Friday, June 17, 2011

Midnight Sun

So, I finally, after all these years figured out why we have a midnight sun in Kotzebue. I mean, I have worked and played and slept in the sun but last night it dawned on me.

Midnight Sun

We have a midnight sun because this is our largest harvest season besides the fall time, when we hunt Caribou and Moose. This is our Sea Mammal harvest time and when you get 1 or 2 or 3 ugruk, you have to stay up ALL FREAKING night to take care of it.

My favorite Ulu

Especially when its just you. And don't even get me started on BELUGA! They are HUGE!

I remember a few years ago, my "uncle" (he's not REALLY my uncle, but we call him UNCLE!) called me and said, "I got your beluga."

Huh??!?!? You got my WHAT!?


Junie pulling up a Beluga.

He got me a beluga. And it was ready to be taken care of. Right now. At 8:00 at night. After my softball game. Immediately.

Kaisa cutting Ingalauqs.

So, like a good little Eskimo, I went 8 miles out of town and fully expected my husband to be out there with me cutting and gutting and cutting and cutting some more until we were done. Well, he was a medevac pilot at that time and GUESS WHAT. BRIIIIiIIiIIiIiiiiIING! Phone call.

Our tools of choice. All handmade by my grandfather, dad or husband.

Medevac to Anchorage. That means a 6 hour trip and he had 30 minutes to get there. So, he did what any other guy would do. He left me there. Alone. With a knife. And my softball shoes.

Rishon learning to cut with his Tatta.

To cut my beluga. By MYSELF. And I did. for 8 straight hours I cut and cut and cut, until someone happened by at 8 am and said, "Hi need help!?" I said, "DOES IT LOOK LIKE I NEED HELP!?"

Paulette Kavraq'ing (Yes I just put an English suffix on an Eskimo word!)

So he called my aunts and they all came rushing. Like family should IF I had a cell phone to call them.

Shon and Tatta Junie cutting Beluga.

Anyway, every year my other "Uncle" gets me an Ugruk. My husband can't "hunt" marine mammals and I'll be damned if I am not eating that stuff. So, they hunt for me. Cause we do that, we take care of each other.

Beluga in a truck.

This year was no exception. My uncle called and "the Ugruk Fairy had arrived." With an 8 foot MONSTER!!! Dangit and I still had to work. And cook and take care of my family.

Kookie cutting Ugruk.

THUS THE REASON we have a Midnight Sun. Because when the kids aren't asking questions and flies aren't buzzing around us and work doesn't beckon, then we can ENJOY the midnight sun at 2:00 am and cut our Ugruk in PEACE!

Maddie cutting Ingalauqs. (Seal intestines)

I love the midnight sun. I can sleep in the sun, shade, dark, light, floor, couch, chair, plane, work (oops) thanks to the sun. I can sleep anywhere. People take years to get used to it, but not me. When the sun is out I have more energy (to cut for six hours a night and then get up and go to work the next morning) and I'm not too tired! (Usually!)

Seal Intestines, ready to be boiled, after they're hung for a day.

So, I figured that a long time ago, before full time jobs for mom's they stayed up and kavraq'd and cut blubber and stirred their oil and dried their meat and hung their muktuk all night long, cause it was light out and they could.

Beluga Brain in a Bucket. Pretty good all Boiled up with salt.

For the past several days I have stayed up until about 4:00 am cutting, flipping, boiling, vac sealing, kavraq'ing, slicing, and eating Ugruk and Beluga. I put away at least three packages per month in our freezer so I know I can eat beluga and/or Ugruk at least three times a month until next year.

My meat hanging...

Then I also put away about the same amount of extras that say, "EXTRA" so I can give it away, send it to potlucks, friends, elders, and the sort. My husband travels to the villages to talk to Elders and he always takes beluga and ugruk to them. And then he comes back fat.

But I love him. He likes to share and make elders happy. Me too. We like to share. He doesn't actually "Work" on Ugruk or Beluga though. He just chops the stuff we need chopped with an axe and then gets rid of the carcass and bones when we are done taking all the meat off. And that's fine with me. Cause that's nasty work.

Little girls work. Cutting the red stuff off the blubber so your oil isn't yellow!

Last night after the girls went to bed, I got stuck doing "little girls" work. Cutting the blubber into strips to put into the buckets that will render down to make oil. LITTLE girls work. I swear it was cause my BFF Paulette was here and telling me what to do. haha. No complaints though.

I'm cutting blubber into strips.

And then that same "uncle" well, not really him, but my other friend Kookie, they caught a Beluga in a net and we rushed through my ugruk and ran down to the beach to help take care of the beluga.

Beluga cutters!

After 2:30 in the morning we were done with a beluga. Record time. Many hands make small work, or whatever that saying is!!! And now THIS YEAR, I have beluga, Ugruk and HOPEFULLY seal oil. (I'm not the BEST seal Oil maker!!! I'll admit that.)

Josie helping while her baby cries inside!!! (that's what we have babysitters for!)

And when my baby sister's friend goes to visit her, she will have Ugruk and Beluga and Seal Oil too. Cause that's what we do. Take care of each other. Did I already say that?

Well it's true. What's up in YOUR neck of the woods! (or willows, since we have no trees here!)


basebell6 said...

um i cannot tell you how much i LOOOOOVED THIS POST! we have 57 chickens to butcher in two weeks but that is soooooo boring compared to what you guys are up to! alaska is a whole different universe! i love that you share it with the world for us to see.

The Amazing Trips said...

OH NO. Not the BELUGA. Not our Grandma Jeanne!!!!

Your photos are ... graphic and fascinating ... and the midnight sun? Beautiful!! And for what it's worth, I'm very glad that your family has a full freezer of food! :)

Anonymous said...

I love the English suffix on the Eskimo word. I do that all the time...with Inuktitut words.

Thanks for the great pictures!

Anonymous said...

Last year I was visiting friends in Atlanta, Georgia and we went to the big aquarium there.

We were standing in front of the beluga viewing area and people were oohing and aahhing at the belugas.

I told my friends, "You know, people eat these where I live" and you should have seen the looks I got from the people standing around me! hahaha! :-) So I said, "Yeah, the belugas are cute, but so are cows." :-)

AussieAlaskan said...

Oh, I enjoyed this blog, too! Will be back. AussieAlaskan

Doin' It Myself said...

Been attempting to unpack for three weeks straight, but alas....
So then I got a timer and did 15 minutes at a time... Now I know what the hell is in my house!!!!!!!!!!!! totally changed the way I do things now!

Glad to see you're harvesting the natural food source!!!! Delicious!