Free Meat

Hello, all the way from Pilot Station, Alaska!

I’d like to start by apologizing for the lack of updates. I’ve faced a series of obstacles in¬†connecting to the Internet, and since I’m in a remote location, the only thing to do is be patient. I’ll do my best to catch you up over the next few posts.

Note to Mom: I know how you feel about dead animal pics, so you might not wanna read this ūüôā

Soon after our arrival in the village, we learned that Alaska Fish and Game leaves free fish by the dock twice a day. A little before 8:00 one evening, we hiked down to the Yukon River, bucket in tow.

cliff on Yukon River
It’s a beautiful river, by the way.

Yukon River dock

Then we waited for the boat.

boat coming in

Sometimes it brings lots of fish (60 one evening!), and sometimes it shows up empty. So we always make sure the locals get fish before we take any. Alaska Fish and Game will bring fish like this until the end of September.

I named my first salmon Loretta.

salmopn

Then Eddie, the husband of another new teacher, showed me how to gut and fillet it.

Eddie cutting salmon

My turn!

Brittney cutting fish

I looked like I’d murdered someone by the time I finished.

after cleaning a salmon

But I had about 10 servings of salmon.

salmon pieces

This past weekend, a student came to my door with a gift: all four legs of a moose!

moose quarters

His grandmother, one of the elders of the community, asked him to share his first moose of the season with the teachers. Jessica and I shared one leg.

cutting a moose

It took us about an hour to cut up. After splitting this leg with Jessica, I gave about a third of my half to some teachers who didn’t get a leg. And STILL, I ended up with 9 bags of meat!

Eddie estimates that one leg of a moose is more meat than an entire deer.

bagged moose

I ordered a meat grinder so I can use the meat like hamburger this winter.

Our Assistant Instructional Leader (AKA Assistant Principal) cooked some up right away. Then he, another teacher, and I brought the meal to the home of the student and grandmother who gifted us with moose. This is the customary way of thanking people for sharing with us.

I feel blessed to have so much meat in my freezer for the long winter ahead. Even more so, I feel blessed to live in a sharing community. In such a harsh and remote climate, cooperation is the only way to survive. At new teacher orientation, we were even cautioned not to encourage competition in the classroom because it goes against the values of our students and their families. The sharing nature of these people is just one of many characteristics I’m learning to love about the Yup’ik culture.

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Things People Say When You Tell Them You’re Moving to Alaska

If you’re planning a move to Alaska, be prepared — you’re gonna hear this a lot!

word bubble

What part?

Pilot Station.

What’s that close to?

St. Mary’s, Marshall, Mountain Village…

And what are those towns close to?

Nothing really. LOL!

Why?!

I’m young. I’m single. I want to. Why not?

 

Are you gonna live in an igloo?

Nope, I’ll live in a furnished trailer, leased by the school district. I’ll even have electricity!

Did you know they have six months of darkness and six months of light?

I’ve heard that, although the description is¬†not entirely accurate.

Have you ever been to Alaska?

Heh. Nope!

What do your parents think about this?

They’re used to me living in another state. They’re excited.¬†I think my dad is already planning my retirement!

How did you hear about your new job?

Through Alaska Teacher Placement, an online job board.

 

Are you gonna become an Eskimo?

Hmmm. I don’t think I’ll be able to change my ethnicity.

It’s so pretty there!

I’ve heard. Can’t wait to see for myself!

You’re crazy!

That’s very possible.

I’m jealous!

Sometimes I’m even jealous of myself!


That’s all I can think of right now. I’m landing in Anchorage in three weeks!

Sprout Beans: Practicing for Alaska, Part 2

before and after bean sprouts

A couple weeks back, I¬†mentioned that it’s difficult to get perishable foods in rural Alaska. Fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the rarest foods in village stores. To avoid getting scurvy, I thought¬†I should learn to grow some of my own food.

Bean sprouts are some of the easiest vegetables to grow in the winter¬†because they don’t require dirt or sunlight. I bought¬†small samples of 12 different bean varieties¬†from¬†Sprout House; the pictures in this post are of “protein mix,” made of mung beans and garbanzo beans.

I used this tutorial to turn a regular mason jar into a super awesome sprouting machine! I just traced the lid on some plastic needlework canvas and cut it out.

making bean sprouter

I put 1/3 cup of beans in the jar and filled the jar halfway with room-temperature water. Then I set the little circle of plastic needlework canvas on top of the jar and secured it with the ring. The beans had to soak overnight.

bean sprouts day 1

After¬†the beans were done soaking, I drained the water through that handy plastic lid. Then I rinsed beans with fresh water, drained again, and set the jar on its side. (This picture is a little deceiving because you shouldn’t set the jar in¬†a window; I just needed the sunlight to take a good picture!)

bean sprouts day 2

I rinsed and drained twice a day to keep the beans wet enough to sprout. After about 2.5 days, my jar was full. The transformation was amazing!

Here I stir fried my sprouts with some quinoa and canned white beans for a protein-packed dinner. I also plan to make lo mein by mixing them with ramen noodles and canned bamboo shoots. And of course, I can add them to a tuna sandwich on my homemade bread!

quinoa and bean sprouts

I’m not sure if this counts as “planting and harvesting a vegetable,” which is one item from my 30 Before 30 list. This was just a little too easy! Nevertheless, I felt proud to make a meal with the beans I had sprouted.

