Ready for a recession: A full freezer
TOWNER, N.D. - One thing about being a cattle rancher, you always have a little beef in the freezer. Sometimes you have a lot. Of course, it's not always the very best beef produced on the ranch. A good, young, well-fed steer is worth a lot of mo...
TOWNER, N.D. - One thing about being a cattle rancher,
you always have a little beef in the freezer. Sometimes you have a lot.
Of course, it's not always the very best beef produced on the ranch. A good, young, well-fed steer is worth a lot of money, and the one thing a ranch needs even worse than a full freezer is some cash for the banker.
Generally, we eat our mistakes, like an open heifer, a bum calf or a critter whose hair or hide color wasn't quite what the buyers were looking for. We make lots of mistakes on our place, so we always have plenty of meat.
Sometimes, we find an old cull cow or a bull with a limp to harvest at the local locker plant. But they're good hamburger, and it's fresh as can be.
The way things worked out this year, we doubled down on the ranch's beef inventory. We had a gimpy bull produce a boatload of burger, and we had a steer that was as close to normal as anything we've ever kept to feed the family.
A bacterial infection as a calf left this steer's ears hanging as limp as a beagle's. The steer got over the infection and was plumb healthy, but his ears never did perk up nice and straight again. I knew he'd be a prime candidate for some cattle buyer to give a drastic discount so he could cheapen up a load of higher-priced, erect-eared cattle.
So we kept him, grazed him and fed him, and now we give thanks and dine on him. He turned out pretty good. If it weren't for his limp ears, we'd probably be chewing on some stringy old cull cow, so I'm thankful for his beaglelike look.
We're a two-freezer and four-refrigerator ranch between us and my parents. City folks would have a hard time understanding our abundance of cold storage. But out here, the grocery store is more than a few blocks away.
Depending on what you're looking for, the drive is 16 miles to 60 miles for most of our provisions.
We have plenty of cows, but not a single milk cow. Some of our cows barely can support a calf, much less a family of four with two growing boys. So we usually walk out of the grocery store with six or eight cartons of milk to get us by until the next trip to town.
We're Norwegian, so we buy butter by the case when it's on sale and toss it in the freezer. We freeze a few gallons of ranch-picked juneberries to remind us of summer, along with a few vegetables from the garden, but no zucchini.
The two big chest freezers usually can get us through the year with a little room for popsicles in the summer.
However, harvesting the two cattle within a month's time pushed our freezer space to the limit. So we did what most farmers and ranchers do with their overproduction: We started giving it away.
We can close the lids on the freezers again, but if we produce many more mistakes, we may need a third freezer.
From what I hear, we're all supposed to go buy something we don't need to keep the economy out of recession. Maybe the purchase of a third freezer will be our contribution to the economy, or at least to the local appliance store.
If the economy really does hit the skids, it may not be a bad idea to have a surplus of life's necessities. We could hunker down and make it through a short recession nicely eating fine steaks and roasts or, if it's an extended downturn, a whole lot of hamburger.