issue 56 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #56

Newsstand sales

You’ve mentioned several times in the magazine about how you’ve cut off just about all newsstand distribution of Backwoods Home. I have to congratulate you on succeeding in shooting yourself in the foot.

Where the hell do you have your head, Duffy? Where do you think new subscribers come from? Do you think they just fall from the sky, checkbook in hand? Or that they breed in the dark and multiply like modern electronic gadgets? I, for one, probably would still never have heard of Backwoods Home if I hadn’t spotted it on the rack of a small-town newsstand. I bought it a couple of times, missed it a couple of times, and decided that it would be far less trouble to just subscribe rather than have to be there within a couple of days of its arrival so I could get one before they ran out.

Subscriber bases, just left to themselves, shrink rather than expand. Death alone takes its toll, and others just lose interest for a variety of reasons. Certainly you ought to understand that. But, no, you seem to have the same long-term myopia of American business and the lust for short-term profits, and to hell with long-term goals and growth.

Yes, I like your magazine, and I’ll probably keep renewing my subscription until the creeping blood poisoning and/or gangrene from your foot finally reaches your crotch and Backwoods Home Magazine disappears. Or you come to your senses, and the magazine continues on longer than I do. Whichever comes first. Best regards in spite of my criticism.

Roger Smith, Syracuse, IN

Aha, you fell into my trap. You subscribed.
— Dave

Makes my blood boil

Just a note to say thanks so much for the order I just received. I have 3 of your anthologys and a subscription. I have found some of the older issues at a fair we attended last month. They were in a preparedness booth.

Anyway, I have read and reread articles and taken them with me to work. I work as a registered nurse in an emergency room. I see the worst that humanity has to offer us. The top of my list of “worst” are the “gimmes”.

The people on government assistance who have had illnesses for 2-3 days and then decide at 0200 they need to be seen. Apparently if they go to their doctor’s office they do have a minimum fee they must pay. At the ER we have to see them and they aren’t billed a dime. It is not uncommon to have 2-3 family members to check in for an “illness” they’ve had for days, (crying at night, stomachache or fever). While all of these illnesses need to be addressed they aren’t lifethreatening but they take up incredible time and resources while at the same time we are running a full code or 2-3 car accidents. There is something wrong with our government (I know, it comes as a shock to you) that makes it so easy for these people to be able to get so much free stuff!! It makes my blood boil because I work so hard and Uncle “Spam” takes so much from my check to pay for these gimmies to get so much for nothing. I am not saying that there aren’t those that truely deserve the resources that are available but it would be nice if there were some control.

Wow! Sorry about that, I really got on a soap box, but the more I read in your articles about self-reliance and being “beholden to none” the more I want to smack these people. They have even made comments like, “I came here because it don’t cost me nothin’.” I have to be professional and treat everyone with respect but I have been known to say,” Well, it costs someone, and I am one of those someones”.

Anyway, keep up the good work!!! The only suggestion that I have is to make the magazine a monthly one. Ya, I know you do have another life, but maybe Silveira and Mac can work more and you can play poker less.

I have recommended this magazine to everyone. I love stuff that makes me think, makes me be incensed and makes me want to get “OUT”. You guys are all great! When I called to order my stuff from your number, the gal that helped me was so polite and professional.

Tauna Egan,

Conversations with Mac

I really enjoy your articles on history and your conversations with Mac and I even like some of John’s (slightly?) twisted poems. Please tell Annie that my family enjoys her articles and all of you keep up the
good work.

John Slay, Quitman, MS

I would like to express my gratitude for such a fine and thought-provoking magazine. I really enjoy the conversations with John and Mac. Mac is the most informed individual I’ve ever heard of. He should teach American History and help get this country back on track. I fear it will take another revolution to correct the bad legislation and injustice that has been going on for 200 years. Ask Mac if he has a copy of “The Second Amendment Primer” by Les Adams. It is available through Palladium Press; Birmingham, AL. Or The Firearms Classics Library; P.O. Box 976, Hicksville, NY 11802-0976 $19.95 + 3.95 shipping. It is worded so even an Alabama redneck can understand. Although it’s probably too simple for a government man. I don’t want to get started about the wrongs of the politicians and do-gooders, so I’ll go to a lighter note.

