Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beam Me Up, Johnny

Our good friend John has been working steadily on his new cabin this month. So far, you've seen a little bit about the float assembly and raising the cabin walls. Much of the construction has been done by John himself, but when it came to the high work he got helping hands from his dad Ed, his brother Rick and my husband Wayne. The extent of my assistance has been moral support, ladder holding and photo journaling.

I missed the day that the front and back wall extensions went into place, but looking at the pictures Ed took I can imagine the exciting event. A tall pole was used to hold a block and tackle assembly. Then the framed peak was lifted and nailed in place. Once the back was done, the front came next.

Each peak was notched to accept the heavy ridge pole. John went up the ladder while Wayne and Ed helped raise the end of the pole up to him. John used the front wall and window cross beams to inch the pole up a bit at a time up and finally into the slot in the front peak. It was a manhandling feat! I was on ladder holding duty for this part, so there are no pictures. But here is a short video clip of the other end going into the center support.

The back half of the beam was glued and nailed in place, but that was a lot easier because the guys could stand on the loft. Ed sure seems happy to have this part of the project done doesn't he? He's a great dad and a good friend to us as well. -- Margy

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cooking Wood

The "winter" season has started and our Kozi woodstove is working most of the time. Throughout the summer we've gathered wood and stored it away in our floating woodshed. Smaller wood and kindling is stored in large plastic tubs under the front porch and up in the onshore storage shed.

Recently, we acquired some damp lumber trimmings from our good friend John. He's building a new cabin and gives us his leftover wood scraps. It's good for him. He doesn't have to find a way to discard them. And it's good for us, we get a constant supply of easy to burn chunks.

But you don't want to burn wet wood
. It is less efficient (decreased heat output) and increases creosote buildup (and potential chimney fires). So on sunny days, you'll find us "cooking" our wet wood. We spread it out on the deck and flip it like pancakes several times throughout the day. When the sun goes down, in comes our wood. After several days of cooking and air drying under the porch it is ready for the wood stove.

Stay tuned! Our Kozi wood stove is soon to have a new purpose. We are picking up our new thermoelectric generator this weekend. By next week it will be installed and helping us to charge our cabin battery bank. This winter we'll have more electricity than ever before. What an exciting prospect! Have you ever used a thermoelectric generator? I would love to hear about your experiences. - Margy

Friday, October 23, 2009

Water and Sky

In Coastal BC, the easiest ways to travel to remote locations is by water and sky. In some cases, both at once. Around here, float planes are used for work and pleasure.

On Powell Lake, most float planes support the logging industry. They take workers to sites up and down the lake. We often see them skimming low through First Narrows in front of our cabin.

At times, boats and float planes share the same space.

But after a short run, the plane can take to the sky.

And off to work, or play, or to discover the adventure of a lifetime. -- Margy

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Coastal BC Insects: Obtuse Sawyer

Obtuse Sawyer

If you take the time to look, there are discoveries everywhere. Last year on Peter's deck I saw a beetle with very long antennae. From the Insects of the Pacific Northwest guide, I think it was an Obtuse Sawyer (Family Cerambycidae). It is a long-horned beetle well known for wood boring. Trees around here hardly have a chance, the Western Conifer Seed Bugs destroy the cones and the wood borers destroy the trees.

Eggs are laid on the bark and the larvae do the boring damage. Fortunately, most species prefer weakened, dying or freshly cut logs. The Obtuse Sawyer (Monochamus obtusus) is one of these.

If you want to see some excellent insect pictures, head on over to Wanderin Weeta's site. Susannah is from Delta BC and she takes pictures throughout the lower mainland. I especially love her closeups! -- Margy

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"An Unknown Woman" by Alice Koller

We've just had a wonderful week up at the cabin. Lots of solitude and quiet, with plenty of time for reading. When I was at the Cozy Corner Books and Coffee in Bellingham, I found An Unknown Woman by Alice Koller (currently out of print but available several places online). It's about a woman who chose to live in an isolated place in order to discover more about herself. That has a familiar ring to it. Alice Koller chose the shores of Nantucket in winter, I'm up the lake in British Columbia - not too different except they're on different coasts and in different countries. But let's not split hairs.

Alice was highly educated, a doctorate in philosophy, but troubled by her relationships, especially with men, and difficulty in getting a meaningful job. So at thirty-seven, she embarks on a voyage of analysis and self-discovery. Her tools are isolation with minimal distractions, sorting through letters and memories of the past, and thinking and writing to discover connections. Alice takes all of her savings to rent a cottage on the shores of Nantucket during the winter off season. Her only companion is a new puppy she names Logos. He will be her only living contact for "reasoned discourse," so she memorializes his importance with this term from her philosophy background.

In her isolated cottage and on desolate beaches with only her puppy, Alice lays out her past for critical examination. The book is about where she came from, the paths she took along the way, and where she might end up. During the months of her quest, she reached emotional highs and lows, and at one point even considered suicide. But before she runs out of money (and time), she makes some startling discoveries.

