Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Today the first violet-green swallows are daning in the air above my house. They have returned to feast on th eemerging insect population. It put me in mind of the flock of snow geese I saw three weeks ago as I walked off to another journey away from my island.

The snow geese are amazing. Every year they make the 4000 km trek from their breeding grounds in the Russian Arctic on Wrangel Island down this way where they overwinter at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in t fRaser River Estuary, about 30 kilometers due south of here. They come in huge waves, by the thousands in the autumn and the leave again in early April or late March to head north. They can be heard flying high over head in honking and enthusiastic clouds. It is an impressive sight, and on many occaisions I have witnessed life in the Cove come to a standstill as people gaze skyward at the noisy pepper above.

The geese are almost archetypal to me. The represent the opening and the closing of seasons. When they appear overhead in March, it is as if they are opening the door on spring, trailing with them the promise of warmer weather and fertile ground. When the head south in the fall, they take with them the harvest and the last remnants of summer and the signal the beginning of the storm season. The gees always seem to make it back here befor ethe hurracanes come, Flying in the fall storms would be suicidal, so once they are tucked down in the fields and marshes of the estuary, it's as if the rainy season is welcomed.

So I was remiss in noticing their passing north to Russia. The season is truly shifting now and the geese have left to begin their renewal on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, leaving us to plant, harvest and steward a nother year of living on Bowen Island.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's a bright sunny morning here on Bowen Island. Still cold, but there is not a cloud in the sky.

Last evening we went harvesting nettles for an iron packed nettle lasagna. We picked probably a pound of netle tips which reduced to about 8 cups. This was layered into a casserole dish with lasagna noodles, onions and cheese for a traditional spring treat.

There is a a great nettle patch at Cape Roger Curtis, surely one of the gems of local food on the island. To pick nettle tips, just break off or cut the top of the plant below the third bract. Anything lower than this is woody and tough. Use gloves of course, and when you get home, chop it finely and steam it up. You can freeze what you don't use right away. The steaming will reduce the greens and takes the sting away as well. You'll notice a wild, almost nutty smell as the nettles are cooking too.

I am so looking forward to the wild foods harvest this year. I was out in the berry patches yesterday, looking over the Oregn grapes and the huckleberry stands I usually pick from. There are a lot of flowers and the huckleberries have already gone to fruit. As I was inspecting one bush an immature fruit came off in my hand. It was little more than a flower at this point, but loath to waste it I popped it in my mouth and got a huge surprise. The fruit tasted like honeysuckle nectar. here is a small quantity of syrup in thes fruits, which gives one an extremely sweet little drop. Surprising, given how tangy the red huckleberries are.

Salmon berry plants are look healthy with lots of flowers as well. In another six weeks or so, they will be ready for the harvest, and my prize winning salmon berry jam will be cooking up.

As for our garden, our builder has abandoned the work of constructing a gate, which has been a huge pain in the ass, as we have been all ready to plant seeds. I rigged up a temporary solution on Sunday and will finally get the salad green in and some peas and things as well. I'd finish the gate myself, but the location requires some tricky concrete work. If anyone knows of someone who would be willing to come help out with that, I'd appreciate it.

I added some fish fertilizer to the top soil to see if I could boost it any, and I'm off to see about seaweed, as we have some great low tides right now and yesterday's northwesterlies should have brought some sea vegetables to the west side of the island . This summer will definitely be an experiment with the garden, to see what grows and what doesn't and see what we need to do with the soil. But it's exciting to be on the path of local, homegrown and Bowen harvested food.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

For the record, Saturday night I walked home at 4am from the kitchen junket through a half inch of snow on the road.

It's sunny, but cold. A northwesterly has been blowing all weekend, and it arrived with snow squalls right donw to the shore.

Spring is coming in fits and starts again this year. Reminds me of two years ago.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Our first warm spring day yesterday, with temperatures cracking 20 degrees. Our new garden is finished, but the deer fencing isn't complete, so we're a little reluctant to plant yet. Got some things growing in small pots to get started.

The dawn chorus has been beautiful and strong lately with chickadees and winter wrens making most of the noise. Not as many towhees as susual yet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Spring makes it's grey and rainy appearance. Lots of things blooming and blossoming, including salmonberries (another cold spring, anothe rgod salmonberry year) and Indian plum. Daffodils and hyacinths are up, the latter somewhat surviving the curiosity of deer.

We've had heavy showers and snow at 1000 meter elevations. Our garden is looking lush and we're up to planting food soon.