Outdoor Wisconsin | Program | #3404

– We’ve come out
to Jackson Park, one of more than 150 parks in the Milwaukee
County Parks system, most of them opened year
round for public recreation. In just a few minutes, Emmy Fink gets a
log rolling lesson on Lake Wingra in Madison and then Deb Wolniak
gets some tips for grilling fish and game from
DNR biologist, Tim Lizotte. – Oh, Tim! This is unbelievable. – But first, we’ll visit
Mastodon Valley Farm in Richland County, where
Peter Allen is working to restore his land through
sustainable agriculture. I’m Dan Small and
it’s time, once again, for Outdoor Wisconsin. (music by Warren Nelson) Until recently,
Peter Allen taught ecology in systems
theory at UW Madison, but he decided to put his
knowledge into practice so now he and his wife, Maureen, are managing their 200-acre
farm in Richland County for ecological diversity. In a sense, they’re
recreating a savanna landscape once maintained by Mastodons. A landscape of oak groves
and lush grasslands, and one that can produce an
abundance of variety of food. We’ve come out to
Mastodon Valley Farm near Viola, Wisconsin today and I’m talking
with Peter Allen, who is turning this place into really a sustainable
agriculture project here. Peter, tell us a little
bit about your project. – Yeah, so this is our
farm, Mastodon Valley Farm. We’ve got about 220 acres here. When we first
bought the property, it was conventionally grazed
and conventionally cropped. Our goal is to restore
the native ecosystems that were once here for long
periods of time in the past. I was a restoration ecologist at the University of Wisconsin. The typical way you
restore landscapes is to pick out the species
that you think belong there, the natives, and the ones
that don’t belong there, the one’s that aren’t
necessarily native. That doesn’t always work
very well on a large scale and when we’ve got massive
ecological degradation across the planet, we need to have ecological
restoration strategies that can scale. So our strategy here is to
restore our native oak savannas in a way that is
economically viable. We run a farm here
that sells meat, primarily beef, pork,
lamb, and poultry. And we rotate our
animals in ways that mimic the way
that the megafauna and the large animals
that all went extinct 12 thousand years ago, but that were here
for 30 million years, eating the vegetation,
maintaining open
savanna landscapes. When they all went extinct, the forests grew up and now
we’ve got to tame the forest by bringing animals back
in and we do that in way that is both restoring
the native vegetation, but also providing a
livelihood for our family. – Now, behind us is
a cabin you built. You and your wife live there.
– Yep. – Tell us a little
bit about that. – So when we were looking
for land, we had a choice. We could either buy a
smaller piece of land that had a house, and a barn, and infrastructure
already present or we could buy a little bit
more land without anything. We kind of chose
that latter option. We built a tent
our first year here and then lived there
while we built this cabin. We cut down a bunch of the pine
trees, and milled them out, and then built a little
post and beam cabin. So we’re off grid. Solar array that gives us a
little bit of electricity, and then rain water
collection for our water. – Well let’s have a little tour of your farm if you don’t mind. – Okay, let’s go check it out. – Peter, what’s goin’ on here? – This is the spot where we overwintered our
sheep last year. We’d bring them a bale of
hay every couple of days and this really built up six
inches of solid waste hay. It covers the ground,
it keeps oxygen out, it holds water in. It’s not a great situation,
it needs to be cleaned up so we brought the pigs in. So we had 12 pigs in
here for two weeks and they just churned it up. They picked up the hay, they got into the mud
and wallowed around, and they evenly mixed the
hay into underlying soil, and now it’s completely open. So now we can come in and seed. I think we’re gonna do sweet
corn here for our family so this will be our
sweet corn patch. It’s well fertilized and now
