Reading the North

December 29, 2012 

The Alaska Homesteader's Handbook: Independent Living in the Last Frontier

By Tricia Brown and Nancy Gates (Alaska Northwest Books, $18.95)

The blurb: More than forty pioneer types, ranging in age from mid-90s to mid-20s, offer useful instructions and advice for living off the land in Alaska.

Excerpt: "A big part of living off the land, and connection to the land, is food. Especially meat. I see a lot of people that come and spend time out and bring granola bars and bags of trail mix from Costco ... I feel like they're missing out on the connection.

Taking care of meat is something that is done poorly by most people. It's fairly straight-forward -- it's just skinning and gutting the animal, and keeping the meat very clean and dry. Then cooling it. And aging certain parts. I'm talking about parts you plan to cook as steaks and roasts -- from moose and caribou and musk ox. Animals like beaver and rabbit, goose, lynx, porcupine all generally are great fresh and cook well if they are fat."

Four Thousand Hooks

By Dean Adams (Outside Reading)

The blurb: This first-hand account opens as an Alaska fishing schooner sinks with the author at the helm. Working backward, Adams tells how he came to be a part of the ragtag crew in the '70s and how he came of age on the high seas.

Excerpt: "The impact jolted the old schooner. Timbers shivered down the length of the vessel. In that moment, I understood the elasticity of one hundred tons of boat and cargo.

"The collision had been sharp. Uncle Jack had told me, 'If we hit something ... like a log ... take the boat out of gear. That'll keep the propeller safe.' My book flipped out of my hands to the floor when I lunged for the engine control. The Grant slowed, cutting through the sea by momentum alone.

"Just outside the railing, a huge log passed by -- thirty feet long, stripped of bark, and spiked with hairy splinters. Waves sloshed over its back. Most of the log's mass was below the water's surface, like an iceberg.

"Freddy's head popped up within the shelter of the fo'c'sle companionway. The ship's cook looked riled. His eyes locked onto the log, then shot up to me inside the pilothouse. I gave him a nervous giggle that he couldn't hear, shrugged my shoulders, and smiled back with a look that said, 'Sorry about that.' "


Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News

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