Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Living on Powell Lake

We live on Powell Lake in Coastal British Columbia.

The lake has many moods.

In the winter it is often cloudy and rainy.

In the spring, we get more sun and take advantage of it for outdoor activities like sailing on the lake.

You can read more about Powell Lake by clicking here.

You can read more about float cabin living by clicking here. -- Margy

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Transplanting Blueberry Bushes

New blueberry bushes planted last year.
Last spring I bought two blueberry bushes, a Northsky and a Chandler. I planted them in medium sized pots so they could grow right on my cabin deck. That way I could provide them with consistent watering during the summer months.

Cutting mill felt for better drainage.
My experiment was a huge success. By the end of the summer, the plants had more than doubled in size. They would probably last in their pots for one more year, but I decided to transplant them while they were small enough to handle easily.

Rocks to support the mill felt.
Fall is a good time for transplanting blueberries. The plants and their root systems are dormant. They will have the winter to rest and in spring the new growth with start enjoying it’s new larger surroundings.

To make inexpensive larger pots, I asked Wayne to cut two 45-gallon plastic barrels in half. I used the top halves with the fluted edge because that part was more decorative. I then painted the pots dark green on the outside to match our cabin’s trim. Click here to see how I did it.

Mill felt is porous to allow for better drainage.
Wayne drilled holes in the bottom of the barrel for drainage. Blueberries like moist, but well drained soil.

They also like acidic soil with a pH of 5.0, a topping of organic matter, and lots of sunshine.

Soil and peat came next.
To ensure that drainage worked well, I placed several rocks in the bottom to support a round of mill felt (a stiff fiberglass cloth) above the bottom of the barrel. Water will drain through the soil, through the mill felt, through the air space at the bottom, and then out through the holes.

The blueberry bushes went into their new pots.
I filled the bottom with soil and peat moss so to raise the root ball level with the surface. I then carefully removed the blueberry plants from their old pots and placed them on the soil of their new pots. That sounds easy, but even after one year the root balls were quite large and impacted.

A lot of the smaller root hairs fell away with some of the soil. They will get replaced in the spring when the new growth begins.

The blueberry bushes in their new larger pots.

Finally I filled in the edges of the pots with more soil and peat moss.

Spring buds on the Northsky plant.
I pruned my blueberry bushes before spring arrived to remove old dead branches.

Check back later to see how this season progresses. Hopefully with all this attention, I’ll get a good crop of berries this coming summer.

Do you grow blueberries? What has been your experience? -- Margy

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Winter Turns to Spring

This winter we had more snow than in previous years. Streams that normally run were frozen in place.

Now that it's spring, the snowmelt and rain runoff have unlocked the water to flow down the cliffs of Goat Island to Powell Lake.

Below is a short video so you can enjoy the sights and sounds.

Has spring weather arrived where you live? -- Margy

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cabin Cooking: Scalloped Potatoes

I grow potatoes in barrels on my cabin deck.

My potato of choice is Yukon Gold because they grow easily, store well, make excellent seed potatoes for the following season’s crop, and cook up soft and creamy.

Using Mom's old mandolin slicer.
Wayne asked for Scalloped Potatoes. I remember from growing up, but it's been decades since I've made them.

I found a recipe in my Illustrated Library of Cooking (Family Circle, 1972: Volume 1, page 55) that sounded like Mom’s.

Scalloped Potatoes


4 cups thinly sliced raw potatoes (about 6 medium)
¼ cup thinly sliced onion (optional)
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups milk, scalded
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese


Layer potatoes, onions, and flour.
Layer one third of the potatoes in a buttered (I used vegetable spray) 8-cup baking dish. Add half of the optional onion slices (that’s the way I remember Mom's).

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a cup. Sprinkle half over the potatoes.

Dot layers with butter or margarine.
Dot with half of the butter or margarine.

Add another layer of one third of the potatoes (and onions if desired). Sprinkle with the remaining flour mixture and dot with the remaining butter.

Add a final layer with the remaining potato slices.
Pour scaled milk over final layer.

Scald the milk (heat to near boiling) and pour over the potatoes. It should be just visible between the slices of the top layer.

Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes.

Remove and sprinkle with grated
Sprinkle cheese on top.
cheese. Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes until the cheese is melted, and the potatoes are soft and bubbly. I added 10 minutes for mine to be ready to serve.

Wayne fixed steak for us on the BBQ, so it was a meat and potatoes night. While the potatoes were baking, I used a pint of the spiced apples I put up last fall to make a small apple crisp in the oven at the same time.

Scalloped potatoes and apple crisp for dinner.

Who says living off the grid has to be tough. Not me! -- Margy

Saturday, March 11, 2017

6 Memorable Wilderness and Off the Grid Books

Over the years I've read a lot about wilderness adventures and off the grid living. Here are six memorable books. Click on the titles to see my more in-depth reviews.

Drawn to Sea (Caitlin Press, 2013) by Yvonne Maximchuk is the memoir of a single mother who moved to remote Coastal BC. She lived in a float home, built a cabin, and fished with legendary Billy Proctor. Author/artist Yvonne has become a personal friend. Find her book on BC Ferries, in galleries and bookstores, online, or at one of her presentations.

Tide Rips and Back Eddies (Harbour Publishing, 2015) by Bill Proctor and Yvonne Maximchuk is the second book about the life and times of Echo Bay legend Billy Proctor. It was co-authored and illustrated by artist/author Yvonne Maximchuk. Look for it on BC Ferries, in Canadian bookstores, or online at booksellers such as Amazon.