I enjoyed reading An Unknown Woman for several reasons. First of all, I liked her writing style. It was open and honest. I learned from her experiences and how she approached her self analysis. It was also interesting to see how someone else lived in an isolated place with minimal contact with the outside world. (OK, I know Wayne isn't a puppy, well, at least most of the time.) And it gave me an example for writing about your own life. Somewhere in me there is a book, but it just isn't ready to come out yet. -- Margy

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cabin Baking: Sourdough Wheat Bread

When I first made this recipe, I used my woodstove as my cooking appliance. You can see how that was done by clicking here. This week while we were at the cabin, I wanted to make some bread. But this time I chose a more conventional appliance, my propane oven. That made the baking process a lot easier.

The night before I got my sourdough starter out and fed it. By morning it was good and bubbly. I chose a recipe from the Family Circle Illustrated Library of Cooking (look in a used bookstore for this out-of-print collection) and cut it in half to make one loaf for the two of us.

Sourdough Wheat Bread

½ envelope active dry yeast (1 1/8 teaspoon)
¾ cup very warm water (100°F/38°C)
¾ cup sourdough starter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour (extra for kneading)
1 ½ cups wheat flour
  1. Sprinkle yeast into very warm water with half the sugar and let stand 10 minutes to foam. This will ensure your yeast is good.
  2. In a large bowl blend the yeast mixture, sourdough starter, remaining sugar and salt. Beat in 1 cup all-purpose flour until smooth. Add 1 ½ cup wheat flour a little at a time until completely incorporated. Mixing at the end is easier with your hands.
  3. Turn out on a board and knead for 10 minutes. I don’t have a board so I use plastic wrap taped to my counter. Use about ½ cup all-purpose flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the board.
  4. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. I use margarine. Roll it over to coat all sides.
  5. Cover with a towel and put in a warm place to rise (1-2 hours or until double in size).
  6. Punch the dough down, turn it out on a board, cover it with the bowl and let it rest for 20 minutes. While you wait, grease a 9x5” baking pan (or cookie sheet) and sprinkle it with cornmeal. I used a baking pan because of the limited space in my wood stove.
  7. Knead the dough a few times and then roll it into a loaf shape. Pinch together any open seams on the bottom. Place the dough in the baking pan, cover with a towel and put in a warm place to rise again (1 hour or until double in size).
  8. Make slits 2” apart on the top to prevent cracking. If you like a crispy crust, mix 1 teaspoon corn starch with ¼ cup water. Brush the surface of the bread before and once again during baking.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes in a 400° oven. When the bread sounds hollow and is golden on top it should be done.
I did have a problem using my propane oven. I use a thermometer on the baking shelf because the propane oven heats up much hotter than the dial indicates. I have to regulate the flame to get the right temperature and then monitor it to make sure the bread doesn't bake too fast.

The final product as a tasty loaf of bread that I literally made with my two hands. That is such a good feeling and a wonderful way to spend a cool fall day. The bread makes a firm loaf so it was perfect for munching warm, garlic toast for dinner and finally french toast for breakfast. Yum!

Do you have any cabin or camp cooking recipes? I'd love to hear about them.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Cabin Cooking: Corned Beef Hash for Two

We're finally home, our real home, our cabin up the lake. I'm going to make Wayne one of his favourite breakfasts to celebrate, Corned Beef Hash. It's so simple, but it tastes terrific. Right now I have lots of produce from the garden to make it even better. I grew Norland potatoes in a barrel and stored them for just such an occasion.

Corned Beef Hash for Two
2 large potatoes
¼ onion diced
¼ green pepper diced
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
50 grams sliced corned beef
salt and pepper to taste
Cut the potatoes in quarters and boil them until fork tender. You can do this ahead, or just before you prepare the hash. Chop the onion and green pepper. Cut the boiled potatoes into small cubes.

Melt the margarine over medium heat in a frying pan and add the potatoes, onions and peppers. It is best to have only one layer for browning. The trick is to not turn them over until they become golden brown on the bottom. Dice the corned beef. Flip the potatoes, add the corned beef and brown the other side.

While the last side is browning you can start the eggs. Poached or fried go nicely on top or along the side. Serve with toast, jam and coffee, and you have a perfect breakfast. -- Margy

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tweeking the Transom

When you live on a lake, you like to have your boats and engines be reliable ones. A little over a year ago, our good friend John located a used 14' tin boat with a 15 hp motor for us. Both have served us well, but the engine has progressively gotten worse. Every few months something went wrong. John is a master mechanic and always got it back in working order, but it wasn't reliable.

On several occasions, we barely got it re-started to get home. One notable incident involved a plastic part flying out at Wayne when he pulled the starter cord. After that, we asked John to help us find a new motor for our trusty little tin boat. We ended up purchasing a new Honda 15 hp 4-stroke outboard to replace the old, tired Evinrude. But don't be too sad. I'm sure the Evinrude will find a new use either in John's or our endeavors.

The new Honda is quiet and smooth, but also heavier. After John helped us get it installed, he and Wayne took it for a test drive. It was immediately evident that the transom would need beefing up to handle the heavier, more powerful Honda. John gave the dimensions to a local fabricator for an aluminum plate. Placed over the back of the transom, it stopped the wood from flexing when power was applied.

Once it was glued and riveted in place, we were ready to go fishing. But another down side of our new motor is it's increased power at idle. To slow down to trolling speed we have to use the "two bucket" method. But the up side is we have a reliable boat for pleasure and emergencies at the cabin. -- Margy