Living off the land

It does not matter if I grow it, raise it, catch it or cut it down and burn it. Independent living, even with the way that I earn a living, is what I do on a daily basis. This week’s column will help explain just how I do that.

Selina and I raised 20 Rhode Island Reds chicks in our living room this spring that now live outside and should be laying eggs by October. I give eggs to friends and neighbors, eat a lot myself and really enjoy the feeling that as long as I take good care of a bird it will provide me with close to an egg a day.

An interesting problem that I have is that my old hens started eating many of their eggs about a year ago, and as soon as the young ones start laying the 4-year olds will become soup.

I probably put more time into gardening than anything that I do and this year is no exception. My gardens include 260 hills of Pontiac Red and Yukon Gold potatoes as well as 30 tomato plants, just as many peppers, and enough squash to fill a half a pickup by this fall.

Every other year I make 20 gallons of chili which I freeze in one-gallon bags, and I double bag them. I just ate the last bag and after almost two years it was still awesome.

I will also make at least 40 quarts of salsa and freeze at least 40 one-quart bags of sweet corn.

As the years have passed I have continued to plant apple trees, and I really enjoy making apple sauce and both eating it and giving it away.

Growing apples in northern Juneau County is a tough project as our lows are quite cool at night in the spring. At least two out of every five years the blossoms freeze and I do not get very many, if any, apples at all.

I raise four steers each year and have always said that if I was not an outdoor adventures writer my second choice would be to live and work on a beef ranch. It may seem like a foolish thing to do because I do not make a profit on the cattle but the cash that I receive each fall is what I call forced savings and how I am hopefully going to help put Selina through college and maybe retire some day.

The real bonus with the cattle is that here in Juneau County our soil holds next to nothing for nutrients, and the manure helps me to have pretty incredible yields in my gardens.

This past year I helped four friends out by putting manure on their gardens as well, and that’s like giving fish or eggs to someone as they really appreciate it.

One of the things that rural people sometimes do is trade favors and often there is not even a conversation. I have some neighbors who have been helping me out for years, so this year I put in a garden for them and today they are going to see it for the first time.

In March each year I cut most of my firewood which becomes the majority of the heat for my house and is enjoyed in many campfires throughout the year, even last night.

My wood stove is in my living room and everyone that comes into this house in the winter loves the wood heat.

On my job I harvest lots of fish and game which is both consumed in this house and given away. Remember last January when I harvested the two feral pigs down in Louisiana? I made 75 pounds of awesome breakfast sausage out of the pigs and had about 50 pounds of chops and roasts as well.

Last fall Selina harvested a black bear and along with several deer we put at least 250 pounds of red meat in the freezer.

My spring busy season, which about kills me, is almost over and the easier days of July and August will soon follow. When September comes I will run hard until December and then winter, my favorite time of the year by far, comes when I have the most time and I really like cold weather.

Take care!


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