issue 88 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #88

Propane article contained mistakes

Regarding the article on propane piping by Don Fallick. First off, there should have been an additional disclaimer—the one in the front of the magazine isn’t sufficiently promiment for so serious a subject. While I will list several egregious errors, the most prominent one is an error of omission: in many states, including mine (Alabama), it is, quite simply, illegal to “do-it-yourself” when gas fitting. This doesn’t stop many, but it’s true most everywhere.

Paragraph two: Never use galvanized pipe—not even temporarily. The zinc coating reacts with the gas to produce a greenish slime that will clog orafices. The correct product is black iron, so-called because it’s iron pipe painted black out, but left uncoated inside. By the way, iron pipe must never be left in contact with lime-containing materials such as mortar, as it will rust rapidly (within a few years), usually in an unnoticed, through-the-wall spot. One shouldn’t grow vines on the pipe, for the same reason.

No copper lines should ever be concealed within walls. I can’t emphasize that enough. Iron is hard to drill and nail through, copper is not. Just don’t. Use 3/8″ or larger black iron—1/2″ is normally the smallest commonly available.

It is also illegal to use compression (ferrule) fittings, for the reason given in the article: they leak. Flare or pipe thread only. While it’s not necessary to use pipe dope or flare fittings, a skim can prevent galling; “dope” is mandatory on iron-pipe threads. Pressure-testing: for God’s sake, don’t use gas for pressure testing! This advice elicited a, “Geez, what an idiot!” The only accepted method is to close the valves and/or cap lines at the ends (by the way, shut-off valves are mandatory at all fixtures), and apply using a guage, no less than 20 psi of air pressure for no less than 4 hours. There should be no pressure loss (other than perhaps a minute amount caused by temperature change). Buy an approved bubble-leak detector, and daub it on all joints (which, as you might guess, should not be concealed in walls either) if there is any pressure loss.

Aside from the terrible errors, there was some good advice about not refilling disposable bottles (though he didn’t mention it’s illegal, anyway), and buying new gas hose, etc. I guess he had to get something right…should I send flowers, or is he just laid up in the hospital?

While I’ve been gas-fitting for about 32 years, even I don’t pretend to know it all. If anyone else writes in, you might should do a follow-up article with their tips.

Eric A. Jones

The article did contain errors. Lax editorial judgment on our part. We’re planning a much better article for a future issue, and we will not include the erroneous article in any anthology. My apologies. — Dave

Cash poor maybe, but family rich

I am writing this to let you know how much my family loves your magazine.

Let me tell you a little about our family. My husband (36) and myself (33) are the proud parents of five children ages 14, 13, 11, 10, and 9. My husband works for a local discount store making 6.25 hour. Not much money for a family our size. We do not receive any government help. My husband has high blood pressure and some other health problems from the years of living a fast food life style. About five years ago we decided things had to change and change they did. We moved from Florida where my husband was working a job he hated but made good money. We moved to Alabama, bought a house on a piece of land. We own our house debt free. He really likes his job—40 hours max a week.

We either make what we need, find it real cheap or go without it altogether. Our children are home-schooled and they are not interested in ever going back to a public school. My husband’s health is improving with our lifestyle changes. When you make the amount of money we do you have to make changes in your lifestyle. We do not go out to eat. I buy things (food) on sale and stock up when I find it real cheap. We don’t eat a lot of meat meals only because meat is very costly. But yet if you asked any of us if we feel poor, you would find out that we don’t. All of our clothes are either bought at thrift shops or on the clearance rack 90% off. Same goes with Christmas and birthdays. We don’t make a real big deal about Christmas in our house as far as the gifts are concerned. We think more about what happened in a manger long ago and that is what it is really all about anyway. Birthdays, however, are more of a big deal. We bake the person a birthday cake, a special breakfast, lunch and dinner. Anything to make them feel special.

We do not have a land phone in our house. However we do have a prepaid cell phone only for emergency use. We have internet through a cable modem. We use this for school and fun. There is a lot of good information on the web, and a lot of trash also. So be careful with this great tool.

I have not found too many families like mine. My children can make a loaf of bread and bake it without burning down the house. They all know how to garden and can what they grow. We are still learning but I do feel like we are getting there.

I think the best thing about our change in life is that we have gotten to know each other. My children know their dad and I will always be there for them. And we know our children, their likes and dislikes, their little quirks. It has been and I am sure will be, a learning experience from this day forward.

If there is anyone out there thinking about doing something like this, go for it. It will be hard at first. You will fall at times but I promise you one thing—you will learn from all your falls and they seem to come further apart the longer you do this.

Glenda Gay

Wonderful story. Your family is an inspiration to the rest of us. Every now and then I like to give something away and your story is so inspiring I’m going to send you our Whole Sheebang, listed on pages 2-3. — Dave

Vehicles will sell for under wholesale

I really enjoyed John Silveira’s article in the March/April 2004 issue on saving money when buying a new vehicle. I would like to add some comments as a former automobile sales representative (I got out of the field because it was way too much pressure and I couldn’t stand having to squeeze money out of honest hard working people.)