I was born in Alabama, spent 44 years in Indiana, raised a family, worked 30 years, retired, moved back and started from scratch by myself with 30 acres and a dream. I’m more relaxed, sleep better and don’t drink as much. I believe I’ll live longer! After several months, my reluctant (adamant) wife has decided to come live with me.

Rodger McGaughy,
Lynn, AL


The wife and I are preparing for our move, one day we will leave and not turn back.
Jack of all trades, master of only a few, we are learning to can at home, tan hide, dry fruit, even taking a course on nursing. I have been a subscriber for only a few years and have most of the back issues for a great reference library. We agree on about 90% of your views. The rest we just look at from different sides. Keep up the excellent thought.

The magazine looks better than ever. The joke page is great!
Tell John to keep on writing his stuff.

B. Keener, Livonia, MI

I have bought your magazine from the stand at Hamilton Whole Foods, Hamilton, NY, and I love it! I especially enjoy “Think of it this way”, “Ayoob on firearms”, and your food preservation and storage articles. Your web site is great, and I have visited most of the links.

Mary Lou Winton,
Sherburne, NY

Though I do not always agree with your political commentary, I am happy there is someone else out there willing to voice his opinions on OUR country, government, etc. Until more people speak out for what they believe OUR government should or should not be doing for us, we will continue our downward spiral.
I am still living too close to a big city, but eventually I will leave the “rat race” and have more time to contemplate important things like what trout will want to eat on any given day.

Please continue to do a quality job above all else. Your publication has given me information and motivation, and I appreciate that. I won’t even bother to suggest you go monthly…unless you want to (please).

John Orwin, Copperton, UT

I first discovered your publication in my bookstore. It looked much more down to earth and “real” than, say, Mother Earth News (which, IMHO, has become very yuppified). I was NOT disappointed! I have already ordered the 5 anthologies and a year’s subscription; I’m hungry for more of what you offer!
I particularly love the conservative bent of your articles. My dear fiance, while exemplary in every other way, is (unfortunately) a liberal. My late husband (I am 45 and was widowed 1-1/2 years ago) and I owned our own business, which is enough to make anyone a conservative, LOL! I’m sure that, once we get married and get our own business started, he will see the “error of his ways”…[grin]

I have been fascinated for a long time with simplifying my life and becoming more self-reliant; I think that Backwoods Home will be an invaluable resource in my quest. Please, pleae keep up the good work!

Debbe Lewis

We are finally subscribing! We really can’t say why it has taken so long…we’ve got every issue from the first and wouldn’t sell any of them!

We love your balance of information, history and personal stories. When we see O. E. MacDougal’s name early in an article, we save it for last, to savor it, with a fresh cup of coffee.

One of these days we’ll make it to one of the Expos (or something) and run into you…then we’ll shake your hand and congratulate you on doing a great job with a great magazine…until then we’ll just enjoy finding our magazine in the mailbox.

Vicki & Lee Nesom,
Cleveland, TN

Just received my Jan/Feb ’99 issue. What a storehouse of info this issue is! I love your mag (most certainly my favorite) and have been a subscriber for several months and plan on continuing. Thanks for a great magazine.

Rocky Sisemore,

Dave, you and your staff, and contributors bring to the print medium, something that is lacking elsewhere, that is good old basic common sense and honesty. Thank you.

