Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 Top Ten Float Cabin Living Posts

Come on a year-end tour of the most popular
2016 float cabin living posts.

Rotating chimney cap reduces smoke blowback
Woodstove Rotating Chimney Cap -- Last winter our rotating chimney cap rusted away. To prevent smoke blow-back during windy storms, we quickly replaced it. The woodstove is the heart of our cabin, without it we couldn't live here in all seasons.

Flying home with the spinnaker.
Spring and Fall Sailing -- Late last year, Wayne and I purchased a small sailboat named Ste. Marie. We've been teaching ourselves to sail here on Powell Lake. We have the most fun using the large red and white spinnaker for long leisurely trips home from town.

Marigolds in the narrow "gutter" garden.
Rain Gutter Garden (Sort Of) -- I was cleaning moss out of a notch along the side of my floating garden and thought it would make a great spot for a narrow self watering gutter-style garden. The strawberries didn't survive, but I had beautiful marigolds all summer long.

Pollen created artistic images in the water.
Pollen Art -- Each spring there's lots of pollen in the air and on the water. Some of the heavy producers are alder, fir, pine, and hemlock. This year it was especially thick, creating artistic images in the water. And it left an enduring "rings around" the rock wall.

Hungry hummingbirds at the feeder.
Hummingbird Feeding Frenzy -- I put up my first feeder at the cabin. There were so many birds at the feeder that it became a feeding frenzy. You can watch them at my YouTube channel. The first video is normal speed, and the second one is in slow motion.

Self-loading logging truck.
Logging Equipment -- Last summer Wayne and I took our barge to the head of Powell Lake for a camping trip and to ride our quads on the many dirt roads. Logging activity was in full swing. While we were there, we saw Terry's Edgehill Hauling and Towing tug bring in more equipment.

Lots of jam making and canning.
Concord Grape and Plum Jam -- Over the summer I did lots of canning and preserving. I made both blackberry and grape and plum jam. Cucumber and zucchini pickles and relish preserved my garden produce. Gleaned apples made an almost free addition to my pantry.

Mounted Mason Bee hotels at the float cabin.
Building a Mason Bee Hotel -- In March, the Mason Bees arrived. They are solitary bees that lay eggs in small holes. Wayne and I quickly made a bee hotel to hang on our porch. We drilled nesting blocks and redesigned an old birdhouse. Check here for my bee hotel update.

No-bake sourdough bread in a dutch oven.
No-Knead Sourdough Bread -- I found the perfect recipe for no-bake sourdough. First, I had to recondition my cast iron dutch oven. Each time I made the bread I learned something new. Here are some No-Knead Sourdough Bread Tips for making it even better.

Our cabin in Pacific Coastal's Soar magazine.
Powell Lake Cabins in Cottage Life Magazine -- Wayne and I enjoy sharing about our off-the-grid float cabin lifestyle. This year we were included in a Cottage Life and Soar magazine articles. Online we were featured at Cabin Obsession and Small House Bliss.

We hope you enjoyed the tour. You can read more about float cabin living in Wayne's Coastal BC Stories series of books and e-books. Go to for more information and ordering details.

Want to see a review from last year, check out 2015 Top Ten Float Cabin Living Posts.

Hope your 2016 was as eventful as ours. Give us an update in the comments below. -- Margy

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Night Before Christmas

**With a wink and nod to Clement Moore**

'Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the cabin
not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse
(oh thank goodness).

The stockings were hung
by the woodstove with care
in hopes that something
would miraculously appear.

With Wayne in his hoodie
and I in my sweats,
we’d just snuggled in
for a cozy night’s rest.

When out in the Narrows
there sounded such a roar,
we ran down the stairs
to look out the glass door.

Rounding the point
and coming into sight
was Terry’s green tug
all decked out in lights.

Up in the sky
the stars were a-twinkling
guiding him home
without any lingering.

To loggers and tug drivers,
forest workers and all,
a very Merry Christmas
from Hole in the Wall.

Wayne and Margy Lutz

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Snow for the Holidays

We've had two snow storms with cold weather in between. That allowed the snow to stick around until yesterday when rain and warmer weather arrived.

I can't complain. There was just enough snow to make this city girl from Southern California happy.

Our float cabin home dusted in snow.

We stayed indoors watching the snow come down, snuggled in front of the woodstove. This last week it sure has gone through the firewood quick! It's amazing what a difference there is between -1 and +1 Celsius.

A winter-like view from our cabin porch.

All that snow tempted me to make a natural snow cone. Head on over to my other blog, Margy Meanders, to get a taste. -- Margy

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Cold Moon

December's full moon is called the Cold Moon. It was highest at midnight and the brightest moon of the year.

That's a good name for it here in Coastal BC. We've had two weeks of zero and sub zero temperatures, and even a bit of snow.

