issue 101 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #101

Heart healthy oven fries

Tried to find a link to Richard Blunt but none to be found.

Want to say that I was sure glad to see him back in my new issue that I got yesterday. I’ve always enjoyed his articles on cooking. Hated to see him go and never did catch the “why” of it?

Here is a recipe that we like and thought maybe both of you would. Especially since your heart surgery.

Heart healthy oven fries:

4 Russet potatoes*
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
½ Tbsp. chili powder—your choice/favorite
salt & pepper to taste

Heat oven to 475 F.*

Scrub potatoes and then slice into 1/4″ rounds or French cuts.

Put in large zip-loc bag and add all ingredients.

Spread on baking sheet and bake for 50 minutes.

Turn at 25 minutes for extra-crisp fries. Makes 4 servings.

*Important: Other potatoes and/or especially lower oven temperature will give you baked potato slices instead of fries.

Hope to see more of Blunt.

Rod Summitt
Oaktown, Indiana

Is our government tracking “us”?

I am a very pleased and recent lifetime subscriber to your wonderful magazine. I’ve enjoyed it a great deal. I am very concerned about the government’s movement to start tracking our livestock. I will have to admit I am much more concerned about our government’s recent activities to track us. Maybe track isn’t the correct term, but monitor doesn’t seem strong enough either. I am referring to the recent “real id” law that passed the House and is headed for the Senate. I understand that this bill was tacked onto a bill for more military spending as a way to make it seem more “patriotic.” I would really like to see you do a story on or address this issue in some fashion. John Silveira comes to mind as a possible candidate for author.

Thanks again for all the wonderful information. I’m very concerned that all of the information I’m learning from your publication about self sufficiency will be needed much sooner than most of America is prepared for.

Andrew Clements
Troy, Virginia

Bravo for Silveira

As a physician who works with the pandemic influenza planning, I would like to say how much I appreciated the accuracy of John Silveira’s article on the topic earlier this year.

Bruce Fried
Lubbock, Texas

I liked John Silveira’s article, Summer’s Silent Heat Waves. Very useful information for everyone. Things I learned (as a kid) to keep cool. Great stuff and fun reading.

My view – Government spending (also John Silveira). He has finally got down to my level. This is so on the mark. It is all so frustrating. I read recently that foreign money sent to help Katrina victims has been lost. There are so many government agencies, state, local and federal, nobody knows what happened to the money. Outrageous!

The last word (what can I say, I love his articles). Right on the mark. Loved his logic. Great article.

I don’t always agree with John Silveira, but his viewpoints are always refreshing.

I can hardly wait for my next issue of Backwoods Home. Keep up the good work.

Judith Sullivan
Austin, Texas

I am speechless.

John Silveira’s, “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you move to another country?” caused me to buy a two year subscription and the full array of anthologies.

I have searched for years to articulate exactly what he managed to so eloquently and succintly say in that article. I am determined to commit it to memory so I may “enlighten” those who react with their “Chicken Little” BS.

It is truly sad that in this wonderful country of ours it appears the choice is often between Chicken Little and an ostrich with its head in the sand.

Thank you.

John Febel
Chicago, Illinois

Time to take a stand

Thank you for your coverage of the NAIS issue. My feeling is, they can confiscate my animals at the same time they do my firearms, “when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.” I will never comply with the NAIS. Never. If I don’t take a stand now, when? When the microchips are forcibly implanted in my children?! Thanks for a great publication.

Desiree Valenzuela
McKenzie Bridge, Oregon

Don’t knock liberals

Hey, don’t knock liberals. Many great things are credited to liberals…the arts, progressive social programs that have helped folks, civil rights movements, health inspections, and more. And there is nothing wrong with conservatives either. They are the savers of tradition, the earth, finances, and personal liberty. So what is happening here? The present government has us in bigger debt than ever before, more invasions into our lives and ways we live, and have our soldiers occupying other countries, something that traditionally was more likely a liberal government move. So, I am confused as to what I am now. I guess an Independent. Thanks for the good articles.

Cheryl Davis
Celina, Ohio

Kerosene lamps burn clean if used properly

I have burned kerosene lamps for over 50 years. I have observed most young people do not know much about how a kerosene lamp burner should work. I visit homes and observe chimneys that are solid black from soot. Soot on the ceilings, protruding wicks that are badly ragged from uneven burning, and adjusted to burn above the hood of the metal lamp burner, which is incorrect. This could lead to dangerous overheating of the burner. No wonder they have so many problems with smoking lamps.

