Saturday, April 30, 2016

Bee Hotel Update

You can see pollen on the back legs of this bee heading home.
About two weeks ago I finished my Bee Hotel and Wayne got it mounted for me just in time. The very next day we had one bee visitor and by the second the establishment was abuzzin'.

Look in the middle of the picture below. You will see a Mason Bee zooming in for a landing in one of the open holes.

In the middle, a backside view of a bee zooming in for a landing.

The bees fly right into the holes, and when they are done leave quickly. Getting a good photo was hard.

Two hole filled with pollen and eggs and sealed on the outside.
We missed seeing the bees fill in the holes because of rainy weather. Hopefully there will be a few holes left to fill after the weather returns to sun.

Watching this process has been so much fun, and the cost of making a bee hotel is nothing if you already have a drill and some scrap or gathered wood. I highly recommend it if you have bees in your area. -- Margy

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Modifying a Commercial Bird Feeder

Hurry up, I'm hungry!
I bought a seed bird feeder to use up at the cabin. The first bird to come to visit was an overwintering Song Sparrow. In fact, so far she's been the only visitor.

I found a plastic plate at the Dollar Store that was the perfect size to fit under the commercial bird feeder.

I got a little help from Wayne for this part of my project.

I turned the plate upside down so the edge turned upwards, giving birds a more substantial perch while eating their seeds.

Wayne used his battery powered drill (perfect for an off the grid cabin) to extend the drain holes from the metal ring through the plastic plate.

Three of these extended drain holes allowed us to insert screws to hold the two pieces together.

Drain holes were important to keep the seeds from getting waterlogged during rain storms.

He also drilled drain holes to make sure the outer plastic ring wouldn't fill up with water.

The completed modification to a commercial bird feeder.

Our Song Sparrow took a few moments to check out the new look.

Look closely on the bridge support, there our Sparrow taking a look.

When everything looked safe and secure ...

She returned to get lunch. But I noticed, she used the inner metal ring to stand on. Maybe the modification was more for my than her liking. -- Margy

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Spring Sailing

We've had a very mild, in fact warm, spring. The weather has been great for gardening and sunbathing, but pretty calm for sailing. When April showers move through, we get just enough wind to take our new Ste. Marie out for a sail on Powell Lake.

First we tack to starboard.

Then we tack to port where we see some clearing skies.

Finally we make it out to the open area we call the North Sea.

In winter, the winds and waves here can grow to epic proportions. But today it's just enough to let us to safely learn to sail. -- Margy

Monday, April 18, 2016

Drilling Nesting Blocks for a Bee Hotel

Last spring I noticed small flying insects going in and out of a little hole on the pedestal of our weather station’s solar panel. After taking several pictures, I identified the small insect as a bee, most likely an Orchard Mason Bee, a type of solitary bee that nest in holes or tubes.

Cutting the driftwood blocks to size.
This year I decided to make the bees a more permanent home, a Bee Hotel. I started out by using an old birdhouse that was no longer needed because John built us nice new ones. I took the front wall off and glued all of the joints. A new coat of green paint on the roof really spruced it up.

I cut four sections of driftwood and Wayne drilled the 5/16-inch holes for me. The holes only go part way through, creating tubes that the bees like to nest in. The larger stick got six holes, the rest four each.

Wayne helped me drill the holes part way through the blocks.

I’ve already seen Mason Bees flying around the cabin. Hopefully they’ll pick the nice new home this year. We placed it on the south facing porch post right under the solar panel they used last year. Maybe they’ll get the hint.

The Bee Hotel mounted facing south right under their old solar panel home.

There’s lots of information about building bee hotels online. The one I used was from The Pollinator Garden at It’s a British site, but the eleven page guide was quite detailed with illustrations.

Making a bee hotel helps your garden and the native bee population at the same time. Do you have one? How is it working for you? -- Margy

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Painted Rock Turtle

Kobe the Turtle before his new coat of paint.
On a warm summer day in 2012, our good friend John came by for a swim in our natural swimming pool behind the cabin.  He dove down and brought up a large, heavy chunk of granite and placed it on the stump in our pool. The rock spoke to me. I got out my acrylic paints and released its inner turtle.

Refreshed Kobe the Turtle on his cedar log pedestal.

Four years of rain, wind, snow and sun have taken their toll. Rather than retirement like his namesake, it was time to give Kobe the Turtle (read Release Your Inner Turtle to learn why) a fresh coat of colour.

After several coats of protective clear acrylic spray Kobe was ready to retake his place of honour on the cedar log pedestal at the corner of the transition float. From here he can monitor activity in Hole in the Wall and at our float cabin home.

