Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cabin Baking: Sourdough Biscuits

I always keep a jar of sourdough starter in the refrigerator. We were going to have my Easy Stovetop Chili for dinner, so I thought I would try some sourdough biscuits to go along with it. I got a great sourdough cookbook at the Economy Shop (thrift store) for 50 cents. It's Sourdough Cookery by Rita Davenport. It is available on Amazon for over $10.00, but maybe you can find one at your favourite used book store like I did. It's a great little paperback with 220 recipes from starter to breads to cakes to main dishes.

SOURDOUGH BISCUITS

1/3 cup starter
1/2 cup milk
1 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon thyme and rosemary (or your favourites)
1 tablespoon cornmeal sprinkled on cookie sheet

Mix starter, milk and 1/2 cup flour in a large bowl and let sit in a warm place overnight or until the mixture is bubbly. When ready, add 1/2 cup flour and beat. Mix another 1/2 cup of flour with sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sift over the dough and mix together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead in the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Knead about 20 times or until all the flour is incorporated. Press the dough into a circle with 1/2" thickness. Then cut it into wedges.

Melt butter and mix with oil and herbs. Brush each wedge with the butter mixture before placing it upside down on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Then brush the other side with the butter mixture. Cover lightly with a clean towel and let them raise about an hour or until they almost double in size. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Eat them warm. Leftovers are better reheated. Now that's comfort food.

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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Winter Garden

It's time to prepare my garden for winter. There isn't enough sun even on a good day to warm the soil. It rises over the mountains at about 9:00 a.m. to arc along its southerly path and "set" behind the trees of the Hole in the Wall at about 1:00 p.m.

Each year my garden seems to have a different star. This year it was my carrots. I'm not sure why. I used the same things to augment the soil in the spring, the same plant food throughout the summer, and of course the same long sunny days and plentiful rain. But, this year the carrots were more plentiful and much larger than ever before. I just harvested this huge beauty. A little trimming and it gave us lots of salads and carrot sticks to nibble on. I was amazed, it wasn't even woody.

To protect my asparagus roots, I cut the ferns two inches above the soil and then laid them on the top. A bucket of sand and another of soil over the fronds holds them in place, creates an air pocket, and helps protect the roots from freezing weather.

I am leaving my root crops in the soil. These include potatoes, more carrots and a few remaining beets. I will continue to harvest them as needed into the winter. Last year I had fresh carrots all the way until spring.

My herbs are real troopers. My mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, and even my parsley have make it through the freezing nights and even under a layer of occasional snow. Plus, it's fun to go out and snip a few fresh sprigs for winter soups and stews. -- Margy

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sunrise, Sunset

It isn't often that we get to see a sunrise (at least a colourful one) from our cabin home in Hole in the Wall on Powell Lake.

We get the soft, diffused light of sunrise at about 7:30 in the morning this time of year, but we don't see the sun make its way over the peaks to the southwest until about 9:00 a.m.

We also don't often see a true sunset either. At about 1:00 p.m. the sun dips below the treetops on the other side of the bay. We get indirect light until about 4:30, but no spectacular sunsets.

For outstanding sunsets we go to town in Powell River. From there we get unobstructed views to the west (more southwest right now) across the Strait of Georgia. Even with a little cloud cover, the sun paints magnificent colours across the sky, land and water. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Introducing Powell River, BC

I would like to introduce where my husband Wayne and I live, Powell River, British Columbia, Canada.

Where is that, you ask? Just go up the coast about 145 kilometers (90 miles) from Vancouver to the "Sunshine Coast" and you'll discover the city of Powell River. Part of the charm (and sometimes frustration) is that it takes two ferry rides to get there. While technically Powell River is not on an island, it feels like island living because of the ferries.

Powell River is a small town, with about 13,000 people living within the city boundaries and a total of 22,000 if you count the surrounding region. The people are welcoming, friendly and helpful. Even if you are a new arrival, it feels like coming home.

