Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 Gardening in Review

I enjoyed a long season of gardening again this year.

My floating garden on Powell Lake, BC.

Here's a review of my gardening posts from 2018. Click the titles to read the complete posts.

January 2018 -- Winter Garden Wonders about my first year of trying an active winter garden using my floating garden raised beds and selected containers.

February 2018 -- Pressure Canning Potatoes from my own crop grown in half 55-gallon barrels strategically placed around the float cabin deck.

March 2018 -- Pressure Canning Carrots from the Scarlet Nantes I grow in my floating garden raised beds. They make a short, sweet stubby carrot perfect for eating, storing and canning.

March 2018 -- Repotting a Red Currant tells how I made a large container from a 45-gallon black barrel to transplant my two year old red current plant. The currants were so happy in their new home that they gave me plenty of fruit for jam.

May 2018 -- Float Cabin Living: Can You Have a Garden? -- This was a segment of my series about off-the-grid living in our float cabin home on Powell Lake, BC.

July 2018 -- Summer Garden Highlights shares some of my garden successes including a visit from members of the Powell River Garden Club.

August 2018 -- Overwintering Geraniums shares my most recent and most successful method of overwintering outdoor geraniums in a cool to cold climate. Right now they are enjoying indoor life in our Powell River condo.

August 2018 -- Raising and Drying Herbs tells how I make my home grown herbs last throughout winter. For fun I hand painted recycled containers to liven up my spice shelf.

October 2018 -- Harvesting and Storing Potatoes shares how I grow potatoes in containers on my cabin deck. I save my own seed potatoes, making it a very economical food to grow.

November 2018 -- Guest Blogger on Terra do Milho -- I was invited by Monique, a homesteader in Portugal, to write a guest post for her blog. You can read more about Monique's experiences at her Terra do Milho website.

December 2018 -- Composting with Chop and Drop in the Garden and Containers describes how I am using a method called chop and drop to use garden waste as mulch and layered in empty containers to decompose over the winter months.

How was your gardening this year? What were some of your successes and challenges you learned from. -- Margy

Monday, December 24, 2018

5 Favourite 2018 Powell River Books Blog Posts

Each year I like to share posts that were favourites with my readers. Here are the top 5 for 2018 in order. Click the titles to read the posts.

1. Repotting a Red Currant:  In 2017, I purchased a bare root red currant. It outgrew its container so I made a large one from a 45-gallon plastic barrel for its permanent home.

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

Related post: Red currant jam from my first harvest.

2. Crochet Armrest Cover:  In 2013, we replaced the sofa that came with our cabin. It was used to start with and on it's last legs (literally). In 2018, I made crochet armrest covers to extend its life.

Crochet armrest cover to extend the life of our new sofa.

Related post: What goes up, must come down.

3. Float Cabin Living - The Series:  In 2018, I updated a series I originally wrote in 2007 about living in our float cabin home. The twelve posts delve into off-the-grid living topics.

Our Powell Lake float cabin home.

Related post: Off the grid float cabin YouTube video reaches over one million views.

4. Ode to Bro:  John lost his best friend and constant companion earlier this year. When we bought our float cabin in 2001 it came with John's friendship and his dog Bro's excited (mad-man) welcomes. We considered Bro our adopted dog and felt his loss deeply.

Brody, Bro, Bro-Man

Related post: Portrait of a man and his dog.

5. Float Cabin Marina:  Last Christmas we got a Garmin VIRB Ultra30 action camera. One video showcased our boats at the cabin. When you live on water, boats are an important part of your life.

Only the barge we are on is missing.

Related post: Winter quad ride on Goat Island.

2018 was a very good year up the lake at the float cabin. We hope yours was as well. - Wayne and Margy

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Canning: Home Canned Apple Pie Filling

Organizing my ingredients and equipment.
After following comments on the Safe Canning Recipes Facebook Page, I wanted to try Apple Pie Filling. I chose the tested recipe below from the Ball/Kerr websiteClick here to see the original.

I purchased a $5.99 5-pound bag of apples and apple juice from the store. The ClearJel I ordered from Amazon. The other ingredients I already had in my fridge and pantry.