it’s got a nice mulch layer so there won’t be any weeds. It’ll just be a perfect
sweet corn patch. – That’s great. It
looks like it tilled it. Pigs are natural
tillers then, I guess. – Their noses are shaped
exactly like a moldboard plow. – Well Peter, these pigs
look as happy as pigs in mud. – (laughing) They sure are. And it being midday
and pretty warm, they enjoy getting cool by digging a little
spot in the ground, and getting down where
it’s nice and wet and cool. They flip their water over to make a little
wallow and lay down. We’re actually using
’em here to prep ground for where we’re
going to plant corn. So these guys eat
corn, and wheat, and soy beans as feed ration
to supplement the pasture, and that’s fairly expensive
so in the last few years, we’ve been experimenting
with growing some of our own grains. So what we do is we feed
cows hay bales out here and you can see where the
hale bales on the ground, kind of scattered out, and
they’re suppressing the sod, and then we bring the pigs
in and churn it all up, mix it up, kind of like
where we were just at. And then we’ll come in, and I’ll broadcast corn
seed right on the ground, and then what I’ll do is I’ll
yell and call the cows over, and have them run back
and forth across here. I’ll have them chase me
with a bucket of grain. I’ll go back and forth and they’ll go back and
forth, back and forth, and they’ll push all those
seeds right into the ground. We did it for the
first time last year and it worked beautifully, and we got just a
beautiful crop of corn. So that was on about
a quarter acre. We’re doing a full
acre here this year and that will be
feed for these pigs then in the late, late summer. On this fence line here we
have the hillside coming down. On the uphill side, it’s
always been pasture. On the downhill side, this
field has always been cropped. Up until just a
couple years ago, they did tobacco way
back in the 1800s, then wheat, and then
corn up until recently. And you can see how it
drops off three feet just on the other
side of that fence and that is all the
soil that has washed off every time they
plowed and cultivated. And then it rains and the
soil washes away, washes away. So when we got here, this soil was in really,
really bad shape. It hardly grew anything and
there was no top soil left. It was all just sand subsoil. So we immediately brought the
animals in, fed them some hay. We planted about 30
different species of native prairie
grasses and flowers, and then a bunch
of trees in rows. Then we ran chickens
through here behind them. And now, just two years later, this is some of the best
forage we have on the farm, right where we ran
the chickens through. And by rapidly moving
animals through quickly, we can start to
rebuild that soil. Anywhere from a quarter to
an inch of soil per year we can build back up. So my goal is to bury
this fence before I die. – Now these old trees, they’ve been here
awhile, haven’t they? – These are ancient trees. Old growth, upwards
to 200 years plus. They’re open grown trees so
they grew out in the sunlight, not in the closed forest. Trees in a forest grow straight
up to get to the light. When it’s open grown and
there’s grass around them, they grow out. And so you see these limbs
that are outstretched. Sometimes these
oaks can have limbs 30 feet out in either direction, 60 foot diameter
around the crown, and when they grow
widespread like this, they actually produce upwards
of 20 to 30 times more nuts than trees growing in a forest ’cause they get so
much more light. – Peter, this is really
lush and a lot of plants, I admittedly, don’t recognize. – This is the area
that we planted with native prairie
grasses and flowers. Right when we took
it out of corn.. So it was in corn,
we took it out, and we immediately
planted about 25 species of grasses and flowers, and then we planted about
a dozen species of trees. About 2000 trees total in rows
on contour through the field. Between what we planted and
what’s come in naturally, we’ve got over 120
species of plants in this field right now. – So you’re grazing this?