The Powell River and nearby Powell Lake were named in honour of Israel Wood Powell, the superintendent of Indian Affairs for BC in the 1880s. The town of Powell River was started in 1910 as a papermill company town. Originally the mill was built and owned by the Powell River Company. It has gone through many hands and is now owned by Catalyst Paper. Once the largest paper mill in the world, it has downsized considerably in recent years.

Powell River is no longer a company town. Homes are now privately owned and the Historic Townsite was designated a National Historic District by Parks and Monuments Canada in 1995. The Townsite is now one of four distinct communities (Cranberry, Westview, Townsite and Wildwood) that unified into the Corporation and District of Powell River in 1955. In 2005, the municipality became the City of Powell River.

Wayne and I have fallen in love with the people and places in and around Powell River. Want to know more? Check the menu of topics in the side bar. Also, come back each week to discover a little bit more about Powell River.


View Larger Map

Thanks for visiting my home town. I hope you have a chance to come in real life as well. -- Margy

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reflections

On a calm day, the water in front of my float cabin is like a mirror. Fall is a good time to capture the reflection of golden maple leaves on the glassy surface.

Head up north on the salt chuck (ocean) to nearby Desolation Sound and you will find lofty peaks and puffy clouds reflected on the calm waters on a sunny summer day.

Take a ride on BC Ferries to nearby Texada Island and you are sure to get a beautiful reflection of the sun on the water. They don't call us the Sunshine Coast for nothing.

When I reflect on it, I live in the "best place on earth."  Come for a visit, stay for a lifetime. -- Margy

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Coastal BC Birds: Raven

Raven

We have a resident pair of ravens at our float cabin on Powell Lake. While other birds come and go with the seasons, the ravens stay put.

It's amazing how many vocalizations they make. To me, the most amazing is the clicking sound. The raven has a prominent place in Sliammon First Nation and Coastal Salish history. In legends he was a shape changer and a trickster. If you've ever seen a raven, you know that describes him well.

Ravens are major scavengers. A favourite target is Brodie's dog food. Bro is our good friend John's dog. Every time they see John's backpack, they rip (literally) into it searching for food. One time we saw a raven fly off with a full can of sardines. He perched on an outcropping, ripped the can open and devoured the contents. Amazing.

Occasionally one raven will come down and roost near the cabin, but most often we hear them across the bay near John's cabin, soaring on the currents above the Hole in the Wall, or perched in the trees on the lookout for tasty morsels.

If you aren't familiar with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website All About Birds, it is a great online tool for bird identification and information. -- Margy

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Backcountry Ruins

If you look carefully in the bush, you can find lots evidence of past inhabitants. They were loggers, shake block cutters and homesteaders. The Coastal BC rainforest quickly reclaims the land, but if you know where what to look for you can find all kinds of ruins and treasures.

Our good friend John was walking along the shore at the head of Powell Lake and saw what looked like the remnants of a fence. A little farther inland he found the ruins of cabin.

The residents were shake block cutters. You can read more about it here. The cabin was gone, but the woodstove, a rusted bread pan, the root cellar, an outhouse and a refuse dump were still there. In the dump there was an old boot, the metal head of a peavy they used to move logs, food cans and lots of Copenhagen cans, the guys must have really loved their snuff. There was also a can of boot grease. Everything a few guys would need for a life of hard work in the bush. -- Margy

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Seagull Settee

Earlier this week my Mom and I made the trek south from Powell River to Bellingham. At the Langdale Ferry Terminal, we had a short wait. Along the waterfront I found a pier that was acting as a seagull settee.

I tried to identify the gulls from the photograph. It was easier to decide which ones they weren't than which ones they were. Several factors make identification more difficult. Juvenile birds in their first two years of life can have a different colouration than adults. Outside of the mating season plumage can also change. Then there is the trend for several species to flock together, even to inter-breed.

