Sarah's 20 Things you Learn While Living in Alaska

My amazing friend, Heather, posted a link on Facebook this morning, 29 things you learn while living in Alaska. Check it out, it's a fun read but it got me thinking. If that's the best one can do after even a year in Alaska, you're not doing it right.

The Last Frontier is a place like none other. Anyone can come here and live an ordinary life but why would you? It would be a perfect waste of a perfectly extraordinary place.

So here are Sarah's 20 Things you Learn while Living in Alaska

1. The True Meaning of Subsistence
Living in the city, I didn't know the first thing about subsistence living. Need groceries? Go to the store. In Alaska, it's not that easy. First of all, much of the goods we get are shipped in and are priced and preserved accordingly.

Don't have the skills? Enroll yourself in a few BOW courses. Becoming and Outdoors Woman
workshops are put on by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. ADF&G has courses for families and kids. Worth every minute.

2. How to Perfectly Fillet a Fish
New to fish filleting? That's okay. Sharpen your knife, find the crustiest sourdough you can find and ask for a lesson. After your first subsistence salmon run, you'll have it nailed.

3. The Value of a Good Sharp Edge
Corb Lund, one of my favourite Canadian singers said it best, "A good sharp edge is a man's best hedge against the uncertain vagaries of life." That couldn't be further from the truth.

4. Not only to like Reindeer but Caribou, Moose, Deer and all sorts of Fish and Fowl
The standard beef, pork and chicken will slowly get replaced by wild Alaskan fish and game. It just might ruin you.

5. To Cook all sorts of new dishes with all sorts of new ingredients
New to Alaska? Go buy yourself a copy of Cooking Alaskan by Alaskans. At first you'll cringe at some of the recipes but as the years roll by, they'll start to look appealing. I confess, I'm still not ready to eat milt. I have eaten walrus, though. I get points for that, right?

6. You don't need a lot of stuff but you do need the right stuff
It won't do to have four or five cheap winter coats. You need one good one. One very good one. And you won't judge any friend who's patched theirs with duct tape. Up here, you learn to acquire quality goods and use them to their fullest.

7. It Pays to have a Useful Dog
Milton isn't just funny, he's useful. He can haul things in packs, he can retrieve ducks, he can scare off bears and alert me to moose in the area. If you have a dog in Alaska, it serves you well to learn how it communicates and teach it some useful skills. Their lives and yours will be better for it.

8. The PFD is Lovely
We Alaskans get a PFD check every year. Yup, we get paid to live here. While a lot of people rush out to spend theirs on vacations and snow-gos, it can be a lot of help to those who need it. It's expensive to live here and that check can come in handy when the oil bill's due.

9. To Keep an Eye on the Clock
With so much sunlight in summer, it's easy to forget to cook dinner or find yourself awake at one in the morning wondering if its bedtime any time soon. When I first got here, I set my alarm for bedtime.

10. To Shed your Old Notions
There is a lovely woman who comes to my son's baby group. She's from Barrow and she's raising her grandson here in Homer. I love talking to her. Not only is she fun to be with, I learn so much about her culture and traditions.

Her son lives up in Barrow and is one of the town's whaling captains. The Alaskan in me knows that she beams with pride for her son for a reason. His work will get that village through winter as it's done for centuries. I hope to visit her family in the far north one day, hopefully during the whale hunt. The old Vancouverite in me would never have looked forward to that.

11.To become an Online Shopping Genius
We don't have many of the goods and services of the Lower 48 but sometimes we need them. Being Alaskan means knowing how to get what you need as quickly and cost effectively as you can. Forget Christmas, I think the longest lines at bush post offices happen when the Cabela's master catalogue drops.

12. That Kids are Stronger and more Capable than you Think
My kids hunt, fish and camp like little pros. They go out in all weather and love it. An acquaintance's three year-old hiked a 7 hour, 3,100 foot trail a few weekends back. With a little help from friends and parents, he had a great time!

13. Life's more Fun without Cable
We haven't had cable TV in years. It's made us approach our evenings differently. After dinner's not a time for sitting and tuning out, it's time to go boating, hiking, fishing, flying, visiting...anything. Even better: not everyone has cable so you're in good company.

14. Woman's Work is Anything But
In Alaska, you'll find women working chainsaws and log splitters, stalking moose and reeling in fish. You'll find women aircraft and engine mechanics, bush pilots, wilderness guides and boat captains. Alaska's an amazing place to raise a daughter.

15. How to be a Friend
Alaska taught me how to really be a friend. Not all of us live near family so we become family. We show up for each other, we support each other and take care of one another.

16. How to Drive your Car
Alaska throws all sorts of obstacles at drivers: snow, ice, moose, white outs, driving rain, city driving, dangerous curves, slow moving RV's, rock name it. Driving in Alaska isn't for the feint of heart. You become a more aware and responsive driver as a result.

17. To keep your wits about you, always
Alaska is an expert at pitching curveballs. Whether it be a change in weather, a fault in your gear, a bear in your house, a fast flowing tide, a long winter power outage... things can and do go wrong up here. More often than not, you need to rely on yourself to get you through.

18. Respect for our Natural Resources
Alaskans are graced with plenty. We want to keep it like that.

19. We really do like espresso
Espresso's everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Happily for us, it's not all Starbucks.

20. You get out of this place what you put into it
The air is fresh and the opportunities are endless. Only you can create your Alaskan story. Make it epic!!

The article I read had 29 things, so I feel compelled to come up with 9 more...

21. There's no bad dog like an Alaskan bad dog
I wish the worst thing Milton's done was pee on a rug or eat a designer show. Some of my bad dog's highlights: eating Miss Carolyn's chickens, attempting to bring dead moose in the house, eating and disgorging snowshoe hares on my carpet, feasting on fish guts in the harbour then barfing them in Hunter's truck, eating the dirt out of my garden while sitting on my tomato plants...oh the list goes on.

22. How to grow something delicious
Alaskan summers are short and intense. In the midst of all the fishing, hiking, climbing, kayaking, surfing... all the things that we get up to, most of us manage to coax something tasty out of the ground. Sometimes it's rhubarb or the tiny and intensely tasty Sitka Strawberries. Could be potatoes, kale, or lettuce. We grow something, anything. Growing  here makes me feel like I'm mastering the place, just a bit.