issue 61 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #61

Irreverent jokes

Why do you print these irreverent jokes? It signifies, in my opinion, a debasement of your magazine. Why not choose the high road? Keep your magazine clean, and factual. Also, jokes don’t have to be gross to be funny. Be noble, and drop the crude jokes.

Rich Hoenzsch,

Libertarian philosophy

I really enjoy BHM. What really convinced me to subscribe was your consistent libertarian position in issue #59 advocating the legalization of drugs as well as gun ownership rights. I consider myself a small “l” libertarian. I once was a dues paying member of the Libertarian Party. I quit in 1988 when the party’s nominee for President, Ron Paul, betrayed the party’s platform on the issue of abortion rights. The Libertarian Party’s platform has always defended a woman’s right to choose! Since then I have joined the Green Party because of their strong environmental views.

I also like your profiles of historical figures who have championed freedom over tyranny. But I wish you could go outside the American experience to do articles on other advocates of freedom such as the Greek philosopher Zeno (336-246 B.C.), Gerrard Winstanley who in 1649 founded the Diggers, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and William Godwin among others. I would also recommend reading Howard Zinn’s A Peoples’ History of the United States to learn that Big Business as well as Big Government has been a detriment to real freedom in this country. I think we would’ve been better off with the Articles of Confederation rather than the Constitution.

One comment you made to a letter-writer in issue #60 was incorrect. You stated that Mother Earth news had folded. It is still being published and I see a new issue on the newsstand every two months. Unfortunately, it’s a pale immitation to what it was in the 1970s. Back then buying Mother Earth was like making a statement to this consumerist society. Now it’s about as boring as Popular Mechanics!

Richard Clark, Salem, IN

My apologies to fans of The Mother Earth News. I did not mean to say she is still out of business. She had folded about 1990, was subsequently bought out of bankruptcy court, was relaunched, and has been alive and healthy ever since with a paid circulation that makes my mouth water. — Dave

Cartridge box loaded

I browsed your “stinking 2nd Amendment” article and found it scholarly. Your review of Send in the Waco Killers describes an equally worthy writing. . . . We have a “two party” system where each party realizes they cannot have it all. They have cut a deal, decided to divide the spoils, all the while locked in a contrived and perpetual Good vs. Evil struggle (depending upon which side you are on) a la “Brave New World” …Republican favorite George Bush, Jr. favors raising the age to own long guns from 18 to 21. Candidate “Dizz Lizzy” Dole also supported increased gun control and her husband former Senator Bob “Three Time Loser” Dole refused to consider an attempt to repeal the so-called assault weapons ban after the Republican “Revolution” in 1994. Revolutionary thought at its finest!

This proves the ballot box no longer works. The federal judge overturning the jury not guilty verdicts at the trial of the Waco survivors shows the jury box no longer functions as designed. The soap box is a wasted effort. Over the past 20 years, I have written dozens of letters to the editor, to state and congressional representatives and senators, yet our government’s slide into statism hasn’t slowed. It is only a matter of time before someone will take a last stand when faced with the Gun Gestapo at their door to collect a politically incorrect firearm, make him a defacto criminal and confiscate the rest, possibly costing him his employment, home and family’s security. Or maybe it will be the Eco-Nazis . . .

An eloquent and scholarly discussion on our rights will serve us no purpose if it is done from the wrong side of the concertina wire. We are dealing with irrational, illogical firearmphobes who cherish order above freedom, animal “rights” over individual liberties and responsibilities. They use our police and military against us with the eager help of opportunistic, self-serving politicians; all for the supposed good of The Children. I’m keeping my cartridge boxes loaded.

Alvin York,

Unaware young people?

I have to say that I think Mr. McCravy is way off about blissfully unaware young people. (#59, Pg. 83). The young are no worse. There are just as many unaware, “boxed-in” thinking “old” people. Although the welfare state is everywhere, some still have foresight and brains enough to think for themselves. I had unpopular ideas and an unusual awareness of gov’t intrusion long before I knew anyone who felt the same. They called me a “red neck” in high school! (I’m in my 20’s now.)