Correct height for burning
Correct height for burning
Incorrect height for burning
Incorrect height for burning

Of course there are all kinds of lamp burners, but I am talking about the simple brass-type burners found on standard, simple kerosene lamps. The wick should not exceed more than 1/8 of an inch above the wick tube under the hood (never above the hood). Once it is lighted, then make the fine adjustments.

Bad smells from kerosene lamps is a result of several things: Improper combustion, old kerosene, or commercial scented lamp oil, which can damage lamp burners and gum up everything.

If one starts with a very clean lamp, clean burner, clean chimney, clean wick, and fresh kerosene, the kerosene lamp will provide satisfactory light.

If the lamp burner and wick are dirty, they can be cleaned by boiling them in ammonia, water, and liquid dish detergent.

A very dirty lamp bowl can be cleaned by using nail polish remover or tepid water, liquid dish detergent and warm (not hot) water. Kerosene lamps should be dismantled and thoroughly cleaned every six months.

In our household we use kerosene lamps for general lighting, but use propane gas lamps for technical work, reading, or in the kitchen when preparing meals.

In the past, we used naphtha (camping fuel) lamps and lanterns, but the fuel does not age well. In addition, it is a dangerous fuel, and became very expensive. Condensation forms in the pressure tanks, generators fail, and it became more of a problem than the lamps and lanterns were worth. Small propane tank fueled lamps and lanterns are much less trouble.

If a kerosene lamp is not used regularly, the kerosene should be emptied from it and stored in a cool dark place until needed, but not stored longer than a year. Otherwise, kerosene stored in a lamp will deteriorate, rot the wick, and gum up the burner.

One of our finest kerosene appliances is a kerosene kitchen cook stove.

Beware of just any old kerosene kitchen stove. Only one company held the patents and made a completely safe and reliable kerosene stove. That was the Perfection Stove Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Perfection kerosene stoves are absolutely the best. Their less expensive model, the Ivanhoe stoves, are excellent too. I have used a Perfection stove for more than 60 years, and would not want any other brand. The Perfection kerosene stove has not been manufactured in nearly 50 years, but many are still available at farm auctions and second-hand stores. Copies of the Perfection stoves are newly made by the Amish and available at Lehman’s Hardware. These are also excellent, but a bit pricey.

Bruce Clark
Interlaken, New York

Finding a doctor who will listen to you

I was just catching up on some back issues and read about your surgery—just wanted to say I’m glad to hear you’re doing better and to let your readers know about some other aspects of heart problems they might not have considered.

My husband is 55, diabetic (controlled with oral meds), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and arthritis. He’s a survey tech and has been for the last nine or so years. We’ve lived in western Washington state for six of those years and the hilly terrain he has to walk on the job has provided quite a bit of exercise for him. It’s also one thing that possibly saved his life, along with being scrupulous taking his meds and trying to watch his diet.

We had to move to a different city in 2001 and had been trying to find a doctor to replace the one he found when we first moved up here. By the fall of 2004 we had gone through three different doctors in an attempt to find one that would pay attention to what he was telling them about his health. Mind you, he has a background as an EMT and understands very well that you need to stay current on the latest advances in diabetes.

I can’t begin to tell you how frustrating it was to find doctors that wouldn’t listen to him. Especially when they just dismissed his symptoms as part of the diabetes and not something worse. The final straw was being told by one doctor to go on a low fat diet and start using fake eggs and butter and low fat milk. The more he tried to stick to the diet the worse his cholesterol got, and he would come home from work just starving. The next doctor just blew off his other symptoms totally and wanted him to go on insulin, without bothering to consider that some people are insulin resistant. The third doctor we tried (before resorting to long distance travel back to the one he used originally) is one that I will bless for the rest of my life.

The first thing she asked him was why he hadn’t had any kind of test for heart conditions since there was a family history of problems. The next thing she did was set him up with a cardiologist and nephrologist (kidney specialist) to get checked out. After a month of tests and doctor visits I got a call one day from the cardio doc. They wanted my husband to come in the next day for a stress test. When he went in they couldn’t get conclusive results and scheduled him to go to a hospital in Seattle for another test.

