Sunday, January 29, 2017

Powell Lake Reflections

Powell Lake has been unusually calm this week. That makes for some great reflections on its mirror-like surface.

 Looking up the east arm towards the high country.

Goat Island from my front porch on an overcast day.

A boat coming up the lower lake from the Shinglemill Marina.

No matter what the season, Powell Lake is picture perfect. -- Margy

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cabin Cooking: Winter Garden Slaw

My floating garden is most productive in summer, but it still provides me with fresh veggies in winter.

I've put most of my garden to bed to let it rest, but I leave crops in the ground that I know can survive freezing temperatures and occasional snow.

Earlier this week I went out to pick some things for dinner. I dug carrots and beets that were still crisp and juicy. Then I picked curly kale and Brussels sprouts. This is the first year I've grown sprouts and they're a success. I even found one onion that was missed during the fall.

With my pickings I made some fresh pickled beets, and a winter garden slaw for dinner.

I grated carrots, diced onion, cut sprouts in half, and chopped enough curly kale to fill the bowl. I like to use poppyseed dressing for my slaw. It's easy and gives the veggies a nice fresh tang.

Do you grow any winter vegetables in your garden? What works for you? -- Margy

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Cabin Cooking: Homemade Pizza Dough

Living off the grid it's easy to get a craving for pizza, but impossible to get it delivered. What do we do? We make it at home.

I was afraid making pizza dough would be hard, but that's not the case. It's actually quite easy. I use a recipe from Kitchn with a minor adjustment.

Homemade Pizza Dough


3/4 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt


Mix flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl.

Measure 3/4 cup lukewarm water, remove 2 teaspoons and replace with olive oil, a common ingredient in other recipes.

Mix the liquid and dry ingredients with a spoon until it forms a shaggy dough.

Put dough out on a board and knead until all of the flour is incorporated and it becomes elastic, about 10 minutes.

Let rise until double. Divide in half for two 10-inch pies. You can refrigerate to use later.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees.

Form by hand on parchment paper into a 1/4" thin circle.

Transfer on the paper to a pan or baking stone for easy baking.

Spread sauce over the dough, cover with shredded mozzarella cheese, and add your toppings.

Bake for five minutes, rotate the pan and bake for an additional five minutes or until the cheese is melted and the edge of the crust is crispy.

I made one thin crust and a second thicker. We liked the thin best. Next time I'm going to try using a rolling pin to get the dough thinner. Using the parchment paper will prevent it from sticking to the breadboard. It doesn't keep the crust from  browning and can be removed half way through cooking or at the end.

Do you make your own pizza? Do you have any suggestions? -- Margy

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Preserving: Fresh Saver 1-2-3

Fresh Saver with zipper vacuum bags.
When leave our off the grid float cabin for an extended period, I hate to waste food. We leave our propane refrigerator running, but it doesn't keep foods fresh as long as an electric model.

One item that doesn't last well for me is cheese. After listening to my tales, our good friend Jeanne gave me a Food Saver Fresh Saver for Christmas. It's perfect for off the grid with limited electrical power.

My model is electric, but because it has a rechargeable battery inside it can also be used cordless. Even if it runs directly on electricity, the time and power draw is minimal.

Line up the nozzle with the circle on the bag and press the button.

The system works with reuseable Fresh Saver zippered plastic bags in various sizes. They are pricey, but because they are reusable the cost balances out.

Before leaving the cabin, I packaged leftover cheese in one of the Fresh Saver plastic bags, zipped it shut, and used the handheld vacuum to remove the air to seal in freshness. Getting the device lined up was difficult at first, but once I got it going, out came the air.

Continue vacuuming until the bag collapses around the food.

When I get back to the cabin, I'm rewarded with cheese ready to eat. The savings more than pays for the $25 initial cost of the device (if you have to buy one for yourself) and $12 package of bags. -- Margy

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Coastal BC Birds: Pacific Wren

Pacific Wren

Looking for something to eat.
We were sitting on the sofa and movement caught our eye outside our sliding glass door. I was expecting to see the Song Sparrow that visited us last winter, but this bird was very different.

I got my camera to help make an identification using nature guides. The Internet is a great resource, but up at the cabin with limited access having books makes getting an answer right away much easier.

The tiny, plump bird was busy flitting from one empty flower pot to the next looking for tiny seeds in the soil. That was a difficult task since the surface was frozen solid from the sub-zero temperatures during the recent Arctic inflow.

Where are all the seeds?

He slowed down long enough for me to get a few shots through the glass door. The body about was 10 cm (4 in) in size and quite round, especially with the feathers fluffed up to stay warm. The colour was dark brown with a reddish cast. The short tail, constantly flicking up and down, had darker horizontal scalloped bands. A short, thin beak looked perfect for seed cracking. My guide said it was most likely a Pacific Wren.

They are common in coniferous forests, but move below the snow line in winter. Maybe that’s why it’s here now. Snow is down to about 500 feet, not far above our float cabin’s location at lake surface.

A plump Pacific Wren visiting our pots on the cabin deck.

I took my feeder down because seeds kept sprouting during rainy weather, so I added some birdseed to the flowerpots. I should be able to easily pull out any sprouts before spring planting time comes.

It’s so good to have a winter bird visit our cabin. I really miss all of the spring and summer bird calls and activity. -- Margy

References: Birds of Southwestern British Columbia by R. Cannings, T. Aversa and H. Opperman (2005) and National Geographic Complete Birds of North America edited by Jonathan Alderfer (2nd Edition 2014).

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Repairing a Broken Anchor Cable

The boat dock behind the cabin.
Our float cabin and docks are anchored in place with heavy steel cables. Because steel rusts over time, they sometimes break at key pressure points.

One day while we were entering the back of our water lot, I noticed that one of the cables that anchors our boat dock to an old tree snag was broken.

Fortunately, it was snagged on the secondary cable. We like to have two at each anchor point just in case, a  good thing this time.

Wayne used the tin boat and temporarily reattached it with a rope. Later, our good friend John came up to help with a permanent repair.

John pulling up the boat dock end of the cable.

Since it was already secured with a rope, the next thing Wayne and John had to do was take the pressure off the far end by raising the cable up out of the water. Did I mention it was made of steel? That means it's very heavy.

John uses a log to support the cable's weight.

John is a master aquatic engineer. He figured the process out in his mind and adjusted as needed as he went along. They borrowed the log we use to keep floating debris out of our natural swimming pool.

A notch at the end of the log holds the cable in place naturally.

John situated the log at the dock end and used a pike pole to raise the cable up. A natural notch at the end kept the cable from slipping off. Once the cable was half way down the log, he drove a log staple over it, but with enough room for the cable to slide through.

Driving a log staple over the cable to hold it in place at the middle of the log.

When the cable got to the far end of the log, he used another staple to hold it in place. Using the boat as a platform, he fed the cable through until the log was a little over half way to the snag. This reduced the weight of the cable because it was no longer hanging low in the water.

Another staple at the end of the log allowed John to feed the cable through.

At the stump, John and Wayne used the pike pole to pull the cable up, trim it, wrap a good section around the snag, and secure it with large clamps. The repair shortened the cable, but it still sinks deep enough to get Wayne’s sailboat out without snagging the keel.

Once the log was half way to the stump it took off enough pressure so they could work.

At some point, the whole cable will need to be replaced, but for now it makes a good secondary connection (just in case we need it again). And the log got to go back on swimming pool duty. -- Margy