I believe (and hope) that with the increasingly obvious gov’t intrusions more people will begin to see things differently. Also, with increased homeschooling filtering out gov’t influence, we’re creating a growing contingency of independent, thinking citizens. I don’t believe Mr. McCravy is giving family and God created intelligence enough credit.

S. Sweet, St. Maries, ID

Slow cooker

Read J. D. Hooker’s article on the Slow Cooker, issue #60-I made one very similar to this quite some time ago and use it as a “non-electric” yogurt maker. Mine is made with a 2 qt. food grade round plastic container for the liner and a 5 qt. ice cream bucket for the outer housing. Cut a circle of 2 inch styrofoam to fit inside the ice cream bucket on top of the 2 qt. liner and that’s it.

Rod Summitt,

Ram pump

In the water system article in issue #59 Mr. Hackleman discourages potential ram pump users with the statement “the hydraulic ram needs running water, which, over the length of your property, must drop in elevation at least 10 to 15 feet to be useful.” The veracity of this statement lies in the definition of useful, but your readers with small holdings or moderate water requirements can use a ram pump with much less fall.

Our own babbling brook has a mere 3 feet of fall, yet our “el cheapo” ram pump delivers 95 gals/24 hrs for stock use and gardening to a tank 400 feet away and 21 feet higher. This is accomplished with a 1″ diameter x 40′ drive pipe and a 1/2″ delivery line. The tank acts as a reservoir and pressurizes the system.

Where power is in short supply, we think a ram pump is much more practical than Mr. Hackleman intimates.

Stephen & Lori Kirkham, Bridesville, B.C., Canada

Canning nuts

I’ve been canning many years and think you will like this way of canning nuts. The latest copyright date on my Kerr canning hook is 1958 and the cover price was 25 cents. I’ve used this method for the last five years and it works just great.

Walnuts or Pecans-Cold Pack:

Put nut meats into clean Kerr Jars (Clean of course and dry). Put on the cap and screw hand tight. Process in the oven. Use lowest possible heat, 225 degrees for 45 min.—any size jar.

Ardath Schmidt, Luverne, MN

The Bill of Rights

. . .In a country saturated by the media with stories about how our “benevolent” government can provide everything for everyone without cost to anyone, and in a country where the terrifying costs of allowing the government to have this much control of our lives are never mentioned by this same media, such candor in a nationally distributed publication is rare, and for this we say “Thanks, Dave!”

As self-responsible individuals we feel as strongly as you do about using the principles of libertarianism as our life’s guiding philosophy. Some years back when my wife and I first discovered libertarianism, for the longest time I was hard put to find an easy explanation when describing the libertarian principles to someone who was not familiar with them. And then somewhere I found or heard a brief yet concise definition that stuck with me and that I have used ever since. It goes as follows: “Do what you say you are going to do and leave the other guy and his property alone.” Just think how much better off this whole world would be if we all followed these two simple rules.

Of course if we all followed these simple concepts we wouldn’t have the huge intrusive government that is slowly but surely whittling away at the basic freedoms so clearly enumerated in the first ten amendments of the Constitution. Which brings me to another reason why we enjoy BHM and that is the columns by John Silveira, especially when he is writing about the Bill of Rights. I wonder how many folks (in particular the young) realize how important these amendments are and the role they play in constraining the government. As long as they remain intact we remain a free people. To the extent that they are weakened by enacted legislation that is upheld by the Supreme Court, to that extent we move closer to a totalitarian government.

Perhaps the best analogy of how the government gradually nibbles away at our freedom is the method described for cooking a frog. If you drop a frog into a pan of very hot water he’ll just hop right back out. But if you were to place him in some luke warm water that made him comfortable and then gradually brought up the flame, the frog would just sit there, feeling warm and cozy until it is too late and he is cooked. Unfortunately this is what seems to be happening today in this country. The legislators stroke and sooth us as they promise us some Utopian dream while contained in each new law are the tools to forge the chains, which will ultimately make us all slaves. One only has to look at our history and ask . . . Are we as free a people today as we were when this country was born in 1776?

