Thursday, June 30, 2011

Inexpensive Storage

Last week you saw the completion of my new bathroom. I was so excited, I didn't know which to use first - the toilet or the tub. Well, nature took care of that decision for me. On my first night back, I used the wood stove to heat four big pots of water. What a luxurious feeling to sit back and have a hot soak.

The next thing was to put together the bargain pantry I found at Walmart. It was originally $89, but on sale for just $49. It's made of MDF (medium-density fiberboard), but it's quite sturdy. And it came in a white finish that is perfect for my new room.

While I was in town with Mom, Wayne put it together for me. You may wonder why I'm putting a pantry in the bathroom. First, in a small home you use the space you have wisely. Second, it will be the coolest room and that's the best spot to store my canning.

Up on top, Wayne has space for his model Coast Guard Cutter that has been displaced because of our kitchen remodel. I think it looks good here, giving a spot of colour against the light walls. What do you think? -- Margy

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Up the Lake Appliance Delivery

In 2008, I shared a post about my kitchen. Since we purchased our cabin home from our good friend John in 2001, we haven't changed much inside. But this year we've undertaken several improvement projects. Last week you read about the completion of our bathroom and side porch. Now we've moved on to the kitchen.

Our kitchen remodel is much less involved, but the results are still going to be dramatic. We decided to leave our kitchen counter and shelves the way they are. We love the simplicity. So the first step was replacing our propane appliances. John picked up our new refrigerator and stove at Rona.

John's friend Ernie loaned us his converted boat barge (normally used to transport quads on the lake) to haul our new appliances up to the cabin. When you live in a water access only location, you have to be a bit inventive. John backed down the boat ramp and the quad ramps dropped from the barge right onto the tailgate of his truck. That made the transfer of the heavy appliances a lot easier.

When they got to the cabin, the barge backed up to the deck. The ramps reached all the way to the top deck, making the off load just as easy. When the installation was done, the process reversed to remove our old appliances. But don't worry. They are going to a good home. John is taking them down to his new cabin. Bro is hoping we left a few doggie treats inside for him. -- Margy

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Premier 30" Freestanding Propane Range

During our kitchen renovation, we purchased new appliances at Rona here in Powell River. Andy was very helpful as I was making my decisions and our good friend John took care of the installation. Since we are off the grid, I needed propane appliances.

The range is a 30" Premier freestanding model. It comes in several colours, but at Rona the only choice was white on white. But that's what I wanted anyway. It brightens up the kitchen and matches my white counters. This model operates on either natural gas or propane. It's 3 inches wider than my old range, but fits fine at the end of the counter. And because it dropped into same spot as the old range, all of the propane lines were in place ready for John to hook up.

There are four burners. I cook with the front two, keeping the back ones to store my boiled lake drinking water. Each side has a small pilot for easy lighting. We had to light our old burners with a lighter. It's a habit hard to break.

I love the oven. It's 25" wide with two racks and lots of room. There are special settings for propane, but I found it still runs hotter than the dial. I keep my trusty oven thermometre inside to make sure I don't overcook it.

There's a pull-out broiler. This is also where the oven pilot is located.

We don't know how much propane the pilots will take. While we are at the cabin, we leave them running. But when we leave for a long time, the range has a master cutoff valve under the top. It's fairly easy to reach, but we'll have to be sure to light all three pilots when we return and restart the propane.

I love my (oops our) new range. One of the first things I did was can spiced apples. It was so nice to have the larger cooking surface for my canning pots. I know Wayne (he cooks dinner) and I will get lots of good use out of our new range. It was money well spent. -- Margy

Monday, June 27, 2011

Search for a Propane Refrigerator

Our search for a new propane stove was fairly inexpensive and easy because houses sometimes use gas. Refrigerators are a whole different animal. Home refrigerators are almost exclusively electric.

Propane refrigerators are most often found in small sizes for trailers and RVs. When John built our cabin, he got this used 8 cubic foot model out of an old trailer. It served us well for over ten years, but we yearned for more space in both the freezer and fridge.

