issue 125 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #125

“Wow” to “Our job” article

I have just finished reading this month’s … article by Claire Wolfe “Our Job.” (Issue #124, July/August 2010) My reaction is “Wow! Well written!”

I will share this with my Grandson. Thanks for a job well done.

Nancy Hegele
Venice, Florida

Elderberry blossom Pancakes

I was very pleased to find the article “Elderberries” in Issue 124.

Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper (long ago) a springtime favorite has been elderberry blossom pancakes! My—what a delightful delicate taste of the new growing season!

Collect several of the flower heads. Wash thoroughly to remove dust and any bugs that are enjoying the blossoms. Strip the flowers (some of the green stems are unavoidable but no problem) and stir them into the pancake batter before cooking.

The elderberry blossom flavor is mild so don’t overpower it with heavy syrup. I’ve found that butter and a light sprinkling of granulated white sugar is the best way to enjoy this marvelous gift of Mother Nature.

Bob Huebner
Kamiah, Idaho


The attached check includes my three year renewal. Please use the extra $50 as a subscription or two for anyone who might otherwise not renew because of financial difficulties.

I have no doubt that you are proud of Annie and the fine job she is doing. Thank God her husband made it back and is finished. Congratulations to all for the new baby.

After reading the “free coffee” offer in the last issue I looked up Gold Beach on the Internet, never having heard of it except as your address. Just a bit out of the way isn’t it? There are lots of advantages in that if one can make a living as you have done.

I live about 35 miles west of San Antonio in farm & ranch country. Great hard-working folks but too close to the city’s parasites when it hits the fan.

However, I do visit Boeing in Everett about three times a year. Now if I can schedule a meeting so as to have couple days free I will take you up on that free coffee.

Art Stewart
Rio Medina, Texas

Thanks for the $50 donation. I wish I could print some of the very appreciative letters from people who benefit from your largesse, but I don’t so as to maintain their privacy. Many are simply aghast at the generosity of fellow readers. Donations for subscriptions for those who cannot afford one are especially important in these hard economic times. We get a few hundred dollars a month now, and are extensively grateful. — Dave

The “civilized survivor”

I was raised by parents that were business people. Father in auto sales and mother who eventually successfully owned a ladies ready to wear shop for 25 years. But I had an alternative simultaneous life. My mother’s sister was married to a farmer. So I spent many days and weeks on the farm some 100 miles away. Fortunately I got to see the remnants of the old 1920s to 1940s farm life. My experience on the farm panned 1947 to 1966.

I became a product of both environments. Seeing how the poor farm community worked and lived and its contrast to small town life of salaried people brought me a distinct world viewpoint. I was always an avid reader, observer, and had that long view that projected beyond the horizon.

I developed a life plan when I was 16. Actually sat down and wrote most of it out based on what I had learned and observed. By the time I was 20 I had added to it a little bit. Here is that life plan. I called it the civilized survivor.

1. Get educated (I did with four college degrees)

2. Do a tour in the military (USAF, retired)

3. Find a wife that is a soul mate (I did)

4. Attempt to understand what makes the world work (still working on this)

5. Become proficient with guns (I am)

6. Stay out of debt (I did)

7. Live on high ground (We do)

8. Have strong weather/war shelter that can be used as an alternative living space if your home is destroyed (We do)

This was a very aggressive and forward plan for a teenager/young man. We are prepared for contingencies. Watching and waiting. Read your magazine and like the content.

Joe W. Cullen
Cheyenne, Oklahoma

Apple and peach peelings for the best fried pies

Wanted to pass this tidbit along. Have never heard Jackie mention it, I’m sure she’s tried it. My mother always saved apple & peach peelings, after washing & cutting bad places off & with sugar & spices cooked down. Makes the most best fried pies—you see I do it too. I’m 87 years old (been there, done that) as they say. I’ve lived through a depression, drawed water from a well, heated bath water in sun in summertime, on wood heater in winter. Hope this helps someone. Love your letters and Jackie’s blog.