Home Canned Apple Pie Filling

Prepare apples, treat to prevent browning

• 12 cups sliced apples drained
   (about 12 medium)
• Water
• 2-3/4 cups granulated sugar
• 3/4 cup ClearJel
• 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
• 2-1/2 cups unsweetened
   apple juice
Measure ingredients.
• 1-1/4 cups cold water
• 1/2 cup lemon juice
• 7 pint glass preserving jars
   with lids and bands


1. PEEL, core and slice apples.

2. TREAT apple slices to prevent browning by submerging them in
Blanch apples.
a mixture of 1/4 cup lemon juice
(or 1 tsp of Fruit Fresh/citric acid) and 4 cups water.

3. PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.

4. BLANCH apple slices, working
Cover blanched apples to keep warm.
with 6 cups at a time, in a large pot of boiling water for one minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a covered bowl.

5. COMBINE sugar, ClearJel, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large stainless steel saucepan. Stir in apple juice and cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat,
Cook mixture then add apple slices.
stirring constantly, and cook
until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice, return to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Drain apple slices and immediately fold into hot mixture. Before processing, heat, stirring, until apples are heated through.

Fill and process jars.
6. LADLE hot apple pie filling into hot jars leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fingertip tight.

7. PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 25 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours.

Making apple sauce and a juice drink.
I then cooked the skins and cores to put through my food mill for two half pints of applesauce. I processed the jars for 15 minutes in the hot water after the pie filling.

Lastly, I simmered the remains in the water I saved from blanching the apples.  I strained the liquid and added sugar and cinnamon to taste. Since this wasn't a tested recipe, it went in the fridge to drink right away.

My apple canning canning results.

That's how I stretched a five pound bag of apples to the max. The total was six pints of apple pie filling, two half pints of applesauce and one quart of apple juice drink. Next year I need to find an abandoned apple tree for even more savings. -- Margy

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Composting with Chop and Drop in the Garden and Containers

My former compost "barrel" next to the winter compost pit.
I lost the area where I kept my compost barrel and winter compost pit. I still have a garden, so I had to find a way to deal with garden waste.

Our Powell River Garden Club had Linda Gilkeson as a guest speaker. In addition to her excellent information about garden pests and growing techniques, she introduced me to a method called chop and drop. I later read more about it on the Terra do Milho website.

Chopped leaf mulch under the broccoli.
Chop and drop is a form of mulching. It's a good method during the growing season when you only have a small amount of plant material for disposal. Chop your trimmings into small pieces and drop them on the ground around plants. You get the benefits of mulching. For me,it was also a way to dispose of organic waste without taking all the way to town it to town to recycle center. 

Chopped carrot and beet tops protecting my garlic bed.

When the growing season came to an end I had lots of plant material for disposal. I decided to try using my empty half 55-gallon barrel planters for winter composting.

After the first layer of soil came chopped plant matter and Rot-It.

I removed all but the last 6 inches of dirt in the bottom. I layered that with 6 inches of chopped plant matter and a sprinkling of compost accelerator. I use Old Gardener Compost Builder: Rot-It.

Two plant containers with layers of compost processing.

I continued with layers until the barrel was full. I have several barrels layered in this manner. In spring I'll plant my tomato, squash and pepper seedlings in the barrels. The decomposed matter with feed the roots of my new plants.

How do you handle composting? Have you tried the chop and drop or barrel layering method? How did it work for you? -- Margy

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Riding the Duck Lake Forest Service Road Region

Westlake Woodlands logging map.
We went on a fall quad ride to explore the region you can access from the Duck Lake Forest Service Road. We invited our good friends Dave and Marg to join us. First, we enjoy riding with them. Second, Dave knows the trails around Powell River much better than we do.

We went on a Sunday when loggers know to look out for the public on our backroads.

We drove south of town to the junction of Highway 101 and Duck Lake Forest Service Road, a well maintained backcountry mainline.

Parking out of the way on a side sput.
A short ways up the dirt road are spots to park.

The area in which we rode was part of the Westlake Woodlands managed by locals Doug and Ron Fuller. They offer a free online map that can be used with Avenza GPS map app to track your route.

Dave, Marg and their dog Crystal.
Unfortunately, we didn't take ours since Dave was leading. It would have been a great reference for future rides.

