Friday, 15 May 2015

It's Fiddlehead O'Clock

There's only a few weeks in the spring that fiddleheads can be collected before they mature into the lush ferns on the forest floor.  They curl up from the wet ground, above decaying leaves from the last fall. Once you know what to look for, they are easy to spot.

Fiddleheads are slightly poisonous, but if they are processed correctly, the taste, freshness and nutrition are at peak. To identify the consumable fiddleheads from their more poisonous spring fern cousins, you look for a brown-paper like covering - other ferns have a fuzzy, cotton-ball like covering, and those cannot be consumed!  To keep fiddleheads abundant, year after year, harvest only a couple from each plant, leaving 3 or 4 in the ground.  Our friend, Kylie, loves to walk in the woods, and she took her time carefully harvesting them for the past couple of days.  Luckily, she avoided the start of black fly season too!

Freckles, our Australian Shepherd, and a small basket of just picked fiddleheads.

Fiddleheads soaking in the sink.

Once you have your bunch of fiddleheads - start prepping for processing:  Fill a sink with cold water, and let them soak, occasionally swishing around to get the brown covering off.  Fill a large pot with water and place it on the stove, ready for blanching.  Get the pot of water boiling, and add the fiddleheads for 5 minutes, per batch. Immediately plunge them in a sink filled with cold water and ice cubes to stop further cooking.  Get a box, line it with a towel, and gently dry the blanched fiddleheads.

Drain them before blanching... 

Take your dried fiddleheads and put them in a zippered bag... try to get as much air out as possible.

These are ready to freeze, or fry up n' eat!

It is Important to note that the finished bag is not ready to eat right away... they should be cooked again before consuming.  We really like them pan fried with butter, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper.  You could boil or steam them too, for 8-10 minutes.  They keep fresh in your fridge for a couple of weeks, or they need to be frozen for later use...

We finished our last bag of frozen fiddleheads from last year, last week - Now, that's good timing!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

A Green-Er Future

It's that time, between Christmas and New Year's... a Sunday - My house is a mess with kids' presents everywhere.  My fridge is full of leftovers, and not much else.  I'm running out of staples - like milk, and dishwasher detergent - I live far off from the nearest grocery store, and must make do. 

This year's New Year Resolution is to go Green-er...  Becoming less dependent on mass produced goods and foods, and not hopping in a vehicle spending gas money to drive a long way for a few tidbits - If I can make it myself, I will...

So, this morning, I get up to the massive pile of dishes waiting to be washed, and a freshly made coffee with no milk (at this point, I still can't drink coffee without some type of creamy liquid in it).  Instead of slumping on the couch with a good book, to ignore it - I did some research, to solve my current, basically unimportant-in-the-whole-scheme-of-things, dilemma - No Milk, and No Dishwasher Detergent.

Luckily, because we live way out in the boonies, I've already discovered staples that are required in order to be able to deal with the inability to immediately go to the store if we run out of something.

I Buy Bulk.  Baking soda, rice, oats, natural salts, natural sugars, etc...

First up.  What the heck am I going to put in my coffee?  Brown Rice Milk.

I have brown rice. I have water. I have sea salt, vanilla, and honey... 
Boil up some rice in double the amount of water til soft (about 1 hr.) - add some more water to cover by a couple inches, add a bit of vanilla, sea salt, honey, and let sit.  Blend that up and strain through a sieve... That's it.  Creamy Coffee!  I can also now make a smoothie for the kids, when they wake up - berries, brown rice milk, bananas, and honey.

Now, what to do about dishwasher detergent.  I found a very simple recipe for cheap n' easy detergent for your dish-washing machine (because we are more than people who spend hours doing the dishes by hand).  The recipe:  2 parts washing soda, 2 parts borax, 1 part coarse salt and 1 part citric acid.  And I have a big plastic container leftover from cashews, to keep the mix under my sink. 
Mmmmm Caasheews...  