– Absolutely. So like I said, we’ve
planted these rows of trees every 30 feet or so
through this field so now we graze the
alleys between them with all of this
lush vegetation here. One of these alleys is
about a half an acre and it’s about two to
three days of food for ’em. And we’ve got them
moving through each alley every couple days and we’re keeping ’em in
with this electric net here. – Peter, you’re doing
a lot with this farm, but why did you choose
this particular property? – Well, we looked at
a lot of properties. We spent two years looking. We looked at over 100
properties in this area. We really like this
area, in particular, around the Kickapoo River so
we kind of zoomed in here. We basically had
three main criteria. We had homestead. We knew we were going
to build a house so we had to have a good
spot to build a house, had to have a good house site. The number two criteria
was it had to be farmable. We wanted to make our
living off of land so we had to build
a graze cattle and needed to have
some grass ready to go because we already had cattle. You need to have some
fencing ready to go. And the other big
criteria, as an ecologist, I wanted to have as many
representative ecosystem types in the Driftless Area
here in one property. When I first found
this property, the fact that its got clay
soil, rigged top fields. It’s got steep slopes
facing every direction. It’s got nice, fertile
valley pastures. It’s got a spring, a pond, a trout stream, a wetland. Literally every major ecosystem
type in this whole region is represented within just
a hundred acres right here. So it really gives us a chance to test strategies
in different places for doing this kind
of restoration work in an agricultural way. – And why are you
doing all of this? (laughs) You could have a nice– – I could be a
professor right now. – Teaching job at
a University, sure. – This is a lot more fun and I like being outside. – We’ll tell you
how to learn more about Mastodon Valley
Farm later in the show. Back in the logging era,
more than a century ago, lumberjacks cut down
Wisconsin’s norther forest and floated big pine logs
down our rivers to sawmills in towns like Eau Claire
and Chippewa Falls. The loggers worked hard,
but they played hard, too. And one of their games developed into the sport of log rolling, which is still practiced today. Emmy Fink went Lake
Wingra in Madison to learn more about this sport and found out it’s as
easy as falling off a log. (lighthearted music) – Yeah, the sport of log
rolling began over 150 years ago when the lumberjacks, the
bravest of the lumberjacks, were called river pickers. When they cut down the timber,
when they were logging, the easiest way to
move that timber from where they cut
it down to the sawmill was to float it
through the river. So these river pickers
would stand on the logs and steer the logs down
the river to the sawmill, trying to break up log
jams in the river bends. They had the most danger
job because if they fell in, they’d either get
crushed by the logs or they would freeze to death. So they were considered the
bravest of all the lumberjacks. And at the end of the season, lumberjacks would get together and they’d have a
big competition. So the choppers would
chop, the sowers would saw, and the river pickers would
do a sport called burling, which is what we
call log rolling now. So the sport began 150 years ago and now it’s a bunch of
athletes, who are not gonna die if we fall off the log,
that are representing what those lumberjacks
did so long ago. So we’re really carrying
on a true Wisconsin, and northern, tradition. I fell in love with log
rolling at our local YMCA. Believe it or not, we have
programs all over the US and Canada at camps,
and YMCAs, and pools, and lakes, and mostly for kids. I signed up at the YMCA. I was taking swimming lessons. I thought it looked like fun
and I fell in love with it. It was unique, it
was challenging. I started going to competitions and that’s such a
cool group of people. And just like anybody
else who tries it, I really caught the bug and
decided that was my sport. You can’t touch your opponent, but other than that,
anything else is allowed. Madison is the
best place for it. We had it at the YMCA and then what I did with a
counterpart of mine, Olivia, when we got a little older,
we wanted to bring it outside. We only had it
indoors in the pool and log rolling’s meant
to be done outside so we came Wingra Boats here
at Wingra Park and we said, “Can we start a little program?” We had one class a week,
only like four log rollers. Next thing we knew, it exploded. Exactly what you said. Madison loves
outdoor activities. They love unique activities. They love challenging
things, but also fun things. So our classes grew. We were hosting
birthday parties, and camps, and
corporate get togethers. So we actually had to form a
business, Madison Log Rolling, and now we get over
300 people on the logs every summer here at the
lake because people love it. Every single person who
tries it becomes addicted. It’s an amazing workout whether
you’re going by yourself and trying to roll for time, just getting some practice
on those smaller logs. They spin really, really fast so it’s a really
great cardio workout, really great leg workout,
and for your core, as well, for
balancing on that log. Yeah, it’s a really fun time. You have people of all ages. Really, really young kids, all the way from two
to three years old, and then adults, as well. So really people of
all ages can come. Give it a try,
have a lot of fun. Like you said, it’s
really no shame when you’re gettin’ started. You can fall back off
and hop right back on, and you all have a
lot of fun together. – If you go to, its got our full class schedule. People can set up
private lessons if they have family in town
and just want to get together, and have a really unique
Wisconsin experience. We have a big competition
on July 1st and 2nd, the Midwest Log
Rolling Championships
here at Wingra Park. So lots of opportunities
to give it a try. Lot of tips for first timers. First of all, just have fun. It’s not gonna go well. Nobody does well on their
first time log rolling. The second is really,
really fast feet. The third is eyes always
stay on the end of the log. That really helps your balance. And fourth, don’t actually
try to spin the log. It’s gonna roll on its own. When people think
of log rolling, they think of people
pulling, pulling, spinning, and spinning, and
we do that in competition, but when you’re first learning, it’s more figuring out
how to use your core and how to keep your balance
over the top of the log. And another really
important thing to note is it’s a completely safe sport. I get some many people
saying I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to lose my teeth. I don’t want to
get a concussion. I have been doing
this for 30 years and I’ve never seen
anyone hit their head. The worst injury we’ve had is
somebody bruising their shin and that happens every
once and a while. We don’t have very sexy legs. But other than that,
it’s a really safe sport because with the log
balancing in water, it’s very low impact. It’s a very great
cardiovascular activity, and when you fall, you
just land in the water, splash, and get back on again. – I’m a little nervous, but
I’m very excited to try this. I know I’m in good hands. – You have nothing
to be nervous about. You’re gonna have so much fun. When we get out there,
you’re gonna get on a log. Your eyes look at
the end of the log. You’re gonna move your
feet as fast as you can. Then you’re gonna
fall in and get wet. It will be awesome. Let’s go. – I’m hoping for
one solid second. – One second it the
goal today, folks. – Let’s do it.
