Monday, April 14, 2014

Stalking The Wild Asparagus

Anyone who knows anything about foraging has surely heard of Euell Gibbon's book of edible wild plants, Stalking the Wild Asparagus.   A and I did our own hunting this weekend and ended up at a not so secret field of asparagus.  Still a little too early for a good harvest, we were only able to locate a few tiny sprigs.  We nibbled on our tiny sprigs on the drive home, sweet and crisp, like peas from the garden. 

Tiny shoot coming up.

The easiest way to find the sprigs is to locate last years plants.
After driving back up the hills we switched over the truck for the jeep, grabbed the dog and the rifles and headed up the into the bush for a 4X4.  The snow on the back roads has finally melted enough to allow access into the back roads.  It felt liberating, finally being able to drive into the remote areas again.  Once up into the meadows the snow cleared and we were able to let the little dog run free while we set up some target practice. 


After some shooting we decided to continue down the road.  The sun was shining and the lower we got in elevation the greener the area became.   The scent of buttercups was intoxicating and the hills were buzzing with honey bees.

 Little dog is not usually trusted off leash.

 Open ranges and blue skies encouraged us to keep driving.

 Open range cattle with their adorable little ones.
After driving for a long ways we were sure that the trail had to connect back up to the city.  The day was getting late and we were both getting extremely hungry.  Eventually the road stopped at the edge of a large farm.   Although our GPS indicated that the road continued just beyond the farmland, there were several cattle gates and a large field to pass through. 
Of course, one might be persuaded by the sun late in the sky and the promise of a meal out, not having to make the rough hour long drive back home to cook.  Therefore, I would imagine that it would be easy enough to open that cattle gate and drive through the fields.  One would then have to drive past the farmer's houses and barns, close enough to be in shouting distance.   Once past the main farm house you might find an old community of turn of the century homes, abandoned and boarded up.   You would have to pass though the old garden groves and orchards only to end up a large gate with a huge lock on it.  After realizing that this gate was secured you would have to turn around, drive down the next lane, past the abandoned homes to the second gate.  After discovering that this second gate is also securely locked you might notice the large NO TRESPASSING sign on the outside of it.  At this point, you might get a little panicky, trapped inside this farmland, wondering how you might be able to escape it.   It may seem that the only option is to turn around, drive through the old community again, through the orchards, past the barns and main house, across the field, unlatch the cattle gate and drive back onto the 4X4 road of which you came.  All the while, one would clearly be trespassing, worried the farmer would come running out yelling, waving his double-barreled shot gun. 
Now of course once A and I came up to that first cattle gate we turned around to go back home.  We would know better than to boldly enter onto someone else's land, especially in a vehicle with a couple of firearms and ammunition in clear view on the back seat.  Neither of us would be tempted by a meal in town so I can only imagine that this is how the story would go....
Gorgeous farmland that one might have to cross through to make it into town. 


After making it home again A and I did something we haven't done since moving to the interior.  We made the long trip back to town because neither of us felt like cooking.  We enjoyed a nice dinner at a local club house and stuffed ourselves with rich foods and fine drinks.  It was a great way to end such a lovely day.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Getting Ready

The last couple of weeks have been really mild, A and I have been busy getting the yard cleaned up after the melt.  Yesterday he spent a good portion of the day in the back yard clearing brush and dropping small trees.  The yard is already looking so much more open and bright. We have outlined the area where the raised garden beds will go and cleared a spot for the chicken coop. 

Wild raspberry jam found in the back of the freezer.

