Home Blog Page 2

Willard Is In The Walls


I don’t know if you remember or have even seen the movie entitled “Willard” that came out in 1971.

It was one of the first “scream” movies I had ever watched with Willard actually being the man and the rats were called Socrates and Ben.

Willard had a connection with the rats that did his bidding and if you haven’t seen the movie I would suggest you don’t.

Even though I watched it in the ’70 it still brings back some not so pleasant memories of RATS!

This leads me to walking into the living room last night, turning on the light to see a large rat running (not scurrying) but running along the wall in front of the door.

The area that it was running from has a large bag of sunflower seeds in the corner waiting to feed the birds so I figured that it was having dinner or a late-night snack.

I considered waking Rob but instead locked myself in my office and did a little thinking.

First… when we built the house the whole underneath was covered in 1/4 inch wire mesh specifically to keep the rodents out.

But apparently, after 11 plus years, they finally found a chink in the armour.

Either that or one ran in when the door was opened or left opened when bringing in wood for the fireplace.

I knew we had traps under the house as fall is setting in and the rats are looking for a warm place to spend the winter.

We had already caught a few.

But it was dark, and I didn’t feel like going under the house to get said traps so I thought some more.

Light bulb moment.

Right under the deck, I had a live trap for catching squirrels and the rat was definitely squirrel-sized so I turned on the outside lights and grabbed the trap.

Baiting it with some peanut butter from the cupboard I set it along the wall where I had seen it run.

Closed the pantry, bathroom and office doors, left a note for Rob and went to bed.

As I climbed into bed Rob woke up and I mentioned the situation.

The next thing I heard was crashing and banging as Rob apparently decided to find said rat before the night was done.

I learned in the morning that he had basically cleaned out a closet (contents strewed across the floor), moved and upended all the furniture, and literally tore the living room apart.

When he finally came back to bed, this time waking me up he implied I was seeing things as there wasn’t a trace (poop) to be found.

This made me think about my harrowing experience 🙂 with the mice in the motorhome.

But time and a couple of traps had solidified into 7 mice.

Coming out of the bedroom in the morning and carefully closing the door behind me I surveyed my domain.

Things looked a little different than they had when I went to bed.

Leading me to believe that Rob had done a little more of an extensive search than previously thought.

Asking him if he swept all the dust bunnies he found apparently wasn’t amusing.

Turns out… he too saw the rat when he got up in the morning and proceeded to chase it round and round the house.

At one point in time, he thought he had it cornered by the back door when the rat in question tried to scramble out the glass to freedom.

But alas… it escaped his clutches and ran under the stove.

Thinking about it now, I’m not sure what he would have done with it if he caught it.

Can one bludgeon a rodent to death with the soft end of the broom?

Seeing it run under the stove he pulled the appliance out to discover a hole in the wall where the wiring came through.

Around the hole, the drywall was pushed away and the rat had disappeared.

Ah-ha… found the point of entry.

Now we just had to plug it up and somehow get the rat out of the wall where Rob could hear it running around.

A brilliant solution came to mind.

How about we take the live trap and put the open end right in front of the hole so when the rat popped through it would be caught.

No soon thought, then done.

rat traps

Off to the hardware store to get more traps and a moving crew of men to crawl under the house to find and plug the hole.

As luck would have it Rob was having the crew help him in the backyard today and now that was the first job on the agenda.

Typing this I can hear said men under the house and I will have to continue this saga when I get an update.


After inspecting the underside of the house they found that the critters had climbed up on the vent for the dryer and perched there and actually chewed a hole in the wire mesh.

Coming through this hole actually gave them the run of the house through the insulation and wire ducts and I guess the easiest place to come out was behind the stove as there was already a hole.

Under the house, they also found rat nests in the ground and proceeded to fill them up with large rocks.

They appear to be getting in under the house by tunnelling through the gravel alongside the walls and through the crawl space.

Rob is out baiting more traps as apparently, our neighbourhood owls aren’t doing their job.

The Catch

As the stove was pulled out and sitting in the middle of the floor, dinner was takeout.

I turned off the lights in the kitchen and we watched TV.

As I walked into the kitchen to put some dishes in the sink I heard a trap door shut with a snap.

And there he was… inside the cage with no way out.

We put him outside for the night and Rob made him disappear the next day.

I never asked and he never told.

We left just a plain ordinary rat trap outside the hole for another night, but the one we caught seemed to be the only one in the walls and the trap remained empty.

The stove is now back in place and we put the drywall back in the hole.

That way we’ll know just by looking to see if the drywall is on the floor that another rat has taken its place.

Fingers crossed… the rats have left the building!

Camping Misadventures


It all started when Rob said… “The weather is going to be good for the next few days, let’s go camping”.

For me, that involves putting food in the motorhome, making sure we have towels, sunscreen and hot chocolate for the cool mornings out on the boat.

Food-wise I already had homemade hamburgers in the freeze, ribs, fish cakes, crab cakes, hot dogs, bacon and eggs. croissants and veggies from the garden.

So the grocery list from the store only consisted of snacks, some prepared salads and buns.

All ready to go from my end.

Rob got one of the movers to help put the boat in the trailer, added in the pop-up tent for over the picnic table, barbeque, chairs, batteries for the boat and other assorted items that one needs while camping.

Both of us worked on our regular jobs until the last minute and we got away just before lunch.

On the road and out of town when Rob said… “Did I bring the bucket of tomatoes?”

One of the last things he did before we left was to pick a small bucket of tomatoes for the trip and for the camping attendant. He likes to bring fresh veggies up to her and it is greatly appreciated.

No to the tomatoes, so we found a place to turn around the motorhome with the trailer on behind and headed back home.

