Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saving Dahlia Tubers

I've purchased Dahlia tubers for years to plant in my flower pots. Last year I left the tubers (thickened underground stems that send out roots) in the ground. They rotted. This year I'm digging them up and to save over the winter.

Digging up my dahlia tubers:

I waited until November and our first frost to dig up my dahlias.

I trimmed the plants back to three inches of stalk. They were really hard to dig out of my pots, so I loosened the dirt around the edges and worked my trowel underneath to lift the tubers out as carefully as possible.

I let the tubers dry on the surface for a day, and then transferred them to the picnic table to dry for another two days. By then, the soil was dry and easy to brush off. I was amazed how many new tubers were in each cluster.

I used scissors to clip off the feeder roots and secondary tubers coming off the main tubers. Check out Bren W's YouTube video.

I chose not to divide my tubers. Each pot gave me two tuber clusters.

Storing my dahlia tubers over winter:

I placed my cleaned tubers in paper bags for storage. I didn't have peat moss, but had a bag of potting mix.

The clean soil keeps the tubers moist so they won't dry out. The video below recommends periodic checking. If the soil gets too dry, give it a light mist with water. Don't get it overly wet or the tubers may rot.

They recommend a dark cool spot like a crawl space or root cellar that will not freeze.  That leaves my cabin out. I chose my spare bathroom in the tub next to my geraniums.

The guides say to keep them at no higher than 50 degrees or the tubers may rot or sprout too early. We keep our condo heaters on low (10 degrees centigrade/50 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent the pipes from freezing. Sounded perfect.

Here's a YouTube video by Longfield Gardens I used to learn what to do.

I'll let you know how it turns out. - Margy

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Coastal BC Plants: Bull Thistle

Bull Thistle

The very prickly Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare) can be found along roads, and in fields and disturbed areas such as logging slashes. I found this specimen on a logging road near Chippewa Bay on Powell Lake.

Bull Thistle is an invasive species introduced from Euroasia. It's considered a noxious weed because it can spread easily in fields, keeping stock from grazing, and can contaminate hay.

Bull Thistle is a member of the Aster Family. It's widely distributed throughout Canada and the United States. It's a biennial plant (taking two years before going to seed) that can grow up to two metres tall. Rigid upright stems have spine tipped leaves. Thistle heads are surrounded by spines and sport bright pink to purple flowers.

Seeds are dispersed by wind on silky down. They are very viable, assisting the spread of this weed. There are few natural enemies to keep it in check. The Bull Thistle is sometimes misidentified as the Canada Thistle. Both have those beautiful bright flowering heads. Goes to show, there's always something good, even in the bad. -- Margy

Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Never Fly Over an Eagle's Nest" by Joe Garner

Never Fly Over an Eagle's Nest (Oolichan Books, 1980) Joe Garner memoir and the story of his family from the early 1900s to the late 1950s.

Joe's mother and father fled the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina, headed to San Francisco by train, and took a steamship to Vancouver, BC. Oland Garner, Joe's dad, heard about the "land of mild and honey" from his father. It sounded immensely better than death back home.

Vancouver didn't work out, so the Southern couple went by ship to the growing city of Victoria on Vancouver Island and  Oland got a construction job on the new elegant Empress Hotel.

Friends on the job invited Oland and Lona to visit their home on nearby Salt Spring Island. Shortly thereafter, the couple with their young daughter Ethel moved to a place they would call home for many years.

The book follows the lives of Oland, Lona and their ten children (nine to be born on Salt Spring Island). Several chapters were written from Joe's brothers' and sisters' point of view.

Pioneering life wasn't easy in a rented log cabin, the farm they built, or the house in Ganges. Joe was born in 1909, the third child in the large family. Much of the book revolves around the strong partnership between Joe and his slightly older brother Tom. Logging, fishing, hunting and construction projects took the family members throughout the province and beyond.

Joe was a contemporary of my mom and dad, but their experiences were drastically different. Growing up on a truck farm in rural Compton near Los Angeles, my mom didn't have any difficulty in going to school, or with child labour experiences (even though she always said she wished she had a nickle for ear of corn she packed for market).

One thing I liked about the book was hearing again about other early Coastal and Northern BC residents. Lona was a distant relative of Ralph Edwards whose homesteading experience on Lonesome Lake was chronicled in Ralph Edwards of Lonesome Lake and several other books. Also mentioned was Jim Stanton, who with his wife Lauretta, homesteaded at the head of remote Knight Inlet. Their lives were the basis for Grizzlies in Their Backyard. why should you "never fly over an eagle's nest?" You'll just have to read the book for yourself to find out the answer to that mystery.

Never Fly Over an Eagle's Nest was reprinted by Heritage House Publishing in 2010 and is available as a paperback from Or check out a local used book or thrift store. That's where I found mine. -- Margy

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Coastal BC Plants: Stonecrop


We have an unusual plant on our cliff, it's called Stonecrop. It's unusual because it's a succulent that you would expect to find in a drier climate, but it seems to thrive on the sunny face of our cliff. Surprisingly, in Coastal British Columbia, you can find it clinging to the ground on rocky, exposed outcrops.

