issue 127 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #127

The astonishing “Mac”

Here is my renewal, which I had intended to forego— dropped it in the wastebasket twice—I am letting subscriptions drop, can’t afford them—and BHM is the most expensive of my favorites. But as I read the last issue, and thought about giving up Jackie Clay—the astonishing “Mac”—(I think Silveira is the wisest man writing today, the greatest researcher, and modest, too!) and yes, even that terrifying Arab, Ayoob—I just couldn’t. I’ve got questions for Jackie and for Dave, yet unasked. Without you guys prodding me, I might forget that I can still do something about the hard times to come.

For several years now I’ve been building up a library for my great-grandkids that I hope will help them weather the bad times that I figure will come on their watch, if not before. Every issue of BHM, all the anthologies, books on self-sufficiency, natural medicine, organic gardening, food preservation, every aspect of surviving and living well through the bad times, they will find there if they haven’t forgotten how to read. This 112-year-old farm will feed and shelter them all if they can hold on to it; and they better hold on to it or I will come back and haunt them!

Phyllis Hubbard
Corydon, Indiana

Thanks for the history

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed “the gee whiz page” in Issue #125. I thoroughly enjoy all the articles that include any insight from O.E. MacDougal. I have learned a tremendous amount over the past few years of reading back issues that featured John Silveira’s recounts of conversations with MacDougal. The series about the first ladies was especially interesting.

Thank you for including history in BHM.

Marlana Ward
Mountain City, Tennessee

BHM brutally honest

Over the last 18 months, I’ve given several “Self reliant Publications” a good, hard, honest look. I wasn’t sure who I’d stay with & I really didn’t think it would be you. After reading articles, advertisements, Letters to the Editor & political viewpoints of all publications, I’d like to personally thank you for being “brutally honest” to me in all these articles. I do not always agree with you, and that’s a good point because I see, even though we don’t agree on “things,” you’re being as open and honest as possible.

Rob Watson
Weirton, West Virginia

Appleseed shoot

Guns, guns, guns. I think I will renew. I had no formal training for rifle marksmanship so the Appleseed Project issue peaked my interest. Memorial Day weekend 2010 was very very good at the Spenser Van Etten, NY Appleseed shoot.

My goal was to get a patch, while I did shoot a 214 it was outside the time limits, 2 five-round magazines make it difficult, although several instructors prepared my empty magazine during fire. It was to no avail. Finally it dawned on me that I should use the time for learning instead of trying to get a prize. Words of advice, Do NOT wear flipflops to this if you are going to shoot, hot brass will find its way to your feet, do not ask me how I know this. If you have the slightest amount of love for the USA, prepare to get emotional.

Is there anything Jackie Clay doesn’t know? She is great.

If you have a firearm for personal protection you should read “In the Gravest Extreme” by Massad Ayoob. It puts things in perspective.

All in all I really enjoy the magazine and learn from it, by people who actually do something and are not afraid to share their mistakes as well as success.

David Fish
Cameron Mills, New York

Follow the rules when it comes to canning

Oh a hard lesson learned this year. I have been canning since I was big enough to sit at the table without a booster seat. Yet, with over 45 years experience, I really messed up. I didn’t follow protocol and lost a HUGE batch of my canned tomatoes and pasta sauce. I spent 2-10 hour days prepping and canning 2 bushels of tomatoes for pasta sauce and stewed tomatoes. Oh I was so proud of the 36 quarts and 20 pints that lined my shelves. But, 4 days later, when I checked the jars, over half had failed and leaked.

I got lazy. That is the truth. I did not pack the sauce or tomatoes hot or in hot jars. I let the tomatoes and sauce sit for a few hours, then packed it and processed it cold in cold jars. Now for the tomatoes alone, that would have been ok. I only lost 2 pints of stewed tomatoes. But to lose 15 quarts of pasta sauce due to not following the strict rules? My fault, so my fault. I was in tears as I dumped out about 3.5 GALLONS of sauce.

So, lesson learned. I wanted to pass this on to others who do canning so they do not sit crying in the grass over the loss of their hard work. DO NOT get complacent and think “Oh, I have done this millions of times” and take a short cut. There are no shortcuts. Only a shortcut to failure. Follow the rules! Do NOT deviate from the rules. The rules are there for a reason.