– Let’s do it. All right, now you
know what you’re doing. Ready?
– Yep. (muffled speaking) – There you go, there
you go. Good job! – Two and half seconds. – Ah! Two and a half! (muffled speaking) (lighthearted music) – Nice! 4 seconds. (lighthearted music) Fast, fast, fast, fast, fast. One and a half. Good, good, good. Three seconds. Oh, not bad. (muffled speaking) Good job! Awesome! – Thank you so much! They wanted five
seconds out of me, they got three and a half. I am coming back to try this. I see why they say
it’s addicting. I can do better. I will get five the next time. You guys, come on out here
to Wingra Boats in Madison and give it a try. Dan, you too. I think
you’re gonna like this. – Thanks, Emmy. You know, I enjoy
watching log rolling, but whenever I’m
around a body of water, I wanna be fishing. Many anglers practice catch
and release these days, but there’s nothing wrong
with keeping a few fish to eat now and then. And grilling is a great way to prepare fish and
game for the table. Deb Wolniak got some fish
and game grilling tips at the Horicon Marsh
Visitor and Education Center from DNR biologist, Tim Lizotte. (soft, slow guitar music) My name’s Tim Lizotte. I’m the Wisconsin DNR’s
public land specialist for the Bureau of
Wildlife Management and today we’re at the Horicon
Marsh State Wildlife Area and Educational Nature Center and we’re gonna to
be doing a short demo on grilling wild game. We’re gonna teach people
how to prepare their grill, grill the food, marinate
it, and then serve it. What we’re gonna have tonight is kind of my go
to venison recipe, which is olive oil,
teriyaki sauce, and coarse ground black pepper. I think, for my pallette, that’s
a good flavor combination. Good venison steak
needs very little additional seasoning for flavor. Your first tip of the night
is don’t worry about the gas. Get the grill goin’.
Get it good and hot. Clean grill grates are probably
the most important thing in getting good sear marks
and not having the food stick. And how do you get
clean grill grates? It’s by getting it super hot. Hold one up. I’ll hold the
tray for you if you want. Let it drain a little,
and just pick a spot, and slap it on there. Perfect. Let’s go ahead and
get them all on. You always want air
space between the steaks. Half an inch to an inch. When you’re cooking with steak, especially venison that you
harvested and prepared yourself, I have very little concern
for bacteria issues with that. I’ve seen that game
with the field, to my freezer, to the counter. Proper thawing is important. Keep the meat at a
temperature of 40-ish degrees and that retards
bacteria growth. But the good thing with steak, and breasts, and
things like that is the only place bacteria
can be is on the outside so that why we can get away with cooking steaks
to 125, 130 degrees. The primary thing that we find is that there is very
little fat in wild game. So it’s much leaner
and unfortunately, that’s why many people have
a bad experience cooking game because if they try and cook
it the same way as beef, and they might cook it longer or not marinate it with an oil, it can come out
very dry and tough. However, when it’s
prepared properly, it can be some of the
most tender meat around. (muffled speaking) All right, who wants to do it? – Hold on, I have to cook.
Somebody else has to. – All right, so just poke
it right into the middle and see this is the crow part. Tell us what you see. – 159. 152.
