Teaching and Learning Winter Skills

3/2/2013 7:00 AM
By Robin Follette Maine Correspondent

It was time for a break from planning the gardens, stoking the wood stove and daydreaming of spring.

I spent the weekend at Bryant Pond 4-H Camp & Learning Center in Bryant Pond, Maine, for Maine BOW’s (Becoming an Outdoors-Woman) Winter Skills Weekend. Women from as far away as South Carolina made the trip to the mountains of western Maine to learn and improve their outdoors skills.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman is near and dear to my heart. I volunteer as a member of the board of directors of Maine BOW, and when invited to teach, volunteer as an instructor.

The weather forecast didn’t look good. I’d be making the five-hour drive from northeastern to western Maine in clear weather, but a storm was supposed to move in Saturday.

I left the house with the plan to teach my “Cooking Wild Game” workshop Saturday afternoon and be on the road by 5 p.m. to get ahead of the storm. The forecast changed constantly. I left early Sunday morning to drive out of the storm.

Ron Fournier, the 4-H center’s director, welcomed us at supper and gave us some important information. Food scraps were to be scraped into a five-gallon bucket. Other compostables were placed in either a bin or different bucket, depending on what we were throwing away.

The center composts all of its waste and uses it in their garden. The garden supplies some of the food they serve.

We mingled a while after supper, getting to know each other and comparing workshops we’d be taking over the weekend. Later, we chose between mini-sessions of star gazing and dressing for the outdoors.

“Hardwater,” a documentary about ice fishing, was shown in the evening. For many of us, ice fishing is a means of putting fresh food on the dinner table from January through March.

After a hearty breakfast each morning and a great lunch Saturday afternoon, we headed in different directions for workshops. Winter survival, wildlife tracking, primitive skills, sporting clays, archery, fly tying and many more workshops kept us busy all day.

I took over Bryant Pond’s kitchen Saturday afternoon. Meryl danced around us for a few hours as she made lasagna for our supper. We made a quiche with bear sausage. The meat was so mild and tasty we easily dispelled the notion that bear meat is gamey, strong and smells bad as we sampled the cooked meat before adding it to the quiche.

Moose and deer soup was next on the menu. The texture of the venison (moose and deer are both considered venison) and lack of fat were noticeable while preparing the meat for the soup pot.

While the quiche baked and the soup simmered and filled the building with delicious smells, we seared moose steaks. Seasoned with salt and pepper, seared in butter and set aside while mushrooms sautéed, then added back to the pan to finish cooking to medium doneness, the moose steaks were so tender we cut them with butter knives.

Last on the list for the afternoon were deer steaks. They were seasoned with a Maine-made blend of spices containing powdered maple syrup (for caramelizing and browning) and garlic powder.

It snowed all day Saturday. The storm we’d been anticipating moved in during the night. The roads were messy and the storm was heading toward home. I left at breakfast time and missed the fly tying class I’d been looking forward to.

It was a wonderful weekend in a beautiful area of Maine I’ve spent very little time visiting.

This morning I’m back at my desk with a box of seeds from Renee’s Garden waiting to be opened. Before I leave for an archery lesson this afternoon, I’ll have the seeds sorted, some trays filled and a few seeds planted. The serious seed starting starts tomorrow.

Robin Follette and her husband, Steve, operate Seasons Eatings Farm in Talmadge, Maine.

Do the deer cause a lot of damage to the fruit and vegetable crops in your area?

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