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Loving Life

What does loving life mean to you? I believe that loving life has an individual meaning for everyone. My hope is that we all find and create the life that makes us feel fulfilled and whole. Well balanced comes to mind along with complete and utter joy in our hearts.

I am loving life more now than I ever have in all of my 54 plus years. I have a husband, best friend, lover and personal cheering squad all rolled into one individual. I believe this to be a rare creature and a special find. Lucky me! It almost seems mystical or fictional at times and yet he is real. I know ’cause I pinch him every now and then and he yells. Lol

I think it is a fantasy that we all grow up dreaming about. To have that special someone who fills your heart so full it almost feels like it’s not real. Like it is some kind of dream that you don’t want to wake from. If this is a dream for me, then I never want to wake up. I know this sounds kind of mushy, but after everything I have been through, I feel like I am truly blessed to have come out on top for once.

I live in one of, if not the most beautiful places on earth. The changes of the seasons are breathtaking to say the least.
Our winter snow storms have a beauty all their own. Especially when one is curled up around the wood stove, while listening to the crackling of the wood as it burns and watching the color of the dancing flames. Maybe with your companions, reading a great article or listening to your favorite piece of music while the snow falls outside the window creating a blanket of the purest white you will ever see. The spring brings with it the sweet nectar from the maple trees as they wake from their long sleep. As the sap runs up the trees to nourish, the frozen tree starts to thaw and grow beautiful green leaves that will shade you from the hot summer sun. Summer brings an abundance of new fruits and vegetables as well as the beautiful sunsets over the farmer’s fields and the many beaches and lakes that surround us. Fall, which is my absolute favorite time of year brings a bright palette portrait of bright orange, reds, and yellows mixed with a little green to complete it. The cooler temperatures bring on harvest and a welcomed reprieve from the heat of the summer.

As the seasons change it is a good reminder that all living things have a cycle. I watch these cycles progress in a much more appreciative manner now, knowing that I too have a cycle and that I can now enjoy watching as my own seasons change. I look in the mirror and see someone who has seen many seasons, and it shows. My past seasons have left many scars like an old maple tree that has lost a branch or two in a winter storm. The tree healed and keeps growing in spite of the reminding mark that the wound left behind, and so shall I. I have had many blessings in my life some of which brought to me by some very wonderful people and animals alike.

In addition to my many blessings, there have also been some undesired actions or situations from people. All of which taught me many great lessons, which I am grateful for. After all, to live is to learn.

I have been told that my life most likely will not last as long as someone who is in better health than I am. But, who knows, I have beat slim odds before. That said however, I feel blessed to have had the time to build and grow a truly loving family. One that I have chosen for myself. If I were to meet my last season, I would go into my long sleep happily.

Jam, Jelly, Berry and Missy are my cat family and I could not have asked for more loyal, loving, beautiful beings to share life with. They make me smile, laugh and most of all feel loved.

Hank, our 14 week old mastiff puppy has made me feel more alive with his active, loving and protective manner than I have felt in a long while. He is sassy, stubborn, smart, persistent, and very handsome. All qualities that I absolutely love about him. He is an amazing young dog and my hope is that I get to watch him grow and blossom into full adulthood. He is catching on to his training very quickly which is a good thing because he is already over 35lbs.

Miss Waffles our laying hen and Hank the puppy have become the best of friends. I couldn’t shake the feeling however, that in the evenings when it was time for her to go to sleep on her roost, that she was still feeling lonely. I have been on the hunt to find Waffles a couple of hen friends to keep her company especially as the cold winter weather approaches.
My search lead me to a couple of 3 year old laying hens that a good friend of mine had. She decided that because she only had two hens left that she would re-home them an no longer keep hens in her barn. This lead to them coming to live with us on our homestead. I am very pleased to announce that we now have the two girls to keep Waffles company. I have named them Juno and Pixie. They all seem to be getting along well and though it is still very new for them, they seem to love our clean barn, loads of land to hunt for tasty morsels and of course the odd treat from the kitchen. Hank the puppy, on the other hand, they still aren’t sure what to make of.

Waffles still comes to hang out with Hank and I when we’re doing our yard work, from time to time and even though Juno and Pixie are still settling in, I am sure they will come to love this place as much as I do.

My husband and I just had a lovely two weeks staycation together. We did some day trips in the truck and took our sidekick Hank along. We had a road trip to pick up a “new to us” wood cook stove for our off grid camp. I have already baked a batch of bread in it and I’m happy to say that it works beautifully! We also started to build a wood shed on the back of the camp. Which is something that we have wanted to do for some time. It is always a work in progress, but it’s definitely a labor of love! We also cleaned up and burnt some brush while milling some logs into boards for the wood shed roof and other building projects, over the past two weeks. We also went out on our ATV’s a couple of times and had a picnic at the river with a little fire to roast some locally made sausages. Which we served with open fire toasted homemade buns. One day, we took Hank to the beach to see if he liked the salt water but he didn’t seem very interested in the sand. I don’t think he liked the taste of it. I think he is a fresh water boy and will like the river much more!

Most of all we spent quality time on our homestead with our little family and made it a priority to be present in each moment and enjoy some time to rest.

Who could love life more, when it looks like all of this, I ask?