Case in point; I recently read that several states celebrated an amendment (which passed by a voice vote) to HR 1501 that would allow public schools to display the Ten Commandments in the classrooms. The thinking probably goes that if the students see and read these biblical laws they will perhaps be influenced by them and as a result become better behaved. Notice that I used the word behaved and not informed or learned. The authors of the Bill of Rights recognized that government at any level should have no power to influence who or where or what we choose to worship. The first amendment is very clear on this subject . . . “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” I am sure that a lot of people see little harm in posting the Ten Commandments in a public school classroom and might have a hard time associating this action as an intrusion on the First Amendment.

But before summarily accusing me of nit picking let me make my point. According to biblical history God handed down the Ten Commandments to Moses. But just whose religion were they intended for? In so far as these commandments deal with murder, stealing, lying or cheating I doubt that anyone would quarrel with obeying them. But besides these “moral” laws these Commandments also contain the admonishment against worshipping idols or false gods. If I worship an Eastern God and you a Western God am I worshipping a false god? If I pray to a statue of the Virgin Mary or Christ on a cross and you pray to a statue of Buddha, which of us is breaking the Commandment about worshipping an idol. How can anyone say these are not strictly religious issues? If I choose not to worship any god am I then violating a Commandment? And since we already have laws against harming other people what happens if I choose not to obey the rest of the Commandments? Am I then answerable to the State?

On the surface this amendment appears harmless and folks who hold strong religious beliefs see no harm in having the Commandments displayed in the classroom, but I urge you to remember the parable of the frog. And remember that it is not the laws contained in the main body of the constitution that make this country the envy of other countries; it is the rights enumerated in the first ten amendments. I have asked any number of students at all grade levels if the Constitution and more particularly the Bill of Rights are ever studied in school. Almost without exception the answer has been “a little.” I am not surprised; all governments fear an informed citizenry. Yet if any document should be displayed prominently in schools everywhere it is the Bill of Rights. Better yet every legislator and bureaucrat should be made to memorize them and be forced to recite them loudly and in public at least once a month (like maybe on payday?).

If each and every one of the first ten amendments were studied in depth, sooner or later these young citizens would begin to see the hypocrisies practiced by their government. Or maybe a lot of them already recognize they are being lied to and the idea that they are being forced to live this lie everyday in these government propaganda camps is the cause for a lot of their rebelliousness. This is hardly the result wanted by an all powerful or despotic government.

The Ten Commandments may codify religious laws but these are and should be strictly between you and the deity you worship, a very personal matter. The Bill of Rights on the other hand are the laws that place constraints on the power our government can exercise and as such guarantees the freedom of every American citizen. Lose these rights only at great peril!

Bob Merzi,

Well said. — Dave

Just do it

I am a single woman living way beyond the power and phone lines in the beautiful green mountains of Vermont with my sled dogs, chickens and milk goats (and hopefully next year a Jersey heifer calf and a horse or two). I bought my 11 acres with cash and I have very few bills. I planned it that way—I could have bought 40 acres and then had payments and a job—ugh! No thanks. This way I can be self-employed and sleep thru the night without waking in a panic wondering how I’m going to pay all the bills—my old life. I’ve just moved back to Vermont after 3 years in the interior of Alaska and am so glad to be home. No more -55 degrees, no more pitch black at 9 am. . . .I would like to tell your readers who would like to make the big move, change their lives, to do it. You really “need” far less than you have been led to believe you need. People from Vermont’s largest city, 55 miles away, drive and hike up into these mountains every weekend and I get told so often how lucky I am that I can stay. Yes I am lucky and a day doesn’t go by that I don’t thank the Holy Spirit for what I’ve got. However I live in a camper because that’s what I can afford. I gather wild apples and berries and can them and eat them when they’re in season and I gather wild mushrooms and buy every other food item in bulk and bake all my breads, pies etc. All so that my life stays mine and doesn’t belong to an employer 5 days a week. Being a stay at home mom for my animal family is my top priority and not a fancy house and a new vehicle. I just wish everyone would examine their lives and discover what it is they truly want.

