issue 94 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #94


I have learned more from your magazine that I did in college.

Vincent De Sepio
Loma Linda, CA

Wild ideas

As a school teacher, most especially a teacher of Social Studies, I particularly appreciate your accurate and candid perspectives on the nature of American Society, and Government both past and present. As far as “wild ideas are concerned, I think “wild ideas” are the product of some magnificent dream that has got to figure out a way to manifest itself at some level of reality…it will remain a “wild idea” to everyone else except the individual that thought it in the first place. It quite simply never occurs to most people that never have “wild ideas”, that the only “ideas” that have ever made any real difference in the human equation are ideas that were beyond the “normal” scope of human thinking.

As far as the marathon goes that you are training for, I have walked in your shoes (or as is the case, run in them).

I am living proof that you can train for an athletic event of this intensity on a contraption such as a treadmill. Talk about the naysayers, everyone except my wife and Newton told me that it could not be done, and that I was a nut case on the way to the looney bin, or the hospital since I was either crazy, or was about to self-destruct!

“The race” changed my life! it helped me to understand that basically life is a decision. It’s up to you to make the things that are important happen for you. And, with the right attitude, and the proper preparation, you can do pretty much what you want! This is the philosophy I bring to my students.

J.W. Loper
Del Haven, NJ

May I see your papers please?

I read Claire Wolfe’s article in issue #93 on page 8 about her friends moving to a Central American country. After she heard from them about being stopped at a check point and being forced to show their “papers please” she said she “crossed that country straight off my list”.

I have been in other countries and I know what they were talking about. Uniformed officers with guns set up checkpoints and demand that all drivers show their “papers please” before they are allowed to pass and if their “papers” are not in order they are arrested on the spot. What I would like to say is this, there is very little difference between that practice in the Central American country and what they do here in the United States when the police set up “sobriety checkpoints.” (The word sobriety supposedly makes checkpoints acceptable). In the Untied States uniformed officers with guns set up checkpoints and demand that all drivers show their “papers please.” (Sound familiar?) This consists of drivers license, car registration and proof of insurance, if required, and sometimes other things.

If your “papers” are not in order you are arrested on the spot and taken to jail. If you have a minor infraction you get a ticket that requires you to appear in court. (There is very little difference between the two countries in the practice of checkpoints as far as I’m concerned).

Of course some people try to justify this practice of checkpoints and “papers please” by saying it keeps drivers off the road that have been drinking. I’m sure the Central American country that Claire Wolfe’s friends mentioned to her have an excuse that they also use to try to justify their checkpoints but it’s just the same to me. Checkpoints and “papers please” means the same thing to me no matter what country I’m in.

Garnett E. Doyle
Clarkson, KY

Fire hazard?

I wish to call attention to a very dangerous mistake in David Kings stonework article, “Add the beauty of stone to your home,” Issue #92.

In his picture of the corner hearth he has his woodstove far too close to the walls. Radiant heat travels through masonry very well. Using his metal lathe over wood method the heat from that stone will accumulate, char the wood and eventually ignite it at near explosive burn rates.

In the course of employment as a plumbing/heating contractor I took a woodstove installation course. Code (a good reason one) requires a minimum of thirty inches from any combustible surface unless properly shielded.

In the course of being both a volunteer fireman and the guy who either does the removal or strips out a burned building for the renovators I have seen several fires that resulted from using “Z Brick” as shielding.

If you are going to put a woodstove close to it, you must have circulating air space between the shielding and the shielded material. A sheet of aluminum foil with two inches of circulating airspace will give the same protection as four inches of common brick and two inches of airspace. The protection is the moving air which carries the heat away with it.

The pictured hearth would work well if it was built against cement board fastened on standoffs and vented top and bottom with about thirty square inches of inlet and outlet area. As a bonus the shielding convection current helps circulate the room air and draws the cold air off the floor.

Russell Collins
Clendenin, WV

I’d like to congratulate Russ on his keen eye, as the woodstove pictured is closer than 30 inches from the wall. However, he refers to this as a ‘very dangerous mistake’, and proceeds to explain that screwing metal lathe to wood, and then covering it with stone is not an acceptable fireproofing method. I couldn’t agree more.

Careful readers will remember that the project detailed in the article was adding Nittany limestone facing to the bar in my rec. room. The photo of the woodstove was only added to the article to illustrate yet another beautiful stone product. The article was not intended to be about woodstove installation, or fire-rated walls. Indeed, I did a careful search of the article, and the words woodstove, fireplace, fire, or fire-ratings do not appear once in it.

The construction techniques used in the article are sound for the project they were used on, a bar, far from any possible ignition source. When installing a woodstove (or anything for that matter) I would strongly encourage everyone to READ AND FOLLOW ALL MANUFACTURER’S INSTRUCTIONS!