First, John is mistaken when he says that a vehicle will never sell for under wholesale. The fact is, we frequently sold vehicles under wholesale, sometimes well under wholesale. The fact is that a vehicle sitting on a lot costs around $1000 per month in finance payments and maintenance costs.

It also depreciates just from the fact that it is sitting, and if it sits beyond the model year, it is basically a used vehicle—it is no longer a current model. You can figure that a vehicle is worth about $500 below wholesale each month it sits on the lot, and at least 10 percent more depreciation follows if the vehicle sits beyond its model year.

There is another factor to consider, and that is the auto sales credo. YOU MUST MAKE THE SALE. We were told that a customer is not allowed to leave without buying a car (that is, a person who actually asks for help and solicits the assistance of a sales representative.) To let a customer leave was considered a failed sale, EVEN IF THE CUSTOMER CAME BACK and bought a vehicle! In this regard, the sales manager would sometimes lowball or make special deals, even below factory wholesale. The trick was that the sales representatives AVERAGE sales for the month must show a certain profit. Say, for example, a really good sales agent sold three or four cars at MSRP and added various options and financing as well. If another customer came in and really wanted to deal, or did not want the options and wanted the wholesale price or below, the sales agent could really deal. There would still be the usual negotiations to try and get the most out of the customer, but if push came to shove, the sales manager would approve the sale. And if the same customer really insisted on opting out of the sale due to cost, and the sales agent was below quota, the sales manager might have another sales agent with a better quota work with the customer so the sale could still be made.

As far as what happens when the sales agent walks away to “speak to the manager/buyer/etc.,” well the first couple of times an agent may go get a cup of coffee, however by the third “walk away” the agent will be really speaking with their manager for advice.

You will find you get treated a bit better if you can find a good sales agent (not a whole lot of them around—pick one who has been selling vehicles for some time, usually they know how to treat customers) and stick with them, sending your friends to them as well. If they recognize your name, and know you have been helping them make money, they will be more willing to deal.

Last, not all bad credit is bad. I hope John didn’t steer too many people with bad credit away from buying a car. In fact, it is only people with bad credit who don’t want to pay MSRP or buy a lot of options and pay higher finance costs that get turned down. I financed many a person just out of bankruptcy or with a high debt load who were willing to pay a higher finance charge and not haggle too much over the bottom line.

Good advice, and a good article for your publication. If you are going to live the backwoods lifestyle, any article on how to save money makes good sense.

Keep up the good work. Your magazine is fun to read and informative. I read every article when it arrives and am always looking forward to the next.

Andy Shecktor
Hatfield, PA

Not all liberals are animal rights nuts

Let me say first off that I love your magazine and I’m sure I’m not your usual reader. You might consider me a liberal and an animal rights person but I’m also open minded and have learned a lot from your magazine and plan to keep on learning. I felt really bad about the replies I read in issue #86 from a couple of animal rights readers. Those type of replies don’t promote communication and understanding, pity they couldn’t express themselves better. I personally am not into sports hunting (I feel if you kill it you best use every part like the Indians did) but believe in sustainable hunting if that is a person’s choice. I also believe in a person’s right to own guns (I do) and would defend that right. The government owns enough of our lives and rights, they don’t need any more.

Anyway, why I’m writing is because I thought you would enjoy this incident that happened to me regarding meeting people in strange places. I had a serious car accident last week which totaled my SUV and new camper that I was towing to put on my 4 acres of paradise in Alabama. (Can’t retire to my homestead for 7 more years unfortunately.) Nobody was seriously hurt (it was a miracle really) and the fire/rescue guys were great. As we were packing loose stuff from the camper (which was destroyed) into a friend’s truck, one of the rescue guys comes up to me holding a Backwoods Anthology I had packed to read on the trip. “You read this?” he asks, “Oh yea,” I say. “You know it comes in a magazine too,” he says. “Yup, I know, I get it,” I say. “It’s like Mother Earth News,” he says. “It’s better!” I say. Just goes to show you never know where you’ll meet another Backwoods person, and we’re in suburbia.

Thanks for a great magazine. I don’t know if you will print this but I just wanted you to know, not all liberals are the same. Thanks for allowing me to share.

Barb Stoll

Nice story. Glad it had a good ending. By the way, I have nothing against liberals. Some of my best friends are liberals, including my wife. — Dave

Will oil production peak soon, then run out soon thereafter?

I recently received two publications from the Backwoods Home Bookstore, “Emergency Prepared-ness and Survival Guide” and the new “Cookin’ with Home Storage.” I just felt compelled to express what I thought about these publications. Goooood job! Excellent books! Backwoods Home Bookstore is going to become my one stop shop for all sorts of great informational material from now on. You’ve got everything I’ve been looking for.

