Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium)
The fireweed is blooming here. Alaskan folklore has it that when fireweed blooms at its very tip then winter is two weeks off. In my experience this holds pretty true. Any snow that settles on the mountains after the fireweed is blooming will be called “termination dust” meaning the termination of summer. The blooming of the fireweed and the passing of the summer solstice has caused a flurry of activity among me and my fellow Alaskans. There is a lot to be done before winter comes and the pantry must be filled. Many Alaskans, myself included, live a semi-subsistence lifestyle. Which means we are busy fishing for our aliquot of salmon to freeze and smoke and we have started berry picking in earnest although the blueberries are still tart. We don’t have fruit trees up here but what we lack in them we make up for in wild berries: blueberries, nangoon berries, raspberries, low & high bush cranberries, cloudberries, to name a few. And I've started carrying a canvas bag with me on my dog walks for the mushrooms we find along the way, some of which I eat fresh, others which I carefully dry and use throughout the winter.Silver/Coho Salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
Every locale in town has begun to smell like fish; at this point it is the smell of fresh fish that has recently been caught and cleaned. Later on it will smell like rotten fish as the carcasses of salmon begin to pile up on the beach after spawning. Even the parking lot of the supermarket smells so strongly of fish that I have trouble thinking about vegetables and fruit. I haven’t gone to get my winter’s supply of salmon or halibut yet. I’m not sure why, I think it’s because I’m lacking a co-conspirator. It’s a lot of work fishing a winter’s worth of supplies and then prepping it for storage. I’m thinking over my options: dip-net on the Kenai? Fish-wheel on the Gulkana? Snagging on Prince William Sound? All are viable options but part of me is thinking, I’m starting to get sick of salmon after 7 years of it (eaten at least 3 times a week). That thought is almost tantamount to treason in this part of the world so don't tell, will you?