Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Snowy Day at Hole in the Wall

Even though we live in British Columbia, we don't get that much snow. Our location near the coast moderates our climate.

But when we do, it's an exciting event for me. I grew up in Southern California and the closest I came to snow was looking at it high on top of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Over the weekend we had a brief period of snow. But you had to be fast, it melted almost as quick as it arrived. Here's a short video Wayne took to share with you.

How has your winter weather been? Or are you one of the lucky ones south of the equator enjoying warm summer days? -- Margy

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Canning: Carmel Apple Jam

I’ve been saving apple skins and cores in the freezer. My plan was to make Apple Peel (Scrap) Jelly but I didn’t want to waste the flesh clinging to the skins. I found a recipe for Carmel Apple Jam at Canning Homemade through the Safe Canning Recipes Blog that looked more interesting.

Carmel Apple Jam

Preparing the apple.

6 cups diced peeled apples
½ cup water
1 package powdered pectin
2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Making apple sauce from frozen skins.

Preparing the sugar and spices.
Cook apples and water over low heat until soft. Stir in pectin and bring to a full rolling boil stirring constantly. Stir in sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg. Return to a full rolling boil and boil for one minute. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam. Pour hot jam into hot sterilized jars leaving ¼-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Yields 7 half-pints.

My Approach:

Cooking the jam with pectin.
Each time I peel apples (all types) I soak the scraps in a solution of citric acid powder and water to prevent browning. Before freezing I remove any seeds.

Filling the sterilized jars.
When I had enough, I put the peels in a saucepan with half a cup of water. I let them simmer on low for an hour covered and then uncovered until the water evaporated and they were mushy.

I processed the softened scraps in a food mill. The result was a thin applesauce. I added one diced cooked Granny Smith apple for texture.

Using my single jar water bath.
I made a half batch following the recipe except I increased the cinnamon. I love cinnamon.

I’m very happy with the results. The taste is rich and not overly sweet. Next time I’ll use two diced apples to go with my scraps. I’ll also cook the apple cubes longer and mash them to a smoother consistency.

Carmel Apple Jam topping on my yogurt.
Carmel Apple Jam is good on biscuits, toast and as a topping for yogurt and ice cream.

Do you have any favourite recipes for apples or apple scraps? -- Margy

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Winter Garden Wonders

This is the first year that I've actively done winter gardening.

Winter crops in the floating garden.

I've cleaned out all of the containers on the decks, but the raised beds on the garden float are still producing.

Some sections are resting until spring.

Yesterday there was a break and I had some sun and dry weather to go out to work in the soil. After being stuck indoors for almost a week, it was wonderful.

I cleaned out the hoop tunnel and worked up the soil.

At the back of the garden I still have carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts and kale.

In the front are broccoli, thyme and rosemary.

And there are signs of spring. The garlic and daffodil bulbs are starting to sprout.

We haven't been to the grocery store in over a week due to stormy weather and lingering winter colds.

These fresh winter garden vegetables make our meals from storage staples healthier and more appealing.

Do you winter garden? What are your favourite plants to grow? -- Margy

Friday, January 05, 2018

Winter Power Solutions

We use the sun as our primary source to generate electricity.

Winter Solstice sunrise and sunset.

During winter, it can be problematic. On the shortest day we only get two hours of direct sunlight.

A foggy sunset at Hole in the Wall.

On top of that we get stretches of cloudy weather. Even when the weatherman promises sun, it often turns foggy. So we use several winter power generation alternatives. One is wind. When we get storms it helps charge our battery bank.

Thermoelectric power generation is common in industry. On a small scale, it's more experimental. We tried a unit made in West Virginia, but there was limited success. I still think it's a great idea for woodstove heated homes.

A thermoelectric generator using woodstove heat to create electricity.

Our fallback is a 1000 watt Yamaha generator. It's fuel efficient and relatively quiet. On cloudy days we run it in the evening for five hours to directly power electric devices such as computers and a small television to display movies. 

A fuel efficient and quiet Yamaha 1000 watt gas powered generator.

At the same time it tops off our two battery banks to keep them in good shape and provide us with power for the following day.

The cabin battery bank in its protective storage box.

Our most important winter power solution is to minimize our use of electricity. We monitor our batteries carefully, and switch everything off when levels become low. Being off the grid means we are responsible for meeting our own needs. It also means there are no unexpected power outages during winter storms. I like it that way.

You can read more about float cabin living by selecting Float Cabin Living and Float Cabin Construction in the topic list on the right side of this page.

You can also read about our off-the-grid lifestyle in Wayne's Coastal BC Stories series books including Up the Lake, Farther Up the Lake, Off the Grid and Off the Grid: Getting Started. All books are available in print and e-book formats from most online book sellers. -- Margy