Thursday, September 30, 2010

Come to Powell Lake for Fall Foliage

Many people go east on expensive fall foliage trips. That region is well known for its spectacular trees in hues of yellow, orange, red, purple and brown. Just like the Atlantic Provinces, the broadleaf trees surrounding Powell Lake start to turn color in late September through October. Right in front of our cabin, Goat Island has a superb display of maples, dogwoods and alders. The swath of glorious color paints up the hillsides through stream carved gullies and across expose rocky slopes.

Have you ever wondered how this colourful display occurs? Chlorophyll, which is the pigment that gives leaves their green color, gets energy from sunlight to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates (sugars and starch). Leaves also have yellow to orange pigments called carotenes and xanthophylls, but these colors are overpowered by chlorophyll most of the year. But when fall arrives, things change.

Fall days are noticeably shorter and trees start getting ready for winter. The presence of chlorophyll, and its green color, begins to diminish. This allows the yellow and orange colors to become more dominant. The bright reds and purples are created when glucose (sugars) are trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Bright sunny days and cool nights in autumn cause leaves to turn the glucose into a red to purple color. The brown color is made from wastes left behind in the leaves.

As fall moves towards winter, leaves begin to fall. Where the stem of the leaf is attached to the tree there is a special layer of cells. This layer gradually breaks down until it can no longer support the weight of the leaf. When storm winds blow, the leaves fall to the ground. Trees become dormant and live off the food they have stored over the summer. Their stems, twigs, and buds are equipped to survive extreme cold until the following spring.

Fallen leaves are not wasted, at least in nature or by the composting gardener. They decompose and replenish the soil with nutrients. They become part of the thick humus layer of the forest floor. There they absorb rainfall and hold moisture. They also become food for organisms that are important to the forest ecosystem.

Here are some more resources of you would like more details:

Want a different place to experience colourful fall foliage? Come to Powell River in Coastal BC. The people are friendly, the resorts are uncrowded and the restaurants are great. The opportunities are limitless. You won’t be sorry you chose to head north rather than east. -- Margy

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Container Gardening Hits and Misses

Each year I have garden hits and misses. But even things that don't do well teach me something. This year I added more pots on the deck to increase my "acreage." My hits were:

My misses were:
  • Zucchini (smaller)
  • Eggplant (died)
  • Burpless Cukes (died)
  • English Cukes (died)
  • Pumpkin (no sets)
I learned not to give up on cucumbers. After two types died, the third was a success. I'm going to try eggplant again next year just to make sure and I'll augment the soil or rotate crops to get my zucchini back up to par.

Do you do container vegetable gardening? What are some of your hits and misses? - Margy

Monday, September 27, 2010

"New" Cabin Deck Update

I had to go down to my former school district to help out with a few consulting projects. Wayne said he had to stay behind to mow the lawn. Now, I don't think I'm dumb enough to buy that excuse, but he did use his "time alone" wisely.

I've already shared how we painted our cabin's cedar deck with wood stain. We still needed to do our shed and bridge to shore. But rather than make everything beige, we decided to accent it with redwood.

We still have a bit to go, but this is a great start. Nice work Wayne! Lookin' good. -- Margy

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Season's Last Fling

The other day I was out sightseeing. My destination for the day was Riverside Park in Everson, Washington. This time of year it is a quiet place along the northern shore of the Nooksack River. But come here on Memorial Day weekend and it will be a whole different story. This is the launch site of paddling segment of the Ski to Sea Race.

I came here to check it out for a future kayaking trip in our Big Yellow Banana. As race participants know, it is a great launch site. It is also a nice park on its own right. There are sports fields, a picnic area with BBQ grills and a riverside nature trail. It was an overcast fall day, but there were still a few signs from summer's warmer season.



Maybe we'll get a paddle in soon. - Margy

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pumped

On Monday, I shared how our good friend John got his air compressor running. Here's why. Last summer we hired a scuba diver to help John put fifteen 55-gallon plastic barrels under our float cabin. We've added extra weight (translated stuff) to the float over the years. The plastic barrels filled with air make the cedar log float more buoyant.

