An Outdoorman’s Journal – 6-26-2013

by Mark Walters

The Food Plot

Hello friends,

I am in Canada, I am fishing, I am having fun! I had to put something out for my deadline on the week that I am gone. Gardening is a huge part of my life, as is preserving the food I grow.

I am looking at one of my two gardens! I have 300 hills of Yukon Gold’s and Pontiac “reds” growing in it. Twice this week I had potatoes that I grew in last years garden. Both varieties that I mentioned are top quality on the table and the Yukon’s store exceptionally well.

I have 9 apple trees planted in my garden, this spring they were loaded with blossoms, it looks like there should be an excellent harvest this year. Together, with two of my neighbors, most of my apples are made in to applesauce each fall. Last year, due to three frosts during blossom time, I did not harvest a single apple.

So far this spring, my stepson Joey Dushek has provided another thousand carp to help create very fertile soil, in Juneau County, fertile soil is rare.

Just past the potatoes, I have 30 Roma tomato plants. In a perfect world they will provide me with enough tomatoes to provide 50 quarts of salsa and also product for chili and spaghetti sauce. Last year I made chili for the first time in my life. I put 7 different types of peppers in it as well lots of burger. I froze forty half-gallon bags of it and am amazed at what a simple and tasty meal it makes.

Next to the Romas, I have 50 pepper plants; the best salsa has lots of peppers both hot and cold. To go with the peppers and tomatoes, I grow my own onions and the only ones that I grow are the red onion, which I feel is just top quality when it comes to taste.

Just past the pepper plants, I have 20 broccoli plants and seed in the ground for another 30, which will give me a fall harvest as well. Last year, a good friend of mine helped me make 6-gallons of cheesy broccoli soup. This year, I would like to make 15-gallons as six was no where near enough.

Something that I am getting bigger on each year is perennials. In my case, I am talking raspberries, blueberries, rhubarb and asparagus. In late April, I planted a dozen of what I hope will be high yielding blueberry bushes. I also planted two-dozen mid-July (harvest) red raspberry plants and two dozen black raspberry plants.

The blueberry bushes are tough to grow as one as to keep on your soil/acid levels just right. I love black raspberries and though I have had fall yielding red raspberries, it will be nice to have red raspberries in July like so many other people have.

Something that I am trying this year with many of my plants is to put peat moss in with the root system as well as manure. The peat moss, at least in my theory, will help to hold some moisture during the dry periods of summer. I buy 80 pound bails for about 12 bucks and peat moss also makes excellent night crawler bedding (the best that I know of).

For vine plants, I grow cucumbers, muskmelon, squash, and this year, lots of pumpkin.

On a typical year, I harvest a hundred butternut and acorn squash, maybe 30 muskmelon and 50 cucumbers.

My main reason for growing the pumpkins, and if everything goes well, I will harvest at least 2000 pounds for chicken feed. I have laying hens and the price of chicken feed for a week has gone from about 12 dollars to feed 17 hens, to about 22 dollars. Chickens love pumpkins and I believe I can cut that feed bill substantially for about 3 or 4 months.

When it comes to chickens, and I also raise pigeons for dog training purposes, there are generally predators to deal with. People that do not understand the damage that stray cats, raccoon, and hawks can do, only have one reason for not understanding, and that is because they are not raising chickens.

Once a predator starts killing your chickens there is only one thing that can be done to that predator and that is a death sentence. That may sound terrible but it is reality, a feral tomcat will raise absolute heck around a farmyard. I had a silent war going on with one for two years, this winter he knocked my pigeon flock from 40 to 5. I have also had hawks become pros at harvesting my birds as well.

Between heating with wood, gardening, egg laying hens, and a job where I bring home lots of fish and game, I live a very unique way of life and I love it.

In a way I feel that more Americans are starting to get back to their roots and it would be really cool if I were right!

Eat well!  Sunset

THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Hiawatha National Bank