issue 86 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #86

Animal rights loonies editorial in Issue 84

What a wonderful article…I want to send it to the Curry County Reporter. Yep, I live in good ole’ Gold Beach…I don’t subscribe, (too many teenagers in my house for treats for mom) but I read the issue while sitting and waiting to see the doctor today.

I grew up here in town, and I stay because I love the river, my family is here (Grandma was a Pistol River Walker) and truthfully, it’s hard to change…Anyhow, I grew up participating in the animal scramble, along with my sisters. We brought home many animals to love and grow up with. One in particular, a small banty hen named “Chicken Dinner” stayed with us for years and years—we thought she’d live forever. Guess that shows that the animal’s lives don’t get drastically shortened by the so-called trauma of being chased and captured. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that they had vetoed the scramble. I was so angry. I did call the fairgrounds, but was told it hadn’t been officially decided on yet, and to “not worry.” Next thing you know, the scramble is gone.

My girls have also grown up participating in the scramble. Since they are active in 4-H, the animals that were captured usually became project animals. A few years ago, my daughter Michelle had a real “tooth and nail” fight with a boy for a lamb. As a matter of fact, they ended up stopping the other kids from chasing it and had Michelle and this boy “duke it out” (in the form of a chase-boy, I found out Michelle can really run when she wants to.) People still tell me how much they enjoyed watching that during the rodeo.

Anyhow, to make a long story short, the lamb came home with us (it got loose and led us on a 4 mile chase up Saunders Creek through poison oak, and lots of cougar sign the second day she was home.) I should write a book about that experience. We almost had lamb chops that night. Anyhow, the lamb became her 4-H project, and we bred her to Diane Dishner’s ram. A few months later, lo and behold, the miracle of birth. Later that year, mama sheep went to live on Mather’s ranch, and baby was sold to Mathers at the livestock auction. Michelle was so happy to hear that her baby was going to be allowed to live on the ranch and have more babies. She got the largest price per pound, which Michelle used for school clothes and some went into the savings account. I could not have afforded to buy her a sheep for a project animal, and I was so grateful for the experience. She had to pay for the breeding fee, vet fees, and help with feed. She learned a lot (probably that she’ll never have a sheep again).

The scrambles are no more detrimental to these animals than a trip to the vet, or being caught at the farm to be moved to a new pen. I do know that there have been some issues with people who sign their kids up, not realizing that they may actually “catch” a live animal. They live in town and can’t have a pig, or they don’t want the responsibility. The parents are required to sign a form saying they understand the commitment behind this, but they don’t think. My solution: the parents and children are told that in order to participate and have a chance to “win” an animal, they will be required to sign up and show the animal in FFA, or 4-H. Also, they need to sign a form saying that they already have the pen or rabbit hutch in place in case an animal is caught.

Can you imagine the complaints if they were to stop the “mutton busting?” People would freak. I love rodeo, and know a lot of cowboys and cowgirls who are active in rodeo. They know the risks and dangers, much more than the parent who talks “little Johnny” or “little Jane” into getting up on a woolly beast. Yes, I was one of those parents. My two older daughters both rode in the “mutton busting”‘and my eldest (she’s 17) would love to ride a calf. The stock for rodeo are well taken care of—usually better than most “recreational horses.” These animals are the “money-earners” for the livestock contractor, and they are not going to take a chance on losing money.

I kind of got off the subject here…anyway, thanks for the article, and your support of the youth of our town.

Ruth and Steve
Gold Beach, OR

I just read your article about the animal rightists. You’re dead on accurate in your conclusions. Too many just accept what these nuts do without protest. I hope you will be able to find the time to lead your neighbors and go talk to your fair board and convince them not to obey the ARAs. This is happening all over, these people lie about everything related to animals. More and more farmers and breeders are being raided because the ARAs run the animal shelters and animal control and the rights of the accused don’t matter, only stopping animal use. I was just at an animal “protection” forum for shelters and ACOs, the pro-AR attitude was downright scary. Some of us have had enough and are starting to stand up and voice our opinions and shine the light of truth on ARs, but we need more people to do the same. I’d like to know which group it was that protested. Most people don’t realize it isn’t just PETA, H$U$ and A$PCA are both hard core animal rights groups. One national anti-AR group is the National Animal Interest Alliance They have a lot of good information.


I am one of the animal rights loonies who made the unfortunate decision to renew her subscription for a two-year period to your limited value magazine. I support elimination of the barnyard scramble and many other practices that are of benefit to humans and absolutely no benefit to animals, including consumption of their flesh. Please cancel my subscription to your magazine.