The clouds parted just enough for me to get a shot of the Cold Moon.

The halo around the moon shows there are ice crystals in the atmosphere, ready to give us another dusting. -- Margy

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Coastal BC Animals: Western Toad

Western Toad

A Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas)
You don't think of toads being on the endangered list, but that's exactly where the Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas) sits. They remain fairly common in British Columbia, except their population is declining in the southernwest region. Declines are even more dramatic in its southern United States range and in Mexico. For that reason, it was red-listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in 1996.

Living life dangerously crossing a logging road.

Western Toads are the sumo wrestlers of the amphibian world. They have stocky bodies with short legs. With less leg power, they tend to be walkers rather than hoppers. Thick, bumpy skin ranging from pale green, to grey, to dark brown, or even red, protects them while living way from wetlands.

Western Toads breed in permanent and temporary bodies of water. Adults then migrate to forests or grasslands.  They prefer moist environments, but I found this one in the middle of a dusty, dry logging road. They also dig or adopt burrows to go underground.

Look for Western Toads in forests and grasslands.

Eggs are laid in the spring and tadpoles develop quickly. By the end of summer, they transform into small toadlets, continue to develop for an additional two years, and can live up to ten years or more.

Western Toads eat insects and small invertebrates such as spiders, slugs and worms. If one comes into your garden, encourage it to stay. Tadpoles eat algae and plants in their aquatic environment.

You will find Western Toads from spring through fall. They do hibernate, especially in high elevations or colder climates, from November to April.

A distinctive white or cream dorsal stripe.

Why are these toads on the endangered list? You wouldn't think so, but they are under pressure due to habitat destruction, pollution, the spread of disease, introduction of non-native aquatic predators to their breeding areas, and road traffic during migration. Here in BC, the Western Toad is on the Provincial Yellow List, making it an animal of concern.

What can you do? Share information about Western Toads. Advocate for habitat preservation. Monitor breeding sites. Report sightings to the B.C. Frogwatch program. And in case you are wondering, after taking his picture I moved the little critter off the road a safe distance. Logging trucks and toads don't mix. -- Margy

References: Nature BC by James Kavanaugh, B.C. Frogwatch Program (online), and Species at Risk Public Registry: Government of Canada (online).

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Mr. Heater Big Buddy Propane Heater

Our Hewescraft docked beside our float cabin.
It may not be officially winter yet, but traveling in our 22-foot Hewescraft Ocean Pro up and down the lake can get pretty chilly.

We chose not to pay extra to have a heater installed when we purchased the boat. With an outboard motor it would have been quite expensive for a separate heading system.

Instead we use a portable Mr. Heater Big Buddy propane heater.  It comes in several versions based on state and country regulations. Of course, we have the Canadian model. We secure it with straps at the front of the boat for convenience and safety.

The heater can run on one or two small one pound propane canisters that are installed internally. The heater can also run on more economical 20-pound propane tanks. Safety features include an oxygen depletion sensor and tip-over shut-off features. It will heat up to 450 square feet, but also keeps our boat toasty warm for those winter runs. -- Margy

Thursday, December 01, 2016

8 Seed Saving Tips

My floating garden.
Growing flowers and vegetables is a good way to enhance your environment, and control the sustainability and quality of the foods you eat. It can be very economical, but not free. Everything costs from seed to harvest.

Cliffside potato patch built with compost.
To decrease my costs and dependence on commercial products, I’ve started making some of my own gardening supplies. The first was creating compost from my clippings and kitchen waste. Living in a place without land and minimal soil that one practice has saved me lots of money and energy in hauling heavy bags up the lake.

8 Seed Saving Tips

The next thing I tried was saving seeds. Some efforts have been successful, some not so much. Here are some of my hits and misses.

Snow peas drying on the plants.
Snow Peas

This was my first and most successful experience. I’ve annually saved seeds from my plants for over five years without any deterioration in the quantity or quality of the successive crops.

Beans dried in the pods.
Scarlet Runner Beans

Saving these seeds can have two benefits. You can replant the following year or store them for consumption in soups and chilies. I only planted my saved seeds once and did have a meager crop the following year. Now I only save them for eating.

Rains didn't let the beans dry on the plants.
Kentucky Wonder Beans

This is the first year I’ve grown this type of pole bean. I’ll have to post an update next year about whether it is a hit or miss. The dried beans are pretty small, not as good for storing and eating as the Scarlet Runner Beans.

Cleaning tomato seeds for drying.
Tomato Seeds

Two years ago I processed and dried tomato seeds to save. I planted them in small pots for sprouting the following year without any success. Letting tomatoes self seed and sprout the next spring has been more successful. I let them get several inches tall and select the best to transplant to my new tomato patch.

