issue 53 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #53

A miracle

I hope and pray after you read this letter you also believe in miracles! Your magazine sure brought one into my life.

In your September 1997, Magazine that I purchased because of eagle on front plus…I happened to read for the first time your personal ads in back of the magazine and did, for me, one of the most daring things I have ever done in my life. I answered that ad and a friendship formed as we have much in common. I have lived alone for years, except for my two cats, and he also except for his dog. In December I flew from Washington state to Ohio…and was very ill. I blamed it on nerves or jet lag! Stayed and had a wonderful time with his two children he had raised alone, and grandchildren. And got to see some of his. I’ve never been east on a train with my mother and brother, so for me it was a wonderful adventure—window seats on air planes and all. First plane ride in this old lady’s life. At 49 I’m no spring chicken. I could only stay a few days as I became sicker, and flew back to Washington, to the shock of my life—48 days in the hospital and three operations later, I got to go home to Maple Falls just outside of Bellingham. Thus ending the jokes that we had started of my being a mail order bride as we had never met! But my personal life as a care giver to the elderly taught me to believe in your dreams, and that a log cabin for a woman alone was quite out of the question…After nearly dying, as my parents and a friend were told, I believe I lived to see a dream come true—a partner in life and a small log cabin in the woods!…My friend and I packed up my belongings and I headed out with two cats in a U-Haul truck for Ohio—the 2nd most daring thing in my life. Lots of maps in hand! And as a joke a pair of red slippers as Dorothy had—I had no idea where Ohio even was except to look on a map! And the dream of our log cabin in my purse beside me.

My strength will only let me do so much in one day like unpack one or two boxes or fix a meal. But I found Ohio, the dog and cats get along great, and we’re learning to be partners, and work together. Needless to say I feel like I should do more and am told by my prince charming I can when my health improves! And in the future, wedding bells will ring for us I pray and will find a way somehow to build this small log cabin. His working long hours to pay for the land is about all he can do now, so if you believe in dreams, as we do, have one for us.

Thank you for your magazine as I can still look for new ideas of all kinds. Solar oven Casseroles (May/June 98, to Selling Farm Produce. And for a dream come true. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone! I now quilt, can, and put food by for two not one.

Rick & Pattie, Kensington, OH

Living our dream

Although not a subscriber, I do pick up BHM at a local bookstore. I am an avid reader of anything dealing with homesteading, survival, independent living, etc. I find your magazine most informative and enjoyable. I look forward to each new issue. Keep up the great job!

Until recently I was merely a student of independent living, now, as of June 1st I am a practitioner. My wife, my son and I have realized a long time dream and have moved into the cabin we built on our 6+ acres.
We did it with salvaged, gleamed and indigenous materials. A cash outlay of just under $3,000 and we have an Adirondack style cabin that is both functional and attractive.

A friend and I tore down a dilapidated barn which yielded both hand hewn beams and excellent barn wood.
Driving by a building being raised to make way for a new commercial structure, I spied a big pile of cedar shakes. A quick visit with the foreman and I filled my minivan 4 times with cedar shakes and 2x4s. Not only was I happy, but the foreman assured me that I was saving his company the expense of hauling them away.
I have dozen’s of stories like this and am now convinced that legitimate functional, attractive buildings can be constructed very inexpensively. My next challenge is to construct an outbuilding, of some sort, absolutely free. I believe it can be done.

I have always been inspired by letters sent in by readers who are out there “living the life.” Now my family and I are living our dream as well.

To those readers still dreaming that some day they too will do it—hang in there—it is possible we are just one more family proving it can be done. You just have to want it bad enough!

Kevin V. Abbott,
Bernhards Bay, NY

Backwoods escape

I’m sitting on my 30 acres all alone this weekend. I took the 325 mile drive yesterday, once again to escape the busy and frustrating city life. My spouse and grown children remain back there. Oh! Yes! Gregg Widel (your letter published in issue #52). I can relate to your letter very well. Possibly, this letter will give you some insight and other readers as well, who have or will be experiencing a similar situation such as mine.

