issue 58 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #58

Outhouse tip

Just wanted to drop you guys a line. Something I’ve been meaning to do for some years now. I have read all of the issues you have printed to date, thanks to your anthologies and the subscription that I have been fortunate enough to enjoy for the last few years. They have been worth their weight in gold as I’m sure you have heard time and time again. The truth hurts doesn’t it. No pain no gain right. Speaking of gaining…in the last few months I have been living on a 50 acre parcel that I purchased 2 years ago and have been loving every minute of it. I could have planned more and kept working at the place I will just call hell. It has hot, smelly, and the aura of the place always seemed to be a negative one. One day, after looking at a picture of my future home, or at least the land that it would soon be on, I just snapped and decided I had had enough. The next thing I knew I was on my land next to the river and life was better than I had known it since I was a child. I needed shelter other than a tent so I constructed a small shed that was 8×12 ft. This was my home in my northern Minnesota paradise from May of ’98 until the opener of grouse hunting ’98. It was then that I realized that I would not get the roof on the log building that I have been so determined to complete before the snow fell. So I bought a tin and galvanized steel 16×24 ft building that had been sitting in a neighbors field for nearly ten years unused.

Needless to say there were other tenants in the building that I had to evict before I could move in. Most of them either flew out or fell out on the 5 Mile move to my place. The building cost me a thousand dollars but that included moving it over with the sellers equipment. After figuring in those costs I figure the old shed cost me about $500. The roofing materials for the building, I found out later would have cost more than that so I was happy with the transaction. I put another $1000 into my little humble abode so that it should be a little brighter, (paint), a little warmer (insulation), (wood stove $20), flooring, (plywood and carpet) and an 8×8 ft. addition (foyer) that will hold the necessities of life in northern Minnesota, warm coveralls, snowshoes, a couple of weeks worth of wood for when it gets to be sub-zero, so I don’t have to go outside, and beer. I figure once the log house is built the ole shed will be one hell of a nice little shop to do all of the things that one needs to do inside during the winter months. I will refrain from the log home subject because I don’t want to stir anything up right now. I wonder if Williams and Duffy have ever had a log building discussion? That is one of the reasons I have finally written, or is it wrote, who really cares, I wonder if Emerson would say that if he were here today. As long as you get the message, Right.

The article by Robert L. Williams “One Last Thought: An essay in self reliance” in the Jan/Feb ’99 issue was fantastic. I certainly hope there are subsequent articles on this subject. I don’t think anyone could have said it better. I have always enjoyed Williams’ writings including the book on how to build your own log home for less than $15,000. I don’t think I have ever read such concise directions on a how to subject. I wish everyone could read this latest article. I guess that’s why I just purchased two gift subscriptions for my two sisters and their husbands. I really hope they read them and don’t use them for kindling. I’m sure they’ll be put to good use. They all say that I have it made, and I feel I do. I have the freedom that I’ve always wanted.

The original reason for writing was that I had hoped to include a helpful outhouse tip that may ease the pain of sitting on a cold seat in the morning. I recently decided that the seat was just getting too cold for comfort. So…after a serious brain storming session I realized that I have always wanted to open up one of those space age emergency camping blankets. You know the ones, the space age aluminum foil looking pack that you hope you never have to use. Well I figured if these things are good enough to save a persons life in dire straights, then it ought to be good enough to keep one’s butt warm while sitting on the biffy. So I proceeded to cut a toilet seat shaped piece of this mysterious space age material to place on the throne that I so much enjoy sitting upon in the early hours of a northern Minnesota morning. A little duct tape to hold it on a course and in the morning I experienced a whole new world in biffy comfort. Just wanted to pass that along. No pun intended. Tee Hee. Seriously, though thank you for the best magazine on the planet with the best writers to make it that way.

