Most of my adult life I have felt it was important to be somewhat self-sufficient. Not having to rely entirely on the stores and money to provide for all of mine and my family’s needs gives me a sense of security. My dream was to have my own homestead where I produced a lot of my family’s food and to have a sustainable, alternative energy source as well. About six years ago, my dream came true.
My Past Experience with Sustainability
My husband and I moved from the City to rural Oklahoma on 5 acres. On our 5 acres we had bees for honey, pigs that we raised and slaughtered ourselves, chickens for eggs and meat, rabbits for meat, milk goats, an orchard and a large garden. My husband learned to can our fruits and vegetables and we started storing our food. Besides for the food, we installed a wood burning stove, since we lived in the woods and fuel for it was abundant. We also had a backup generator ran by our propane tank and a water well.
If anything serious were to happen, we could sustain ourselves much longer than when we lived in the city.
While living that dream, our love for Alaska became stronger than ever. We eventually visited Alaska on our 20th wedding anniversary. We fell in love even more and decided to take an extended trip a few years later.
Even though we were sustainable in Oklahoma, we decided we wanted to move to Alaska for the adventure, sustainability and nature.
Sustainability in Oklahoma took an enormous amount of hard work. We would come home from work and milk goats, weed the garden, tend to the animals and much, much more!
We could never keep up with all the work and the maintenance needs of our home and land. It was enjoyable but very daunting most of the time! Especially since we both had full-time jobs and 3 kids to raise (and countless piglets!).
Being Sustainable in Alaska
Fast forward to the present and we have lived in Alaska for a little over six months. We are fishing, picking berries and prepping our yard to put in raised garden beds next year. This will lead us even closer to reaching our sustainability goals.
I believe it is much easier to be sustainable and reach our goals in Alaska, without the burden of keeping up with the animals and land.
To be sustainable in Alaska, all we must do is go fishing, hunting, pick berries and forage. There is an abundance of fresh healthy food literally in our backyard without having to maintain that backyard!
There is crab, halibut, salmon, rockfish, shrimp and more! We were lucky enough to obtain a boat soon after we moved to Juneau, so that fishing become much easier for us. Last week my husband went fishing and caught 2 large halibut.
Halibut is used a lot like chicken. You can put it in Mexican food, Italian food and so on. It takes on whatever trait you would like it to and is loaded with vitamin D which staves off MS which can be prevalent in the northern hemisphere thought to be brought on by a lack of vitamin D due to lack of sunlight.
Besides fishing, there is deer hunting on Admiralty and Douglas Island which are very close to Juneau. We are not residents yet, so that cost of getting a hunting license is very cost prohibitive but when we become residents, we will be able hunt 6 deer from Admiralty Island and 5 from Douglas Island.
Now, it is early August and it is the start of King Crab season, which we cannot participate in until we are residents as well, due to it being cost prohibitive. The salmon are now running, and the berries are abundant.
My husband and kids just went berry picking and hauled in a bunch of huckleberries, blueberries and some raspberries. We have picked salmon berries as well. There are also thimble berries, high bush cranberries and more. Besides for foraging for berries, we have planted raspberries in our yard and they have already started to fruit. Next year, I anticipate that we will have so many raspberries, we will not know what to do with them all.
Besides berries, there is so much more to forage in Southeast Alaska. My two middle children just attended a 4H Alaska Experience Camp where they learned what was edible, how to cook it, and how to survive in the harshness of Alaska.
They learned how to harvest kelp, which is loaded with nutrients and many people pickle. There are many mushrooms that can be foraged from the forest as well. There are also many other edible and medicinal plants.
I look forward to learning much more about what is available to us in Alaska.
To be sustainable in Alaska we have fished and picked berries and will put in raised beds next year. They will be much easier to maintain than the large overgrown garden we had in Oklahoma.
We also will be putting in a wood burning stove before Winter. This way, we can keep our electric bill down and be less reliant on the power grid. We live near the Tongass National Forest and there so many downed trees that we can harvest for sustainable heat.
The only issue with having a wood burning stove is that we live in Mendenall Valley, which is about 20 minutes from Downtown Juneau. At the top of the Valley, 5 minutes from our house, is the Mendenall Glacier. The Glacier is what carved out the Valley and is where a lot of Juenauites live now. The problem with living in the valley and having a wood burning stove is occasionally the weather conditions will push the smoke down polluting the valley and they will put a burn ban which includes wood burning stoves.
This does not happen often, but there are times when we will not be able to rely on our stove. With that said, it is worth it to put one in.
Why the Need for Sustainability?
I am so thankful that sustainability is a reality in Juneau Alaska and is embraced by many. I think it is important to be somewhat self-reliant not matter where you live, but I believe it is especially important to be self-reliant in Juneau.
Since Juneau is off the road system, if we have some type of disaster, we need to have reserves in place to sustain ourselves for awhile. I have been told that our ferries and planes are cut-off for some reason, there is only enough food on the grocery shelves for 3 days!
Since this is the case, we all need to have reserves for our families living in Juneau. Fortunately, most individuals that live here already provide a lot of food for themselves since the cost of food is high and there is abundance of food is at their disposal.
I am extremely grateful to live in the last frontier and the land of abundance and I thank God for all Alaska has to offer!