Heading into the driveway there was a bit of maneuvering to get facing the right way to leave which involved crashing the trailer into a container as it was being backed up.

Got the tomatoes and headed down the road again.

This time, we couldn’t get out onto the busy road.

Cars came from both directions and when they weren’t doing that, one direction would be travelling fast and then the other.

There wasn’t a break to be had.

After more than 5 minutes of a little yelling at the unhearing motorists, Rob’s blood pressure had gone up a notch and I was wishing I had earplugs.

Finally… a tiny sliver of a break in traffic and we pulled out with unseen horns blaring at our bold move.

Big breath and down the road we resumed our trip.

The weather was lovely.

The scenery was as scenic as you get on the west coast and there was lovely flute music coming from the CD player.

Then we started seeing construction signs.

Slow down… work in progress… flag person ahead.

We got in behind a large line of traffic and waited.

And waited… and waited.

People got out of their vehicles.

Rob went to the back of the motorhome and fix the fridge door that had been swinging back and forth and we had a little snack while we waited.

I think Rob was ready to take a nap when I yelled that the line was starting to move.

The first round of good luck as we were the last ones through before the flag person put out their stop sign at the traffic behind us.

Time to sing… “On The Road Again,” it’s a favourite by Willie Nelson.

Now, the trip to Lizard Lake takes about an hour and a half.

At the hour mark, Rob said… “I don’t think I brought the motor for the boat”.

I said very positively… “Of course you did. I saw it in the boat the day before yesterday when I was putting something in it.

Stopping and checking it appeared I was wrong.

For some reason, Rob had taken the motor out the day before we were going to leave and there it sat… at home… somewhere in the yard.

So we had a boat, with no motor and as luck would have it, no oars.


We are too far down the road to head back.

Coming to the highest point of the trip with a clear view out over the ocean to Washington we thought we might get a phone signal.

No luck.

Onto Port Renfrew to use the payphone (yes, there are still payphones)  as there is no cell service there either.

On the way there we remembered that a few weeks ago when trying to use the payphone that it wasn’t working.

But being resourceful we stopped at the one and only gas station run by the Pacheedaht First Nation and asked to use their phone.

No way… they don’t let anyone use their phone. No ifs and or buts.

Rob said… “I’m the man that has been bringing the band truckloads of furniture, beds, freezers, and all manner of useful items over the last few months.”

And they greeted him with open arms and he is quite possibly the only outsider ever allowed to utilize their phone.

Talking to his son Mat he asked him to bring up the 3 electric motors that we had as Rob wasn’t exactly clear on where he had left the motor he took out of the boat.

Two of them were in a locked container that we hoped the key for was hanging on the hook where it should be and not in one of Rob’s pockets and asked Mat to look around the yard for the other one.

Now asking a man to hunt for 3 motors and drive 3 hours round trip after a long day of work makes Mat a saint but I don’t believe he was very happy about it.

Still, another half an hour to drive and our next stop was the fish hatchery.

We always stop at the hatchery as they have crystal clear water that runs off the mountain behind them and most obligingly have a tap outside the gates with a hose attached.

Over the years we have always filled up there so we don’t have to pack the extra weight for the trip.

Would you believe it!!

There was a sign saying “Water is Shut off!” and the hose was gone.

So… no water.

No handwashing.

No toilet flushing.

But, also no dishwashing which is a bonus.

Good thing we pack a 5 gallon container of water for drinking purposes so at least we wouldn’t get dehydrated.

And of course… there was the lake.

Our next stop was for protestors on the road for the Fairy Creek blockade.

It is considered one of the largest civil disobedience actions in recent Canadian history.

If you are interested, here is a great article written by Sarah Cox.

Waving their signs at us they slowly moved off the road as we crept forward skillfully avoiding hitting anyone.

And finally, we arrived at our destination.

Unloaded the boat at the lake and backed the motorhome into our preferred campsite heaving a sigh of relief.

As we waited for the motors to arrive we set up the campsite, putting up the tent, setting out the 3 thunder ranges and barbeque Rob realized that we didn’t have a bucket to collect water.

We always have a couple of buckets with us, but alas… they were left behind along with the motor.

Being creative Rob emptied a small cooler that he had for fishing gear and the lake provided us with the necessary liquid.

Another obstacle was overcome.

We were getting pretty good at this.

The motors arrived and Rob carried one down from the campsite over to the beach and ultimately the boat.

I mention this trail as it’s the longest one from where we are camped but also the easiest one. Winding through the trees on a smooth and level path.

At the dock, Rob attached the motor to the boat, hooked up the battery and we head over to the log where we normally park.

The log is directly below our campsite but with a few twists.

It’s not that long of a trail.

About the distance of mom and dad’s driveway and that will only make sense to family members.

To get to the campsite you need to…

  • walk a log
  • go up two planks at different angles over a swamp
  • scoot under a large tree that had blown down
  • tread carefully over its roots to get to the actual shore.
  • climb a hill
  • wend your way through the trees and around stumps
  • ending up at a large log that you can either scramble over or walk the long way around (I opt for the long way every time)

And then you are at the campsite.

I tell you that story so you can sympathize with Rob over the next scenario.

Now… back to the boat.

Turns out the motor we had wouldn’t turn.

It would make the boat go backwards and forwards but with no turning ability.

We had let go of the dock as soon as the motor started so now we had to decide whether to go back or forward to the log.

Opting for the log through some skillful navigation of forward and reverse we finally made it.

I stayed in the boat as Rob went to get the other motor.

Down the log, up the planks, under the tree, up the hill, through the forest and over the log then reversing it with the next motor.

Now we are ready to go for a lovely ride on the lake and enjoy the late afternoon sun.