How would you eat bean sprouts?

Shipping to Bush Alaska

Confession time: I’m a lazy mover. It’s a sad fact, considering how many places I’ve lived. I tend to get rid of stuff rather than carry it somewhere new. (I even wrote a post about what I won’t be packing.) And worst of all, I tend to pack things in garbage bags rather than boxes, with little to no packing material.

So, moving somewhere only accessible by tiny plane is a challenge for someone like me. Furniture will be provided, but everything else must be mailed¬†in. And, since it will be hard to replace most items once I get there, I want to make sure nothing breaks. I mailed my first 18-gallon tote this past weekend, and this was the process…

First things first, heed this warning.

suffocation risk warning

It may be tempting to mail your children rather than splurge on their airline tickets, but this is not advisable.

Next, choose your packing material. For this tote, I used socks, oatmeal, and dry beans.

socks as packing material

socks as packing material

bean packing

Fill the tote.

full tote

Then have a friend drill holes in the tote, secure with zip ties, and add Gorilla tape. Thanks, Marc! (Fun fact: I had my Skype job interview in this very tire store. It was fun explaining to the interviewer why there was a fish on the wall behind me.)

adding zip ties

Finally, write your school address on the lid. Also make sure to number your totes and keep an inventory of what’s in each one. Tote 1 contains a combination of hard and soft materials:

  • scarves
  • towels
  • sweaters
  • jewelry
  • kitchen utensils
  • Pyrex
  • Microcooker
  • glasses
  • oatmeal
  • beans
  • socks

ready to ship

The lady at the Post Office didn’t look at me too strangely when I brought in this tote. She did, however, charge me $62 to ship 38 pounds at the slowest possible rate. Yuck! Thankfully, I’m only planning to send about five of these.

Please pray that everything arrives, intact, by August 6th!

 

Bake Bread: Practicing for Alaska, Part 1

For those of you who don’t know, I have a list of 30 activities I want do do before I turn 30. Baking bread from scratch is one item from that list. It just so happens that baking bread from scratch is a needed skill in Bush Alaska. (And by “it just so happens,” I mean that I totally created this list while looking for jobs up north, and therefore many of the activities — see the Northern Lights, go cross-country skiing, etc. — are specific to the 49th state. LOL!)

Due to slow shipping speeds, perishable food is hard to come by in the Bush. Therefore, unless I want to live on boxed macaroni and cheese, I’ll have to make a lot of food from scratch.

I thought it would be a good idea to practice baking bread and make sure I had a good recipe before I moved. Thankfully, the first recipe I tried was both easy and yummy.

rawbread

Also, I should mention that it makes a LOT!

bread

And I ate it with this yummy strawberry butter, which I’ll probably NOT be able to make in Alaska.

robpaulaThis bread recipe will work well in Alaska because the extra loaves can be frozen until I’m ready for them. But for this practice round, I got a little excited and made all four loaves to share with my friends…

Like Rob and Paula, a couple from my church who retired from teaching in Nenana, Alaska.

If you’re interested in learning more about the availability of food in Alaska, check out Alaska From Scratch. I also have a Pinterest board of recipes I can make using rural Alaska’s limited groceries.

What I Won’t Be Packing

It’s normal to purge your “stuff” before a move, but the purge before a move to rural Alaska may be more extreme. There are a few things that most movers would keep, but I will be getting rid of…

My Car

All roads lead to Rome, but no roads lead to Pilot Station. So, I won’t have much use for a car! I’ll be selling Sylvia Plath (my 2009 Honda Civic) at the end of July. I might replace her with a snowmachine or ATV when I get to Alaska. I think I’ll name it Desdemona.

Furniture

There’s not a lot of real estate or rental property in rural Alaska, and air delivering¬†large items, such as¬†furniture, gets expensive. Therefore, most rural Alaska districts lease¬†furnished¬†housing to their teachers. According to my district’s website, housing is “furnished with sofa, recliner, dining table/chairs, box spring/mattress, dresser, running water” — that’s not always the case in Alaska! — “washer/dryer, refrigerator/stove, and freezer.” So, I won’t be bringing my own.

Pots and Pans

toteHave you noticed how awkward it is to pack these¬†items? All those concave surfaces and stick-out handles! I’ll be sending my stuff to Alaska in¬†18-gallon totes. Each costs about $50 to ship USPS, uninsured. It would be wasteful to spend that kind of money on a box that’s half empty because it holds oddly shaped things.

This is a matter of personal preference; I’m sure many teachers ship their pots and pans. But mine are all hand-me-downs; it’s the curse of those of us who didn’t get married, and thus, never had a wedding shower (LOL)! I can get a new set¬†with free shipping for the same price as shipping my old set.

Bedding

This is mostly a matter of timing. I have a few options for getting my stuff to Alaska:

  1. Ship it six weeks ahead so it’s ready when I get there.
  2. Ship it less than six weeks ahead and wait for it to arrive.
  3. Bring it with me on the plane.

The problem with bedding is…I can’t really go six weeks (or a day) without¬†it, but I also don’t want to waste precious luggage space with the bulky stuff. So I’ll have new bedding shipped to the village ahead of me.

newbedding

PRETTY!!!

That’s what I’m getting rid of! Anyone wanna take some stuff off my hands? Anyone wanna BUY MY CAR?!

…No?

Well, maybe next time I’ll post about what I¬†will be bringing to Alaska.