While I can't share the exact route, we left Duck Lake Main to follow several old logging roads through the lush second growth forest.

The Blue Trail Connector back to Duck Lake Main.

Many old roads and trails are maintained by local ATV, biking, horseback riding and hiking organizations. Being close to town, they are well used and enjoyed by many. Yet, on our ride we didn't see any other quad riders and only one hiking group and a man walking his dog.

East Lake

We stopped at East Lake for a picnic. There are log benches, a fire ring and a dock that would enjoyable especially in summer.

Picnic stop.

We continued through the area with a stop at West (Hammil) Lake. The weather was already changing from mostly sunny to mostly cloudy.

Clouds hovering over West Lake.

We'll go back on our own to explore the Duck Lake area while our quads are stored in town.

A rare picture of us together thanks to Dave.

Thanks Dave and Marg for sharing your trail knowledge and friendship with us. If you come to visit Powell River, I highly recommend using Duck Lake Forest Service Road as a starting place to explore the backcountry. -- Margy

Friday, December 07, 2018

Insulating a Canning Pantry

Pantry storage in the corner of the bathroom.
When we added a bathroom, I included a pantry for storing home canning, dry goods and other non-perishables. It may seem strange to have a pantry in the bathroom, but when you live in a small home using space wisely is important. Plus, it's on the north side, the coolest place during hot months.

Now that I do more home canning, I am worried about freezing temperatures while we are away on winter holidays.

I asked advice on my favourite Safe Canning Recipes Facebook page. Here's what I decided to do. I started by putting bubble wrap around the back and sides of my pantry shelf.

Then I covered the canning jars with a folded bath towel. To monitor the temperature I'm using a digital thermometer.

Lastly, I put cardboard (from our new BBQ) over the top of each shelf that has canning jars and let it drape over the front.

When the front doors are closed, it should make good insulation to help prevent my canning jars from freezing.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Accidental freezing of canned foods will not cause spoilage unless jars become unsealed and recontaminated. However, freezing and thawing may soften food. If jars must be stored where they may freeze, wrap them in newspapers, place them in heavy cartons, and cover with more newspapers and blankets.

Do you live in an area with freezing temperatures? How to you make preparations? -- Margy

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Sharpening the Saw

Elementary principal days.
When I worked for the school district, we talked about "sharpening the saw" in a metaphysical sense. It came from reading and putting into practice the seven habits of highly effective people advocated by Stephen Covey. It was about renewing the four dimensions of our lives, the physical, spiritual, mental and social/emotional states.

Moving to our float cabin on Powell Lake took care of all those dimensions for Wayne and I in one fell swoop.

Our float cabin home at the "wall" in Hole in the wall.

One test in self sufficiency was getting and preparing our own wood for winter. Summer and fall driftwood gathering seasons.

The barge helps gather driftwood.

We prefer pieces that don't require splitting, but sometimes larger logs float up to our cabin and beg to be taken. All of the wood has to be cut to size to fit into our Kozi wood-burning stove.

A driftwood log that floating into our water lease.

An important step was learning about chainsaws. Our good friend and mentor John helped Wayne pick one that would fit our needs, a Stihl, and taught him how to use it. And use it he does. 

Preparing firewood for the floating woodshed.

Wayne does the chainsaw cutting, I help with the splitting. In the beginning we used a stump on our wood storage float. That was work!

After ten years of doing it the hard way, Wayne got me the best present, an electric log splitter that runs on a gas generator. Since I'm the photographer of the family, here's Wayne and John giving it the trial run.  Yes I know, we were so excited we didn't put on our regular safety equipment: boots, gloves, safety glasses and ear defenders.

Finally comes the task I like best, sharpening the saw. John taught me how to do it. Each tooth on the chain has to get uniform attention.  Sharpening the saw has now taken on a whole new meaning.

I know it's right when I can feel the edge just catch the skin of my finger after several strokes with the file. A felt pen mark ensures that I go around the chain one time before reversing the saw and filing the teeth that face in the opposite direction. If I do my job well, the saw cuts through the wood like butter.

One good thing about Wayne and I is that we each like different parts of the same task. When we work together as a team, the result is better than if either of us did it alone.

It may not be what Covey had in mind, but our saw is both physically and metaphysically sharp. How about yours? -- Margy