Wm. E. Gaffney,
Cragsmoor, NY

I first heard about your magazine from a friend at our church. She and her husband live in the country and drive to the city for church regularly. I, of course, am from the city. But although I come from the city I am now a subscriber to your magazine. Thank goodness for the back issues (First through Fifth year). I find the articles very interesting and thought provoking. I don’t know if my wife and myself will ever have the opportunity to move to the country but I can assure that if we do our Backwoods Home magazine collection will be with us. Again, thanks for all the hard work that is put into the articles and keep up the good work.

Rev. J. D. Lacey, Adrian, MI


Your Doom & Gloom issue has prompted me to forward a letter from a friend, Gloria Ferrara, Syracuse, N.Y. who lives in a quiet secure town—before the storm. Four days without power changes everything.

Thought it would be a good example of human resourcefulness and lack of preparation.

We sent them candles, flashlights and matches. (The letter follows.)

David Wright,
San Diego, CA

The storm came an hour past midnight on Labor Day. A storm I’ve never experienced. It’s being called a micro burst. The lightning went horizontally across the sky instead of verticle to the ground. The intensity of light might have lit the entire state. The winds brought pounding rain and hail and one could hear the cracking of trees. I heard the train sound of a tornado but Tony refused to move to the cellar. My brother tells me that he slept through the storm. So much for hear-ing loss and peace with your maker.

The storm moved on and with the power off, darkness prevailed and sleep came.

The morning light brought a cinema view of disaster. Wow! What to do first. Put some coffee on to perk, no power! Phone the children; see if they’re okay! Drat those portable phones, they’re electrically hooked!

Use the old coffee pot—use the stove. Igniters are electrical. Use a match. Do we have any? No fireplace, we don’t smoke; why keep matches? Thank goodness, the last wedding couple gave out match favors. Stove lit, coffee perking—where is that old rotary phone that plugs directly to the phone line?

Thank goodness, again, that I didn’t listen to “throw out that old dinosaur.”

The children are safe but without power. Unlike us, Sue has three downed trees but each missed hitting the house. Her area is hit hard and roads are impassable.

Don’t we have a radio that runs on batteries? That old hot pink cutie that I used in my school office. Oh boy—it still works!

Stations are on the air with community service. Two dead at the state fair, 140,000 without power—nine counties affected. Stay in—no travel—NYS disaster declared.

Unplug large appliances, survey damage, have breakfast and pick up a book.

Evening here-no power. Do we have any candles? I threw out all the fancy candles made outside USA. They sputter and drip. Dig into the cupboard. Wow, a 20″ candle given to church parishioners. Good bee’s wax and wedding matches gave us light but not for reading. May as well go to bed.

Don’t we have a flashlight? There’s one in the car and one in the closet. That great cuckoo clock, hanging on the wall, that annoys everyone who stays overnight, tells us hourly, the time. That is, if you can count.
Morning again, still no power. What should we eat first? Frig. and freezer are melting.
There is an emergency status but the court house is open.

Gas water heater feeds the shower and Tony reports for work. Radio advisory, treat all street light outages as a four way stop. Use main roads.

I begin to deal with puddles of water from the freezer. What to save—what to toss? There’ll be no washing clothes, vacuuming, shopping….

Boring, finish the book.

Tony home. Food saved from spoiling eaten for dinner. No power. Eight o’clock bedtime.

A.M. still no power. Peanut butter and old bread goes well with coffee. Tony can head for work where life exists.

Time to get seriously cleaning out the frig./freezer. Mop out the water. Fill a bag with limp packages. Those wonderful fresh peaches that I just put up. Gone!

Ecoli warnings prompt me to take no chances. What can be saved?

A dozen eggs go into a bag of flour to make noodle dough. But now what? that great motor to run the machine runs on electricity. Okay, I found the manual handle. So I’ll turn, turn, turn, save the eggs and have dried noodles for the future.

The milk will last for pancakes. My dry yeast goes into flour for bread dough. In my garden, I find fresh tomatoes, basil and parsley. Top the stretched dough with these ingredients, add olive and dried cheese and cook it in that old iron skillet on top of the gas burner. Focaccio at it’s finest. The remaining dough is fried and topped with sugar. Pizza friete.