At this time we thought it was just because he was having trouble adjusting his meds and getting used to a diet better suited for a diabetic—the Atkins, believe it or not. They put the scope for the test in his vein that day, and to possibly do a little roto-rootering to clean it out. My oldest son and I were in the waiting room to hear the results.

When he came back much quicker than expected, we got the scariest news I’ve ever heard. He was being admitted for bypass surgery immediately and they would do it in two days! His cardiologist said later he was afraid Mike was going to have a heart attack in the office during testing. The surgery was a quintuple bypass, and we spent a long week in the hospital before he could go home. We also found out he had had several “silent” heart attacks over the years.

Today he’s in much better shape, has more energy than he has in years, and just generally feels better. It will still be a few years before he’s over the surgery, but that’s better than the alternative.

The reason for this story is a warning for other people out there who may be feeling bad. If your doctor doesn’t take your symptoms seriously, or can’t give you a good reason for feeling the way you do, then get another opinion. I know it’s not easy, or cheap, but neither is dying from something that can be treated. I was stubborn enough to make him go to another doctor. Fortunately, he has good insurance to cover some of the bills, but I would have done it anyway. So many doctors are overwhelmed with too many patients or insurance problems. Too many of them still have the I-went-to-med-school-and-you-didn’t-syndrome to listen to their patients. And yes, there are people who go and don’t listen to their doctor or are hypochondriacs.

This is one case where it pays to be a wise consumer and just listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

Ruth Beaty
Port Orchard, Washington

Exploding aerosol cans deter bears

Thanks for publishing your fine magazine. I’ve been a reader for several years & I really enjoy it.

I wanted to share my fun & non-lethal method for frightening off persistent bears.

I’m careful with my garbage, but they wouldn’t stay out of the compost bin. I strung a line of cheap elastic on stakes about a foot off the ground, around the perimeter of the compost bins. I attached steel cans with a pebble or 2, so they jingle a bit and alert me that a bear or dog is in the compost. I set one or 2 empty aerosol cans on the side of the bins, which are made of pallets. I leave my upstairs window open & if I hear the cans rattle, I grab the .22 and shoot the aerosol can.

I had some persistent bears that weren’t frightened by just the shot, but an exploding aerosol can seems to do the trick. Aside from being effective, this is cheap entertainment.

Mrs. R. Vermillion
Colville, Washington

Extend my subscription to counter cancellation

Edgar Williams’ subscription cancellation in Letters (Issue 100) prompted me to write.

I am truly sorry he saw fit to cancel BWH because it is “…filled now with so much anti-government paranoia and survival fantasies.”

Obviously, he believes much of the government pablum that is intended for our consumption. Even if he doesn’t agree, or believe, closing one’s mind to the exposure is tantamount to burying his head in the sand. Being totally unaware of what is occurring will eventually result in his exposure getting boot-kicked…but that’s his personal loss.

When, not if, such time occurs, I for one hope he finds some local BWH readers who did not bury their heads, and willing to help him and “his small children and animals.” Government certainly won’t.

Perhaps he subscribes to the latter part of the notion, “Those that can, do for themselves.Those that can’t (or won’t), let government do for them.” Using general taxpayer money, naturally, since government has no money of its own.

Sandy Housego, another same Letters contributor, has a far more enlightened view when saying, “Life is an adventure and it is good to be prepared in as many ways as possible,” as is also Laura Smith’s comment, “I’m now teaching my grandkids the importance of self-preservation…,” as well as coincidently in the same issue The Last Word. Kudos to all.

To counter Williams’ cancellation to a degree, I am extending my recent already multi-year renewal for one more year.

P.S. Congratulations on the 100th issue, and thanks to Silveira for yet another Last Word logical conclusion. Right on target.

B. Galioto
East Elmhurst, New York

Lord’s Prayer for fishing

I am one of the American Survival Guide subscribers your magazine helped out. Thank you. You’re 1000% better.

I also had a life-altering experience that woke me up and completely changed my life. I had a stroke 9 years ago, and although I am no longer able to work much, I still manage to keep busy. We have two young boys, 16 & 13, so you know how busy we are.

Again, thank you, and I hope you are in our lives (through your magazine you feel like family) for many years to come.

