issue 70 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #70

American Survival Guide

I understand that the Self Reliance Journal (old American Survival Guide) is kaput. Too bad. I really liked the original format before it went PC. I also understand that your magazine has taken over the subscription list and will be substituting your Backwoods magazine in its place. If this is the case you are to be commended. I recently was told about your magazine and given your website to review. Your magazine is surely what I have been looking for in addition to SRJ and I intended to subscribe to it anyways. Please let me know what is the status of my subscription due to the SRJ fiasco. I am not sure of how much longer my subscription with SRJ would be in effect. If you have that information please let me know. If you are substituting Backwoods Magazine for SRJ I would be more than happy to extend my subscription for an additional two years. I would like to let you know that I was really impressed about what I read on your website and am really looking forward to receiving your fine magazine.

Edward B. Leckey, Franconia, VA

Received your May/June 2001 issue of BHM and read the notice about Self Reliance Journal. We are subscribers until Nov. 2002 with Self Reliance Journal. Please make sure that our 6 issues are added to our subscription to BHM. At this time we are paid to July/August 2003, so this will extend us to sometime in 2004.

Now I know why we got so many notices from Self Reliance Journal at the end of 2000. We probably got 10 renewal notices and then one came with a deal we couldn’t refuse so we renewed for 2 years.

I do want to tell you how much we enjoy BHM. We have the anthologies 1 through 7 and in a week or so will be sending for #8 and 9. Thank you, thank you for the new low price on them!

Mary Ann Gove, Cottonwood, AZ

Self-Defense Bill, H.R. 31

I read the Last Word in March/April 2001. I agree with you 100%. I have slept more years than I care to remember with a .357. But I know that if some crook or fool breaks in my house he will be killed and the way the laws are today they will prosecute me. The thief, killer, rapist will be portrayed as the best thing on two feet.

A letter I received today from Gun Owners of America explains they are trying to get a self-defense bill H.R. 31 passed. so that if you defend yourself, family, home, you won’t have to pay or go to jail. Maybe you could comment on this bill.

George Hettiger, Montrose, PA

H.R. 31 is the Citizens’ Self Defense Act of 2001, introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Bartlett (R-MD) January 3, 2001. As of this writing it has 58 cosponsors. H.R. 31 allows law-abiding citizens to obtain firearms for the defense of self, family, and home. It would overrule local and state laws that deny you the right to defend your family when confronted by a violent person, and it allows you to sue zealous anti-gun prosecutors who try to prosecute you in the aftermath of exercising this right.

This is very important legislation for people who keep guns for self-defense. You can find a complete copy of the bill on the Internet at Gun Owners of America (703-321-8585; also on the web at is leading the charge to get the bill passed. To see if your representative is a cosponsor, go to on the Internet. If not, I urge you to contact him or her. — Dave

Claire Wolfe, Jackie, Vin

I had to write and recommend some books I ordered from you. Vin Suprynowicz’s Send in the Waco Killers and Claire Wolfe’s 101 Things to do ‘Til the Revolution and Don’t Shoot the Bastards (Yet).

There is absolutely no fluff in Send in the Waco Killers. It will scare you, open your eyes and mind and I hope motivate each one that reads it to begin to understand the loss of our Constitutional rights.

Of course Claire Wolfe and Jackie Clay are my modern day lady pioneering heroes, each from a different perspective of course. Jackie writes it as she and her family live it. Claire writes it in order for all to survive. Both cover the very serious business of providing for and survival of families. I really admire their courage and fortitude…

Anne Dodds, Bedias, TX

Should I go to college

My parents subscribe to your magazine, and enjoy it. Whenever I look at your publication, I always read at least several articles. I would appreciate it if you would take some time to answer the following questions.

I am a fourteen year old homeschooled boy, trying to make a tentative decision on whether or not I should go to college. I am already an outdoor, freedom-minded individual: no TV, no video games. Putting aside the trouble of money, here are the questions: 1) Will the expense and trouble be worth the knowledge and training that it will give my mind, and any benefit it will give me in applying for a job? 2) Do you think I could do something better with my time? 3) Do you think there is a suitable college for someone who wants to go.

I appreciate any trouble you go to to answer my questions.

