Saturday, August 30, 2008

Beauty in the Bush

I live in a float cabin on Powell Lake in Coastal BC. We have lots of beautiful scenery and amazing places to explore.

Along the shore you can find beautiful rocks, driftwood and pieces of history. Each, in its own way, is beautiful.

Tucked in the bush and along the shore you can find old logging camps. Many of the "shows" abandoned equipment in place. Steam donkeys, winches and other heavy equipment have rusted over the years to develop a beautiful patina.

Vegetation takes over. First the undergrowth and mosses, then trees. This adds to the beauty and interest of these hidden pieces of history.

For my frequent readers, I'm heading back up the lake for a few days. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. -- Margy

Friday, August 29, 2008

Reflections on the Water

I love watching the sky and how it reflects on the water. In July, Wayne and I took the ferry to Texada Island for the fly-in. On the way over, there were some really beautiful sky and water views. Here are two that I would like to share with you.

The first shot is looking west towards Vancouver Island with the sun high overhead.

The second picture is looking back to the east towards our home in Powell River. The clear sky is colouring the water a deep blue. Isn't it a nice little town? -- Margy

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Float Cabin Moving Day

If you've been following my blog, you may remember that our good friend John sold a float cabin this summer. I'm proud to say my blog's add had something to do with that. It goes to show the power of the Internet. When it came time finalize the sale, the cabin had to be moved from one spot to another, and Wayne and I volunteered to help with float cabin moving day. Moving days were more common in the past, but occasionally you'll still see one traveling on the water.

We needed to start early before the summer wind waves made the lake choppy. The first task was to disconnect the cabin from its shore cables. Preparation the night before made this a fairly simple procedure. The next thing was to open the protective log boom in order to take the cabin onto the open lake for transport. John's tin boat was perfect for that task.

We used our Campion for towing. John drove the boat (with the tin boat trailing behind) while John's mom and dad rode with me on the cabin. Moving day is a family event. For long tows, you will find people riding on the deck, maybe having a BBQ or picnic along the way. Our tow was a short one, so we just relaxed in the sun to warm ourselves on this chilly morning ride. The new owners even came alongside to see the action.

Once we arrived at the new location, everything went in reverse. Wayne used the Campion to push the cabin back into its new spot. John used the tin boat to temporarily tie it with heavy rope to the anchor points he drove into the rocks the previous day. Steel cables would replace the rope the following day. The last task was to close the protective boom. Moving day complete.










Now John has the room (and funds) to build his new cabin at the old site. Because of the moratorium on cabins and sites on the lake, this sale and move was necessary to make space for the new cabin. As construction moves forward, I'll share with you how a float cabin is created. - Margy

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Historic Fiddlehead Farm

In the past, many people lived off-the-grid (actually, there was no grid) in Coastal BC. They found locations in the bush to grow fruits and vegetables, raise animals and make a living off the local resources, primarily fishing or lumber. In the 1960s, some of the remote locations attracted hippies. One such location was to become Fiddlehead Farm.

The history of the farm goes back to the days when people could stake a claim to vacant land through the pre-emption process. Most likely, it was farmed and the excess produce was taken to Powell River for sale. That way the land could support the family both directly and indirectly.

By the 1960's, the farm was no longer occupied. An American "hippie" visitor to Canada was looking for a place to get back to the land and focus on a different sense of purpose (that's something that Wayne and I can identify with!). The leader was Mark Vonnegut and he wrote about his love for the land and his ultimate battle with schizophrenia in a book entitled The Eden Express.

Fiddlehead Farm the hostel grew out of this 60's generation. People from around the world came to the remote farm. It was a success for many years, but in 2002 it was again sold. It was subsequently logged and the buildings demolished. But Fiddlehead Farm is more than just a place, it is the memories of those who visited there over the years.

Today, Fiddlehead Farm is a frequent destination for quad riders. The meadow with apple trees still remains and it makes a great lunch stop. In the fall, if you can get to the trees before the local bears, you can get some really tasty treats. As I sit under the trees on a warm sunny day, I can imagine all of the people who have lived and visited this little piece of eden.

Powell Lake is an exciting place. Read more about it in Up the Lake available online at www.PowellRiverBooks.com -- Margy

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Loonie" Tunes

It seems like birds are everywhere right now. Maybe it's because all of the broods are grown and parents are taking their new families out to learn the ways of the wild. Whatever the case, we've seen more birds, small and large, than we did all spring and early summer. This week there are three loons calling the Hole part of their territory. Their formal name is the Common Loon, but there is nothing common about this stately bird. The three that are traveling past our cabin each morning use a variety of vocalizations (tunes), not just the typical piercing cry. You can tell they are talking to each other, maybe sharing information about when to dive after a tasty fish. Loons are great underwater swimmers, diving in one location and often surfacing a long distance away.

