Friday, September 21, 2018

Harvest Time

All summer long Elias was reflecting on the orgy of potatoes that would await us on our return to Kodiak, his first attempts at growing his own doubtless (doubtless!) on their way to wild success. In spite of the fact that no one was at home to tend the garden.

Great thing about kids. The harvest was many orders of magnitude below the bounty of imagination, but Elias and Eric were overjoyed with what they got - one good meal's worth.

Luckily, it has been a completely bumper year for blueberries.

We pick and we pick, and still there are more.

And the silver salmon - Oncorhynchus kisutch. Their bounty has been all we could want, and we have  44 of the beasts safely in freezer and jars to see us through the dark months.

Carrie, Alisa's indefatigable partner in gillnetting, after another big day.

Any Alaskan resident is allowed to gillnet salmon for their personal use off the Buskin River, which is between downtown Kodiak and the airport.

So what did I do with the boys on the first weekend in a while that we didn't go gillnetting, since we finally had enough fish? Somehow I found myself talked into going to the Buskin River itself, to pursue that ridiculous enterprise of trying to catch a silver out of the river on hook and line.

We struck out. Gillnetting is so much more fun. But we did see another local who was out harvesting.

And, finally! We have our first deer in the freezer. And I got to reprise my favorite butchering photo.

This wild food is such a part of our identity as Alaskans. Why the heck else are we living here? Alisa and I ask each other time and again as we head out on some gathering mission or another. It all adds up to real work, these various efforts. But we're happy with the consolations of hard work, concrete rewards, and the promise of a long slow winter to come.

Monday, September 10, 2018

This Alaskan Life

Well, I really will get to a recap of the science side of our summer soon. We are living in very interesting times, in both the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, those twin stars that dominate the firmament of Alaskan fisheries.

But we continue this miraculous run of good weather that has made late August and early September so outstanding on the Gulf of Alaska coast. We continue to apply ourselves to using that good weather to our harvesting advantage. And our efforts are beginning to bear fruit.

Yesterday I shot a small buck just before sunrise, way up on that mountain that is so consistently productive for deer hunting. (You know, that one.) Good news is that I can still pack a deer out a mile and down 2,000 feet to the road all by myself, as long as it is a small one.

I was home by 13:30, and by 15:00 had rebuilt my energy levels to the point where I was biking out to that spot where the blueberries are so thick this year. (You know the spot.)

After I'd just started picking I got a call from Alisa. And let's stop to consider how the world changes. When we lived in Alaska 11 years ago, berry picking and getting a phone call were mutually exclusive activities.

Alisa was out gillnetting silvers with family friends. And they had 16 of those big beautiful beasts and were heading back to the harbor.

So berry picking was put on hold to assist with fish cleaning. And we're going back again today. (The fish are in - don't tell anyone!)

Family friend Noah, Eric, and Elias on Undercover.

Carrie and Alisa at the fish cleaning station. For years a popular bumpersticker in Alaska has been the one proclaiming "Alaska girls kick ass."

Friday, September 7, 2018

Home Port

The map of what we did. Numbers indicate the number of seine sets made in each bay.

Under sail at the entrance to Kaguyak Bay.

Galactic at anchor in Rodman's Reach, with the wonderfully hospitable Lazy Bay cannery in the background.

The ship's people on the plane in Akhiok. Next stop, Kodiak, their grandmother, and a new school year.
God, how I love raising Alaskan kids.
Fox Bay
Bluff Point
The Rose 

Reefed down and sailing fast. Oh yes, and my 50th birthday.
Port Wrangell at the end of a windy windy day
Port Wrangell
High energy beach
The 40-knot blow
Picking berries, Kujulik Bay
The fruit of the land

More berry picking. Agripina Bay.
Butchering Dungeness

We got home a week ago.

Inevitably, we immediately got caught up in the swirl of town life. It's peak harvesting season here in the Gulf of Alaska. Berries need to be picked, fish caught, deer stalked. And if there's any time left before the rains return, house and boat could both use maintenance. Oh yes, and there's third and seventh grade to attend to, and the demands of careers that seem to forever need one thing or another from us.

This is a rich life, and one chapter always seems to be stepping on the toes of the one that came before. So no recap of the summer work just now. I'll get to that *soon*, along with some more about the actual biology we were doing. For now I'll just say that fitting two months of boat life into a town year seems to be a hell of a lot more work than full time boat living was, but we're all four of us ever so glad we did it.

Deer hunting up high. Elias wasn't so impressed by the number of does and fawns we saw (15) vs. the numbers of bucks (1).