Friday, August 29, 2008

Purple heather in the marsh


I seem to have a bit of a Scottish theme running in my blog this month: first the wild thistle post then the Cullen Skink recipe, and now, purple heather!

On my beach walk this evening I noticed that our purple heather is starting to bloom. Heather also grows wild in Scotland (if you don't believe me check out famous Scot, Rod Stewart's version of the traditional tune, Purple Heather, on YouTube). Here around the Bay of Fundy it only blooms in the fall, whereas I think in Scotland it blooms both spring and fall.

Our wild heather doesn't grow as much on hills but rather around Fundy salt marshes and it's 99.8% purple, with rare glimpses of bright pink. White heather is rare both here and in Scotland, where a sprig of it is said to bring good luck. Keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fundy take on a traditional stag



Friends of ours hosted a uniquely Bay of Fundy-themed stag party last week: mud sliding and river rafting the tidal bore on the Shubenacadie River. I've known lots of people who've done this adventure for no reason but it's more profound as the framework for a ritualistic event such as a stag. Something kinda testosteroneish about fellas pushin' each other around in the mud and throwin' each other overboard. Typical of many stags, the event was captured on camera, so I'm pleased to share these rare glimpses of this Fundy-style, pre-nuptial male bonding ritual. Dude: the flying mud slidin' man is awesome - Thanks guys!!

P.S. that's not chocolate milk they're in - it's the silty, warm Shubenacadie River!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Those little blue berries are back!

Visitors to the Bay of Fundy often think it's rather quaint that we grow and harvest wild blueberries. Indeed, at this time of year, it is delightful to look out across the woodland-edged, blue-tinted fields. ( Perhaps not so fun if you are one of the scoopers who hand rakes berries on hilly post-glacial drumlins such as these in my photo!).

Blueberries are also a huge industry here around the Bay of Fundy. The complete global harvest of wild blueberries occurs in our region (as well as the neighbouring Canadian province of Quebec and the U.S. state of Maine). When you eat wild blueberries anywhere in the world (tonnes of them even go to Asia), you're likely enjoying berries from our region.
For previous postings of blueberry recipes on my blog, take a look at the recipe section or search "blueberries" in the google search window on the left.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Recipe for Cullen Skink

In case my last post ignited your interest in trying Cullen Skink, here's the recipe:

Cullen Skink

A large smoked haddock (weighing around 2 lb - you can get many varieties of smoked fish at markets in the Bay of Fundy region)
1 medium onion, finely chopped.
2 cups (900ml) milk
2 tablespoons butter
8 oz mashed or small chunked potato
Salt and fresh pepper
1 bay leaf
Chopped parsley
Water
Triangles of toast

Cover the smoked haddock with water, in a shallow pan, skin side down. Bring to a boil and simmer for 4 or 5 minutes, turning once. Take the haddock from the pan and remove the skin and bones. Break up the fish into flakes, return to the stock and add the chopped onion, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Strain, remove the bay leaf but retain the stock and fish. Add the milk to the fish stock and bring back to the boil. Add enough mashed or soft potato chunks to create the consistency you prefer (don't be afraid to make it rich and thick!). Add the fish and reheat. Check for seasoning. Just before serving, add the butter in small pieces so that it runs through the soup. Adorn with parsley, serve with toast triangles. Auch, yah!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Seaside deck dining at Gables

I've several favourite eateries in St Andrews, New Brunswick. In summer, especially, The Gables Restaurant on the waterfront tops the list. The menu is varied and fun, the beverages are plenty, the harbourside a-tree-grows-through-it deck fabulous, the atmosphere light and the staff always jovial.

I think the owner (or chef) is Scottish which means some peculiar items occasionally turn up on the menu, such as Tuesday night's special this week: Cullen Skink. This is a traditional Scottish soup often made with beef (em, not so thrilling for me, the pescetarian....) but there's also a version with smoked fish. As a Scottish descendant myself (well, it's 6 generations ago, but hey...), I do consider myself predisposed to admire foods from the 'old country'. We ordered it, of course.... an it was great! Apparently, this item only appears on the menu a few times a year.

