Monday, March 30, 2009

Stori: didja eat yet?

It's only 6:30 in the morning and it's already daylight. It was only a few weeks ago that it wasn't light until 11 in the a.m. Once a season decides to change in Alaska, it doesn't mess around. By this time next month, darkness will no longer be an issue, it will be light 22 hours a day, with the other two hours merely being dusky. From one extreme to another with this place.

So one of the goals of my family is to be as self sufficient as possible. There are many reasons for that goal. A big reason is the fun of it. The thrill in the challenge of knowing we are more than capable of taking care of ourselves. How richly satisfying it is know we have provided almost every part of our food supply our selves. To live as closely as possible to the earth, to leave as small a footprint as possible.
If Alaska is some how cut off from the rest of the US for some horrifying reason, will we be able to sustain ourselves? A lot of people here live like the rest of the lower 48 does. Grocery shopping weekly or daily, relying on outside resources to provide services and products. What if we have another 911? Air travel is cut off, what if they decide to also cut off ocean traffic? There goes our two main modes of transportation in which we get the majority of our food. There is now only once existing dairy farm in Alaska, hard to get enough milk for a state over twice the size of Texas from one small family dairy. When folks are scrambling for canned goods and emptying grocery store shelves, we will be calmly continuing our lives as we have always lived. We are able to survive without grocery stores, or electricity. The fact is, we could become cut off from civilization and although we would experience some small discomforts, we could live quite comfortably and safely for quite some time.
Another reason is health and safety. We know there is no chemicals, hormones, or medicines in the food we produce ourselves. We drink our milk raw, which means it is not pasteurized. We know we do not give Molly, our cow, antibiotics or hormones to increase milk production. We know exactly what food we put into her, therefore we know what food we will get out of her. We are able to produce our own milk, butter, cream products, and cheeses. Our chickens are fed whole foods, and in the summer are free ranged which makes for a much better tasting and healthier egg. Our pork and beef is raised in the same way. Our animals are treated with kindness and respect. Their safety and comfort is a huge priority. They are pastured on our fields with only organic fertilizer used for the best crop of grass. The produce we grow is not treated with chemicals or pesticides. We naturally cure our potatoes before putting them in cold storage to lessen sprouting. Mass produced potatoes are normally treated with a chemical that prevents sprouting. My Dad and I built a cold storage room in the crawl space of his cabin several years. By controlling the temperature and humidity, we are able to keep enough potatoes fresh and usable for a full year. By the time we run out of last years' crop, this season's harvest is ready to dig. We keep any carrots and parsnips fresh for several months by packing them in leaves inside and storing them inside of coolers. This keeps the temperature cool and the humidity and light down. We freeze the wild berries we pick and are able to use them year round also. Besides the beef and pork we raise, we also use moose and sometimes caribou as a huge staple in our diet. Harvesting wild game is a good way to keep costs down and health options up. If a choice is made to eat meat, wild game is a wonderful option. Since we also butcher and process all of our own meat, the cost is kept way down. We cut, wrap, and freeze all we harvest. One moose will feed our family of 7 for more than a year.

With temperatures as extreme as they are in Alaska, it seems as if the summer is used to primary prepare for winter. Summer is when we maintain and improve our homes for warmth. Oil the house logs, insulate, and gather firewood. It is when we plan and grow our gardens not only to eat fresh but to can or freeze for winter food. Early spring is also the time our family butchers the years' supply of pork. Our sow pigs farrow out in January. After raising the piglets for 6 to 8 weeks, they are ready to be weaned and sold. The people that buy these weaner pigs raise them to butcher this fall as butcher hogs. My family learned a long time ago, that if we must eat pork, the best meat is not the butcher hog but the sow. After only having one litter and allowing their milk to dry up and pass one heat cycle, we butcher the sow for our supply. The quantity of meat is way more than what would be taken from a butcher hog. A butcher hog is finished out at around 230 pounds, a first litter sow can weigh around 300 to 500 pounds. So now that our piglets are weaned are being sold off, it's time to start preparing for butcher season. This is my most unfavorite part of our lifestyle but it is what it is.

As spring rushes towards us and with all the excitement and fun it brings, it's the reality that it is really just the season to prepare for the hard stuff that reminds me of where I live.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad I live in a place that has Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Ralph's, Top Foods and various daily farmers markets that carry all natural, locally grown, cage free, hormone free, free range, happy go lucky types of foods. If they didn't, I would starve. We don't eat things that come in boxes or contains stuff we can't pronounce. Ok, so maybe once in a while we'll have a bag of chips... but it's rare that they don't come from said grocery stores. I give you a million kudos for being so self-sufficient. I have to rely on others to feed me. lolol