This year we needed to add barrels to our floating woodshed and my garden float. Both had logs completely submerged. The bottom of our firewood pile was soaking wet and my garden soil couldn't drain. Plus, the longer the cedar logs stay submerged, the quicker they become waterlogged. While Wayne and John were making it happen, I filmed the steps. Take a look.



Now the float logs are well above the lake's surface, and there's still enough warm fall sunshine to dry the tops. With the barrels underneath and the drying logs on top, everything will stay high and dry. Thanks John and your trusty compressor. We're really pumped! - Margy

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Friends, Coffee and Lots of Books

You've met my good friend Betty from Bellingham. At her blog, she is also known as Mud Creek Mama. We met several years ago online and have been getting together for coffee in Old Fairhaven ever since. We like to window shop and grab a cup of coffee.

This time someone new joined us. That's Mary Beth. I follow her blog Small City Scenes of Stanwood. Stanwood isn't too far from here. In fact, when Wayne and I took our kayak trip down the Skagit we were pretty close. As you can see, it is beautiful farm country. You can also follow her at day4plus. I don't know how she does it. I can't keep up with one blog.

This week we all decided to meet in real life.

We started with a coffee and sweet treat at Avenue Bread, then headed for Eclipse, my favourite used bookstore. The proprietor took this picture of the three blogger friends. Betty's on the left, Mary Beth is in the middle, and yours truly is on the right. We had lots of fun talking and getting to know each other better.

Have you met any online friends in real life? Tell us your story. -- Margy

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mr. Fix-It Man

Float cabins sometimes need a little help with the float part. Cedar is well known for its buoyancy and resistance to water-logging, but even 40-foot logs will sink over time. In the "old days," they used to shove a dry log underneath to raise a float back up. Now, plastic 55-gallon barrels and 275-gallon plastic totes are used to give that added boost.

Watch later this week for a post about the whole process. But before we could begin, we needed a compressor to fill our barrels with air. That's where Mr. Fix-It Man comes in. Of course, that's our good friend John. If it needs to be done, he can do it. And coaxing an ancient compressor he found in the bush back to life was right up his alley.

Here's a short video of Mr. Fix-it Man, er John, in action.



If only we could learn a tenth of what he knows! -- Margy

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cabin Baking: Last of the Season Berry Pie

Berry season is drawing to a close. I've been freezing my meager strawberry pickings. Wayne hates this in our small cabin freezer, but I assure him the inconvenience will pay off. I had about two cups of wild blackberries and a few stalks of rhubarb. I had all the makings for an end-of-season berry pie.

I followed the Fannie Farmer recipe for a double crust 8-inch pie. I love to use Crisco. It doesn't need refrigeration and makes the flakiest crust.

8-Inch Double Pie Crust

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
5-6 tablespoons cold water

Mix flour and salt. Cut the shortening in until it's crumbly. Add cold water slowly until the dough forms a ball. I refrigerate my dough before rolling. It makes it so much easier.

The rest was easy. I put the blackberries on the bottom and sprinkled them with a liberal coating of sugar and a tablespoon of flour. Next came diced rhubarb and my strawberries. Another liberal coating of sugar and a tablespoon of flour. Top with a few bits of butter before covering with the top crust.

Bake for 10 minutes at 425 then 30-40 minutes at 350 until the crust is golden brown. Now here comes the hard part, waiting for the pie to cool and the juices to thicken. We couldn't wait - seems like we never can. -- Margy

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"New" Cabin Deck

Our float cabin was built by our good friend John in 1998 from the cedar log float up. We knew the logs were reused, but didn't know the whole story until Wayne and John had their overnight quad adventure. It was a helicopter landing pad when Salisbury did shake block logging. Check out this YouTube video by heliben5 to see how it is done. You can even see them fly past our cabin.