Kathryn Venable, Montgomery Center, VT


What has prompted me to subscribe is the appearance of the worst piece of writing I have ever seen in Backwoods Home which is your commentary, “Millennium excuses and the quest for truth.” After reading it I realized how balanced, cogent, and well reasoned almost everything else in the magazine is.

The Millennium piece, however, is a serious error on your part. In it you rail against those who predict Y2K doom by very cockily declaring that no threat ever existed and does not now exist. In doing so you plant your feet firmly on the same wet sand as the doomsayers. Both camps are equally arrogant and ignorant of the nature of complex systems. For either camp to presume the omniscience required to predict the behavior of the world economic system is arrogance bordering on insanity.

In this piece you have demonstrated ignorance of the nature of complex systems, ignorance of the large scale computer systems employed by business and government, and ignorance of the phenomenally complex network connecting the worlds’ businesses and governments. Worst of all you have behaved irresponsibly towards your faithful readers by denying any possibility that Y2K might cause any disruption for them. Do you really mean that? That, to use your words, it’s all “hype”, “hysteria”, “phony”, “psuedoscience”. Do you mean Dave, that the probability of Y2K disruption is ZERO? Because that is the tone of the piece. Please tell us if that is what you really meant.

Alan Amenta, Wayne, PA

Perhaps you should read my editorial, and my past comments on Y2K, more closely. I’m making fun of doomsayers who predict our modern civilization will be brought to its knees due to Y2K. I am not saying there is absolutely no problem associated with Y2K. There are obvious problems (I had to update the magazine’s database software) and there will be Y2K-related problems in the new year, but the notion that Y2K-related problems will bring civilization to its knees is absurd. Hurricane Andrew caused huge problems for Florida but Florida recovered just fine. I see Y2K as a bunch of hurricanes—tiny in most areas, moderate in others. Humanity, especially humanity in this country, will get over those problems with little difficulty. Third world countries like Russia will probably have a lot more difficulty. Some industries will do better than others.

Where do I say Y2K poses zero threat? I say the risks are minor, and the editorial makes fun of doomsayers who forecast the end of civilization. — Dave


Reading your magazine is like sitting down with friends over a cup of coffee. Your articles are a powerhouse of information! Good reading and we enjoy Mr. Duffy’s and Mr. Silveira’s open minded comments. Thank you Mr. Duffy for opening your bookstore and letting my North Carolina friend and I in to meet your crew a couple weeks ago. Good luck with your expansion! Keep up the work.

Sylvia Jean & Paul Donnelly, Cottage Grove, OR

My compliments to all of you, in particular Mr. Duffy and Silveria for good well thought out and expressed articles and editorials, and Mr. Blunt for the recipes and information in his columns. This is about the best magazine I’ve ever read.

Gary Tucker,

Great magazine! I read them over and over and I’ve got my wife reading them. Got a couple people I work with subscribing also! We always see who gets their magazine in the mail first, then we have some lively conversations while we’re doing open-heart surgery and also read through the joke page—that really cuts people up.

Downsized and cut my mortgage payment in half. I plan to be debt free in 5-7 years and more self-sufficient and self-reliant by then also! Thanks again for another great year of a great magazine. P.S. Just got my Nov./Dec. issue. Just had to ask how the fish tasted and how much fight did they put up!

Don Randig, Uniontown, OH

Delicious! The 11-pound red snapper ate a small rock cod I was reeling in. It hit it about two feet beneath the surface. My fishing partner, Mike Philipsheck, actually caught the 30-pound ling cod, and it too had grabbed a small rock cod he was reeling in. Great fight but for a short distance with each. — Dave

Drugs and guns

I enjoyed your article “Should both drugs and guns be legal?” under the My view section of the Sept./Oct. issue of BHM. It brought to mind two quotes which I’m sure you’ve heard or remember from school.

“Is life so dear and peace so sweet that it must be bought at the price of chains and slavery? God forbid it! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

Damn if that doesn’t sound like something one of those antagonistic militia types might say. Actually it was said by founding father Patrick Henry over two hundred years ago in a community church in Richmond, Virginia.