I believe ours is Sedum spatulifolium. The leaves are fleshy and sage-green to reddish. In summer, they develop bright yellow flowers on tall stems. Historically, the Coastal Salish people used Stonecrop leaves as a styptic poultice.

Are you interested in plant identification? I use Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon. It's available from or I like it because it includes trees, shrubs, wildflowers, aquatics, grasses, ferns, mosses. lichens and some oddball (and very interesting) plants. In addition to the color pictures, line drawings, and identification information, the narratives include how the plants were used by First Nations people and early settlers. I highly recommend it for the casual observer as well as experienced botanists. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Down on the Bayou

When we got to our cabin this trip, we had a big surprise. Instead of the clear blue water we're used to, it was murky and green. Seeing down below a foot or two was impossible.

We've kept records about lots of things over the years: critter observations, gardening, events in nature, the weather.

Here's what we figure. October 2014 was the rainiest October in our records. After a long, dry summer, the creek beds collected a lot of silt and debris. When the first winter rains made them run, all that gunk was washed down into the lake. More than ever before.

Because Powell Lake is so large (and deep), it has taken the suspended silt particles from the major waterfalls at the head of the lake this long to reach us down at Hole in the Wall.

No matter which way you look, it's murky and green, and has remained that way for over a week. If you go north it's the same. If you go south towards the mouth, the murkiness clears up on the surface, but the lake is still has a greenish cast. I'm not sure what is causing that part of the phenomenon, maybe tree reflections, but it's pervasive from shore to shore.

Quite the mystery. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. This is a first for us in thirteen years. Makes me feel like I'm in the south living on a bayou.

Speaking of bayous, here's a YouTube video by Enchanted Escape with bayou images set to Creedence Clearwater Revival's iconic song, "Born on the Bayou." -- Margy

Sunday, November 16, 2014

NOMA LED Twinkling Spheres

Last Christmas our good friend Jeanne gave us a set of Valerie Parr Hill Glass Spheres. When I wrote about them on my Powell River Books Blog, they weren't available in Canada.

But this week Canadian Tire came out with their Christmas Catalog and I found an ad for NOMA LED Twinkling Spheres. I went to the store to check them out. They look exactly like the Valerie Parr Hill ones.   YEA! Now we have a local option to get these great decorative items.

The NOMA spheres cost $49.99 CAD and come in small, medium, and large. They can be hung or have a flat bottom for table display.

The NOMA spheres come in silver or gold. A timer controls a 6-hour on, 18-hour off cycle. They are indoor/outdoor rated, and use three C-cell batteries that last over two months.

These are great sitting on a patio table (like Jeanne uses them), or hanging in the living room (like we do). We both use ours year-round, and at the cabin, they make a nice warm glow in the evening without using any of our limited solar-powered electric supply.

Here's what ours look like in action.

If you enjoy glowing lights at night, give either the Valerie Parr Hill or NOMA version a try. This post was also shared on my new blog Margy Meanders. Come on over and take a look. -- Margy

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sunset Barge Ride

This week we went out for an afternoon of quad riding on Goat Island. On the way home, we got some nice sunset views.

We love our cabin's location, but because of the surrounding mountains and trees our sunset views are limited.

It's nice to be out on the lake for such a beautiful view. -- Margy

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Coastal BC Plants: Reindeer LIchen

Reindeer Lichen

Lichen is made up of a combination of organisms.  All lichens include a fungus plus an algae and/or a photosynthesizing bacteria in a symbiotic relationship. Lichens are plant like, but not technically plants. Lichens cling to plants, rocks, logs or soil, but they are not parasitic. Because of their unique nature, they create their own food from sunlight, air, water and minerals.

A common form of lichen in Coastal BC is Reindeer Lichen. There are many different varieties ranging in size and colour. The Reindeer Lichen on our granite cliff if off-white, erect and forms flowing mats, especially at this time of year.  I'm not sure which variety I have, but I think it might be Cladonia rangiferina.

When winds and rains are heavy, clumps of Reindeer Lichen break free and wind up on the stairs or water. I pick it up to use as mulch. In winter, it gives by decorative plants some protection from frost. In summer, it helps hold in moisture during dry weather. Besides it's mulching properties, it's gives the cliff lots of bright contrasting colour during the gray winter months. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Helicopter Tree Trimming and Topping

Last week I shared about how a mechanical harvester has revolutionized forestry. At the same Western Forest Products tour, they demonstrated how helicopters help protect the forest from wind damage.

Trimming and topping isolated trees and trees at the edge of a cut block helps prevent blowdowns during strong winter storms.

Western Forest Products contracts with Oceanview Helicopters in Powell River to mechanically trim and top trees in danger of damage. I fly an airplane and know how dangerous down drafts can be. I can't imaging flying at tree level with a heavy cutter hanging below. An accidental snag could really ruin your day. But these guys are brave and careful. They have to be.