Donald Bogle Jr., Toivola, MN

Article ideas

Okay—I give up! Add me to your growing list of subscribers (check enclosed), provided you still have your policy of not selling your customer list…

My husband and I were the lucky recipients of your magazine anthology series for Christmas, and we are still fighting over who gets to read which volume, and I have a list of family and friends that are waiting in line for them—IF I can bear to part with them. Not only are the books chock full of information, but it’s also been great to see how you’ve grown without losing your integrity, the personal touch, sense of humor, or your vision. That is a very rare trait nowadays, and you should all be commended….

Since I was a small child, I have always dreamed of living out in the boonies, but up until two years ago, I never would have imagined that it was possible. The articles in your magazine (there’s at least one relevant article in each issue) have helped to open my eyes to so many possibilities, and I am constantly inspired by others who have accomplished their goals of living in the woods. I don’t feel so alone anymore—thank you! Trying to find information on topics that I am interested in has been a very frustrating chore for me, but your magazine (and now the anthology series) is the first place I look.

If you will allow me to cast my vote on some possible topics for future articles, they would be:

1. An ongoing series from someone that is “making the move” from city-life to country-life. After reading the Letters to the Editor in each issue, it seems that there are a lot of people out there that have the dream. Being able to actually follow someone else through this roller coaster ride would be educational and inspiring.

2. I believe that one of the problems of the world today is that so many people work at jobs that they don’t really like to be able to afford the things that they don’t really need to make them happy. I see so many people simply existing for that paycheck and benefits—it’s as though they have been brainwashed into believing that they will be happy if they go to college, get a prestigious job making a ton of money, get married to the “right” person, and have their 2.3 children, and then they can retire to sunny Florida at the age of 65. I believe there is a connection between this “brainwashing” and the divorce rate, crime in general, aggressive drivers, bankruptcies, etc. There have been too many wistful comments from these brainwashed people when I mention what we are in the process of doing—it can’t be a coincidence.

3. More articles on livestock—focusing on the various breeds (with pictures) and their useful qualities. I am so frustrated at the unavailability of this information. For example—I want to have a couple of dairy cows so that I will have enough milk for my family. How much milk will this one particular breed give me on a daily basis? What do I feed her/them? What kind of shelter do I need? What equipment do I need for milking? What about daily and annual care requirements? Where do I get all this stuff? I have been doing a lot of research on the Internet, at the local library, new and used bookstores, have contacted various associations (like the Dairy Association in the above example), and the only conclusion that I have come up with is that I am going to have to work damn hard, and will make a lot of mistakes simply because it is virtually impossible to find the needles.

Lisa Evers, Charlotte, NC

We still don’t sell our customer list. We’ll begin an ongoing series by Jackie Clay as soon as she chronicles her family’s move to Alaska to build a new homestead. We’ve had a number of articles on raising beef, including one by Charles Sanders in the last issue. — Dave


Howdee from Alaska, just wanted to say thanx for keeping my life in proper perspective. I am a long time subscriber and like everyone else I sometimes get lost in the everyday struggle to stay focused in this world that we live and try to stay true to what really matters in life, Backwoods Home has helped me to do just that.
Your insight and info is a real eye opener and a blessing to me. Without it who the heck knows where I’d be right now…. probably in Kosovo! Again thank you. Keep up the Irreverent Joke page, I really enjoy it.

Jeff Bizzarro,

Found you last year at the library. Read all the back issues they had, and decided I liked what I read.
My hubby and I LOVE the jokes. It takes us about 1 1/2 weeks to stop giggling.
I really love the way you lay it all out on the table; then basically say “here it is: take it or leave it” and you don’t belittle anyone for a different view. Even if “some” get P.O’d at you.