And one of my all time favorite quotes—”A people who choose to ignore history tend to repeat it,” which I have seen proven in my time repeatedly.

Anytime you give up freedoms to a government in exchange for security that country is headed for a fall.

Alvin E Bush, St. Amant, LA

The Big Island

Your article on “The good life on the Big Island” in the Nov./Dec. issue has really fired up my interest in moving to Hawaii to live. Because I lived in the Philippines for seven years until I was injured and forced to return to the U.S.A. where I was given a disability retirement. Since then I have greatly missed the island life and have had extreme difficulty trying to readjust to living here on the mainland.

I was not aware that land could be bought for such a reasonable price in Hawaii, which would be the answer to all my problems. But the author of the article still kept the secret because they didn’t give any addresses to get more information.

I would love the idea of living on five to twenty acres even if it didn’t have electricity and was five to ten miles from town. Just as long as I could drill a water well and not be endangered by a volcano. But I’d prefer electricity if possible and could afford it.

Can you give me an address to write for more information? Thank you.

James A. Nesler, Dayton, TX

There are a couple of points I would like to add to my article on Hawaii.

One is that although I did mention in the article that there’s a wealth of info available on the Internet about real-estate on The Big Island, I didn’t give any specific addresses for those folks who choose not to deal with computers or have no Internet access.

One excellent resource is a publication called Homes & Land, and you may call them at 1-800-277-7800 and ask for a free copy. Be sure to tell them that you want the Hawaii Big Island issue. Their magazine features full-color pictures and prices (on most of their listings). Don’t let the million-dollar homes scare you away, either! Keep looking and you will be pleasantly surprised. And for you Internet enthusiasts, you can find them at If you would like some direct classified ads, you can contact the Hawaii Tribune Herald, Hilo’s newspaper, and ask them to send you a sample copy. They will also send you a subscription, and you can request the Sunday paper only for $11/month. Call 1-808-935-6623, or write to Hawaii Tribune Herald, P.O. Box 767, Hilo, HI 96720.

I still recommend the Internet as the best resource, and there are lots of ways you can access the Internet even if you have no computer. Many libraries have Internet access, and you can always ask a friend with a computer to print out some info for you, or even to look it up with you. You need only type “Hawaii real estate” into any search utility, and you’ll come up with tons of leads.

The other point is that I want to make it very clear that Hawaii is not for everyone. Every day, folks come here and are instantly enamored of the magical feelings of these Islands, and some of them decide they just have to live here. So they pack their belongings into a shipping container and move on over, and in a few months or maybe a year, they discover that this isn’t “America.” It’s much like being in a foreign country, with a very different culture, and that culture comes with a different attitude and a different energy than that of most places on the mainland. A lot of the locals here refer to the mainland as “America,” and prefer to think of the Hawaiian Islands as a separate country. Their separate country. Not wishing to get into a lengthy political discussion here, there are certainly lots of good and valid reasons for their preference. We consider it a privilege to be able to live here.

Things work quite differently here, and if the way they work fits in with your desired lifestyle, there’s a good chance you’ll find Hawaii to be your special place. It’s a very laid-back lifestyle, and if you can live with and love it, that’s a good start.

The key, of course, is to be at peace with this lifestyle, and if that comes natural to you and feels very good to you, you’ve got it made. If it feels like it will take all the patience you can muster to put up with the leisurely ways of the Islands, then this might not be your cup of tea. There’s a magical feeling here. We call it Aloha. It’s alive and well, and to some it’s so powerful and pervasive that it soon becomes an essential part of life. To others, it seems not to exist. I’ve had friends from the mainland come to visit and notice nothing; others feel it profoundly. I even had one friend tell me that she surely feels the ambience of love and acceptance here but she thought it was some kind of tourist-trickery being played by the Visitor’s Bureau! And she was serious! The big Island is home and host to many spiritual events, sessions, celebrations, and workshops from many differing disciplines. The Zen Temple in Wood Valley hosts these kinds of events all year long, and others take place in less formal surroundings, like in some of the sacred and powerful places all over this Island. The Magic here is one of the big reasons why so many people are drawn here for their spiritual work. It’s somehow so easy here . . .