I do have a question however. I have been reading much about the possibility of our earth’s crude oil reaching its peak some time in the near future, about 2010 to 2050 or sooner. Have you guys researched this and written about it before? If not, could we look forward to you including it in a future article? I’m sure Uncle Sam isn’t going to let us know anything. It would definitely be on the lines of being prepared for the worst if it is a real possibility, eh? Just curious.

Janet Noakes

For at least 40 years I have been reading stories about the earth’s oil supply running out in 20 years or so. Yet, they keep discovering more oil. I suppose it will run out some day, but by then the law of supply and demand will have switched us over to a hydrogen economy or some other form of energy. I wouldn’t worry about these gloom and doom scenarios, which are typically promoted by well-meaning but misinformed environmentalists. — Dave

Article about threat recognition right on

I would like to comment on Mr. Ayoob’s article on “Body language and threat recognition.” I am a retired federal law enforcement officer. I also have a military background having served for almost ten years. That being said, Mr. Ayoob’s article was right on the mark. I used the same cues that he outlined in his article every day when I went out the door to perform my duties. I still use those cues now that I am retired, although confrontations with individuals are much more infrequent now. My wife still kids me on my constant habit of watching people and assessing a person’s intentions. I have much respect for Mr. Ayoob’s writings and his knowledge. I would like to stress one point, and that is, everyone should be prepared in the event that things go south and you cannot create distance from the individual. Most of us in this country try to live our life right and treat people with respect, however there is that small group of individuals out there who are bent on hurting others. When you meet one of these folks you must be prepared both physically and mentally to do what it takes to stop that person from hurting you. Flight is always the best response as Mr. Ayoob has said, but sometimes things happen too quick. Even though I am retired I still carry a gun every day, whether it’s an old six-shooter around on the farm for bear protection or my 45 auto when I go into town. My wife has gotten used to this over the years but one of my neighbors always chuckles when he sees a gun on my hip. My reply to him and anyone else is always the same: You haven’t met a person yet that is trying to take your life. If you do, and I hope you don’t, you had better be prepared to do what is needed if you cannot get away from the situation! Great article Mr. Ayoob!

David R. McAdams

Searching for Ayoob

I found your website during an internet search for information on Massad Ayoob. I’m damn glad I found it. I’ve read Mr. Ayoob for years and value a great many of his principles.

David E. Hill
Phoenix, AZ

“Mother Earth” no longer worth a flip

I found your magazine while searching for salsa recipes. Been looking for a magazine like this one; Mother Earth isn’t worth a flip any more.

Joseph McGahee
Clarkesville, GA

A good pig fence and some free hog chow

On reading your article on keeping hogs, I thought I would add my two cents worth on building pens to keep hogs in. Good fences make good neighbors. Hogs loose in the garden regularly are the start to a farm divorce too. I have found in my 20 years of farming experience that it is best to go a bit below ground when building a hog-proof fence. Hogs are natural earth movers and they can go under a fence, even with the bit of barb wire you show in your article, in no time flat. My preferred method for a small pen is to trench six inches down around the perimeter of the pen and place a 1 by 4 board with small nails pointing inward and down about 30 degrees. I then attach the page wire to the board using fencing staples and cover up the trench. Pigs noses, though strong, are quite sensitive and when they start to root around the fence perimeter, the first poke in the snout is usually enough to discourage them and they leave the fence alone after that. Pigs are smart and they figure it out pretty quick.

If the hog pen is larger, and I am too lazy to dig the trench for a board, I have found it useful to drive large “staples” made out of thin bent rebar every few feet into the ground to hold the page wire down. Once a hog gets his nose under a regular fence, his powerful neck muscles let him pry a fence up pretty quick. With the “staples” pounded into the ground, it helps keep the fence down to the ground and makes it a lot harder for the hog to squirm under the fence.

As far as feeding hogs go, I don’t buy commercial feed. I use grain “screenings” that are cheap (or free) from our county seed cleaning plant. This is cracked grain, small seeds and weed seeds that farmers have had cleaned out of the grain they are planning on using for seed. Most farmers will give it away, if you haul it from the seed cleaning plant for them as it saves them a trip to town. If you feed it straight to the hog, it just passes throughout the hog’s gut without much feed value. Rather than grind it into chop, I fill 5-gallon pails half full of screening and fill the rest of the pail with water. Three days later the grain and weed seeds are softened and the mash starts to ferment and bubble. The hogs just love this mix and slurp it up. Their stomachs can digest this feed mash.

The meat is always great from my happy hogs too! Kind of like the Kobe beef fed on beer I guess. Fill the pail with dry screening and start the process over. I always have 3 or 4 days of feed in various stages, soaking away outside in the summer or in my garage in the winter.

Brian Nelson
Alberta, Canada

Meet Dave at two big energy fairs

Read every word. Got to meet Dave at Custer, Wisconsin MREA Fair in 2003. Your magazine makes my (our) day, thanks.

Linda Knight
Evansdale, IA

I’ll be at the MREA Fair in Custer again this year, June 18-20. Call 715-592-6595 for details, or go to I’ll also be at Real Goods’ Solfest in Hopland, California in August. Details on page 50. Both are very big fairs. — Dave

BHM newsletter

I found out about Backwoods Home Magazine from searching the web for homesteading sites. We really like your magazine and online newsletter which I share with co-workers, even those who don’t get it yet. Thanks for the commitment to a better way of life.