As Always,
Love Tanya Jean

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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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Beautiful Blue

Beautiful Blue Jay

Good morning. Here is a pic of my latest piece. With this piece, I decided to use colored pencils. I chose this option for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because this amazing species has the most vibrant shades of blue in nature and I really wanted to challenge myself to capture it as my eyes do. We have many Jays who frequent our feeding station daily, at the this time of year.
Secondly, I decided to sketch rather than paint as I am still boiling sap and I can leave the piece at a moments notice in order to tend to my sugar making duties. Painting makes that a little more challenging. You see, I can sketch anywhere with very few tools.
I really wanted to create a piece with color and the feeding station has been busy with many feathered friends all singing there spring songs. Although the blue jays are not my favorite sounding feathered friend they sure are beautiful to watch. Spring is here and I can hardly wait for my gardens to start to bloom. They add such color and beauty to our little piece of heaven. Especially after a long and cold snowy winter.
Hope you all enjoy my “Beautiful Blue”.

As Always,
Love Tanya Jean

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My First Empath Feelings

I have always felt sensitive towards people, plants and especially animals. From a very early age my instincts were always to listen to my heart, and my heart always told me to be kind. Naturally, I wanted to treat others the way I really wanted to be treated. I believe that everyone, at their core, wants to be treated with kindly and with gentle and loving intentions, by those they share a life with.

My first family pet growing up was a dog named Candy. She was a gentle yellow lab mix that loved to eat. Candy would eat anything and everything. In particular, she had a real taste for the baseboards in our home. On one occassion, she ate an entire pin cushion that was full of pins. It is truly amazing that she lived to the age of sixteen. Candy was my first friend and I loved her so. Her and I basically grew up together because she was just a puppy when I was born. Our connection was strong, and to me, at the time, it was because we had just always been together. I am very thankful for the friendship that we had in my early childhood years and today understand that there was much more to the dept of our connection than I realized back then.

My grandparents, on my mothers side, were very loving and gentle people with whom I spent a great deal of time while I was growing up. They always had dogs and a deep appreciation and respect for nature. They loved to feed the wildbirds, chipmunks and the odd squirrel that would show up with their young. In addition of course, they would also feed the odd human straggler that came along for a visit and a lunch. As I saw and shared in this mindset, I too embraced this approach of being helpful and kind to those in need. It seemed natural to me and I liked the way the world looked through those lens. It made me feel good, and at that time in my life, I was drawn to all the good feelings I could get.

My grandfather was a big kid and I loved his youthful antics. He was always joking and teasing. Especially when he could get a really good laugh. He loved to make himself and others laugh that hardy laugh that comes right from the belly. We would laugh until it hurt. It was so much fun and felt so good. I admired his love and respect for the woods and everything in nature really. It was plain to see, for anyone who knew my grandfather, that being in and surrounded by nature is where he belonged.

As a child, I spent a great deal of time with both of my grandparents at their camp in beautiful Albert County, New Brunswick. This would eventually become the location for their home in later years when they retired. It’s a place that still feels like home to me. A beautiful country home filled with warmth and positive energy, carved into the hillside, looking down on the winding brook, leading to the pond below. If I close my eyes and quiet my mind for just a moment, I can still hear the wildbirds singing and the sound of the babbling water flowing into the pond. It was my favourite place in the world. Alot of the time, I could be found in the kitchen with grammy. I would be helping with the preparing of meals, baking bread or making preserves.You see, Grampy had a huge appetite and loved to eat well. Her kitchen was well known in the community and they would frequently have folks popping in for a visit. She always made sure she had some tasty treats to offer when visitors would come calling. Believe me when I say TASTY! She was the best cook I have ever known! I think that might have been a big part of the allure for the nearby neighbours and visitors. Even the dogs would line up, in hopes of retrieving a tiny morcel or scrap from the floor or maybe even having something thrown to them by Grampy, when Grammy wasn’t looking of course. They had to wait on the outskirts of the kitchen though, she would not allow any unnecessary traffic in her kitchen, and no one questioned Grammy. I can remember hearing Grampy refer to her as the “Warden” a time or two, in a most loving way of course, and only from a distance. When there was absolutely no danger of her hearing him. LOL. At other times, I would be out in the shop or in the yard helping Grampy with one of his many, many projects. He was a brilliant man and could build or fix anything! I just loved spending time with both of them! They always made me feel so special and like my suggestions and opinions were important and mattered.

The camp, for me, was a magical place. We were surrounded by nature and wildlife. Grampy would have wild birds land right on the top of his hat. While he was wearing it! I think it was because they knew he was no threat. I was completely in awww of his connection to them. He had even tamed a squirrel. Or, so I thought at the time. However, looking back now I realize that he had an ability to comminicate with these beautiful creatures. Without me realizing it at the time, Grampy passed his gift on to me. It was the gift of being an animal empath. Grampy showed me how to quietly observe, communicate with and earn the trust of a chipmunk. We got to a point, this chipmunk and I, where he would eat right out of my hand. I was about six years old at the time. Well, I thought it was a “he”. So, I called my new friend Henry! Then, one day Henry showed up with her young ones and from that point on, Henry would be known as Henrietta. LOL

I did not know that I was an animal empath at the time, or that there was even such a thing. Or that others could possess the same or similar gifts. I believe that it was this time spent with my grandfather that helped me to realized how special my connection with animals could be. A bit later on in life, I felt a calling to work with animals and trained to become a pet groomer. It was a profession I worked in happily, for twenty five years. There was a period of time, after my heart attack, when there was very little I could do physically other than feed and attend to our pets and the wildlife at our home. This gave me such joy and a feeling of purpose. Not to mention that it was very good therapy for me at the time. Both physical and mental, I believe. It was a time when I felt I had very little. I had lost a great deal of my independance and felt very low.

Now, after all these years and some most challenging times, I still live here in the country, surrounded by nature. Right where I belong, just like my Grampy. Quietly observing, communicating with and earning the trust of the wildlife around me. I am forever grateful for my many blessings and animal companions. Thank you very much for the lessons you taught and the example set for me Grampy! You will be forever loved and missed!