Aug 8, 2009
Victoria and Roland Briggs operate Ugashik Wild Salmon Company, a small fish processing plant started by Rollie’s mother in 1961. Ann and Segundo have been working there this summer and Vic and Ann have been sharing glimpses of commercial fishing in Ugashik.
The Briggs employ a small crew each summer, one of the few employment opportunities in the area. It’s not easy.
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As we hit the mid point in our summer fishing season, with the heaviest part of the actual fishing behind us my thoughts turn to getting ready for winter.
You see, for those who are used to a real spring, summer and fall, we pretty much have only two real season, as far as I am concerned, in our part of Alaska, frozen and not frozen.
Since ground can stay frozen into July and then can enter a phase of at least freezing the top 6” or so in October you have to think ahead.
Also in these plans for the winter comes getting in groceries that can easily freeze when mailed in. We are lucky in that we keep a ‘warm room’ in our warehouse where we pack our glassed salmon all winter for customers. It has a little extra room that we have made into a storage area for such things as food, latex paint and other items that do better not freezing. We are lucky in that we have the room to stock ahead some. Not the whole winter but at least some.
My tiny village and the one next to us, Pilot Point, do not have even a basic grocery store, although Pilot Point did at one time years ago and talk of trying to do one again.
We do have two small grocery stores in the hub town 70+ miles away we can get things in from BUT they have been written up as being one of the most expensive in the US!
Last I heard, in April of this year at a meeting, we have an average cost of 300+% of the costs of Anchorage, for basics of food and fuel, in our area of Western Alaska!!
With all that in mind I try to think ahead and get at least basic groceries stocked up some while we are running planes back and forth to ship out our fresh fish in the summer. IF we watch our costs right we can sometimes get supplies in almost as cheap as mailing them but much faster and without the risk of freezing.
As Ann and I had some basic food supplies to start the summer we had time to do a little planning for what was needed to get us going for when our crew got bigger and meals became an event in need of planning, not just rifling through the cupboard when hunger pains drove us there.
Out came the Costco “Special Orders” catalog or as we view these – BUSH ORDERS.
Each of us did a ‘wish list’ then plugged in the food needed to accomplish the menu plan Ann had developed THEN the CHOPPING of items started!!
(I don’t care who you are doing a $10,000 food shopping spree scares you, so you CHOP, even if you have to come back later and order more.)
Of course we could have saved part of this by not doing the ‘wish list’ part but everyone needs a chance to ‘window shop’!
After determining what we MUST have and then what it is still fairly necessary we go through one more time to chop items that just don’t make sense in MY book. For many it would be different but things like soda, most quick bake/cook, and lots of ‘snack foods get dropped.
When I look at the cost of the items that it is not usually what stops me but the cost of the freight to get them in. Of course it also gets to be nuts when it takes 5 boxed pizzas to feed the crew and at $15-$20 each by the time they get here you look at skipping them.
I do not care how many times I do this the costs still are hard to get used to. When it stretches in the thousands and you know it will only be enough for a month or so you think hard on each item.
We finally get our Costco order done and faxed in – all five sheets of it and hope they have most of it in stock.
Making sure airline knows it is coming. That the frozen and refrigerated stuff gets stored properly and ultimately hoping it all gets to us in one piece.
Crew is excited as it means fresh salads, fruit, veggies and more variety. They also have any ‘goodies’ they wanted added to the order coming.
The plane arrives and it is hurry up to unload the plane so fish can be loaded before they get too warm and the plane leaves. No matter what, fish come first as we only get a few WEEKS for this income to be earned!
It takes Ann, Gundo, my hubby and I two days to get stuff sorted, stored and put away.
When I read people’s comments about how families should just order their year’s supply of food ahead and plan better when we started the Food Drive this past year, I just shake my head. (Thinking of Nick Tucker’s family with around a dozen people!) Yes, we do some subsistence food gathering too.
It took Ann and I all of this to get less than a month’s worth of food and people expected others to do this for a year? I truly wonder how many could do this for their family and not have to run to the grocery for a whole month, let alone a year.
Gets me thinking!