William Watner, Gramling, SC

My 18-year-old daughter, Annie, is trying to decide whether or not she wants to go to college. Last summer and this summer she has taken several college courses for credit but has not yet decided whether or not she wants to take the plunge for four years. When she graduated from high school a year ago, she was totally burned out from school that was too boring and confining for her free spirit, so I suggested she take a year off and work for me and learn more in a year than she could learn in four years of college. She did that and soaked up the publishing business. But now I am encouraging her to go to college so she’ll have a degree in the bank, just in case she needs it later to get a good-paying job.

But deep down inside me I hope she’ll never need that degree, because I don’t recommend anyone go to college so they can get a job working for someone else. The only happiness I can imagine is working for yourself. It’s the only real security too, as many people getting laid off in the current recession will testify to.

I’m all for education, but you don’t need to go to college to get educated. At the age of 57, I take college courses on a regular basis, via audio cassette. My current courses are The History of the English Language by Professor Seth Lerer of Stanford University (18 audio cassettes) and Einstein’s Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists by Professor Richard Wolfson Of Middlebury College (12 audio cassettes). I buy them from The Teaching Company (1-800-TEACH-12). I won’t get any credit for the courses, but I don’t care about that. I’m just interested in learning things.

But being able to earn a living in the future is a very important consideration for a 14-year-old boy. I’d recommend you go to college just in case you’ll need that degree to get a job later, but I’d look for a way to start your own business at the same time. You don’t need a prestige college, and you can always get a correspondence degree via the Internet. And for gosh sakes don’t get a stupid degree in something like psychology or sociology. If you’re going to go to the trouble to go to college, get a degree in something that will give you real knowledge, such as science or how to run a business. — Dave

For Jackie Clay

What delightful articles you produce. I really enjoy all of BHM, but each time I eagerly open it to your articles first. With eight kids and grandchildren, I’m sure it’s a lot of work, but very gratifying to live as you do.

I tried canning some very special Polish sausages from a local meat market thanks to your article about canning them. I followed the directions for canning meat in the Kerr canning book, along with your instructions in a previous issue of BHM. The results are just exactly what I wanted…excellent. Ready to can smoked pork hocks!

I have to tell you that in this latest issue, #68, I really enjoyed reading about you and your family. How I would love to live near you. But I am sure you do not have much time for visiting.


Our life is a bit hectic, but we always have time to visit. With only one child home now, our youngest son, David, and the grandkids in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and now Rhode Island, I’m not as busy in that department as I once was. With eight kids at home (two homemade, two step-children and the rest adopted), it actually seemed that I was less busy. The reason for this is that they helped each other and ME, too. But, of course, every one had his or her special needs to fill. Now my writing keeps me busier than they did.

If you were my neighbor and came to visit, you might have to chat over the back of our cow as I feed or I might put you to cutting green beans with me, but we could enjoy each other’s company. That’s how it is at a backwoods home.

We love Montana, but are planning to leave for a homestead in the wilderness of extreme northeastern Minnesota. In this way, we will be only a few hours from our children and grandchildren, whom we do miss seeing, AND hope to build a homestead from the woods….an experience we missed out on when we lost our Canadian homestead dream.
— Jackie Clay

Energy commentary

Greetings from SPARTA behind enemy lines in the socialist republic of California (more specifically the Humboldt soviet). I have just concluded reading My View in issue 69 of 2001 in BHM. You are absolutely right. Those of us who actually walk the walk and not just talk the talk do not need to buy into a cult with regard to alternative energy. We live on 120 acres overlooking the Klamath River and are served by NO public utilities of any kind. We formerly lived aboard a cruising 34′ sailboat mostly in the Caribbean. When we chose the site for finally swallowing the anchor we were careful to have a solar suitable area with adequate water, no visible neighbors and accessibility by 4×4 year around.

We were already familiar with solar and wind power and needed information on their applicability to a shore side environment. We discovered a rag called Home Power which contained lots of useful technical data and claimed to promote independent living. WRONG! It seemed according to them that the solution to all problems was government action (California style) and subsidies. Having spent some time in Cuba, we knew that idea was something we wanted nothing to do with. It was sort of like dealing with the Dept. of Motor Vehicles every time you went to the grocery store (no ration card, no rice. You know the drill).

We have a satellite internet connection for downloading with DirecPC but have to use a cell phone to upload. They promise a two way system as an upgrade very soon. We envy your Starband system but already deal with Hughes for satellite tv service.

Enjoy your cross country journey and if you swing south on the first day I will open a case of Heineken and give you a tour of SPARTA. By the way, make sure you arrive in Amherst in time to hear the keynote speaker Julia Butterfly Hill. She may even be coaxed into autographing a copy of the sayings of Chairman Mao for you.

