In December 2008, my two children, two dogs and I relocated to the Lillooet area. I had grown up here – I graduated from LSS in 1987.
While growing up, my family always fished, hunted and gathered food, so I learned from a very early age that this was a necessity. Along with gathering came food preservation. We would jar, freeze, dry and salt, sometimes even smoke, what we brought home.
We moved here during winter, not much to gather during that time of year, but we did manage to go ice fishing. It was -35 (colder with wind chill) and we didn't last that long on the ice, but we enjoyed ourselves. We have yet to master ice fishing – we have caught nothing thus far, but it is fun out there on the frozen lake.
In the spring we went out looking for 'haqua7' and stinging nettles, some of my favorite food when I was a child. My children were a little apprehensive, but once I showed them how to look for a good haqua7 they were right into it, wielding their knives like pros. They soon learned what stinging nettles where and now know not to grab them with bare hands.
We had several bags of frozen haqua7 in the freezer that year. Nothing thus far this year.
Summer came and so did the salmon. That first year we didn't get any salmon, I was never taught to fish, only to prepare, so I was scared to go fishing on my own. I overcame that fear during the summer of 2010, when my son and I learned to fish together.
When I was about 14 or so years old, my brother tried to teach me how to fish with a dip net at the falls at Bridge River. I fell in. He ended up fishing me out and I never tried again. This was a lot of fear to overcome.
Cam and I had a lot of help on those rocks... some days we didn't even have to fish, the fishermen down there would ask how many we needed and flip them up onto the rocks. Ambie A. was a godsend... he caught most of our fish for us; just flipping them up onto the rocks like it was nothing.
I wouldn't even have to talk to him... when we got down there, he would look at me with that 'look' and I would nod... he would then give me another 'look' and I would hold up my fingers, indicating how many fish we needed that day.
Then came the day when no fishermen asked how many we needed and we had to get our own fish. This was the day my son was looking forward to – he was very excited. He has always been a fisherman. I used to bring him fishing and crabbing several times a week in Nanaimo, so fishing had become a big part of his life.
We had a borrowed net and set ourselves up. While I was attempting to fish, a big wave came (I was standing on a 2" ledge over the raging waters of the Fraser River, I was terrified) and knocked me backwards. I knew what was behind me, a huge, stagnant pool of slimy green water with fish bits and water bottles floating around. It smelled wonderful and looked even better.
I don't know where he came from, but Larry N. was close enough behind me to divert this inevitable dip in the slime. He helped me up and I noticed that only my elbow was green and slimy. I thanked him profusely and he then proceeded to help us set up. He then gave us fishing lessons, which enabled us to catch a few fish that day.
My son would not fish from that rock, it was definitely scary and after my little tumble he was pretty sure he would end up in the slime, so the next time we went fishing we chose a different spot.
We climbed right down to water level, there were several fishermen around, but Cam was determined to catch his own fish. The fish were good, so Cam took over after he watched me catch a few. He struggled to hold that net, but eventually he pulled out his very first salmon. He was so very proud of himself and I could not have been more proud of my son at that moment. He gave that fish to Aunty Ruby to take home.
We ended up with 45 salmon in our freezer.
Hanging around those fishing rocks turned out to be a better deal that we had planned... We met Ambie. Fall came and I was wondering about hunting. I had never hunted. My son was begging to go hunting, but I had no idea how to accomplish that. I had no truck, no gun and no skills.
Then one day, Ambie A, whom we had met during fishing, called me up and asked if we wanted to go hunting with him. I jumped at that chance and the next weekend came, and we were in those mountains. He shot us a deer on our second trip out. I had never seen the process of deer hunting, so my kids and I were learning together as Ambie 'tidied' the deer up for its journey to our freezer.
My kids were enthralled by the process. My daughter, Lola, had the camera and was right up in the deer's business as it was being dragged to the truck. She took pictures and video of everything and is very proud that she got to help out.
We didn't get another deer after that, but it sure is fun out in those mountains. Ambie took us all over to different mountains. He is from Seton Portage and it took him a couple of hours to come and pick us up, but he did and we were ever so grateful. That one deer in the freezer fed my family for one full winter.
This past spring, my friend Mena took my kids and I out mushroom picking. I had never done that before but am always up to try different things. We went out towards Gold Bridge to find morel mushrooms in the burned out areas.
There were not a whole lot of mushrooms but my kids quickly learned where to find the few that were there. They were soon coming to me with armloads of mushrooms. We were all covered in soot and ash but the hike alone was well worth it. We spent all day out there, even cooking lunch on a mini BBQ out in the middle of the wilderness. It definitely cannot get better than that.
Summer is coming swiftly, as are the berries and other goodies that Mother Earth has to share, and we are ready. I stopped counting how many jars of jam I had to buy last year, and I am determined not to buy any this year. Why buy jam when there is fruit all around us ready to be harvested and jammed?
I am glad that I moved my family here. It has been a tough go, things are not easy around here, but all the work and effort definitely pays off in the end.