Local traditions and culture in Province of New Brunswick

  • Aboriginal 'Teepee' at Kouchibouguac NP
    Aboriginal 'Teepee' at Kouchibouguac NP
    by Bwana_Brown
  • French Acadian boats at Pointe Sapin
    French Acadian boats at Pointe Sapin
    by Bwana_Brown
  • Fresh maple syrup is ladled onto a bed of snow
    Fresh maple syrup is ladled onto a bed...
    by Bwana_Brown

Most Viewed Local Customs in Province of New Brunswick

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    Fresh Atlantic lobster

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 12, 2007

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    A wide-variety of restaurant choices is available - of course, being this close to the Atlantic Ocean means that you should sample the sea food! One of my favourites is lobster (how can you go wrong if you combine it with beer and boiled corn on the cob?). Through the summer months, lobster is available in local sea-food stores at prices ($11-16 Canadian/lb.) that seem to be sky-rocketing like oil and they can be bought either live or pre-cooked. Photo of a typical summer backyard cookup! Getting the shell off a lobster can be messy because of the water inside the shell after cooking, so it is best done away from the table! I have my technique down pat now - I just use a cutting board and a long sharp knife to make a few quick hits to strategic locations to crack the shell and then finish the breaks with your hands so you do not cut through the meat as well! Got to be careful of those sharp spiney little protrusions though!

    Following our 2000 trip around Cape Breton Island I still had not satisfied my desire for a good old lobster meal by the time we returned home. As a result, I immediately had to call the local establishments to see what they had available, but, since it was a Sunday, stocks were low and all I could get was this 4 pound (1.8-kg) beast! It took me two days to finish it, but it really tasted great!

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    Aboriginal influences

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 1, 2007

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    Located along the shore of Kouchibouguac NP is this large native American 'teepee', in which members of the local Maliseet people present aspects of their culture to Park visitors. Actually, this type of structure is common to western aboriginal people. In the east, the traditional form of housing was called a 'wigwam' and consisted of a smaller circular structure with a rounded roof. The basic frame consisted of slender birch and sassafrass saplings that were bent and tied into the required form. The bottom was then covered with layers of bark while the upper roof area was protected by waterproof cattail mats.

    In addition to revealing their herring 'weir' and 'maple sugar' secrets, the Aboriginals had a much greater influence on the first European settlement attempts in Canada. In 1604, a French nobleman, Sieur de Monts, received a monopoly from the King of France on all rights in this part of North America. He led an expedition of 79 men to his newly awarded territory and established his first settlement beside the Bay of Fundy on a small island in the mouth of the St. Croix River between New Brunswick, Canada and Maine, USA. This was not a good choice, as their first Canadian winter showed them. The 20+ foot tidal range there resulted in the island being surrounded by broken chunks of ice, trapping the men on the island for the winter months without proper food or heating supplies. It was only with the help of local natives that they survived until Spring, 1605 when the 43 surviving men gave up on their island and sailed across to NS where they found a large sheltered anchorage in the Annapolis River valley.

    Over the past few years, a great deal of discussion and several legal cases have taken place in Canada to decide how much of the forest and fishing resources should rightfully be allocated to aboriginal harvesters. It all boils down to the interpretation of the intent of the term 'traditional activities' in the treaties signed between the aboriginals and the British in the mid-1700s.

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    Maple sugar syrup - nature's best!

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 1, 2007

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    Harvesting of the sweet sap from Maple trees is something the native Americans stumbled onto in long ago ages and they passed their methods on to the early European settlers in this part of the world. This was a real blessing in those early days when nearby sources of supplies were very few and far between! It turns out that bee's honey and maple syrup are the only two natural sweeteners in the world, with maple having an advantage by virtue of its high calcium content (15 times greater than honey) and a salt content only 1/10th that of honey.

    This view of a March, 2007 trip I made near Hampton in southern NB shows the final product being poured onto a bed of snow to make it quickly turn thick, so it can be wraped onto a wooden stick as an immediate taste reward. It is very sticky stuff, so there is no problem to get it to attach to your wooden stick for a unique treat. The second photo shows a couple of the metal pots that are attached to the trunks of Maple Sugar trees. They are attached to spigots screwed into the tree trunk, used to siphon off a portion of the sap that begins to flow from the roots back up into the branches once the weather is the right mix of cold nights and warm days, triggering the sap flow. The third photo shows a whole stand of maples with their buckets that have to be hand emptied on this particular farm. Once the sap is collected, it is taken to a 'sugarshack' (fourth photo) where the sap is boiled by wood-fired boilers to get rid of enough water to allow the typical 4% maple sugar by volume to reach the proper concentration for bottled maple syrup.

