Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Coastal BC Spiders: Cross Orbweaver

O is for Cross Orbweaver

The other day I went out to work in my garden and found this Cross Orbweaver spider using my lean-to as its new home.

Lately, I've been seeing more spiders around the cabin and they are a welcome sight. Anything that catches pesky flying insects is a friend of mine.

The Cross Orbweaver (Araneus diadematus) is also known as the Garden Spider. This is a female, distinguished by her large oval abdomen. Males have a smaller, thinner abdomen. 

Cross Orbweave spiders can be found in gardens and fields in many states in the U.S. and provinces in Canada. Females lay up to 800 eggs in a sac near the web from late summer to fall.  After hatching, spiderlings can travel to unexpected locations by "ballooning" through the air on silken threads. I see this quite often on Powell Lake. Landing on the water must make for a rude awakening.

These spiders weave large, vertical orb shaped webs. They either reside near or right in the center of the web. Either way, they are connected by a thread to determine if a meal has landed. An unlikely fact I learned is that the spider usually eats the web at night, and recycles the proteins contained within to create a new web the following day. That's a lot of work!

Here's a tasty meal all wrapped up for consumption. It's hard to tell, but it looks like a yellow jacket. We get a lot of those around the cabin. Can't say that I feel bad about it getting caught.

References: (online), Post Defiance blog by Katy Evans (online), and Cross Orbweaver at (online)

For ABC pictures from around the world, stop by the ABC Wednesday blog. This is the nineteenth round of the meme established by Denise Nesbitt and with help from Denise and Leslie. They are looking for more volunteers. Otherwise, the tradition may end with Round 20 a year from now. -- Margy

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Coastal BC Birds: Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

A Song Sparrow visits the cabin in January 2016.
Last winter I noticed a Song Sparrow for the first time. He came on a rainy day and I tossed birdseed out to see what would happen. He ended up sticking around all winter to eat lots more from my feeder.

I assume it was a male because they winter farther north to get early access to prime breeding areas. Spring came, and sure enough he disappeared.

A Song Sparrow returns to our cabin in late October 2016.

Then, guess who returned, Mr. Song Sparrow. I'm glad to have him to keep us company again this winter. The seed feeder is ready to help him to stay plump and fat.

Song Sparrows are year-round residents of Coastal BC. However, I don't hear their melodic songs because it's outside of the breeding system. Here's my Song Sparrow giving his common chip note.

He flies is short, fluttering bursts, giving me lots of time to get good pictures. While he's perched, usually on the ground, he continues to flutter, hop and flick his tail in a friendly sort of way. I'm so glad he returned, at least I like to image he's my old friend who has adopted the underside of my cabin as his winter cottage.

Last year I wasn't sure about my identification. Google images are a great way to Then I discovered I used the bird identification tool and narrowed it down. Then I discovered their forum section and joined. Within a day, site experts identified my little guy as a northwestern subspecies of Song Sparrow. This subspecies tends to be darker than its southern relatives.

Camera Critters Thanks for visiting my post this week. I'm linking up with Camera Critters and Saturday's Critters. Check them out for more great animal pictures. -- Margy

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fall Sailing

What a difference a month can make. Skies can be just as blue in the fall (in between rain storms that is).

September Sailing

But the temperature and clothing sure change.

October Sailing

And on our way home we used the building southerly winds to fly our spinnaker. That's always fun!

I once heard this conversation at the Shinglemill dock:

Wayne - "A beautiful day isn't it?"
Sailboat Owner - "It will be once I get out on the water."

Now we know what he meant.

Today is Sky Watch Friday. Go to the Sky Watch Friday website and you'll see sky photos from all over the world! -- Margy

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cabin Baking: Improved No-Knead Sourdough Bread

I'm a novice bread maker, but have been learning to make improvements with each batch.

Here are my most recent tricks for making better no-knead sourdough bread. (Click here to see the recipe).

The recipe called for letting the dough rise in the mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap. But if the dough touched the plastic wrap, it fell and produce a denser bread.

My good friend Jeanne heard my tale of woe and gave me an early Christmas present, a dough rising bucket from King Arthur Flour.

With it's 6 litre capacity, I don't have to worry about the dough hitting the top. Plus, the lid keeps the temperature steady for a consistent rise.

