Friday, March 30, 2018

Coastal BC Animals: Velella Velella

Velella Velella
(By the Wind Sailors) 

In May I had a wonderful three day trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island in Coastal British Columbia. I went with my good friend, Yvonne Maximchuk. She lives up the coast in remote Echo Bay. She's an author, artist and potter. An amazing woman!

She met me at the Comox Ferry Terminal and we drove to both Tofino and Ucluelet on the west side of the island.

Long Beach at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

In the middle we stopped at Long Beach, part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

Velellas washed ashore.
As we walked the sandy beach, we discovered hundreds of thousands of small chitinous bodies. They were bunched together at the different high tide marks and quickly drying out. These were the remains of Velella velella commonly known as sail jellyfish or by-the-wind sailors.

Velella velella are in the Phylum Cnidaria and are related to anemones and jellyfish. Velellas are small, about 4-8 cm long. They have a flat oval body made of concentric circles of gas filled chitin chambers and an upward structure that serves as a sail to transport them across the ocean surface.

Interestingly, some Velellas have a right leaning 45 degree angle sail, and others have a left leaning sail.

Below the surface are specialized polyps for feeding, reproduction and defense. In this way, they are similar to the large jellyfish known as a Portuguese Man of War. Except Velelas are so small they don't have much of a sting.

They typically live far off shore, feeding on plankton. Occasionally redirected warm currents and/or strong winds will bring them ashore to die in massive amounts.

Yvonne holding a dried and fresh Velella velella.

So if you're walking a sandy beach and see what looks like oval bits of plastic, don't despair. It may not be litter, just the remains of small but numerous by-the-wind sailors. -- Margy

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Take Your Quads on Vacation

Last summer we put our quads on a trailer and took them on vacation with us to Vancouver Island. Our destination was Stella Lake near Campbell River. Here's the article that was just published in the Spring 2018 Riderswest Magazine and on their website.

Take your quads on vacation.

My husband and I have ridden ATVs in our home region of Powell River, B.C., for 15 years. In 2017, we explored the Campbell River region on Vancouver Island.

Old logging road to Bear River.

I follow the Campbell River ATV Club (CRATV) on Facebook and the CRATV Forum and know they are active in trail maintenance. They’re also instrumental in developing long-distance ATV routes (Riderswest article) and have secured riding permission in some towns to access fuel, restaurants and overnight accommodations. CRATV uses the Pye Mountain Recreation Site, which they built as a base for club activities. It can be accessed via Highway 19 north of Campbell River and the Elk Bay Forest Service Road (FSR).

Stella Lake Beach campsite.

We wanted to camp near water, so we selected Stella Lake based on a recommendation from friends in the Powell River ATV Club. There are two ways to get there, either by Elk Bay or Rock Bay forest service roads. We chose the Rock Bay to Stella Lake FSR because, with our double quad trailer, we wanted to avoid the steep hill and tight turn on the Elk Bay route. On the way we stopped at the Roberts Lake Resort café for one of their famous cinnamon rolls.

Blue sky and water at Stella Lake from Elk Bay FSR.

We travelled in June on a Thursday. Stella Beach’s campsites were mostly open and we chose one with lake access. We offloaded our quads at the entrance, then parked the trailer in the ample site. There are pit toilets, picnic tables and fire rings, but campers should bring drinking water. Even in June, the campground filled over the weekend, but there are other camping spots in the area.

Excellent signage including experience level.

From our campsite, we rode forest service roads and trails developed by the Campbell River ATV Club. There’s excellent signage that includes experience level symbols. As an intermediate rider, that was very helpful. We also purchased Backroad Maps software for our Garmin GPS to make us more confident about riding in a new location.

Overlooking Johnstone Strait from Rock Bay FSR.

Some of the most memorable rides were to Elk Bay on Johnstone Strait, visiting the Pye Mountain Rec Site, and going to neighbouring Pye and McCreight lakes. My favourite ride was along an old logging road that branched off Bear Bight Road and wound through second growth to the Bear River (a.k.a. Amos de Cosmos Creek). Here, we enjoyed a picnic lunch in warm sunshine surrounded by a meadow of sweet gale.

Sunny day for a picnic at Bear River.

Where will you be going this summer? Check out the Powell River Quad Rides blog and Powell River ATV Riders’ Facebook group and bring your quad on vacation to the northern Sunshine Coast.