Rob puts the motor into gear and the motor flips up and it needs to be pushed down in order to go forward.

It also seems to be able to turn 180 degrees. with the reverse being forward and forward being reverse.

Looking closely, the motor seems to be missing a vital component and a few screws.

So, Rob repeats the process.

Down the log, up the planks, under the tree, up the hill, through the forest and over the log then reversing it with the next motor.

Third motors a charm.

Although this motor appears to be as heavy as the battery that it gets attached to, Rob was getting a little tired by the time he arrived back at the boat.

This motor drains the battery a little faster than the others but it goes about twice as fast.

By the time we got really and truly out on the lake, we only had time for a quick swim before the sun went down.

Making one more trip, down the log, up the planks, under the tree, up the hill, through the forest and over the log just as twilight was coming through the trees making it almost impossible to see where you were going.

Dinner consisted of the easiest thing we could make.

Boiled hot dogs (there was a campfire ban) and then we crashed exhausted into bed.

And so ends our first day.

Day 2

A little foggy in the morning but hot chocolate and a jacket were all you needed to keep cozy.

Rob brought his fishing rod along so we trolled for a rainbow trout.

Normally there is a big bald eagle that flies in and as we catch a fish and throw it back the eagle swoops down and grabs it.

Sadly, no eagle today.

Rob gets a tug on the line and then a stronger one and the next thing we know the line comes up empty.

No fish, no hook, line or sinker as the saying goes.

It appears we snagged something on the bottom of the lake and it wasn’t willing to give it up.

So, back to our tie-up spot and down the log, up the planks, under the tree, up the hill, through the forest and over the log to find a new hook and flasher.

Rob goes through all his fishing gear and surprise, surprise… no hooks.

He finally found a couple of rusty dull ones in the bottom corner of the fishing box and out we head on the lake to see if they would work.

We also took some rope and a large magnet to see if we could retrieve the lost gear the lake had swallowed up.

No luck on the gear retrieval but it was fun just the same.

It appeared that the fish weren’t biting this morning, either they were full, or they weren’t keen on worms, or they turned their noses up on the rusty hooks.

While Rob fishes in the morning I bird watch.

And when I spot a bird that looks promising, Rob reels in his line and we head off in the bird’s direction.

I’m always eager at this time of year to go up to the lake as in the past many migrating birds come through this area and normally I spot lots of different types of warblers making their way south.

Also, there are usually a few ducks around feeding and resting before taking up their journey.

I say normally and usually because this year was very abnormal and unusual.

Usually, at this time of year, the trees are alive with birds and bird songs but you had to look and listen hard to see or hear anything.

The total number of birds seen on the whole trip.

1 – Townsend’s warbler
1 – Juvenile yellow-rumped warbler
2 – Kingfishers
1 – Spotted sandpiper
1 – Merlin (a first for me)
4 – Robins (usually the place is swarming with them)
the regular number of stellar’s jays
1 – Barred owl (heard not seen)

The only ducks we saw were 3 flying overhead.

…and that was it.

The rest of the day was uneventful and we boated, swam, relaxed and napped the day away.

Talking to the camp attendant who came around to collect for the campsite we gleaned a few tidbits of what was happening in the area.

First, was the water shut off at the fish hatchery.

It appears it was shut off because of the protesters constantly using it.

Now they couldn’t just shut it off apparently so they had the water tested and it was deemed unsuitable for drinking. Hence the shut-off.

We also learned that we weren’t able to use the charcoal barbeque as it was banned under the fire regulations as was a campfire.

If we had a propane one, that would have been fine.

So, no hamburgers or ribs on the grill.

She talked about her experiences with the protestors at Fairy Creek as she goes between the two campgrounds (Lizard Lake and Fairy Lake) she looks after which involves passing through the blockade every day.

What you see in the news is not what is actually happening on the ground.

Instead of collecting at the regular time in the late afternoon, she needs to go and collect after dark around 10 pm.

The protesters have learned her hours of collection and sneak into the campsite to spend the night and use the facilities without paying.

Leaving her to clean and pick up behind them.

A lot of them didn’t realize that it’s was a foresty campground before they came.

That means…

  • no showers
  • no running water of any sort
  • no garbage cans
  • no electricity
  • no cell phone reception

Instead, you get a campsite, outhouses and lake views.

What more can one ask for.

She use to also take care of another campground that has since been decommissioned due to some hazards in the area.

It was decommissioned by putting a ditch across the road leading to the site deep enough that a vehicle couldn’t cross.

So, the protestors filled in the ditch and proceeded to camp there.

They are ordered out either by the police or forestry and the ditch is re-dug.

Then it happens all over again.

It’s interesting to see tents, vehicles and motorhomes parked anywhere there is a spot on the side of the road or in an old logged-out area or even a gravel pit.

Anywhere there is a space available there is a campsite.

Right at the junction of the Fairy Creek protest, there’s a large police presence along with paddy wagons and a helicopter that flies over twice a day.

Can you imagine what that is costing to monitor the area and keep things civilized?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m just explaining what has been happening in the area.

I’m not against the protest as I love old-growth forests, I’m just against the manner of how they are acting to do so.

Besides having an active protest in the area, they have also cut down trees (which eventually would have become old-growth) they have had open fires during a very dry summer and fire ban and thrown garbage and the likes in the very forests they are claiming to protect.

They have set up a satellite dish so they can report and post videos on social media anything that makes the police look bad so much so that we are having protests in Sooke with signs saying “Stop police brutality”.

I don’t know that these people have even been up to Fairy Creek but I’m suspecting that they are just reacting to what they see on their screens… But hey…  I’ve been known to be wrong.

