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An Outdoorsman’s Journal – 6-29-2016

by Mark Walters

The Real Food Plot 

Hello friends,

Every other year I write a column about my way of life, which includes heavy duty gardening, heating with wood and raising a few steers and chickens.  The choices that I have made for both my food and income create a way of independent living that is quite unique in this modern day.

Back in July of 2002, it was the second year of me trying to grow a garden at our home in Juneau County, which notoriously has some of the poorest quality soil in the state of Wisconsin when it comes to producing a crop.

On year one, my garden produced ample amounts of everything that I planted. By July of 2002 the plants in my garden quit growing as the crops from the year before literally ate all the food in the soil.

That July I decided to buy some bull calves and sell the finished steers the following fall and have mucho manure for my gardens.

Folks let me tell you, manure, water, hard work and heat will produce a bountiful harvest even in Juneau County.

Fast forward fourteen years, there are four Hereford steers in a small pasture that I created last year. My main garden had a major issue with potato bugs last year and I have an idea.  Why not fence off part of the pasture and plant 250 hills of Yukon Golds and Pontiac Reds in the very fertile soil that last years’ steers have created?

So now we are going to go over to raising dogs. Fire is the 6th golden retriever that I have had since I was 20. I have been writing this column since I was 27 and I have had about ten litters of pups in my days.

As you may know my golden’s are part of my job as they pull sleds, carry packs, fetch ducks and most importantly they are very good friends of mine.

Right now Fire has a litter of four bundles of gold. She had ten last time but the main goal of getting a pup for Selina and myself was accomplished from this awesome mother.

Right now we are trying to pick out a female of which there are three and that is a tough task as they are all winners.  The addition of a pup to our family will give Fire a friend and make our summer/fall very interesting.

One of the pups goes to the breeder and the money from the others goes into Selina’s collage fund.

Raising cattle! I am addicted, I like looking at them, talking to them, and in the end eating them as well as using the cash for my Roth IRA, property taxes and income taxes.

Last year I paid over $500.00 a calf, I make no profit on my investment, but when it comes to paying the above bills, the money is there and so is the manure for the garden.

Back to that garden, I am addicted to gardening. The garden (among other things) sucks up my time but produces all of our (quality potatoes for a year including canning them) enough tomatoes, peppers and onions for at least 50 quarts of salsa and another 25 of spaghetti sauce.

This year I am trying to grow enough sweet corn to freeze about 50 one quart bags.  Moles have pretty much wiped out my first three crops. They tunnel directly down the rows and eat the seeds. Last night I planted another crop and I put some rat poison in their tunnel and I have a feeling that my enemy has a stomach ache today.

Though I may have lost my food plot due to a land sale. The last four years instead of a cash payment, Selina and I cut some of the landowner’s firewood for hunting privileges.

I work my body very hard year round and I honestly feel that the woodstove in my living room is one of the reasons that (except for some recent injuries) I have zero pain from all the old ones or arthritis.

A typical end to my day in the fall, winter and spring (before I cook) is to walk in the house about 8:00 p.m. open a can of Leinenkugels and sit next to the stove before I start cooking supper (I make a big meal every day and we always eat at the table).

So that with an income that is 100-percent from self employment is my survival story for this week!

We are all survivors in our own way.  Sunset