Estes Mills
Texarkana, Texas

Getting started in self-reliant living

Dear Jackie,

I have to disagree with your Ask Jackie column answer to Joe Leonetti’s questions about getting started in self-sufficient living in Issue #124 (July/Aug 2010). They missed all the most important points that a “city” person would have to master first. Here are my own suggestions:

Joe, forget thinking “self-sufficient” and start thinking “frugal;” if you have the consume-and-spend mindset so prevalent today you’ll need to do this anyway to prepare for retirement. The excellent news is, many things you’ll need to know no matter where you live can be learned and practiced right in the middle of town, and little by little. For instance:

*Start by preparing all food and beverage at home—then with no frozen foods—then from scratch—then from storage foods (e.g. canned goods)— then with only a stove (no microwave, other gadgets)—then without refrigeration (for ingredients or leftovers). If you’re an average urbanite, you’ll save a boatload of money that will help you to…

*Get out of debt COMPLETELY. Debt is a chain that will imprison you to your current job FOREVER. It may be the single most common reason why people fail at a simplified lifestyle change. Pay as you go with cash, use credit cards only for car breakdowns and other emergencies, and pay the plastic off every month. And speaking of cars…

*Trade your late-model, banker’s-dream for a used, great-condition vehicle that will serve you well on rougher roads (my advice: one without a computer “brain” where everything goes when it goes) and start learning to maintain and repair it yourself. This is a rough lesson but your vehicle is your only lifeline in remote living and doing work yourself will save you more money than almost any other single thing. A car repair class (or full course at your local community college) will also teach you what tools and equipment you’ll need. Then get the car totally paid off. While this is in progress, start learning how to…

*Live without electricity, unlimited running water and central heating. Practice washing laundry, dishes and yourself using very limited quantities of water; use only electronics that have solar chargers; get up with the sun, go to bed when it’s dark, use a flashlight or battery lantern in between. You’ll also find that you need to adjust many household choices to accommodate the new regime—the type of clothes you wear, wearing them more than one day, your soaps, your hairstyle, and a whole lot more. You’ll also need a wooden drying rack, a charming rustic decorator touch for any contemporary condo. Boy, will you ever feel sorry for yourself at times, but once you get good at it, it’s also very empowering. And very soon you’ll figure out that…

*You won’t adapt to everything, so find out what is crucial to continuing and then keep going. Concentrate on paring down your present lifestyle to as little expense, as little stuff and as little time as possible, and then it’s all forward progress. You can also whittle transportation expenses if you investigate public transportation, or…

*Get a durable pair of walking shoes, a big backpack (used) and create a sturdy, homemade wheeled wire shopping cart, maybe even a bike and bike cart. These things may be your lifeline if the car goes kerflooey one time too many. Do shopping on foot or by bike several times a week, in all kinds of weather; you’ll be out in it anyway if you build or garden in a remote area. And speaking of which…

*Now that you’re outside more, start practicing being comfortable inside with no central heating. Turn the thermostat down to 60 and wear long underwear, warm vests, heavy socks, hats, and gloves inside the house. Heavy bedclothes are good here, too, especially a rectangular sleeping bag zipped open for use as a comforter. Scout out every thrift store in your county and find these gems there; if your present lifestyle permits, you’ll need a good selection of warm clothes if you…

*Purchase a used, self-contained (bed, toilet, kitchen) travel trailer or camper and learn your skills—carpentry, wiring, plumbing, gas piping, whatever—restoring it. You can use this for living in when you first move onto your rural land—that’s where the warm clothes come in. When it’s ready, take it out camping frequently for practice. As you sit in the silence, you will also realize that…

*Urban areas have lots of entertainment, but rural areas do not have sports stadiums, multiplex theaters, opera halls, megastores, even chain video rental places. You can’t work all the time and you must learn to entertain yourself in other ways; with solar chargers you can still watch a DVD (for free, no less) obtained from…

*Your regional library that participates in an inter-library loan system, without which you won’t consider moving to the area anyway. Get over any attitudes about libraries being for students and go apply for your card. Then order every book they have on camping, outdoor living, bike repair, cooking from scratch, wood-stove use and the basic design and construction of small homes. Libraries also stock popular DVDs and CDs, magazines and newspapers, and may have public-use computers as well as free wireless access for your own laptop. College libraries may be open to public use as well, and their inventory might include a selection of more specialized periodicals geared to their high-tech classes. Your taxes are paying for it, so you might as well get your money’s worth.