As a union carpenter, I am intimately acquainted with fire-ratings, and the construction of fire-rated walls; something I do 40 hours a week. Every week. The walls behind the woodstove were constructed using different materials and a more-advanced building practice than was detailed in the article. As is fitting. Different project, different purpose, different build. The 30-inch distance Russ quotes in his letter is to an un-shielded cumbustible wall Add shielding, the distance decreases. Even humble gypsum board is classified by Underwriter’s Laboratory as fire resistant, and every University, shopping mall, and hospital in America uses it accordingly (Type 1, Type2 fire-rated walls, etc.)

In his letter, Russ also mentions “Z-brick”. Cultured stone is far different that Z-brick, and I would never endorse the use of Z-brick as any type of thermal barrier.

In closing, I would like to address Russ’ claim that wooden studs inside of the walls can spontaneously combust through heat-transfer from the stove. I am sure that this is theoretically possible, but in looking over some statistics on house fires I found that smoking is the leading cause of house fire (26%), followed by incendiary or suspicious (16%) with heating coming in third (14%). Most of the fires due to heating are caused by portable heating devices (not woodstoves) and in cases involving woodstoves or fireplaces, are primarily caused by the presence of furniture, boxes, newspapers, or clothing contacting the outside of the stove. Studs inside the walls bursting into flame through direct heat transfer don’t even make the list of causes.
— Dave King

Solar on clay tile roof

We live in a 1910 historic home with a clay tile roof. The roof was not well-cared for in its lifetime and it must be replaced. We would like to hire a reputable firm to design and install a solar heating/electric system for this roof. Are there such folks in Ohio? How would I go about finding them? I’ve done online research and come up with nothing.

Barbara Stewart
Marietta, OH

This style roof is always harder to install solar modules on compared to other roof systems. However, they now make a mounting “rail” that has bolt-on feet that has worked great out west where more of these style roofs can be found. This is a great time for you to think about this because the mounting feet should be attached when the roof is being repaired or replaced. Just leave the mounting foot top sticking up out of the clay roof surface and you can come back later to add the mounting rails and solar modules.
—Jeff Yago

Solar camper advice

I read with much interest your article on “Add Solar Power to Your Truck Camper” in the recent issue, since I’ve been considering doing the exact same thing to my truck camper.

On the Morningstar charge controller that you recommend, exactly which model is that? Is it the Sunsaver SS-10? Where did you buy that? Do you have a favorite distributor for solar products that has good prices and service?

Tom Wheless
Eagle, ID

Yes that was a SunSaver-10 solar controller, although they also have a SunSaver-6 that is less money if you can get by with 6 amps instead of 10 amps. I buy all my solar materials direct from national distributors who only sell in quantities. However, this is a very popular controller and just about any retail solar distributor should have it. There are also other really good brands, its just I have had a lot of trouble-free years of experience with their products and have found them to be very rugged and worth the extra cost.
— Jeff Yago

Questions about pumping water with wind

First I would like to tell you my wife and I really enjoy the magazine.

The staff and contributing writers are exceptional. You and Mr. Silveira are on the mark. I try to remind my elected officials that they and the government exist for the convenience of the people. We do not exist for the convenience of the government. I am sorry to say it has been to no avail up to this point.

I have a question for Dorothy Ainsworth. In the article in the Nov/Dec Issue #90 on “Water Pumping Windmills” I was wondering how she keeps her holding tank from freezing in the winter? I would also be interested in the type of filtration she is using.

Kevin M. Ward
Brownstown, MI

My water-storage tank with its 8″ thick concrete walls, and large dimensions (12’X12’X12′) holds about 10,000 gallons of water, which would be hard to freeze in southern Oregon’s mild winters, where it gets down to 10 degrees below freezing only for a few nights in a row during each winter. The huge tank is partially underground (cistern-style), which helps a lot, and has a roof and screened sides. A buried (or backfilled ) tank is the best insurance against freezing in the winter, and staying nice and cold in the summer.

The mass of water is kept moving by its constant usage (showers, etc.). The windmill also dumps new water into the top of the tank whenever the wind blows. When I turn the pump on to fill the tank from the main well, water enters through the bottom of the tank via a 1.5″ PVC pipe buried 3-feet in the ground in a 1000-foot trench. New water moving in and out of the tank—top AND bottom— keeps things “stirred up.”

I have no filtration system, save a small-holed strainer (stainless steel) on the inlet/outlet hole in the bottom off the tank. This system has been in place since 1984 and I’ve never had a problem. I guess I’ve been the guinea pig for a no-filtration system and I’m still alive. But I’m sure it’s a good idea, especially if your well is not very deep—– to filter out sand and dirt particles. I don’t chlorinate my water either, but DO have it tested for bacterial contamination occasionally. The water has always tested clean. Both my wells are deep and lined their full depths with PVC casings.