Anyway, I had everything except washing soda.... Hmm... I just found out that the difference between baking soda and washing soda is a simple change in chemistry.  By heating baking soda spread on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven for a half hour or so, extra water and carbon dioxide are released, creating Washing Soda!  How cool is that?

Shake all that up in a large container (whatever large container you have, but, really, you should treat yourself to some cashews!)  Use 1 tablespoon per load.  And, for rinse agent, pour some white vinegar in the little hole meant for that weird blue stuff.

Let the New Year begin!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Time for a Life Change

Mid-November 2013, our family home burned to the ground on a peaceful Sunday afternoon.  My oldest daughter and I were watching a Lord of the Rings installment in the living room.  My middle son and youngest daughter were playing quietly in the backroom... a little too quietly, in hindsight.

I had homemade pizza in the oven, and Chris was on his way back home from picking up a canoe an hours drive away.  At around 5pm, the younger kids ran in, with bizarre looks on their faces.  "what's the matter?" I asked.  "nothing" they said in unison.  A few minutes later, I got up to check the pizza and smelled something acrid.  As I opened the oven door to see what was wrong, I realized that the smell was coming from down the hall, towards the backroom.  I looked down the hall to see orange flickering and black smoke through the glass french door - and heard my 2 dogs, whimpering.  Bolting to the door, I swung it open to an explosion of flames - they were so fast and furious - the smoke so thick and strangling that I could not see or breathe while trying to get my dogs out.  I ran back to the doorway, screaming at the animals to get out - but the only sound was now violent crackles in a deafening roar.  I yelled to the dogs to forgive me for leaving them, but the kids were screaming in the kitchen and the fire was rushing to get us if we did not move fast.  I pushed the kids out the kitchen door and told them to start running to my neighbour's house.  Realizing I hadn't called 911, I went back into the house, hearing "911, what's your emergency?"... the phone went dead.
The fire was now all around and there was nothing to do but run. 

Once outside, with no shoes or coat, I watched the house go up with the raging wind, a massive version of the many bonfires we have at the beach in summertime.  The kids were running and screaming as I drove toward them.  Stopping for a few seconds - I pulled each one in through the driver side door with one hand, throwing them over me into the passenger seat.  "Hold on!" I screamed, and gunned it to safety.  The firetrucks arrived a few minutes later, and Chris came home to a horrible scene - Being a volunteer firefighter, he tried to help, but was held back - his emotions were running too high from  not knowing where we were.  Once the family had reunited, the kids were taken to a friend's place, Chris went down to try to save the vehicles and garage, and I stood hundreds of feet down the driveway watching my home incinerate.

Our neighbours, friends and community came quickly to our aid with warm clothing, food, toys and emergency funds - We are so grateful.  We are planning our future here with more attentiveness and efficiency than ever possible.  A blessing in disguise.

Since then, I've gone through some very tough psychological and emotional states.  However, what has come from this is a strength I didn't know I had.  I feel different - in a good way.  I no longer smoke, guzzle alcohol or sugary drinks, consume anything without thinking about it first, nor do I allow others to negatively encroach upon my mindfulness.  That may not seem like much, but for me, after a couple decades of mild debauchery in the pretense of being an 'artist', it is huge.

Sometimes we need a wake-up call - it's too bad mine had to come at such a cost.

A charred remnant in the snowy ruins - photo: C. Fisher

Saturday, 9 November 2013


I'm very excited about the creation of the Rainbow District Permaculture Society!

I've been dubbed "the neglectful gardener" by friends with green thumbs, who watched me try various methods of gardening that kept weeding and feeding to a bare minimum (mostly because i'm lazy, but also - because I felt that my interference with what Nature actually wanted to do just seemed wrong).  I'd till the soil, plant seeds, seedlings and roots, and let them go.. many got drowned out by the invasive plants (weeds) I refused to annihilate... The plants that survived?  Hardy perennials.  What I've learned through researching permaculture, is that invasive plants, those that drowned out my annuals, are Natures way of rehabilitating the soil.