Kathleen M. Hale
Fergus Falls, MN

I recently purchased your mag for the first and last time. You are a brain dead thoughtless poor soul. Animal cruelty certainly was being practiced. Rodeos the same. How would you like it if you were in the position of one of these animals being chased, caught and rung around the neck? I think it would be deserving for this to happen to you in the afterlife. F–k you.

Thank goodness for us “loonies.”

Steve Tyler

Issue 85 editorial on shading the truth

One of the things that keeps me mentally healthy is the firm belief in God and Jesus Christ. That is me, I don’t care what others believe, it’s none of my business. I believe that everyone will have to answer for their actions on this world, that we all will need to justify what we’ve done.

That being said I think there is a special place in Hell reserved for folks you describe in your Jan/Feb My View about Shades of Truth and Sleaziness. I have to think that there will ultimately be justice for the liars and sleazebags.

I’d rather not tear your page 71 survey out of our magazine so let me just say I’ve liked the articles and layout of most issues. The only thing I’d like you to do is bring back the print anthologies for 2000, 2001, and 2002 plus future years.

Tom Berta
Painesville, OH

Like Dave Duffy, I too am disgusted with the lying all around us. But why are Duffy’s examples all coming from the Left? Is he incapable of getting equally steamed about the seemingly chronic lying from George Bush? Is the goal of US control of Mideast oil production worth the unnecessary deaths of our sons and daughters, and friends and co-worker reservists in uniform in Iraq?

If Bush isn’t trying to gut Social Security, why is he trying to shove the age of full retirement up to 67? And privatize? If you had it to do over again, would you really want to see the retirement money you and most Americans (try to) live on, worked so hard for by our predecessors, siphoned off to the profit margins of rich Wall Street brokers and speculators? To slip away whenever the market slides?

I have come to the point where Right or Left, liberal or conservative, are just about useless terms for understanding and acting on almost anything. I believe we should be focusing on helping those few with political aspirations who have shown respect for the truth. Whether it’s John McCain or Pat Buchanon on the Right, Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich on the Left, or various independents, we should value their record on sticking to the truth. We probably have some company on that. Like all those voters who stayed home from the 2000 election because they couldn’t stomach the lies of either Bush or Gore.

People “shade the truth” because that sorry example has been set for them throughout our culture, driven by limitless greed and its attendant thirst for ever greater power. How much more worthwhile it would be if we could reach across liberal-conservative battle lines and support candidates and political activists everywhere who are, dare I say, “obsessive,” about adhering to the truth. It would also help us draw distinctions not made by the mainstream media that Duffy and I detest, if for different reasons. For example, that Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich are equally “liberal.” Early in the campaign, Dean let loose with some heady dollops of truth. But then his polling status soared, and now he’s hedging. Kucinich has never in his career hedged on anything, whether winning election to his congressional seat coming from behind against an incumbent, or winning re-election with a 70% majority.

Truth-telling by definition means a willingness to take political risks. McCain did it challenging Bush in 2000 and making the case for campaign finance reform (passed, then gutted by moneyed special interests). Kucinich did it in the early 70s as mayor of Cleveland when he said NO to his own party’s machine politics trying to secure a corporate takeover of that city’s municipal power. He paid for it with his career, at that time. Years later, after seeing their power bills skyrocket, Clevelanders vindicated him by electing him to the state legislature. Buchanon lost a bunch of potential support for his presidential bid from disaffected rightwing Republicans when he told some hard truths about the growing corporate domination of America. Anyone who can stand up to the power of the rich elite and deal with the inevitable career risks, is someone I want to pay attention to, regardless of ideology.

Barry G. Parsons

No doubt you can find many cases of shading the truth on both the Left and the Right. But you don’t give examples, only accusations and assertions. That’s easy to do and is, unfortunately, practiced more by the Left than the Right.

Just take one example: your accusation that Bush is trying to “gut Social Security.” Social Security has been gutted for many years, and every responsible study of the system has recommended that it be partially privatized, along the Chile model, to help return it to solvency. No politician, either of the Left or the Right, has had the guts to attempt this because they knew there would be strong, misguided, and downright dishonest criticism from people who would try to scare seniors into thinking that Social Security was being destroyed. Bush is acting with a lot of guts and on the advice of numerous think tanks, but even I admit his actions are probably too little too late to resurrect the system. Years of operating Social Security like it was Congress’ personal piggy bank is what has gutted the system.