– So what is that? Overdone, right? – [Group] Yes.
– All right. You wanna check the others? – This one, too. – Check that one.
– It’s pretty small. 134. – That’s good. Get her. You need to use a
meat thermometer to know when food is done. You will never get
consistent results without a meat thermometer. When I started using
one, consistency went
through the roof. And then finally, when you
take your food off the table, especially with most meat, it needs to rest five to seven
minutes before you cut it so that all the
juices don’t escape. Other than that, those
really are the key tips. All the meat tastes
equally well. It’s just a matter
of how tender. So typically we use
the hind quarters and what we call the
“back straps” for steak and then the front shoulders,
front part of the animal is typically used for
jerky, roasts, slow cookers. It’s just the tougher
part of the animal. Do you agree? – Yeah, I usually grind up
the first of the front half. That’s where hamburger
goes, hamburger comes from. I have not bought
any beef since 1989. – Excellent. (sizzling) What we’re gonna try
tonight is a recipe that I’ve actually grown
very fond of using on salmon and it’s called
the “firecracker.” And it’s firecracker marinade, and that one also
uses a peanut oil, and then we mix in
some balsamic vinegar, ginger, garlic, some shallots, and for the
firecracker part of it, some crushed red peppers. Fish is a little
tougher on the doneness. Mostly what I do it try and
flake it near the backbone and if it seems like it’s
gonna pull off very easily and free from the
bones, it’s done. If I had a thick salmon filet, I’d probably mess
with a thermometer, but these are not that way. So we got off with minimal stick so that was pretty
good on this side. You can see the skin
kind of got charred, but the meat looks
perfect underneath so that skin is a
protective coating. (scraping and sizzling) So the technique, which I feel like is a
little bit out of style, at least in Wisconsin, you lay the filet on your plate and you just use your fork and you go from the
backbone towards you and if it’s done enough,
all the bones stay. You actually have a
more bone-free fish than fileting sometimes
’cause I was fileting these and some of those
bones are so small. You have that balance
between wasting meat or making sure
nobody gets a bone. And when you pull
it off this way and it’s thoroughly cooked,
they just don’t come with meat. I find most people
don’t like the skin or in their mind they don’t
think they like the skin, but if you look at how
easy it is to take off.. That way you can have
the presentation of
the skin on there and if someone wants
to take it off, they can go ahead and do that. So with that, we can start
serving some of this. – It doesn’t have the
eyes in it, does it? (laughs) – Nope. – Kinda looks like it. – Okay, I got my fish. You can see some of the
bones right down in there. What you want to do
is take that little, tender piece of meat out. Try it. – Oh! Tim, this is unbelievable. – Does it have good flavor? – Oh, I love that! Okay, so that was the
one with the bone in. Now, this one. Do
you eat the skin? – That’s totally
personal preference. – Personal preference, okay. I’m gonna try just the flesh. Let’s see what we got in
comparison to the other. Interesting. This one’s more tender. Little dry, but still good. Flavor is still there. – I would probably
take the blame. Those were super thin and
I probably overcooked ’em. That’s why with the small fish, doing the whole fish is a
little bit more fool proof. – Right, but it
still tastes awesome. – What flavors are
you tastin’ in there? – I don’t know, it’s like spicy. Oh, that’s the firecracker. – Yep.
– Got it, got it, got it. – That’s the firecracker.
– I like that. Now, I’m gonna see
if we can possibly put these recipes online or on the Outdoor
Wisconsin website. Would that be okay? – Yeah, that would be great. – That way you guys
can try it, too. Mmm, cheers. – We’ll post those recipes on the Outdoor
Wisconsin Facebook page. You can learn more about
this week’s features there and on our website
at Just click on Outdoor Wisconsin. I’ll be at FishX,
Wisconsin’s free fishing expo February 9th through 11th at Washington County
Fair Park in West Bend. Stop by our booth and say hello. Well next time, we’ll
join a group of kids with special needs
in Port Washington for a fishing outing
on Lake Michigan. And we’ll look at an
oak regeneration project in Richland County. Saying goodbye from Jackson
Park in Milwaukee County, I’m Dan Small. Join us again next week
for Outdoor Wisconsin. (“Outdoor Wisconsin”
by Matthew Schwanke)