*Lastly, you stated that with your background it would be very easy for you to get into teaching. Begin NOW getting the proper certification and begin job hunting for weekend or evening teaching spots; it may be harder to break into the field than you anticipated, and if you ever suddenly need new employment, nothing works in your favor like an established track record.

*Now, are you still with me, Joe? Have you thrown down the magazine and run away screaming yet? The majority of these lifestyle-changes can be done even if you’re presently living in a high-rise condo with a view of Manhattan. Bear in mind, the very best hedge against future money troubles is the ability to live well on very little. Think ahead to retirement (just how much will you collect on Social Security?) and start planning now for a total lifestyle that is exactly what fits you and sustainable well into the years ahead…

Liz Case
Belfair, Washington

Tub gardening

I appreciated the article in the current issue of BHM about tub gardening (Issue #123, May/June 2010). I purchased three 18-gallon tubs, added potting soil, and am very pleased with the results: tomatoes, bush beans, assorted peppers, lettuce and sorrel. Excellent recommendation for those of us with small urban garden space. Plus the barrels are inaccessible to digging by our puppies…Thanks again!

Julia Morgan
Pasadena, California

Aprons of memories

I loved your story “Aprons of memories” (Issue #123, May/June 2010). The same thing happened to my siblings and me. I saved an apron that was my grandmother’s and also one that was my mom’s. I have my grandmother’s old wall clothes rack, it’s where my aprons are hanging. I love to look at them, they bring so many memories. I love your mag. Each article is a must. The stories of tomatoes & sourdough is great—I use an old sourdough that doesn’t have yeast—it has potato flakes. We love it.

Thank you again for such a wonderful mag.

Pearl Raymond
Seymour, Missouri

My cabin in the woods will have to wait

Thank you for your well rounded publication that seems to have something for everyone. I am happy to see Dorothy Ainsworth has made good progress on her son’s new home, and it looks like they’ve done a great job. The recent article on the electrical part of the job is what caused me to write in.

Although I respect and abide by the National electrical code (it is literally a lifesaver), I find it almost humorous, thanks to the latest additions… But remember, every little thing in there “is for our own good.” After all, they know what’s best for us. I’d like to remind people how laws, ordinances and codes, etc. are enacted. Some for safety, convenience and efficiency but, many are lobbied for by those who stand to benefit financially such as unions, trades, contractors, manufacturers, etc., but mostly by our beloved insurance industry…

If you’re not 100% sure of what you’re doing, I strongly suggest that all work be inspected (electrical or otherwise). But not by petty bureaucrats who have the appointed power to intimidate people. I’ve seen them in action. They can make peoples’ lives miserable. If you make the right “contribution,” things can go amazingly smooth. On the other hand, try supporting the wrong political party, questioning or standing up to the wrong person, and your life would become a living hell. I’ve seen it. I know how it works. My former local government became so selectively heavy handed, that I protested with my feet…

I question the number given to Dorothy regarding the supposed number of fires caused by sparking receptacles (60,000 in 2006). How did we ever survive all these years without the new A.F.C.I.’s now required? I’ve heard many people that have them say that they (A.F.C.I.’s) are more headaches than they are worth, tripping much too easily. I suspect the inspectors have been ‘educated’ by the manufacturers, much like doctors have been ‘educated’ by the pharmaceutical companies.

Dorothy’s article dovetails nicely with the one by Claire Wolfe regarding putting off things you always wanted to do because of fear. Guess what Claire? You struck a nerve. For years, I planned to build a wonderful retreat in “that perfect place.” After years of accumulating knowledge, skill, equipment and other resources in preparation to fulfill my dream, guess why it’s not going to happen? That’s right; the aforementioned petty tyrants are keeping me from it. I may be cutting off my nose to spite my face. Perhaps, but I will not allow my creativity, ingenuity and talent to be stifled by bureaucrats that know what’s best for me. I have no intention on going, hat in hand, to ANYBODY, asking for their permission to do anything (not harmful to others) on my own property. And to add insult to injury, they expect to be paid to grant you permission. Furthermore, I will not tolerate any bureaucrat or political appointee to “APPROVE” of the home I want to build, or have someone look over my shoulder while I build it, or tell ME if THEY are satisfied with what I have done.