— Dave

How do you learn about self-reliance?

After reading BHM online, I realized that my family is woefully ignorant of many survival and homesteading skills. We have decided that it would be in our best interest to get out of the bleepity bleep city and start homesteading in a rural area with at least 5 acres, preferably 20, but not more than 100. We have located a site that appears to meet our needs and are in the process of purchasing it.

Well, what would you recommend for city dwellers with only limited country skills (I worked on a dairy farm briefly, but it was many years ago) to get ready for the transition to country life? Also, how do you keep from running yourself ragged taking on all your self sufficiency projects at once?

Also, how do you help children adjust to the rural, slower paced lifestyle, when they are used to everything being fast paced, convenient, McDonaldized?

Last, but certainly not least, we are concerned about safety and security issues. My husband and I are in disagreement about the need to have guns / bows and arrows / other security devices. He had limited amounts of gun training years ago, but is totally out of practice and owns no weapons. I have never owned any weapons and admit complete ignorance of them. He thinks that we should do the move to the rural area first, get settled in, start the homesteading, get the kids transitioned, then, and only then, get trained in the use, care, and handling of guns, if there is an obvious need to have a gun. I agree with him on all those points, except for the need to have a gun. The rural area we are trying to move to has a wide variety of snakes and also alligators, in addition to the deer and other wildlife. Even if we never had to defend our property from criminals, I am concerned about the possibility of a gator coming onto our property, getting riled up, and not having any way to protect our children. Admittedly, it’s rare for wildlife to attack people in the area we’re considering, but as a mother I feel very strongly that I must protect my children from dangerous critters, etc. What would you BHM staffers do to resolve the difference of opinion we are having about the desire to have access to weapons training and weapons?

Bless you for telling the truth straight up, the way it is—a rare and treasured talent in my humble opinion. Thank you.

Struggling with the process of learning to be more self sufficient,

Rachel Ostronic

Go slow and enjoy yourself while learning your self sufficiency skills. Run yourself too ragged and you might decide to head back to the city.

Your children need to find country friends right off, perhaps at school, to see what country kids do for play. My children’s friends sometimes come up to the house from town (16 miles) and stay a night or two. It can be a bigger transition for kids than for adults. They’ll miss their friends and the fast pace at first, but give them time and schedule some extra fun stuff for them to do—maybe fishing, wild berry picking, etc.—and they’ll eventually wonder what they ever saw in the city.

Safety and security issues are easier in the country because it is more safe and secure there. If you choose to own a gun for self-defense, take a course first from a good instructor. Your local sheriff’s office at your new location will have names of instructors. I agree with your husband’s viewpoint on guns. At any rate, wait until you get to your new location, then see what your neighbors do to defend against critters like gators.

— Dave

Who knows how to make a Horno oven

If you have not already done so, can you have an extensive article about the Horno (it is a B-hive-type of oven—also referred to as a furnace or kiln) that the Pueblo Indians used (and made). They were usually eight-feet across and would bake no less than 30 loaves of bread at one time, the oven being made of mud. Complete meals for a large number of people could be baked in these Hornos (ovens). It left time for the women to tend to the many other chores without much interference. They used very little wood.

Wilma Fields
Lancaster, CA

The Horno is an adobe oven dating back about 10,000 years, and of course it was also used by the Pueblo Indians. It is made from layers of adobe, allowing each layer to dry before applying the next. It’s appearance is like a small igloo with a small smoke hole at the top. Perhaps one of our readers/writers out there will do the necessary research and write us an article for a future issue. Michael Moquin, editor of the Adobe Journal in Albuquerque, NM, has written much about the Horno.

— Dave

Some more tips on raising pet birds

I enjoy reading your magazine very much. I have a few comments on the article “Make An Income Raising Pet Birds.” I am a bird enthusiast as well, but I believe that no matter what you sell, it should be a superior product. When birds such as parakeets and cockatiels are fed only seeds and vitamin supplements, they are not receiving the nutrition they need.

If birds are fed vitamin enriched seed, the seeds have been coated with a supplement. When the bird eats the seed, he cracks open the shell, leaving the vitamins on the hull uneaten. As a dietary comparison, it would be like a human eating a diet of french fries and a daily vitamin. Commercial pelleted bird food is more expensive, but it is worth it because your birds will produce more healthy offspring. It eliminates a lot of the problems of calcium deficiency and egg breakage. Baby birds who are fed seed by the parents also have problems with impacted crops. If the bird droppings are nearly dry, then the birds are not getting enough water. Birds urinate too. When you see runny bird droppings, most of it is urine.

