Friday, December 28, 2012

Day is Done

When we are in Powell River, we love to be at our cabin, but sometimes we have to go to town to get some business done. Coming home to a view like this does have its compensations.

The sun is pretty far south this time of year, but it makes a warm glow as it dips behind Vancouver Island to the west. This is one reason they call this the Sunshine Coast. Think of us next time you are planning a trip. The scenery is beautiful, the people welcoming, and the possibilities for fun endless. You can obtain more travel information at or check out -- Margy

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Coastal BC Birds: Snow Geese

 Snow Geese

Where once I saw a kite buggy dance in Garry Point Park in Steveston, BC, now a pond has appeared. And not just any pond, a landing pad and home for lots of Snow Geese looking for a place to get out of the harsh winter weather up north.
In the golden glow of sunset, it looks like they picked the perfect spot.  Some of these geese look like the dark morph variety.

Bet they had a rude awakening the next morning with about 10 centimetres of snow on the ground. Who knows, they just might take flight and continue south to the Skagit Valley in search of a "warmer" winter home. -- Margy

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sunset in Steveston

This week I took a mini-vacation to one of my favourite places, Steveston, BC.  It is a historic fishing village turned into a great getaway, film location (Once Upon a Time and the upcoming Psycho prequel to name a few), place to live, and a fishing village.

Nearby Garry Point Park is a great place for walking, picture taking, and boat watching at the mouth of the mighty Fraser River.

It's also a great place to see spectacular sunsets. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Coastal BC Plants: Mushrooms


This time of year, mushrooms are big business in Powell River.  Locals and visitors alike comb the forest floors for edible shrooms such as Pine Mushrooms, Chanterelles, and more. Mushroom buyers pop up in town almost as quick as the shrooms themselves.

Up at the cabin we don't see many of the edible versions, but we do have our own fungal displays just the same.  Here's a cluster sprouting from the edge of our on-shore shed.
All the moist weather makes even the wood foundation a healthy growing spot.  I think these are called Mycena fusco-occula.  If you are a shroom expert, maybe you can help out with the identification. Even if they were edible, they don't look substantial enough to bother with. -- Margy

Sunday, December 16, 2012

"The Hulks" by John Campbell

They say, "Necessity is the mother of invention."  When the paper mill was founded at the mouth of the Powell River, there was no protected harbour or anchorage. Over the years, a variety of methods were tried to protect the logs and barges needed in the paper making and distribution process.

After World War II, the current solution was implemented.  A series of retired concrete ships and barges were brought in and anchored off shore in a protective arc around the mill.  These ships are lovingly called The Hulks.

Each ship is anchored in place with enough draft and height to break the wind and waves during heavy storms.

You can read more about this unique breakwater in The Hulks: The Breakwater Ships of Powell River by John Campbell available through the Powell River Historical Museum. -- Margy

Friday, December 14, 2012

O' Dawn Thirty

One thing about dawn coming later, I get to see one once in a while.
One recent morning was very pretty.

Red sky in the morning ... well, this time of year either one storm is moving in, or one is moving out. But at least the skies in between are spectacular. -- Margy

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Tin Boat

Up at the cabin we have a very important boat. She doesn't have a fancy name.  She just goes by, "The Tin Boat." But without her, our chores around the float wouldn't be as easy.

She's 14 feet in length with a bright red upper hull.  Our good friend John found her for us used, and we've used her a lot more since. She came with a run-out motor, so we purchased a new Honda 15-hp outboard. It's about the maximum she can handle.  Even so, we had to beef up her transom to handle the extra weight and power.

Here Wayne's working on one of our cliffside anchor cables. When you live on the water, you need lots of boats for lots of reasons. -- Margy

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cable Up

Living on the water, we have to anchor ourselves to shore in some way.  The choices are heavy ropes or steel cables.  When John designed our cabin, he chose cables.  Steel is strong, but over time (when mixed with water) it rusts.  During storms with heavy winds, sometimes the cables are stressed to the point they break.  That has happened to us several times. Fortunately, not all at once.

