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05-19 Sarah Raplee – Riff on 7 yrs. Of SPAM & a Giveaway

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Lost Arts; Food for a Year

by Tam Linsey
When I go to a party, I inevitably find myself surrounded by people who are intrigued by what I do. Not my writing (they are interested in that, too, but their eyes glaze over if I branch into plot points or characterization) but my other activities.

I am obsessed with food.

Growing, gathering, and preserving food.


That's a tall order for someone living in Alaska. Yet also a necessity, I think. We ship in over 90% of our food and other everyday supplies. If there were ever a worldwide - or even nationwide - catastrophe, the population up here could be in trouble. Several years back, an avalanche closed the road to Girdwood, a ski resort only a few miles north of Anchorage. This road is also the only road connecting Southcentral Alaska to the rest of the state. With no port, and bad weather keeping planes from flying, thousands of people trapped there were running out of food and fuel. Crews worked desperately to clear the highway, and luckily no one starved, but it was eye-opening.

The event was a microcosm for the entire state of Alaska.

Wall o' water around a zucchini plant
I raise as many vegetables as I can in our short summer. We officially have 75 growing days in my area, and are lucky if we hit eighty degrees even one day during a season. So cool weather crops do best, although I've been known to attempt corn and pole beans using season extenders. The broccoli in the freezer will last us the year, along with peas, Swiss chard, onions, carrots, potatoes, etc.
Seedlings  - yes, that is 2 feet of snow outside!
I start all my seedlings in the house in March, and use a greenhouse to grow tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers.

Kiwi fruit
I also have an orchard with apples and cherries I grafted myself, and a huge trellis of hardy kiwi vines (yes, you CAN grow fruit in Alaska!) I have a couple of experimental pear trees from the former Soviet Union seedling project, as well, but they have yet to produce fruit. And we love to go pick the wild berries growing all over the state.

An assortment of jarred foods
I make beer, cider, jam, tomato sauce, fermented pickles and sauerkraut. You name it, I may have tried to make it.

This past year, my son raised three hogs and a steer, which we butchered ourselves two weeks ago. Our two chest freezers are blessedly full. In the past, we’ve filled our freezer with everything from moose, to caribou, to mountain goat. Plus dozens of salmon we dip-net out of the Kenai River every year.
The Kenai River dip-net line

To me, this stuff is just ... everyday life. But people want to talk about it. Long past my husband's "wink-wink, nod-nod" that it is time to leave the party.

What do you find yourself talking about at a party?

© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.


Sarah Raplee said...


I love reading about your self-sufficient life. When we lived in Alaska, we made jelly and syrup and stocked the freezer with halibut and venison. We loved to go clamming and crabbing, too.

As for parties, I like to share paranormal experiences and hear other guests' stories of how the Unexplained has touched their lives.

Judith Ashley said...

Wow, Tam - I'm so impressed that you have time to write! When I did my own baking, freezing and caning the summer months were packed full with putting up fruit (and I wasn't growing it all myself!).

My preference is not to be at a party, but when I am (or at a conference) I make an effort to find out more about the people I'm with. Not always successful but that is my Intention when I start out.

Tam Linsey said...

Sarah, that sounds really fun - I'd love to hear some of your "unexplained" experiences.
Judith, I'm not a party person, either, but sometimes we just find ourselves there. Or at another social event. A conference is a good example! If I am not immediately talking to someone, I often find myself people watching and eves-dropping. Gives me great character and situation ideas!

Julie Wright said...

I made my first jams last year from my aprioct tree that FINALLY bore fruit and am still busting with more pride over that than the novel I had published at the same time. I am seriously impressed with people who are self sufficient this way. I'm learning, but it's been a slow process for me. For parties, most people want to talk about my writing, or the little country store I own. I'm really not that interesting otherwise. :)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Tam,
Great blog. With all that gardening, home cooking, preserving etc. you could be a heroine in one of my historical novels.
I have to say Alaska is a place that I have always wanted to visit because it is one of the last frontiers, so to speak.



Tam Linsey said...

Julie, congratulations on those apricots! I have yet to be able to get a tree to survive, let alone produce! You must get great opportunities to meet new "characters" for your books in a small country store.

Margaret, I cut my teeth on Laura Ingalls Wilder, and she is likely the reason I started out being so interested in "homesteading" type activities. I love historicals that include tidbits of survival information.

Thanks for chiming in!