KelleyJane Kloub
Ipswich, Massachusetts

Continue to teach us

Mr. Duffy, I have been an occasional reader online for about a decade. Mr. Richard Blunt’s informational articles about food and your wonderful recipe file got me started. As the economy went into free fall and little has been accomplished to remedy the problems that put us here, the self-reliant life style becomes ever more attractive. I hope your publication will continue to teach us, the lazy-spoiled general public, that we can live a better way. Bless you, your staff (including those who are retired) and all your families.

Mary F. Richards
Liège, Belgium
(formerly Indianola, Mississippi)

Passing on the know-how

I would like to thank you, all the staff, especially Jackie Clay (she reminds me of a much younger version of my Mother) for all the knowledge that you and your staff are passing along to lots and lots of people like myself.

I lost my parents and grandparents many years ago. The lifelong knowledge they possessed is gone forever, however you all are keeping the priceless knowledge alive that has become the hope for our future.

Keep up this very important journey so that we might all learn and teach others and never forget the lessons from our heritage.

Teresa Lee
Grover, Colorado

Jackie’s canning book

I LOVE your magazine. I’ve been a subscriber for about 2 years now, and recently renewed for enough years to get a couple of your books! I’ve ordered Jackie’s canning book and I absolutely love it! My pantry is stocked and ready for a cold winter, thanks to some of your incredible recipes and advice.

Living a simple and self-reliant life is something that my husband and I have been working toward for about the last 5 years. We grow a lot of our own vegetables, we raise our own grass-fed beef, our own chickens give us wonderful eggs and we recently added two Jersey milk cows to the mix. We planted a small orchard two years ago and will be installing a wood furnace in a week or so!

Our journey of self-reliance is bringing us great satisfaction. I hope your subscription numbers increase in 2011! You all deserve it for a job well done!

Marilyn Lakaner
Steelville, Missouri

May stop by for a visit

I love this magazine! This magazine in addition to SWAT are my absolute favorites, and will, to the best of my ability, always be a part of my education. Your customer service rocks by the way! I hope I can come stop by your office someday, and meet everyone in person. By the way, you should see if Jackie Clay would do homesteading classes…I bet that would be a good additional source of income with her popularity being what it is. Till next renewal, keep up the great work, and thank you.

Travis Crosby
Morrison, Colorado

Stop by any time. We like visiting with subscribers. I’ve got Jackie writing another book so I don’t think she’ll have time for homesteading classes. — Dave

Raccoon “live trap”

I was hoping to get word to Mr. Sanders to thank him for his live trap article (Issue No. 64). It seems so simple, yet seeing the drawings helped tremendously.

I had a raccoon that was killing my chickens (the ones I allow outside of the coop) at a staggering rate. So, last night I spent about an hour and a half building the trap. Since the only scrap wood I had laying around were 1x6x8s, it ended taking up more time than it should have taken, as I had to actually construct walls, making the whole trap approx. 12×12. I baited the trap with a raw chicken leg. It wasn’t even 2 hours later when, while I got ready to get into bed, I heard a “Thunk,” and what sounded like wood banging against wood. I thought “There’s no way.” So, my wife and I went out to check the trap, which was about 60 feet from the house and about 10 feet from the chicken coop. Sure enough, a big ‘coon.

So again, thanks for the idea, it was indeed a “sure-fire” trap.

Jared Stanley
Toomsuba, Mississippi

BHM is the best invention since broom

…I think it’s (Backwoods Home Magazine) the best invention since the broom. I look forward to its arrival and read it from cover to cover. I always learn something. And I’m continually impressed by the ideas presented. My husband and I are fixing to build that greenhouse I have desperately wanted for years and this is due to the article about the solar greenhouse in the issue before last… (Issue No. 125)

Elaine Johnson
Frisco City, Alabama

Thanks for the phone call


I want to thank you for calling yesterday instead of just sending back an e-mail reply. That one act represents a level of customer service that is unheard of today, and which one does not get from your main ‘competitor’ magazine any longer. (I was a subscriber to that one from the day I found issue #1 in a ‘head shop’ where I was living.) They have now, however, become much more ‘suburban’ than ‘off grid’ and much more advertising driven than they used to be. I’m happy to have found BHM as it fits my aspirations better.

But my original point was the phone call—thank you. It was a little bit of personal touch that is so absent in any kind of transaction these days that it has left an indelible impression on me already.

David Bier
Groton, Connecticut

Remembering Y2K

I greatly enjoyed your article on the Y2K scare (Issue No. 126), which was an interesting excursion into the “what if?” questions so seldom asked these days. I guess it was useful enough, though, as it re-introduced the idea of looking ahead and anticipating the consequences of our actions—a concept practiced less and less as we age as a civilization.

