Next week this column returns to deer camp and then ice fishing but so I could stay at deer camp I am writing about what in reality is one of the most important parts of my life.
The older that I get the more I strive for as much independent living as possible. That ranges from my paycheck which has come from traveling in the outdoors, writing about it and then mar –
keting my product each week since 1989.
What is just as important to me and time consuming is growing much of my own food and heat- ing my home with trees that I have harvested and that is what this week's column is about.
I live in northern Juneau County and this area has some of the poorest soil in the state of Wis- consin when it comes to producing a crop. In simple terms the first year that you put a garden in on new soil it does quite well, the second year your yield is greatly reduced and the third year you are basically wasting your time unless you are doing something to rebuild your soil.
In 2001 after seeing my garden produce next to nothing I came up with the idea of raising four steers a year to create cash for my taxes, Roth IRA, and Selina’s college plan. I was well aware that I might not actually make a profit on the cattle but I would consider it forced investing that would take care of the above bills and give me the soil that I needed to grow lots of food.
Here is an idea of what I am talking about when it comes to growing food. The harvest is over and there is 600-pounds of Yukon Golds and Pontiac Reds. Three hundred pounds of Butternut and Acorn squash. Twenty six tomato and 30 pepper plants helped create 58 quarts of salsa and 31-gal- lons of chili which had 80-pounds of onions to perk it up.
I had a record harvest of sweet corn which gave me 81, one quart bags of frozen corn and sweet corn was added to all of the chili and salsa and enjoyed fresh from mid July until mid September.
I also grew green beans, broccoli and pumpkins.
So here is what the gist of this story is about. I got out of the cattle business two years ago after I realized that when I sold my animals and they were dandy’s, well fed and next to zero stress that I had actually lost $300 an animal and that had nothing to do with labor.
Now we are going to go backwards in this column, how was I going to create the kind of harvest I just wrote about on the what would be my second summer without manure.
Here is another very important part of this story, I love having cattle around. I was kind of embarrassed to say that I got out. Farming is my favorite hobby, pastime or however you want to describe it and I am very good at growing what in the end is prime steaks, roasts, and hamburger.
I think I should add that my harvest is feeding six people and I give a lot away. So last summer I had five separate families come together that had purchased halves of beef from me in the past. I had never shared with them that over the years I was actually losing money, I just got out.
Three different times they asked me to get back in, each time I explained that I sold my beef at market price lost money and now grain prices are up a solid 25-percent from when I got out.
On my friends third visit to my house I was given a plan that if I kept the records, they would make sure that I was given a profit.
So starting in August I began looking for quality 200-pound calves and I found them on October 10th and purchased three Angus bull, Holstein cow, calves on November 9th.
These calves are some beautiful animals and they are currently in my loafing area dropping manure and growing beef which will be sweet corn and taters next summer. Until I sell them in March of 2023 I will be broke as a crushed egg but I am used to that and doing exactly what I have programmed myself to do almost all of my adult life.
The next time you eat a burger or a steak think about the farmer that created that incredible meal for you and how much of a challenge it has to be to pay all of their bills from the beef or pork that they provide for you.
When I go to heaven I want to be a rancher!
These calves will weigh about 1500 pounds in March of 2023.