Check out Coastal BC Stories about quad riding including Farther Up the Main by Wayne Lutz. -- Margy

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Ode to Bro

When Wayne and I came to Powell River in 2001 our first friend was John. You can't be friends with John and not love his dog Bro, Brody if you are being formal.

Bro lived a long, well traveled life. If John went anywhere, Bro was always at his side. That ended sadly this month when Bro left this earthly world to go meet his maker. As Bro would say...

I was living in a shelter on Vancouver Isle,
When John and his family came to visit awhile.
I used my best Black Lab attitude,
And soon enough they were wooed.
We took a ferry ride to Powell River,
to a loving home that would last forever.

During my eighteen years with John,
I've been everywhere, man.
I've been everywhere.
I've been to...

Last Chance
Powell Lake
Goat Lake
Duck Lake
Princess Louisa
Last Resort
Goat Island
The Head
St. Vincents
Olsen's Landing
The Eldred
Frog Pond
Rupert's Farm
Rainy Day
Hole in the Wall
Our Float Cabin
And Best of all
My Westview home!

And many more, man.
Many, many more.
I've been everywhere, man.
I've been everywhere.

Thanks John for the best life
a Black Lab named Bro could ever imagine.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Coastal BC Plants: Salmonberry


Salmonberry buds ready to burst forth.
There are signs everywhere when spring arrives. On a quad ride we found beautiful bright pink (sometimes purple) salmonberry flowers just starting to open.

Soon they will bloom and the green leaves will emerge. Later they will have ripe orange-red berries to nourish humans and animals alike.

A lone salmonberry bush next to a creek.
Salmonberry plants (Rubus spectabilis) make a rambling bush up to four feet tall. They can make a huge wall of brambles if the conditions are right. This one on a rock riverbank is a standalone. They have small thorns, especially towards the bottom of the branches.

A ripening salmonberry.
The sawtooth edged leaves come in sets of three. The fruits come in yellow, salmon and dark red raspberry-like berries. You will find them in coastal regions from California to Alaska. First Nation people used the roots, leaves and berries for medicinal purposes and as a food source.

The berries are juicy, but sometimes bland in flavour. But that doesn't matter to the forest dwellers.

A ripe Salmonberry ready for eating.

As an early flowering and fruiting plant, it's a favourite with birds and animals. Hummingbirds are attracted to the brilliant flowers, small animals enjoy the tender leaves, and of course the bears love the ripe fruit after a long winter's nap.

I remember picking and eating Salmonberries as a child on camping trips with my parents. Those would have been California Salmonberries. Now I get to enjoy their British Columbian relatives. Do you have any fond Salmonberry memories? -- Margy

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cabin Cooking: Streusel Coffee Cake with Cinnamon Pecan Crumb Topping

Wayne and I don’t go shopping before we return to our cabin after a long trip. It makes a travel day easier, and we have lots of food in our pantry to tide us over. Two things that make this method difficult are fresh foods and breakfasts. Our garden helps fill the gap for fresh food. For breakfast we make things from scratch.

Today I made coffee cake to go with our morning brew. I went through my recipe books but didn't find one I liked, so I went online (thanks to Xplornet) and picked one by Diana Rattray from the spruce Eats.

Streusel Coffee Cake with 
Cinnamon Pecan Crumb Topping


For the Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sifted flour
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped pecans

For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Heat oven to 325 F. Butter and flour an 8 or 9-inch pan.

Prepare the topping:

Combine brown sugar, flour, chopped pecans and cinnamon.

Cut in room temperature butter with a whisk until the streusel is crumbly. Set aside.

Prepare the cake:

In a bowl blend flour, baking powder and salt with a whisk.

In another bowl. Lightly beat the egg then blend in sugar and melted butter. Add the milk and vanilla and mix well.

Stir in flour mixture until well blended.

I did all of my mixing with a whisk because I don't have a mixer due to our off-the-grid electrical system. The original recipe called for an electric mixer to blend the batter.

Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the batter. Cut in with a knife.

Bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Partially cool in the pan. Cut into squares while still warm.

In addition to serving this rich coffee cake for breakfast you can serve it as a dessert with whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. Don't you just love something that gives you double a duty?

What do you do about shopping when you came home from a trip away from home? -- Margy

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spring Quad Ride Up Chippewa Main

Offloading at the Chippewa Bay barge ramp.
I've shared about rides up Chippewa Main here and on Powell River Quad Rides several times. That's because it's an easy place for us to access with our barge and because it gives us choices in directions to ride.