My biggest problem is that the water here is moderately hard, particularly with calcium. The only way to get calcium out is with a water softener. Water softeners are large and expensive appliances and have to be re-charged with salt periodically, so I just live with the calcium deposits on my fixtures and clean them with vinegar from time to time. About once every two years I have to drain my hot water heater and vacuum the calcium sludge out of the bottom and replace the element that shorted-out from calcium corrosion. It’s a pesky ritual I’ve gotten used to (after groaning and rolling my eyes and mumbling, “Oh, no, not again!” when I run out of hot water in the middle of a shower).

If you have high salt content in your water, you have to use a “reverse osmosis” filtration process that is quite expensive. Other minerals are easily filtered out with conventional filters. Calcium and salt are the expensive ones to extract. If I had the money, I’d use a water softener on my water heater.
— Dorothy Ainsworth

Installing rafters alone

I just read, at your Website, your advice as to how to install rafters alone. At the possibility of offending you, I must say that you make it very complicated and that there is a very simple way to do it, and even without having to use any additional material. I’m a retired general contractor and have done it this way many times when I was younger and starting out alone in my business.

Cut all of your rafters. Take one and nail a stiff knee to the side of it that will go to one of the ceiling joists (you need to lay a 2 X 4 across the joist for the stiff knee to rest upon). Nail the bird mouth of the rafter to the top wall plate. Go to the opposite side of the building and do the same so that the two ends of the rafters touch. Do the same down the line for at least two joists away. You now have two rafter systems in place, each top cut touching the other. Take your king beam and slide it from beneath between the rafters where they touch. The compression of them will hold it in place until you can adjust it perfectly and nail it. At this time, you may need to nail a wind brace to keep it all in place. Proceed with the other rafters to the king beam. If it is a long building, do this in increments.

I have done this numerous times, even on buildings as long as 50 feet. No problem, and it is very fast.


Living free in Greece

Hello again from England

I’ve just read Claire Wolfe’s excellent article on living free and agree with every word of it. My family and I are planning to leave the United Kingdom and set up home in Greece. As Ms. Wolfe rightly says, nowhere is completely free, and it will no doubt be a shock to us all to live in a country where the police routinely carry guns and citizens need id cards. But the Greeks have an attitude to life that is relaxed and the crime rate is miniscule compared to that of the UK. The Greeks are said to have the healthiest lifestyles in the world; it’s all about attitude.

Ms. Wolfe tells ‘Miserable’ that self sufficiency is a do-it-yourself exercise. She’s 100% right. We’ve been planning this move for 5 years or more. We’re learning the language and getting a handle on a whole new range of skills that will hopefully help us to make a ‘go’ of the new smallholder.

A major part of the arsenal is the bimonthly foray into your wonderful website, ( it’s chock full of useful hints and pointers and I can see it’s going to remain an invaluable resource to us, even though it’s written for like-minded folk 5,000 miles away!

Mike Cooper
Worcestershire, England

National sales tax would burden retailers

Thanks to John Silveira for another well-reasoned “last word” (May/June 2005). One issue related to a proposed national sales tax which is rarely mentioned is that of the collection of those taxes.

As things stand now, almost every state has sales taxes. Businesses are responsible for the collection of these taxes. They are not reimbursed for their time in the preparation of sales tax forms. Nor are they reimbursed for accounting bills related to the preparation of sales tax payments. In many cases, if a dispute occurs, the burden of proof falls on the business to show that they indeed paid the proper amount of tax.

Just as state sales taxes use businesses to collect taxes for them, in effect, a national sales tax would turn retailers into IRS agents. For some reason, proponents of the national sales tax seem to have forgotten this point–even those who purport to be pro-business.

While solutions to the current tax dilemas are needed, the national sales tax leaves much to be desired for many reasons. The fact that retailers would be left to collect this tax is one of them.

Tracey Croteau
Chattanooga, TN

A breath of fresh air

I stumbled across your magazine by accident as I was searching the internet. On a whim I subscribed, not really knowing what to expect. I received my first issue and devoured it all! (My only regret is that I have to wait for your next issue to come out!)

Call me naive, but I didn’t realize there were other folks “out there” who shared the same – off the beaten path/non conventional – ideas and beliefs as myself. It’s comforting to know there are others with similar interests.

Rich Brown
Boiling Springs, SC

Growing luffas

Enjoyed your article on the luffas. (Issue #85, Jan/Feb 2004) I grew my first batch of them last summer. One thing I did that you probably already knew, is to dye them with clothing dye. Kids will like them, as will adults too!

Susan Vestal
Boonville, NC

Wild game recipes

In response to the letter about wild game recipes. Most recipes can be found on the Internet. It takes a simple search, then a lot of reading. Stick with ones that are repeated by different sources as they are most likely to be good ones. The one family I would not take for meat is the cat family. (Bobcat on up) Something about the meat doesn’t cook up right. Taste ok going down, but comes back up in about an hour.

Would also suggest checking out old wild game cookbooks. Stackpole books used to have some good ones. We always had about four plus our own recipes growing up as we ate just about everything as kids.

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