I might be a little simplistic in my attitude towards the situation but here’s my take on it.

Have a peaceful protest.

Show both sides of the story.

And get out there and plant more trees.

  • Trees that for our children’s children, children will be old-growth.
  • Trees that will replace the ones that the forest fires are destroying.
  • And trees that will keep the air we breathe fresh and free of pollutions.

Okay, I’ve had my little rant and how we are back to the story.

Day 3

We woke up to rain.

Not just a nice little drizzle but full-on downpours.

Good news, Rob just put the water carrying cooler at the end of the awning and collect all the water we needed to flush, wash and clean.

The day consisted of me reading 3 books and Rob cleaning and organizing his fishing tackle and doing some long-overdue repairs all while snuggly tucked up in the motorhome.

That night we were lulled to sleep by the sound of rain on the metal roof.

Day 4

It was an overcast day but the rain had stopped and it was time to dry things out.

An uneventful day other than Rob caught a fish on the rusted hook.

Beautiful rainbow colours but the fish are soft this time of year so it was a catch and release situation.

We were going to head back early tomorrow morning as we needed to go to work, so later in the day, we started to pack up.

Had I mentioned the mice?


Let me tell you a story.

Last camping trip I was up late reading when I felt these little feet run over my feet under the table.

They felt sticky and soft like when you shake someone’s limp hand that had been sweating and I glanced down to catch a shape scurrying away.

The next morning I told Rob we had a mouse in the house but as we didn’t see any damage it was ignored.

The next night I spotted one running down the length of the floor and when we got home Rob plugged up some holes in the underneath of the cab of the motorhome with steel wool and we thought that would take care of the problem.

But… just in case we brought along two mouse traps.

The first night we were there we forgot to set them but I saw a mouse run across the floor.

So, the next night the traps were set and within the hour I heard one trap snap.

Before the next hour was up, the next trap snapped.

Boom… 2 mice.

Rob reset the traps and went to bed and it wasn’t long before I heard them both snap again.

Four mice in the span of 3 hours.

I wasn’t about to empty the traps so we left them until morning when Rob found another mouse squashed under a chair outside.

After seeing the merlin yesterday sitting on a snag Rob suggested that we give it an easy meal.

So we took the mice down to a log in the water below the snag and left the sacrificial mice.

The next night we got 2 more mice as we only set the traps once and they also joined their brothers on the log.

When we left, they were still there but I’m hoping that they provide a meal for someone or something.

mice on a log

Day 5

We were supposed to leave early to get back to work but we woke up to such a lovely day that we decided to play hookie.

As we couldn’t let anyone know (no phone) we just relaxed the day away, finished packing up and wended our way home.

We had such a good time we are heading up again this weekend.

I’m making a list. 🙂

They Can’t Take The Smell Out Of Carnations


Have you ever noticed that when you buy a bouquet of flowers from a florist or even a grocery outlet that the flowers have no smell?

There is nothing more disappointing than to be given a gift of flowers and to plunge your nose into them to inhale their scent and nothing.

Only the feeling of soft petals against your nose.

Flowers that you expect to have a smell like roses are fragrant-less.

So, I went and did a little research and found that it’s because of us that they are losing their scent.

People are buying flowers for their appearance so growers are catering to the trend.

Over the years the scent has been taken out as hybrids are produced to have a better appearance and lifespan and that doesn’t seem to include the smell.

In wildflowers, the smell is used to attract pollinators and is therefore needed to produce food for humans and feed for the birds and bees.

But in hothouse flowers, the animal attractions are merely a nuisance that might get someone stung.

Can you imagine a wild rose or a sweet pea with no smell?

Chances are they would die out rather quickly as they need pollinators to reproduce.

And right now… the world needs a lot of bees as the honey bee population is declining at a rate of 41% per year in America according to this article.

I’m so thrilled every year when I see the number of bees in my yard.

I’ve even set aside a wildflower garden specifically for them.

In order to know how important they are in the grand scheme of things, I did an interesting experiment this year without even realizing it.

I planted broccolini, cauliflower and cabbages in one of my raised garden beds and then planted some squash plants underneath them.

This way, I figured that once the brassicas were finished the squash would have filled in and I would get two crops from one bed.

I’m so clever I thought!

But just because I think I’m clever doesn’t mean I am. 🙂

Because what I proceeded to do was to cover the brassicas with netting to keep out the cabbage moths.

Which… it did.

And while it did such a good job of keeping out the moths it also did an excellent job of keeping out the bees.

Looking at my squash plants I would notice lots and lots of blossoms on them and then they would just fall off and no squash appeared.

Thinking it was because I was using a new seed supplier and that the seeds just weren’t any good I contemplated writing the seed company as I was so disappointed that my butternut squash wasn’t producing.

And it wasn’t until I was taking the netting off the raised bed that I realized what had happened.

It wasn’t long after that I started noticing small gourds at the end of the blossoms as the bees had been busy doing what bees do but it was too late.

Although the squash started to grow it was mid-August and they never got big enough to harvest before fall set in.

That made me realize just how important bees are to our food supply.

So… how did I get off on the tangent of bees when the title of this article was about carnations.

Just happened and I went with the flow.

It all started when Rob brought me home a beautiful bouquet of flowers which consisted of red roses, chrysanthemum, alstroemeria and carnations along with some cedar boughs and salal for greenery.

And none of them had any scent except for the white carnations which smell like honey and cloves.

In trying to find out why they still have their smell when all the other flowers didn’t, it appears that they look just fine with their smell and still last longer than most other flowers in a bouquet.

Yes, they have lost the really intense smell that you would get if you had them growing in the garden and there are some carnations that have been modified like the tiny button carnations that the smell has been taken out.

