Sunday, November 28, 2021

Book Review: "For Joshua" by Richard Wagamese

Last month I reviewed Buried Secrets in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series by Mike Martin. Windflower is Cree and is inspired by the works of Richard Wagamese. That inspired me to read his books.

First I read Indian Horse about the devastating repercussions residential school attendance. 

Next I chose the memoir For Joshua: An Ojibwe Father Teaches His Son.

Wagamese was taken from his parents and raised by Canadian families. He didn't learn Ojibwe culture, was bullied in school and never felt he belonged. The process became known as the "Sixties Scoop" where children were forcibly placed in non-native foster or adoptive homes. Like residential schools, it was a means to force assimilation into Canadian norms and values.

In For Joshua, Wagamese tells his life story and how he struggled to learn who he was as an Ojibwe man. Life left him estranged from his son, so he used the book to pass along important teachings.

I live in the traditional territory of the Tla'amin Nation in Coastal British Columbia. Workshops following the Truth and Reconciliation of Canada Final Report opened my eyes to past and present impacts of residential schools. Reading books by Richard Wagamese has been helpful to increase my understanding. 

Richard Wagamese was one of Canada's most famous indigenous authors. He wrote novels, memoirs and Embers, Objibwe meditations. He passed in 2017 at 61 years of age, a life ended way too soon.

Richard Wagamese's books have a Canadian focus, but forced assimilation for indigenous peoples happens in many countries. I highly recommend his works as a way to increase your understanding and get involved. -- Margy

Friday, November 26, 2021

Book Review: "Indian Horse" by Richard Wagamese

The last book I reviewed, A Perfect Storm by Mike Martin, led me to this month's book. The main character in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series is a Cree RCMP officer. He maintains traditional practices, and reads Embers: One Ojibway's Meditations by Richard Wagamese for solace and inspiration. After reviewing books by Wagamese, I selected Indian Horse to be my first.

Indian Horse is a novel about Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway from Northern Ontario. He was raised by his grandmother in traditional ways, but at age eight he was forced to live at an Indian residential school.

Residential schools were funded by the Department of Indian Affairs and administered by churches. Their purpose was to expunge Indigenous ways and inculcate Canadian culture. Attendance for school age children was compulsory from 1894 until an unconscionable 1996 when the last closed. 

Not only were Indigenous children ripped from their families during formative years, they were subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuses, and too many died from harsh conditions and torture. The result is generations of First Nation peoples alienated from their culture and language, lacking education, and experiencing post-traumatic syndrome and racism.

Indian Horse takes us through this dark period through the eyes of Saul. The book opens with him telling the reader that he has been told he needs to tell the stories to understand where he is from and where he is going. As his story unfolds, we can feel his joy and sadness, his success and failure, his anguish and emergence from a blocked out horrific experience. 

Canadians are going through a reconciliation process to "redress the legacy of residential schools." In 2008, then Prime Minister Harper issued an apology on behalf of the Canadian government. That same year the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to hear testimony.  Their "Call to Action" was finally released in 2015.

A community traditional canoe carving reconciliation project.

Towns like Powell River across Canada brought Settlers (non-Indigenous Canadians) and First Nation members together to have hard conversations and to develop a better understanding of the ramifications of racial prejudice and subjugation. As a Settler in my native U.S.A. and my Canadian home I personally have a lot of work to do to reconcile my life of white privilege with systemic racism.

Indian Horse was the "People's Choice" Award of Canada Reads and First Nations Community Reads winner in 2012.  It's not an easy read, but the message is important especially now. I highly recommend Indian Horse and am looking forward to my next Richard Wagamese book.

Here's another book related to truth and reconciliation. Powell River is located on traditional land of the Tla'amin First Nation, a Coast Salish tribe. Written As I Remember It by elder Elsie Paul tells about this same period of time from a local perspective. 

Raised by her grandparents and hidden from authorities during fall sweeps, she was forced to attend the Sechelt Residential School at age ten. He memoir includes Tla'amin Nation history from oral traditions to the present as her people move away from Indian Act control to a self-governing nation. 