Russel L. Pfeifer
West Fargo, North Dakota

“What is this?” photo

Your “What is this?” picture in the May/June issue looks to me like a lectern or elevated stand for public speaking to crowds. Just a thought without seeing it “live.”

Love your magazine & attitude, keep up the good work.

Carl Stolberg
Manistee, Michigan

Growing to feed others

We moved here in Sept.’05, as it had 1-1/3 acres of land. They said “We’d never raise a garden here,” too many big rocks. I have to admit, it looked pretty bad. But, it’s hard to give up your ideas and your dreams & sit down and not try.

We got the idea of having dirt hauled in, we checked & it would cost $600 to just get enough to start out with. On our budget, this seems impossible. But we found a way.

We took the rocks, used a lot of them, & made a fence to hold the extra dirt in. We also made our first three square foot beds. We planted 230 tomato plants & other vegetables.

This garden is used to give away free, to anyone in need, or can’t garden anymore due to being old or ill, etc. For us it’s a hobby and keeps us busy. My husband is a handicapped veteran. I will be 70 in Sept., and had a stent put in my heart in ’03. But, we get so much pleasure in giving from this garden, we always pray when we plant our seeds that God will bless it, and He does.

We have 2 requests: One is, we need seeds for next year. We’ve had trouble raising green beans, even tho we’ve replanted twice. So, we don’t expect to get enough seed to dry for next year’s crop. Our money we get doesn’t give us much extra to make it. We planted seeds this year from the Backwoods Home readers that sent them in 2005. We want to thank everyone who was so kind to give us a hand.

And we need Jerusalem Artichokes. If anyone has them and would share a few with us, we’d be ever so grateful.

We will keep on with our project as long as we’re able.

God Bless You, Dave & Ilene Duffy. Here is my subscription for another year. Please send No. 11 book with it. I have the first 10. Soon I will order No. 12 & have the set. They are so good to look at on a cold snowy day.

James & Lillian Faubus
5213 Shiloh Rd.
Leslie, AR 72645


I love your magazine. I can’t wait to receive each one. It’s the only thing I look forward to getting in the mail. For those of us who are not living our dream yet, it gives us hope and something to look forward to. I especially like all the articles on alternative energy sources and doing things the self sufficient way. One day, I’ll put all this valuable knowledge to work on my little piece of ground. I feel like all of you are family. I have the Whole Sheebang and soon I plan on buying the new anthologies. I am very interested in making my own wine too. Thanks for all the info you’ve been giving on that. Thank you for the joy you give to me and so many others. I hope that your kids carry on the magazine just like you do it when you’re gone, Dave. I hope you are around a long time, but let’s face it, you’re not a spring chick anymore and we all have to go sometime. I am 36 years old and want Backwoods to go on for my kids and grandkids too.

Michelle Melton
Murfreesboro, Tennessee

No footprints in snow

A recent letter to Backwoods Home referred to the snow-covered cabin on the front of Backwoods Anthology No. 12 and stated it has “no footprints and snow on the roof. It’s cold in there.”

If that were my cabin I know what I would find there: solitude, blessed solitude. There were tracks there only three days ago. New snow has obliterated the tracks. The cabin “is” cold. In fact, it has been cold for two weeks.

It may have taken me all day to get there and evening is approaching. I may have driven several hundred miles and been occupied with life’s necessities enroute.

If I’m driving a four-wheel drive pickup, I have arrived to within a couple hundred yards of the cabin on a plowed county road (God bless the men who drive the plows) and now I must walk, ski, snowshoe or snowmobile up to the cabin. The snowmobile parked nearby stalls due to extreme cold and I confirm with myself that it is time to sell that obstinate machine. I walk to the house carrying the few items that I want to preserve from a night of cold or need to have with me.

As I arrive inside, I begin the process of warming the cabin from a current temperature of 28 degrees F. The low reading on the thermometer indicates that the indoor temperature was recently as low as 5 degrees F. Outside temperatures have been between -20 and -30 degrees F in the last week, so that low reading may only indicate the limits of the thermometer’s ability to register. I turn on the propane furnace, light a kerosene heater, light the oven, and build a fire in the woodstove. Kindling was prepared and the wood box filled prior to my last departure. After several hours, the house is warming and I can turn down the furnace, turn off the oven and kerosene heater, and rely on the woodstove to provide heat for all. Although the house is soon warm enough to go about without a coat, it takes nearly 24 hours to bring the whole house up to operating temperature throughout; which, importantly, includes drain lines.