I’ve always thought that carnations were a filler in a flower arrangement as they are cheaper, last longer and provide colour.

But, I’ve been known to be wrong.

Now I see that if you are lucky enough to get a flower arrangement with carnations in it you will be guaranteed a smell sensation.

What more could you ask from a flower?

How To Use An Instant Pot As A Steam Juicer – DIY


Having extra fruit I decided to see how to use an Instant Pot as a steam juicer.

This actually wasn’t my first thought as originally I had just watched a video on making juice with a steam juicer and I thought… “I need to get me one of these”.

Going to Amazon I checked out their selection. (If you are interested you can check them out on Amazon here)

Scrolling through the options I realized that if ordered it was going to take a few days to get here and the fruit was ripe Now!

Also, the price was a little more than I was willing to pay right at the moment.

Given that I knew how to use Google I typed in “DIY steam juicer”.

And I found one result.

Doing a little further search on images there seemed to be other options but they all looked very complicated and I didn’t have a lot of the equipment they required.

A little more research was required.

How Do Steam Juicers Work?

Juicers have 3 basic components.

  1. bottom pot – holds water
  2. middle pot – has a spigot and is where the juice is caught
  3. top pot – is where the fruit goes

I found that steam juicers work on the principle that the steam produced by the water in the bottom of the pot breaks down the fruit causing it to release its juices into the middle container.

What Can You Do With Steamed Juice Besides Juice?

That was the first question Rob asked me when I told him I was going to make some.

The good news is there are many uses for juice.

  • juice (the obvious)
  • jelly
  • liqueur
  • cider
  • wine
  • cordial or squash

But basically, I just wanted an easy way to extract the juice from the fruit without me having to spend all my time in the kitchen manually preparing it.

Once that was done I could then decided what I wanted to do with it.

After reading some articles and reviews on how a steam juicer worked and the mechanics of it I thought that maybe I could put one together with items in my kitchen.

I looked at options such as layering pots and using a vegetable steamer but none of these seemed to fit together tightly enough to work.

Then on a forum post, I saw where someone had attempted to use a pressure cooker.

And although I didn’t have all the equipment that they had used I did have an Instant Pot.

This is the Instant Pot that I have and it came from Amazon.

I then proceeded to find other items that I would need in order to create a steam juicer.

Here are the supplies I ended up with.

They are all items that were already in my kitchen.

Instant Pot – vegetable steamer – 1/2 pint mason jar – metal bowl

The Instant Pot had been a gift from my sister, so I was good to go with that.

The vegetable steamer was one that had been around for a while and had lost its handle in the middle.

I looked at another steamer that I possessed and the handle would be really easy to take out.

You can get a new one on Amazon and they are relatively inexpensive if you don’t already have one.

The half-pint wide mouth mason jar is short and squat.

The diameter is 3 inches and its 2 1/2 inches high.

Here is what it looks like on Amazon.

The next item is a metal bowl.

I tried a few bowls and finally found one that worked for my Instant Pot.

You need one that is higher than it is wide.

Something like this although I think this one is too big, but it was the shape I was going for.

I was lucky that I already had these items at my disposal, but you might have a different size Instant Pot.

If so, you will have to adjust the size of the bowl and steamer.

Also, you might find a better solution than the items I used but this will give you an idea of what is possible.

Instant Pots really can be used for everything. 🙂

Step 1

Put the trivet that came with the Instant Pot in the bottom of the pot

Step 2

Add approximately two cups of water or just enough to touch the trivet.

Instant Pot
Instant Pot

Step 3

Place the stainless steel bowl inside the Instant Pot resting on the trivet.

Put metal bowl in Instant Post
Put the metal bowl in the Instant Post

Step 4

Place the 1/2 pint wide mouth mason jar into the bowl.

You can place it upside down as I did below or right side up.

I did it both ways and I found that I liked it upside down the best.

When I did it right side up it filled with juice.

Add in a half pint canning jar
Add in a half-pint canning jar

Step 5

Place the steamer on top of the jar.

Add steamer
Add steamer

Step 6

Fill the steamer with fruit.

How much fruit will depend on the maximum fill height of your Instant Pot and the size of fruit you are processing.

Pour in fruit
Pour in fruit

Step 7

Turn on Instant Pot.

Through trial and error, I discovered that the best setting for the plums that I was processing was for 30 minutes on high.

Turn off the “Keep Warm” button and once the 30 minutes have finished I just let it vent on its own.

This worked out great as I could just set it and forget it.

Depending on the fruit you are processing and the amount of juice that they have you would probably want to adjust the time.

The plums I was juicing were meatier than juicy which is why I processed them for 30 minutes.

Set time on Instant Pot
Set time on Instant Pot

Step 8

Once the Instant Pot has released all the steam you just open up the pot and using tongs or some potholder take the steamer basket out with the fruit in it.

I just dumped the fruit into the compost bucket but if you are really ambitious you could probably make some fruit butter out of it.

Step 9

Remove the jar and even though it was upside down it created a sort of vacuum and there was juice sucked up inside it.

When you lift out the jar the juice just runs into the bowl.

Step 10

Take out the bowl and pour the juice into a container.

I used a 1 quart mason jar so it was easy to store in the fridge.


I had one gallon of small red plums that I proceeded to juice.

1 gallon of fruit
1 gallon of fruit

From the one gallon of fruit,

I got 1 quart or 4 cups of juice or as we say in Canada – one litre.

Results of 1 gallon of fruit
Results of 1 gallon of fruit

Some of the juice I mixed with a sugar mixture which consisted of adding boiling water to some sugar until it dissolved (the amount will depend on the sweetness you want).