We looked online and in several stores, but the RV models are too small. They also aren't finished on the outside because they are designed to fit into a modular unit. At Rona here in Powell River, they carry Unique brand propane refrigerators. They are made in Ontario, Canada, but are distributed throughout North America. It's a home-style refrigerator, but runs on propane. And we could get it in a 13 cubic foot model (they go all the way up to a massive 18).

Because it is larger than the space under the stairs, we changed the location to the end of the sink, a good spot for kitchen use. It's also a good place because we (John actually) had to install a new propane line from our tanks on the other side of the wall.

Look at all that space in the freezer, fridge and doors. It fills up fast, but there's plenty of room for frozen meats and fresh foods.

Our Unique refrigerator lives up to its name. Propane refrigerators work a little different than electric ones. I don't profess to understand the process, but electric models use a gas called tetrafluoroethane, a motor, a compressor and coils to contain the gas/liquid cooling process.

A propane refrigerator has a few more steps including a propane flame powered generator to create ammonia gas, a separator, a condenser, an evaporator (where the cooling occurs), and an absorber. It's a closed, continuous-cycle system as long as the propane is burning.

Here you can see the condenser fins that are part of the cooling process at the back of our top refrigerator shelf.

Propane consumption for our 13 cubic foot model is 1.4 pounds per day at maximum cooling. We have ours set lower. Where we live, a pound costs $1.00. We are still in the process of calculating our actual consumption. We have three 40 pound tanks, so we can run our refrigerator full time (and stove and lights) for over a month without going back to town for refills.

Because burning propane indoors might cause carbon monoxide emissions, the refrigerator must either be vented to the outside or have a monitoring device installed. We opted for the monitoring device. We just have to be careful that the 9 volt battery inside is charged. Otherwise, the propane will be shut off and that would be a bad thing!

If you are in the market for a home-style propane refrigerator take a look. As they say:
It's not just a fridge.
It's Unique! -- Margy

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kitchen Magician

John is like a magician at everything he does. I let him know what I need and he makes it happen like magic. Our kitchen storage counter and shelf are two examples. As a part of our kitchen remodel we decided to get rid of our dining table (which we never used for eating) and replace it with a storage unit (which is what we really needed).

I drew a design with the dimensions and gave it to John. A week later, Wayne and I picked it up at John's house. Under our new outdoor porch out of the rain, we got it painted with two coats of semi-gloss white to protect the surface and to blend into our existing kitchen colour scheme. The wide open area on the side was designed to stack cases of pop and other large items.

The long floating shelf under the window holds our electronic devices including cell phones and satellite radio. The tall, deep shelves hold my large canning and water heating pots. I calculated the distance between the counter top and floating shelf to hold my cookbooks. And of course, it wouldn't be our kitchen without a telescope would it? Thanks John. You've worked your magic again! -- Margy

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Let There Be Light

When we remodeled to add our new bathroom, we lost the window in the guest bedroom. It has always been the darkest room in the cabin. That's because the window faced north where our massive granite wall is located. So we asked John to cut us a new window facing west while he had all his tools handy.

First, the interior paneling had to come down. That was fine with me because moisture stained the bottom. Then he removed the insulation and reworked the moulding which provides support for the floor of the upstairs loft.

John used the studs to size the width. My wood storage shelf, which would go underneath, determined the height. A few cuts and I sort of had a window. Once John got the frame completed, he took measurements to Rona and ordered a custom window.

In the meantime, he put the exterior wall back up to keep out bugs and critters. We replaced the interior paneling with primered pine sheets like the bathroom and painted with matching mould resistant semi-gloss off-white paint. That helped to brighten up the room. Here you can see the new window on the left during our cabin painting project.

Now we get a lot more light in the guest bedroom, the adjacent bathroom, and even out into the living room area. And a west facing window gives us light later in the day when we need it most.

Thanks John for making our home an even nicer place to live. Come back on Thursday for a full tour of the remodeled room. -- Margy

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A New Coat

In Coastal BC, cabin maintenance and upkeep is very important. The wet climate encourages wood structures to mould and rot in quick order. Our cabin is of wood frame construction with sheets of exterior pre-primed 4'X8' plywood siding. The cabin was painted with Wedgewood blue solid finish exterior stain and then repainted by us in 2007 using the original scheme.