 Both books are available online including Amazon. -- Margy

Monday, November 01, 2021

"Buried Secrets" by Mike Martin

This month's review is about Mike Martin's eleventh book in the Sgt. Windflower mystery series. Buried Secrets continues the story of Newfoundland RCMP Sgt. Winston Windflower.

Mike's mystery books are different from most police-based novels. The reader gets to know the officer as a family man in addition to his official duties. And the rural Grand Bank, Newfoundland, setting gives an additional hometown feel.

While each of Mike Martin's books can be read as a stand-alone, it's helpful to read the series in order. References to previous cases and family activities have more depth if you do.

In this book, Sgt. Windflower is investigating the death of a retired minister. The case draws Windflower back to Grand Bank from a special duty assignment (Book 10) in St. John's, the capitol. Covid also plays a minor role in the story. As Winston delves into the buried secrets surrounding the minister's demise, he encounters several societal issues including drug abuse, human trafficking, embezzlement, vehicle-moose accidents, and sexual harassment within the ranks of the RCMP.

On the family side of the story, we follow along as Winston and his wife Sheila raise their two young daughters. Each night they read the girls bedtime stories. One was Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. When I taught kindergarten, it was a favourite with my students for it's repetition and colourful pictures.

You can find Buried Secrets in print and Kindle e-book formats at,, !ndigo and Ottawa Press. If you are a Kindle Unlimited reader, it's available there as well. Speaking of Kindles, Wayne and I just received our new Paperwhites. Our old 2010 Kindles that have served us so well are losing their cellular download capability. I'm proud to stay that Buried Secrets is the first book to be read on my new device.

One last bit of news. Mike just released a post on his Facebook page about his Reading Equity Program. You can read more about it here. I applaud Mike for giving away twenty-five free books to individuals who cannot afford to purchase one of their own. As the Children's Literacy motto goes, "Reading is Fundamental." Good for you Mike. -- Margy

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Composting in a Plastic Barrel Step by Step

My former wire bin composter.
Three years ago I lost the location for my simple wire compost bin. I'd used it for years to compost my garden and kitchen scraps at our float cabin home. I had to find an alternative that could be handled on the cabin deck or in my floating garden. One method I learned about is called chop and drop.

Chopped garden waste for mulch.
Chop and drop works well for garden waste. As plants are trimmed or removed, the residue is chopped into small portions and used as mulch in garden beds and plant containers. The majority of my composting needs are taken care of in this manner.

Cutting a plastic 55-gallon barrel in half.
It doesn't work as well for kitchen scraps because the smell can attract critters. I decided to compost kitchen waste in a 55-gallon plastic barrel cut in half. Barrels in my town cost about $40. Check nursery, building and farm stores, or use a large plastic bucket or trash can that isn't too deep.

Now that last year's batch of soil is ready to use, I'm starting over.

Composting in a Plastic Barrel
Step by Step

A kitchen compost container.
Cut the barrel in half. Drill drain holes in the bottom. Make two composters or use the other half as a planter.

Place four inches of soil in the bottom to start.

Use a kitchen compost container for fruit and vegetable trimmings chopped into pieces.

Layering chopped plant matter, Rot-It and soil.
When the container is full, spread the contents over the layer of soil.

Add garden trimmings if you have them.

Sprinkle with compost accelerator. I use Rot-It.

Moisten with water.

Add 1" of soil over fresh items.

A cover cut to fit and a plastic mesh cage.
Cover with a porous material and surround with a cage to keep small critters out. If you live in bear country, enclose your composter.

When it's time to add a new layer, stir the ones below first.

Continue layering waste and soil until the barrel is full.

Let your composter rest with it's porous cover on for several months while the organic matter decomposes. Periodically moisten and mix to encourage the composting process.

Compost turned into rich soil in 8 months.

Your rewards will be less kitchen and garden waste going into the garbage stream, and free rich soil coming into your garden.

Do you do compost? What process do you use? Do you have any tips to add to my post? -- Margy

If you've ever dreamed of living away from town in an off-the-grid home, or in town with a simple lifestyle, you'll enjoy reading Off the Grid: Getting Started.

Smashwords ebooks for $4.99

Or go to for more ordering information.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Summer 2021 Cruising Season

Jeff from Valley Marine launches us.

