Tuesday, October 25, 2016

All Fall Down

Fall has come and is quick to go. After a recent windy storm, the maples let loose of their leaves.

And they graced the surface of our watery front yard just before sunset.

Watery front yard you ask? Yes, we live in a float cabin on (literally) Powell Lake in British Columbia.

If you would like to learn more about this type of lifestyle, take a look at my categories Float Cabin Living and Float Cabin Construction. If you have any questions, just leave a comment and I'd be glad to answer them. -- Margy

Friday, October 21, 2016

Blacklight and Reflections

On a partly cloudy day I saw this interesting view of my floating vegetable garden. The dark clouds made the background black as night.

Yet the ray of sunlight on the garden made it standout in stark relief.

My floating Garden on Powell Lake, BC.

And created a beautiful reflection in the calm lake surface. -- Margy

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Coastal BC Spiders: Cross Orbweaver

Cross Orbweaver

The other day I went out to work in my garden and found this Cross Orbweaver spider using my lean-to as its new home.

Lately, I've been seeing more spiders around the cabin and they are a welcome sight. Anything that catches pesky flying insects is a friend of mine.

The Cross Orbweaver (Araneus diadematus) is also known as the Garden Spider. This is a female, distinguished by her large oval abdomen. Males have a smaller, thinner abdomen. 

Cross Orbweave spiders can be found in gardens and fields in many states in the U.S. and provinces in Canada. Females lay up to 800 eggs in a sac near the web from late summer to fall.  After hatching, spiderlings can travel to unexpected locations by "ballooning" through the air on silken threads. I see this quite often on Powell Lake. Landing on the water must make for a rude awakening.

These spiders weave large, vertical orb shaped webs. They either reside near or right in the center of the web. Either way, they are connected by a thread to determine if a meal has landed. An unlikely fact I learned is that the spider usually eats the web at night, and recycles the proteins contained within to create a new web the following day. That's a lot of work!

Here's a tasty meal all wrapped up for consumption. It's hard to tell, but it looks like a yellow jacket. We get a lot of those around the cabin. Can't say that I feel bad about it getting caught. -- Margy

References: www.Spiders.us (online), Post Defiance blog by Katy Evans (online), and Cross Orbweaver at Bugguide.net (online)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Coastal BC Birds: Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

A Song Sparrow visits the cabin in January 2016.
Last winter I noticed a Song Sparrow for the first time. He came on a rainy day and I tossed birdseed out to see what would happen. He ended up sticking around all winter to eat lots more from my feeder.

I assume it was a male because they winter farther north to get early access to prime breeding areas. Spring came, and sure enough he disappeared.

A Song Sparrow returns to our cabin in late October 2016.

Then, guess who returned, Mr. Song Sparrow. I'm glad to have him to keep us company again this winter. The seed feeder is ready to help him to stay plump and fat.

Song Sparrows are year-round residents of Coastal BC. However, I don't hear their melodic songs because it's outside of the breeding system. Here's my Song Sparrow giving his common chip note.

He flies is short, fluttering bursts, giving me lots of time to get good pictures. While he's perched, usually on the ground, he continues to flutter, hop and flick his tail in a friendly sort of way. I'm so glad he returned, at least I like to image he's my old friend who has adopted the underside of my cabin as his winter cottage.

Last year I wasn't sure about my identification. Google images are a great way to Then I discovered WhatBird.com. I used the bird identification tool and narrowed it down. Then I discovered their forum section and joined. Within a day, site experts identified my little guy as a northwestern subspecies of Song Sparrow. This subspecies tends to be darker than its southern relatives. -- Margy

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fall Sailing

What a difference a month can make. Skies can be just as blue in the fall (in between rain storms that is).

September Sailing

But the temperature and clothing sure change.

October Sailing

And on our way home we used the building southerly winds to fly our spinnaker. That's always fun!

I once heard this conversation at the Shinglemill dock:

Wayne - "A beautiful day isn't it?"
Sailboat Owner - "It will be once I get out on the water."

Now we know what he meant. -- Margy

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cabin Baking: Improved No-Knead Sourdough Bread

I'm a novice bread maker, but have been learning to make improvements with each batch.

Here are my most recent tricks for making better no-knead sourdough bread. (Click here to see the recipe).

The recipe called for letting the dough rise in the mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap. But if the dough touched the plastic wrap, it fell and produce a denser bread.

