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Fiddlehead Challenge

My husband and I are very fortunate to live in an area where we can forage one of my favorite foods in the whole world, maritime fiddleheads. Fiddleheads can be a challenge to forage due to a number of factors. The hardest part for me is my mobility issues. This is due to my foot drop and balance, or lack there of at times. Lol. In the locations where this delicacy can typically be found, there is usually a real obstacle course of reeds, bushes, stumps, washed up debris or drift wood and often times very uneven and slippery sandy ground. This being said, I wear good hiking boots that come well up onto my calf muscles to keep my feet and ankles from twisting and they are always laced up tight, right to the top. This year was the first time in fives years, since my heart attack, that I was strong enough and felt able to go out and participate in the harvest.

Another factor that makes fiddlehead foraging a challenge, for me, is the black flies. They and the fiddleheads wake up at the same time! Black flies are hungry little blood sucking insects that absolutely love the taste of, well, Me! As soon as I step outside, it’s like ringing a dinner bell for them. They seem to be thickest in places like the ones we frequent when foraging by the water or in the thick brush. The great thing is their life cycle usually only lasts until the end of June. But, in the meantime, if one is to remain unscathed from the blood sucking wrath of these plentiful little creatures, one must strategize and outsmart them.

The best of the season for fiddlehead foraging, in our area, typically starts around Mother’s day and goes for approximately a month or so. Depending on how much sun and heat we have at that time. My husband and I decided that we would get up earlier than the black flies this year to get a few hours of picking in, in the wee hours of a very cool Friday morning, before they woke. By mid-morning, as they started to appear, looking for breakfast, we had managed to pick almost 30lbs of this delightful delicacy. Which will be very tasty during the long cold and dark months of our New Brunswick winter.

As soon as the sun started to warm the earth, they took flight and their breakfast was found. I think most of it came from my flesh. At that point, it didn’t take us long to pack up our treasures, secure them to our ATV’s and head for safer ground. It is so hard to believe that such a small little creature could wreak such havoc on ones blood supply leaving behind such swollen, nasty and itchy welts. Well at least that’s how it is for me. Lol. They are a force to be reckoned with for sure. I feel bad for some of the wild life at this time of year, but at least they have their tricks to drive and repel the little blood suckers away.

The black flies seem to be unaffected by most bug sprays and repellants. It is not that I like using them but sometimes it is your only defense. If you can find one that works. In addition, they are so small that they can crawl right through the mesh, into my bug jacket. At least I think that’s how they get in there? Smoke seems to be the best deterrent. If one was to build a small “smudge” fire the smoke will drive or keep them away. This can sometimes be difficult to do, however, depending on how dry the spring has been, as burning can sometimes be restricted at this time of year in order to help prevent early season forest fires.

Most of the places where we go to pick fiddleheads can be a challenge to get to. Some of the areas that we frequent can only be accessed on foot or with an ATV. There are a couple of fiddlehead patches that were closely guarded secrets that were passed down to us from our elders. I believe they chose to share this with us because they knew we would respect the land and the bounty it provides. Just pick the fiddleheads and do not disturb anything else. Leave everything just as you found it, they would say. When picking fiddleheads one must be very careful, as there can be many poisonous plants that also grow close by. It can be very unpleasant to get into a patch of poison ivy before you’ve realized it, if you’re not paying attention.

So as you see, fiddlehead foraging can be challenging. Picking the fiddleheads is just part of the equation. There is much to be done before you actually get to enjoy eating them. Once you’ve picked them there is a process to successfully cleaning the brown paper like substance that is entangled in the coil. Because they grow in such sandy areas, usually along river banks or bog like areas, there can be a lot of dirt and bacteria caught up in these tightly wound little greens. Washing them thoroughly is extremely important and one should not eat them raw.

Once the fiddleheads are cleaned and washed you must boil them, until they are tender, before eating them. It usually takes a good twenty minutes to cook them completely. Sometimes depending on how dirty they are, or where you pick them, you may have to change the water at least once before completely finishing the process. I now of some folks who like to preserve them using the canning method which allows them to be stored in the pantry, to be enjoyed at a later date. Personally, I have always blanched them, put them in bags and placed them in the freezer. I find that this method is the best way to preserve the freshness, great taste and the high amount of antioxidants they possess, for my taste. I also like this method because a sandwich bag full makes a perfect portion size for one meal for my husband and I.

In my opinion, along with that of many others I have conversed with on the topic, fiddleheads are a superfood that are an important part of meal planning. They are also a high fiber food, which, for some reason, is now more important to me than it used to be. Lol. I used to crave having a big heaping helping of fiddleheads when I was in the hospital, after my heart attack. I believe my body was trying to tell me I needed the healing properties that they could provide. A big bowl of fiddleheads was one of my very first meal requests, upon arriving home from the hospital. Thankfully we had some blanched and frozen and even though they were out of season, I was able to satisfy my craving.

