Saturday, May 27, 2017

Coastal BC Birds: Brown-headed Cowbird

A Brown-headed Catbird at the feeder.
On a sunny spring day we had a Brown-headed Cowbird visit our birdseed feeder at the cabin on Powell Lake. This is the second time I've seen one in the Powell River region. The first was on a quad ride to Fiddlehead Farm back in 2008.

Cowbirds are a highly mobile species. After following herds of animals on the prairies for eons, they've developed the practice of laying eggs in other birds' nests. Without the requirement to incubate eggs and nurture young, they can focus on foraging and aren't tied down to a specific location. Point taken. I haven't seen the Cowbird return.

Brown-headed Cowbirds are in the blackbird family. Mine was a lone male with a glossy black body and dark brown head. Females have a brownish body with lighter areas on the head and underside.

Females lay their eggs in a wide variety of other birds' nests. Some can detect the "parasitic" egg but others cannot. Because Cowbird eggs hatch quicker and produce larger chicks, they are more adept at surviving than the host bird's hatchlings.

Brown-headed Cowbirds are common throughout North America. They are annual residents along the west coast up to British Columbia and move in the summer to more northern breeding areas in the western US and across the southern Canadian provinces.

Reference: All About Birds: 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, May 24, 2017

Cabin Cooking: Percolator to Dripolator

Do you use a percolator? Do you have trouble with coffee grounds getting through? Do you make coffee that sometimes tastes bitter? Well, my answers were yes to all three questions.

Trim a coffee filter to fit the percolator basket.
My coffee making skills using a stovetop percolator have been very inconsistent. However, when I'm in town and use a Mr. Coffee, I don't have those troubles.

My first thought was to look for a manual drip coffee maker, but the ones I found were glass.

Press the filter over the stem and into the basket.
Glass wouldn't work well on my woodstove. I found some old style metal dripolators online, but being a bit frugal I decided to do some experimenting first.

I trimmed a coffee filter so that it would fit inside the basket of my percolator.

The coffee goes inside the filter.
Press the center of the filter down over the stem and make it fit inside the basket. I found it's important to make sure the edge of the filter is below the rim of the basket.

Measure your coffee and put it into the filter lined basket.

Fit the basket lid firmly in place.
Place the lid on top and heat. I perk mine for twelve minutes after the first spurt of water comes up through the stem.

Using this method I no longer have to use a strainer to keep those pesky grounds from getting into our cups. It has also helped to remove the bitter taste.

Saving coffee grounds for the garden.
After we have finished our coffee, it's easy to remove the grounds from the basket. I save mine to use in the garden and compost pile.

Do you use a stovetop percolator? What do you do to get a consistent good cup of coffee?

Head over to Blogghetti for Happiness is Homemade to see more recipes, crafts and DIY projects. on over to The (mis)Adventures of a "Born Again" Farm Girl for more simple ideas for your home or homestead.

Hop on over to the Not So Modern Housewife and see some great ideas for homesteading and simple living. more ideas? Try Nancy's Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop. -- Margy

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rainbows and Sunshine

There's nothing like the end of a spring shower ...

when it brings rainbows and sunshine.

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. -- Margy

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Coastal BC Plants: Alaskan Saxifrage

Alaskan Saxifrage

Alaskan Saxifrage among the moss.
I have to walk up four flights of stairs to get up to my hillside potato patch and compost bin. I make the trek several times a week and always look at things along the path. The granite cliff itself is always interesting. And I like to see what the natural vegetation is doing.

On a trip up the stairs I saw some pretty little white flowers. After depositing my vegetable scraps in the bin, I went back to the cabin to get my camera. I used the pictures and my nature guides to find a match. With limited Internet access, books are a great alternative.

Paging through Plants of Coastal British Columbia I found that it was Alaska Saxifrage (Saxafraga ferruginea). This plant is quite widespread and there are several variations along its coastal range from southern Washington to southern Alaska, and from sea level to alpine regions. As a perennial plant, it gets an early start in spring.

Thin reddish stems rise from a cluster of basal leaves.

The plant’s fleshy, hairy, spoon-shaped leaves are arranged in an array around the base. A short (10-35 cm) stiff stem rises straight up, sometimes branching, ending with small white (to purple) five-petaled flowers. The stamens on short stalks in the center give the flowers a spiky appearance. Its nickname is Rusty Saxifrage because of the rust colour in the sepals.

Alaskan Saxifrage can be found on moist cliffs, wet rocks, and mossy spots. Mine were tucked in among the mosses that line the notch up our granite cliff. We are at an elevation of 155 feet. -- Margy

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 (online).

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Riding Pickles on Powell Lake

Approaching the Pickles barge ramp on Powell Lake.
Sounds funny, but that’s the name of a Western Forest Product’s site on Powell Lake. I don’t know origin. Maybe it was the nickname of an old timer in nearby Henderson Bay, or some obscure gastronomic event.