We are about a year early (every five years is a good schedule), but with the new construction we thought a "new coat" all around would be a good idea. And this time we decided to make a change. Wayne and I picked a warm tan to go with our hunter green trim and blue metal roof.

While I'm in Bellingham, Wayne has started on the lower walls. It takes three coats to cover the old blue, but it is well worth it. (I guess that is easy for me to say.) Doesn't the new colour look nice against our high rock wall? But what colour do you think Wayne will pick for the propane shed? He likes bright ones.

Wayne'll wait for me to return later in September to do the high ladder work under the peaks. At least I'll be able to feel I helped a bit. -- Margy

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Boom Chains

Logging is an important part of the history and present for Powell River. The forests were logged for trees to provide lumber to build the Townsite and to sell on the open market. Logging also provided the timber necessary to create pulp for the paper mill that founded the town.

Today, pulp for the mill is imported on barges, but logging is still an important part of the economy in Coastal BC. Times are tough, but there is still work in the forests. While new technologies have changed the industry, some of the tried and true methods continue.

One "piece of history" you will see in use today is the boom chain. Large logs are chained together to create corrals for the logs being floated to market. Here's a boom on Powell Lake ready to go to the south end and waiting trucks. Take a look at Paul's "A Powell River Photo Blog" for a great post about that part of the process.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you are looking for a strong link to keep your logs together, a boom chain is the epitome of beauty. Holes are drilled at each end of a boom log. The chain is threaded through the end of one log using the flat end.

Then it is threaded through the hole of the adjacent boom log. The large ring prevents the chain from falling out of one log. The flattened end is placed perpendicular to the log on the other end, creating a strong connection that can withstand the extreme forces created by wind, wave and towing.

I am not a logging expert, but I know that boom chains also help us keep our cabin's log boom perimeter in places. Thanks to the logging industry, I have a safer home. -- Margy

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Powell River Open Air Market is Back!

People living in Powell River have to be just a bit more self-reliant. Even though we live on the mainland of Coastal BC, it's like living on an island. To get to Powell River you need to take a ferry, airplane or private boat. While this does cause some isolation, it also makes our community a strong one.

The 50-Mile Diet is a big thing in our town as it is in many places across Canada. People are more concerned these days about where their food comes from and how it is grown. We even have several restaurants in town that serve meals that meet the 50-Mile Diet criteria. How about that?

Many people here have backyard gardens. There are also several rich farming areas near Powell River. New regulations, especially on meat sales, make it difficult, but the farmers continue to produce locally grown items for garden gate sales, local restaurants and our weekend farmer's market.

The Powell River Open Air Market is held at the Paradise Valley Exhibition Park on McLeod Road each Saturday (10:30-12:30) and Sunday (12:30-2:30) from late spring to fall. In addition to vegetables, you can find fresh baked bread, gorgeous flowers, crafts, guest speakers, good food and great music.

Look for a farmer's market in your own home town, even in urban areas. Try growing a few veggies in your own yard, pots on your balcony, or places as unlikely as my floating garden. Even if everything you eat isn't from a 50 or 100-mile radius, you will have more nutritious and delicious meals. Happy gardening, shopping and eating! -- Margy

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Growing Rhubarb

Last year year I wanted to see if I could grow rhubarb in a pot on the deck. I started with a bare root and put it in a cut-off small blue barrel. You aren't supposed to harvest any stalks the first year, but I did snitch a few for a strawberry rhubarb pie.

I wasn't sure if the roots would survive through the cold of winter with so little soil to insulate them, but I was pleased to see an even heartier plant this spring.

The stalks are longer and thicker already and the season has just begun. Of course, this year we had a mild winter so maybe it won't be the same all the time. But I am chalking this up as one of my container gardening success stories.

Do you do container gardening? What have been some of your successes? -- Margy

Thursday, June 16, 2011

International Traveling Feline

I originally wrote this post several years ago. But with our impending car and ferry trip from Bellingham to Powell River, I thought it would be a good time to share again for all my cat lovers.

