Thursday, June 26, 2008


No, nothing crazy -- just our salmon! Last year our fish weren't done drying before we took off to Indiana, and so I missed the smoking part of the dryfish process. This year I made my travel arrangements for later, plus Tuluk and I decided to smoke the fish earlier so that they will be slightly softer than fish that has been all the way dried before being smoked. Our original plan was to smoke them down at our camp, but it's been pretty windy and that might have proved challenging... so Tuluk's mom generously let us use her smokehouse. Here are some pictures of the process:

First, down at camp we cut some willow bushes and peeled some of the bark, which lends a bitterness to the smoke.
Then we hauled all the fish to town, to the smokehouse behind Tuluk's mom's house, and we carried the fish inside, as Esther is showing us in this picture.

Then we hung the fish on the racks inside the smokehouse -- Tuluk laughingly said, "What are you doing taking a picture of me doing this women's work?":). Well, since he showed me how this year, I can do it myself next year... :)
Then we lit the fire...And waited for it to catch...and then it got too smoky to take any more pictures until the fish were done! Over the fire was a piece of tin that kept the fire from growing too large, so that the main output was smoke. It took 3 days of constantly (or almost, anyway) checking the fire, keeping it smoking, adding wood (except at night we left it alone) and by the third morning the fish were done and ready to be put away. Tuluk and I are a great team processing our stuff -- he got a vaccum sealer, so I cut up the stuff, put it in the bags he's getting ready, and he seals it up. Here are some pictures of me processing the fish in our kitchen:

Surrounded by all our food ready to put up for the winter in the freezer! It feels great to accomplish all this, especially since Esther and I are leaving Hooper Bay on Thursday for 3 months, to stay in Indiana with my mom and wait for our new baby. It's been an awesome June, and hope you enjoyed watching our process also.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Fabulous Fishing!

On a nice, calm day this past week, Tuluk couldn't find a fishing partner to go driftnetting (exactly what it sounds like, to set a net out from a boat and drift while you wait to catch salmon), and so we convinced him to take us out on the bay -- we had a great time and caught some awesome fish! Then we took them to camp and cut and hung them up on our drying rack. Here are pictures of the whole process:
Tuluk setting the net out from the side of the boat.
Esther is so excited to be out on the bay, singing to the ocean and the birds and the fish -- here she is waiting to see if any salmon get caught in our net.
These guys are caught....

Bringing in the catch.
Tuluk and Esther on the Dock with our day's catch in a gunny sack.
Esther showing us the difference between chum salmon and king salmon -- the kings have black spots on their tails (hard to see in this photo) and hooked mouths. They really are rich!

Cutting Fish:
First, cut off the head and out the guts (we'll show you what we did with the heads later).
Split open the Fish along either side of the backbone with a Kinaluq -- in most parts of Alaska, it's called an "Ulu" but in Hooper Bay we use a more specific term. It's a rounded-blade "woman's" knife. This one I'm using was made in Hooper Bay by expert Donald Tall, and Tuluk got it for me for Mother's Day. How nice!
Next, lay the fish open, slicing down the sides of the ribs so that the side of the fish lays out into one flat piece (the two sides are still connected by the tail).
Make cuts through the flesh down to, but not through, the skin on each flank, and as a final step, stretch the skin so there is space between the cuts. Cut out the middle, with the ribs and spine, so that there are two flanks hanging, still connected by the tail.
Brine the fish in your special mixture -- some folks use sea water, some use spices, some use brown sugar...I like just salty water.
Hoorah! Esther and I are proud of our work cutting fish, and feel we've accomplished a lot when we look behind us at our fish rack, with the fish hanging there.

Making Ooksook:
So now we get to the really gooey part: how to make "stinkhead" fish by putrifying them dug into the ground for a couple weeks. Although it sounds totally gross, there are many northern cultures who make this delicacy; it's akin to the Norweigian "Lutefisk" I believe it's called. I actually have never tried it, but I'm never opposed to trying something out, and I like it that the fish heads don't go to waste. Tuluk loves the stuff. Supposedly it smells horrible but tastes sweet and delicious...we'll see. But here's what we did:Fish Heads in a gunny sack awaiting their "burial". Digging the Ooksook hole in the sand. Dropping them in...Burying them (For a couple weeks or so, depending on the kind of ground they are in -- it's sand where we buried these, so they will be ready sooner than other kind of soil).
Marking the spot so we don't forget where they're buried!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Clam Chowder Camp Date

Tuluk dug a bunch of clams for us, and then we cooked them into clam & beluga whale skin chowder at the camp. Here are pictures from our fun day & evening:
Esther is holding an oosoonglook, a kind of sea worm, very strange creature, that lives in the mud with clams. The sink behind her is full of the clams from the day.

Esther was very interested in watching the clam-cleaning process.
We took the clams down to the camp and I put together the yummy, creamy soup. Tuluk waits for it to cook over the fire (campfire food is always the best!)
Esther is ready to eat!
She likes it!
"Come on, Mom..."
We stayed the night at the camp, and in the morning, my cute sleeper awoke happy:

And she's not the only one who loves camp-- the puppies are in heaven. They're getting big but still cute, and Draco has been victorious in his struggle against mange, thanks to awesome vet Dr. Keely in Valparaiso, IN, so all is well in dog world. The dogs don't even want to come home when we drive away -- we have to carry them or offer treats to get them to run with us away from camp. :)

Draco even found a cute hiding place:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back at Camp!

Hoorah! Although it's been such a late spring and I've been counting the seconds till we could get out there on the tundra, the day arrived a week before I got out there last year, since school got out on time this year. We are outfitted with a fab new tent and new ideas and plans. Getting stuff set out and ready
We've also got the puppies to teach about camping and the beach. We set up the tent first thing Saturday morning, got our stuff together Saturday, and spent our first night Saturday night. Almost set up! Fab, right? :)
Although my belly is getting big with the new addition soon to join our family (another girl due in mid-August!) I was determined to still camp, and with a new inflatable mattress and foam, etc, I was very comfortable and slept well -- accompanied by bird sounds galore, as well as the sound of the surf not far away. The pups slept near the tent most of the night, but it does seem that they went out adventuring at some point --cute.

The next morning we had a great beach exploration and even found a live, in-shell hermit crab! The dogs totally wanted to eat it, and Esther ran away shrieking at first, but we all got used to it and got some great pictures. Esther was soon on to what we were going to feed it... but we left it where hopefully it will not get eaten immediately by all the shorebirds flying around. It was a great start and we have a whole month left to experience it... :)!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Esther's First Eggs

Esther found her first duck eggs on the tundra, on the way to our camp this past week. While we were driving the honda on the path by a large pond, a mallard duck flew up from the reeds on the edge. Upon inspection, we found a nest with two eggs. She was thrilled! Here are some very cute pictures of her with her discovery:

She wanted to know: Why didn't the mother duck stay with her baby eggs? I told her that the mother thought she could draw us away from the eggs if she flew away from her nest. What a cute thinker girl. :)
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