Today is father’s day. It is my day. Why should I have stayed in the city? After all, I waited around on previous fathers’ days; the usual telephone calls came. “Happy father’s day, pop!” So, why hang around the house back in the city for a few telephone calls? It isn’t like the good old days, where family would spend the day together; maybe go on a picnic, or, something. The fast life has taken its toll on our nuclear age family. But, 3 years ago I took some action for myself. I purchased 30 acres of beautiful hardwoods in northwestern Wisconsin.

My spouse was reluctant to go along with the purchase, but, gave in anyway. Primarily, I said to her, “a great place for deer hunting and fishing. And, a good investment. Watch the value grow!” Well, yes. The value of the land has almost doubled as of now. As a matter of fact, we have more equity in this 30 acres than we do in our city home.

Well, I would love to move here. I would build most of the cabin myself. Presently we have a 24-foot camper on the upper 30. In three years I have managed to build a footbridge, a chemical outhouse, a storage shed, and I designed and constructed a “rain catcher.” Not bad, considering my trips to the upper 30 are when I can get there and I have done all of the work by myself. Okay. Consider me a handyman; something like you, Gregg. Well, I’m a-jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I guess all of us backwoods lovers are masters in our own way.

My spouse has been here to the 30 twice now. On the first trip we stopped along the way as the wife needed to buy a new pair of hiking boots, because I told her that it would be little muddy due to the spring melt and all. Well, we finally pulled up close to the new 30 on the gravel frontage road. I wanted her to look at the beautiful land we had just purchased; to feel proud and free. Well, she took about 20 steps. Said, “It’s too muddy.” Then, she retreated to the car and sat there for two hours while I investigated our 30. After getting fed-up with her honking the horn for 15 minutes, I returned to the car. Those new boots are still sitting in the closet in the city.

Now, the following summer I managed to get her to come along for a three day weekend. She sat in the camper when she wasn’t at Wal-Mart or at the closest restaurant. She didn’t want to walk the 30, complained about every spider she saw, or, swore a big black bear was going to get her! Oh, yeah! She forgot the boots.

She says we could never live on the 30 year round. “Maybe we can have two homes. One here and one there.” she has said more than once. But, “you will have to tend the garden and do all the outside stuff. I will keep the manufactured home tidy and you always said you wanted to cook fancy meals with garden stuff you are going to grow, aren’t you, dear?” she added. “What manufactured home!” I asked. “Well, I don’t think I would want a rustic looking cabin.” she said. “I want wall to wall carpeting, 3 bedrooms and built in appliances.” she added.

Well, people, and you, Gregg, what is wrong with this picture? Do you think I am going to purchase a manufactured home? Or, for that matter, even build a cabin? I would build it for myself, but, she would have to be out of the scene, if you know what I mean? I want backwoods home living the only way and she wants backwoods home vacations her way (part-time).

So, my northern 30 is, for now, my escape. My escape from her and a place where I find peace once in awhile. I dream of hopefully finding someone who I can share this great place with to the fullest. I do not think it will be with her. There are no time limits here. I do not wear my watch. I stay up as late as I want and enjoy the serenity of it all. “What will I build next?” I ask myself. “Surely, not a cabin. Not just yet.” I think. Maybe, some other year.

Then, more than once, she has said, “You know, if you ever leave me, half of that 30 is mine.” “Oh, I respond; I suppose your half is the half with the 24-foot camper and all of the building things I have labored over?” I asked. “Of course!” she answered. “Why would I want the muddy and swampy part?” she added.

Gregg, if your spouse is similar to mine, or, maybe she just doesn’t want to make a change because backwoods home living is a huge step with lots of hard work to look forward to; possibly, you need an escape similar to mine. Or, you just might have to make some changes in your life. You know life is too short here. I wish I would have purchased this land years ago. And, I mean before I had ever met my spouse. Then, she would have seen the backwoods type guy that I have always been.