Adding this to the juice a bit at a time until I got the taste just right I then added some additional water as the juice was concentrated and too strong for just drinking on its own.

This is not an exact science and will differ for each person’s tastes.

The remainder of the juice I froze in Ziploc freezer bags and laid them flat in the freezer so they didn’t take up much room.

Then, whenever I wanted some fresh juice, I could just thaw out a bag and use it.

Not adding any sugar to the frozen juice would allow me to make jelly out of it at a later date if needed.

Note: the above instruction is meant to give you an overview of how to use an Instant Pot as a steam juicer.

You can use the supplies you have on hand and I’m assuming you already know how to use an Instant Pot for regular use.

The timing to cook will depend on how quickly the fruit will break down.

For something like berries I would start with 15 minutes, let the pot cool and check to see if the fruit has lost its juices.

You might have to do a little longer or maybe even a shorter time would work.

That is something that you will need to explore as it will depend on the fruit and how ripe it is.

Just in case you have never used an Instant Pot or need a refresher here is a great video that gives you an overview as well as a step by step guide to make the process easy.

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.

Visit From A Cedar Waxwing

Sitting in my office today I glanced out the window and saw a hairy woodpecker.

I immediately grabbed my camera as there are mainly downy woodpeckers in the yard and I only get a hairy maybe once a year.

Heading out the door and startling all the birds, I found a chair and sat quietly waiting for them to return.

Soon I was rewarded as they all came flocking back including the hairy.

A black-headed grosbeak appeared and I could see a Wilson’s warbler flitting amongst the trees.

The next moment… they were all gone.

Rob had walked over to the house and stepped up on the deck.

Usually, he comes in the backdoor but he didn’t see me sitting there taking pictures.

The birds started to come back and then disappeared again as Rob picked up a bag with a loud crunch and headed off down the path.

I tell you all this because of what happened next.

It was about two minutes later I saw a large bird land on a cedar tree.

Training my camera on it I could see, but I couldn’t believe it was a cedar waxwing.

We’ve never had cedar waxwings in the yard before.

cedar waxwing on cedar tree
Cedar waxwing on a cedar bough

Snapping pictures like crazy I watched as it headed over to the huckleberry bush.

It was then that I could see another waxwing already there and another one sitting on the rosemary bush.

Three in all!!

cedar waxwing eating huckleberries
Cedar waxwing eating huckleberries

I held my breath, not wanting to move a muscle lest I scare them away and one obliged by landing on a branch close by.

Fingers crossed I slowly turned and focused.

Lighting was good and the flowers muted in the background made for a great photo as seen at the top of the page.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been to get a glint in its eye.

But I’m not complaining.

It was such a thrill to see one so close.

And then they were gone.

Flew off to parts unknown.

My only hope is that they remember the huckleberries and return.

I was showing Rob the pictures later and he promised to use the backdoor from now on. 🙂

One minute either way and they never would have landed.

The huckleberry bush is getting lots of attention this year.

Might have to plant another one.

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.

Garden Tour 2020


Below is the West Coast Garden Tour 2020.

This year I’ve been practising succession planting.

So when I pull something out when it’s done producing, I plant something in its place.

Not sure how it’s all going to turn out, but it’s more fun than leaving the soil bare.

This year I started all my plants from seeds.

Either seed that I collected last year, or old seeds I had and I bought a few seeds this year from Salt Spring Island Seeds.

I liked the fact that they were organic and local and all the seeds have done well here as it’s a similar climate.

One plant that I won’t start in the greenhouse next year is the beans.

Because it was warm and moist they got a little rust on them so I had to cull a few.

So once I planted the seedlings I also planted some seeds directly into the garden and the seeds grew just as fast and big as the ones I started from the seedling.

Next year… directly into the garden.

As I mentioned in the video all the orange netting is to keep out the quail and in the greenhouse, you will see it at the bottom of the tomato plants inside the bucket rings.

The quail get inside and snuggle in exposing the roots.

It’s not enough they have the rest of the greenhouse to play in. 🙂

You will also notice that I put the bark chips mulch around the blueberries as well because of the mulch holding the moisture in the soil.

The blueberries love it and I’ve found I don’t have to water them as often.

Here is the link to information about the hugelkultur bed that I mentioned in the video.

If you have any questions after you watch the video just put them into the comments and I’ll answer them.

Hugelkultur Above And Below In A Raised Garden Bed


I waited until now to post this as I wanted to see if this method would work and it has exceeded my expectations.

This spring I was trying to defeat the quail from dust bathing in the garden.

I got so frustrated as they kept digging up all the plants as they pressed their bodies into the soil and had a wonderful time spraying dirt, leaving wallows behind and upended plants.

And as they thoroughly enjoyed themselves they would stop briefly for a nibble at the newly planted plants just to keep up their energy for more dust bathing.

Or at least that’s how it seemed.

So… after the second round of planting seedlings, I had some bark mulch that we were using around the yard and I thought what the heck.

I would top the raised bed with it and the quail wouldn’t be able to bathe in the dirt.

Now keep in mind this isn’t your regular run of the mill bark mulch.

We get this from an actual sawmill up the road and it comes in big chunks and chips.

Some of it is so large that after we spread it in the yard I go around and pick up the big chunks to use a kindling for the fireplace.

I ended up dumping three large garbage buckets of bark mulch on the raised garden bed which is 5 ft x 12 ft and very carefully nestled it up to the newly planted plants.

In this bed, I had fiesta squash and corn planted together.

But before that, I better go back to the beginning.

This raised garden bed was one of the beds that had been modified as a hugelkultur bed.

You can read more about how we built it in a previous post and then here were the results.