My mother was right. If you stock flour and eggs, you can always eat.

Day four, still no power but now places are open. We can buy groceries for meals or eat out. I’m getting along without a frig. as long as I can have a hot shower.

I may never vacuum or wash clothes again. Having no power isn’t all bad. I’ll read another book.

Gloria Ferrara,
Syracuse, NY

Don’t bet on Silveira

Friends—On page 85— “Don’t bet on Silveira” (Issue no. 54) I can not believe anyone who has the ability to think for himself could write in such a thing. I wish there were more Silveiras, Duffys, Blunts and all the rest who write the good conservative writings in your magazine. Listen to tv and they’d be glad
to have your magazine and Countryside to live by, like we do. Of course, you know only the Bible comes before the above mentioned magazines. Much Prosperity to All.

Dorothea A. Vorwerk,

Canning nuts

I found the articles by Jackie Clay extremely helpful (Long Term Food Storage & Canning Your Meats & Vegatables at Home…) In the Long Term Food Storage article she mentioned canning nuts. I haven’t been able to find instructions or information to do this and world appreciate any help you can offer.

Donna Kennedy,
Central, SC

Nutmeats are easy and fun to can…hardly any work at all. I can several kinds, as available, chiefly English walnuts and pecans. Remove the nutmeats from the shell. When you have enough to can, hunt up pint or half pint jars, which you should sterilize by boiling for 15 minutes. Air dry the jars. Spread the nutmeats in a single layer on cookie sheets in the oven at a low temperature (no more than 275°) until they are roasted, but not browned, stirring a bit from time to time. Keep hot and pack quickly into warm jars. Put on boiled but dry lids, and pressure can for 10 minutes at 5 pounds (remember to adjust pounds for altitudes over 1,000 feet). You can also water bath for 20 minutes, but be sure to keep the water level below the rim of the jar…one of the very few times you do this!

Remove the jars and let cool as normally done. These nuts will stay good for years, and not go rancid.
—Jackie Clay

Extending blade life

Reference issue 55 “Staying Warm” by Robert L. Williams. Williams states that “You can, in an emergency, use a one-man bow saw to cut your firewood…and it costs nothing except for an occasional blade.” I found long ago that the blade could last almost indefinitely if you filed it. The filing approach likewise is used to extend the life of chain saws. If you have access to a 800° F oven or equivalently a oxy-acetylene torch, you can re-temper the blade and thus strengthen it for longer use between filings.

PS: Trying to temper the steel is not as trivial as I may have implied.

Joe Brandelik,
New Carlisle, OH

“The Walking Drum”

I am a retired school teacher, and most people do not think teachers can fit the conservative/libertarian mold. Twenty six years ago I purchased land in a remote area of Colorado, built a log cabin from scratch, then built a solar heated home, stock supplies that agree with your latest issue, have read your magazine for years, have all your anthologies, and agree with your writings. Many years ago I ran across this paragraph in a book by Louis L’Amour, “The Walking Drum”. I handed this out for years to students and teachers. I firmly believe this.

“Up to a point a man’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and movements and changes in the world about him; then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say, this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow. The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.”

Ralph Hinst,
Red Feather Lakes, CO

Issue No. 55

I’ve subscribed to your magazine for several years now, and have enjoyed and saved all the issues that I’ve received. Received your “doom and gloom” issue a few days ago. As with most things Backwoods Home magazine does, you don’t try and sensationalize things like potential problems regarding Y2K, bad weather, etc.—this is a refreshing change. Indeed, your attitude expresses the way I like to live: “We have a problem, let’s find a solution, deal with it, then move on.”

I enjoyed the article “With commonsense planning you can survive hard times” article and find that it’s given me more things to think about and add to my own thoughts about being prepared for problems. However, I did find some errors in one part of the article and I wanted to point them out before some folks use the info and get into trouble.

