Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Coastal BC Plants: Arctic Lupine

Arctic Lupine

An Arctic Lupine growing on the rocky shore.
We went on a summer camping trip to the head of Goat Lake. We beached our barge to offload quads and camp on the empty deck.

The next morning we rode north on Goat Main. Not far past the barge ramp there's a spur down to the Eldred River.

During winter and spring runoff the river runs high and fast. In summer it recedes to reveal extensive gravel bars. That's where I found an Arctic Lupine amid the stones.

The Arctic Lupine (Lupinus arcticus) is found in meadows, clearings, roadsides and open forests from Alaska to Oregon. It's a perennial herb from the pea family (Fabaceae). On this gravel bar it's hard to imagine it lasting through floods, but the roots must be very hardy.

The leaves are mostly at the base, but also grow along the short stems. The shape is palmate with 6 to 10 leaflets. The cup shape allows them to capture and hold raindrops, and in this case dew from the night before. This lupine is located in close proximity to the river, but in its rocky location doesn't get much moisture during dry summer months.

The flowers are on taller stalks and are most commonly blue. More rare is whitish-pink.

The seeds are a giveaway that it's in the pea family. The pods are 2-4 cm long and covered with fine hairs. Inside there are from 5 to 8 seeds. I was lucky to find this plant with lush foliage, flowers in bloom and seed pods all at the same time.  -- Margy

Reference: E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia (online).

Monday, September 25, 2017

Jasper Mallory Daniels Powell Lake Homestead

John showing Wayne the exposed stone chimney.
During September, Wayne and I went up to the Head of Powell Lake with our good friend John. Because the water level has been exceptionally low, a hidden historical treasure has been exposed.

The height of Powell Lake was raised when the dam at the paper mill was built in 1912 to produce electricity for the adjacent paper machines and the homes and businesses in the mill's townsite.

The fieldstone chimney faces north and charred snags are visible nearby.

In 1924, the dam was raised for additional power. Homesteads along the lake's shore that weren't already flooded were washed out.

The chimney on exposed lakebed with Powell Lake to the east.

If you know where to look, you can find evidence of those old homesteads and imagine the lives of men, women and children living remotely up the lake.

When water recedes, a sand and mud flat is exposed at the Head. If you guide your boat carefully through the shallows you will find a historic treasure, the fallen remains of a rock chimney. After being submerged for 93 years, that's all that remains of a once thriving homestead.

Looking down the flue and exposed field stones.

I took pictures and posted some on Instagram asking for information. I was surprised when David Brindle, a reporter for the local Powell River PEAK responded. The pictures inspired him to research the possibilities. The results were published on the front page of the PEAK on September 20, including one of my pictures. What an honour! You can read the whole article by clicking here.

Based on records at the Powell River Museum, online resources and ancestry websites, and the location of a great grand-daughter still living in the Powell River area, the answer appears to be that the chimney is what's left of the wilderness home of Jasper Mallory Daniels, Sr.

Family painting by son Mallory Daniels (Allen Farrel) of the homestead from PEAK.

Jasper Senior deserted from the U.S. military and made his way to Powell Lake. Here he built a life for his wife and children. recounts the early life of his son Mallory Daniels, Jr. (aka Allen Farrel) on the homestead:
"Mallory spent his earliest years living at Siwash Creek, at the head of Powell Lake, where his family homesteaded. On a bare, stump-strewn flat beside the waters of Powell Lake, they built a sturdy log home with a fieldstone fireplace, encircled by a picket fence. Bushes thick with berries grew on the hillsides and among the charred stumps that surrounded their carefully tended garden."
Life must have been hard, but in its own way ideal in this picturesque spot Wayne and I love to visit by boat, barge and quad.

More evidence, a stump-strewn flat.

When I saw the painting in the PEAK it made the identification of the chimney's owner almost complete. It was a "fieldstone fireplace" still in excellent condition, it was right next to "the waters of Powell Lake," it was located on a "stump-strewn flat," and there were "charred stumps still visible."

Even more evidence, a stump next to the chimney similar to the painting.

John has known about the chimney for many years, but it took my photograph on Instagram to inspire David Brindle to discover "the rest of the story." Thanks for great sleuthing Dave and answering my call for information. -- Margy

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Canning: Cowboy Candy

Jalapeño peppers on my plant.
I follow a Safe Canning Recipes Facebook page and have been inspired to try new things. On their blog there are many safe tested recipes, including one for something called Cowboy Candy.

It’s a recipe for sweet pickled jalapeño peppers. Everyone raves about them and I’m a hot pepper fan. So, I decided to give them a try with peppers from my own plant. Click here and scroll down to read the recipe online.

Cowboy Candy


Organize your ingredients.
3 pounds jalapeño peppers
2 cups 5% cider vinegar
6 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
3 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Use gloves, it really helps.
Using gloves to protect your hands, slice off and discard the stem ends. Slice the peppers into uniform 1/8 – 1/4 rounds.

