This week will mark one year since my wife and I moved to Alaska. It’s crazy to think that we left everything we knew with only what we could fit into our two vehicles, for a place neither one of us had spent much time in.
One theme has become apparent since moving here, and that is self-sufficiency.
Alaska revolves around the outdoors and self-sufficiency. It’s hard to miss the dip nets strapped to the tops of cars and the racks of caribou and moose in the backs of pickup trucks on the freeway. In the fall, trails are packed with people carrying bucketfuls of berries.
Being self-sufficient and living off of the land permeates the culture in Alaska. From the bush villages I’ve had an opportunity to visit, to eating fresh salmon on the river in Alaska backcountry, to hunting waterfowl in the suburbs of Anchorage, living off of the land is key to living in The Last Frontier.
When we moved in spring of 2021 we immediately started a garden in our yard. We planted a variety of vegetables and flowers that grew quickly in our near 24 hours of daylight. Our vegetables paired well with salsas and salads. The flowers provided a beautiful decor for our front porch.
Gardening also created a need to learn how to build raised beds and how to use various power tools. All of these were critical to learning how to live off of what we garden and harvest. Our garden has grown this year with more raised beds and more vegetables. We even started germinating seeds in the house. We are excited to harvest the fruits (or vegetables) of our labor!
Another aspect of our gardening was the start of our compost pile. We never liked throwing away fruit and vegetable scraps. We knew that the compost would help in our future gardening endeavors. Now, a year later, our compost pile is overflowing and ready to use in our garden this spring.
Wild Alaskan Berry Picking
My wife and I made an effort to pick wild berries once they were ripe. We are fortunate to live just down the road from a trailhead that leads to fields of berries. We brought home several bowls of assorted berries that we turned into jams and used in our pancakes.
Now that we are prepared and know where to go this year, we will be filling our freezers with even more!
As a fly fishing guide, I have the unique opportunity to spend a lot of time around fish. I had never witnessed the vast number of salmon that I saw last year. I made a goal to stock up on fish for the winter.
I recently learned of the abundance of pike in the Mat-Su Valley and their excellent table fare. The more fish that we can stock up on, the less food we have to purchase from the store. I will be making a greater effort this year to store even more fish this year.
Being a non-resident for my first 12 months in Alaska, I chose to not spend the money to hunt big game. It was my first year that I did not chase a large animal and failed to put meat in my freezer.
My wife and I have felt the effects of this over the winter, as we try to stay away from store-bought beef and opt for chicken and turkey. It’s expensive to purchase meat from the store and not as satisfying to walk out to our freezer and grab a piece of game.
We both prefer wild game and look forward to harvesting some this year.
Now that we have a year under our belts, we are better prepared to stock up on wild berries, fish and meat this year. Our garden is already underway and should be ready for harvest in a couple of months.
Moving to Alaska has taught us to become more self-sufficient.
Kyle Wilkinson is a host of The Young Guides Podcast. In the summer months he is a fly fishing guide for Bear Paw River Guides, and in the winter he slings Packaroons with the crew at Heather's Choice. His favorite type of fishing is cohos on big streamers.