I know that I will find items of necessity such as water and food in storage where it won’t freeze. Canned foods, dry foods, and drinking water are in the root cellar. Frozen foods are in the freezer. Several rolls of summer sausage are hung in paper sacks to dry. Seeds for sprouts are in the cupboard and take just a few days to produce a fresh crop. Water for use other than drinking is stored in plastic buckets that are, in turn, set inside flat-bottomed metal basins just in case the buckets burst from freezing and spill their contents. The water in the buckets is frozen. The buckets have not burst. They will require from 24 to 48 hours to thaw completely, maybe more. The new snow is a boon for the soft water that is provided when melted atop the wood stove in stainless-steel pots. A spring-fed hydrant outdoors provides water to be carried indoors.

About the time of the winter solstice, knowing I would be absent for extended periods, I winterized the house, draining all water, and filling the lines with RV antifreeze. So there is no indoor water supply. A portable commode provides relief indoors and a passive solar privy provides relief outdoors. When the sun is shining, this privy is a warm oasis and refuge. Today, it is barely 25 degrees F.

Bathing is accomplished in several ways depending upon need and occasion. Daily ablutions are achieved via washcloth and warm water in a stainless-steel bowl. Such a bowl can be warmed atop the woodstove or kitchen range and its design with sloping sides rather than flat bottom allows for a small amount of water to suffice for wash-up. A shower every few days comes from a weed sprayer converted to a shower. (I should stress that the weed sprayer was bought new for use as a shower and has never had anything but water in it.)

For entertainment, reading materials abound as well as world-band radio and television. Musical instruments are available for soulful laments and joyful jubilations. Being weary, I opt for the warmth of the woodstove and the presence of radio accompanied by pleasant reflections of positive relationships and jobs finished.

Photo credit: Pat Ward
Photo credit: Pat Ward

Numerous chores demand attention, however. There is wood to be chopped, water to be carried, other projects to be finished, hobbies to be perpetuated, birds to be fed, and items to be put in their place. I make a list of chores to be accomplished for tomorrow. Next day I awake refreshed and grateful for my home. Skeeter, my dog of 14 years, is stretched out on her bed in the corner. She is glad to be home, too!

After a leisurely cup of coffee with my backside perched near the warm woodstove, I study The Word and catch up with news and commentary on the radio or television. I listen to weather forecasts and updates to determine what the day in particular and the week in general might bring. Falling, blowing snow is being carried horizontally on a 20 mile-per-hour wind and temperatures do not exceed 20 degrees F. It is a good day to stay indoors and write or relax. Weather forecasts for the rest of the week are similar.

Since Thanksgiving holiday, more than 10 feet of snow has fallen. Very little of the snow has melted, but all of it has settled into a crust a foot or more thick that is hard enough to walk on and, in places, hard enough to drive on. It is now mid-February. The long nights are giving way to longer days but the earth shows only a few signs of spring as the sun reflects off the snow-covered mountains and valleys. The soft, fluffy new snow piles into and onto existing drifts, which exceed four-foot depths in places.

I retrieve all of the items left in the pickup yesterday. With them sorted and put away, I turn my attention to the record keeping necessary for a small business to operate. That, and a few letters that I write, fill as much of my day as I want to fill.

My neighbor stops by and we drink tea and visit for several hours. He tells of finding a mountain lion kill 300 yards from his house. An old friend calls on the phone and we have a short visit. Somehow the day slips away and I accomplish little else.

By now, though, the cold cabin has a look of warmth and activity again. Footprints are in the snow all around the house and to the shop. Snowmobile tracks make a trail from the road. And smoke rises from the chimney.

I leave you with a quote from Grey Owl’s Tales of an Empty Cabin:

“And the dingy, empty cabin was transformed, and took on again something of the glamour of its former days, and seemed once more an enchanted hall of dreams. So that it was no more an abandoned heap of logs and relics, but was once again…in all its former glory.

“And quite suddenly the place that had seemed to be so lonely and deserted was now no longer empty, but all at once was filled with living memories and ghosts from out the past.”

Bruce Waller

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