Bring syrup to a boil.
Bring vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, granulated garlic and cayenne pepper to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add sliced peppers and simmer for exactly 4 minutes.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer peppers to clean, hot, sterile jars. Fill to 1/4 inch from the rim or the jars.

Add sliced peppers and simmer.
Bring the syrup back to a full boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.

Ladle the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeño slices. Insert a cooking chopstick to remove any air pockets. Add more syrup if needed to maintain a 1/4 inch headspace.

Spoon peppers into jars and boil syrup.
Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel and cover with two-piece lids to finger tightness. Process half-pints and pints for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Begin timing after the water reaches a full boil. After the time has expired, turn off the heat and let the jars rest in the canner for 10 minutes.

Remove jars with canning tongs and let them rest undisturbed for 24 hours on a cooling rack. When cooling has completed, check seals, clean the jars with a damp cloth, remove the rings, and label.

If you like hot condiments, this is the one for you. If you have extra syrup, you can process that as well. It’s good brushed on BBQ meats.

Jar on the left for preserving and the one on the right for immediate use.

My little plant only gave me enough peppers for one half-pint (with mostly syrup) and a few extras for a jar for the fridge (with the white screw top). I could have packed more peppers into the canned jar I canned, but the extra syrup will also come in handy.

Have you ever made Cowboy Candy? What do you think? -- Margy

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Thunderstorm at Hole in the Wall

We experienced a passing thunderstorm at our float cabin home in Hole in the Wall last Sunday.

It came from the west, over the Bunster Range so the cabin protected our front porch. But the middle of the Hole really got churned up. It passed quickly, but not before giving us strong winds, huge raindrops, a bit of hail and thunder and lightening.

Living in Hole in the Wall lets us have lots of experiences we wouldn't have if we still lived in the city. What do you like most about where you live? -- Margy

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Coastal BC Animals: Banana Slug

Banana Slug

Banana slug on Stella Lake Road.
During summer, Wayne and I took our quads over to Vancouver Island to ride on logging roads and trails. We camped at Stella Lake northwest of Campbell River.

One evening while taking a walk along Stella Lake Road near the campsite we stumbled upon a large Banana Slug (Ariolimax columbianus) making it's way slowly along the shoulder of the logging road.

While some are yellow, they also come in brown, black and mottled colours. In fact, they get their common name from their shape rather than their colouring.

Banana slugs are large, up to 25 cm (10 inches) long. Wayne used his foot to give a reference point. This one looks about 8 inches in length.

The forward part is called the mantle. On the right side there's a large circular opening. This is the pneumostome.  The slug breathes through this opening.

The head has two upper optical tentacles for vision and two lower sensory tentacles for feeling and tasting. The mouth on the underside has 27,000 teeth called radula. Banana slugs eat plants, decaying matter and animal feces. They digest all of these things and return the nutrients to the soil.

The back portion is called the foot.  Undulating motion and mucus (slime) allow the slug to move across the forest floor and over vegetation.

While I don't appreciate slugs in my garden, this particular variety provides a needed service in the ecology of the forests of the Pacific Northwest. -- Margy

References: "Banana Slug" on Sierra Club BC (online), "Banana Slug" on Tryon Naturalist Notes (online), and "Banana Slug Diet" on (online),

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Canning: Salal Berry Jam

Salal leaves are used by florists and the berries can be eaten.
The granite cliff next to our float cabin gives way to forest. In the shade of firs, hemlocks and cedars a green-leafed shrub called Salal thrives.

I've tasted the berries before. They are somewhat dry and bland, but I've heard they can be made into jam. This year I decided to try.

The berries ripen in early August and look somewhat like a blueberries. I picked enough to make one jar of jam just in case it wasn't to my liking.

Here's the recipe I used to make my jam without pectin.

Salal Berry Jam


Separating and cleaning berries.
1 cup salal berries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Mashing half of the firm berries.
Picking salal berries is sticky work. I found it easiest to pick the whole bunch at the branch tips and separate and clean them at home in water.

Combine all ingredients and heat.
Mash half of the berries to release the juice.

Combine all of the ingredients in a pot that is wide at the bottom and large enough for the sugary mixture to bubble up without running over.

Fill leaving 1/4" headspace.
Cook until the mixture reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometre.  To ensure the jam has reached the jell point you can test it in several ways. I used the plate method. Drop a teaspoon of jam onto a cold plate and let it sit for 30 seconds. Tilt the plate. If it moves slowly, it's ready.

If you want to make your jam shelf stable for storage, use the water canning method. Here's a link to full instructions at the Ball/Kerr website. 

Fill the jar leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe the rim and cover with a two-piece lid and ring.

Process the jar in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Start timing after the water reaches a full boil. Adjust the time for your altitude if needed. I have a one jar canner that's perfect for small batches.

Small canner for up to one pint.

Turn the heat off and remove the canner lid. Let the jar rest for 5-10 minutes. Use tongs to remove and let the jar cool naturally. Listen for the pinging sound to let you know the jar has sealed.