Kellie Nelson, Harrisburg, AR

Months ago, I was lucky to receive your magazine, a gift subscription from my daughter—It has lapsed since. I would love to subscribe myself as I loved that magazine—I, myself live in the “Backwoods,” alone, with my ferocious big black dog. I’m 71 years old and “put-up” most of my food, which I grow. I dry “stuff.” I found that drying fruits and vegetables is the best. I don’t use meat (sometimes fish tho). I keep birds (parrots, canaries, finches, parakeets, doves and lovebirds). Outside I have 4 rabbits (for the manure and petting), two old sheep (black)—the ram is blind but Myrtle his companion takes care of him. They don’t wander around anymore as they are 18 years old and Big Boy’s blindness does not help him to get around. There is a huge enclosure for both, and their little house, and they seem to be satisfied. How long do sheep live anyway? They have their teeth yet so they eat well. I also have 23 Emiden geese (confined now because of the deep snow). So I feed them some hay and corn. There is a lake across the road, frozen now. The geese miss that lake, but I explained to them they’ll have to wait another 3 months to get free and go to the lake and meet their “Canadian” geese, who should be back by then. I used to keep ducks and chickens, not for the meat or the eggs (I don’t eat eggs) but just for the pleasure to see a duck with her ducklings “walking” along and I miss the crowing rooster, Big Ed and his girls. I sold the eggs (Beeff Orpington chickens) I had. Now I’d like to keep chickens again and I need a plan to install a fence to keep the “beasts” away, which are foxes, raccoons. That is how I lost all my chickens—the “beasts” ate them. I caught, a few times, raccoons and transported them to the next county (about 4 miles away) but that did not help. Should I bury a chicken wire all around the chicken house, about 6 inches into the ground? I also would put a cover, a top. I don’t have mechanical tools. I have a hammer, a hand saw, nails and pliers. The geese have a new house built last October. It is about 20′ x 16′ and an enclosed yard. But nobody attacks the big birds. I could make the chicken house part of the geese’s.

I heat the house with wood mostly, although I had a L.P. gas furnace installed two years ago, in case of an emergency. I also have an iguana about 3 years old. I finally knew HE was a female as she had 14 eggs last October. She is about 3-1/2 feet long and soon will need another enclosure. I need plans for that.

Jacqueline Baleton, Almond, WI

I was with M E N years ago… Have most all the issues up to 94… But your Mag is way above them in so many ways beyond belief…. Love John’s Poems…. The modern Walden? Thanks for the work on your mag……it really helps a lot of people who have no real access to info.

Alaska Trapper,

Keep up your independent news and editorials – even if I don’t agree, it certainly makes me see things from a different angle – good for balance and sincere thought!

Jack Whipple, Montello, NV

Dave, great article on the current condition of our illustrious country. The legacy of Clinton will not be clearly understood until our kids are having kids, but of course that will make it too late. Your assessment of the social security boondoggle is so right on it’s frightening. I’m sending it to my two “democratic” state senators. I know it won’t get past the round file, but I must try. Thanks for a great magazine. My wife cringes when it comes, for she knows I’ll be unavailable until I finish reading every article: sometimes twice. God bless and do take care of the Backwoods Home!

Jim Lowry, Calabasas, CA

Sewing machines

I am just beginning to make plans and preparations for surviving should society as we know it be disrupted for some time, so I need all the advice I can get. While I don’t yet have all the survival skills I will need, I am an expert in both fiber arts and fishing, so I hope Rev. Hooker won’t mind me adding something to his fine article in your current issue. Under the “Sewing Supplies” section, he mentions that a treadle powered sewing machine works even without electricity. This is true, and it would be wonderful to buy one if finances permit. However, any modern electric sewing machine will also work just fine if you simply turn the wheel by hand. While I’m not sure if that is true for those fancy, high-priced electronic machines that have computer chips installed, it is true for the lower-priced electric machines that basically have a motor that drives a belt that drives a shaft arrangement on the top of the machine that makes the needle go up and down really fast. If in the future I must live without electricity, then I could glue a handle to my machine’s wheel and turn the wheel by hand. Alternatively, I could find/make a really long belt of some sort and put one end around a foot treadle/spool arrangement while putting the other end where the belt is now on my machine (hope you can visualize what I mean—I’m not much of a mechanic). That would simply, and I think, relatively easily convert a modern electric machine to an “old fashioned treadle” machine. While a lot of modern electric machines have the belt covered up by the metal or plastic case, you can easily remove this by taking out a screw or two (and most women who sew a lot know how because we have to replace that belt periodically). In any event, anyone who has a regular electric sewing machine stuck back in some closet now might like to know that it will work just fine without plugging it into anything at all and would certainly come in handy to make sturdy repairs to clothing, etc. Sewing machine stitches are much stronger than hand-made stitches and I would much rather sew up a ripped seam in a pair of jeans using my sewing machine’s mechanical power (even turning the wheel by hand) than by trying to get a hand sewing needle through that tough fabric.