Our sailboat’s name was Leonidas and the dinghy was called Thermopylae. Ask Mac to explain that bit of esoteria for you.

Allen A. Nightingale

Dave, Dave, Dave, you were in the hills of southern Oregon/northern California for too long. The renewable energy crowd understands their market base just fine. Whereas you assume they should follow the old business maxim of, “The customer is always right”, and bite their ideological lips. They, however, have bigger fish to fry. Back in the 1980s their collectivist business models were encouraged by the adoption of anti-free market policies. Oregon, for example, offered special tax credits for the installation of solar hot water systems. As a result solar hot water businesses sprouted anew thanks to fresh government dollar fertilizer. I have one of these on my roof working today. As they see it they could make renewable energy viable the old fashioned way, i.e., research and development, or the tried and true progressive way through government intervention of free markets. If only they could have elected Al Gore, and controlled both houses of congress their businesses would have taken off. Dave, do you get it yet? If they can get government to subsidize the installation of renewable home energy systems they know that liberals as well as conservatives and libertarians will rush to get in line for the “FREE LUNCH”.

P.S. I love everything about BHM, especially your insights and John Silveira’s constitutional analysis/commentary.

Mike B., Medford, OR

Regrettably, I’m afraid your analysis of the renewable energy marketing strategy is correct. — Dave

Using BHM excerpts

Great magazine! I look forward to each issue and recommend it to all my clients, friends and family. Many people in our area of northern California live off the grid—me included. Having never lived without electricity, your articles have been extremely helpful in understanding how and why things work like they do.

The articles on the Constitution are very enlightening. I had no idea we had come so far from what the Founding Fathers fought and died for.

What’s the possibility of using some of your past articles in my newsletter to my clients? I would appreciate being able to share short excerpts with off-the-grid “want-a-bies” or those living in remote mountain country property. If so, what’s the charge.

Judy Watkins, Weaverville, CA

No charge to use excerpts from BHM articles, so long as you give attribution to BHM, with our phone number and website address: —Dave

Chuck meets Bubba

All I can say is, it’s about damned time somebody put it in writing! In one page John has brilliantly summed up the liberal mindset, i.e., all perpetrators are victims deserving of compassion. There is a term for that attitude but I can’t use it because young people read this magazine.

The attitude of the women in the story is proof (if any was necessary) of John Galsworthy’s timeless observation, “idealism increases in direct proportion to one’s distance from the problem.” About 20 years ago I spent a year as a deputy sheriff and I saw enough to forever turn me off of the idea of “rehabilitation,” much less compassion. Over the last few years I, like John, have also been the victim of a couple of breakins that were very costly, not only in the monetary value of the things stolen but in terms of my peace of mind and that of my family. Putting it bluntly, we felt violated. It’s a feeling that doesn’t go away and it made me very distrustful of people and the city where I lived. I eventually moved to a rural county a few hundred miles away where my nearest neighbor is a couple of miles down the road. I won’t go so far as to say that trespassers will be shot on sight but I wouldn’t advise you to push your luck.

It’s my feeling that any judge or magistrate, before he is allowed to sit in judgment of others, should spend one year as a bottom-rung deputy or police officer. Then let’s see what kind of justice he dispenses! When I was a deputy I once sat in on the trial of a man who had stolen a car and held up a liquor store. The store owner was faster on the draw and put one in the guy’s shoulder. During the trial the miscreant’s attorney pled his client guilty and asked for leniency because his client was a drug addict and thus was operating under “diminished capacity” when he committed the crimes, and that he had “already suffered” by being shot. The judge (who had worked his way through law school as a police officer) held up his hand and said, “Counselor, I realize that you have to represent your client but please refrain from insulting my intelligence!” He then proceeded to hand down a sentence of 25 years at hard labor and admonished the defendant, “Did somebody put a gun to your head and make you take those drugs? No, you knew what you were doing when you took them, and you have to take responsibility for your actions and suffer the consequences.” Now, THAT’S the kind of judiciary we need!

There’s one difference between me and John Silveira, however. He sleeps with a .357 and I sleep with a .45. And probably always will.

Frank Williams
somewhere in the south

Roof trusses and fire

In Trusses—low cost marvels to roof over most large spaces, by Martin Harris he writes “But such light steel is far from fireproof; it will soften and collapse because of heat long before wood will ignite and burn enough to lose a comparable amount of strength.” This is a serious misunderstanding by Mr. Harris. It appears that he is comparing the relative safety of a wooden truss with a metal one when exposed to fire and the products of combustion.