After 24 hours, check the lid to make sure it doesn't flex up and down when pressed in the center. If it does the jar didn't seal and the jam needs to be refrigerated for immediate use. If the seal is tight, remove the ring and wash the jar before storing in a cool, dark place.

The consistency is perfect for jam. The flavour is strong but not unpleasant. It was plenty sweet, but next time I would use more lemon juice to counteract the bland berries.

Do you preserve foraged foods? What are some of your favourite recipes? -- Margy

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Xplornet Satellite Internet

Our cabin as it looks today.
When we purchased our cabin in 2001 it was a vacation destination while were both working as educators in Los Angeles. Back then, we made the decision not to have either television or Internet service.

After we retired, we could only be at our cabin six months a year as Canadian visitors. We decided to continue without television and Internet and spend out time enjoying the outdoors.

Meeting the installer at the Shinglemill marina.
When we became Canadian permanent residents in 2008 we could finally live in our float cabin full time. That meant we had to make frequent trips to town for Internet access. Wayne needed it to publish his books and I'm a grant writing consultant. After a while, all the trips up and down the lake by boat got old. By 2016 Internet access was becoming a priority.

Working under the porch on a rainy day.
Living off the grid and far from town there were two options. First we tried cellular data. We're on the ragged edge of reception so we installed a booster. There are two drawbacks to cellular Internet: 1) it's very expensive in Canada, and 2) our connection isn't reliable and strong.

The dish had to be mounted on shore.
This year we saw an ad in the paper for Xplornet satellite Internet.  We researched it online (in town) and contacted the company. Yes, they offered service in our area if we could align the dish to the satellite. Fortunately we have a good view to the southeast.

Wayne feeding the cable under the deck.
Wayne helped install the coaxial cable from the dish to the cabin. It went under the deck to the kitchen wall near our "technology center." Here we have a power outlet our cellular booster, cell phones and printer. Now it includes our satellite equipment.

Making the connections indoors.
A small hole got the cable inside to hook up the the gateway. A wireless router gives us Internet access anywhere in the cabin and even outdoors. What luxury.

It's not a cheap alternative, but we get 50 GB of high speed data for $85. 

Even though we didn't get television, we splurged on Netflix.  We download movies and programs while we're in town to watch later up at the cabin. That doesn't take any data at all.

Aligning the dish.

A typical day starts with streaming the morning news and downloading the newspaper to read offline. We check email and see what's happening on Facebook and Instagram. Then we turn the system off until evening when we watch the nightly news and check email and social media one more time.

All finished and snugly attached to the shed on shore.

We've moved into the Internet age but have to be careful we don't become wireheads like the old days. We want to save our days for gardening, cabin chores, sailing, boating, quadding, reading, writing, and other active pursuits. So far, so good. -- Margy

Saturday, September 02, 2017

“Listening to Whales” by Alexandra Morton

Echo Bay on Gilford Island and Billy Proctor seem to attract strong women who love the outdoors and nature to its fullest. Three of these women have written about their lives to share their experiences and inspire us.

I’ve reviewed books by Yvonne Maximchuk and Billy Proctor. Another author is Nikki Van Schyndel who wrote Becoming Wild, a memoir of her year living off the land on islands in the Broughton Archipelago. The most recent book I’ve read is Alexandra Morton’s memoir Listening to Whales.

Alexandra grew up in Lakeville, Connecticut. Her parents were artists and writers who were well connected to all levels of society. Alexandra didn’t fit in well with her peers, preferring nature to social interaction and left school at seventeen to strike out on her own. In parting, her mother gave her this sage advice, “You can leave school, but you have to do something with your life.” And that she did.

Alexandra began working with John Lilly with research into dolphin intelligence. She followed that by working with Corky and Orky, two performing orcas at Marineland of the Pacific in California. It was here that she started experiencing discomfort with the confinement of dolphins and whales. She also became familiar with SeaWorld in San Diego through her relationship with researcher Jeff Norris.

The memoir includes details about captured whales living in oceanariums, and their difficulties related to confined living spaces. This led Alexandra to British Columbia to begin her study of orca whales in the wild.

Alexandra pulls you into her world, and takes you along on her adventures in Coastal British Columbia. You’ll meet resident, transient and mysterious orca pods from the Pacific Ocean.

Following the death of her researcher/underwater photographer husband Robin Morton, Alexandra turned to fishing with Billy Proctor as a means to continue living in Echo Bay with her son Jarret. This led Alexandra to become a champion for wild salmon and a critic of fish farming practices along the coast.

Alexandra continues to live in Echo Bay, listen to her beloved whales, and fight for the rights of wild salmon. Her memoir will open your eyes to some of the evils we perpetrate on our fellow living creature, and some ways you can get involved to solve the problems man has created.

Find out more about Alexandra Morton online at:
You can also read my review of her book Heart of the Raincoast about the life of Billy Proctor. -- Margy