P.S. this is also the perfect spot for a fresh lobster feed!


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

New adventure to Minister's Island

I've previously mentioned access to Minister's Island in St Andrews, New Brunswick, as one of the best places to appreciate several aspects of the tide. At low tide, visitors can walk or drive across the exposed beach from the mainland to the island; at high tide, that same stretch of beach is under a huge amount of water.

Until this year you had to scoot out to the island (less than 1 mile from the mainland) and back within the low tide time window (about 6 hrs). However, this summer you've got another option: a small (11 psgr) pontoon ferry has been added to enable you to motor over to the island at high tide then walk back at low tide (or vice versa). I tried this yesterday - lotsa fun!

The island is home to several walking trails (including one through a long, historic cedar hedge) as well as the former Van Horne Estate - now open to the public.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A boy's life on the Bay

I'm in St Andrews, New Brunswick, for a few days this week and had the chance to go out on the water tonight in search of whales. Sometimes Fundy sends you what you weren't expecting though...sure, we found whales, but I was as much intrigued by a few other classic Bay of Fundy coastal images.

Take this one: a small boy perched on the prow of his family's small fishing boat as it motored across the sunset. Doing nothing by some boys' definition but everything by others'. Just an ordinary night on the water among the islands of Passamaquoddy Bay ... and it made me smile.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lennie Gallant sings about Bay of Fundy


I've been thinking that our plight to have the Bay of Fundy in the Top 7 in the New7Wonders of Nature international contest would benefit from a theme song. Fortunately, well known singer/songwriter Lennie Gallant has just the song: "Pull of The Fundy Tide" and he's delighted to have us use it during the 7Wonders campaign. Thanks Lennie!!

I'm blushing because I've been a fan of Lennie's music for ages and I think it's sweet of him to lend a hand to our very worthwhile cause.

Lennie has released seven albums (six in English and one in French) which have won him a host of awards and nominations from the JUNO Awards, East Coast Music Awards and Gala des Prix √Čloizes. Over 30 artists have recorded his songs, including Jimmy Buffett, who recently invited Gallant to perform it onstage with him. His songs have also appeared in feature films, television series, and in numerous theatrical productions. Gallant has toured all over North America and in Europe with his band, in acoustic settings, and/or with symphony orchestras. I've seen him in concert several times.

And, this is cool: Lennie is a Member of the Order of Canada, our highest honour for a civilian!

"Pull of the Tides" (order it from iTunes) is from Lennie's Live album. Check out some sample tunes and videos on his website.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beluga whale takes a vacation in Bay of Fundy

It seems we have an unexpected visitor to the Bay of Fundy: a 2-year old Beluga whale! Bay of Fundy is home to many species of whales including Right whales, finbacks, humpbacks, minkes, seis, but not Belugas. It's believed that this beluga somehow separated from its family pod, perhaps living in the St Lawrence seaway (well north of the Bay of Fundy) or even the Arctic. Belugas are occasionally spotted at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, down by Brier Island, Grand Manan Island, etc. where the rest of our whales congregate, but never off the coast of Cape Chignecto Provincial Park where this little fellow has been hanging out.

The locals have named him "Q" (Jian Ghomeshi at CBC's radio program "Q" would be proud!) and have been enjoying his antics. Still, whale researchers caution that too much human contact would not be good and that there's a reason that Belugas don't normally visit the Bay of Fundy: conditions here, though perfect for our other whales, are not ideal for Belugas. Whale researchers are assessing the situation with hopes that Q will tire of his summer vacation and head back home to his family.

McLobster anyone?

It's not only Bay of Fundy fish n' chip joints and modern bistros that get in the mood for developing local culinary delights each season; here you'll also witness such stalwarts as McDonald's shaking up its menu. Many of our fast food restaurants offer a limited-time-offer rendition of a Fundy favourite: the somewhat ordinary, but really quite tasty, "lobster roll".