Summer 2021 was similar to the 2020 cruising season. After our extended stay in the States, we arrived in Powell River in mid-July. 

Border crossing rules shortened isolation requirements, so we got our Bayliner 2452 into Powell River's North Harbour earlier for a longer cruising season.

The last 2020 trip ended in a damaged damaged sterndrive so Halcyon Days was raring to go with a new leg and propeller.

We did a sea trial then went salmon fishing. Didn't catch anything, but enjoyed our Sunday on the chuck (salt water).

For our first and last cruises we went to Campbell River on Vancouver Island. It's a favourite destination for us. We stay at the Discovery Harbour Marina next to a large shopping centre. Rather than cook onboard we eat at restaurants like Moxie's, the Riptide Pub and A&W for breakfast. When salmon are running, it's fun to watch the action at the dock's fish cleaning stations.

The Campbell River docks and large floating office.

This was the summer for favourite destinations. Our compressed season and more windy storms than usual kept us close to Powell River. We're so lucky to live next to the Strait of Georgia and its world class boating.

Our second cruise started with a stop at the Heriot Bay Inn and Marina. It's an older resort on the west side of Quadra Island. Usually the docks are full in summer and the restaurant packed. There were only a few boats and the restaurant was closed. It looked like the RV park and pub were keeping them alive. It would be sad to lose them.

Outdoor pub service and ferry watching at Heriot Bay.

On the same trip we motored over to nearby Cortes Island to stay at the Gorge Harbour Resort. Like Heriot Bay, they tap into the RV market. The resort is upscale with a market, entertainment and the Floathouse Restaurant. It's a great spot for boat watching, especially big ones.

Gorge Harbour is protected by a narrow waterway between high cliffs.

Back in the hangar for winter.
After three cruises and several fishing trips (none successful) it was time to get Halcyon Days ready for winter. We contacted Jeff at Valley Marine to come pick her up.

After Jeff winterizes her systems, she'll go back to the airport hangar where she has a runway view and can rest up for the next cruising season. 

Do you go boating? Wayne and I enjoy the fresh air, meeting people, sleeping on board, and eating in restaurants. -- Margy

Monday, September 27, 2021

Available Online: "Up the Strait" by Wayne J. Lutz

A Great Book
for the Boating Enthusiast

Up the Strait
Coastal BC Stories

It's cruising time again. Jump in the boat and head up the Strait of Georgia with us to magnificent anchorages and exciting adventures. Drop your hook in world famous Desolation Sound, discover hidden coves and meet some of the locals. Read Up the Strait by Wayne Lutz and then join us for the cruise of a lifetime. You may never want to leave. 

Go to for more information.

 Print for $12.95
Kindle for $2.99
E-book for $2.99 at Smashwords
(prices may vary in Canada)

Saturday, September 25, 2021

To bed, to bed -- garden style.

Eating snow with Daddy while hiking.
Daddy would say this bedtime rhyme
to me as a little girl.

"To bed, to bed," said Sleepy Head.
"Tarry a while," said Slow.
"Put on the pot," said Greedy Gut,
"We'll sup before we go."

The last two summers have been garden disasters. 

We left our cabin in January 2020 expecting to return in March after an Arizona Snowbird RV trip. Our float cabin is in Canada. COVID turned pandemic and border crossings became difficult.

Summer 2020 weedy float garden.

When returned in July, my float garden was overgrown with weeds. It took days to ready my beds for the next growing season. Things had to be better by then. 

After what we thought would be another short RV Snowbird Trip in 2021, we were detained once more south of the border. Eased rules for fully vaccinated Canadians let us head home in July. I bet you can guess what I found, a float garden gone wild - AGAIN! 

Weeding the 2021 float garden.

Weighted soil cover.
Fool me once, shame on you me, fool me twice, shame on ME! It took days to clear the weeds, and more to eradicate new seedlings.

The writing was on the wall, or should I say in the soil.

It's time to put my float garden to bed. This year I covered the cleared beds with black yard waste bags. 

The only soil that remains clear is where spring bulbs and garlic need to grow in our absence.

The float garden put to bed with winter bulbs planted.