James MacDonald
Hyde Park, VT

For those readers who use the Internet, our online newsletter goes out free to more than 4,000 people. To sign up, just go to — Dave


Please renew my subscription to Backwoods Home Magazine for another year. I look forward to each issue, always something useful and new.

Your magazine has helped us in our effort to live off-the-grid—”in style.” From Jackie’s gardening/canning tips to building a tipi or straw bale house, each issue helps increase the value of our property.

I recommend your magazine to all my clients wanting to live off-the-grid or in a remote area of Trinity County. Please keep up the good work. It’s really appreciated.

Judy Watkins
Weaverville, CA

ASG survivor

I am a survival magazine (American Survival Guide) convert that you took a chance on. I’m here to STAY! You have relevant information presented in a simple—but not simplistic— way. Keep it up!

Gary Gibbons
Easton, PA

Bananas for chicks, and eggs for the poor

I have an old farmhouse (124 years old) in Perry, Georgia, and have just a few chickens, guineas and one turkey, which I keep for eggs and pest control. I used to pick up the throwaway veggies from the local Kroger store every Saturday for my birds, but they had to stop giving them away due to some state law. Once when they gave me their throwaways, there were quite a few bananas in the box. I didn’t know if chickens ate bananas, but decided it would not hurt them, so peeled the bananas and broke them into chunks. Much to my amazement, the chickens, and especially the turkey, loved the bananas. My turkey would fight for a banana! They even ate the banana peelings, which I tear into thin strips.

Now that the Kroger’s can no longer give me their throwaways, when I see their overripe bananas wrapped in a red tie and reduced for quick sale, I buy all they have to feed to my poultry. When I am standing in the kitchen peeling bananas and breaking into chunks in a large enameled pan to carry out to the chickens, my dogs all circle around my feet and beg. I didn’t think they would eat bananas, but to show them what I had, I held pieces down to them one day to let them sniff. Much to my amazement, they ate them! So, now the dogs get a few bites of “chicken bananas” too.

I also receive free bread from a friend who volunteers with our local food bank. They pick up the day-old bread from Kroger’s weekly, and what they do not use for their clients, they give to me for my chickens. In turn, I give them most of my eggs for their clients, so it’s a win-win arrangement.

Since I don’t buy eggs, I never have egg cartons for my chickens eggs, but I’ve solved that problem too. My friend is a retired school teacher, who still has contacts with several teacher friends. She told a couple of her friends about my egg donations, and the elementary school teachers have their students bring in the moms’ used egg cartons for the “egg lady.” So, there’s another bonus—the children are learning to help people who are less fortunate than they are.

My dogs also get some of the “chicken bread,” but I have to be careful how much I feed them, as they are all getting as fat as little pigs with fur.

Thank you for continuing your wonderful, informative publication. I have never opened one of your magazines without learning several things in each issue.

Jessica Ansley
Perry, GA

Yellow jackets? Tell a passing skunk

I was told this by a park ranger and I have also read it different times. Skunks are good for us if they are in the right place. If aggressive ground-nesting yellow jackets (which are usually beneficial and prey on many insect and caterpillar pests) settle near your home and you don’t know what to do, a roaming skunk can help. Locate the entry to the nest (do this in the evening when the yellow jackets are in the nest and not active). Surround the hole with honey, as skunks like it and will find their favorite food and they will tear the nest up.

Keeping the skunks at bay: Never leave pet food out at night. Keep lids on garbage cans. Take good care of chickens and pets. Skunks are good diggers. Close entries to basements, porches, and all outbuildings. Leave an ammonia soaked rag in a bowl in the area where you wish to discourage skunk visits.

If you happen to be in the line of fire, bury leather items in clean cat litter, leave for several days. Wash animals or clothing with 1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide mixed with 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 teaspoon liquid soap. If not too bad a spray, sometimes soap and vinegar helps, then rub with soda, then rinse again. A word of caution—there is no tame skunk. If it is acting strangely it may be sick or have rabies. Contact the animal control immediately. Keep you pets’ vaccination current.

I am so glad I found your great publications. I love it.

Mary E. Beard
Lockwood, MO

Using straw to bind manure bricks

This letter is in reference to an article in the May/June issue of Backwoods Home Magazine. The article, starting on page 28, is titled “Your manure pile” by Rev. J. D. Hooker.

In the article, it is mentioned that there had been some difficulty with the “bricks” crumbling after they dried. I remember as a child spending some time on my grandfather’s dairy farm, that the cattle manure that had to be removed from the “drops” was bound together quite well due to the straw that was mixed with it. The straw came, inadvertently, from the straw bedding used in the cattle stalls. Even when the manure was spread on the field, that straw tended to keep the manure bound.

