Sunday, November 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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Working Boats of Steveston BC

As you can tell, I really enjoyed my trip to Steveston BC. Today I want to share about the working boats you will find in the harbour. While there are a few pleasure boats mixed in, the majority are fishing boats and tugs.

The Steveston Harbour is a bit unique. It's located in the mouth of Fraser River.

It's close to the Strait of Georgia to get tidal effects, but it also gets lots of fresh water from the river outflow. This is good for boat hulls and engines. Salt water is more corrosive. Plus, the location gives more protection during the fierce fall and winter storms we get with high winds. Here's a short clip I took from Garry Point Park.

Go on weekends during the winter or most any day in the summer and buy fresh fish off the working boats. Can't beat that for taste or price! -- Margy

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kite Buggy in Steveston BC

On Tuesday I shared about my overnight trip to Steveston, BC. While I was there, I went to Garry Point Park where the Fraser River enters the Strait of Georgia. It has a nice trail along the river and ocean's edge. In the middle is a large grassy area with an undulating surface. It surprised me, but here is what I saw.

I saw this man launch his large kite on the brisk breeze, when I looked back he was hurtling towards me. Looks like he was having lots of fun. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Return to Steveston BC

Last weekend I went on a short return trip to Steveston, BC. I had three reasons for my trip: 1) a respite girl's weekend out, 2) a chance to meet my blogging friend Susannah from Wanderin' Weeta in real life, and 3) to pick Wayne up early Sunday morning at Vancouver Airport. Don't you just love multitasking?

I made a reservation at the Historic Steveston Hotel for Saturday night. I called them direct and was given several options. I chose the standard room for less that $75. The rooms have all been updated and of course, there are larger and fancier ones. That's my room over the word "Hotel." The rooms are upstairs. Downstairs is a wonderful cafe serving hearty breakfasts and lunches to locals and visitors alike, and a full-service liquor store. Here's a quick tour of my room.

The Village of Steveston is located at the mouth of the South Arm of the Fraser River as it enters the Strait of Georgia. It has a long history as a fishing port, with the Gulf of Georgia Cannery which is now a national historic site. It was built in 1894 followed by what was then called the Sockeye Hotel (apropos wouldn't you say) next door, Today, you will also find the Buck & Ear pub, a great place for a brew, sports TV, and food.

I met my blogging friend Susannah and her good friend Laurie out front. With the drizzly rain, we opted to go into the hotel cafe for coffee and tea. When the skies cleared, we wandered the streets looking into some of the fun shops. Steveston Marine got most of our time, then we went over to wharf to see the boats and the busy fish market.

The next morning it was an easy 20 minute drive to Vancouver International Airport to pick Wayne up. It was a great weekend getaway. Stop by Steveston and see for your yourself. -- Margy

Sunday, November 13, 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

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Canning: Canned Spiced Apples

With a minimal garden this year, I didn't get to do any canning. I was out of canned apples, so I decided to buy a bag at the store and use the same simple recipe from last year. To make them more to my liking, I changed the flavouring from vanilla to spices and added some red food colouring for a crab apple look.

Canned Spiced Apples

10 medium apples
4 3/4 cups sugar
4 cups water
4 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon red food colouring

Fill a large bowl with water then add one tablespoon salt and one tablespoon vinegar. This will be a "bath" to keep the apples from turning brown while you get them all peeled and cut.

Peel, core, slice then put apples in the water bath. Mix sugar (I ended up using a cup less to reduce the sweetness), water, food colouring and spices wrapped in cheesecloth in a large pot and bring to a boil to make a heavy syrup.

Drain and rinse the apples. Carefully add them to the heavy syrup and cook for 5 minutes or until they become translucent. Stay just under the boiling point to prevent foaming. Spoon the apples into clean hot jars, cover with boiling syrup leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

The syrup is very sweet, making the apples a good side dish or topping for ice cream. I had a lot of syrup left over and hated to waste it. It had a spicy apple flavour, so I tried putting some in 7-Up and it made a tasty fall drink. Later, I got some club soda and that was even better. Do you have any favourite fall apple recipes? I'd love to hear them. - Margy

Friday, November 11, 2011


After the storm, spots of sunshine came out over the Strait of Georgia.

Each time there was an opening in the clouds, it was like a spotlight highlighting the water and islands below. -- Margy

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cabin Cooking: Restoring a Cast Iron Frying Pan

I've mentioned before that my favourite thrift store is the Powell River Hospital Auxilliary Economy Shop. Every chance I get, I pop in to see what's on the shelves and racks. Over the years I've found lots of "treasures." This week I scored big time. I have a regular route. First the caps, next the baskets, then the kitchen items. There on the bottom shelf was an 10 1/2 inch cast iron frying pan.

The price was right at $2.00, but when I picked it up the old oil was gummy. It felt really yucky, but I knew I could take the pan home and restore it.

I looked online and found "The Irreplaceable Cast Iron Pans." It wasn't exactly following the directions, but the first thing I did was get out an SOS pad I knew was hiding under the sink. I also grabbed the Comet even though I knew it was a drastic move. I ran some really hot water, soaked the pan for a few minutes, and then started adding some grease of my own, elbow grease.

