Whether sifting through sand, or scrambling over a rocky shore, it's about finding treasures in every day. 




Did you just shudder? Become slightly nauseous?

Canning sockeye salmon with our homemade highbush cranberry ketchup and fresh chives.

Or did your shoulders relax? Did your mind wander out into the physical world?

When my sweetheart and I got to Prince of Wales Island this year there was no wifi service at the harbor. I knew about that in advance and embarked on the adventure anyway. Internet was available at the library, right? Well, sort of. You see, an online dictionary decided that “floats my boat” is a sexual term, so the library computer system was actually filtering out my website. No access. Also, the library internet was painfully slow. Glacial. The only place I have ever waited ten minutes for one page load just so that I could check my email. Yes, I timed it! That’s desperation. It isn’t always like that, but when it slows down it s…l…o…w…s……w….a---a….y…………d…o….w……n.

Sea lettuce is an edible seaweed. I dry it in a dehydrator, crumble it, and use it as a salty addition to soup or sprinkled on sweet potatoes.

My Internal Online Identity (IOI) squirmed. That part of me suddenly had a VERY limited creative outlet. The IOI is also a hungry beast, and wants it’s info-food regularly. I cast about for solutions, and found that if I drove 43 miles to another town I could access my website. That’s 43 miles one way, so it wasn’t happening every day. My IOI threw itself onto the floor kicking and screaming, so I started taking it out for walks. The IOI is not easily impressed if its input is not funneling through a screen. Just take a look at it: I-O-I. See?  It looks like a hole between two walls. The IOI thinks that it has (and is) the whole world, but really it is limited to communicating through a small, boxed-in portal. Granted, there is a LOT of info available, and the internet is a great thing, but I needed to quiet my IOI down for awhile. I headed to the woods, muskegs, and beaches.

King bolete (Boletus edulis)

My self-determined job for the summer was to fill the freezer with food for the winter. I started with stinging nettles, which are one of the early greens. We have found that our favorite way to eat them is as nettle soup.

Then I moved on to beach asparagus. I made up a salty-sweet beach asparagus slaw this year, and I’ll post that recipe in a couple of days.

I collected greens, sea cucumbers, berries, and edible mushrooms. I fished, and hunted. We ate very well through the season and the freezer filled up, too.

Fresh sea cucumbers don't look very appetizing.

Red huckleberries just before I picked them. :)

Red huckleberries just before I picked them. :)

Now make no mistake, a subsistence lifestyle is hard, physical work. A sunny day in the blueberry patch is a vacation compared to standing on a beach cleaning sea cucumbers on a driftwood log with cold, windblown rain slamming into the backs of our raingear. Climbing through rugged woods in search of edible mushrooms makes for tired legs and a sore back at the end of the day. Dragging a deer out of the woods all by my middle-age-woman-self and then figuring out how to get it into the back of the truck when I’m already exhausted isn’t something that I recommend for everyone. My husband is away at work for a month at a time, and subsistence gathering doesn’t stop while he is gone.

Sitka blacktail buck in velvet.

Somewhere in the middle of it all my IOI settled down. Also, along the way I noticed a few changes. My sense of hearing sharpened up. My vision expanded. Really! Spend a lot of time in the wilderness and your brain will process more of what that your eyes are taking in. Awareness is a good thing where you are not at the top of the food chain.

My sweetheart packing coho salmon into jars for pressure canning.

I wish I could say that I trimmed down, but I did get stronger. I’ll just say that packing that winter fat store around won’t be such a difficult chore. Subsistence foods are very healthy, and that isn’t where I get the extra weight. We’ll just keep my chocolate addiction as our little secret, okay?

I reconnected with other parts of myself that the IOI had tried to take over. I found time expanding, and used it to create jewelry, read a book, write a children’s story, and to stand still enough to let twin fawns walk right up to me. Now I have internet again, and my IOI gets to play. Happily it has grown out of the terrible twos, and understands boundaries a lot better.

Now I just have to figure out what to do about online open-source dictionaries giving every saying a sexual or violent connotation. Sigh. “Whatever floats your boat” used to mean “whatever makes you buoyantly happy”. Or maybe I have always been naïve…

Wishing you an expansive world,

Alaska Beachcomber