Saturday, July 23, 2016

Coastal BC Birds: Red-breasted Sapsucker

Red-breasted Sapsucker

We went out camping with friends at Nanton Lake here in Powell River. It is a great campground maintain by Forestry and the local Western Forest Products Logging Company. Campsites are free (always a plus) and usually available either along the lake shore or nestled in the forest trees. All have picnic tables, room for an RV or tent, and plenty of nature.

Red-breasted Sapsucker on a forest snag.
Right next to our campsite was a family of Red-breasted Sapsuckers, mom, dad and two grown kids. They stayed busy harvesting sap from a nearby older Alder tree.  They had riddled the bark with lines of holes that they could visit and revisit to lick up the sap. And they aren't the only birds to take advantage of their tree taps. Hummingbirds also rely on them for extra food.

Double tapping.

They didn't mind our presence at all. They just kept on tapping and drinking to their hearts content. In addition to sap, they feed on insects either by tapping or foraging. Sapsuckers nest in tree or branch cavities or snags with no extra nesting material. From four to seven eggs are laid, but this family seems to have had only two survive to maturity.

Reference: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Coastal BC Plants: Butterfly Bush

B is for Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) is not a native species to British Columbia. Much like Scotch Broom, it was an ornamental plant loved by gardeners because it attracts butterflies. Because of their numerous blossoms and tremendous numbers of seeds, plants have escaped into the wild and proliferated.

Blooms come in a variety of colours ranging from light (almost pink) to dark purple. You can find Butterfly Bush almost everywhere along the BC coast and inland. It is especially prevalent along dirt roads and logging cut blocks.

While butterflies do benefit from the nectar, Butterfly Bush does not serve as a food source for their offspring in the larval stage.

A bee taking advantage of nectar from  a large Butterfly Bush blossom.

This time of year Butterfly Bush is blooming just about everywhere. It is very evident that it is taking over territory from native species. But like the Scotch Broom, the colourful blooms in late spring and early summer are eye catching.

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, July 16, 2016

Coastal BC Birds: Common Merganser Duck Update

Common Merganser Duck Update

Almost any time of year, you can see Common Merganser ducks paddling around the waters near our float cabin home on Powell Lake.

Female Common Merganser

Males are distinctive with a white body and bright green head. Females have a mottled gray body and rusty brown heads with feather sweeping back in a "hairdo" reminiscent of one we used to call a ducktail. How apropos. One thing that makes females difficult to identify is that immature Mergansers have similar colouring.

Mergansers are fish-eating ducks, so you will often see them diving for a tasty meal along our protective log booms.

Resting behind the plants on one of our floating stumps.

A few years ago, we saw a mother Mergansers taking her babies for a ride on her back. Then just after I wrote this post, we had a mother Merganser swim right in front of our cabin with nine babies either on her back or trailing out behind.

Momma Merganser with nine ducklings in tow.

Mergansers nest in cavities in trees well above the ground. The flightless chicks bravely leap to the ground within days of hatching and immediately begin foraging for themselves. How cool!!

An interesting side note is that one of the food sources listed in freshwater sponges.

I'll have to keep an eye on the ones I found on our steel anchor cables to see if they get nibbled down.

Resource: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (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

Friday, July 15, 2016

Clouds of Colour

Summer has finally arrived. After a day of cloudless, sunny skies some high level cirrus clouds moved in, the precursor to a brief front bringing moisture but no rain.

Cirrus clouds are wispy streaks of ice crystals above 8000 metres (26,000 feet). "Fall streaks" form when ice crystals fall through changing high level winds. The forming streaks can be straight, shaped like a comma or all mixed up together.

Just before sunset, the cirrus clouds captured rays of sunlight to form a small sun dog. The ice crystals in the clouds can form colourful patches 22 degrees to the left or right of and parallel with the sun, something like a mini-rainbow. What a nice way to end a nice summer the day on Powell Lake in Coastal BC.

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rain Gutter Garden (Sort of)

My floating garden with raised beds.
I've been following a Facebook group called the Rain Gutter Grow System Group.

I've been intrigued by their use of grow bags and self watering techniques.

After I cleaned out moss growing around the edge of my floating garden I got an idea, why not use the space for plants of my own.

It would be a perfect spot to grow strawberries. They took up so much room in my raised beds I gave up on them a few seasons ago.