We took advantage of a sunny spring day to head out with our barge and quads. Pickles is about twenty minutes from our cabin and we’ve watched with interest as road builders reopened the barge ramp and blasted their way through granite cliffs.

Burning slash in 2008 after first logging at Pickles.
Pickles is an isolated block. Roads offer limited riding, but there was a unique draw. After building ends, roads are left to settle for several months. That lets you ride through the beautiful mature forests with its robust understory before logging begins.

We didn’t have our barge when Pickles was first logged. Because quick growing alders had blocked the roads, this was the first time we could ride Pickle's old and new sections.

Our barge at the Pickles dock looking up the east arm of Powell Lake.

Wayne on one of the old cleared logging roads.
On the north-south road there were views of Goat Island, First Narrows and Chippewa Bay. Loggers even had a roadside bench at the most spectacular spot. The most extensive road building was at the end of the east-west section. Here road crews had to blast their way along granite slopes (easily heard from our cabin). Trees logged during the road building process won’t go to waste. They are stacked and ready for removal when logging begins.

Looking north with First Narrows in the middle and Goat Island on the right.

This is the second time we’ve been able to ride new roads to experience mature forests up close. The first was at nearby Chip South. As a part of the reforestation process, new harvests in previously logged areas occur after about ten years. This allows new trees to grow and “green up” in the open areas. Western Forest Products is a responsible company that carefully manages our forests on Crown land.

A new section of road with logs waiting ready for removal.

If you want to ride in the Powell Lake region, you can contact Western Forest Products to get current information about logging activities.  In addition to the hotline listed below, there is a @WFPRoadInfo Twitter account, a Stillwater Operational Information Map (pdf updated monthly), and online information page.

Stillwater Forest Operations
201-7373 Duncan Street
Powell River, BC V8A 1W6
Office: (604) 485-3100
Road Hotline: (604) 485-3132

I invite you to come visit Powell River and enjoy quad riding in our glorious backcountry. For information about quad riding in our area click on the ATV category or visit my other blog Powell River Quad Rides. -- Margy

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Powell Lake by Barge and Quad

Newest Release

Coastal BC Stories

And other Online Booksellers

Wayne and I have lived in our float cabin on Powell Lake since 2001. In 2003, our good friend John introduced us to quad riding.

In the beginning, we followed John around as he introduced us to the many logging roads and trails in the Powell River region. At that time, we kept our quads on a trailer in a hangar at the airport, and drove to off-load locations.

In 2012, we tried keeping our quads a short boat ride away from our float cabin.

It made it easier to go riding, but we were limited in the roads and trails we could explore. Plus, they were exposed to the elements.

Thus began our quest for a landing craft to house and transport our quads to all of the roads and trails around Powell and Goat Lakes.

In 2014, we found a perfect 22' barge on Craigslist and quickly bought it sight unseen.

Now our quads can remain at our float cabin, ready in an instant for day trips and camping adventures. We can also maintain them better and protect them from the weather.

In Powell Lake by Barge and Quad, you can join us for quad adventures to destinations on Powell and Goat Lakes accessible only by boat. You will visit unique places where all-terrain vehicles can explore logging roads and trails in picturesque British Columbia. 

Check with your favourite online bookseller or go to for more ordering information.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Coastal BC Insects: Giant Water Bug

Giant Water Bug

Giant Water Bug
Wayne and I have lived at our float cabin on Powell Lake since 2001 and this is the first time I’ve seen a Giant Water Bug (Lethocerus americanus). The only other time was when I was in high school. A boy friend stationed in Vietnam knew I was putting together an insect collection for a biology class, hence he sent me an unusual “present” in the mail.

Giant Water Bugs are common in the United States and Canada. They are found in among bottom vegetation in ponds and lakes. It is the region’s largest aquatic insect, up to 2 3/8” long and 1” wide (60mm x 25 mm). Flying, it has a wingspan of 4 1/8” (110 mm). When flying, they look a lot like bats. I wonder if that was what I saw the other night skimming over the water.

Giant Water Bugs eat fish, tadpoles and other insects. It has a large beak to pierce its prey and injects digestive juices. Once the innards are dissolved, the bug sucks the contents out, leaving a husk behind, not a pretty thought. And if you handle one, the bite is painful.

The two front legs are used for grasping prey. The four hind legs are fringed and designed for powerful swimming.

Females lay eggs in late spring and early fall. Nymphs hatch in two weeks, but few survive due to cannibalism and other aquatic predators. If disturbed, they may play dead or fight back with their beak and caustic saliva.

With a nickname of "Toe Biter," I got close enough to take some pictures from various angles but wasn’t tempted to get give it a touch. -- Margy

References: Bugs of British Columbia (Lone Pine Publishing, 2001) by John Acorn and Ian Sheldon and National Audubon Society Nature Guides: Wetlands (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997) by William A Niering

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Compost Quick

My compost "barrel" next to last years buried compost pit.
Many years ago I made a simple compost "barrel" out of chicken wire. I use it to store plant-based kitchen scraps and garden clippings from late spring through early fall. My garden is small, so it's large enough to hold what I need and turn my scraps into compost quick.

