Monday, October 12, 2015

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 10, 2015

Never Give Up on a Good Picnic Table

Wayne writing at the picnic table with its winter enclosure.
When we purchased our cabin in 2001, it came with a bright red picnic table handmade by our good friend John.

Over the years it's had lots of use for meals, crafts, gardening chores, chainsaw sharpening, and Wayne's writing projects. In 2007, our table had it's first catastrophe. It lost two legs to wood rot (Leg Surgery for a Picnic Table). I guess it's termed dry rot, but in this case it was more like wet rot. John came to the rescue and gave it two new legs to stand on.

Over the years benches and tabletop slats have been replaced a few at a time, and Wayne has added multiple coats of paint to keep out the wet. Not much of the original table remains, but we don't want to give up on it. Like the Seven Million Dollar Man, "We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to make [him] better than he was before," so to speak.

But it's happened again. Another leg has broken. I sure wish John had patented those picnic table socks to help prevent wood rot. Wayne searched through our supply of old shake blocks and found one that would provide a temporary fix until John can build us a new bionic one. -- Margy

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Simple Freezer Tomato Sauce

Dice tomatoes and cook on low until tender.
My tomatoes are coming in a few at a time right now. Some are in perfect condition for dinner salads, but some have a few blemishes. For those, I've been making simple tomato sauce to freeze for use during the winter months.

Simple Freezer Tomato Sauce

Puree through a strainer.
Trim any bruises or blemishes from fresh tomatoes.

Dice the tomatoes and place them in a sauce pan.

Cook covered on low heat for 20 minutes or until very tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Reduce strained tomato sauce by half.
Remove seeds and skins through a large strainer into another sauce pan. I used a wooden spoon. Stop when all you have left is skin and seeds.

Cook the strained tomato sauce on low until it reduces by half.

Place in freezer containers, cool, cover tightly and freeze.

That it!

Place in freezer containers, cool, cover, then freeze.

I did not season my tomato sauce because I want to use it in a variety of ways later. If you prefer, you can season it before freezing.

Head on over to A Peak into My Paradise for the Happiness is Homemade Link Party to see more recipes, crafts and DIY projects. -- Margy

Monday, October 05, 2015

Off the Grid Propane Refrigerator Repairs

The Never-ending Story Part Done (We Hope!)

Dave and Wayne tip the fridge on its side for repairs.
After a week of monitoring our Unique propane refrigerator, we knew Dave’s adjustments weren’t enough. We were pretty sure the problem was in the thermostat, so we ordered a new one from the factory. In the meantime, we had to empty the fridge for another trip to the States.

We scheduled Dave to come back up to the cabin right after our return. Coordinating the part pickup at the post office and Dave’s arrival was tricky, but it all worked out.

Four months of working around a fridge in the middle of my kitchen.

It was a very good thing that the fridge was empty. It had to be tipped on its side to install the thermostat on the bottom. Of course, there was very little space to work around pipes and tubes to get things out and in properly.

The hardest part was getting the capillary temperature sensor installed from the back of the fridge into the food compartment. This tube is what tells the burner to go higher or lower to regulate the temperature.

Dave installs the replacement regulator from Unique.

Getting a hot fire to cool and freeze food is a “unique” process. Now I understand it a lot better. Here are some links if you are interested:

Unique Off-Grid Appliances
How Propane Fridges Cool PDF by Unique
How a Propane Refrigerator Works by Ben Campbell
RV Refrigerator Operation Video by ABCsofRVs

Propane appliances are a good solution for off-the-grid living, but they can have their own issues. If you aren’t able to do repairs by yourself, it’s really important to have someone who’s willing to go “the extra mile” to get the job done. Thanks John and Dave.

D and M Burner Services
1-8425 Sunshine Coast Highway
Powell River, BC
(604) 487-4516

Without your assistance from both of you we’d be cooling our food in a ice chest like the old days.

Thanks for visiting part of my world this week. For more great posts from Our World Tuesday, click here. -- Margy

Friday, October 02, 2015

Off the Grid Propane Refrigerator Repairs

The Never-ending Story Part I

In 2011, we remodeled our kitchen at the float cabin and added new propane appliances. We chose a Unique 11 cubic foot refrigerator to replace our old 8 cubic foot RV style Dometic. The Unique was flawless until last March when the temperature started fluctuating wildly. As long as we were home, Wayne could chase it with the temperature control knob. But if we left for more than a day, we never knew what to expect.

We came home from a trip to the States to find the fridge off, mildew growing, and food spoiled. Not much, but all those condiments cost a lot to replace. We called our good friend John to come have a look. He’s installed all of our propane devices.

To get ready, we pulled the rug up and moved the fridge into the middle of the kitchen floor. Then off came the burner’s safety cover, and we spent hours, days, even months monitoring the strength of the flame as we moved the temp knob up and down, chasing that ideal 4°C.