It would seem that purposely mixing straw or any other long stem plant material with the manure before placing in the molds may help solve the crumbling problem and also help in soaking up excess “liquid.”

Vincent S. W. Dymek
Clifton, NJ

Buying a foreign car and being patriotic

As for your ‘American’ car made by a Japanese factory in the USA, I have to agree that the ‘Big 3’ no longer make a competitive product. My V.W. Diesel wagon got 47 mpg and the fuel economy means less American dollars go to our enemies in the Middle East. That seems much more patriotic than buying a ‘made in USA’ gas hog of dubious quality. The Diesel V.W. engine is made in Poland, one of our first and strongest allies in the Iraq war.

Lamar Johnson
Beaverton, OR

American Survival Guide did me a favor

I just received “The Whole Sheebang” through the mail. thank you for the quick delivery and thank you for all the great reading I’ll have for the next few months.

Packed with the order was a note asking how you could serve me better. I really don’t know how you could improve on the excellent service you’ve already given me. The only thing I could ask for would be for you to produce a CD covering the first six years of your magazine.

I’m another one of those refugees from that survival magazine that went politically correct on us and then quit publishing. They did me a big favor giving me to you as a subscriber. I’m quite pleased with your magazine, including the Libertarian slant to your political comment (I’m a card carrying member of the party, thank you). I just wish I’d run across your magazine earlier.

I also subscribe to Mother Earth News. Unlike the reader who complained about your politics and demanded you cancel his subscription, I don’t complain about your political slant. It’s interesting to compare their ideas with yours (and their politics can be really “far out”).

Please keep up the good work. I hope to be reading your magazine thirty years from now.

Hal Flint
Pleasant Grove, CA

We attempted to make a CD with the early years of BHM, but ran into too many corrupt computer files. The cost of reentering everything was prohibitive. — Dave

Using the “F” word

We only just subscribed to your magazine and cannot describe to you how we enjoy it. It has “something for everyone,” even a chance for some people to unload, as in the 2004 March/April issue with “letters.” One person even went so far as to use the “F” word in his cancellation.

In the compilation, most of mankind uses as a life guide, the Creator says He put everything on the earth for the use of mankind. Should some use some of the Creation for entertainment, as in rodeo, we should forgive them, as we should forgive those who use bad language to express their opinions of a public publication.

Anyway, your work is enjoyed by most of us and keep up the good articles in it.

Leston Rice
Warwick, NY

BHM not owned by media cartel

First of all we want to tell you that we enjoy your magazine so much. We read it avidly from cover to cover when each new issue arrives. So much good information.

We are in the process of becoming more self sufficient. Recently purchased 40 acres of pine and hardwoods with a 10-acre cypress pond in North Florida in a sparsely populated county. We have built a small cypress log cabin and use it as our base as we transition from working to retirement.

We appreciate that you are not owned by the ‘media cartel’ and can still print things that are not politically correct and can call things as you see them.

Richard & Nelinda Jaynes
Spring Hill, FL

Last issue banned, but keep it coming

I’m writing just to let you know the prison I’m at here rejected the latest issue. They, “the powers that be,” said it contained an article on “self defense options and ways to combat them.” I just arranged for my renewal subscription to be sent to you, and I want you to continue to mail my issues. If they get rejected then so be it. “The powers that be” here, each and everyone of them, have their own interpretations of policies. Especially the one who rejected the last issue.

However, I still want to continue on with my subscription. (I’m not a good writer or speller, I just write as I talk.) If the majority of your readers want articles of self defense (physical fighting) included in Backwoods Home, then you must go with the majority.

But I’d like to say your magazine is a wonderful publication… Mr. Duffy I’m a good man and I’m guilty 100% of bank robbery. And there is no excuse that makes my wrong right.

I’m no drug user or dealer, not a rapist, or child molester. I’m a farmer/rancher, and above all a father of three, 18 son, 17 daughter, 12 son. And it’s real safe to say I wasn’t rich! Again, nothing excuses my wrong. I was let go from my full time job. My youngest child was a newborn infant and very ill. The hospital bills, ICU costs, doctors fees, rent on the home we lived in, (I don’t live on the family farm) vehicle payments, etc. etc., just kept growing and my former wife and I lived paycheck to paycheck. I got stupid, desperate and made the worst decision of my life.

Well it’s all gone now. The wife and what little we had.

I do get to see my kids now and again (when my folks can bring them). But I’m 3 hours and 45 minutes from the farm, and it’s not easy to get away from their jobs and things to get caught up on the weekends. So I get 2-3 visits a year. I’ve watched my kids grow only in pictures. Their mother doesn’t have anything to do with me, so it’s been difficult to even get to see the kids.

This isn’t a feel sorry for me story. I just feel and want those I write to know about me. Believe it or not I’m an honest man too. I know an honest man wouldn’t have robbed a bank to pay bills, but aside from that I am. I was raised to always be respectful and by my Grandfather Luck to always keep your word, respect others, and always help a neighbor in need. He passed in Jan. ’86 and I hope he does not see where I am today. That farm is where my heart and soul are, and Mr. Duffy, Backwoods Home Magazine lets me leave here for a little while when I read it. Sir, that alone is worth so much more than people know and the price of a subscription even if I only get half the issues is still worth it to me. I’m not asking you take any special attention to my subscription other than to let it stand and continue on.