The population has been so pathetically conditioned to have somebody (usually some form of government) look after them, tell them what to do or how to do it, that it has just become accepted (much like training an animal). But remember, “It’s for your own good.” I suppose most people need somebody to look after them, which accounts for our massive government that has its hand in our pockets and nose in our business. I am NOT one of those people! This is why I subscribe to Backwoods Home Magazine.

For now that cabin in the woods will have to wait until I can find a place where I can practice my skills and creativity unmolested by those who know what’s best for me; if such a place still exists. May God Bless America.

George Dundovich
Eola, Illinois

Dropped my other magazines

I want to thank you all for the effort you put into BHM. I have found it so helpful, I’ve dropped 2 other magazines so I can afford yours! Keep up the good & informative work. God Bless & thank you!

Clinton and Dawn Nall
Elk, Washington

Cancel my subscription

In good faith I subscribed to your magazine because I thought it would help my quest for independence & security. I was a little put off right away by your political commentary, but Issue #123 pushes me to give your publication no more slack. Please cancel my subscription immediately!

Pam Garten
Lake Oswego, Oregon

I’ve enjoyed your magazine for many years. As a fellow marine veteran of Vietnam, 70-71, 1st Mar Div; I felt a certain kinship. But over the years a large number of your articles have gone libertarian, where as, my belief is we need to come together as a society if we are to survive. I see it as a choice between becoming more like Sweden or Somalia.

Please let my subscription end after the final issue…

Good luck to you and your family.

Robert Foster
Dillon, Montana

Renew my subscription

I am responding to the “cancel my subscription” articles in Issue #124, July/August 2010. First I agree with about 95% of your articles. I truly enjoy reading and learning. I am a retired Army Green Beret and I love your magazine, it is my favorite. I do subscribe to other magazines that have the sustainable/self sufficient mentality and have very liberal views. Though I disagree with their viewpoint; I still learn from them and continue my subscription. The first amendment allows free speech, the second amendment protects all the others. We live in a very violent world, I believe every American should own and know how to use a firearm, my opinion. Terrorism is not going away. And when someone on the left dislikes something they usually want it banned so no one can have it. I recommend that they spend some time in countries that don’t have these freedoms. Please keep your magazine just as it is and renew my subscription!

Rod Knight
Fayetteville, North Carolina

With respect to the cancellation letters in the July/August issue; Joel, Gregg, and Donald are right—they should not read BHM. Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping are always looking for new subscribers. I suspect these guys’ idea of self-reliance is an unchaperoned trip to Wal-Mart. BHM and Fox News are “windows onto reality.” Stay the course.

Enclosed is a check to extend my subscription an additional year.

Tom McGill
Cheboygan, Michigan

Right wing “drivel,” Republican crap, lies?? I suspect these gentlemen believe that Free Speech is a bad thing unless THEY are the ones talking. Granted, I don’t always agree with some of the “political” (if you insist on labeling) editorials, but since I’m a “seeker-of-knowledge” and defender-of-freedom, I shrug my shoulders and keep reading. BHM is loaded with “healthy living content” and people who refuse to look past or ignore the VERY small amount of “political” content are either afraid their beliefs may be proven wrong or they have strong Socialist leanings. Regarding “guns, guns, guns,” I would rather see people properly educated about firearms, safe use, etc. than a nation of fools who are so afraid of guns that they become easy prey for egocentric dictators that rob honest citizens to line their own nests. Keep up the great work, BHM staff!

Carolyn Windmier
Clintonville, Wisconsin

BHM the best

You guys have a great magazine, dare I say the best! I like every part of it. I like John Silveira, Massad Ayoob, your editorials, and all the wonderful info I have learned. I canned meat because of your magazine, never thought I would do that. I have a Libertarian viewpoint like a few of you do, and wish more people did. I read “Can America be saved from stupid people,” and no I don’t think it can, without some type of revolution, bloody or peaceful. I read your articles online and in print. I’d say your magazine is the easiest to find, and use in all media formats.

Todd Lange
Lincoln, Nebraska

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