Paulette Flowers, Nashville, TN


We live in a day and age where “fear mongers” are everywhere trying to profit from Y2K. It sure is refreshing to hear someone taking a level headed approach to the year 2000. My policy has always been “pray for the best and plan for the worst.”

My wife is the world’s biggest optimist. Not that many months ago, she thought that this whole Y2K thing was someone’s “cash cow.” After reading some of your articles on the subject, she agreed that it wouldn’t hurt anything to stock up on a few months worth of supplies. Trust me when I say that bringing her to a decision like that was nothing short of a miracle, and you have my thanks.

We are now working together, stocking up on some basics. We found a lot of good ideas in your articles, things we wouldn’t have thought of. We also found your advertisers to be a good source of things such as water containers and hand pumps.

We’re living on 10 acres in west Michigan, with a good population of rabbits, deer and turkey. I’ve stocked up on ammunition, and I’m waiting for the new year. I’m expecting no more than a few minor problems from Y2K, but I sleep better knowing that I have enough food and firewood to see my family through whatever may come.

Thanks for a great magazine!

Tom Jansma,

I have been reading your magazine for several years now and enjoy it—even when I disagree with a philosophical viewpoint. I’m one who find opposing views valuable!

I’m writing because I disagree with the position taken on Y2K in the recent issue (May/June 1999). Until last July, I worked in the computer industry, and had 26 years in the industry at that time. The simple fact of the matter is that many companies ignored the date-sensitivity problem until the past couple of years, and still there are companies that are doing nothing about it. When we tried, back in the late 70s and early 80s, to get funding to fix the problem early on, the question was basically how does this impact the bottom line. In truth, it doesn’t! It is a black hole into which the company is pouring money in an effort not to lose the bottom line a decade or so in the future. Well, most CEOs and other senior management types will not buy into such a scenario. And this thinking is still endemic to business.

But what really hurts is the interconnectedness of everything! Take, for example, power generation. For the moment let’s ignore the nuclear power industry and concentrate on the fossil fuel segment. In order to have power, the coal mines and petrochemical plants must not fail. The transportation system (tankers to trains) must not fail. And finally, the power plants themselves must not fail. And given the ubiquitous embedded systems, this is something that no power company is willing to bet on!

Based on the best information I have to date, 45 to 50 percent of American companies will not be Y2K compliant. And I’m using the industry definition for compliancy—an independent third party has examined and tested a company’s systems and software and verified that the company is indeed compliant. Without this verification, I cannot accept a company’s declaration, nor the government’s.

Now, bringing all of this together, if Silveira uses probability math, calculate the chain of dependencies for the three core industries—banking, power, and telecommunications. And then go down the chain for each of them. What vendors are they dependent upon, and what are those vendors dependent upon. Now, find out the real state of those companies’ Y2K efforts. If there isn’t an independent third party verification of claims for compliancy, I, personally, would not believe any claims of compliancy.

I believe that Y2K is going to result in a very serious economic disaster. The silver lining is that the government will be in far worse shape because they lack the manpower and other resources to do the job. I shall not miss certain agencies, nor mourn their passing.