On my 30 acres I have no well or septic. I do have access to an electrical hook-up, but, I will not pay $2,250 for the hook-up. I use a gasoline powered generator with two 12 volt batteries as a backup for running the furnace and water pump through the night. Close by there is an artesian well and I utilize several five-gallon jugs via my 4×4.

As for the chemical outhouse I designed and built, my wife won’t use it. I do. When it’s time to get rid of waste, I just haul it to the city for the trashman to pick-up, or, I do a g.i. burn with kerosene like we did in the service. Nothing goes in the ground. Oh, I have plans to continue on with my little projects in the north woods on the blessed 30. I’m thinking solar and might dig a well next year. But no cabin. Not yet.

Finally, I appreciate Backwoods Home Magazine, it is the most useful magazine available for people such as us. I don’t even read my hunting magazines any longer. I like the “down to earth” stuff much better. My favorite part of Backwoods Home Magazine are the letters. I would like to see BHM increase their publishing of additional letters. I get a big charge out of dim-wits who disagree on Duffy’s viewpoints and then they cancel their subscription. Well, I do not subscribe for the viewpoint aspect. I just enjoy the articles. The only complaint I do have about BHM is that I have to wait too long for the next magazine to come! I would like to see BHM increase to monthly issues.

Rob Bailey, Hayward, WI

Move to woods

…We have been planning to retire and move to the “woods” for several years, and the time is now. My wife and I are both retiring law enforcement officers from Florida and we are anxious to get away from it all. The land is bare in our 48 acre tract of the Ozarks, but we are committed to it, and ready to rest there and regain our perspective. We were greatly encouraged by your publication and found the articles not only informative and fun, but a great encouragement for us as we made the decision to retire early and escape.

Mike Butcher, Sanford, FL

101 things to do
before the revolution

I couldn’t resist any longer. I had to write to tell you how much I love BHM.

The editorials are fabulous. “My view” is outstanding and the irreverent joke page is something everyone should read. Of course, I think everyone should read your magazine anyway. To hell with all those bureaucratic idiots whose opinions don’t matter anyway. They don’t deserve to read a fine publication such as the likes of yours.

Enough rambling, let’s get down to the real reason I’m writing. Tell me if I’m losing my mind, or what. Didn’t I read a book review in your mag about 101 Things to do Before the Revolution by Claire Wolfe? I have tried to search through back issues to find it, but have failed. Can you help me out? Our wonderful, politically correct bookstores in this area, do not carry it, nor have they even heard of it. I would like to order it.

Vicky Noykos,
Stone Mountain, GA

We sell this book in our book order pages. — Dave

Radical son

On your recommendation, I got Radical Son by David Horowitz at the local library. Very interesting reading, and very revelatory of the liberal movement. Conservatives aren’t the only ones that shoot their wounded, I guess. Thank you for challenging us!

Michael G. Croteau,

We also sell this book. — Dave

Political parties

I have enjoyed my first year of Backwoods Home and am going for another—however, I do think your obsession with the various “parties” of government (except for reference) stinks.

In my humble opinion, the “party system” is detrimental to the concepts of a free nation.

When the party lines become more important than the good of the populace—no good can come of it.
I would like to see you guys put this ideal in your “Think Tank” discussions or “ramblings” and let John write it up in his “Think of it this way” articles.

Give it some thought … “NO PARTY LINES.”

I am glad my pen-pal (Nancy Brownsberger) got me interested in Backwoods. I mostly agree that the various governmental agencies “suck”… big time and are closer to being a Mafia than a government of the people . Keep up the fight fellows—let’s try to return to a free, or freer, nation if there is still a chance.

