It’s late August or early September, I cannot really recall which, and I am watching a group of young adults, a group in their early 20’s and our guest for this week, playing basketball on the court next to our Administrative Building. The sun is out and the light on the court is dappled by the tree leaves as they are hustling around. My attention is not on the play, or the skill of the players, it’s on the bear calmly walking between the cabins about a hundred feet from the court. The bear is on the way to the apple trees and Steven, our Maintenance Manager is on his way to tell the B-Ball enthusiast to move it indoors while Jason, our Operations Manager is on the radio announcing the visitation of our “Furry Friend” to the staff out on the trails, and me, I’m holding the bear banger.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it when the bears visit, the ones who live around here seem to be a pretty affable bunch but they are still bears and we do not want them to feel too cozy on the property. Especially when we have groups on site. The ‘drill’ is to get on the radio announce the location of the Furry Friend (never say “bear” over an open channel when kids are around), and its direction of travel. Then you determine the location of all the groups on sit, and if we need to move the group into a structure for safety. Now establish a direction in which there are no people, then using bear bangers, air horns and radios, you ‘haze’ the bear away from the populated areas, preferably across the road. I don’t know many Chefs who do this, let alone regularly enough that there is an established ‘routine’. It’s fun once or twice, then it becomes an enormous pain in the bahooki!
So, we start to collect the apples to remove the attractant and over the next couple of years the bears learn there is no food here and stop coming through so frequently. Now, of course, I miss them. I also have a whack load of apples every year and there is only so much sauce, pie filling, and cookie dough one can make. We have provided them as snacks for our guests, but guess what, people who are paying for an apple do not necessarily want to pay for random sized/shaped or bruises apples. We need some way to utilize them that is labour efficient and produces a consistent product. So, we dragged the apple press out of retirement and started to play around a little…
In fall 2017 apple pressing was included as a recreational activity for our 4-day Outdoor School programs. A total of 9 sessions were delivered over 2.5 weeks and five different schools participated in this activity. For each of the sessions, three cases of apples were used and from each case, 9 litres of apple juice were pressed. This allowed for immediate samples for each group pressing the apples, in addition to enough freshly pressed apple juice for the groups final departure breakfast. It is also very important to our culinary team to be as sustainable as possible, so the apples were also cored and the apple mash may be used in our homemade fritters, apple sauce, marinades, and much more!
This summer we will again be collecting the apples from our very own apple trees. These apples will be washed thoroughly to remove any contaminants, and then stored in cold storage for use in the fall for another activity block of apple pressing with our Outdoor School program students. If we run out of apples, there is also a plan to work with super markets and other food donation establishments to provide us with any apples that may have any imperfections and thus deemed unusable.
The students get a tasty treat, and a fun recreation activity and the Conservation Officer is happy too.
I do miss the Bears though.
An exciting year ahead!
Executive Chef, Wade Rowland