I’m only 20 months from going home and I will be a Backwoods subscriber at home too. And then I will buy all your CDs and anthologies. I’m on my 12th year and I can now feel home getting closer!

And now something different. Your last issue I received, #85 Jan/Feb 2004, was great. The cover picture home and article of its solar and propane power was superb. It really helped me to plan for my future home, at least in my head and heart!

Tracy A. Luck
Pekin, IL

Use the Constitution with my 4H kids

Enclosed is a check for renewal and another for 20 copies of the Constitution. I look forward to studying this with my 4H kids, and my homeschooling group as well. Thank you for making it so available.

By the way, “Instructional Fair” by David Niecikowski makes a wonderful study guide entitled “The Constitution.” It includes some very basic background (pre-colonial & pre-revolution) as well as step by step explanations of the various sections: Preamble, Articles, Ammendments, and so forth. In it there is also a very nice explanation of the balance of powers.

It is written for middle school, but I’ve used it with my 7-year-old. We learn a little about the Constitution each year.

Certainly, nothing is better than studying the original document. But this makes a nice study companion. I paid $3.99 for my copy at a home school supply store. It’s published by Instructional Fair in Grand Rapids.

Do keep up the good work. I enjoy your publication, cat loonies debates, irreverent jokes page and all.

Jennifer Holz
Phoenicia, NY

Wee Haydn Woods

We moved to this remote location, in the Almaguin Highlands of northeastern Ontario in March, 2002. We have 10½ acres of mixed bush, field, and wetland that we are gradually turning into our self-sufficient homestead. A not-quite-finished eight year old bungalow and garage was already here. This gives us a chance to enhance the property and the house effectively to achieve our goals. These things take time but we are making good progress. Perhaps I will send you the story and some photos at a later time.

Keep up the good work and cheers from “Wee Haydn Woods,” AKA We Hide In Woods (I’m a retired classical musician).

Barry & Barb Devereux
Ontario, Canada

Tool shed from beer & whiskey bottles

Enclosed is $207 for “The Whole Sheebang.” What a buy! Years ago my grandpa built tool sheds from whiskey and beer bottles mortared in between frames.

Being a little kid, I didn’t pay attention to his technique.

Is there anyone amongst my fellow subscribers who knows where to get printed info on how this is done?

Paul T. Bowman
Chitina, AK

I have seen such a building in the old ghost town of Calico on the road between L.A. and Las Vegas. It looked like just mortar, occasional stones, and bottles. It may have had a supporting framework of stones and mortar with bottles filling the voids. Maybe a reader will write in with the details. — Dave

War on Drugs really a war on people

Enclosed is my check for a three year renewal. Also I’m getting a new subscription for my brother who is in Federal Prison. In 1990 two men and their families from the same hometown had their lives changed forever. My brother, Lynard Jones, was arrested, tried, and sent to prison for drug conspiracy and money laundering. Under the federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws, he received a 20-year sentence with no chance of parole. The other man was arrested, tried, and sent to prison for brutally murdering his young wife and setting her body on fire. He did eight years in prison and that murdering piece of crap is now walking the streets. 60% of Federal prisoners are nonviolent drug offenders. Murderers, rapists, and child molesters are released early to make room for these victims of this so called drug war. This is no war on drugs, it’s a war on people, on mothers and fathers, and sons and daughters, and it’s a war on the Constitution.

“The Land of the Free,” what a joke. End the madness. Vote Libertarian.

Hugh Tweedy
Montrose, IA

I agree. The War on Drugs is a disgrace and has given the U.S. the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. — Dave

People Eat Tasty Animals (PETA)

A comment on your Editorial—Animal rights loonies. I’m a charter member of PETA. No! That’s People Eat Tasty Animals.

We have a little town in Louisiana that is about 35 miles west on 190 from I-49 and 10 miles north on hwy 13 where it crosses hwy 104. Every year in the Mardi Gras week in February they end their celebration by turning chickens loose. Adults chase them on horseback, 4 wheelers, and on foot. When they are caught they are killed, dressed, and placed in the gumbo pot. This goes with the (cou-sha-delct) whole roast pig and varied recipes with gray fish. If we could con some of your do-gooder loonies to attend, our local law and judges could probably dream up something to lock them up for 4 or 5 days until the celebration is over. In their case they won’t have to eat meat, just red beans and rice with a few pickled eggs in unvented cells. They probably won’t return.

W. W. Stones
Bailer, LA

Guns and security on the homestead

We just received our March/April issue today. Something we always look forward to. But since we’ve been snowed in for the last month and a half due to 18 feet of snow and a very sick tractor, we read it cover to cover faster than usual.