In the Strait of Georgia, there's a large colony of Glaucus-winged Gulls on Mitlenatch Island. It's possible these are Glaucus-winged Gulls. They might also be Western Gull which are common along the coast.

Take a look at the birds on their settee and let me know what you think. -- Margy

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Freezing Tomatoes

Yesterday (Tiny Tomato Treats) and last October (Saving Green Tomatoes) I shared posts about how I handle unripened tomatoes when their vines have to come out. Wayne and I love the taste of fresh home grown tomatoes in salads including our favourite Chopped Garden Salad. But even with only a few plants, there can be more produce than we can consume all at once. I didn't have enough to bother with canning, so I decided to freeze my excess tomatoes.

Freezing tomatoes is very simple. You can do them whole, sliced or diced. You can do them with the skins on or off. Since I also had some remaining zucchini and green peppers, I decided to freeze my tomatoes diced (cut in half for the cherries) along with pieces of the other two vegetables. That way I could pop a container directly into the soup pot. You can use any tightly sealed container, but I purchased Bernardin freezer canning jars. They are plastic with tight snapping lids. They can also be saved and reused for the next season.

Denise, a blogger friend that writes the Vintage Log Cabin blog, shared a forum with me that is devoted to tomatoes called Tomatoville. You have to register to read and post messages, but it is free and a very busy community. Check it out, and stop by and meet Denise at vintagelogcabin.blogspot.com. -- Margy

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tiny Tomato Treats

In October, I shared how I picked my green Early Girl tomatoes and brought them into the house to ripen (see Saving Green Tomatoes). They were a big success. When it came time to pull out my cherry tomato plants, I tried the same thing. I removed and kept all of the undamaged green cherry tomatoes. What remained was chopped up for the compost pile. Nothing goes to waste.

I placed all of the little tomatoes on cookie sheets and placed them on a cool dark shelf in the downstairs guest room. They have been there for about a month now and are ripening nicely. When the larger tomatoes ripened, I didn't lose any. With these smaller one,s I have to throw away a few that rot or wither every few days.

When the tiny tomatoes start to turn pink I move them to the kitchen window sill to redden. Here they have a great view and a bit of warmth much like they had on the vine. They end up juicy and tasty in salads that bring back memories of long gone summer days. -- Margy

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Powell River Books Showcased on Tiny House Blog

Last month I introduced a great blog called The Tiny House Blog. The author is Kent Griswold, a fan of small structures.

The goal
of the tiny house blog is to discover the different options available for a person looking to down size into a tiny house or cabin.

After I posted a picture of our float cabin on the blog's forum, Kent ask me to write some feature articles. The first gave some basic information and pictures about our float cabin on Powell Lake in Coastal BC. The second was about some of the conveniences that make our cabin a comfortable home. So, head on over to the Tiny House Blog.

Since the blog's inception in May 2007, Kent has worked diligently towards his goal. Now, over a year later, there are lots of styles and information to choose from such as:

If you like to communicate with other people who like cabins and other small structures, stop by the Tiny House Forum. And thanks again Kent for all the great coverage for Powell River Books! -- Margy

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Stick and Mom Together

Wayne and I have a cat named Stick Tail. When we moved north to Canada, my 92 year-young mom came to live near us.

When that happened, Stick flew from California to move in and start his new job to keep her company at her new home in Washington State.

Now Mom and Stick frequently drive north to visit us at our home in Powell River. They ride comfortably for seven hours including two ferry rides. When they get here, we all take a boat ride to the float cabin for some "together" time.

No matter where they are, Mom and Stick are together, morning, noon and night. I think it's been good for both of them, don't you? -- Margy

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Woodstove Cooking: Pouch Potatoes

In September, I shared how to cure and store onions and in October, how to store potatoes for use throughout the winter. I went into my stash last night to make one of my favourite comfort food side dishes. I call it "Pouch Potatoes."