I didn't want to use a rain gutter, but thought I could make a trough out of Vigoro weed block cloth.

I cut a length of weed cloth long enough to fit the space between the brow log of my float and the side of my raised bed.

I folded the cloth to make a gutter-like shape and sewed the ends together to hold in the soil.

I made small square "washers" cut from a plastic container and nailed the cloth gutter in place.

I used the plastic to help keep the nail heads from working their way through the cloth over time.

To make the bed self watering, I used two cotton bath towels cut into strips.

Each towel gave me three strips long enough to extend down into the lake below the garden float and to line the bottom of the cloth trough.

I cut three slits through the bottom of the cloth trough.

I used a stick to poke each piece of towel halfway down into the lake water below. There was just enough space between the float logs to get them into the water.

I put a layer of sand in the bottom of the trough to help with drainage (we get lots of rain) and them laid the upper half of each towel over the top.

To help with initial moisture, I gave the towels and sand a good watering.

Next came a layer of rich soil from our local forest. We are lucky to have a beach with sand and forest compost nearby.

I added granular plant fertilizer and mixed it in before another good watering.

Finally it was time to plant my strawberries in their new dedicated bed. Because the soil I brought over had some ants, I decided to use traps just in case.

The final touches for the bed were to add some sand and crushed egg shells to deter slugs.

I don't know if the self watering feature will work or be enough, but I can always give the strawberries a squirt of water from my hose when I'm watering the nearby raised beds. I'll keep you posted.

Do you use any self watering techniques? What do you use? How well does it work?

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. -- Margy

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Blueberries for Breakfast

Blueberries in mid-April.
One of my gardening experiments this year was planting blueberries in containers on the cabin deck.  I chose a Northsky and Chandler and have been very pleased with their progress. Having two different varieties is necessary for cross-pollination.

Northsky in bloom.
Both bushes were quite small at planting, but already had blossoms starting. It's been fun watching them progress through the stages of development while growing larger.

Chandler in bloom.

By May the foliage had about doubled and become more robust.

Berries on the Northsky.
The flowers fell and small green blueberries appeared on both plants.

Larger berries set on the Chandler.
The Northsky is a small early berry and I have already completed my first picking. How wonderful it felt to be able to eat fruit from my own garden.

Northsky berries ready to pick at the end of June.

The Chandler berries are larger in size and are just starting to ripen. I'm glad I picked two plants the will provide berries at different times. When fall arrives, I plant to give them larger pots so the roots have room to spread and support the larger plants they should become.

Enough berries to have with our fruit bowl for breakfast.

What do you think of my first crop? Do you grow blueberries? What has been your experience?

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. -- Margy

Monday, July 04, 2016

Finally a Gumboot Girl read a great book about the brave young women who came to Coastal BC in the 60s and 70s to live a simple lifestyle, mostly off the grid. They farmed, homesteaded, fished and worked alongside equally brave and daring young men. The ones who settled on Haida Gwaii (then known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) and in Prince Rupert on the mainland called themselves the Gumboot Girls.

The book Gumboot Girls: Adventure, Love and Survival on British Columbia’s North Coast, a collection of thirty-four of their memoirs, was compiled by Jane Wilde and edited by Lou Allison (Caitlan Press, 2014).

My story starts much later. I guess I'm more brave now than I was as a young woman, but at least my time has come. We started living off the grid part-time in our float cabin in 2001 and then full-time in 2008 when we became Canadian permanent residents.

Out at Sandy Beach gathering sand and dirt for my garden.

Wayne had a deciding moment in the process of changing from his city-folk past. It was when he got a chainsaw and started cutting our firewood. My moment came this summer. I bought my first pair of gumboots. Now I wonder what took so long.

Gumboots are rubber boots, but they're much more than rain galoshes. They are heavy and meant for keeping feet dry in damp weather or working conditions. We get lots of those at all times of year here in BC.

Virgin gumboots.

Here are my gumboots. They are embarrassing clean and unblemished, but I know pretty soon they'll take on the patina of my off-the-grid lifestyle. Finally I can say I'm a Gumboot Girl too (even at 67). -- Margy

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

And also a meme called Through My Lens by Mersad. more exciting book reviews, head on over to Semicolon's Blog.