In almost every case, wooden trusses fail earlier than steel. Not because they burn (as indicated in the article) but because the gusset plate (the metal fastener) heats much quicker than wood, expands and pulls free from the truss. Because these fasteners are placed at the truss joints, the failure of one gusset plate causes the failure of the entire truss. Because in lightweight construction materials are seldom “over-clocked,” a bare minimum are used to complete the job. Plus, to a very great extent, trusses are dependent on one another for mutual support; when you lose one you will shortly lose them all because the remaining portion of a wooden truss goes from being roof load support to added roof load.

The danger from metal is generally during fire extinguishment or soon after a fire. The heated metal trusses expand and push out the retaining clip at the end of the wall during free burning fire. As the metal truss cools and contracts, it slips back past the loosened retaining clip and fails.

For what it’s worth, I stand on the roof of a burning house fairly regularly. I don’t like trusses at all but I’ll take steel over wood any day. Current thought in the fire service is that a roof over wooden gusset plate trusses is safe for around 12 minutes after fire spreads to the area. My personal feeling is that 12 minutes is a generous estimate.

I enjoy your site. A variety of interesting topics.

Bill Doss,

Wild herb tea

Another wonderful and interesting issue in the May/June magazine, as usual. There is an error in the “Foraging for wild teas” article I would like to address. By the time you get this letter your own Jackie Clay will probably have spotted it. I am an avid forager of wild foods. Fireweed and Purple Loose Strife are not the same plant. Fireweed has four petal flowers and the leaves grow alternately up the stem and Purple Loose Strife has six petal flowers and the leaves grow in pairs, one on either side of the stem. I have gathered Fireweed for 28 years and have never seen it growing in a swamp while Purple Loose Strife does seem to like damp soils. I don’t know if Purple Loose Strife is edible. To someone just starting out foraging for wild plants, finding the differences in these two plants, as stated as being one plant, may be discouraging and down right scary for many people are afraid of wild plants to start with. It may end someone’s desire to ever gather wild plants to eat.

Anyway, I do love the magazine and look forward to its arrival. Just wish it were a monthly!

Kathryn Venable,
Montgomery Center, VT


You mentioned your Starband system as your new ISP (Publisher’s Note, Issue 69). We installed Starband in January, and are generally very satisfied with it. However, there are some features (or lack thereof) that your readers should know.

First, Starband is still working out some software glitches, including compatibility with Netscape. My new system seemed slower than my land-line, until Tech Support helped me with codes for a manual proxy on Netscape. Now, most of the time, it’s not much of a problem, but the system tends to get “hung up,” when idle for only a few minutes.

Second, a two-way, “always-on,” like the satellite system (like land-line T-1 or ISDN) has a single, permanent ISP address. This poses a vulnerability to “hackers” who send out vicious or annoying little programs to attack and compromise your computer. You can protect your computer with one of several home “firewall” programs, but I found that some did not work well with Starband software. We recently installed a hardware firewall (available for about $100-$150), and I think our system is now working (1) like it’s supposed to, and (2) like we expect it to.

Although Starband has a “member’s forum” on its website, the newsgroups have very detailed, very helpful information. We used this as a guide to determine that (1) what we were experiencing wasn’t normal, (2) lots of people had the same problems, and (3) there were very good solutions or work-arounds to take care of it.

Overall, I really like Starband (particularly the download speed—whee!) and Starband is a fairly affordable alternative to land-lines for remote locations. I thought your readers might like to know some of the glitches in the system.

Oh, one more thing—although I really enjoyed Linda Gabris’ article about “Foraging for a fine cup of wild herb tea,” I would have liked a little more emphasis on pesticide and herbicide contamination. Some of your readers live in more developed areas, where neighbors treat their lawns, municipalities treat public green spaces, and farmers treat their fields. Even if your favorite forage site is not chemically-treated, it can still be exposed to chemicals that drift from nearby (or even not-so-nearby) applications. My sister lives in the city, lives the organic lifestyle (no chemical treatment on her garden or yard), but has a noticeable lack of weeds in her yard due to the drift from her neighbors’ lawn treatment. If you are foraging, you should really know owners and whether the owners (and the owners’ neighbors) use chemicals, and when those chemicals were last used.

Keep up with the great magazine. I always see something useful, something enlightening, and something entertaining. What more could one ask for?

Miriam E. Robeson

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