On Foraging and Dwelling

For someone who has a short supply of patience for many aspects of life (i.e. traffic, sitting in one place for long periods of time, waiting for someone to get ready), foraging seems like an unusual hobby. But when it comes to anything food-related, I seem to have endless perseverance. Over the weekend we wandered through the woods looking for morel mushrooms and fiddleheads—eyes to the ground, fallen twigs and brush crunching beneath our feet. Daisy moseyed off to cool down in the swampy lake nearby before joining us, nose to the dirt, undoubtedly in search of something dead and disgusting to roll in.

I’m not sure when my obsession with knowing where my food comes from arose, but in the last year or so it’s become one of my primary pursuits. Charlie has finally accepted that we are going to have a mini-farm in our backyard for the rest of our lives—he just doesn’t know about the goat dream yet (which was rekindled after meeting a friend's tribe this weekend).

This was my first time looking for both morels and fiddleheads. Last summer we arrived in Red Lake just in time for blueberry, raspberry and chanterelle season. Before I attempted the hunt, I interviewed a seasoned forager for an article in the newspaper (I love that this is what qualifies as a newspaper article here). Morels thrive in a damp environment around poplar trees, he explained.  He also said that it is nearly impossible to spot the camouflaged mushrooms without having one pointed out to you first.

This we would discover firsthand. Though we emerged from the bush morel-less, my basket had a fair number of the unfurled fern fronds known as fiddleheads. (Say that five times fast.) Back at home I boiled, battered and fried them to perfection.

To me there is nothing more satisfying than harvesting your own food and spending the day in the kitchen preparing it. I could spend hours chopping, dicing, peeling and whisking with reruns of That 70s Show playing in the background and be completely content.

Unfortunately, this week started off with a couple days of dwelling on all of the things I miss from living in a non-remote, bigger city. I blame the documentary I saw over the weekend on life in Red Lake. Remember the one I wrote about back in November? The film was an artistic interpretation of the life of a miner here, and it painted a very bleak picture of our little town. Montages of the harsh winter climate, abandoned and boarded up buildings, and solemn portraits of residents were accompanied by stories of mining accidents and the uncertain future of Red Lake.

It took a much-needed pep talk from my best friend and renewed excitement for the landscape thanks to a story I’m working on about floatplane pilots to get me back on board. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: this life is not for everyone and it comes with its ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.