Oceanview Helicopters also provides services for heli-logging, personnel transport, powerline support, construction, aerial mapping and photography, medical evacuation, and even backcountry access for hikers, fishermen, and sightseers. -- Margy

Sunday, November 09, 2014

"Full Moon, Flood Tide" by Bill Proctor and Yvonne Maximchuk month I reviewed Drawn to Sea by Yvonne Maximchuk. This month I read a book she co-authored with Bill (Billy) Proctor, an upcoast living legend. Full Moon, Flood Tide (Harbour Publishing, 2003) was written first, but I’m glad I read them in reverse order. Yvonne came to live near Bill in Echo Bay on Gilford Island between Vancouver Island and the BC mainland. In addition to her own experiences, Yvonne wrote about Billy Proctor because of his major influence on this remote Coastal BC island. Her story helped prepare me for the history Billy recounts in his book.

It’s amazing how much Billy remembers about First Nations villages, and oldtimers who eked out a living by hunting, fishing, and logging in this remote location. In his opening, Billy says, “These stories are about the past that is all but forgotten, and about a special breed of people who came to this part of the coast and helped pave the way for new generations.” I'm one of the new generation, and appreciate knowing all that has gone before.

The book is organized by inlet and island groups. Maps, old photos, and pictures by Yvonne (an accomplished artist) bring the story to life. First Nations villages, logging camps, fishing spots and canneries, and settler cabins are pinpointed. A coastal cruiser could use the information to find these places steeped in history. But care needs to be taken, weather and the harsh environment make this a dangerous place for the unwary.

I especially enjoyed detailed descriptions of 1900s logging techniques, fishing for the mighty salmon, homesteaders lives, and the life cycle of a pink salmon from fry to fertilizer. I didn’t realize that much was known about their life at sea.

The phrase “full moon, flood tide” has a special meaning to Billy and the rugged individuals past and present who make BC’s north coast and islands their home. I’ll let you read the saga and discover its special importance for yourself.

I’m always on the lookout for a good book about the history of British Columbia, especially ones about women living in remote regions. If you have any suggestions, I’d appreciate them. -- Margy

Friday, November 07, 2014

Preserving: Drying Scarlet Runner Beans

At the end of the season, I let the last of my Scarlet Runner Beans "go to seed."  One year I saved the seeds to plant the following spring, but all I got was plant, no beans.

This year I saved what was left of my beans to dry for cooking.

Scarlet Runner Beans make very large pods if you let them go. Inside, the seeds really increase in size and plump out.

Before cutting down my bean plants (I grow mine in a cut down 55-gallon plastic barrel), I removed the dried bean pods.

Having dried on the vine, the pods are easy to pop open to remove the partially dried seeds from inside.

To make sure that the beans are completely dry before storing, I leave them in a pan and place them near a window where the warm fall sunshine will complete the drying process.

I store the beans in canning jars. I don't get much from my one barrel of bean plants, but there'll be enough to make a pot of chili and beans this coming winter. Waste not, want not. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Forest Harvester in Action

When Western Forest Products gave us a forestry tour, they included a demonstration of how a CAT Harvester can harvest, limb, cut to length, and stack logs in one fell swoop.

It's an amazing machine that has revolutionized the industry. One person in a computerized cab can make the massive machine run through its tricks in no time.

In addition to demonstrating how new technology can make logging safer and easier, they also demonstrated how new logging practices help protect the forests and provide the means for regrowth. This resource industry is important in the Powell River region, and it's good to know there is a company willing to take the steps needed to make our forests sustainable. -- Margy

Monday, November 03, 2014

Successfully Saving Geraniums Over Winter

I've tried saving Geraniums twice before. The first outdoor attempt was marginally successful. The roots and lower stems of two plants remained alive and regrew foliage and flowers the following summer. My second outdoor attempt was a total failure.

This winter I tried an indoor method. Because the cabin temperature can drop below freezing if we leave for an extended period, I'm cheating and leaving the plants in the condo in town. I'm trying the dormancy method.

Wait until the soil is fairly dry, then carefully remove the Geranium plant.  Brush off as much dirt as possible, but do not wash the roots.

Pinch off any flowers, flower buds, or dead leaves. Wrap the remaining stems and foliage to keep the light out. The video used paper bags, I used newspaper lightly tied with the roots exposed.

Soak the roots in water for an hour before hanging upside down. Each month, soak the roots again for one hour and rehang.

I chose to place my Geraniums upside down in a plastic tub in the condo guest bathroom tub that never gets used.

The leaves will die, but the roots and lower stems should remain viable to regrow in the spring.

Here's a video by TheWeekendgardner on YouTube that helped me.

Here are my results. I lost two of the smaller plants. In early March, I put the rest into containers with lots of water to rehydrate.

Then Wayne and I left for a three week sun-cation in Arizona.

Here's what I found when we returned. Every plant had new leaves sprouting and they looked very healthy. Tomorrow they'll get planted in my cabin deck flower pots. With a little effort, I saved a substantial amount of money on this year's blooms. -- Margy