Basically, you build the raised garden bed, fill the bottom with wood, sticks, twigs, grass clipping, leaves, and other organic matter.

The main ingredients is wood and the punkier (rotted) the better as it holds a lot of moisture and breaks down faster.

Then you put a layer of dirt over that and plant.

On the bed, in question, I had also added a layer of compost before I planted the squash and corn to add some additional nutrients to the soil.

Then planted the seedlings and topped with bark mulch.

As I was putting the mulch on I noticed that there was a lot of cedar bark in the mix and according to what I’ve read putting cedar on or in your garden is a no, no as it takes a long time to break down and emits a resin that will actually harms the plants.

But what the heck.

My motto is the plants will either live or die and I wasn’t about to take all the mulch off.

To my relief and amazement, the plants thrived.

Not only thrived but shot up like rockets and outdid the rest of my raised garden beds.

I attribute this to a couple of things.

  1. It kept the quails away as if they couldn’t have a dust bath there wasn’t a reason to hop up on the bed
  2. the slugs seem to prefer soil to travel on rather than bark mulch so I saw very little slug damage
  3. suppress weeds
  4. and the most important thing was it kept the moisture consistent in the raised garden bed.
  5. but best of all it was producing mycelium in a very short period of time.
Results of Hugelkultur Above And Below In A Raised Garden Bed
Results of Hugelkultur Above And Below In A Raised Garden Bed


One thing that I’ve noticed over the years with a raised garden bed is that when it gets hot or really windy that the bed dries out fairly quickly.

This was the reason that over the years I’ve been converting the raised beds to hugelkultur just so they retain more moisture.

And this has worked really well once the plants are established and have a good root system in place.

But when the plants are young I’m constantly having to water the beds as the top soil dries out and the seedling suffer.

I keep thinking I should put irrigation in the beds but as I do most of my watering from a 3000 gallon tank that collects rainwater, I find that there just isn’t enough pressure to make that a viable option.

So, by putting the wood chips on top of the soil when it rained they retained the moisture and kept it consistent which was a boost for the seedlings.

On my other beds, the soil on top would dry out.

Then you water and it drys out again.

Which when you think about it is a bit of a shock to the seedlings.

In many books and information on the web, there is an ongoing consensus that in order to get healthy plants it is best to withhold water and let the soil dry out as it helps their roots grow deeper to find water.

And I have to say I do this with my tomato plants. (rethinking this now)

Upon comparing the raised bed with the bark mulch with other garden beds without it, the one with the bark mulch was the winner.

When the other beds had dry soil all I had to do was to peak under the bark mulch and the soil was moist.

Consistently so.

The seedlings exploded under these conditions so it seemed that having consistent moisture was a benefit not a deterrent.

Just for comparison, I have tried other mulches in the past such as straw, leaves, compost and cardboard.

Each of them has its own benefits but none of them kept the soil so consistently moist as the wood chips.


Mycelium is a cobweb-like structure (fungus) that you see growing under the forest floor.

The fruit of these structures you’ve probably seen and eaten are mushrooms.

Studies like this one have found that the mycelium forms a web called a mycorrhizal network that interconnects with the forest trees allowing them to share water and nutrients with each other via the web.

This means that if my raised garden bed is producing mycelium then my seedlings and plants are interconnected.

The benefits of that are:

  • improve water efficiency
  • adds oxygen to the soil and promote root growth
  • releases phosphate, nitrogen, and other micronutrients

This is all happening under the mulch so I don’t really see it but I am noticing how much bigger and stronger the plants are than in the other garden beds.

You can actually buy mycelium and put it into your garden or you can save yourself the trouble and add some bark mulch to the top.


By first creating a hugelkultur raised bed (wood, organic matter, soil) the plants grow their roots long and strong reaching down for the moisture and nutrients created by the layers.

Then by applying wood chips on top of the soil, it seems to support the seedling growth thereby creating stronger plants that can then reach down to the layers below.

These chips are large enough that I can just pull them away from the top of the soil when I want to plant.

Seems like a win-win!


I wouldn’t do this with all my raised beds.

Just think about trying to plant carrots with those large chunks of wood covering the soil.

For those beds, I will stick to compost as a mulch.

On the other hand, as the wood chips break down and create their own compost in the future it will be perfect for planting small seeds.

I wouldn’t mix the wood chips into the soil it is said they will rob the soil of nitrogen as they break down.

Maybe next year I’ll put grow some nitrogen-fixing plants in the bed like beans.

Overall Assessment

This has been a great experiment in the garden this year and I will definitely do it again.

I actually ended up doing two beds with this method this year.

The one was a hugelkultur bed and the other one wasn’t.

The second bed was planted with all the brassicas like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.

These have finished and I’ve pulled them out and replanted.

The roots didn’t grow down like in a hugelkultur bed but overall the growth and produce were better than average.

The one thing that the bark mulch didn’t do was to stop the cabbage moths from laying their eggs on the brassicas and the resulting caterpillars munching on the leaves.

Hugelkultur above and below in a raised garden bed definitely worked.

[divider style=’centered’]

How to make a Hugelkultur bed in a raised garden bed click here
To read the test results of the Hugelkultur bed click here…

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.

A Western Tanager Found The Suet Bar

As I was sitting at my desk this morning I took a moment to look out the window and to my amazement a male western tanager landed on the suet.

I quickly grabbed my camera (which I keep by my desk for just these occasions) and quickly snapped a couple of photos through the window.

But of course… as most photos that are shot through a window, they were a little blurry and not a quality picture that I would want to share with you.

Figuring that if he came once that he might just come again I took the camera and the tripod outside to a little blind I have set up on the deck.