The Loon is immortalized here in Canada on the one dollar coin. Consequently, everyone calls it a "loonie," For me, the cry of the loon means I am in Canada. -- Margy

Monday, August 25, 2008

Coastal BC Birds: Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

We had a visitor to our floating garden. I believe it was a juvenile Great Blue Heron. I most often see herons on the breakwater of the Westview Marina. Those birds have distinctive black tufts on the back of their heads. This bird was missing the tuft, but otherwise very similar.

As he stood on the log he cocked his head back and forth, probably watching the fish that like to hide in the shadows. Suddenly, he took flight and passed right next to the sliding glass door of our cabin. You could hear his big wings whoosh through the air and his massive body gracefully glide past.

The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in Canada. An adult stands over 1 meter tall and weigh about 2.5 kilograms. That's a lot of bird! They forage for food in both coastal marine and freshwater environments. It is amazing how they can swallow large fish, reptiles, amphibians, even rodents in one big gulp. Here is an amazing video from YouTube showing their massive swallowing ability.

Heron nesting areas are negatively affected by human interaction. It is important for us to preserve sites whenever possible. The Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve in Chillawack, BC, is one example of what can be done. If you are familiar with herons, maybe you can give me some more information about the bird I saw. I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Starting Bean Sprouts

Two plants I have problems starting from seed in my floating garden are beans and peas. For some reason, they just don't seem to make it above ground. To give them a head start, I've been sprouting the seeds much like I did back in my teaching days. Each spring my kindergarten class would start bean sprouts in milk cartons or plastic bags along the windowsill. The kids learned about plant growth first hand. The also loved giving the green plants to their parents at Open House.

For my bean sprouts I used a glass jar lined with thin cardboard covered with a paper towel. I tucked the seeds about half way down the side of the jar so they would have room to grow. Water in the bottom of the jar wicked up to the seeds and their tender roots. Once the roots appeared I took the jar outdoors during the day to bask in the warm sunshine. At night I brought the jar indoors. This wasn't because of cool evenings, but because the mice on our deck love to nibble the tender shoots.

Once the green leaves appear, the plants are ready to transplant directly into the soil. With this head start, they seem to do fine. Right now I am harvesting my snow peas and they are really prolific. Do you grow peas and beans? Do you have any tips for me? -- Margy

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rubber Baby Boat Bumpers

Float cabin maintenance is an ongoing task. Our good friend John helps us and other cabin owners keep ahead of the game. Recently, Wayne and I worked along with John on one such project. I called it installing "rubber baby boat bumpers."

Old tires are used as shock absorbers on float logs and other cabin structures. John gets old tires for free from local dealers. It's good for them, they don't have to pay for the tires to go to the dump. It's good for cabin owners, they can get free construction materials. It's good for the environment, unwanted discards get a new lease on life.

John was asked to remodel a low deck used for a cabin boat dock. The deck was quite unique. It was made entirely from one huge old growth cedar log, cut in half lengthwise. Unfortunately, it was rubbing on the cabin logs, thus damaging both structures. To prepare the tires, John first cut a flap at the top of each one. To get through the steel belts on the tires, he used a large grinder.

After the flaps were cut, the tires were worked into strategic locations between the dock and the cabin's float. Three long galvanized nails were driven through the tire flaps to permanently attach them in place. The steel belts at the edge of the flaps help prevent the nails from ripping out under stress.

Tires between the the boat dock and the float logs create a cushion. Now when storm waves (or boat wakes) cause the dock to bounce in the water, there will be no more wood rubbing on wood causing damage. Tires placed around the two brow logs projecting out over the boat dock act as shock absorbers. Again, damage to both wood structures is now prevented.

Wayne and I learn a lot about how to take care of our own cabin by working with John. But we still need his help, and the help of his many handy tools. -- Margy

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cabin Baking: Zucchini Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting

I've grown zucchini in my floating garden, but this year I used a large pot. I'm now "blessed" with lots of squash. We use it fresh in salads, stuffed Italian style, and yesterday in a cake. It turned out yummy, so I thought I would share the recipe. It's a small one, just right for a toaster oven.