My good friend Jeanne heard my tale of woe and gave me an early Christmas present, a dough rising bucket from King Arthur Flour.

With it's 6 litre capacity, I don't have to worry about the dough hitting the top. Plus, the lid keeps the temperature steady for a consistent rise.

Coating the inside with vegetable spray allowed the dough to slide right out onto my breadboard ready for the next step.

I bake my no-knead bread in a cast iron dutch oven. It absorbs and radiates heat consistently throughout baking. One trick I learned early was to line the pan with parchment paper. The wider 15" size fits perfectly, keeps the wet dough from sticking, and makes lifting the finished bread out of a hot pan easier.

One problem I had baking bread in a cast iron dutch oven was over browning the bottom. Where the the dough did not touch the hot metal, it came out perfectly crisp and golden. But where the bottom of the loaf touched the pan, it turned out dark brown and hard.

I have metal trivets and thought I would try using one to keep the dough off the bottom of the pan. The parchment paper kept the moist dough from slipping through the openings and the bottom of the loaf came out just as perfect as the top. A major success!

These are my three tips for improved no-knead sourdough bread. Do you have any bread baking tricks? I'd love to hear from you. -- Margy

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Coastal BC Animals: America Bullfrog

American Bullfrog

An American Bullfrog on Powell Lake BC.
Invasive species? Illegal immigrant? Whatever you want to call it, the Bullfrog is not native to British Columbia, and it's not benign. Here in Powell Lake we have the American Bullfrog.

Bullfrogs are native to eastern North America from Canada to Florida. Much like fish farming, Bullfrogs was imported to farm for their meaty legs. From there, they spread throughout the southern mainland and southeast Vancouver Island.

Females are larger than males and can grow to be 20 cm long and 750 grams in weights (8"/1.5 lbs). Males have a large tympanum (ear) behind the eye. Females have a smaller one. This is probably a female.

One way to distinguish a Bullfrog from a Green Frog (also invasive) is the fold of skin over the typanum. A Bullfrog's wraps around the tympanum, but the Green Frog's forms a long skin fold along the back.

Bullfrog tadpoles are large, dark-green, and can grow up to 15 cm long. They can stay in the tadpole stage for up to two years. For this reason, Bullfrogs need to breed in water sources that remain filled all year. Bullfrogs can live up to ten years.

The biggest problem with Bullfrogs is that they take over the territory of native species, often by eating their rivals. They are voracious and will eat anything that will fit in their mouths. That would include the beautiful little Pacific Chorus Frog I saw earlier this summer. Large Bullfrog tadpoles also present a problem, taking food sources away from tadpoles of native frog species.

You can help their further spread. Do not transport either live adults or tadpoles. If you notice a new colony of Bullfrogs developing, contact BC Frogwatch. -- Margy

Reference: B.C. Frogwatch Program (online)

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Red Sky at Morning, Sailors Take Warning

This time of year you have to really start paying attention to the sky. Heading out on the ocean, the weather can change quickly. You need to plan for a safe return to port just in case. The old adage,  "red sky at morning, sailors take warning" worked in this case.

Mitlenatch Island in the Strait of Georgia

Soon after we returned to Powell River's Westview North Harbour, rain began and the wind started picking up. The saying has been around for ages and has a scientific basis. Clear skies to the east allow the sun's rays to hit the undersides of clouds coming in from the west.

The other half of the rhyme is "red sky at night, sailors delight." Unobstructed rays herald westerly winds and clearing skies.

Sunset up the lake.

We get wonderful "red sky" sunsets here in Powell River. BC. -- Margy

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Logging Equipment

Dave and Marg at our dockside campsite.
With our friends Dave and Marg, we took a quad riding camping trip to the head of Powell Lake.

This is an active location for our local logging company, Western Forest Products. We're lucky. They responsibly maintain our renewable forest resources, and generate jobs and income for our community. You can find a detailed forest map by clicking here.

We didn't get to see any equipment in action, but we did find lots of unique machines at the ready.

All lined up and ready to go at the Head.

Heli-logging is used to reach cut blocks out of reach for traditional methods. There were two helicopters ready to transport loggers and extract trees.

A VIH Kamov Ka-32 and it's grapple for lifting trees to the roadsides.

A smaller Hughes MD500 for transporting personnel.