Eugene Gross, Sandpoint, ID

Have you ever heard of the phrase—The miracle of capitalism? That’s what will save us from Y2K or any other potential tragedy that comes down the pike. No one really knows how it works. No philosopher has been able to accurately describe it. But it goes something like this: Leave a man, or woman, free to pursue his own interest and he will overcome any obstacle that is put in his path. Y2K may cause problems in other countries that are less capitalistic than the United States, but it will not cause significant problems here, because we are still pursuing our own personal interests. Some industries may perish because they can’t figure out what’s going on, but that’s how capitalism works; it’s a bit cruel on the individual level, but we individuals bent on pursuing our own self interest are willing to accept that, and it works very well for the bulk of humanity. — Dave

I loved Robert L. Williams article for a Y2K garden. There is one thing I would like to add to it that not many people know about. Pinto beans are as wonderful canned as green beans. As good as Bluelakes and Cascades are, I will grab the jar of home canned pintos every time. I didn’t even know they were pintos for years. We grew up calling them “Granny’s Flat Beans.” Pick them just as the bean starts to make in the pod and cook or can them just like you would any other green bean. The more you pick them, the more they produce. If space is limited, you can can them green, then let the last setting or two mature and you have double cropped with one set of plants.

Annette Haney,

In this year of fanactico you guys are keeping the rest of us straight. Have really loved the magazine and we read it cover to cover and save and re-read. Don’t know if will have all the resources we need by next year but we will be a lot better prepared thanks to your efforts.

Joe Long, Kingston, TN

I recently picked up a copy of your magazine thinking it might be about home building. As I have a son getting ready to build a house.

Boy was I surprised when I opened the pages and read Mr. Duffy’s comments on the Y2K bug and being prepared for it.

You see we live on a farm and have most of the conveniences such as electrcity, heating, and telephone but living as far from town as we do you never know when these wonderful necessities will cease. When they do you know life goes on and you can make do with whatever you have because you are somewhat prepared.
Living on a farm as we do in the fat years you prepare for the lean years—the years the gardens dry up or the bugs take over and there is not enough foodstuff grown to take you through to the next growing season—you still have food stored away for your needs.

Janice Groves, Hopkinsville, KY

Brownie temperature

I was gonna make your glazed spiced mocha brownies but couldn’t find any oven temperature. So please tell me what it is. Also the only square pan that I have is a corning casserole that’s square—
not 12×12 but close. So should I use that or 9×13 metal pan? I have glass rectangles. I like the way you give a history of the foods first so keep it up. Thanks for all the great recipes over the years.
P.S. Do you have any ideas for kale, collards, Swiss chard without bacon fat in them? How about an article on meals that freeze well for stocking up for 2000. My garden is gonna be extra packed this year. I’m gonna freeze or can extra just in case.

Jane Lippincott, Philadelphia, PA

Sorry, omitting the oven temperature was an oversight. It’s 375 degrees. As for the pan size, anything close will do. Pan size affects the thickness of the brownies: thicker brownies need a longer cooking time while thinner ones require less time. I am also planning a future article featuring greens and I’ll take your suggestion for the other article into consideration.
— Richard Blunt

Moving to the woods

I thought you guys were out of business. At least that’s what the owner of a book store in Wells, Nevada, told me a couple of years ago. When I saw your review of Radical Son in FrontPage I thought it was you and when I linked to your web page I was glad to see you were still around.

I’d like to ask you to put the review of the SKS carbine up on the web page. I had a copy of that issue of BHM many years ago, but I think one of my wives’ relatives liberated it. I want to learn more about my own SKS’s pedigree. I do know it was born in Russia in 1953, the year which I was born and in which my Confederate grandfather died. Its poor wooden stock has so many notches in it (many put there by me) that I was forced to buy a new one at a gun show. As soon as I take my skins to market, and assuming there’s any cash left over after my many, many in-laws get their take, it is my intention to get a money order and buy a subscription to the estimable BHM.

Money isn’t the only reason though. When the afore-mentioned in-laws turned the wilderness into an inner-city multitude, I was forced to retreat deeper into the woods and therefore do not at the present time have an address. If I had the magazine sent to one of my wives’ places, I’d never see it. Fortunately, I have found sanctuary in the cabin of a distant relative. If I decide to accept her offer of a more permanent relationship, I will then have a place to receive the magazine.

