Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cabin Baking: Buttery Sourdough Pan Rolls

I fed my sourdough starter and ended up with too much to put back in the plastic jar I keep in the refrigerator. I hate to waste, so I decided to make some dinner rolls.

I found a recipe in Sunset Cook Book of Breads (Sunset Publishing, 1994), a cookbook that came from my mom’s collection. Mom loved to bake, even though Dad teased that he was First Cook in the family. The truth, was they shared cooking responsibilities, a habit Wayne and I have emulated.

Buttery Sourdough Pan Rolls

Sunset says, “The soft yeast dough for these rolls requires no kneading, yet it still results in moist, airy biscuits.” The reason is rolls are small, so gluten doesn't need to be strong enough to hold up the weight of a loaf. Rolls and biscuits  only need to have a uniform mixture.

As usual, I didn’t want a large batch just for the two of us so I cut the recipe in half. Sometimes this is difficult to do, but with this one it was easy except for the egg, which I left whole.


1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (about 110°F)
2 cups flour
1/8 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
½ cup sourdough starter
¼ cup warm water (about 110°F)


Sprinkle yeast over warm water. Let stand until foamy (5 min).

In large bowl, mix 1 cup of flour, sugar, and salt. Add yeast mixture, 3 tablespoons of melted butter, starter, milk, and lightly beaten egg. Beat until smooth by mixer or hand (5 min).

Gradually beat in the remaining cup of flour. Because of the extra egg I used an additional ¼ cup flour to keep the mixture from sticking to the sides of the bowl. At the end, it was easier for me to use my hands to incorporate the last of the flour.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 45 minutes).

Stir dough down. (At this point your can either refrigerate the dough to use in the next 3-4 days, or freeze the dough for future use).

For six rolls, coat a 6x8 baking pan with one tablespoon butter. Drop dough by large spoonfuls. Cover lightly and let rise in a warm place until puffy (about 30 minutes). The rolls will expand to touch each other.

Drizzle rolls with remaining tablespoon of melted butter. Bake in a 425°F oven until browned (15-20 minutes). Turn rolls out of the pan and pull apart to separate. Makes a dozen. Serve warm with butter.

Dough to freeze in parchment paper.
Even though I cut the recipe in half, I froze half for later. When I’m ready, I’ll thaw the dough at room temperature for 2 ½ to 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Then it’ll be ready to form it into rolls to rise the final time before baking.

Next time maybe I’ll make the whole batch and freeze even more for quick and easy dinner rolls to go with Wayne’s cabin deck BBQ entrĂ©es. -- Margy

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Small Cabin Living

Some people live in small cabins by necessity, some by choice, some on a seasonal basis, and some year round. Whatever the case, it's exciting, rewarding, challenging, and satisfying. Each day you have the opportunity to experience life in a very meaningful way. Wayne and I have always enjoyed the outdoors. But we didn't really get to have such a close relationship with nature until we started living in our float cabin on Powell Lake.

When we can't be at our cabin, we're thinking about it. I like to read books about cabin and wilderness dwellers. I also like to search the Internet for off-the-grid living tips, and to find other link-minded individuals. Here are a few of my discoveries.

Our Small Cabin is a website about building a small cabin from land acquisition to living off-the-grid. There's also a forum where readers can communicate with each other.

Mother Earth News is both a magazine and a website. They have excellent articles on alternative energy, gardening, homesteading and self-reliance. They also have forums on related topics that have a wealth of information and people to meet.

Tiny House Blog by Kent Griswald has lots of articles and ideas for living in all kinds of small homes. Guest posts give you more links to tiny homes, products, and personal experiences.

Solar Burrito Blog covers off-the-grid living in a wilderness cabin, cabin construction, camping, renewable energy, useful products, and more. There's also a YouTube channel with more information.

Backwoods Home Magazine online focuses on self-reliant living and a well used forum. I particularly enjoy the associated blog Ask Jackie Clay. You can submit your own question, or just read the posts and answers to others questions for lots of help.

Nichole Lischewski's Wilderness Blog
is new to me and exciting to read. Nicole lives way off the grid where the Yukon Territory, BC and Alaska meet. She's an amazing woman!