Robert Sanders, Aurora, MN


My wife and I were introduced to your magazine by a friend of ours approximately five years ago, we have been subscribing for the last few years. We wait expectantly for your magazine’s delivery. As a “dumb red-neck kid from a po-dunk logging town” I really enjoy the how to do different things in different manners. You are a great inspiration to all of us that have aspirations of the “good life” and I hope to be inspired for a great many more. Dave—to hell with those that don’t like your editorials, the great thing about this country is that all voices are to have a place to be heard. Probably 99.9% of the time I agree with you, however on occasion I don’t. I wish some of these people would really think about the way they approach their replies. You have the right to say your feelings just as they have the right to express theirs, right or wrong. (And who’s to say in the great scheme of life and time which is which.) So keep writing them as you feel them. Silveira—please keep the Mac articles going. Even if I don’t agree, you do make me think about things as I perceive them. All in all thanks for your hard work and that of the rest of the folks who work so hard to bring us the great input and to get the mag out.

John & Karen Witherspoon,

I just want to say thank you for your hard work at putting out a great magazine. I love the low-to articles, and John’s political articles are great to use whenever I try to get a rise out of a liberal. Which doesn’t take much. Quick 90’s definition. Racist—a conservative that wins an argument with a liberal (race, culture, religion need not be mentioned in argument). As a friend of mine once said “Right is right, Left is wrong.” Well you guys keep up the good work.

Ken Loughry, Gettysburg PA

Elephant garlic

I find your magazine to be of great interest and the articles helpful hence my subscription. I would like to see more gardening tips for the Southwest. Issue #51 the article on fish ponds just a note of warning to those who are or planning on using cement stepping stones. The lime in the cement could leech into the pond raising the pH level to dangerous levels.

Elephant Garlic Mr. O’Sullivan’s numbers seem too good to be true. According to his CA statistics CA is producing 165 pounds per acre or $5800 per acre giving a profit of $35 a pound. To make $35,000 at $6 a pound you would need 5,800 pounds or about 12,000 plants. If you’re living in CA it’s going to take 35 acres to grow that much garlic. I’m going to send for his information but I’ll remain skeptical until the numbers make sense.

If Jerry Trant can figure a way to send me his cold air I’ll be more than happy to supply him with Hot. Don’t be too hard on Timothy May. Paranoia is the perfect awareness after all.

Gary Gillespie, Maricopa, AZ

We took a closer look at the garlic numbers, and they are indeed too high. Good catch. — Dave

Old car greenhouse

I just read the letter from Lisa Mulderig (Issue #51) in which she wished for a green-house. Not to worry Lisa. If you have a yard big enough for 8 kids you have room for an old car. Our Subaru station wagon green house came to us because we needed an engine and had to take the whole car. Out came the engine and seats. In went the plants. Adjust windows to control temperature and store watering cans, flats etc. where the motor was. Add a light (100 watt bulb) on cold nights or use jugs of heat retaining water or even bricks to keep the plants from freezing. Works great.

I also like Maureen Steele’s idea for pen palling. (As if we aren’t busy already.) You may add my name to the list.

Doris George, Home, PA


I’m writing in response to Maureen Steele’s letter, in which she made the suggestion to include a pen pal section in the magazine. It is a wonderful idea. I would love to make new friends and correspond with people who share my interests…I loved the irreverent joke page. Especially the letter to the Secretary of Agriculture.

Jaynelle Louvierre,
Cardova, NC

I picked up your magazine while visiting the Gentle Strength Cooperative here in Tempe.

I must say I like it. In the Letters Section, one Maureen Steele advocates a “Pen Pals” arrangement through your magazine. I believe this would be a great idea and I would like to see it.

As to one Gary Turner, who in the same Letter Section, notified you he was cancelling his subscription because of your, “always attacking President Clinton,” I can’t think of a better reason to not cancel.

Bill Reedy, Tempe, AZ

Plastic jug caution

I’ve been a reader of your magazine ever since the beginning, and I don’t have any complaints. None! I think your magazine is the greatest. I need to pass along one word of caution to your readers though.

In the May/June issue, Uwe Langmesser wrote a letter telling how she had used a bunch of gallon milk jugs to put water in storage. This is not a good practice! Those milk jugs are made of a plastic that is meant to break down after a period of time. The plastic also has the ability to breath and absorb any outside odors that may be present in the storage area.

