beets. The best storage place is a root cellar (they even have directions on how to build them) with temperatures just above freezing and 95% humidity. Not having a root cellar, I placed a moist paper towel over the newspaper to increase the humidity and then put the container under the bed in the downstairs bedroom. The floor there stays cool because of the cold water under the cabin's float. Until my new garden starts producing, they will be welcome additions to our meals.

Do you store or preserve crops from your garden? I'd love to hear about your experiences. - Margy