Thursday, October 31, 2013

Well, Here's Something I Never Thought I Would Say...

I am tired of waiting for snow.

Yep, you read that right. 

Not that I want there to actually BE a lot of snow on the ground (and all the extra work that snow would both prevent and cause) but because I had planned to start our Alaska Food Experiment when we got our first sticking snow.

This fall has been very, very wet and warmer than usual, and that means our first snowfall still hasn't come. According to the forecast I just checked, it's going to be a week before there's a chance of snow, and they are saying it will be mixed with rain, so it won't stay around.

Thus, I've decided to start the Alaska Food Experiment on November 1, snow or no snow. It's my party and I can start early if I want to, right?

Jim and I will be eating only local Alaska-grown foods until we run out of what we've stored up this summer. My goal is two months. There will be a few small exceptions and I'm going to post the "rules" and exceptions in the next day or two so everybody knows what we're doing.

Alaskans are already familiar with the concept of the Alaska Food Challenge, when a group of people in the Anchorage area ate only local Alaskan foods for a whole year. It will be different for Jim and me. I can't exactly turn my whole yard into a garden and I don't have a greenhouse. I have a tourist-driven job that doesn't leave a lot of time to forage or fish. So, I've decided to call ours The Alaska Food Experiment. Instead of having the goal of eating local for a whole year and challenging myself to make it happen, I'm going to experiment to see if it can be done, for people who work long hours and have no real gardening skills. Can it be done if we don't have a greenhouse? Can it be done if we don't forage? Can it be done if we don't fish? 

Through the farmer's markets, gardening trade groups, a CSA subscription and trading for fresh eggs, the freezers have filled up with veggies and fruit, both wild and cultivated. Jim bought half of a locally-raised pig and half a cow so we have pork and beef, and there is moose as well. Neighbors with a boat shared their halibut. We have our own poultry and eggs, plus some chickens and a turkey we bought from the feed store. And of course there are the goats providing milk, butter, cream and cheese. 

I think two months is a do-able goal. And it all starts November 1!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Meeting An Original Member of the Alaska Food Challenge

Last month, my friend Patty and I went to town to hear Saskia Esslinger speak on her experience of eating only Alaska-grown foods for an entire year. She and her husband converted most of their yard into gardens and greenhouses, hunted and fished for their meat, and foraged for fruit and mushrooms. Even though their original Challenge is long since over, they still eat mostly Alaskan foods and plan to continue.

Her group had a pledge to grow as much as they could themselves; support local growers for the things they did not grow themselves; use up spoilable pantry items but don't replenish them if they are not local; make an exception for 'small carbon footprint items' (this is where she made her exception for leavening ingredients); and if someone invited them out to eat, they could go, but to make up for eating a non-Alaskan meal, they would invite other people to their house and feed them an all-Alaskan meal to balance things out.

Saskia's year-long challenge started on the Summer Solstice. I decided to start ours at the first sticking snowfall because it would give me the entire summer to prepare. I don't have a greenhouse or garden, so my produce would come from local growers, and that meant weekly trips to the farmer's markets and my Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription to a nearby farm.

Originally, I thought I would only be able to obtain enough extra produce to get us through a couple of weeks of local eating, but as the summer went on, I met more and more growers and found more and more sources of goodies. Now my goal is to eat only local foods for two months - longer if we can, but two months during the winter is the goal. Two months is nowhere near a year-long endeavor, of course... If I manage to do a longer experiment next winter, though, Saskia gave me a lot of new things to consider.

This morning, there was frost on the ground and ice in the puddles. I don't think it will be much longer before Jim and Deanna's Alaska Food Experiment begins!

Me and Saskia. Thanks to Patty for the photo!