In the chart marked ‘A year’s supply of food for your family’ the text says:

“This is a sample list for my family, which is a family of three…If you have a family of 4, increase the amount by 25%, if a family of 6, by 50% etc.”

This amount of increase is incorrect. If you are increasing the food for a family of 3 to be enough for a family of 4, you must increase the amounts by 33%, one third, because you have one third more people. Additionally, if you have a family of 6, you must increase by 100%; you have twice as many people. It’s an easy mistake to make in calculation—but not a good thing to discover when you’re six months into eating your food store.

Nathan Justus,
Ashfield, MA

Received the magazine yesterday and couldn’t put it down. Never can put it down but this one was really mind opening. I have been getting ready, was glad to read that I’m doing the food storage the right way. These gift subscriptions are for two of our daughters and families, they had been laughing at me. Boy do I want them to read No. 55.

Nancy Green, Puyallup, WA

People don’t
want freedom

This survival issue is dynamite. Keep up the good work. I tell all my libertarian friends about you.
I’m a staunch libertarian myself. I think the biggest thing holding back the growth of this wonderful modern freedom movement is that people don’t really want freedom. They want to feel all warm and fuzzy and taken care of by a nanny state that they have been brainwashed into thinking can “solve” problems.

The next biggest issue I think, is the image of coldness that pervades libertarianism. This especially turns off women, exacerbated by our view of the wrongness of government gun and drug control. Government monopolization of welfare, like schooling, makes us pay twice for these things, leading to the self-fulfilling view that people wouldn’t give to charities or educate their kids right unless the government does it for them. Clinton is the epitome of this soothing BS. “Of course you’re worried about the poor and health care and your children, and we the government have to ‘fix’ them for you.” Barf.

William Morrison,
San Rafael, CA

Storage and humidity

I’d first like to say that I always find each article full of information and interesting. I had bought your magazine several years ago and could no longer find it at the bookstores or newsstands in New Jersey.

The reason I am writing is about the article “Long Term Storage” by Jackie Clay. Her article was very informative, but I have a few questions that I hope the staff at BHM can answer. Our canned food is stored in our basement, and it is especially damp; especially after the Maine winters. I was wondering if a dehumidifier would help? Eventually we would like an outbuilding for storage purposes. My other question is what are #10 cans and is there someplace in the Maine area where they can be purchased?

At our homestead, we believe in living off the land. We got away from the hustle and bustle of life in NJ. Our friends that are still down there can’t understand why we would move to a place that doesn’t have anything. I guess it depends on what you’re looking for, because Maine has a lot more than NJ. We do things that make as happy not because we have no choice!

Vanessa DeGroat,
Poland, ME

Yes, a dehumidifier will definitely help. But as we are hardcore self-reliant folk, we shy away from depending on electricity for anything. What we have done in northern Minnesota, where we faced lots of snowmelt and dampness, was to section off a half of the basement and insulate it well, leaving it warm enough to prevent freezing but insulated to help reduce condensation and dampness. We also added a good sump pump to keep floors dry and a vent to help air movement—both of which reduced dampness. An airtight woodstove, fired only during the coldest weather, not only kept things from freezing, but significantly dried out the basement. Another tip is to keep rings off jars. I know when I left rings on my jars, mostly to have a place to store them or because I was in a hurry, the jar lids and rings had a definite tendency to rust.

Number 10 cans are the large, restaurant sized cans (holding nearly a gallon) you will see in supermarkets or restaurant supply houses. They usually hold mostly general canned goods, such as corn, carrots, etc., that are not dehydrated. For dehydrated and bulk items, write some preparedness centers, such as the ones that advertise in BHM.
— Jackie Clay

Home invasion

My home was invaded by the St. Charles County Sheriffs Department on Friday 1-8-99. After working on the railroad for 11 hours Thursday night I came home and went to bed at 7:30 am. At around 10:30 am I awoke to the shouts of “sheriffs department” in my home. I got up to find at my bedroom door when I opened it two officers with guns drawn!