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    River drives - the old way of logging

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 1, 2007

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    On a warm 23 C mid-September day in 2004, I took a little drive southwest from Fredericton along the Saint John River. One of the first things that I came to was this series of piers across one half of the Saint John River, stretching out to an island in the middle. These piers were installed many years ago to help with the huge logging industry in the province.

    During the winter months, lumberjacks would cut trees upstream and pile them to be rolled into the rivers in the springtime after the ice had melted. These various tributaries all flowed into the mighty Saint John River and the logs would eventually be snagged by a log and chain boom placed across these piers. Small boats would then work at circling sections of the trapped logs so they could be hauled many miles down the river by tugboats to the pulp & paper mill at the mouth of the river in Saint John.

    As a child, I remember driving by here many times and seeing this stretch of water completely covered by logs for miles upstream from this location (normal boat traffic used the marked channel on the other side of the island). This method of transporting the logs was discontinued in the early 1960s after several hydro dams were built further upstream.

    During the annual spring snowmelt, these piers are completely submerged as the Saint John River rises and usually overflows its banks (while on this particular trip I noticed a whole tree trunk laying on top of the second pier out!).

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    Winter firewood

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 1, 2007

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    Although the summer temperatures can reach into the mid 30's C, the winter temperatures can also reach the 30-40 C range, trouble is it's in the MINUS direction!

    Because New Brunswick is so heavily forested, over 20% of the population still use wood in one form or another for heating. In my case, although I have electric baseboards in each room as the main source of heat, I also have a wood stove centrally located in the basement. I actually use this as much or more than the electric heat through the winter. It is nice to fire the stove up and enjoy the warmth that it offers. Because of the tempered glass door on the stove, the flickering flames cast nice shadows on the family room as well. An advantage of the electric heat is that I can close off individual rooms and heat them up as desired and the heat is more controllable.

    I guess I just know too much about the electric power industry - I always like to have a backup system of some sort (especially at those temperatures)!! The two rows here are about half of what I would burn in a winter. The best types are hardwoods like beech, maple and birch

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    Dulse - delicious seaweed, for some!

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 1, 2007

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    A local tradition that I grew up with was eating a dark reddish seaweed called Dulse. Although many 'inland' Maritimers cannot stand the stuff, when I was working in Papua New Guinea, my parents would ship me the odd consignment to literally give me a taste of home! However, I never could get anyone else over there to eat it!

    Dulse is native to the North Atlantic and Northwest Pacific Ocean areas and it grows attached to rocks in the zone between high and low tide as well as in deeper water. With the huge tides of the Bay of Fundy (30-50 feet), New Brunswick is a prime location to pick the seaweed when the tide is out and then lay it out on the rocky shores for sun-drying. It is very rich in nutrients, but its taste also takes some getting used to. In Ireland and Atlantic Canada, it is usually eaten raw and it has a naturally salty taste. Sometimes we used to 'cook' it by laying it on top of a hot wood stove and pressing it flat with a clothes iron. That turns it slightly green and makes it crisp like a potato chip. A cold beer goes well with this delicacy, and Moosehead is one of the oldest independent breweries in Canada. It was founded in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1867 by the Oland family but the main brewery has been in Saint John, NB since 1928. Its premier golden lager is now popular worldwide, with 40% of production exported to the USA and 9 other countries.

    Normally, after dulse is picked off the rocks, it is then sun-dried on the pebbly beaches that are typical of this part of the world. In the 2nd photo, while Russell and I were biking along on Grand Manan Island, we passed this couple reeling the stuff off to dry in their front yard on what appears to be an artificial beach! I had never before seen this 'rolled up' method of drying the wet dulse.