We are going on an Arizona Snowbird RV trip again this winter. We hope to return in March to prepare our beds for spring bulbs and seeds. Hopefully, we won't find weeds gone wild. 

Do you cover beds to discourage winter and spring weed growth? If not, what do you do to keep your garden ready for spring planting? -- Margy

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Rock Painting for Cabin Decorations

Kobe in 2021.

Over the years I've painted several large rocks. When fall arrives and flowers depart, they brighten our lower deck.

Sometimes a rock tells me what it wants to become. The first one told me it wanted to be a turtle. Rocks sometimes tell different people different stories. Wayne saw Kobe Bryant's basketball shoe so I named it Kobe after the Los Angeles Lakers star. Kobe needed a repaint in 2016 and again this year.

The original rock that became Kobe the Turtle.

For my second project, I searched for a ladybug shaped rock. It was smoothed by Powell Lake's waves and easier to paint. It was so heavy I had a hard time carrying it from the Shinglemill beach to our boat. 

This summer I painted a rock I call Frogger after an old-time computer game. I selected the rock on a barge camping trip to Goat Lake. It looked perfect, but after painting I don't think it was best shape.

Frogger on the corner of the front deck.

Frogger has taken up residence on the other side of our front deck. Her weight will help hold the corner down when wind and boat waves wash through our front "yard."

I had lots of fun painting this summer. Do you paint rocks? Are they large or small? Tell us your stories. -- Margy

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Returning to a New Normal

First time heading up Powell Lake in July.
Like for many of you, the last year and a half has not been normal. In the beginning, I tried to blog about throwback topics. But without the ability to get home to our float cabin on Powell Lake, the joy of blogging was lost. 

I even lost interest in reading blogs and making comments. You would think with time on my hands, blogging would be a welcome diversion, but that didn't turn out to be the case.

Our float cabin finally comes into view, homecoming is sweet.

I hope this interim period of a new normal finds you with good health and more joy in life. For Wayne and I, we are settling into a safe, vaccinated, masked and distanced existence.

On July 5, Canada lifted its mandatory 14-day quarantine for returning fully vaccinated citizens using land borders. We waited until July 12 to let agents get used to the new procedures. On September 7 restrictions were relaxed for fully vaccinated foreign nationals as well. These are huge steps towards a new normal for individuals and businesses.

A new coat of yellow paint and green trim makes a our home look new.

After an absence of eight months, getting back up the lake was a relief. We worried about what might have happened in our absence, but our good friend John kept an eye on things. By and large, everything was just as we had left it, except for a beautiful new exterior paint job. John and his brother Rick made our 23 year old cabin look brand new. 

Uh, oh. My float garden went wild with weeds.

Jeff from Valley Marine launches our boat.
Over that last month and a half Wayne and I have focused on cabin chores, boating and relaxing. There's no safer place than home, but at this home we can get outdoors whenever we want. I think that's what I missed the most, the ability to get outdoors and enjoy nature.

How about you? How are you adjusting to a new normal? -- Margy

Monday, September 06, 2021

"River for My Sidewalk" by Gilean Douglas

Between our float cabin and the granite wall there's a protected pool. In summer, the water is warmed by the reflect sun, making a natural heated swimming pool. 

The water can reach 24ºC (76ºF). It's a perfect spot to sit in a floating chair to read. I usually read on my Kindle, but in this watery environment I choose print backs. I find a good selection of at our local used bookstores, thrift shops and the Powell River Kiwanis Club book sales.

A memorable read from this summer was River for My Sidewalk (Sono Nis Press, 1984) a memoir by Gilean Douglas. It was first printed by J.M. Dent and Sons in 1953 under the male pseudonym Grant Madison. They thought customers wouldn't believe a woman could live alone in the wilderness and wouldn't buy the book. Gilean continued as Grant Madison until 1983, with the majority of her works first printed under that pseudonym.

Gilean was born in 1990 in Toronto into a privileged life. That changed dramatically when she was orphaned at sixteen. She married several times, traveled extensively and worked as a photo-journalist. In 1939 she moved to British Columbia and began living off-the-grid in remote cabins. There she continued working as a journalist, author and poet.