Our cabin deck is twelve years old and starting to show its age. Liquidation World had wood stain available at $9.99 a gallon so we decided to paint our deck to see if we can get a few more years of service out of it.

We used a brush to paint the edges, knots and deep cracks. Then each section got two coats of stain. The stain dried in four hours, but we had to wait 24 to put on the second coat and then another 24 to put all of our stuff back. We picked beige to make it light and bright. I liked the natural colour, but it was too late to use a clear stain. Maybe next time when the deck is new.

After a week, we have what looks like a new deck. We aren't sure how much longer our $150 investment will last, but it was worth a try. Have you ever put stain on a deck? Did it help preserve the wood? Did you think it was worth the effort? -- Margy

Friday, September 17, 2010

Sky Down Under

Sometimes we get a day of absolute calm on the lake.

If you take a picture of the reflections, it can be hard to tell them from the real thing.

I just love days like this. -- Margy

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Canning Blackberries

Before I left Powell River for a trip to the States, I picked a big batch of blackberries. Almost everywhere you look within a kilometre of the chuck (ocean) you'll find vines growing in logging slashes, along road cuts and even on empty lots in town.

I wanted to save a bit of the blackberry season to enjoy this winter, especially for some winter blackberry pancakes. I used the books Stocking Up by the editors of Organic Gardening and Farming and the Farm Journal’s Freezing and Canning Cookbook as guides.

Raw Pack Canned Blackberries

Pick as many ripe berries as you want to preserve. Wash and drain the berries in a colander. Fill canning jars to ½ inch of the top, gently shaking the berries down to remove empty spaces. The berries will shrink during processing. Cover the berries with boiling syrup (medium recommended) to ½ inch of the top. Remove air bubbles with a non-metallic spoon or spatula. Wipe the rims and cover with snap lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath, 10 minutes for pints and 15 minutes for quarts. I used half-pint jars (a better serving size for us) but went ahead and used the 10-minute process time.

Sugar Syrup for Canning

Thin: 2 cups sugar and 4 cups water yields 5 cups

Medium: 3 cups sugar and 4 cups water yields 5½ cups

Heavy: 4¾ cups sugar and 4 cups water yields 6½ cups

You need about 1 to 1½ cups of syrup for each quart of fruit. Medium syrup retains best colour and shape of fruits. You can replace up to half of the sugar with light corn syrup or mild flavoured honey, if desired. Heat sugar and water together until the sugar dissolves.

New to canning, I'm still a bit afraid of spoilage. I've stuck to fruits and pickles that can be processed in boiling water baths. These foods are more resident to bacterial growth and deadly botulism. Even so, I have been very careful to sterilize and follow processing guidelines.

How has your canning gone this year? I’d love to hear about your favourite items to can and preserve? Do you use a pressure cooker? Is it difficult? -- Margy

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hand Painted Spice Containers

The other day I was visiting Nydia's blog called Bringing Up Salamanders. She posted about crafting and how her Carioca Witch store on Etsy is doing quite well. I mentioned that I'd been doing a bit of crafting and she was so gracious to ask about it. So Nydia, this post's for you.

At the cabin, I've recycled old spice containers and have been living with hand written labels. I decided to spruce things up a bit. I left the original labels on and paint them with two coats of acrylic paint. Then I paint the spice's name and an illustration to make a new label. I think they came out pretty attractive. Now that's recycling with style.

Do you recycle and repurpose? What are some of your recycling endeavours? -- Margy

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Freezer Preserver

Every year it's the same. My peppers and tomatoes just start producing, and I have to leave for an extended trip to the States. At least with all the warm weather in August, we got a few fresh ones to enjoy.

Yesterday I went out and stripped all of my tomato and pepper plants and took everything to town for preserving.

I put my green tomatoes in the refrigerator hoping they won't ripen until I return. I cut the large peppers in half, cleaned and froze them for future stuffed peppers.

The rest I froze in containers for handy soup starters. I had some leftover celery (store bought), zucchini, banana peppers, plus my tomatoes and bell peppers.