So, until that time, I have the good fortune to use my friend’s computer and can thus access the Internet. The SKS article would be a service to us remote types. I know lots of guys who use them every day. Ammo is cheap and plentiful. I have nearly a thousand rounds stashed in the woods. Also, any further articles or letters from readers would be something to further tie this otherwise unfettered brotherhood together. There’s more of us than you might think. We form a kind of ad-hoc club. Mine is, by the way, completely stock except for an after-market scope and a flash-hider. With reasonable maintenance in the field, it goes bang when you pull the trigger, every time.

So there you is. Thanks for your service and for providing a voice for us. As a libertarian Polygamist, there aren’t many forums available and your magazine is an oasis.

N.T. Fallaschette, Utah Territory

We’ll upload the article. — Dave


I’m so excited to subscribe to your magazine. I discovered it about 2 months ago at the public library and have since been reading every back issue I can digest. Love the articles, love the letters to the editor, love the commentaries. Everyone at your magazine has become the personal support group that keeps my homesteading dream alive.

Since I began reading your magazine I’ve learned more about our government than I learned from twelve years of public school, and four years of private college (degree complete with honors—my point being, I’m no slouch). I once thought I was a liberal (whatever that means) and because of Dave, John, and MacDougal (Does this guy really exist?) I am now leaning toward libertarianism. I’m a 24-year-old mother trying to provide for her daughter, creating my own version of the “American Dream;” and I am finding on a regular basis that basic every day things I had assumed were my rights as a human being and productive member of society are covertly and overtly being controlled by the government. Outrageous laws exist that control everything from having a campfire in my backyard to tax laws governing a barter with my neighbor. I’m convinced that I unknowingly break the law every day due to ignorance of the government’s in-depth control over every aspect of my life. The United Stated is slowly and surely becoming a communist state.

All of the political thinking you’ve inspired in me has, however, confused me. I’m very much an environmentalist and believe, as many do, that over-population and pollution is destroying the natural system that sustains us. My fiance, who is an environmental driller (underground water sampling and cleaning) can attest first-hand to the toxins that surround us even in the most pristine areas. My confusion comes from the dissonance of wanting to get rid of this control-freakish government and protect people’s rights, and on the other hand, believing that we need to control, by law, population and pollution before it’s too late for my daughter to go outside without wearing a plastic suit. I often believe it’s true that the government must protect us from ourselves for the good of all. All the ignoramuses who don’t know anything or couldn’t care less about overpopulation and pollution, and those who do know, such as big business, and care much more about the almighty dollar, need to be controlled. Any comments on this?

Gretchen Mead,

Environmentalism today has ceased to be about science and the environment; it’s now about politics. For a better view of what is and isn’t wrong with the environment, as well as what the environmental movement has become, I suggest you read Trashing the Planet by the late Dixie Lee Ray. — Dave

Guiding people

The staff of your fine magazine are in a position to change the course of our civilization as we have known it.
Please consider guiding people on the pathway to change our system within the system. We probably don’t need radicalism or militant groups to do this.

If you would guide people toward the correct groups, political candidates or party, who to write or send E-mail to, what to say, what not to say, what lobby groups are on the side of the citizens. Include address and e-mail address, philosophy and where their financial support comes from (very important). If this movement is positive and right, it may take a little time, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Please think about it.

Doug, Winston-Salem, NC

Radical and militant? Americans today regard men like Washington, Jefferson, and Adams as eminently reasonable men, but they were considered radicals by most Europeans of their time. Had England won the Revolutionary War they, along with hundreds of others of our Founding Fathers, would have been hung. We at BHM always invite our readers to seek out the opinions of the Libertarian Party, the Fully Informed Jury Association, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms, and others whose ideas embody freedom and whom we regard as sources for meaningful change in this country but who are regarded as militants, radicals, and worse by Democrats, Republicans, and most of the press.
— Dave

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