An article by Linda Avery-Eaton about Zachar Bay Lodge.
Linda Avery-Eaton is a woman of faith who helps run Zachar Bay Lodge in Kodiak Island, Alaska. She has a husband and two children and thrives on learning how to grow, plant, and make new things for the lodge and her family.
When you visit Zachar Bay Lodge you are taken back in time to a place where the land rules. The grouping of houses that lodge the guests are about 50 air miles from the city of Kodiak on Kodiak Island and cannot be reached by the road system. That means living off the grid and away from the convenience of the stores.
No matter the era, people living at the cannery in Zachar Bay had to be willing to utilize all their resources and creative abilities to survive. For people when the cannery was in operation, it wasn’t simply knowing where the fish were, but being able to find the right piece of wood to carve into a needed oar or the right branch to make cupboard locks for the doors in the tool room. Although the cannery boats often brought supplies with them like lard in the can from Washington, it was also knowing what local plants would be good for throwing in the stew pot to feed a crew. The people that once lived here were a hearty people with creative minds, as evidenced from the pieces left in the historic cannery.
After sitting idle for over five years, my father-in-law fell in love with the place and turned the cannery into a wilderness lodge. Zachar Bay Lodge has been in operation since 1989 and it has taken people with the same heartiness, creativity and ingenuity to keep it in operation for over 25 years.
This heartiness and ingenuity comes in many forms in the bush, but for me it comes in the planting and gathering of food to put on the table, can or freeze. It takes me back to my childhood of growing up in farmland, and it is something I especially enjoy.
The flora of the Alaskan wilderness creeps up to the edges of the lodge providing an abundance of food if one knows where to look. The type of plants growing at the particular moment will drive what you will be gathering. When we first arrive in the Spring to work opening up the lodge, there are many plants coming up that are good to eat. Beach greens high in vitamin C can be added to salads made of dandelion greens, sour dock or kale that has wintered over. Yarrow and beach lovage are good as spices to add to the salad or soups. We have had steamed baby fireweed shoots that taste similar to asparagus and sautéed the coils of fiddlehead ferns when they are just beginning to grow to get a taste like green beans.
While we forage for these tasty treats and wait for the many berries to ripen, we plant seeds to grow what our Alaskan season will produce for us. You might think this an easy task, but living on a rock makes topsoil rare. The first of the garden boxes years ago were begun by flying in dirt. Due to growing the same crops year after year, we also fly in soil conditioner each year as a supplement. Seaweed and chicken poop has also been great fertilizers over the years.
More recently we have begun to compost those items from the kitchen that the chickens do not eat. Banana peels, melon rinds, egg shells, coffee grounds, potato peelings, cardboard and many other items break down to make a dark rich compost to add to the garden boxes. Root clumps from last year’s flower boxes as well as some types of leaves are also put into the compost. The point is to not miss the opportunity to make something you need instead of having it flown in. There is much joy in making dirt, a rare commodity where we live.
When living remote, your thinking begins to change. Nothing is taken for granted. “Weeds” you walk on in town become a fresh salad for the dinner table. Last night’s dinner scraps become dirt for next year. You are transported into a different time – a time away from stores, cell phones and the constant rush. Here, where the land rules, you have time to think and enjoy what is around you. Let Zachar Bay Lodge help you experience a slower pace, a connectedness to the land and a small bit of Alaskan cannery history.