We talked to lots of people, but no one wanted to come up the lake. One suggested replacing the propane regulator. That was a job Wayne could do. But it didn't solve the problem. Wayne created a graph of the fluctuations and called the Unique factory for assistance.

We reached Tim, and he was very responsive, but none of the suggestions helped. We leveled the fridge to make sure the propane would flow properly. We cleaned the flue and burner’s gas jet according to instructions sent via email. Finally, we asked for a local repairman. There was only one, but he worked exclusively on Savary Island. We checked with Rona where we purchased the refrigerator, but all of their certified gas technicians said, “Bring the refrigerator to me.”

Dave from D and M Burner Services in the propane shed adjusting the flow.

John saved the day. He lead us to the perfect gas technician, Dave from D and M Burner Services.

D and M Burner Services
1-8425 Sunshine Coast Highway
Powell River, BC
(604) 487-4516

I highly recommend Dave for any of your gas and propane needs. He’s a great guy, and has years of experience in the business. And most important of all, he willingly met us at the Shinglemill dock and brought his tools and talents to our float cabin up the lake. What a relief.

Dave testing and adjusting the propane flow with the manometer.

On the first trip he tested our propane flow. He used compressed air to flush the line and tested the flow with an expensive digital manometer. This device measures the pressure of the propane in the line so it can be adjusted at the valve. While Dave worked, he talked by cell phone to Tim back at Unique in Ontario. At the end of the day we didn’t know if the problem was solved. Only time would tell.

Hop on over to the Homestead Blog Hop at Idlewild Alaska and see some great ideas for homestead and simple living. more ideas? Try Nancy's Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop. -- Margy

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Yellow Pond Lily

L is for Yellow Pond Lily

There are several varieties of Pond Lily (often called Water Lily) in British Columbia on ponds and in quiet corners of larger lakes.

Yellow Pond Lilies are floating perennial herbs that are held in place by rhizomes on the lake bottom. Long thin stems allow the flat leaves to reach the surface. There they float in masses to gather sunlight and reproduce.

When kept in check by natural conditions, pests and predators, they are lovely. But on Cranberry Lake in Powell River they are a problem. As the water flow has decreased, the lilies have proliferated. Remediation isn't easy or cheap, but homeowners are working to see their lake restored to it's original beauty.

Wayne and I were paddling our kayak on Nanton Lake at the end of summer. The water was so clear that you could see this Pond-Lily plant all the way down to where its stems reached lake bottom under which their large rhizomes anchor them down and extract nutrients.

First Nations people used Pond-Lily rhizomes for medicinal purposes to treat illnesses such as colds, tuberculosis, ulcers, heart conditions, cancer, and contraception. Heated leaves and roots were used as a topical for chest pains and rheumatism.

References: Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon (Lone Pine Publishing, 1994) and E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia.

For ABC pictures from around the world, stop by the ABC Wednesday blog. This is the sixteenth round of the meme established by Denise Nesbitt and now maintained by a team including Denise, Roger, Leslie, and other hard working volunteers. -- Margy

Monday, September 28, 2015

Sweet Potato and Kale Stir-fry

I grow kale in my floating garden. It’s a long lasting, hardy relative of cabbage that’s easy to grow and tasty to eat. I plant seeds directly in the soil spring, and the plants produce through winter unprotected in our mild Coastal BC climate.

My favourite is Curly Kale. That’s the variety you find frequently in the grocery stores. Early in the season, the leaves are relatively flat, but come cold weather they get curly and thicker.

Just pick the leaves you need. It’s like having a root cellar right in your garden. The following spring, the plants flower and form seed heads. I pick some of the beautiful yellow blossoms for table bouquets.

A tasty side dish on a cool evening is sweet potato and kale stir-fry. It’s quick and easy, and you don’t have to grow the ingredients for yourself. Just check your produce aisle.

Sweet Potato and Kale Stir-fry

Here’s a recipe for two hungry people. Peel and dice one sweet potato. Wash and chop about three cups of fresh curly kale (it will reduce in volume as it cooks). Chop half a small onion and a clove of garlic.

Sauté the onion and garlic in butter. Real butter gives it a special flavour. I always keep individual measured and wrapped pieces in my freezer for this purpose. When the onion is limp, remove it from the pan, and add a little more butter.

Put the diced sweet potato in the pan and cook on low until the bottom is lightly browned. Turn and brown the other side. When tender, add the cooked onion and garlic, and kale. Stir until the kale has warmed and wilted slightly, but still green and a bit crunchy. Salt to taste.

It takes about half an hour to cook (mainly to slowly brown the sweet potato), but well worth the extra time to prepare.

Do you have any favourite kale recipes?

Head on over to A Peak into My Paradise for the Happiness is Homemade Link Party to see more recipes, crafts and DIY projects. -- Margy