A better solution would be 2 liter soda bottles. These are rough, tough and can take a lickin and keep a tickin. I have soda bottles that have held emergency water for over a year that are still as fresh as the day I put them up. Try this with the milk jugs.

The only thing I can think of that is worse than not preparing for a disaster, is to think you are prepared and then when disaster comes find out you were wrong…

Rusty Frederick,

Alabama prison

I speak to you from the absolute pits of hell, an Alabama Prison. Historically, the State of Alabama has been notorious for its atrocities within its prisons. My fellow Americans and human beings, nothing has changed. I humbly convey to you an ancient scripture: “Let he who hath eyes see and he who hath ears hear.”

I hear corrupt politicians promise you to lock them up and throw away the keys. I also hear your cheers! They—our only defender—knowingly overcrowd the prisons dangerously. The Federal courts say nothing! I also hear your cries to pack them in like sardines—for who cares? News leaks out about the atrocities: the physical, mental, emotional—all types of Human Rights abuses. The courts turn their heads. Again, I hear your cheers, as though to say: Crucify them! Crucify them!

I’ve read these words all my life.

To put things into perspective, I’m a 53-year-old man in very poor health, a former police officer of 13 years. I have been held in this septic tank (Holman Prison in Alabama) for 10 years on a wrongful conviction. The major point I submit to you is that I can see both sides of the coin. Actually, I can see all sides of that coin, for much more than two sides exist.

Holman Prison in Atmore, Alabama, is known as the “Boddom:” which is Southern for bottom. Either way, it’s as low as you can possibly go in this country. In response to your cheers, may I say that you have been successful. We are packed in like sardines: the Innocent—the Guilty—the Sick—the Lame—the Lazy—the Cripple—the Crazy—but all God’s children. “If you have done it to the least of these…”

At times, I absolutely hate 90% of these people which I mostly refer to as sick-sorry-slime. But when I hear of the masses cheering the deceptive lies of corrupt politicians, then these people here start to look much better, for even the sick-sorry-slime extend to an old man far more compassion than the corrupt politicians of Alabama and their cheering section. The result? The blinded masses stubbornly follow the pied piper closer and closer to total destruction. So be it…

…Holman Prison is made of open-filthy dorms—very crowded to say the least. The showers, commodes and lavatory are included within the open dorms. None are vented. The humidity from the showers pours throughout these dorms. Any gases from the toilets pour out in these dorms. Humidity is always extremely high. Mold and mildew grows on the walls and ceiling. The floors are always damp. The heat index remains ungodly high in summer—cold and damp in winter. The place is crawling with cockroaches the size of your hand.

We can only send out bed linens to the laundry once a week. That, after perspiring in them all week long—a daily wetting of these linens. 96 men live in a dorm approximately 35 feet by 108 feet. That’s an average of 39 square feet for each man—less if you deduct shower, commode and lavatory spaces within the dorms. Here is where each man spends his entire life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year after year after year…the Innocent – the Guilty – the Sick – the Lame – the Lazy – the Cripple – the Crazy – but all God’s children…

…Here at Holman Prison, we have had a large breakout of TB. Some have died, others transferred never to be heard of again. Respiratory ailments are our “normal” or our most common. Medical care is almost a joke…

…No! More tax dollars are not the answer. You’d just make officials of Alabama even richer. Then they’d cheer you – in silence of course.

I do not have the answers, but I felt I “must” let you know the truth. Yes! The sky is falling. Don’t look up. Just take cover.

I am far from being eloquent with my words, my communicating skills are extremely limited. If I have offended anyone with my words, then Good! That’s my intent. In closing, I shall add that I speak of the cheering I have heard. But where is the so-called silent majority? I so wonder if God is more disgusted with the ones who cheer the Human Rights Abuses – or more disgusted with the ones who sit and do absolutely nothing!

Patrick Swiney, 154406-D-2 Holman 3700, Atmore, AL 36503

I don’t know why you’re in prison, but I know that America’s per capita imprisonment rate is the highest in the world. That fact alone should tell us all that something is terribly wrong in America. — Dave

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