Field of Dreams

Went back to the pasture today for more fiddleheads.  It was a rainy day and I was hedging on whether to go or not.  I stacked firewood in the morning, made some bread with the rhubarb I had in the fridge, and was about ready to get my rain gear and go, as it was a light rain.  Then heavy rain let loose and I lost interest.  A couple hours later, the sun was out for about 5 minutes, and in that time I collected my empty gallon pretzel jars and scissors and headed up the mountain.
I dropped off some pesto I made from the first batch of fiddleheads, nettles and devils club buds, along with some bagels, for Laura and Bob. 
I parked up the mountain and headed for the creek crossing.  As Laura predicted, the creek was running pretty high.  There was still some snow along the creek, and as I walked on it, it was very hard and supported my weight.  Until I broke through in a little overflow channel along the creek.  Down on I went sideways.  Up to my elbows and soaked my pants. Oh well.  Not going back now.  I quickly pulled my pant legs out of my boot tops so they wouldn’t soak my socks, and walked to the tree that lay across the creek and served as my bridge.
I crossed without incident, but when I climbed up and over the root wad on the far side, I slid down the roots and figured I couldn’t get back up that root wad when I came back – how did Laura do it a few days ago?  
All the devils club on the other side of the river had buds that were perfect for picking.  But I didn’t need any more than those I’d already picked this year, and I didn’t have the salad tongs for picking them.  But noted to self for next year.
When I broke out of the rain forest onto the hillside, I decided to explore to the left, as we’d gone to the right the last time.  I already saw plenty of fiddleheads and wanted to see if nettles were more plentiful, as we saw few nettles on the first pick.  I pulled out a plastic 1 gallon (?) container and stuffed it in my bib overall top.  There was a zone of fiddleheads that were ripe for picking along the lower part of the hillside where the forest ended and the open avalanche chute began;  not far uphill from this zone the ferns had already grown and unfurled past picking.  
Maybe this zone was somehow more shaded by the mountains above and the tall spruce and hemlock behind than the plants further up the hill.  And everywhere there was twisted stalk.  I usually eat a few leaves of it when I’m picking fiddleheads but I’ve not collected it as I think it can only be eaten fresh, really, but boy was it everywhere.
Many of the ripe fiddleheads had long stems with a still tightly sheathed fiddlehead on top, and this made for a larger plant for each head picked than picking earlier in the year when the fiddleheads are just coming out of the ground, and I quickly filled my containers.
As I side-hilled and picked fiddleheads, I looked for nettles along the banks of the little creeks that came down the hill.  I didn’t see any in the first creek bed or two.  When I had nearly filled my 4 gallon containers of fiddleheads, I hit the right creek bed, and there were lots of nettles.  After filling all my gallon jars with fiddleheads, I packed  a 1/2 gallon jar with the tops of the nettle plants for Laura.  
She had given me all of the few nettles we’d found on our first trip because she knew I needed it for my Tongass Pesto recipe, so now I could drop these off on the way home for her and give her the good news about finding the mother lode.
I ambled back down to the creek, and made mental landmarks of which direction I needed to go the next time I came across the log bridge to get to the nettles.  As expected, I could not get up the root wad to get onto the tree bridge.  The water was shallower above the tree, and I hopped to the middle of the creek, where I could climb up onto the log bridge from a shallow spot in the creek.  I went over my boots a little, but not bad, and I was already wet from the first time.  It was smooth sailing back to the car.
I dropped the nettles to Laura and relayed the news of the nettle find.  When I got home, I went looking for what I had in my mind would be the best container for cleaning the fiddleheads in the dryer – a nylon duffel bag. I found two nylon sleeping bag duffel bags, each of which held a gallon of fiddleheads, and which I could tie three half hitches with the cinch line to tightly close the bags. I theorized if I used two bags in the dryer, they would tumble against each other and be better than just putting in one at a time.  I was right!  I pulled the first two bags out of the dryer after 15 minutes on air fluff, and they were clean.  I did the same with the other 2 gallons of fiddleheads.  I then put the fiddleheads in the salmon egg basket I garage saled from somewhere that has holes big enough to let the chaff through but not so big that the fiddleheads fall through.  I shook the basket till the chaff had winnowed through and left behind cleaned fiddleheads.
I rinsed the winnowed fiddleheads again through the basket to remove any remaining chaff, and put the cleaned fiddleheads in colanders to fully drain and dry out a bit in the fridge.  We’ll eat some fresh, and freeze the rest.  

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