Happy First Day of Spring! Today's the Vernal Equinox, Northern Hemispherically speaking, so naturally I can't stop thinking about this fertile season's symbols: eggs.
Bear eggs, that is.
During the fishing season, Farm and Fortress founder Les Kinnear gave me dozens of beautiful blue-green Araucana and speckled brown Rhode Island Red eggs like the ones you see above. I gave him compost and lodge leftovers. Hardly a fair exchange, I know.
But Les is fittingly a bear of a man so you don't refuse him. His sanctuary is particularly poetic because he was once a bear guide - to bear hunters. Les now devotes his life to rescuing bears.
Years before he was licensed for the bears, Les had to prove that he could in fact raise animals. Thus, he built Sawmill Farm on the adjacent site and populated it with chickens, bunnies, piglets, goats, ducks, geese, and even a miniature horse named Princess.
The first and current bears in residence are two brown bear brothers, Killisnoo and Chaik. They were orphaned as cubs when their mother was killed after she broke into a lodge kitchen searching for food.
Les employs an equally dedicated bear manager, Christine. Her expertise can be seen in the enrichment calendar she plans for the bears. The bears are fed while they're caged overnight, done for their safety and that of anyone who might make the poor decision to wrestle a bear.
The Farm and Fortress are open-air. They were once the sawmill's water clarifier tanks. One half has been recycled into the bear habitat, with live and fallen trees, a rain-filled pool, and even berry bushes. It does look a bit Mad Max to human eyes but if you watch the bears from the covered observation deck, it's clearly bear heaven.
Christine explained that if she just left food for Killisnoo and Chaik, they would tear through it in minutes, leaving them hours of boredom and frustration.
The bear sanctuary is the island's biggest private recycler, taking outdated but edible produce, dairy products, and baked goods from the grocery stores as well as fish heads from processors - plus my lodge scraps - and feeding them to the animals. They even use shredded documents as pig bedding and bear distractions, which all goes to the compost pile eventually. Christine bundles the food into stumps and ties them with chains. She sprays some with perfume.
Delivery devices and scent stimulation? Sound like El Bulli, The Fat Duck, or Alinea to anyone else?
I have to admit that I saved the precious bear eggs for myself and our very small staff. My favorite way to eat them was to simply melt a lot of butter foamy, then with the pan off the heat slipped a pair of eggs in. They were covered until the whites were barely opaque. I slid butter and eggs onto a piece of baguette, sliced horizontally and lightly toasted, to catch the runny, orange yolk. The only seasoning they wanted was my friend Jim Michener's artisanal Alaskan sea salt.
More on Jim and his salt soon. A preview: I think Jim's salt rivals Maldon and Halen Môn.