This was at 8:15 am and the sun wasn’t yet on the bird feeders in the yard so I knew it was going to be a low light situation.

My blind consists of some camouflage netting hung over a curtain rod that is suspended between a beam and a window frame.

There is just enough room to have a chair and through a split in the netting, I can fit the telephoto lens while keeping the camera inside so the birds can’t see my hands moving.

I put a couple of clothespins above and below the lens to keep the netting shut.

Makeshift, but it works.

The birds just ignore me and I can see through the netting.

That was until the sun started to peek through the trees.

It shone directly into my little blind and in fact, blinded me.

I couldn’t see if there was a bird at the suet feeder or any of the feeders or trees.

All I could do was keep my fingers crossed that the sun would rise quickly and that the Western tanager didn’t make its appearance at that moment.

Finding that I could see if I pulled the netting aside just a little, leaned sideways and poke one eyeball out.

This allowed me to see any birds flying in and I would just have to hope that my camera was pointing at the suet feeder because I just couldn’t see through the lens.

As luck would have it, the tanager only appeared once while the sun was in this position and it landed on a branch and then just as quickly left again.

Now I’m even more hopeful that it will return.

The sun finally eased its way to a more favourable position in the sky and I was able to see again.

I watched as the regular yard birds flew in for breakfast.

The flicker family brought their baby who is as big as the parents but still demanding to be fed.

A pair of downy woodpeckers came to the suet bar, one on each side and then flew over to a tree to clean off their beaks.

Birds came and went but not the one I was looking for.

Then I spotted him on a branch where he sat very still and looked around for possible danger.

Then he flew to another bush and another and all the while I snapped photos.

At this point, he was still in the shadow which wasn’t ideal for pictures so I held my breath as he slowly made the rounds of the yard and finally found the sun.

The camera was doing double time as I shot frame after frame.

The last time I had seen a western tanager was at Lizard Lake at least 10 years ago when I had a little point and shoot camera.

So I was hoping for a better picture this time around.

He obliged by posing in his brilliant suit of orange, yellow and black to my delight.

Finally arriving at the suet feeder he ate his fill and off he flew.

Leaving my little corner of the deck I came inside to finish my breakfast which I had left on the desk only to discover that it was now 10:30 am.

Time sure flies when you’re having fun!

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.

It’s Huckleberry Time!

In my garden, I have a huckleberry bush specifically for the birds.

I keep hoping it will keep them away from my blueberries and raspberries but hope springs eternal.

Looking out my office window I can keep an eye on it and observe the different birds that love the little round red balls that are its fruit.

But, as we know… before the fruit comes the flowers which in turn are pure nectar for the hummingbirds.

It’s an early bloomer and supplies a much-needed boost to the hummingbird’s diet.

The flowers in turn also feed the bees so this bush is a win-win all the way around in the garden.

And… in a pinch, I could make jam or jelly out of it but choose not to and leave it for the birds.

So far this year, the following birds have lunched on the huckleberry bush.

  • Robin
  • Black-headed grosbeak
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • House finch
  • Spotted towhee

I also see chickadees and nuthatches in it but they appear to be either using it for shelter or eating bugs and caterpillars amongst its branches.

Our huckleberries are bright red when ripe as seen in the robin’s mouth as it launches itself off the bush.

But, you can also find the berries in shades of blue and purple which I never knew until I Googled it.

In doing a little research it appears that the red variety is found along the coast from California to BC.

The blue and black varieties are found further inland in the Pacific Northwest.

No matter what the colour it’s one of the plants that are part of birdscaping our yard.

And… bottom line, the birds love it.

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.

When Is A Weed A Weed?

When is a weed a weed?

This question came up for me when I was doing some research on flowers in my garden.

Years ago I had bought a plant at a local craft fair and the seller told me it had beautiful yellow flowers.

Well at that point in time I really didn’t have a garden per se.

I was just planting some plants around a stump that was in the yard.

There already was some heather and a couple of primroses there so for a couple of dollars this might be a good addition to the family.

Until this year I never knew what it was called.

It was just a plant that grew about 4 feet high on long stems and had these awesome buds.

Bighead Knapweed bud

The buds look like a fuzzy door nobs that then bloom into beautiful yellow flowers.

Bighead Knapweed bloom

So this year I found a place on the internet that you could upload a picture of a plant and it will tell you what it is.

I’ve been having a wonderful time identifying plants in my garden that I had no idea what they were called.

Taking a picture of the plant I uploaded it to Plant Net a discovered it was a weed.

Not just any weed but a troublesome noxious weed.

It has many different names but it goes by Big yellow Centaurea or Giant knapweed.

Not being native to this part of the world it is definitely having an impact.

In Washington state, it is illegal to sell it.

Similar to the butterfly tree here in BC.

It is invasive and it is displacing native plants especially in fields where cattle graze.

Each seed head carries over 200 seeds that are dispersed not by the wind but by direct contact by livestock, farm equipment, vehicles and humans.

And the only way to get rid of them is to dig them up by the roots.

Well, you can imagine if you have a whole field of them it would be almost impossible to annihilate them.

Until I found out this information this was just a pretty plant with an unusual bud that bloomed every year without me having to take care of it in any shape or form.

I’ve never watered, fertilizer or talked to it.

But like the weed that it is, it needs very little attention of any kind.

The interesting thing is that mine is very well behaved, being the same size as when I bought it 10 years ago.

It sits in a corner of the garden providing bright yellow flowers amidst a dark forest background.

Apparently I don’t touch it or go near it when it goes to seed otherwise I’m sure my yard would be full of them.

But for now… my beautiful weed is just that… a beautiful weed.

Jigsaw Puzzle

If you need help with instructions click here.