Suddenly building a cabin, and how to cook fiddleheads… again!

So, lots is going on here rather quickly these days. It’s actually quite wonderful. Last week, a friend and past visitor of the farm, Laurence, returned here to stay for most of the summer. Laurence is close with An, and so is bunking in An’s woodshed for the time being. They seem happy there for now, but it would be nice to be able to offer them a space of their own, considering the length of their stay.

We’d already had plans to build a guest cabin for the very purpose of providing a private space to anyone who might want to stay at the farm. Because currently, visitors are forced either to camp or be hosted by another resident. Laurence’s arrival has spurred us on to make it happen a little sooner!

So led by Deryk’s building mastery, a group of us here have started to build this little cabin (currently dubbed the Summer Shack) as of yesterday. I can’t say I have contributed anything more than on the promotional side myself, but I think I have some valid excuses (read: I’m busy). Besides, it turns out a rather small group can accomplish a lot in two days:

An working away on the frame

We sited the Summer Shack in the forest just below the Meadow (formerly known as the Hayfield), not far from Snow Brook. It’s a beautiful little spot, but rather thick with black flies at the moment. An is well prepared, though:

An well protected from blackflies

And here is An spectacularly showcasing two days’ work:

An featuring the Hermitage

Hope you enjoyed that.

Now last week, many of our customers at the market were asking how we cook fiddleheads. Some folks haven’t had the best luck preparing them – either undercooking them and getting indigestion, or overcooking them and finding them too soft and mushy. I guess it does takes a little practice, because I’ve definitely eaten them both undercooked and overcooked – and neither way is ideal!

Now, I can’t speak for Rodney, Deryk, An, or Laurence, but I know the way that Laire and I love to prepare fiddleheads. I actually blogged our recipe a year ago, turns out! So I’ll just include a link to it:

FiddleheadsForaging for fresh food from the forest floor!
How’s that for a tongue twister? At this week’s Saturday market, like the last one, we will have (among other things) an abundance of foraged fiddleheads picked from ostrich ferns, now bursting out of creek floodlands and the forest floor (we won’t tell you exactly where!)…

Hope this helps some of our customers out!

Oh, and two more things: The Summer Market in Annapolis Royal starts this Saturday, and we’ll have lots of fiddleheads! Also, tomorrow (Friday) is our first Farm-Gate Friday of the season, from 4-6pm. Get a leg up on the selection, and a tour of the farm if you like!

Spring update!

So it’s spring. The spring peepers, robins, and blackflies have all made this abundantly clear here for some time now. It’s been a nice spring up here on the mountain. Rather cool but not overly wet. So long as there’s sunshine, the greenhouses and solar panels could hardly care less about the temperature.

And by gods, the greenhouses sure have been pumping out some badass greens lately:

SpinachSpinach and other greens

More salad greens

Salad greensRed oakleaf lettuce

Radish, too. But you’ll have to come to the Annapolis Royal Winter Market tomorrow to see (and hopefully buy) those brightly coloured jewels. Tomorrow is the last Winter Market of the season, as next week – the 21st – we return to our spot at the Summer Market!

The outside gardens are also growing quite happily, with many of our beds in cold frames. The garlic is all doing great, and we’ve got carrots, beets, parsnips, peas, beans, kale, chard, potatoes, and more salad greens, spinach, and radish planted.

Garlic in full swing

And thanks to Laire’s maniacal efforts last fall, he and I have lots of tulips and daffodils in bloom all around our front yard! Such a wicked landscaper, that one.

Tulips abloomDaffodils littering the paths

Daffodils abloom along brook

You might be wondering what we’ve been up to lately. Well, unfortunately, we didn’t end up getting any new baby goats that we were all counting on here. We basically built a new barn for them, perhaps you’ve seen it? But then the goat kids just decided to not exist. That is, our billygoat turned out to be shooting blanks. None of our goats had actually been bred, as much as we managed to convince ourselves otherwise over the winter. This was a bit of a disappointment, mostly because baby goats are super cute and we were all planning on spending all spring cuddling with them for days on end.

No, actually, because it would have been great to get all that extra milk to make some hard cheeses and such. I even spent the winter getting rather obsessed with a certain style of raw milk cheesemaking through a wonderful book, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking. I’ve been practicing over the winter and become rather good at making various styles of fresh chèvre using a kefir starter culture. We still have enough milk on the go for me to keep that up – Mocha and Notch continue to yield milk since they gave birth last year – but it’ll be harder to squeeze a wheel of alpine or cheddar out of those old girls.

But we did end up with surprise kittens! And who doesn’t like kittens? Well, apparently they don’t like us. The kittens were born in the barn loft by our new feral barn cat, Lucky. Hopefully one day soon Lucky will be away hunting and we can sneak in some playtime with her babies!

We went for our first picking of fiddleheads yesterday. ‘Tis the season to forage for fiddleheads on the forest floor. We’ll go back next week when more of them have emerged, but we still did quite well. It’s lovely little spot we like to go picking at. There’s bloodroot in bloom everywhere.

Foraging for fiddleheads in the forestBloodroot in bloom

We’ll have lots of fiddleheads at the market tomorrow!

So really, why wouldn’t you come to market tomorrow? I mean, besides the thunderstorms? See you tomorrow!

Foraging for fresh food from the forest floor!

How’s that for a tongue twister?

At this week’s Saturday market, like the last one, we will have (among other things) an abundance of foraged fiddleheads picked from ostrich ferns, now bursting out of creek floodlands and the forest floor (we won’t tell you exactly where!). Like any wildcrafted food, we harvest them with restraint, picking only 2-3 fronds per plant and leaving the others for the plant’s own use to help ensure sustained vitality. Deryk, who has picked fiddleheads in this area for decades, has observed how some patches have diminished in yield over the years. He owes this to the increasing popularity of wildcrafting in recent years, resulting in over-harvesting.

Now, with temperatures becoming milder, this will be our last week for fiddleheads this season. So get them while you can!

How to cook fiddleheads

This is the way Farmers Paul & Laire prefer to cook these babies! You’ll need:

  • 4-8 ounces fiddleheads
  • water with a pinch of salt for blanching
  • a knob of butter
  • a squeeze of lemon or a splash of good vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • other seasonings, such as crushed garlic or pickled jalepeños
  1. Wash the fiddleheads in cold running water or by soaking them in a bowl of water, to clean off any debris. Many fiddleheads are still wrapped in a brown papery film that is last year’s dried fronds, and those should be removed. Meanwhile, bring your blanching water to a boil, and heat a skillet on medium-high.
  2. Blanch the fiddleheads for 2-3 minutes, until they turn a vibrant green (similar to asparagus). Do not over-boil or they will become too soft.
  3. Melt the butter on the skillet. Drain the fiddleheads, then spread onto the skillet and fry for another couple minutes.
  4. Transfer them to a bowl and give them a splash of lemon juice or vinegar. Season to your taste buds’ content. (Lately we’ve been adding chopped pickled peppers to almost every dish – delish!) Serve immediately.

Fried fiddleheads