Our hearts go out to Dorothy Ainsworth. She and Kirt are not only craftsmen but two of the hardest working people we’ve heard of in a long time. We wish them well.

If I didn’t know better I’d swear I’m married to her clone. I’m lucky to have a like minded, hard working lady to share this homestead with.

But having just read the letter from Rachel Ostronic I felt that we had to relate some of our experiences concerning security on the homestead. You were right on the money with your advice. But I would add please don’t delay one minute on getting a gun and training. Why wait until you move? And forget about the bow and arrow! I’m speaking from experience, having hunted black bear with a bow in northern Michigan. Hunting in the woods is tough enough but try to nock an arrow while someone is kicking in a bedroom door at 3 a.m. I’ll bet you will lose that race!

Our homestead is about as remote as you can still get in this country anymore. We’re 20 miles from the nearest small town and our county road may only see three cars on any given day. Our driveway is about a third of a mile long, which means your few passers by don’t even know we’re here. We’re in the Keweenaw (kee-wa-naw) in the northwestern part of the U.P.

Having been lucky to have a dad who took me hunting at age 4 and always having the opportunity to shoot, I’ve been blessed with the knowledge and skills that I feel Rachel and her family, including her kids, need.

Perhaps a few examples would help demonstrate my point. As my wife and I were getting this homestead ready for us, there came a time when she was on our property alone for a few days. At about 1:30 a.m. one nice summer night she was awakened by a rifle shot. A few minutes later a truck came down our driveway. I’m really glad the shot woke her up, it gave here time to use the training I’ve given her. The truck pulled up and two men got out and tried to force their way into the old motorhome we were using as a temporary construction H.Q. The only thing that saved her from a very bad experience was when she “racked” the 12 ga shotgun. She also had her Glock for backup. When these two guys heard this very distinctive sound they scattered as fast as possible. That 12 ga saved their lives as well as hers without firing a shot.

Since moving in full time just a year ago we’ve had no less than 4 cars or trucks and 2 snowmobiles come up to our house in the middle of the night, with a few more during the day. Signs don’t stop them, but seeing me with a rifle influenced their intentions. Forget 911, our sheriff’s deputy told us to take care of ourselves as he is a minimum of 1.5 hours away at the northern end of the county.

I also share her concern about the mix of wildlife and children. We’re in the heart of bear country. Hunters have taken nearly 2,000 bears this season from the U.P., and now the mountain lions are back. Good reason to watch the kids and grandkids while they play outside. We have our “state issue” C.C.W’s. (not needed on private property), so both of us carry a pistol 24-7. We think of them as just another tool. They are little different from a fire extinguisher. When you really, really need it, and you don’t have it, or the time to run around and find it, you can be in deep do-do in a heartbeat.

Think about it. Can help get there in time? Sadly, usually no. I’ll bet the gator or the bad guy won’t wait. You alone are responsible for your family, not the cops. Have you ever thought about why ALL cops carry their gun 24-7? It’s worthless if you need it and don’t have it.

As a pilot with 18 years of involvement with search and rescue, my now retired K9 partner and I have reaped many benefits from quality training, some of which I’ve been able to share with my wife, kids and now grandkids. Use the system to your benefit. The sooner the better. It’s far better to carry a gun for many years and never use it, than to need it that one time and not have it. I’ve had the experience of having a bear walk up behind me while working in the yard. Luckily the loud report of a single shot was enough to send him back to the woods, with no harm done. 20-20 hindsight will not ease your grieving over a lost or injured family member.

The first requirement for survival (or success) is mindset. Stay positive and use your training. Home security is as important as a good roof or food storage. It can save your family.

A gun has the best return for a very small investment, as with any other quality tool on a homestead. My wife was a little uncomfortable with a pistol at first, but it didn’t take long for her to really enjoy going to the range, now in our back yard. I think the grandkids even like shooting more than she does. Join the N.R.A. They have many resources that can be of great help to a new gun owner with children. They have many programs that cover everything from child safety thru competitive shooting, to home defense. They (the N.R.A.) are the people who train your local police. Also check out the BHM bookstore for some great books by Massad Ayoob.

(address withheld)

Thanks for 10 years worth of inspiration

I have been hoarding issue #14 waiting FINALLY to leave the city and have a small yet wonderful plot in the country. My move date is April 2, 2004 and I want Backwoods Home to be the first piece of mail I receive. I am 62 years old, and finally my dream comes true. Thanks for the inspiration all those years ago. I will be needing lots of help, as I don’t know nuttin’.

Joan Martin
Danville, IL

Back to basics like in the old days

I wish to thank you for putting out a great and informative magazine. I started many years ago reading Self-Reliance. And now your great magazine Backwoods.