Do you do rock painting. What are some of your projects? -- Margy

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Growing Blueberry Plants in Pots

Each year I like to try something new in my garden. I use the term loosely, because my garden only includes four raised beds on a cedar log float, a small plot on the upper cliff on shore, and pots around our float cabin deck.

One of my 2016 "experiments" is growing blueberries in pots. I went to the garden shop at Canadian Tire and the nursery person gave me a hand. She said to pick two varieties to plant close together for cross-pollination. Good thing I asked, I had planned to get only one.

Northsky Blueberry
Chandler Blueberry

She recommended a Northsky Blueberry that can get quite tall and a smaller Chandler Blueberry. The Northsky does will in cold areas and produces small midseason berries. The Chandler has large berries for a month or more in the late mid-season.

Back at the cabin, I prepared two large pots. I dug holes deep enough to accept the plants without burying their crowns, but twice as wide to allow for root expansion. Before I placed each plant in its hole, I added some water and plant food, and teased the roots gently apart before placing them in their new homes.

After a good watering to encourage deep root growth, the two pots were placed in a sunny spot on the side deck. I'll keep everyone posted on how things go. If they get too big, I'll repot them in future years. It's nice to have a bit of green on the deck next to my repurposed BBQ flower planter. -- Margy

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Cabin Cooking: Coffee Liqueur

Vodka is a versatile liquor because it is pretty much odourless and tasteless on its own.

The last thing I made with my 750 ml bottle was coffee liqueur, also known in its expensive form as Kahlua.

Coffee Liqueur


2 1/2 cups pure cane sugar
3 tablespoons instant coffee
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups of filtered water
2 1/2 cups brand name vodka


Combine water, sugar and instant coffee in a pan and bring to a boil, stirring often.

Reduce to low simmer for 1.5 hours (this will reduce the amount by half)

Cool the liquid.

Once completely cool, stir in the vodka and vanilla.

Store in a sterilized bottle with a lid (I put mine back in the vodka bottle)

The coffee liqueur should last for a year in a cool, dry cabinet.

There was a little too much to fit in my bottle, so I was forced to drink it. I added ice and cream to make a Black Russian.

Boy was it good to sip on a cool winter evening in front of the roaring fire in the woodstove.

I've also enjoyed it over a tall glass of ice filled halfway with cooled coffee and cream stirred in. Do you drink coffee liqueur? What's your favourite way? -- Margy

Monday, April 04, 2016

Cabin Cooking: Chamomile Liqueur

The next thing I made with my one 750 ml bottle of vodka was chamomile liqueur. I grow chamomile for tea and when I saw a recipe for using the flowers to make a liqueur at Boozed + Infused, I had to try. Chamomile has such wonderful flavour, it must make a great after dinner sipping drink.

Chamomile Liqueur


1 pint sized jar
3 tablespoons of chamomile flowers
1 cup vodka
2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup


Put ingredients together in a pint jar. Close the lid and shake well.

The recipe I saw online said to put the flowers directly into the vodka, but I put mine into tea bags to contain some of the small seeds.

Store in a cool, dark, dry place for 3-4 weeks. Shake 2-3 times a week to mix the flavours.

When the liqueur is ready, strain out the chamomile flowers and seeds using cheesecloth.

If you like the flavour, you can make larger batches by multiplying the ingredients.

Now it’s time to enjoy your concoction straight or over ice. -- Margy

Saturday, April 02, 2016

The Birds and the Bees

Spring was only seven days old and we had lots of winged visitors to the cabin. A few even hung around long enough for a photo op.

Bumblebees enjoying spring flowers in my floating garden.

On March 27 everyone seemed to arrive in one fell swoop. Wayne was outside putting stain our deck (he says it's like the Golden Gate Bridge, once you reach the end you have to start painting all over again), and I was gardening. I saw lots of bumblebees gathering pollen from my flowers.

Bumblebee on a Daffodil "tent".

They zoomed right in on my Grape Hyacinths and Daffodils. When dinner is over, they like to spend the night in the centers.

Then came the birds. The sweet Song Sparrow that arrived in January is still hanging around. Now she has lots of new friends. The Hummingbird and Violet-Green Swallows are a week earlier than ever before. One checked out a birdhouses, hopefully to return.

What's for dinner?

We have five Canada Geese nesting in our area. One is a group of three, which seems unusual. The other is a pair. Both groups don't like each other much, calling back and forth especially in the mornings and evenings. During the day there's lots of posturing if they meet in the middle of the bay.

A stately pose.

Isn't this a stately pose? Speaking of stately, we saw four Trumpeter Swans on the lower lake on our way to town. They are rare here, probably stopping over for a rest while flying north from their winter home in Washington's Skagit Valley.

I'm so glad to have the birds and bees are back. It's been a very quiet winter. What's happening in your area? -- Margy