On this spring ride we took our quads to the Chippewa Bay barge ramp to offload. This is our usual starting point. Because there's current logging activity, the barge ramp is well maintained.

Ready to ride,

We chose a Saturday for our ride because the logging company expects more private use of their service roads, and because weekend activity is usually less. On our ride, the only work being conducted was vehicle maintenance. The roads and trails were all ours.

An old section of logging road heading up towards Heather Main.

This trip was to see if we could get through the snow to Heather Main that connects Powell Lake with Theodosia Inlet to the northwest, but we were blocked by pockets of deep slushy snow near our destination.

Using the slushy snow to make a slushy drink. Take that deep snow.

Come along on the ride up to Heather Main in this YouTube video.

Since our ride some of our friends made it through. The warm late spring weather is quickly melting snow in the high country and reopening many of our favourite trails.

Blue skies over Powell Lake on the way to Hole in the Wall.

Do you have any quad trails in your area that you would like to suggest? We are always looking for new places to ride and explore in British Columbia including Vancouver Island.

You can read more about our Powell Lake quad rides in Beyond the Main and Powell Lake by Barge and Quad. Both are available online in print and ebook formats. -- Margy

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Sunrise Over Goat Island

This month the weather has been a mix of sun, clouds, wind, rain, and even some hail. Is this really spring?

Recently I was up early enough to be rewarded with a beautiful sunrise over Goat Island. In winter, the sun moves far to the south across the bay from our float cabin home.

During spring, the sun starts to climb up the side of nearby Goat Island until it crests the top in summer.

There's nothing like a sunny start to a nice, warm spring day.

Now I can get out and continue planting my float garden and deck pots. Is spring late in coming to your area? -- Margy

Monday, March 19, 2018

Coastal BC Birds: Oregon Junco

Oregon Junco

One bird that arrives in spring at our float cabin on Powell Lake is the Oregon Junco, a regional variation of the Dark-eyed Junco.  They are a member of the sparrow family with a distinctive dark hooded head and brownish bodies. A sturdy beak is well suited for seed eating.

An Oregon Junco on our granite cliff.

Oregon Juncos are common in the western United States and British Columbia. They live in the understory of coniferous forests. In winter they move to open areas including fields and lawns in town.

An Oregon Junco fledgling on our bridge to shore.

Oregon Juncos typically have two broods a year. Juncos build ground-based nests in protected areas. Each brood has from three to five chicks that hatch in about twelve days and fledge about twelve days later.

Mother Junco feeds one of her fledglings a seed.

For the last two years, a pair of Juncos has raised their family on our granite cliff. The female brought her young chicks to the seed feeders on our bridge to shore. It was also fun to watch young birds playing in the water in the shallows nearby.

Two fledglings taking a bath in the shallows on shore.

One year a large flock of Oregon Juncos arrived at the same time. It was the same week that I planted seeds in my float garden.

Wayne with our protective garden netting.
Wayne and I raced to cover the beds with bird netting to protect my crops. Even so, some got through and we had to help them get out. After the fact we termed this the Junco Wars. You can read that story by clicking here. -- Margy

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Repotting a Red Currant

Painting the outside of the drum.
Last year I potted a red currant in a small container. It grew substantially over the summer so this spring I gave it a bigger home.

I used a 55-gallon plastic barrel given to me by my friend John. It was quite worn, so I spray painted the exterior with Rust-oleum flat black that adheres plastic.

The bottom filled with empty plastic bottles.
The top third of the barrel was cut off (I used it for a separate planter), leaving a large area for soil and root growth. After drilling the bottom with drain holes, I filled it with a layer of empty plastic bottles.

Cutting a drainage filter.
Then I cut a large circle of mill felt (course woven polyester) to go on top of the bottles to prevent soil from clogging the drainage holes. When I don't have mill felt, I use cut-to-fit air conditioner replacement pads.

Before filling the container with soil, I inserted a 64" high metal fan trellis and attached it to the back of the barrel by drilling holes and wiring it securely in place.

My repotted red currant now has ample space for root growth and a trellis to train and support its branches. This summer I'm hoping for a good crop of berries on the branches that grew last year.

The red currant repotted with a trellis to support vertical growth.

The cost for my new container was $24.00:

55-gallon barrel (free from a friend)
Rustoleum Spray Paint $4.00 (with lots left over)
Fan trellis from Canadian Tire ($20.00)
Plastic bottles (recycled)
Mill felt (free from a friend)

How do you get low cost large containers for growing plants? -- Margy