It's located up on the cliff next to my hillside potato patch. It's not the most convenient place to take my compost since it involves climbing three flights of stairs, but when the compost is done, it's in the perfect spot to dig into my growing triangle of soil.

In fall after my potatoes are harvested, I dig a big hole in the middle of the patch (click here to read more). Fresh clippings go in the bottom and the partially rotted mix from the barrel goes on top. I water thoroughly then put soil from the hole on top. I cover the pit with garbage bags held down by boards. Using compost accelerator such as Rot-It makes the pile decompose quickly.

Home grown Yukon Gold seed potatoes.
This week I uncovered my pit and found wonderful new soil. Wayne and I worked it up and prepared rows to plant my saved Yukon Gold seed potatoes.

They've lasted all winter for eating and the remainder are nicely sprouted for planting.

The potatoes will love the rich new soil and the loose texture to allow them to develop nice big spuds.

Seed potatoes ready to be buried and watered by spring rains.

Do you make your own compost? What are some of your techniques? -- Margy

Saturday, April 29, 2017

“At Home in the Woods” by Vena and Bradford Angier

I like thrift shops and used bookstores to find books about living off the grid and wilderness adventures. One I found recently was At Home in the Woods: How two young people forsook civilization to live the life of Thoreau in the Canadian wilderness (The Macmillan Company, 1951).

The book was written by Bradford and Vena Angier with Vena Angier as the narrator. The story was told from her point of view.  I really enjoyed reading about their experience of moving off the grid to the Canadian wilderness.

The Peace River near Hudson's Hope in 1994.
Vena and Brad had city-folk jobs in Boston. They enjoyed the outdoors and greatly admired Thoreau’s simple life at Walden Pond. They searched for property and selected Hudson’s Hope in British Columbia's interior to live out their dream. They found an abandoned cabin six miles from town and used it while they built one of their own with recycled materials.

While living a simple life away from civilization they learned the skills needed to survive in the wilderness. They had minimal income from writing magazine articles, so they got as much of the food and materials they needed from the land.

Wayne in front of the Hudson Bay Post in 1994.
They made friends in Hudson’s Hope and explored the area by boat on the Peace River, by horse to a mountain lake, and by hiking everywhere, including up the ice and snow encrusted Rocky Mountain Canyon.

The Hudson Bay Company Post in town was not only the trading post, but also a center for community life. People from around the area, including Vena and Brad, would go there for celebrations and events.

After three years, they left the bush and returned to the States. After a time back in civilization, they chose to return to Hudson’s Hope. And in the end, Brad was able to purchase the land on which their cabin stood. Now no one could take their dream away.

Arrow 997 with our tent at Hudson's Hope Airport in 1989
Wayne and I stopped in Hudson’s Hope on one of our trips in Arrow 997. I remember walking down to the small village from the airport 6.6 kilometres (4 miles) away. Remembering the trek back up the steep road made me appreciate how difficult it was for Vera to walk the six miles from their cabin to get mail and groceries.

At Home in the Woods was re-released in 2015 (Down East Books) and is available from Amazon and other online booksellers in print and e-book versions. If you want to read a timeless off the grid adventure book, this is the one. -- Margy

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cabin Baking: Flaxseed Bread

Stovetop toast with homemade flaxseed bread.
We ran out of bread and wouldn’t be going to town for a few more days, so I decided to make some for our breakfast toast. I didn’t want to wait for my sourdough starter to work, so I tried a recipe for flaxseed bread I'd saved from an old Our Canada magazine.

Flaxseed Bread


1 ½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 ½ to 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 pkg (1/4-oz) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter
1 ½ teaspoons butter for topping
½ cup ground flaxseed
½ cup whole flaxseed


Add warm milk mixture to dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, combine the whole-wheat flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, ground flaxseed, whole flaxseed, yeast and salt.

In a saucepan, heat the milk, brown sugar, honey and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add to dry ingredients when it has cooled to just warm.

Stir in enough of the remaining all-purpose flour to form a firm dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. I had to add about ½ cup extra all-purpose flour during kneading to keep the dough from sticking to the breadboard.

Knead, let rise and test.
Place in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat all side of the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. I used the wonderful King Arthur dough rising bucket that my friend Jeanne gave me.

To test the dough, use your fingers to indent the surface. If it doesn’t spring back, it’s ready to punch down.

Form into a loaf.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a loaf. I’d already cleaned my breadboard so I used a piece of plastic wrap taped to the counter for easy cleanup.

Place it in a 9X5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Let the loaf rise again.
Bake at 375°F for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from the pan to a wire rack. Melt remaining butter and brush over the bread (optional). Then let cool before slicing.

I like the slightly sweet nutty flavour for our morning toast. Topped with some of my homemade grape and plum jam, it was perfect with our morning fruit.

And for an added benefit, we could stay home instead of running to the grocery store in town. -- Margy