I got a signed book.
River for My Sidewalk is about her years living in an old miner's cabin on the Teal River near Duncan on Vancouver Island. She gardened, fished and gathered foods from the land. Few visitors were invited to stay, and her elevated hand pulley river crossing kept most fishermen and hunters away. She shared her land and life with animals including Grampa Cougar.

Gilean was an adventurer willing to give up an easy life to experience the wonders of nature. The tales of her experiences cut across time. There are still places where you can live a simple life, if you are willing. 

In 1947 her cabin burned. She married again and moved to Cortes Island, up the coast from my Powell River home. After her marriage ended, she remained on her 138 acre waterfront off-the-grid homestead and lived there until her passing in 1993.

Uganda Passage near the location of Gilean's Cortes homestead.

Do you like to look for old and unique books in used book and thrift stores? What are some of your best discoveries? -- Margy

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Book Review: "The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s" by David Farber

On January 1, 1960, I started the new decade lying on the den floor of our Compton home, eyes glued to the TV. We always watched the Pasadena Rose Parade. Then it was Rose Bowl football, especially when USC (Dad's university) or UCLA (Mom's) played. We were a family of tradition, and I've carried many of ours into my adult life. I was in elementary school, Eisenhower was president and in my young mind all was well.

My last book review was The Fifties. I'm following that with The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s by David Farber. Like The Fifties, this book is organized by major events and themes. It paints a picture of life, culture, economics, politics, science, race relations, and warfare through the decade.

On the right, ready for Camp Fire Girls camp.

While I enjoyed childhood activities, the Nixon-Kennedy election contrasted past values with new ideas. I remember Kennedy's motorcade while family camping in Yosemite. Racism was prominent in Compton and the Watts riots weren't far away.

Christmas with Mom and her extended family.

The first international event I remember was the Cuba missile crisis. It seemed far away, but scary. My parents didn't shield me from world happenings, but they weren't a major focus in our home life. Family support and interactions were at the forefront. It's a value I hold close to my heart.

In college for me, 49er Days rather than protests.

Sixties culture matured during high school and college. Campaigning for Bobby Kennedy clashed with my father's political views. Hearing about the shooting live on my bedroom radio was a huge shock. The Vietnam War and a potential nuclear attack were pressing concerns. 

The 60s for me was a mix of fun and determination to excel in school. What I didn't perceive then was how much I grew up in white privilege. Recent events here in Canada and the United States have brought this into focus. I can't change my past, but I am determined to acknowledge it and work to help and support others however I can. -- Margy

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Book Review: "The Fifties" by David Halberstam

Our Compton home built in late 40s.
The political and social events of this past year got me thinking, were things really better when I was a kid? My formative years were in the 50s. I grew up in Compton, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. There were still dairies between expanding housing tracts and the Los Angeles River ran free. From my point of view, the world was a settled place and my family was doing well.

My current interest (and sometimes dismay) in U.S. politics instilled a desire to know more about the past. To learn more, I chose to read The Fifties by David Halberstam, author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the New York Times.

The Fifties was first published in 1993. In it, Halberstam chronicles key events from the decade with photographs, a list of interviewees, an extensive bibliography, end-notes and a detailed index. As a history major, I found it well researched and well written.

Halberstam set the stage for the 1950s by reviewing the effects of the Depression and World War II. Rather than use a sequenced approach, he presented information in themes such as politics, emerging businesses, housing, television, the arts and movies, the bomb, the Cold War, civil rights and much more. Each theme dovetailed with other events to create a unified picture of the times.

Camping was inexpensive and fun.

Many of the names and events were familiar, but the details were fuzzy. I do remember the 1952 election and saying "I like Ike." I don't remember eating at McDonald's until the 60s, but do remember hamburgers from the Beany's drive-in. Cars were important for my parents to get to teaching jobs, and for summer camping trips. I remember bomb drills at school and seeing a mushroom cloud while on a trip through the Nevada desert.

It was disheartening to read how politics haven't changed all that much. I had hoped to read about bipartisan cooperation, but that wasn't the norm then either.

I wouldn't trade growing up in the fifties. For me they were good years spent in a good town with good friends and great parents. They were important years in determining the adult I would become. Were you growing up in the 50s? How were those years for you? -- Margy