Also, if you take the time to learn how to hand feed baby birds so they are tame, your profit on your babies will be higher as well. Parent raised parakeets sell for less than half the price of hand raised babies. The pet store I sell to buys parent raised parakeets for $5. I get $30 for the hand raised ones. But it is extremely important to learn to hand feed from a qualified breeder! If you do not know how, you will probably kill the babies. Hand raising babies does take more time, but it does not require a huge expense. The babies are taken from the parents right before they open their eyes. I put mine in an inexpensive water brooder box, which is 2 large clear stackable plastic boxes. A layer of pine shavings catches their droppings. The bottom box has enough room for an aquarium heater and a few inches of water. There are several good hand rearing formulas on the market, and the baby birds are fed with a syringe. I have found that people who want to buy a bird as a pet want one they can hold and bond to. You will get more pet store business by selling quality pets. Most quality pet stores now view batches of parent raised, seed fed birds as the equivalent of puppy mills.

It is true that birds do not make bad smells, but they are messy, especially if they are fed seed. The hulls end up everywhere. Cage cleaning is a must, and it is time consuming. The article makes it sound very easy to do, but before anyone decides to go into the bird business, they should do a lot of homework on what the birds need.

Mrs. M. Hand

Raising rodents

I want to thank you for your help and great customer service. I work with the public and know how hard it can be. When I read Backwoods Home it keeps me grounded and focused on what is truly important.

You were so nice to send me the copy that I missed with my FINE (ha!) mail service here in Atlanta. I may have told you the wrong issue number. In any case I am sending back the one you sent because I have that issue. It is No. 83 that I don’t have. I hope that sending my magazine 1st class will take care of this. I have had so much trouble getting my magazine that I have enclosed an additional $15.00 to use to send my remaining issues 1st class and hold any remaining money for my next subscription.

Do you have any info on raising rodents like hamsters, mice, gerbils, guinea pigs, and such? The article on birds and making an income for them was great. I have not been able to find anything on rodents to sell to pet stores and such. Any help you could give me would be great. I have e-mailed the Department of Agi with no response at all. Our tax dollars at work! Any help with this matter would be great. I would like to start now while I am working so I can get problems worked through before I have to depend on this for a large part of my income.

I have also enclosed a check for 2 cookbooks and 1 pocket size constitution along with the order form.

Carolyn Breeden
Atlanta, GA

We haven’t had an article on raising rodents, but I found a lot of info by doing a google internet search under the search names “raising mice” and “raising rodents.” There is also an outfit called the North American Rat Registry that has lots of information on rats. Their address is PO Box 458, Leavenworth, KS 66048. On the web their address is Lots of people, of course, raise various rodents as part of medical research and also as reptile food. Some even raise and can mice as gourmet cat food. These uses may not be to your liking but their sites on the web are loaded with valuable tips on raising healthy rodents.

— Dave

Willing to share my way of doing things

It’s not often I write to anyone, much less a magazine. I guess this makes you all special.

I am 66 yrs. and disabled on a very thin pension. I’m not crying but just letting you know the lengths I go to to get your publications. I have no electronics so have to depend on printed matter. So far, with the anthologies I have kept current.

I live on five acres near a small country town alone and get along ok. This order is from chickens and eggs sold.

I have 3 old defunct chicken houses so when I became disabled I moved a travel trailer into one and this is where I live, cramped but satisfied that I am not dependent on anyone else. When I need another warm body to help me I just put it off until I figure a way to improvise with leverage or mechanical power. I do ok.

The reason I am rambling on is, people who know me are always asking how did/do you do the things you do. It seems normal to me. Just like waiting till you have the money before trying to buy, vice doing it on credit.

I am not a writer but if you think my ways and means and accomplishments would benefit anyone I would be glad to share. I never thought much about my ways, they just come to me, but I guess they seem unique to some. Nuf said.

D.C. Hosmer
Mt. Pleasant, TX

Be glad to hear more from you, as would many of our readers.

— Dave

Drying cranberries

After seeing the question about drying fruit in the January/February issue I thought I would send you my recipe for drying cranberries.

• 8 cups “Deep Red Bandon, Oregon” cranberries cut in half
• 1 cup sugar, pour over the berries

Stir well and refrigerate overnight. Drain well and place on lightly oiled dehydrator trays. Dry to desired level. Enjoy!