I worked at IBM back in the late 80s and early 90s, and some of us were asking questions about Y2K then, and getting some rather strange answers, mostly of the “Don’t rock the boat” variety. But eventually they, as well as the rest of the world, did get around to panicking and overreacting to it, and I actually ended up working New Year’s Eve 1999, just so there would be a live person to act on any one of several pre-determined scenarios. But, as we know now, it was all a big scare for nothing.

One event, though, that will forever be etched in my memory, was the call I got at 6 a.m. on that New Year’s Day, from my family, informing me that my dad, who had been in a nursing home for some time, and who we did not expect to live much longer, had passed away. It was expected, but it still hurt, and we went through the next few days making preparations for the funeral, and supporting our mother, who, during their over 59 years of marriage, was never far from his side.

All went as planned, except, at the funeral, as we gathered around the casket to say a final goodbye to the dad we all had adored, mother just shook her head sadly and said, “Well, I guess he just wasn’t Y2K compatible.”

Howard Tuckey
Lisle, New York

More on the water series

Your three part series on water purification was well done and highly informative, but how about one more chapter on distillation. I understand that it produces the purest water possible, and doesn’t require expensive, possibly dangerous chemicals. I use a commercial model distiller at home because of the bad taste of our well water. I’ve often wondered why so many sailors died of thirst in the old days, saying “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink” when the alchemists had known how to distill liquids for centuries. Somewhere I remember reading about sea kayakers making stills for ocean water out of copper tubing and 5 gallon metal buckets. Mentioning stills here in West Virginia seems to get people’s attention for some reason. It seems to me that a small homemade still could easily be used at a long term campsite where a cooking fire is tended for long periods each day. Water from a nearby pond, lake or river could be rendered completely safe for drinking and washing as all pathogens are killed and other chemical pollutants are removed. I think that one could also be used over a wood burning stove. I’ve heard people say that distilled water leaches minerals from your bones, but I’ve seen that other seemingly well informed people dismiss this as utter nonsense.

David Steven Spurling
Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

Mr. Spurling is absolutely correct that distillation is an excellent method of purifying water. The reason I didn’t include it was my effort to keep the topic somewhat manageable in terms of scope. When I set out to write these articles, I limited myself to methods that met two requirements:

1) that were readily portable and required minimal setup and/or resources and

2) that could easily be scaled up by the reader to meet large volume requirements, if so desired.

Given the needed time, setup and heat source, as well as the fact that distillation’s practical use would be generally limited to fairly small volumes, I did not include it in the discussion. However, as Mr. Spurling points out, there are definitely cases where a person may very well have a suitable heat source available. If so, distillation is certainly a possibility.

For those who are interested in this method, there are a few essentials to consider. First, on the positive side, distillation is capable of removing dissolved salts and minerals. In contrast, the methods discussed in the water treatment articles do not. What this means is that distillation (along with “reverse osmosis”) is suitable for use with sea water or other sources that are too salty to drink otherwise. On the negative side, distillation is not a guaranteed means of removing everything. The biggest limitation of this method is that it will not eliminate volatile chemicals, which could include hydrocarbons (things like gasoline, solvents, petroleum products, etc.) as well as contaminants like certain pesticides and mercury compounds. Any substance that will readily vaporize (as water does when heated) will be carried over with the steam and condensed in the output. A follow-up with carbon filtration (after the water has cooled) would be helpful in reducing the concentration of many of these contaminants. Another problem to watch for is that frothing during the boiling process can carry unvaporized liquid water over into the collection system and this water, of course, could carry contaminants. Distillation is very effective at killing microorganisms but, as with boiling and microfiltration, it will provide no “residual” effect to prevent their regrowth.

So far as the question of health problems, Mr. Spurling is also correct there. Non-distilled water may contain some beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium. However, even very “hard” water will not contain enough to meet proper dietary requirements. Other than a “flat” taste (due to the removal of minerals and dissolved oxygen), there is nothing wrong with drinking distilled water. Of course, as with any other treatment method, it is important to make sure that the process is working correctly and that the components of the “still” are suitable for preparing drinking water. As was pointed out to me by another reader, a related method that might be useful in some settings is the “solar still.” This uses the slow evaporation of water under normal temperatures, rather than the rapid vaporization of boiling. Other than this, it has very similar pros and cons. Many outdoor survival manuals contain the details related to setting up a solar still. — Tim Thorstenson

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