I became enraged and asked them what the F they were doing in my house? They said that my door was not secured and they were checking on my well being? … I asked them if they had a search warrant? No, they said they were just checking on me and looking for my brother for which they had an arrest warrant.

I have lived in St. Peters, Missouri, for 8 years and they have never just checked in on me! So being confused from lack of sleep I ordered them out of my house, then asked them for a card with their names and badge numbers. They claimed they didn’t have any. They were in county uniforms and driving county plated plain white cars. Then I asked them to write down their names and badge numbers.

They asked to come back inside so I let them. Then they started wanting to know if my brother was in the house and questioning me without giving me their names, at which time I ordered them off my property.

After I thought about it for awhile I’m outraged! So I call up the sheriff to make a complaint. Well they will not let me talk to him, just the detective sergeant that sent his men into my home. I told him what happened and that I wanted to make a written complaint! So I go over to the

sheriff’s office and he says that they were just doing their job legally and tries talking me out of making a complaint. I told him that I will make a complaint or go over his head so he gives me the proper forms, which need the name and badge #s of the officers involved, which I don’t have.

Having never being involved in anything like this I don’t know what the laws are, but told him I’m a voter, taxpayer, legal firearms owner and I have the legal right to protect my home and family from illegal searches and not to come back inside my home. He said they had to do their job. I told him he better be wearing his armor then; he said fine we’ll just bring the swat team in then!

What is this country coming to? I’m so mad now that I’ve called the senator’s office, the county rep., the city rep., the TV stations, the newspapers, and now I’m writing you! We have to stand up for our rights or we will lose it all! You or your readers may be able to give me some ideas on what I should do in this situation? They did the same thing to my brother back in the summer—walked in his home talked to him for awhile, hauled him off for 3 hours questioning, then arrested him. Again, no search warrant! Thanks for any help

Wayne Overton,

Christian nation

Thanks for the thoughts regarding whether or not the United States would better off as a “Christian nation.” I read the editorial after finding my first issue of Backwoods Home at a local bookstore. It did my heart good to read your thoughts, although I suspect we might address the issue from different perspectives.

Like one of the characters in your article, I am an evangelical Christian. That is what causes me to agree with your basic idea so completely. The worst thing that ever happened to Christianity was its acceptance by Constantine. Since that time, Christianity has lost its moorings in the New Testament whenever it has become attached to a state, particularly as the “state church.”

From my evangelical perspective, a Christian is a person who trusts Jesus Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross as payment in full for the moral debt of his or her sins. By definition, that is a very personal matter. Even a majority of people who are Christians by that definition cannot make a nation “Christian.” Christianity is a matter of personal trust—something a nation cannot possess

When the founding fathers pooled their philosophies to produce the United States of America, the religious atrocities of Henry VIII and his hiers, Edward, Mary, and Elizabeth, were recent memories. The drownings of Anabaptists in Calvin’s Geneva lent strong conviction to their followers in the new land. Roger Williams had been evicted by the Puritans, and so-called “witches” had been burned on the soil of a new land. Patrick Henry was even then defending the rights of Baptists against the demands of the English state church in Virginia. Even to the Christians among the founders of our republic, such religious power was a vice.

The United States of America has never been a “Christian nation,” and based on the murderous histories of those who have married the church to the state, may it never be one.

Tom Duncan,
North Richland Hills, TX

What did Grandma use?

I know this is a subject no one ever talks about, but, what did women use for sanitary napkins before they could be bought in stores? Not having a mother around, I had to learn everything the “modern” way. All survival books and “old-timey” books I have read do not mention anything. Most of the information is aimed toward men anyway. Are women supposed to rely on our own ingenuity? I have no one to get info from without embarrassment to me or the other. Any information you could get would be so helpful.

Brenda Arnold, Augusta, IL

Maybe an old-time reader will write in about it.
— Dave

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