We harvest as much food as possible from our natural environment, trusting that Nature knows better than WE do what nutrients are most appropriate for the location & season. Kodiak Island offers the educated forager a wide array of wild edibles & medicinals.
One of my favorite activities is to gather bull kelp from the kelp gardens around our bay & take them home to make pickles. Seaweed is essentially the ocean's liver, & thereby contains nearly every mineral known to man. That means that MY pickles are incredibly good for you, not to mention delicious. I love showing people how easy & fun it is to make them, & once canned they'll keep for many months, & make GREAT accompaniments to burgers, hot dogs, potato salads, fish sandwich spreads, etc.
"Beach Greens" are one of my FAVORITE wild edibles!! Lynda J. was a client who booked a visit with us for herself & her BFF...She asked for one day to be all about beachcombing & a barbeque! RIGHT up our alley! Over the course of the afternoon they watched me gather 6-7 Hefty bags full of Beach Greens, always being careful to leave enough stem & undisturbed plants to restore the growth at that location, of course!! :-)
I take them home & just barely blanch them, then vacuum-pack & freeze them for later use. They taste like most any other "green", chard, spinach, etc., with maybe a slight bitter tang. The texture is a little thicker, as it is close to being a succulent. This plant is at its prime in the late spring/early summer...later in the season as it puts its energy into flowering (i.e. reproducing) all its sugars are redirected & the leaves become quite bitter.
Although I still feel guilty, & even shed a tear when I do so, I do not pass up the opportunity for a good, clean shot at a good, clean Sitka Blacktail deer! One deer can provide Stan & I with MANY meals' worth of red meat, for ourselves AND our crew! Especially for women, it is important to get enough iron, & red meat is one way to do so.
Every couple years we go on "boat hunts," using the F/V Woody as our traveling home base while we hunt in different areas of the island than we could otherwise reach. This also offers us the opportunity to put out our crab pots in an attempt to put some delicious King or Tanner or Dungeness crab in the freezer.
Knowing that the meat I harvest had a natural, wild & free life, & a quick, honorable & painless death, makes me feel a little better about being at the top of the food chain. We have been eating less & less meat over the last few years, & more & more plants...we believe this to be a MUCH more sustainable way of life, health, & balance for our bodies & our planet. Taking accountability for the lives we end in order to sustain our own is a very mature, "involved" way to live/eat. We are also committed to making use of every bit of the animal that is possible. We even boil the bones for canning venison broth as soup/gravy bases, & have a Native friend in town who takes the skulls (so she can use the brains to tan hides...'bout the only thing we throw away are the hooves!
If you would like to experience hunting for Sitka Blacktail on Kodiak Island, visit our Deer Hunting page for more information.
We are very fortunate to live in a place with abundant fish stocks, although I HAVE seen the numbers decline in the 16 years we've been living remote. We take only what we can use, & always turn loose the "Barn Door" (big) halibut, as they are the reproducing females.
As residents of Alaska, we are entitled to have S.H.A.R.C. cards, which gives us the privilege of subsistence fishing for halibut with a "ground-line"...We are allowed 20 hooks per card-bearing family member, which substantially increases the odds of actually CATCHING something! Sign up for one of our Subsistence Fishing classes to learn the ins & outs of setting & pulling a ground-line, & how to fillet a halibut with the least waste possible.
We also put out our subsistence gill-net periodically, which is another benefit awarded to Alaskan residents. This net is about 300 feet long & 15 feet deep & is essentially a miniaturized version of a seine net. We are allowed to keep 25 salmon per household member per year, with additional quota permitted upon written & approved request.
Halibut & salmon comprise a huge part of the protein segment of our diet. We believe that the clean, cold waters of Alaska still provide some of the word's best meat, without resorting to industrializing (i.e. compromising & contaminating) our food supply. Some people consider cod to be "bait fish" but I actually prefer it to halibut because of its higher oil content. Cod are frequently caught in the same areas as halibut, & then I have to arm-wrestle my husband to keep some "bait" for ME!
Occasionally we are fortunate enough to score some crab (Dungeness, Tanner or King Crab) but not often enough to consider it anything other than a HUGE treat. This takes place later in the year than we usually like to stay, which may be part of why its so rare!
There is a large portion of the year during which the weather/temperatures WILL/can kill you!! It is absolutely essential to "make hay while the sun shines" & put up wood during the season when it's most pleasant to do so. Actually, truth be known, one of my favorite pastimes is "Log Hunting!" We spend the entire day cruising along the coast in the big boat or the skiff, eyeballing piles of logs that have been thrust upon the shores by our incredible storms. When we see some that are the proper color & that are relatively knot-free (cutting through knots dulls your chainsaw blade faster), I head in to the beach with line that I tie off to the logs,, then bring the other end to the F/V Woody. Using the deck winch Stan can pull HUGE logs out into the water, where he then lifts them on-board with our big-ass power block. Then when we get back to our beach we dump them all out & wait for the tide to go out...when the logs are high & dry we tackle them with our chainsaws, "buck them up" into rounds that we can toss into the truck bed, then haul them into the center of camp for splitting & stacking.