I think people need to get back to the basics. Living near or in the cities today is much more dangerous than living in the woods by far. I would much rather face a grizzly bear than a car jacker or mugger. The crime rate is out of control. Your chances of survival in the woods are far greater than the local shopping mall. As a society we have become dependent on market goods and not ourselves. When I was a kid my mother canned vegetables, fruit, and we had a pantry full of canned food. We also had chickens, rabbits, turkeys, and father also would buy two calves for us to raise on a ½ acre of land. Today, 50 years later, people run to the grocery store for all their needs. I understand living in close proximity to city and town doesn’t allow folks to have livestock, but yet they don’t even have a garden. Which would be simply going and buying the seed and planting a few things to offset the grocery bill, and might even give them a little joy and satisfaction in being able to eat their own homegrown food. But I guess the average person today is too busy watching television to be bothered with such manual tasks as a garden.

Hell, when I went to work with my Uncle Mike on tugboats we had a redwood box on the stern second deck that my uncle built for a small garden that hung off the hand rail. We had bell peppers and tomatoes growing and it was my job every morning and evening to water them and make sure the chicken wire cover was secured over the plants to keep the seagulls out of our garden! We also hunted and fished off the boat too! Which I guess today would not be looked upon too kindly. In winter we hunted ducks. And if we got a trip going up river we would, I say we, meaning Captain Mike would watch for deer, turkey, and wild pig.

You might be wondering about now why on a tugboat we would need to hunt and grow vegetables. Well back in those days companies were not real big on feeding or paying their help, and in the 60s when I started, jobs were hard to find! The tugboat I worked on was a two-man boat, 40 feet long, and made of cypress and single screw. Not steel twin-screw and 6 men like the tugboats of today and they worked us like 4 boats. It would be 10 years before licensing of personnel and companies would be forced into better working conditions for their crews. But all this considered I think I enjoyed those harsh days with my uncle more than when things got better and we could order what we wanted. And the boats were made of steel rather than wood and came with generators and air-conditioning, and these boats became more luxurious than our homes.

But I guess with the passing of time comes better and more innovative things and we have to depend less on ourselves and more on man-made electronics. Things of the past were dependent on knowledge, like how the water brake on a tow head will tell you where the shallow is, or where the upstream eddies are to give you that extra push when you can’t seem to push up against the current with the load. And how to use the current or tide to your advantage. Given to us by fathers, grandfathers, and their fathers. Men and women today know little of wire splicing or knot tieing and seamanship in general! And the same for those that dwell on land. They would have no idea how to survive in the woods. There is only a handful of people that have the skills to make it today without electricity or other modern conveniences.

I’ll never forget the story my uncle told me during the Depression. Some men came from Washington D.C. to Louisiana and asked him and a few others about what they thought about the Depression. And my uncle asked them what a Depression was. And they told him there was no money, and he said “oh” and they said “yes everybody is broke, they have no money,” and my Uncle Mike said “Oh that ain’t nothing, we ain’t never had no money so I guess we ain’t no part of your Depression!” People in Louisiana never felt the Depression like the other part of the country did! And maybe there is another hard time on the horizon. History always repeats itself, but will the people be ready?

John Lo Cicero
Daytona Beach, FL

Questions about Fels Naptha soap, washing soda, and borax

Both Jackie Clay and Dorothy Ainsworth have written about low-tech ways of doing laundry, and I’ve experimented a very little myself. I’ve run into a question that I haven’t been able to answer, and I hope one of your readers will have an answer.

I decided to try using Fels Naptha laundry bar soap just to see how it would work, and got onto the Internet for a general idea of how to use it. On the “20 Mule Team Borax” website, the instructions said to mix one third bar of grated Fels Naptha (2 ounces) with 3 pints of water in a cooking pot; heat the mixture until dissolved, add ½ cup washing soda and ½ cup borax and stir until thickened. Remove from heat and mix in another 1 quart of hot water. After standing for 24 hours, it would be gelled and ready to use, at ½ cup for each laundry load.

Well, I’ve made the batch three times, and each time the soap did gel up just fine, but there was a hard white crust on the top of it, about ½ inch thick, that I assume was all of the washing soda and borax. Even when I reheated it, I couldn’t get the crust to completely dissolve and mix back in with the soap. I’m using the name brands of those products, too. I’d like to know what causes this and how to avoid it.

But maybe the real question is what purpose is served by using washing soda and borax in the first place? What do these minerals do chemically that make them, together or separately, good for laundry? And if they don’t dissolve well, what effect would they have on a septic tank?

I’ve used this soap gel, minus the mineral additives, with apparently good results anyway. I make soap gel using either Fels Naptha or my own homemade grated into a gallon-sized glass jar, add hot water to fill the jar, and stir to dissolve. I let it sit until cool, usually overnight. To use the gel, I run enough hot water into the washer to cover the bottom by about ½ an inch, add ½ cup of the soap gel, and stir until it’s dissolved. I then turn off the washer, fill with clothes, and set it on either a hot water setting for whites, or cold for everything else. I haven’t been able to tell the difference in cleanliness, including smell, from clothes washed using regular detergent.

I want to hear from other readers if they’ve had better luck doing things differently. I HOPE that these soaps are easier on my septic tank, and I REALLY hope that someone can tell me more about borax and washing soda—and any other additives that will turn out a better wash.

Liz Case
Belfair, WA

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