The recipe is quite simple:

  • mix fresh lobster bits with mayo, salt & pepper
  • edge with lettuce
  • then fill a toasted or grilled hot dog bun.
In true McDonald's fashion the lobster roll is titled: "McLobster". Seasonal availability (usually just summer) is announced on the classic outdoor slotted billboard as evidenced by the photo I took this week.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Wild thistles & the Scotland connection

The hollyhocks and delphiniums in my garden have bloomed and waned, as have many roadside blossoms like lupines, but there are still several wild flowers in full bloom. I captured this cliffside photo of the wild Canadian thistle yesterday while hiking.

I suppose many folks would label this common Bay of Fundy prickly plant as a noxious weed but I rather enjoy it as a visible reminder of my Scottish ancestry. Thistle is the national flower of Scotland, symbolizing nobility of character.

Thistle has been credited with helping Scotland fend off Viking invasions in the 1200s. As the Vikings moved into Scotland for a sneak attack, they yelled out in pain when they stumbled through thistle plants. Their cries alerted the Scots and allowed them to push out the Vikings. Since then, thistle has been the national emblem of Scotland. Thistle was probably introduced to our region as an ornamental plant by Scottish settlers in the 1800s.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Seafood cambozola linguine at Kellock's


When I wake up in a next life, I think I'd like to be a chef or a restaurateur. In the meantime, I'm content to wander the Bay of Fundy in search of indigenous foods and funky bistros.

While in the Annapolis Valley region of the Bay of Fundy recently, I visited a favourite eatery: Kellock's in Berwick, Nova Scotia. This restaurant is located in a smartly restored heritage house (love that tin ceiling) on the main street. My two top choice menu items are Thai Curried Chicken and the Cambozola Linguine with Mussels, Scallops, Shrimp (pictured here). The Friday night special is always great and they really know how to cook local fish properly. That's always a relief!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Cool new outdoor exhibits at Fundy National Park


I think we’re very lucky to have a system of national parks, national historic sites and marine conservation areas in Canada that is recognized one of the finest and most extensive in the world. The Bay of Fundy's Fundy National Park (Alma, New Brunswick) is one of Canada’s oldest and most popular; it was established in 1948 and attracts about a quarter million visitors annually!

Fundy National Park just launched a multi-year “EcoIntegrity” project to educate visitors through new interpretative experiences. Part of this new program is new insight into park ecosystems, natural beauty and cultural contexts through more engaging exhibits. One of the first new sets of interpretive panels were unveiled last week in the park at Hueston Brook. What’s behind the New Brunswick tartan curtain being unveiled at the ribbon cutting ? Well, why not go to Fundy National Park to find out!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

NIfty tidal power video

It's probably no surprise that our massive tides are not only of interest to tourists but also to alternative energy folks. After an international tidal power study identified Bay of Fundy as the top worldwide site for tidal power, there's been a flurry of interest in such development here in my 'backyard'. I just came across a nifty 8 minute video from one of the companies (SeaGen) who has already installed tidal turbines in the U.K. It's a short documentary with some animations showing how generators (like the one in this photo) work.

In the Bay of Fundy, early assessments of our tidal power potential include proposals to develop an interpretation centre to better share the project with the public. Now that 'green is keen', I think folks would be really interested in learning more about tidal power while on vacation, don't you?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

This beach will make you laugh

Now here's an instance of the Bay of Fundy mud looking so red that it might confuse a few of our visitors. Some could even think it looks rather like the surface of Mars where, say, someone like Marvin the Martian would vacation....I just happened to be in the area when I snapped this lucky shot of our little Looney Tunes friend relaxing at the beach.

On a completely unrelated note, scientists recently found water on Mars. Coincidence? I think not!

Monday, August 04, 2008

This beach will make you cry




Perhaps I should have a category on my blog for "Bay of Fundy beaches so beautiful they make you cry" but I suppose this topic permeates this blog anyway. Still...one of the lesser known aspects of Fundy is the variety and extraordinary beauty of the beaches. Unlike regular coasts, our 5x-higher-than-anywhere-else tides create some exquisite beachscapes.

You can see that Fundy provided an unusual perch from which I viewed its vast expanse of low tide beach at Medford, NS. I recommend walking our sandstone beaches in bare feet...a natural pedicure, true, but also a way of exploring the beach with your full senses, which will get you closer to the crying part. (P.S. white pants not generally recommended!)