The first time for me, I was alone at the cabin for the very first time (read the story of Frontier Jane here). The second time, John invented a tire shock absorber system with steel belted tires.  Those tires and cables have been in place since 2007, but last week one of them snapped at the cabin end, sending the entire system straight down into the lake.  Our remaining three anchor points held us almost in place until the storm subsided.

Here's a video of our John-built tire shock absorber system in action.

Here's what it looks like with a temporary way-too-thin rope holding the corner of our cabin in place. It should hold us until we can get the necessary cable and tires, and reinstall the system.  Even with the buoyancy provided by the water, steel cables are extremely heavy to work with.

The next day Wayne and I had to return to the States. John came up by himself with the materials needed for the repairs.  Here is what it looks like now.  John was able to man handle the heavy tires out of the water and attach the new cable going to the cabin float.

The tires were still in good condition, so he didn't have to change those. He chose a new anchor point that would keep the steel cable from rubbing  so much on the log.

 John always amazes me. He can do so many things alone that be near impossible for two. He truly is a Jack-of-All-Trades. -- Margy

Monday, December 10, 2012

Woodstove Cooking: Sauteed Kale "A Hot Mess"

Sometimes you think you invented something, only to find it elsewhere a short time later.  That's what happened with the kale dish I made on top of my cabin wood stove. My winter greens are producing well, so I though I would experiment a bit.

Sauteed Kale
Also Known as "A Hot Mess"

5 cups fresh kale
1/4 small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
salt and pepper to taste   
1/4 cup walnuts

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add crushed thyme leaves to release flavours. Tear kale leaves and add them a few at a time to the pan to wilt.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and water to help with the wilting process.  Add walnuts broken into pieces.  Cook uncovered until the kale is firm, but tender.

 This simple dish can be either a side dish, or a main course, depending on your mood.  Stay tuned tomorrow to find out about the newest pub in Powell River, BC.  They have a small, but interesting menu, including a small entree they call "A Hot Mess." -- Margy

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fly by Night

I do a lot of travelling by Pacific Coastal Airlines between Vancouver International's South Terminal to my home town of Powell River. I love it! I can be home in three hours including my drive from Bellingham to YVR, a short wait after check in, and a 30 minute flight.  Not bad when you consider the driving and ferry alternative of seven to eight hours.

I usually fly up early in the day so that I can get up the lake by boat to our float cabin home during daylight.  This trip didn't work out that way.

This time of year, the 4:30 pm flight is on the ragged edge of night, especially on a cloudy, rainy evening.  No matter, I still got to my destination quick and easy. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Wood Storage Shelf Construction

Wayne and I were raised as cityfolk, so living off the grid was new to us. Of course, we had our good friend John as a mentor, but we learned a few things on our own. The first winter we had a terrible time with wet wood. We brought firewood into the cabin to dry before burning, but there was no place to store it. 

I sketched a plan and had the lumber yard in town cut all of the pieces to size before I took them to our cabin by boat. The major component is 2X4s. My first learning experience was that they aren't really that size. Processing reduces them to 1.5X3.5. Here's a link with more information. Fortunately, the different dimensions didn't ruin my plan and everything still went together fine.

First I painted the pieces with two coats before assembly. That way all I needed to do was put on a final coat to cover nail holes after completion. Because it was raining, I did most of the construction and all of the painting inside our kitchen.

The shelf is now out of the way (but still handy) in the corner of our guest room. The top shelf gives me much needed storage space. During winter, the shelf can hold about 3-5 days of wood for our Kozi woodburning stove. We rotate the wood every few days with the dry wood going to the right and damp wood from outdoors on the left. With both our outdoor wood storage float and our indoor wood storage shelf, we rarely get caught with wet wood anymore. What a relief!

Here are my plans. Click  them for a larger view with details about how to build a wood storage shelf of your own.