I cut them all into bite-size pieces and layered them in my Bernardin Freezer Jars (Ball brand in the States). These are handy to stack in the condo freezer, but take too much room up at the cabin. I take one at a time up there to have on hand for winter soups. The rest remain in town waiting their turn.

Do you do any freezer preserving? What kinds of things do you freeze? - Margy

Friday, September 10, 2010

Serene Sunsets Abound

Every time we come to town we are amazed at the sunsets here in Powell River. We love our cabin, we miss sunsets up there.

Our bay is protected by hills and trees, blocking both the eastern and western sky. That's perfect for storm protection, but not so great for sky views.

But absence makes the heart grow fonder. And it sure is true of sunset skies. -- Margy

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Stories of Powell River

Last spring, Tourism Powell River brought together local writers for a special project, getting the word out about our wonderful town and the surrounding area.

From those submitted, twenty stories were selected to highlight some of the unique aspects of life, culture, activities, and fun in Powell River. They have now been posted at the Tourism Powell River website for your reading pleasure. Wayne and I are proud to announce that Powell River Books is responsible for four of those stories.

Here are links to our stories in pdf format:

The other stories include topics about history, Texada Island, kayaking, fishing, camping, and much more. Head on over the the Tourism website to read them all.

If you have any questions about Powell River, I'd be glad to answer them for you. Just leave a comment or send an e-mail through the link on my profile page. Hope you get to visit our "Pearl of the Sunshine Coast."-- Margy

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Cabin Cooking: Gastronomic Garden Goodies

My floating garden and containers produce things we eat fresh. The trick is, to get our garden goodies to come in when we need and can use them and right now we are getting a good combination of items to eat.

I pulled my onions in mid-July and cured them for storage. This year's crop was pretty puny, so they are already almost gone. Same goes for zucchini, but my bell peppers and tomatoes are producing well. What better way to combine these items than on skewers to go with BBQ beef ribs.

They are so easy to prepare. I use a little oil and rice wine vinegar mixed with Lawry's Lemon Pepper (I use this for just about everything) and my own dried herbs I call Margy's Mix. I cut the veggies into bite-size chunks and let them marinade for several hours. When the meat is about half done, the skewers go on the grill set on medium. We use the leftover marinade to baste them while cooking for extra flavour. About 10 minutes on each side gets them al dente, just the way we like them, a fresh gastronomic delight. -- Margy

Friday, September 03, 2010

Blue Above, Misty Below

After over a month of continuous sunny, warm weather, Coastal BC has started receiving the showers that are more common in our area.

First Narrows on Powell Lake tends to create weather of its own. Here a cloud is sandwiched between the top of Goat Island and the blue sky above.

At the base of the cloud, it was misty and moist. Giving the trees some much needed moisture. -- Margy

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Saved in the Nick of Time

My good friend John is always finding treasures for me. He knows the Powell River back country better than anyone. I never know what it will be, but here are some of the most memorable treasures he's brought home:

  • An old manual typewriter
  • An old logging two-man crosscut saw
  • An oil can and tea kettle
  • An old-time fire extinguisher
  • Lots of pretty rocks
  • Lots of interesting driftwood
  • Rusted chains and tools
One treasure came from a "dump" along the shore. The contents probably came from old homesteads. Amid the trash he found a cast iron goose. It had one leg and was rusted, but John knew it was a perfect treasure to bring home for me. Besides, it didn't take much space on his quad.

My goose has a prominent perch in the kitchen, but has continued to deteriorate. I decided it was time to do something about it.

And it was a good thing I did. When I moved him, half of the head fell off and by the time I got it to the picnic table, the other half went too. I whittled a stick to fit into the neck and glued the head back together with some Amazing Goop. I also used the Goop to seal the edges of the cast iron halves and sealed the surface with several coats of polyurethane. While I was at it, I made a bark brace for his missing leg. Now Mr. Goose should last for years to come.

Thanks John for all the treasures. You're a great friend. -- Margy