The ingredients can vary, but my staples are potatoes, onions, green peppers and herbs. Start with a large rectangle of aluminum foil. Using a paper towel, spread about one teaspoon of margarine up to about one inch of the edge. Slice potatoes (enough for two servings) and place them on the foil. Top with sliced onions and green peppers. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs. I like Rosemary, Thyme, Basil and Sage, but you can use whatever you like. Pull the foil up and seal the edges by folding them over several times. This makes a cooking pouch that should not leak. I sometimes use a second piece of foil to double the pouch, especially when I am going to cook the potatoes in my wood stove. I don't want any grease to leak onto the bricks.

I cook my "Pouch Potatoes" in two ways. If we are barbecuing, I put them on the grill for about half an hour, turning them several times to brown on both sides. If I have my wood stove going, I cook them inside near the front after the wood burns down to coals. Either way, they make a tasty side dish for meat, fish or chicken. Give them a try. They're so easy they almost cook themselves. -- Margy

Monday, November 03, 2008

Nanton Lake Forest Campground

Powell River is well known for its Forest Canoe Route. This paddling route follows a beautiful chain of lakes with portages inbetween. Not everyone is a canoe enthusiast, but you can enjoy these same lakes by car, truck or ATV. Recently, Wayne and I rode our quads to Nanton Lake and its Forest Service Recreation Site.

Nanton Lake offers wilderness camping with 25 sites that have picnic tables and fire rings along the lake's shore. Each one takes advantage of natural trees and bushes for privacy. It's primitive camping with pit toilets. Bring your own drinking water and enough supplies for the length of your stay. I've seen trailers and small RVs here, but I would recommend getting road advice if you aren't familiar with the area. Each year the Powell River ATV Club heads to Nanton Lake for a weekend of comraderee and off-road trail riding.

A small boat launch with floats into deeper water makes it a good spot for small boats, kayaks and, of course, canoes. Native Cutthroat Trout and Kokanee Salmon give anglers lots of sporting action. If you have a watercraft, you can even enter adjacent Horseshoe Lake without a portage.

To reach Nanton Lake take Highway 101 south from Powell River for 16 kilometres (1o miles) to Dixon Road in the Lang Bay area. Turn left onto Dixon Road. In about a kilometre it will turn into a dirt logging road. Just before you come to Lois Lake, take the Goat Lake Main one-way access road to the left. Stay on Goat Lake Main for about 20 kilometres (12.4 miles). There's a small vertical marker on the right at the entrance road to the Nanton Lake campground. If you are not familiar with the are,a it's a good idea to watch your mileage.

For more information, and to check road access restrictions, you can contact the Ministry of Forests at (604) 485-0700 or visit their office at 7077 Duncan Street in Powell River. Because there is active logging in the area during the week, access is limited to after 6:00 in the evening (this works in summer) or on weekends. Even then, be on the lookout for logging trucks.

The dirt road is usually in good shape (go slow for potholes) during the summer and fall months. Snow in the winter and mucky mud in the spring can limit access for vehicles without four-wheel drive and sometimes chains.

So if you are looking for some wilderness camping, fishing, canoeing, kayaking or just relaxing in natural surroundings put Powell River and Nanton Lake on your list of places to visit.

If you want more information about exploring Powell River's backcountry I recommend reading Wayne's books Up the Main or Up the Winter Trail. They are both available online at www.PowellRiverBooks.com

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Call Me Mr. Blue

We have a "new to us" kayak we call Mr. Blue.

Our good friend John found Mr. Blue abandoned on the shore while boating at the head of Jervis Inlet. After a year sitting at John's cabin, we made him an offer he couldn't refuse. Now Mr. Blue rides along our transition float ready to go into action at a moment's notice.

Mr. Blue is a double Ocean Kayak built in Ferndale, Washington. It's a Malibu Two and it is what I call a "sit on" model. It is perfectly suited for paddling as a single or double. Wayne heads out with his fishing pole to troll for lake trout. I love to explore the shoreline to see if there area any treasures or useful items.

Are you interested in what living in a float cabin is like? Click here. -- Margy