If you have any questions, leave a comment. For more information about our cabin experiences you can visit, or check out Wayne's newest book, Off the Grid. -- Margy

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hazy Reflections

Each season has its own beauty. The cold days of fall often bring fog to the surface of the lakes in our region.

Quads allow us to use a network of logging roads to get into our back country. Many days you can be all alone to enjoy the solitude.

These pictures of Nanton Lake almost look black and white, but it's just the hazy lighting that makes them look that way. -- Margy

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fly the Friendly Skies

The waves of storms we've been having are interspersed with sunny breaks. Last week when I took Wayne to Vancouver International Airport, a beautiful rainbow emerged from the darkness.

From the ground, it could be seen from horizon to horizon, much wider than my lens could capture.

I wonder what it looked like for the passengers of this jet? -- Margy

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ever Green

Evergreens get their name because the remain green throughout the year.  When deciduous trees like alders and maples lose their leaves each fall, the evergreens continue to give our hills and mountains a nice green glow.  Around our Powell Lake home, the evergreens include fir, hemlock, cedar, and some pine.

With a little sunshine, the distinctive colour of each variety comes out.

The forest is a prolific entity.  When trees are cut for roads or logging, seeds rapidly sprout to take back the clearings. In less than a year, alders begin to grow. Evergreens follow shortly thereafter.  Roads are soon obliterated.  But a little use and trimming keeps abandoned logging roads open for quads and hikers.

On a quad ride, we saved some seedlings from the road bed. Now our planters have evergreens we can enjoy year round.  On the left is a cedar, and on the right a two-fer, fir and hemlock.

When they get larger, we'll transplant them on our granite cliff to join our natural evergreen forest. -- Margy

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Boathouse, Houseboat

This picture lets you reflect a little bit on the meaning of words.  Boathouse - a "house" built for boats.  Houseboat - a boat built to be a "house" for people.

Crisp fall days can produce some of the best reflections here on Powell Lake in Coastal BC.  In case you missed it, check out our Powell Lake home that was featured on the Travel Channel's show Extreme Houseboats.  They call it a houseboat, we call it a float cabin. Either way it is a great place to live. --  Margy

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bundled Bro

It may be fall, but winter weather has arrived, especially in the high country. Down at the cabin it's wind and rain, but snow is starting to accumulate in the mountains.

Our good friend John and his Black Lab named Bro don't let a little cold stuff slow down their back country exploring.

They just bundle up and head out to enjoy the smoother trails and quiet forests.  Hopefully I get out there on my next trip home. -- Margy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


When I took Wayne to the airport this week, I saw an interesting sight.  Taxiing by was a Dash-8 owned by North Cariboo Air with a mustache on the nose. I grabbed a quick shot as it was moving past.

I did a bit of research online and learned that their fleet of planes are participating in Movember which supports men's health, men's mental health, and prostate cancer.  Starting on November 1, men around the world start clean shaven, then grow mustaches.  Their participation helps raise awareness about these important issues and raise funds at the same time. Thank you North Cariboo Air.  You made me more aware of these important issues. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Salmon Run Up Sliammon River

I follow Rod Innes of Powell River, BC, on YouTube so I can be notified each time he submits a new video.  This week I discovered a wonderful documentary of the Chum (Dog) Salmon running up the Sliammon River to spawn.  Watch this informative video and you will learn a lot about salmon in the wild, salmon preservation efforts at the local Sliammon Hatchery, and great views of the Powell River region.

The Sliammon Hatchery is in the Sliammon First Nations village just north of Powell River on Highway 101.  If you are in the area, the hours of operation are from 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Friday.  Thank you Rod for this excellent documentary. -- Margy

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Getting Stumped

Fall is the time of year when the water level in Powell Lake is at its lowest. That's because there's little rain over the summer, and power generation at the dam sucks away quite a bit.  Fortunately, because our float cabin is in about 90 feet of water, we are safe from going aground. The up side to the dry season is that,many submerged stumps emerge to provide a more "decorative" shoreline.