Preparedness Advice Blog
focuses on emergency preparedness, food storage, and survival, but there are a lot of crossovers with off-the-grid living. There is also an associated YouTube channel.

Have you found any good books, websites or blogs about cabin or rural living? Post them in the comments section so that we can all explore your finds. -- Margy

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ready, Set, Grow my float garden is highlighted on my favourite Powell River blog, Powell River Daily News. Head on over for the rest of the story.

Last week I amended my vegetable garden soil with composted manure. I do this in March so the soil can rest before planting in April.

Do you have a garden? Is it large or small? Do you have pots on a balcony or a few things growing in a windowsill? Gardening can take many forms.

I don’t have land where I live up Powell Lake in a float cabin. My good friend John helped out by building a cedar log float with four one by two metre raised beds. It's a kitchen garden with lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, beets, carrots, onions, radishes, tomatoes, and herbs. On the cabin deck I grow other vegetables and flowers in pots. It’s not enough to be self-sustaining, but the home grown produce is a nice addition.

I keep the garden tied to the breakwater most of the time. That keeps my plants away from shore and hungry critters like mice, squirrels, and woodrats. A simple pulley brings it next to the deck for gardening or to pick something for supper. Then, a gentle pull sends it back out to its protected spot.

A solar panel and bilge pump let me water with a hose. I garden like you would on land, but I do have to be careful not to put anything harmful on the soil or plants because we drink the lake water after boiling.

My garden is a bit unique, but it shows you can garden just about anywhere as long as you have soil, water, sunshine, and loving hands.

On April 3 and April 6 (Easter Monday) my float cabin and garden were included in a CBC radio special about alternative housing across Canada. The show includes a rebroadcast of an interview conducted by Willow Yamauchi (who grew up in Lund) in 2013. You can read more about that program and hear my segment by clicking here.

Thanks for visiting my float garden. If you would like to know more, select the “Gardening” category. If you would like to know more about what a great place Powell River is, visit Powell River Daily News. -- Margy

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Portrait of a Man and his Dog

We were heading up the lake on our way home to the float cabin when we passed our good friend John and his dog Bro.

They were taking advantage of some late winter sun and the warm golden glow from moss on the cliff. -- Margy

Friday, March 13, 2015

"There's a Racoon in my Parka" by Lyn Hancock

I'm always finding interesting used books at the Powell River MCC Thrift Shop for a great price. Their collection includes books donated locally augmented from their chain of stores across Canada and the States. Here's one of my $1 bargain books.

There's a Racoon in my Parka (Seal Books, 1978) is a memoir written by Lyn Hancock. It chronicles Lyn's marriage to zoologist David Hancock and the set up their Wildlife Conservation Centre at Island View on the Saanich Peninsula near Victoria on Vancouver Island. Here they studied and rehabilitated animals and birds, some of which became like pets.

The main focus of the book was the 1970 transplant of sea otters from Alaska to remote Checleset Bay in the Bunsby Islands off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. The story followed their overland trek to Alaska to film background information for future video tours and educational presentations.

Then Lyn and David met the Canadian Federal Fisheries boat the G.B. Reed in Alaska's Prince William Sound for the second relocation effort to reintroduce 45 sea otters to British Columbia. 

One of the adopted critters that the Hancock's rescued was a small racoon they named Rocky. He was so small he snuggled in her parka hood. He grew up along the way and became the star of the show.

I enjoyed how Lyn wove history and geography throughout her narrative. I enjoyed it so much, I purchased two more of her early books online from Amazon.

Lots has happened with the sea otter reintroduction program since those days. You can find more information online:

Globe and Mail "The Remarkable Comeback"
The Tyee "Too Many Sea Otters?" Part 1
The Tyee "Taking Aim at Sea Otters" Part 2
Fisheries and Oceans Canada "Sea Otters"
Sea Otter Recovery website
Lyn Hancock's website

Have you ever raised a pet? How did that go? -- Margy

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Spring Cleaning the Cabin Exteriour

Changing from blue to yellow in 2011.
Okay, it isn't spring yet, but the weather on the west coast has been milder than usual. In a year's time, mildew has accumulated on our cabin walls, especially on the shady side.

