Homesteaders cabin
I thought about making sourdough bread after I read “Sourdough Starter: America’s Rising Pet” in the New York Times. Since people are called sourdoughs after they’ve lived in Alaska a while, baking the bread seemed like a worthwhile project. It would be an authentic Alaska kind of thing not requiring special gear or equipment, thus easily accessible for a new-50-age, single female cheechako, which is Alaska-speak for newcomer.

The term sourdough dates back to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, when scraggly prospectors prevented their bread starters from freezing by keeping them in pouches worn on their belts or around their necks. You know how it is when you want to cook something right this minute and it’s frozen solid. After a hard day in the mine and the inside of your cabin is below freezing, when the microwave hasn’t been invented and there’s no carryout or delivery, you need convenience.

According to several Google sources, you’re an Alaska sourdough after you weather all four seasons in the 49th state, and I assume this is consecutive seasons, so no fair dipping your toes in and out. You’ve got to take the full Arctic plunge for at least 12 months. One website says 25 years’ residency earns the title, which could be discouraging if, like me, you launch an expedition north to the Last Frontier about the time a lot of people migrate to a latitude south of wherever they’ve been forever, even if it’s already in the South.

I nixed the sourdough bread project because you have to feed and water the starter continuously once fermentation begins in the flour-water mix. Granted, I wouldn’t have to carry it around in a pouch, but I just can’t see myself paying that much attention to a jar of dough. If I were looking for another pet, I’d get a third cat, and, besides, I’m not much of a bread eater.

IMG_1141Instead of making sourdough bread, I went through my closet. Decluttering is the thing wherever you live, so out went spring and summer clothes brought from Georgia: short-sleeve tee shirts, linen anything, sandals with thin leather soles, flirty skirts, including one I bought to wear on the first date I had after I became single in the summer of 2008. That skirt still brought me joy every time I looked at it, but I let it go. I was never going to wear it again for several reasons, one being that I have added 10 pounds of natural insulation since I moved to Alaska.

As the pile of outbound clothes grew and my closet took on a slightly bleak minimalist look, I thought about my status. Am I an Alaska sourdough now? Going with the four seasons certification program, I qualify several times over with 16 seasons—four years ago today, the third of June, anno Domini 2016. But claim to be a sourdough? I don’t think so.

I am the same person I was when I moved here in 2012—an Appalachian girl whose Scots-Irish genes never got used to the heat and humidity in Georgia. Homer’s sunny, crisp summers and dark, velvety winters suit me just fine. With a few more black turtleneck shirts and sweaters, I wear year-round the same fall and winter clothes I wore down South. And since I’m not into what would be for me, now, extreme sports, I’ve had to acquire only minimal gear: XTRATUF boots, studded snow tires—and ice cleats, a snow shovel, and a down jacket, all of which I needed only once this past winter.

IMG_1062I don’t pretend to know very much about Alaska. In fact, several people who’ve visited from the Lower 48 know way more than I do about Homer and the state. I’ve learned just enough to keep from being afflicted with pushki blisters and stomped by moose. Plus, my car’s windshield hasn’t been cracked.

The word cheechako suggests youthfulness, don’t you think? So I’m sticking with that. When you get to new-50, anything hinting of youth is a very good thing as far as I’m concerned. And I am.

Genie Hambrick. Copyright 2016.