This is a generalization, but I believe those who last here are the people who Know in their Knowingness the minute they first breathe Hawaiian air that they have come home and that this is where they must be.

Aloha Nui Loa — Skip Thomsen,

2nd Amendment article

Some more “ammunition” for Mac’s argument with Bill in John Silveira’s article “We Don’t Need No Steenking 2nd Amendment.” This passage shows that when the 2nd amendment was written, the right to bear arms given to “a well regulated militia” was not considered to mean only a military force. “As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyranize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article in their right to keep & bear their private arms.”—Tench Coxe in “Remarks on the First Part of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution.” Under the pseudonym “A Pennsylvanian” in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette.

I appreciate your obvious hard work on this magazine. I hope that more articles like Mr. Silveira’s will show Americans that the rights guaranteed to us by our Constitution were intended to protect us from the tyrannical government that our founding fathers were personally familiar with.

Gary Keaton,

After reading John’s article, “We Don’t Need No Steenking Second Amendment” I was moved to order not only a subscription to your magazine, but 10 reprints of the article to share with other folks I know. I had never heard of your magazine before yesterday, and have no idea what I’m going to get once the issues begin to arrive, but if all I get that I like is that one simple short story, then it was a bargain. Reading the article has raised a huge question for me, though. Is Mac a real person? If he isn’t just a fictional character in the story, maybe we could convince him to run for president.

Ernie Roberts, Amelia, VA

Is Mac real? Is the Pope Catholic? Does the bear . . . ? — Dave

Read your online material on 2nd amendment and Bill of Rights. Was reminded that many years ago (about 35) when I was in Toastmasters and gave a speech on the right to bear arms, and used a couple of books that covered the material that you discussed. Covered meetings, letters, memos, notes, etc. of our founding fathers that was the foundation of the 2nd and Bill of Rights. I have since lost in memory the titles and authors of these books.

So the attack on our rights obviously in this area is not new. Right along with the UN’s “World Disarmament Initiative,” which is not just about individual countries disarmament, but individual disarmament.

Ron Boschelli,

Religious editor

Since you occasionally write about religion you should have a religious editor:

  1. to provide balance
  2. to provide more religious objectivity since you folks aren’t acquainted with the fine points of the Christian religion
  3. to give those of your readers who are religious someone with which to identify
  4. possibly to enhance your articles about home schooling, since I would suspect that the vast majority of home schoolers are doing this at least partly for religious reasons.

. . . I already hear you. You’re saying, “We aren’t in the business of promoting religion or publishing religious articles.” But you aren’t in the business of home schooling either. Religion is a huge part of many peoples’ lives. It would be useful to you to recognize that.

Michael Briggs,

Baked beans

Hi. Last night, we ate Vermont Baked Beans from Richard Blunt’s article in issue No. 60. Delicious! I had never made baked beans before. They don’t even compare to that canned stuff. Just one note, though. I believe Mr. Blunt meant to saute the onions until translucent rather than opaque.

Heather E Raffa,

You are correct. — Dave

Solar max

For the most part Y2K was never a serious problem for the next century. However the start of the next century has a solar wind maximum called a “solar max”. Since the last solar max, the dependence on satellite communications has grown significantly. That includes bank transactions, TV, etc. Solar max will temporarily blind such services. Many of the satellites are not qualified to handle a solar max so many services will be knocked out, including weather and defense surveillance. That is the real problem we are facing. It will not be the end of the world, but it will have a significant impact.

Joe Brandelik,

Send in the Waco Killers

After reading the book review of Send in the Waco Killers I placed an order with the local bookstore. As you can see from the enclosed computer print-out they say the book is out of print. It has, however, increased in value if a used paperback is selling for $37.50. What is really happening here. Is it out of print or just not handled because it is considered politically incorrect?

John Bull, Everett, WA

Good question. We have plenty of copies here at $24.95 each. — Dave

Comments are closed.