An Outdoorsman’s Journal: Independent Living 101

An Outdoorsman's Journal

Mark Walters, Columnist

There should be about 15 bushels of tomatoes out of these plants by the mid September. Photo by Mark Walters.

Mark Walters
Mark Walters

Follow along each week on the adventures of Mark Walters, a syndicated outdoor adventure columnist who lives in Necedah, Wisconsin. He began writing his column, An Outdoorsman’s Journal, in 1989. It includes hunting, fishing, lots of canoeing and backpacking. He currently writes for around 60 newspapers on a weekly basis. He hopes you enjoy reading about his adventures!

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Hello friends,

The column that I am about to write was supposed to be written on June 15 and it is my annual hobby-farming-getting-by-with-nature-as-much-as-possible story. Instead, the good Lord decided to have my beautiful woman pass away that night and so I had my 21-year-old daughter Selina write my column so I could meet my deadline.

Here is another unique situation. I am writing this week’s column in one of my three gardens, and it is the one that is directly across a fence from my sweet corn, and on the other side of the corn I just let my steers into a small area where they can graze on knee deep clover. Earlier in the summer I was working in one of my other gardens, it was five days after Michelle passed and it seemed like my steers were on the wrong side of the fence.  

I was correct and in a matter of five minutes all 36 of my pepper plants were consumed to nearly the ground and it was a challenge to get the steers onto the right side of the fence and minimize the damage. At this moment all I can hear is grazing cattle.

The earth these cattle are living on will be garden next summer! Photo by Mark Walters.

After I finish this column, I am going to freeze about 25 more bags of corn. I have already frozen 42 and, after the corn freezing, I am going to harvest enough veggies to make another Nesco of chili. So far I have made and froze or given away 7 gallons and have to make at least 20 to take me through the next 12-months. I put lots of venison burger in it and freeze most of it in 1-quart bags and it makes for a perfect meal on my trips. I will try to write this corn freezing recipe as simply as possible to save space. Fifteen cups of corn that has been cut off the cob, has been in ice water, 4 cups of ice water, 1.25 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt. No blanching, super-fast, best frozen corn ever.

Two Nesco’s of chili makes for some good food for the long winter! Photo by Mark Walters.

This year Michelle and I planted enough garden to give us food for 12-months for six people — which would have been three of her children, Selina, Michelle, and myself. I lost all of my consumers, but Selina, as well as my labor force. If you would come to my house, you may actually be in disbelief as to the amount of garden.

In the fall I fence off my main garden and let the cattle live in it which makes incredible soil in what is one of the worst counties in the state for growing food unless you use large amounts of fertilizer.

I have all of my firewood cut, split, and stacked under shelter for this winter and soon I may harvest a black bear, will probably harvest a whitetail or two and in October, and I will be heading to Montana to hunt elk and mule deer with a rifle on a lone-wolf hunt that will be a huge challenge and should be very good for my mental health.

Everything I do or at least I try is to be as independent as possible, including how I earn a living.

I miss Michelle but I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other!


Check out previous weeks’ columns here.

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