The last time we painted was in 2011 after our bathroom and porch addition. We used CIL solid wood stain from Canadian Tire and it's still in excellent condition (except for the ugly mildew of course). We estimate the paint will last five years. Maybe this time will be longer since it took three coats of yellow to cover the blue.

Mildew stains on wood siding.
Mildew can be easily removed.

STEP 1: Mix cleaning solution with four parts water and one part bleach.

STEP 2: Moisten a small area and let it sit for several minutes. Wear old clothes! Bleach stains!!

STEP 3: Using a brush (I find a broom works well except in tight corners) and more solution, scrub the area until the mildew is killed and the dark stains disappear. Do a small area at a time.

STEP 4: Rinse with fresh water. A garden hose works well, but I didn't have one. A bucket of fresh water and my trusty broom gave everything a good rinse.

STEP 5: Let dry and enjoy your refreshed paint job.

Not wanting to be wasteful, I used the remaining bleach solution to clean several areas on the deck that were slimy and slippery with algae.

Don't use a strong bleach solution because it can be harmful to plants and animals. Keep runoff to a minimum in all cases. Some websites recommend using products like OxiClean because it breaks down and is less harmful to the environment. I have not tried it though.

How do you handle mildew and algae problems indoors and out? -- Margy

Monday, March 09, 2015

Quad Ride at Chip North on Powell Lake

Logging areas are usually named after geographic locations. One major logging area on Powell Lake is in and around Chippewa Bay.

Access is available at three locations, the main Chippewa Bay dock, Chippewa (Chip) South on the lower west side of the lake, and Chip North up past First Narrows, also on the west side of the lake.

We used the barge to take our first quad ride at Chip North. Logging is done for now, so we didn't have to check in with Western Forest Products.

We went on a Sunday when access is open for recreational users. But it's always safer to check if you are in doubt.

Our original destination was Clover dock on Goat Island, but Road Cruise was tied up to the dock.

That meant road building was in progress, and where there's road building, there's often dynamite.

Our second choice was Olsen's Landing, but as we started in that direction we saw Chip North right across the lake. 

Even though logging ended several years ago, the barge ramp is in excellent condition. 

The dock, however, has a sunken spot. Since we were sure no one else would be using the ramp, we left our barge there. That way we didn't have to wade our way to shore.

The morning fog started dissipating, turning into a nice day for riding. 

Since we were the first through after winter storms, trees blocked the road. Fortunately, they were small enough to remove with our chainsaw.

We took the lower road to the right, thinking it would go over the ridge, but it ended abruptly.

We went back to the junction, but the steep sided road reminded me I'm not completely "cured" of my fear of heights.

I stayed behind while Wayne proceeded up the road to the left. He found a slash with glacial erratic boulders that seemed poised to roll down and crush a float cabin. Then he went over the crestl.

After the slash grows and hides the steep drop-offs I'll see what's on the other side.

In the meantime, I enjoyed exploring on foot and capturing the scenery with my camera. -- Margy

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Red Huckleberry

Red Huckleberry

With late summer comes the ripening of berries, a treat for animals and humans alike. One prime berry comes on the Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) bush.

The bush grows from 1-3 metres (3-10 feet) tall in dry to moist forest areas. While most are rooted in soil, you will sometimes see them growing on old logs and stumps.  Small white flowers give way to edible fruits in late summer.

The Red Huckleberry is a native of British Columbia, and the bright red, tart berries were used by First Nations peoples fresh, with animal fat, and dried for the winter. A mixture with Salal berries was also common.

Today, Red Huckleberries are prized for making baked goods, jams, jellies, and sauces to accompany meats because of their tart flavour. If you know where they grow, try some yourself. -- Margy

Sunday, March 01, 2015

PRB Highlighted on Powell River Daily News

Citizen Journalist at Powell River Daily News has invited me twice to be a "guest columnist." Today it's a reprint of my post about Circumnavigating Goat Island. You can see it by clicking here.

Looking towards Second Narrows with Goat Island on the left.

Thanks Citizen Journalist for the opportunity to share the my favourite lake and the best place on earth.

If you would like to know more about my hometown Powell River, British Columbia, here are a few links. -- Margy