What my family eats: Food and gardening in colder climates

May's guest blogger, Ruth Lera, writes about hunting for moose and growing vegetables in the Yukon.

Photo by davidhills/iStockphoto.com

If you read the last blog post about my ode to the quiet morning you might have been left wondering something like, “Where did her 10-year-old son get a moose antler for his jewellery display, anyway?

Well, moose and moose meat, and everything that comes with it, are a big part of our life.

When I first came north I was more of a Buddha-loving vegetarian than a redneck hunter type, but it didn’t take long for these worlds to come together.

I met my life partner at a place I like to refer to as the Garden of Eden. A lush paradise of grasses and wild plants with a natural warm springs creek, pool, gardens and greenhouses galore. We were both staying in this paradise, me in a tipi and him in a wall tent. Our first conversation took place at the outdoor cook shack and was very confusing. I wanted to talk Buddha and he wanted to talk moose hunting.

Later that same day he was called on to shoot a squirrel that was tormenting the outdoor cook shack and, as we didn’t want the squirrel to go to waste, we ate it. There went my vegetarianism. When asked later how the squirrel tasted I have always reported that it was salty. I have now, years later, been informed that my life partner liked to put a lot of salt on the squirrel meat.

Although my children have never eaten squirrel, they do eat moose meat almost daily. These huge, beautiful animals are full of sustenance and organic goodness and we are grateful for the food they provide us. Each fall my partner goes out with a friend when the moon is full in September and through a mixture of enjoyable experience and downright dreadful, messy hard labour he returns with a moose cut into quarters. Half of the moose meat is ours and it feeds us through to the next September full moon.

To go along with the moose meat we really try to grow as many vegetables as we can. This is a difficult task in a climate where the soil is more like sand and the nights continue to be below zero, even in August.

My partner and I didn’t have Buddha or moose meat in common when we met but what we did have in a common was a passion for gardening. In most ways we are truly opposite (yes, they do attract). He is an introvert, I am an extrovert. I talk to people daily and sometimes he only visits with other people once a month. Most of our interests are very different and many of our conversations still sound like the original Buddha/moose hunting one that didn’t make sense so many years ago. But the one place we see eye-to-eye and work amazingly well as a team is gardening. The main theme — do more of it and grow more food, the most we can.

It is May now and spring has come to Yukon although it might not look like it to someone from the south. There are still snow patches on the ground and the nights are very frosty. We only have a few of last year’s rutabagas left in the fridge and maybe a frozen bag of spinach or two in the freezer from last year’s harvest. I find myself buying Californian food from the grocery store and it makes me sad.

But what gives me hope is knowing that, any day now, we will be feasting on spinach, kale and baby romaine thanks to our lovely greenhouse and lot’s of firewood.

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