Off the Grid and Free (Moon Willow Press, 2016) by Ron Melchiore tells the story of a couple who live way off the grid on a homestead they built from scratch in northern Saskatchewan. They've homesteaded in Maine and Canada, and provide a wealth of information based on their first-hand experience. You can find it in print and e-book formats online at Amazon. Girls (Caitlin Press, 2014) by Lou Allison and Jane Wilde. They have compiled a series of short vignettes by women who lived in Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert during the back-to-the-land movement of the 60s and 70s. Look for it on BC Ferries, in Canadian bookstores, or on Amazon. Or catch them on a book tour here in Coastal BC.

Our Life Off the Grid (OTG Publishing, 2015) by J. David Cox follows the experiences of a couple who left behind their urban life in the Vancouver, BC, and built an off the grid cabin on land they owned on a remote island up the coast. Learn how and why they made this major lifestyle change. You can find their book in print and e-book formats online at Amazon.

And the River Still Sings (Caitlin Press, 2014) by Chris Czajkowski follows her life from England, around the world, into Canada, to her Nuk Tessli wilderness cabin, and up to her homestead on Ginty Creek. Chris has 11 books and a new one in progress. Look for them on BC Ferries, in Canadian bookstores, or on Amazon.

Do you have any books to recommend? I'm always looking for a good read in either print or e-book format. -- Margy

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Kingfisher Used Books

Kingfisher Used Books at 4486 Marine Ave. in Powell River.
I have a passion for browsing book stores. Right across the street from our condo in Powell River there's a great used book store just packed with literary treasures. It's called Kingfisher Used Books and it's owned by Sharon and Peter Deane.

The books are organized by subject to help you find your treasures. Stools are strategically placed so you can easily reach the bottom shelf or sit and try out a prospective selection. I always find something to add to my collection of local and off the grid books.

A well organized collection of books at very reasonable prices.

If you are traveling up the Sunshine Coast, Kingfisher Books is an easy walk from the Westview Ferry Terminal. After you park, take a stroll up Wharf Street to Marine Avenue. Turn left and the bookstore is on the east side of the street. You can reach them at (604) 414-4573. They are open 7 days a week.

Here's another suggestion. After you find a great book, take it with you across the street to Rocky Mountain Pizza and Bakery. Here you'll find fresh brewed coffee, lattes, yummy baked goods, sandwiches, soups and, of course, pizza. Sit in the back for a view of the Strait of Georgia or at a window table to see all of the action on Marine Avenue.

On the way back to the ferry, stop at Marine Traders on Wharf Street. They have a huge selection of boat, fishing and outdoor supplies.

So whether you live in town, are here to visit, or just passing through, visit Marine Avenue. There's something exciting happening all the time. -- Margy

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Revitalizing A Bee Hotel

An Orchard Mason Bee heading into one of the holes at full speed.
Last year I made and used bee hotels for the first time. We have Orchard Mason Bees in our area, so I looked online for information about how to build a bee hotel that would meet their needs.

In our area Mason Bees hatch, begin feeding and look for likely nesting sites in March.

Last year's filled nesting blocks resting under the front porch.
Males emerge first but have to wait for females before the mating season begins. Mason Bees remain active for 4 to six weeks. While they feed and collect pollen for their nests and larvae, they are busy with the important process of plant pollination.

Old nesting blocks face southeast to catch the morning sun and encourage hatching.

Building bee hotels is a simple process. I made mine from old birdhouses. Drill nesting blocks out of untreated wood you have on hand. I use driftwood sticks. Drill 6-inch deep 5/16-inch holes with an opening only in the front. Mount your hotel above ground, where it won't sway, facing south or southeast for plenty of sun.

Drilling blocks 6" deep encourages female production.

Larvae mature during the summer and remain dormant from fall through winter. A freezing snap followed by increased sunshine and warming weather breaks their dormancy. To get ready for the hatching phase, and to provide new nesting sites, Wayne and I made new blocks. We gently moved the old ones to a location nearby so the hatchlings can easily find their new nesting blocks.

New nesting blocks with 5/16" holes also encourages female production.

See below for detailed information from making my bee hotel and nesting blocks last year.

Building a Simple Mason Bee Hotel
Drilling Nesting Blocks for a Bee Hotel
Bee Hotel Update

New bee hotel nesting blocks ready for Spring 2017.
Do you encourage bees to feed, pollinate and nest where you live? Plant some flowers that attract bees either in your garden or in pots on your deck. It's as easy as that. -- Margy

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Corn Salad for Winter Greens

Winter kale in the floating garden reaching for the sun.
Even in the winter months, I like to have some fresh greens to add to our meals. Ones that have been successful for me during our relatively mild winters in Coastal BC are kale, chard, arugula and something called corn salad, also known as lamb’s lettuce and fetticus.

That’s an unusual name for a leafy green. It comes from Europe because it often sprouts in fall in harvested corn fields.

Corn Salad growing in a pot covered with a plastic bag during winter.

I start my corn salad seeds in a deck pot no later than mid-August. That gives them enough time to mature before the cooler, less sunny weather starts to stunt their growth.

It grows in many soil conditions, and is hardy even in winter with a little protection. Each plant makes a small cluster of leaves that can be individually picked, leaving the plant to produce more. Its main enemies are slugs and birds that can be hungry during the colder months.

Corn Salad still growing in February in its own mini-greenhouse.

Before freezing temps begin, I cover the pot with a mesh cage and clear plastic bag. On sunny days, I take the plastic off, but on cold ones and during the night I leave the pot covered for extra protection.

Corn salad has small, bright green crunchy leaves with a mild, slightly sweet flavour. I like to mix it with iceberg lettuce we buy at the store. It gives our salads some extra kick and colour.

Do you grow winter greens? What are some of your successes? -- Margy

References: The Vegetable Expert by Dr. D.G. Hessayon (1985) and All About Vegetables by Ortho Books (1973)

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Coming Home, Powell River Airport

A picture is worth a thousand words. -- Margy