Coating the inside with vegetable spray allowed the dough to slide right out onto my breadboard ready for the next step.

I bake my no-knead bread in a cast iron dutch oven. It absorbs and radiates heat consistently throughout baking. One trick I learned early was to line the pan with parchment paper. The wider 15" size fits perfectly, keeps the wet dough from sticking, and makes lifting the finished bread out of a hot pan easier.

One problem I had baking bread in a cast iron dutch oven was over browning the bottom. Where the the dough did not touch the hot metal, it came out perfectly crisp and golden. But where the bottom of the loaf touched the pan, it turned out dark brown and hard.

I have metal trivets and thought I would try using one to keep the dough off the bottom of the pan. The parchment paper kept the moist dough from slipping through the openings and the bottom of the loaf came out just as perfect as the top. A major success!

These are my three tips for improved no-knead sourdough bread. Do you have any bread baking tricks? I'd love to hear from you.

Hop on over to the Not So Modern Housewife and see some great ideas for homestead and simple living. more ideas? Try Nancy's Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop.
Hop on over to The (mis)Adventures of a "Born Again" Farm Girl for more simple ideas for your home or homestead. -- Margy

Monday, October 10, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving from Powell River Books

For all of my Canadian readers and friends ...


Up the Lake

the home of

Wayne and I are enjoying a quiet holiday up the lake at our float cabin. The woodstove will keep us warm and the BBQ will fix our holiday feast. If you are celebrating your Thanksgiving today, we both hope it is a joyous one. -- Wayne and Margy Lutz

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Coastal BC Animals: America Bullfrog

American Bullfrog

An American Bullfrog on Powell Lake BC.
Invasive species? Illegal immigrant? Whatever you want to call it, the Bullfrog is not native to British Columbia, and it's not benign. Here in Powell Lake we have the American Bullfrog.

Bullfrogs are native to eastern North America from Canada to Florida. Much like fish farming, Bullfrogs was imported to farm for their meaty legs. From there, they spread throughout the southern mainland and southeast Vancouver Island.

Females are larger than males and can grow to be 20 cm long and 750 grams in weights (8"/1.5 lbs). Males have a large tympanum (ear) behind the eye. Females have a smaller one. This is probably a female.

One way to distinguish a Bullfrog from a Green Frog (also invasive) is the fold of skin over the typanum. A Bullfrog's wraps around the tympanum, but the Green Frog's forms a long skin fold along the back.

Bullfrog tadpoles are large, dark-green, and can grow up to 15 cm long. They can stay in the tadpole stage for up to two years. For this reason, Bullfrogs need to breed in water sources that remain filled all year. Bullfrogs can live up to ten years.

The biggest problem with Bullfrogs is that they take over the territory of native species, often by eating their rivals. They are voracious and will eat anything that will fit in their mouths. That would include the beautiful little Pacific Chorus Frog I saw earlier this summer. Large Bullfrog tadpoles also present a problem, taking food sources away from tadpoles of native frog species.

You can help their further spread. Do not transport either live adults or tadpoles. If you notice a new colony of Bullfrogs developing, contact BC Frogwatch.

Reference: B.C. Frogwatch Program (online)

Camera Critters Thanks for visiting my post this week. I'm linking up with Camera Critters and Saturday's Critters. Check them out for more great animal pictures. -- Margy

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Red Sky at Morning, Sailors Take Warning

This time of year you have to really start paying attention to the sky. Heading out on the ocean, the weather can change quickly. You need to plan for a safe return to port just in case. The old adage,  "red sky at morning, sailors take warning" worked in this case.

Mitlenatch Island in the Strait of Georgia

Soon after we returned to Powell River's Westview North Harbour, rain began and the wind started picking up. The saying has been around for ages and has a scientific basis. Clear skies to the east allow the sun's rays to hit the undersides of clouds coming in from the west.

The other half of the rhyme is "red sky at night, sailors delight." Unobstructed rays herald westerly winds and clearing skies.

Sunset up the lake.

We get wonderful "red sky" sunsets here in Powell River. BC.

It’s time for “Outdoor Wednesday.” Click HERE for more outdoor pictures. -- Margy

Today is Sky Watch Friday. Go to the Sky Watch Friday website and you'll see sky photos from all over the world!