Millions of seeds to save.
Scarlet Nantes Carrots

One year I couldn’t pull my carrots so they remained in the ground for two years. At that point they went to flower and seed. I saved the seeds and tried to plant some the next spring. It was not successful and I hate to waste time limited garden space to an unknown.

Seed potatoes ready to grow in a barrel.
Seed Potatoes

Technically not seeds, but the eyes of sprouted potatoes are all you need to start a new crops. I’ve been doing this for so many years that I don’t know how long it’s been since I purchased seed potatoes. I like to grow Yukon Gold potatoes. They keep well in winter storage. I dig them in fall when the plants die, eat them until about February, then let them sprout for planting in April. Next to Snow Peas, this is my greatest success.

Marigolds in pots on my deck.

Deadheading Marigolds is a constant process from spring to fall. I save heads and let them dry then pull off the petals once dry. Each flower produces a large amount of new seeds. During the summer, I just push drying heads into the soil to fill in spaces or plant new garden areas. With plenty of moisture they are easy to grow. I do buy few flower sets in April to give me some early colour in my deck planters. Marigolds help deter garden pests. I also use dried crumbled flower heads (including the petals) to sprinkle over plants in the garden when I have an aphid problem.

Pretty flowers and free soothing tea.

Probably the hardest part of saving Chamomile seeds is keeping them from reseeding on their own. Each tiny daisy-like flower produces a prodigious amount of seed. I love Chamomile tea so started growing some three years ago. Since then I’ve been regrowing it in the same pots and around the bases of larger plants. There’s plenty from several pots for some tea and garden seed.

What are some of your seed saving successes and misses? -- Margy

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Enlarging our Log Boom

The log boom before.
Over the last two years we’ve undertaken several major projects to improve the quality and safety of our float cabin.

Our most recent improvement project was to add more logs to the protective log boom on the south side of our cabin. This boom protects us from wind waves and wakes from passing boats.

Swells break on their outer surface, calming the water that enters the area next to our cabin.

Moving the logs with our tin boat.
When we bought our cabin, the boom was only two logs deep. Over time, we added a new log here and there.

But this fall, we added two complete rows. Now we have a substantial barrier to make our floating home safer.

A local logging company was selling old boom logs that had been used to corral and move logs on the ocean.

John poling the logs into place on the boom.

When they were no longer useful for that purpose, the retired logs were dragged up on shore where they dried out and became more buoyant.

Wayne and John chaining the logs together.
We went together with another cabin owner to purchase and share the logs.

Our good friend John helped us with the installation.

Each log was towed into place and attached with chain to the neighbouring log. The result was a boom of logs linked together both lengthwise and crosswise. That way they float as a unified group.

John and Mike secure the anchor to the boom with heavy rope.
The last step was to drop an anchor to hold the logs away from the cabin. Our barge and our good friends John and Mike came in handy for that step.

The log boom after, more substantial and safer.
Now when the wind blows, or the boats roar, we can float a little easier in our cabin up the lake. -- Margy

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Preserving: Making Yogurt in a Thermos

I enjoy yogurt for breakfast and on fresh fruit, so I went to my cookbook library to learn how to make it. While most people are going digital, living off the grid makes print books a valuable resource.

Thank goodness people send their old cookbooks to thrift stores for me to find. Two resources gave me what I needed: Stocking Up by Organic Farming and Gardening and my trusty Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Using a wide mouth thermos is a simple way to incubate yogurt. I found one at my favourite thrift store for $1.75.

Ingredients from Stocking Up:

1 quart milk (regular or skim)
¼ cup commercial plain yogurt with active cultures

That’s it. Pretty simple. Since I could only incubate three cups, I reduced the recipe proportionally.

Tips say: Use milk and starter no older than five days. Use your last batch as the new starter, but it can weaken over time. After 4 batches, start over with a commercial yogurt.

Whisk milk while heating to almost boiling. Cool to lukewarm (105-115°F).

Tips say: If milk is too hot, it will kill the yogurt bacteria.

Add yogurt starter and gently stir until well mixed.

Tips say: Using too much starter can make your yogurt watery.

Use lukewarm water to warm the thermos then drain.

Pour the yogurt mixture into the thermos and secure the lid. Place in a warm (110°F) location to incubate for 4-6 hours. I covered my thermos with a thermal sock and placed it near the woodstove to stay warm.

Tips say: Don't move or bump or the yogurt may separate into curds. If it incubates too long it can become watery. The longer you incubate the yogurt the sourer it will get.

Open the thermos. The yogurt should be custard like. Transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate for three hours before eating.

Tips say: Yogurt will get firmer during cooling. Homemade yogurt tastes sweeter than commercial yogurt.

My first batch came out so well I made a second. I accidentally knocked thermos on the floor. The yogurt did separate. It tasted fine, I just had to stir the liquid whey back in before eating.

Do you make yogurt? What tips can you share? -- Margy