Several soaks and scrubs got me down to a clean, smooth surface. The next step was to lightly oil the pan inside and out. Then it went into a 450 degree oven for thirty minutes.

After cooling in the oven, I repeated the oiling and baking process two more times. Now I have a clean, well seasoned cast iron frying pan that will serve me well for many more years up at the cabin. Thank you to whoever donated it to the shop. Both the hospital and I were winners. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

All Off-board

Mom just finished a month's vacation with us in Powell River. October was beautiful with some sunny warm days, and lots of colourful leaves. Mom stays in our town condo. When Wayne and I can go up to the cabin, we get home care attendants from We Care in Courtenay. Attendants ride the ferry and Mom gets a kick out of watching them arrive right from her living room chair.

Last Saturday Mom and I packed up Bertha (her big white Buick) and drove back to her home in Bellingham. When we got to the Saltery Bay terminal thirty minutes before departure, I was shocked to see no other cars. My first thought was I had goofed on the time. but it was just the off-season quiet.

Since we were #1 in line, we got the #1 spot on the ferry. From the comfort of our car we got to see the passing scenery. That was great for Mom since getting to the passenger deck wasn't possible. And when we arrived at the Earls Cove terminal, we got to really see what happens when the ferry docks and prepares for offloading.

Taking a ferry to and from Powell River is commonplace for residents, but it's hard to become immune to the beauty of the experience. -- Margy

Sunday, November 06, 2011

You'll Get a Charge Out of This

Yesterday was the last day of Daylight Savings Time (DST) across Canada and the United States. Today at 2:00 a.m. we turned our clocks back (Fall back) one hour and began using local standard time, a big reminder that the days are getting shorter and darker earlier.

With less sunlight, we've learned to manage our power up at the cabin. Our electrical system has grown from one solar panel to three, backed up by a wind generator (for stormy nights). We've also grown from two to ten deep cycle batteries to store the energy for cabin use. But it isn't enough, especially during short cloudy winter days.

Consequently, we use alternative light sources for evenings. One is propane, but it isn't bright enough for reading. Thus, we turn to battery powered lights. But we were using lots of batteries and were concerned about both cost and the environment.

Now we use rechargeable reading lights. With bright LEDs they give plenty of light and have lots of power to last through long winter nights.

The first ones we got (on the left) were made by NexxTech from The Source in Powell River. We still like them best, but they're no longer available. Last Christmas, Wayne and I (unknowingly) got each other new ones made by ReLight from Amazon. They have four LEDs and are OK, but aren't quite as bright.

So, if you're a reader and need a little extra light, go rechargeable and help our environment at the same time. -- Margy

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Shared Storage

Each fall we get visited by Bushy-tailed Woodrats. They leave their "calling cards" on Wayne's chaise pad, and help me harvest the last of my veggies from the garden and pots. They are so organized that they nibble plant stems and then pile the leaves to dry before storage. When we know one is in the area, we use our live trap and work out
a relocation.

Just above the high water line, John built a wonderful shed for us to use to store those things that don't fit into the cabin. He even gave us a window, just to see what might be going on outside. Of course, we have to be careful what we put inside. One reason is that the woodrats think it's there just for them.

Woodrats are notorious for taking and hiding bright shiny objects. When I clean the shed after an invasion, I'm always finding objects from the shelf mixed in with their food items. This time a yellow paint brush was placed on top of the dried weeds. What a decorative flair they have.

When I took the woodrat's cache out, I found lots of dried ferns, moss, and salal berries. Mixed in, it looked like some of my lettuce and sage. I felt bad about destroying the cache of food, but our shed isn't the best place for the mess. Fortunately, woodrats are known to create multiple food caches surrounding their nest. Losing this one shouldn't make winter devastating. -- Margy

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Three Buckets Full

One of my last chores in the floating garden was to dig up the last of my old strawberry plants. The mother plants are about nine years old, and they have stopped being productive. I started the job at the beginning of the month, but wanted to finish it before I have to leave the cabin in early November. I approached the task using the three bucket method.

I used one bucket to save rooted runner plants. I put them in my strawberry nursery pots on the deck. In the spring I will use them to help start my new beds.

I used another bucket save the leaves to use as mulch for my asparagus roots.

The last bucket I used for stems and roots for the compost pile. It's tough for them to decompose by spring unassisted, so I use my nippers to cut them into small pieces. Having a small garden allows me to do things like this on a small scale. Now the soil can rest all winter. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Preserving: Picking Thyme

As I put my garden to bed for the winter, it was time to trim back and take my last picking of thyme. It's one of my favourite herbs for cooking. It's so versatile in soups, stews and marinades. My thyme plant is about five years old now. One side has died back, but the other still produces tasty leaves. I'm hoping the haircut will stimulate new growth come spring.

I tied the stems into bundles and now they are hanging in my new bathroom to dry.

After a few weeks the leaves will be dry and ready to store. A quick run of my fingers down the stems easily removes the tiny leaves. Here you can see my sage and rosemary ready to be stored. I've saved Crystal Light plastic canisters for bulk storage. And now I have my new pantry to keep them out of the light. I put small amounts into hand painted spice containers to keep next to the stove. -- Margy