Here's some of the heavy equipment we found while riding the logging roads out in the bush.

A multi-purpose CAT harvester/loader blocking the road.

A Madill mobile yarder to pull cut logs to the roadside.

Self loading logging truck.

An old water tanker truck poised for possible fire suppression.

Back at the log sort there were more vehicles parked than I've ever seen. In addition to lots of pickups, there were ...

Another yarder owned by Olympic Forest Products.

Large "fat" logging trucks to haul logs only on logging roads.

Wheeled log loader at the log dump.
Two dozers to move logs around in the log pond.
And how do they get all of the people, equipment and logs moved around? Boats, tugs and barges make the long journey from Powell River to the Head almost daily throughout the year.

River Yarder offloads a fuel truck at the barge ramp at the Head.

Work boats at the logging dock at the Head of Powell Lake.

It's so interesting to see how the logging industry works. Each year Western Forest Products conducts forest tours. Last year I had a chance to go. If you ever have the opportunity, take it.

p.s. I am not an expert with logging equipment, if you see any errors please let me know. -- Margy

Saturday, October 01, 2016

"Mysterious Powell Lake" by Carla Mobley

Mysterious Powell Lake by Carla Mobley
I live on Powell Lake in Coastal BC. Wayne and I came here on vacation in 2000 and purchased our float cabin in 2001. Since 2008 it's become our home.

I'm fascinated by the history of our region. And for the history of my lake, Carla Mobley's Mysterious Powell Lake, published by Hancock House in 1984, is the best.

I got my first copy at the Powell River Historical Museum. Unfortunately, I loaned it and never got it back. I searched for a replacement and finally found one at AbeBooks.

Lower Powell Lake from Chippewa Bay
The book begins with a timeline from George Vancouver's 1791 expedition, through logging and mill development, and ending in 1976 when the Anderson's sawmill sold.

At first, the people and places were unfamiliar to me. After living on the lake for fifteen years, a second reading has a whole different meaning. The most memorable chapters are about places I've visited.

Root cellar at the head of Powell Lake
"Nick Hudemka: Portrait of a Hermit" - Nick had several cabins around the lake where he logged, trapped and hunted. One was at the head of the lake where, "he planted root gardens and had a root cellar." I visited an old cabin site at the head and wondered if it might be the remnants of Nick's place. In his later years, he lived in a float cabin at Second Narrows where he enjoyed "the wilderness, the call of the loons, the bears, the eagles." I know how he felt.

Rupert's Farm, the old Palmer Ranch
"Olsen Valley: Memories of a Lost Community" - Olsen Valley is between Powell Lake and Theodosia Inlet. It's a fertile place where farmers grew produce to sell to logging camps and in Powell River. At Theo, cattle grazed on the 40-acre Palmer ranch, sometimes called Rupert's Farm. There are still a few structures and rusting vehicles.

Last standing cabin in Olsen Valley
In the valley, there were homesteads, a post office, and a schoolhouse. Not much is left. Most of the buildings were burned in 1972 to prevent hippies from moving in. I've seen an old cabin that may be the one where "Rolandi sold his rights to Jack Harper ... People still talk about the way Jack used to drive his Model T right to the cabin door."

Olsen Valley homestead foundation
There's also a large cement and rock foundation of one of the homesteads right next to Olsen Creek. Artifacts have been unearthed and are on display, a testament to the good life these pioneer families enjoyed.

The upper snow cabin made from yellow cedar.
"The Snow Survey" -- Each year the  Powell River Mill would send a team up to the high country at the head of Powell lake to measure the snow level. In the early years, it took several weeks so a snow cabin was built at the 3000' level. It was built in the late 1930s out of sturdy, long lasting local yellow cedar. Wayne went to the upper show cabin with our friend John in 2005.

Lower snow cabin on Powell Lake.
We all visited the lower snow cabin right on the northeast shore of Powell Lake in 2006. It could still be used in an emergency.

The book includes many tales of early Powell Lake characters and legends. If you live in or visit Powell River, this is a great book to read and keep in your personal library. That's where this one's going, and if you ask to borrow it the answer will be ... well maybe, but make sure you give it back!

Carla Mobley lives in Powell River and is an active author. There's even mention of another book about Powell Lake. I sure hope so, I love hearing stories about years gone by. -- Margy