I was really afraid when it was time to move my cat Stick Tail from Pomona to Bellingham. But the flight on Alaska Airlines, including a transfer in Seattle, went without a hitch (Flying with My Cat). Stick moved in with Mom and adjusted almost immediately to his new surroundings. Now they are inseparable (Stick on the Job).

The next challenge was taking Mom and Stick north to Powell River by car and ferry (Driving with My Cat). I was afraid Stick would try to escape, so I started out using his carry case. He voiced his complaint quite vociferously. I shouldn't have worried, he's such a fraidy cat.

The last leg was up the lake to our float cabin (Stick on a Float). The boat ride's his least favourite part, too noisy and bouncy. The up side is he has a blast exploring the cabin and float structure, and once he even got over to the sheer rock wall (Hole in the Wall Mountain Cat).

Now, the trips to and from Bellingham are pretty commonplace. Stick doesn't have to ride in the carrier and there's no need to use a relaxer any more (he really hated the taste anyway). In the back seat of the car he has his blanket (crocheted by Mom, of course), litter box and water dish -- a home on wheels. But where does he choose to sit? On top of the carrier - go figure.

Stick still gets car sick, but we are prepared. We carry towels and baggies to take care of the mess. Cats are like humans, they can get car sick too. After he has cleared his stomach, the rest of the trip is pretty enjoyable for Stick.

Here are some things I've learned while traveling with my cat:
  1. Purchase a carrier that gives your cat plenty of room.
  2. At home, open the carrier for non-threatening exploration.
  3. At home, put some catnip in the carrier to make it attractive.
  4. Put your cat in the carrier for short periods of time.
  5. Take your cat on several short practice drives.
  6. Research airline and border crossing requirements.
  7. Carry your cat's original rabies immunization certificate.
  8. Get an additional Health Certificate for airline travel.
  9. Check with your vet or pet store about anxiety remedies.
  10. If you are traveling early, limit or skip your cat's breakfast.
  11. Use the carrier for initial car trips and all airline trips.
  12. Allow your cat to get out of the car carrier after acclimated.
  13. Use a leash or harness if needed to hold or catch your cat.
  14. Have a passenger hold your cat for about 20 minutes.
  15. Have a towel handy for car sickness or shedding hair.
  16. For long trips, have water and litter available.
  17. After arrival, hold your cat for about 20 minutes.
  18. Close bedroom doors before releasing your cat.
  19. Take your cat's own dishes, toys and litter box, if possible.
  20. Remember, cats are more adaptable than you may expect.
Happy traveling, cat and all! -- Margy

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Decorative Logs

A lot of people get interesting logs to improve the appearance of their yards. It's no different when your "yard" is a part of a lake.

Our yard is defined by "working logs" called a boom. These are large skookum (strong) logs linked together to cut down on wave action during storms and from passing boats.

Inside we like to have interesting logs to provide a little colour.

This spring, two new logs came to adopt us. One was quite warn and covered with moss. I like the airy holes where the roots used to be.

The other log was long and flat, with a great growing surface for future flowers. It already has a good moss covering and tall grass. Roots grow down through the wood for a constant water supply even in summer heat. This new log resembles my old "garden log" that disappeared last winter. The lake taketh, and giveth on it's own schedule.

After planting a few seeds, logs like these can become great flower gardens. Here's a stump we got several years ago.

It has been producing a garden of lupine for several years now. Doesn't that make an attractive floating flower box? By the time you read, this we will be on our way to our cabin home. Be ready for more stories of our summer adventures. -- Margy

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cardboard Kindling

When I got to the cabin, the second thing I found was my downstairs bedroom filled with big cardboard boxes. There were so many I could hardly get inside the door. The garden tools I won from Sunset Magazine and a new BBQ were all encased in lots of heavy cardboard.

Everything that comes up the lake must either be used or taken back down the lake. Cardboard is one thing we keep and use. Yesterday, I sat on the deck with my trusty ever-sharp kitchen knife and whittled the three big boxes down into kindling to start fires in our woodstove.

We have places to recycle cardboard in town, but this way I get an added benefit right at home. Do you recycle or re-use some common items? I'd be interested in your experiences. -- Margy