“Great civilisations have almost invariably had good soils as one of their chief natural resources”
Nyle C Brady ‘Nature and Properties of Soils”

Permaculture came to me by googling perennial plants that would survive in this cold climate.  Since then, i've thrown myself into education on permaculture design.  The idea is so simple, it boggles...

"Originally, the word “Permaculture” was the combination of the two words permanent and agriculture.  Two Australian men named Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined the term in the 1970’s.  It is an agricultural philosophy that allows us to use the resources that we have around us to their fullest potential.  By observing and learning from our environment, such as how does nature replenish its soil, how does nature protect and conserve its water resources, how has nature adapted to the specific climate of an area, etc…we can learn how to imitate these natural processes in our daily living.  The more closely that we can work with nature, the more likely we are to establish a balance which will provide us with the things that we need without hurting the environment." 
- from

There is now a core group of friends working together to create permaculture systems in our area... which will be a lot of trial and error, considering that most sustainable forest gardens are in temperate climates.
Yet there is much food growing naturally here; hazelnuts, berries, mushrooms, sunchoke, rhubarb...  these plants are telling us the types of foods that grow well here.  And by creating microclimates with the use of well placed plants, trees, rocks, hugelkultur beds and buildings, annual vegetables can become abundant.

Happy to have found this ancient and modern way of life!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Getting Richer by Saving

Living way out here is mighty difficult sometimes - the cost of gas alone, just to go and get some groceries, is ridiculously expensive.  We are weather dependent.  We are isolated (albeit, with some other very cool isolated people)  We are learning how to live without much money... and it has been rough.  The learning curve is staggering, though very rewarding.  Consider that i moved from the big city, where i always rode a bike, walked, or took subways and cabs, having never had a driver's license.  I'm ready to get on the tractor this year, maybe use the chainsaw next year... one step at a time.

Anyway, Chris gets me some odd gifts for birthdays and christmases (whatever's on sale at Canadian Tire i'm guessing) - like a dehydrator... what the heck am i supposed to do with that?

The dehydrator has been sitting on the shelf, unopened, except for my stints at reading the instructions and recipes, for months now.  Today, I went to my friend, Sue's, place to pick up some huge parsnips they had a bulk of.  I got home and pulled out the dehydrator.

I sliced the parsnips thinly, added olive oil, lemon, dill and salt/pepper - they are sitting in the dehydrator now - and i can't wait!  Another victory - Simple snacks that are basically free - Saving us money.  Every time i do something like this, i feel a lot richer.  These are the little things that make life here so wonderful - yeah, that's right, parsnip chips from a dehydrator, it's a Wonderful life!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Winter Blahs

It's been really cold (like -25 to -45) - i've had to plow the drive quite a few times, getting stuck and thankfully saved by passers-by...

We're getting low on wood - next year we need a much bigger stack!

The kids went skating on Sunday (oh ya, and i got stuck in the snow again while there - saved again!)  I'm not too bad at skating.. i've volunteered to be BonHomme in our Winter Carnival.  Bonhomme is basically a large furry snowman with a red hat that skates with all the children.  I figure i'll just keep my mouth shut and be a bit bufoonish on the ice... kids like that kind of thing, don't they?

Today a great stew was made in the slow-cooker.  rib finger meat, potatoes, carrots, celery, red and green pepper, onion, garlic, roasted garlic and onion soup mix, tomato juice, coriander, bay leaf, thyme, salt/pepper and boiling water... voila - done in 4 hours on low.

Now, i'm off to participate in an online class for rural program planning... just what we need here.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

In the Beginning...

Chris and I opened Fishers' Paradise in the summer of 2012.  This space will be my updates and stories surrounding life here.  We live and play beside the beautiful Sturgeon River.  Every season is a blessing around this place.

Just cut down our Christmas tree with good friend and neighbour, Gerry.  We had some Eggnog and decorated the tree when the kids got home from school.  What a mess, but well worth it. 

Looking forward to visiting with family and friends over the holidays.  I'll be making bacon-wrapped water chesnuts - homemade baked beans - and of course, a perfectly browned roast turkey!

Enjoy the season!