Earl D. Mundt
Coos Bay, OR

“Do it yourself/on a budget” approach

I have been a long time reader of Mother Earth News but have been disappointed with the trend toward “high dollar” or “off the shelf” solutions to alternate living. I picked up an issue of Backwoods Home at the newsstand and was pleased to see a magazine that still takes the “Do it yourself/on a budget” approach to solving common homestead problems. I am ordering a subscription and will continue to do so as long as you keep this format.

Jesse Ferris
Rapid City, MI

Removing porcupine quills with tweezers

I am writing in regards to Jackie Clay’s article on porcupines. A veterinarian who practices in “porky” country told me how to take out quills painlessly. About six years ago I had to experience first hand removing about one hundred quills out of our dog’s muzzle. He lay on the ground calm and patient while I removed them. Take fingernail clippers and snip off the end of the quill. Cutting it releases the air in the shaft and the barbs soften. Then pull out the quill with tweezers. There were a couple in his throat, so we had to take him to a vet and anesthetized for their removal. When I visited the vet, I did not mention that I had just removed a bunch. I said I had heard about fingernail clippers and tweezers and he told me it was an old wive’s tale. I did not say my source of information was another vet. Anyway, it really works. If your in back country, it’s a quick solution and your pet won’t have to suffer for long.

I would like to see more pages devoted to general letters from readers. We both read the magazine from cover to cover. I skip the technical, but my husband enjoys those articles. Keep up the great work. We now live on 5 acres south of Portland and we have purchased 25 acres in Belize. That will hopefully be our escape from this country when it becomes a blatant police state (it already is but it’s still tolerable.)

Deb Taylor
Estacada, OR

The website

I have read BHM for several years (I believe I had a subscription a few years ago). I normally bought it from a newsstand. I look forward to your e-mails, and read the website ( often. I especially like Claire Wolfe and Massad Ayoob. Thank you for an excellent publication.

Randal Smith
Nashville, TN

Building solar components

Some of us do not like having to be forced to buy outrageously priced items from mainline manufactures. For instance, buying solar components when with an adequate schematic we could build our own, most likely at a greatly reduced cost.

I recommend that you initiate a column about these products and their construction for us do-it-yourselfers. I know that some companies will complain that you are stealing their property. But the basic design is not their property (unless it is new to the market) and they have only added some little something to make it “theirs” but which is not necessary for adequate operations of the product.

Larry R. Van Cleave

Practical Photovoltaics, first edition 1981, by Richard Komp has complete step by step instructions on how to build your own solar modules. I personally do not think much of this because the extreme heat/cool of daily thermal cycling, plus moisture sealing problems, will soon short out or corrode most “home built” modules.

The New Solar Electric Home, second printing 1989 by Joel Davidson has actual electronic diagrams to build your own solar charge controllers. I know Joel and he has been around a long time in the solar world. His book has good information, but getting a little dated now, so some electronic components may be hard to find.

Over the past two years Backwoods Home Magazine has published a solar related article in almost every issue. Each of these articles included photos, detailed system descriptions, a complete wiring diagram, and web addresses for where to purchase individual parts. You should go back through past issues or purchase the solar CD for help.

Several future articles will go into more detail on simple solar wiring projects with step by step installation instructions.

— Jeff Yago


Applause on your great magazine! I agree that it is “the best magazine in the world.” When I returned home from visiting my family for Christmas, I found four feet of snow in my yard and your anthology, magazine, and two CD’s in my mailbox. After shoveling out a place to park my truck, I was too pooped to get off the couch. Your 7th year anthology saved the day, but I haven’t been able to get any work done since it arrived!

James Finkbeiner
Fairfield, ID

I have been a reader of BHM for 13 years now. I have enjoyed every issue that has crossed my desk. BHM and I have been thru a lot during those years. I use to live in Indiana until my former wife was killed in an auto accident in 1998. Since then I purchased land in the Ozarks (from an advertiser in BHM) and moved there for a year. Most currently I moved to Alaska. I now live in southeast Alaska in the Tongass National Forest, (Rain Forrest) and love it. The weather is much warmer that Indiana or Missouri in the winter. We seldom have snow. But, you have to get use to the rain.

But, all in all this is to congratulate you on 13 years of useful information. I think your magazine has been through many changes during the years, but, don’t change your viewpoint. Just keep publishing the magazine we all have come to turn to for humor and information.

Edna Bay, Alaska

We are missionaries on the Najavo reservation and have enjoyed the issues of Backwoods Home very much.

What we really like about Backwoods is the “down home” honest approach to every subject. Keep up the good and honest work.

Larry L. Hill
Sanders, AZ

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