Now that the rain has arrived in earnest, everything will look a whole lot different when I get back home. -- Margy

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tomorrow's Gonna' Be a Brighter Day

You may have been wondering where I've been these last few weeks. Usually I only miss a few days when we're up at the cabin without the Internet.  This time I've been staying close to Mom to help her through a difficult time.  Now that things are settling down a bit, I'll be able to get back to cabin living and share about our off-the-grid experiences.

Nature reminds us that better times are always on the horizon as in the words of the Jim Croce song, Tomorrow's Gonna' Be a Brighter Day.

But there's truth and consolation
And what I'm trying to say
Is that nobody ever had a rainbow baby
Until he had the rain ...

Come on tomorrow
It's gonna be a brighter day
Thanks for all the caring comments. Mom is doing better day by day. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Winter Greens

This year I decided to grow some winter greens.  When my float garden was finished with its summer crops, I replenished the soil with all-purpose fertilizer and added Swiss chard and kale seeds. By late September, I had some nice sized sprouts that gave us fresh and healthy additions to our salads and vegetable dishes. With our mild start to fall, there was plenty of good growing weather.

I now see I underestimated the size of kale. Since I had plenty of room in the bed, I should have given each crop more growing room.

But maybe staying close on those cold winter nights will keep them more warm and cozy. I'm hopeful that both will last through spring. This is the first time that I have grown kale. In fact, I'd never tasted it before. I must say I like it even more than the chard.

Do you grow any winter crops? What has been successful for you? - Margy

Friday, November 02, 2012

Comox Gets Hammered

It's been rainy lately, but I think Comox across the Strait of Georgia is getting the worst of it.

Look at this rain cell focused on top of our across-water neighbour. -- Margy

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween is in the Air

All around town there are events celebrating the upcoming Halloween holiday. Yesterday at the Town Centre Mall here in Powell River they had a free Pumpkin Fest.

Here are entries from local businesses.  The Cut is a local hair salon.  See how Mother Nature used flowers to decorate their jack-o-lantern? It's a wonderful pet and gardening store.

And here are hand carved entries from the kids who attended. It was evident, a great time was had by all.

What are your plans for Halloween?  We'll be up the lake.  Hope no ghosts or goblins come to scare us. -- Margy

Saturday, October 27, 2012

National Cat Day

October 29, 2012, is National Cat Day.  I can't think of a better time to share the wonderful cat in our lives.  He goes by many names, Norwegian (he looks a bit like a Norwegian Forest Cat), Stick Tail, and recently Pepper and Kitty Cat.

Stick had a close encounter of the hurtful kind with a coyote.  Shortly thereafter, he came to us and we took him in.  The coyote had bitten off the tip of his tail, so we took him to the vet. His tail was promptly shaved and stitched, hence the name Stick Tail.

At the ripe old age of 12, he moved north from our home in Pomona, California, to live full time with my mother in Bellingham.  He didn't like the airplane ride under the seat, but settled into his new surroundings quickly.  Since then, Mom and Stick have been inseparable.

Now he's 18 and still going strong. Well, as long as he gets his cat naps.  Mom calls him Pepper (after a former black cat), or just Kitty Cat. Both are a bit deaf, so a lot of communication occurs through body language.

Stick is even more important now that Mom has lost her mobility. He keeps her company, entertained, and warm when he sleeps on her lap. I don't think he misses his outdoor wandering days one bit. Condo life seems to suit them both just fine.

Do you have a special cat in your life? Let us hear about him or her for this special day. -- Margy

Friday, October 26, 2012

Season's First Rainbow

The last two weeks we've had unsettled weather. One day it was overcast in the morning, cleared to partly sunny with puffy white clouds by noon, followed by a storm with cool temperatures, high winds, hail, and heavy rain.

That was followed by a quick clearing and a beautiful rainbow between us and Goat Island. In Powell River, they say, wait a couple hours, and it will be a whole different season. That day it was really true, a bit of fall, a bit of summer, a bit of winter, and then back to summer. -- Margy