We seem to be having a small disagreement with our neighbours as far as where the property lines are.  To us it looks as though they have excavated out our embankment and built their koi ponds a few feet into our yard but they seem to think that there is a fire lane separating the two properties.  They kindly pointed out that our wood pile is blocking the ``fire lane``.   Upon purchasing the property A and I were very thorough with the legal description, zoning laws, and any easements that could be affecting us.  There is a small fire lane on the opposite side of the street that runs down to the creek - presumably so that the firemen can pull water from the creek in case of emergency.  There is no indication of a lane on our side of the road and we have to laugh because really, where would it go, between our houses only to end at the Ranch's fencing behind us?  We are 100% sure that our neighbours are in the wrong and just looking for an excuse for their encroachment on our property line.  That being said, we were already planning on having the surveyor come out next week and he should clear things up pretty quickly.   We plan to run parallel a fence lines down  the sides of our yard and we won`t be ``donating`` a few feet of our lot to the neighbour`s property.  
Its an awkward situation and A and I are feeling rather frustrated with always butting heads with our neighbours.   Its not that we dislike either of our neighbours - both sides actually seem to be quite friendly in passing - its just that people tend to think that living rurally exempts them from rules and common courtesy.  I moved to the country to enjoy the birds and wind rustling in the trees, no so that I can listen to your country radio blaring from your patio all day, everyday.   In case you aren't aware, just because you have acreage doesn't mean you can let your highly aggressive shepherd roam at will, entering others` property and attacking my small pet while she`s tied up in my yard.  Any yes, your house may have been built 30 years before the plans for my home were even dreamt up, but that doesn't mean that you can disregard the property pin that`s RIGHT THERE, dig over your property line, pour concrete and build up masonry.  We will remove your garden decorations and we will fill over your retaining wall.  
As far as I am concerned, the fences can`t go up fast enough this spring.  I am ready for some privacy and security.   Maybe it was na├»ve, but when we came out here I imagined us becoming close with our country neighbours.  I had visions of us bonding over bonfires and beers and in the back yard and sharing our abundance of tomatoes and zucchinis from the garden.   It has been a rude awakening for me but since you can pick your neighbours - although I really wish you could - and since it seems neither of us will be leaving anytime soon, we are trying to be as civil as possible and make the best of it.  I will not let someone else`s bad manners and lack of common courtesy ruin my enjoyment of having a small piece of property in the country. 

In other news, I have been coming across a lot of vintage bottles and jars lately.  A and I have been poking around the bush looking for the first signs wild edibles these last couple of weeks.  It seems the frost and melt have been revealing some pretty cool relics for the taking.  I have been collecting a lot of charming retro jars and even found an old glass coke bottle that I suspect is from the 1970s. 
In strange synchronicity,  A was excavating near the river at work and came across a whole pile of antique glass 4 meters down.  The  jars and bottles appear to be from the early 1900`s, I suspect they either floated in from the river or are the remains of an old garbage site.   He collected a bunch for me know that I love vintage items and old apothecary bottles.  Some of my favorites include a cobalt blue medicine bottle, a green glass bottle, an old Perfect Seal canning jar, and various Ponds milk glass jars.  I love to imagine the turn of the century ladies who would have had these face creams sitting on their vanities.  The real gem of the haul, and the first bottle that A pulled from the ground, is an old pottery ginger beer bottle in mint condition.  The bottle is from an local brewery that was in operation from 1914 - 1916.  Apparently it is an EXTREMELY rare find and it has generated quite an interest from collectors throughout my research.  Common ginger beer bottles fetch about $80, rare ones can sell for anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars.  Perhaps we will look into selling it down the road but for now we are enjoying it as a little piece of our community`s history. 

 An old Watermans ink container.  I love how most of the glassware found appears to be Canadian made.  Time were different back then.
 Antique Devoe watercolour paint jar - with yellow paint still inside! 
Ginger beer bottle.  Placed atop my cupboards for safe keeping along with my other prized possessions - Cranberry Pottery and vintage Pyrex mixing bowl sets.  


Glimpse Into The Pasts

There is a brief window between the blanketing snow and the lush growth of flora in spring that allows one to travel into areas not accessible at other times of the year.  A and I ceased the opportunity and made our way to the creek side trails that lie just outside of the city.  I have had my eye out for places which the wild asparagus will grow.  After a while we abandoned the trails in favour of working our way down to the beaver ponds.  Gingerly crossing over dams and investigating the lodge we lost ourselves in the beauty of nature. 
The area, a well used watering hole for wildlife and grazing cattle, was littered with hoof prints and old bones.   Signs of struggle, an old deer scull, a giant vertebrae, and mess of heron feathers remind us that we do not walk alone in the bush.  Having been years since I last came across the feather from a blue heron, I collected a few take home with me.   I carried them in a vintage jar I found bobbing next to the dams.  The frost pushes strange relics from the ground and you never can be sure what you will find in the spring.  Although unable to locate the asparagus we did find the new growth of yarrow poking through the rich soil and the first signs of stinging nettle, which I am thrilled to learn grows in the area. 
It is a strange feeling as you drive down from our home in the hills, almost as if time is moving in fast forward.  The snow melts and the dead grass gives way to meadows of greenery.   The sage is renewed in colour and the grazing land has been filled with cattle and herds of wild horses and their foals.  It brings me hope, knowing that spring will touch our hillsides in a few short weeks.