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    Inshore fishing industry

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 1, 2007

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    No matter which coastline you visit, you will come across small fishing villages or towns with their wharfs and numerous small fishing boats. During our 2005 trip to Kouchibouguac NP on the northeast coast, Russ and I took Highway 117 to explore the lesser developed northern regions of Kouchibouguac National Park. A 31-km (20-mile) drive will bring you to the first community located outside it's northern boundary - Pointe Sapin. This small and picturesque community of about 200 families is located at the north end of Kouchibouguac Bay. We stopped at the large wharf in Pointe Sapin and admired the fleet of fishing boats tied up there - with not much activity taking place. The boats all looked well-maintained and ready to head out into Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence after various species such as herring, lobster, scallop and mackerel, depending on the season. The majority of people living along this part of New Brunswick's coast are proud 'Acadians' of French descent, tracing their roots in this land back to 1604 when Samuel de Champlain (eventual founder of Quebec City) and his men spent their first winter in Canada along the south coast, at St. Andrews, NB.

    The southern coasts were taken over by the English 'Loyalists' who fled north from the American colonies so they could remain British subjects, following the loss of the American Revolutionary War in 1783. The second photo shows a typical harbour scene along that coast, at Leonardville on Deer Island.

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    Fish traps designed by Aboriginals

    by Bwana_Brown Updated May 1, 2007

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    Southern NB is famous for its sardines (juvenile herrings), with the Connors Brothers plants producing tins of them in vast quantities. One of the easiest ways to catch herring is to set up a 'weir' just off the coast.

    Using technology developed from that used by Native Americans on this coast for hundreds of years, herring weirs continue to be used today at many places to help harvest the schools of herring that swim along the shoreline as they head for various inlets during their summer spawning season. These weirs were developed by the natives to help them deal with the huge tidal ranges experienced in these southern waters.

    The basic idea is a simple one (once you think of it!). At low tide, long wooden poles are driven into the sea floor in a heart-shaped pattern and a net is mounted on them. Another straight net leads from the indented part of the heart toward the shoreline (on the right side of this photo) and acts to deflect any fish swimming along the shore into the 'heart' itself. Once inside the walls of the heart, the fish keep swimming along its circular walls, never 'looking over their shoulder' to see the entrance as they swim past. Eventually, the tide falls to its lowest level, leaving the fish floundering on the bottom. The natives would then walk out on the muddy and seaweed covered bottom to retrieve their catch without the need for boats. Todays weirs are even taller (second photo), allowing fishermen in boats to simply use smaller 'purse' nets to empty out the schools of fish trapped inside the weir without having to wait for low water levels.

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    Rural New Brunswick

    by ant1606 Written Jul 1, 2005

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    The province has a low population and most villages are really, really small.
    Nice mansions are sometimes mixed with lower quality houses, but the general quietness of many areas doesn't call for fancyful housing. Clothes are commonly set out to dry in the mist.

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    Don't be afraid to speak French (or English)!

    by Jefie Written Feb 25, 2005

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    New Brunswick is the only officially bilingual province in Canada and it's not just a marketing scheme! We did a few tests during the week we spent there and had no problems getting by using only French or only English.

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    Bilingual Everything

    by PA2AKgirl Updated Sep 24, 2004

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    Coming into New Brunswick from Maine, you quickly notice not only the completely different symbols for roadside services (it took me awhile to figure out that a hand underneath a vase means handcrafted goods) and the lack of billboards along side the roads, every single sign is in both English and French. This is so smart and considerate:) Smart because after some time, you're going to start associating words and picking up the other language. I wish we did that here--I know it would be near impossible in some areas (they would need to make everything multilingual, not just bilingual), but we could at least use more Spanish on signs (official signs)--I'm glad that happens more often than it used to, but still...
    Anyway, the point is, it's nice to see official road signs and directions in French and English.

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    Mary's Roadside Berry Stand along Rt 1

    by kazander Updated Jul 29, 2004

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    While I was driving back to Maine, Lou was napping, I passed by this adorable little stand an quickly made a U turn. I had seen it on our way to Fundy park, and said to myself, "i really must go there on our way back". Oh the goodies they have! Fresh Blueberry muffins made from scratch, all kinds of scrumptious homemade pies, and Lou's favorite, the warm blueberry shortcake! We had a snack and picked up a couple jams, one was Bumbleberry, we can't wait to try it! If you are travelling Rt. 1, stop by and see them, you'll be glad you did.

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    Go to Kings Landing Historical Settlement

    by bkathryn Written Sep 11, 2002

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    The Kings Landing Historical Settlement provides a snapshot of life in the St. John River Valley in the 19th Century. It's about half an hour outside of Fredericton, heading towards Edmundston. We spent about 5 hours there in September 2002. It's open daily June to October.

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Province of New Brunswick Local Customs

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