In foraging them yourself, fiddleheads are a fair amount of work but well worth it, in my opinion. You simply cannot beat the flavor and freshness, especially when they’re topped with some butter and/or a touch of vinegar. My husband likes the vinegar but I prefer just butter and a dash of salt. Doesn’t really sound super heart healthy I know, but with all of the work that goes into getting them to my plate, I think the health benefits outweigh the small amount of topping. My cardiologist always says, anything in moderation…

I hope that if any of you who have never tried fiddleheads and are now inspired, or maybe get the opportunity to do so, you will try them and please let me know if you enjoyed them as much as I do!

Stay healthy 🥰

As Always,
Love Tanya Jean

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Tiny Home Living with Big Dreams

Spring has sprung and even though it has been a little cool in my neck of the woods, I have still been able to start some of my plants in our green house. It has only been a few days since I started my first batch of seeds and though it was only six degrees Celsius outside yesterday, things are going well. I am very pleased that I am already starting to see the green growth of new life slowly pushing its way toward the heat and warmth of the sun. Our green house, which is the most recent addition to our tiny home, also doubles as a wood shed in the colder months of winter. Which can sometimes last five to six months, here in the NB snow belt.

The size of our time home, which was built on a concrete slab, is a whopping 624 square feet. For those of you who are familiar with concept of tiny homes, you will also know that we utilize every possible inch of space. We designed and built our home ourselves with help from some family and friends, some 20 years ago. Which was before tiny homes were a thing and became as popular as they are today. For once, we were ahead of a trend. Lol.

Though we did not know it at the time, this style and layout for our home, would later become a blessing with an added bonus. You see, because our home is all on one level, I was able to be released from the hospital and return home much sooner than originally anticipated. The added bonus was that, because everything is only one level, I was able move throughout our home and maneuver with my walker much easier, as my mobility was extremely poor at best, when I returned.

Tiny home living requires a lot of innovation and is not for everyone, but it suits my husband and I just fine. For the most part, our home is easy to keep clean and organized. Well except for the floors, depending on the time of year. I like that they are small and easily cleaned or mopped up. This is mostly because, during the spring thaw or the fall rains, they require constant attention. You see, there is usually an endless trail of cat paw prints and the odd husband foot print to be dealt with. Especially since the addition of an outdoor run for our indoor cats. Most of these paw prints are extra big and extra muddy, and are proudly provided by Jam(the homepage featured feline), with all of her extra and very absorbent toes. As far as the husband foot prints, well, what are you going to do? Lol

Another bonus to our tiny home is that it is easy to heat and easy to keep cool, depending on the year. We can get some crazy weather fluctuations here in the Maritimes. Our greenhouse was designed and built by my husband and I and was strategically placed on the south facing gable end of our home. We felt that this would allow us to make use of as much of the sun’s energy as possible, all year long. We cut and peeled all of the logs for both the frame and those to be milled into boards, from our own woodlot. My husband has a chainsaw mill which we used to mill our larger logs into boards to be used for flooring, strapping, doors and such. We then ordered some translucent panels to be placed on the roof and sides, which finished it off nicely I think. It makes a great warm or should I say hot place to grow all kinds of plants.

Our peppers absolutely love the heat and last year was our best crop ever, thanks to this new addition. In fact, all of the plants I started in the green house last year did really well. With that, I have decided that I am going to try growing more varieties and try keeping more plants inside the green house during the growing season this year. This will cut down on the amount of time I need to spend weeding and allow more space for wild flowers and herbs. I just love all of the wild flower mixtures we have been cultivating over the last couple of years, in our outdoor gardens and would like to extend that beauty as well as the nutrients available for the bees and hummingbirds. Of all of the different varieties of things that like to grow here, the brown eyed Susie’s are my absolute favourite!

I love gardening and it sure would be nice to have more food production with less weeding. It is something I find quite draining on those hot and humid summer days. By using more of the greenhouse during the season I believe I will achieve my goal. Another bonus to this approach is that the wildlife, who seem to love to dig up and snack on the freshly sown seeds and transplants, will have a real challenge in getting into the greenhouse this year. Lol

In addition to my green house strategy, all of the other plants that I put outside this year will have a chicken wire fencing all the way around them. This way Waffles and Tiny, our two laying hens, will be free to roam and hunt for their favorite bugs and treats, as they choose.

I’ll keep you all posted on how my plants are doing. I’m looking forward to having more time for fun and spending less time weeding this year. Especially on our brutally hot days. The pictures featured in this post are of some of our ongoing projects.

I hope they will inspire you to get out and enjoy nature!

As Always,
Love Tanya Jean