Zucchini Cake
 
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup grated zucchini
2 tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves or allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 cup water
1 cup dark brown sugar

Heat water to boiling then soak cranberries for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except zucchini and cook over low heat until margarine is melted and sugar dissolved. Remove from heat and add grated zucchini. Let cool slightly while you prepare the dry ingredients.

1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup flour

Mix dry ingredients together. Stir in wet ingredients. If desired, add 1/2 cup chopped pecans. Pour mixture into a greased and floured 6X9 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.


Coconut Pecan Frosting

1/2 cup evaporated milk or thick cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup chopped pecans

In a saucepan, dissolve cornstarch in half of the milk. Add remaining milk, powdered sugar and butter. Cook while stirring over medium heat until thickened. Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla, coconut and pecans. Let cool slightly before frosting the warm cake. Enjoy!

Do you have any favourite zucchini recipes? I'd love to hear them. -- Margy

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wood Work

Last winter we took our wood pile down to the last stick. That happened for a variety of reasons. We started the season with a good load of wood in our floating woodshed. Our what, you say? Yes, we have a floating woodshed. Wood is very heavy, so we don't want to store it on our floating cabin's deck. So, back to what happened this year. First, we got to spend more time at our cabin last winter (that's a good thing). Next, Wayne injured his foot in January and didn't feel up to mid-season wood work (that's a bad thing). And then there was a spring that was colder than most (that's Mother Nature). Bottom line, we used up all the wood.

It's time to start wood gathering for the upcoming winter. To help out, we got a skookum (strong) float. We can load it with wood, tow it to our cabin and then leave the wood stored safely on it's sturdy surface until we cut and stack it in on our covered wood storage float. The first time we used it, the float towed like a charm. The logs used to build the float are large and provide a steady platform for Wayne to walk and work on.

Our wood storage float has a good start. But we still need to find a few larger chunks of wood. Those are what I call "going to bed" logs. A few of those keep our Kozi wood burning stove cooking for most of the night. Then Wayne and I can sleep without going downstairs to stoke the fire too often. -- Margy

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Coastal BC Animals: Galatheid Crab

Galatheid Crab

We just got back from a cruise in our Bayliner. We started out by visiting Dave and Marg, friends of ours from Powell River. They are helping build a new resort lodge on the Homfray Channel just past Foster Point. While we were there, Dave and Marg took Wayne and I fishing and gave us a Downrigging 101 lesson. We trolled with two lines, one deep (90 feet) and one shallow (50 feet). We caught two lingcod on the deep line, the second of which was a keeper.

On the way back to the resort, we stopped to pull up prawn traps. We were pleased to find 87 large prawns waiting for us in the two sets. Marg says it isn't as good a catch as they get in the cooler weather, but it was plenty for a yummy dinner of prawn and pork kabobs. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Dave's delicious bacon wrapped prawns and eggs for breakfast. Now this is living!

When we pulled the prawn traps, Dave handed me a small crab that was in the trap. It was tiny and delicate. I looked it up on the Internet and think it is called a Galatheid Crab or Squat Lobster. The picture and description seem about right. They grow to about 5 inches, are orange in color and live in deep water (the traps were at 400 feet). I thought it was an amazing looking creature.

Wayne and I are heading up the lake for about a week. When I get back I'll tell you more about our cruise and cabin adventures. Hope your summer weather is as nice as ours. Enjoy! -- Margy

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Video Review: Come on Geese

There is a great movie about Canada Geese called Fly Away Home. It's about a thirteen year-old girl who raises and teaches a brood of orphaned Canada Geese to migrate using her father's ultralight airplane. If you get a chance to see it on TV, give it a try. It's also available on VHS and DVD.

Last spring we heard the Canada Geese return to their nesting grounds on the shores of Powell Lake. Each day they would fly past our cabin and loudly announce their presence back in the Hole. 

They even landed on our rocky cliffs to nibble on the green grassy slopes. After they lost their flight feathers, we didn't see them for awhile. I started to worry about the new generation. Only once did I see a pair with one gosling. Because the lake level had risen rapidly due to the snow melt, I had visions of flooded nests and damaged eggs.

But last week my worries were put to rest. Heading north from the Shinglemill, Wayne and I saw a large brood swimming together. The young geese were so large, you couldn't tell them from the parents. The next day we were visited at the cabin by another fine group. As you can see, they really enjoyed some of the flowers on our stumps. Then during Sea Fair, we saw more along the creek at Willingdon Beach.

So, all is well with the Canada Geese on Powell Lake and in Powell River.The young geese have a few more months to eat and grow, then in autumn they will again take to the skies to head south to warmer climes and more abundant food sources. -- Margy