issue 95 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #95

Thank you for your support of our troops

Sir I wish to say I think your magazine is the best. I have had a subscription for several years now and love it.

You cover it all. It’s great. I may never be able to live off grid the old way but I enjoy reading about it.

And I wish to thank you for your support of our troops. My oldest son was a U. S. Marine based out of 29 Palms, California. He was one of the first to enter Iraq when the s___t hit. I’m proud and thankful to all of our brave troops serving our great country. You and your staff keep up the great work.

Randy Rudkin
Moberly, MO

My son-in-law, Erik Tuttle, is also based in 29 Palms, with the 3rd LAR, and was also one of the first to enter Iraq. Small world, isn’t it?
— Dave

Backwoods website a valuable resource

Hello from london. After stumbling over your site after a google search on self sufficient matters, I must say that I am very exited about your magazine. As an inhabitant of central London, living above a 24-hr Turkish supermarket, the outdoors life, self sufficiency, and all of the related issues on the environment, craft and local indentity are becoming more and more important to me.

Congratulations on your website and thank you for the copious pdf’s. There are far too many for me to skim right now, but I will certainly be coming back again and again to such a valuable resource.

I am a designer and crafts person struggling in a cramped city, and I greatly admire your lightfooted approach to life.

Joe Nunn
London, England

Wonderful memories

I am an 81 year old great-grandmother, no longer able to live the good life on the land. But, oh the wonderful memories of carving a self sustaining home out of the wilderness. I love your magazine! Keep up the good work.

Tiv Eaglehawk
Seattle, WA

BHM just gets better

Keep up the good work. You guys just keep bringing out better and better articles and info. Whether everyone realizes it or not, we’re all gonna have to look out for ourselves real soon. … Keeping all your issues and magazines, anthologies, etc. … Keep it going Dave. Long live America. The country, not the government. I just renewed for a year and received your cookbook. The spiral binding is a great addition.

Wally Roberts
Sharpsburg, GA

Government “cooks” Social Security books

I’d like to add my two cents to the recent conversation about Socialism and Social Security. It’s good to know there are people who understand what is really happening in America.

Everyone talks about Enron, WorldCom, and other corporate giants “cooking the books.” Most US Government “experts” are always adamant that private sector “book cooking” is illegal. … Yet, U.S. Government politicians and other “experts,” past and present, do not perceive their own words and actions as contributing to the Social Security debacle as “cooking the books.” Why? Because, unlike in the private sector, the Government is free to custom “adjust” their mandatory SS Laws and funding formulas at their collective will and whimsy to accommodate the “book cooking” they perpetuate on the American people, and we taxpayers are forced to support. This phenomena is not limited to SS and Medicare, it is applicable to every single Government created subsidized-with-taxpayer-money social program in existence. At this moment in time, SS and Medicare have floated to the surface, but other will follow to be exposed in due time.

This “book cooking” is constantly fueled by instilling fear in the very people who have been conned so they will raise their voice to fight for continuing the con or lose their “benefits.”… Of course, this is always the “sugar” used to bait its victims—the purported current or future “beneficiaries.” … There are no “free lunches” in real life.

A growing number of Americans, myself included, are not relying on Social Security for future retirement. To rely on one’s self is by far much more reliable and secure. This has been the only sure-fire method that has produced steadily proven results over the eons. Relying on the sweat of others outside the immediate family all too often leads to disappointment, depression, and increases health damaging stress due to one’s inner understanding of not really being in control of one’s own life. Most thoughtful people have a deep down understanding that not really being in control of one’s own life reduces one to being a dependent child regardless of age, which is what many of our Government politicians, bureaucrats, and other “experts” encourage and treat us like. That is a psychologically debilitating reality that can be avoided by being self-reliant to the best of one’s own (and familiy’s) ability, and BHM helps make this a real possibility…and that’s a good thing.

Debbie Darintony
Astoria, NY

Raising rabbits for meat during World War II

The article Raising rabbits in the May/June issue brought back memories of growing up during WWII. When meat rationing started, Dad decided to raise rabbits. When he was drafted, I became responsible for taking care of them, including feeding, watering, cleaning the hutches, and butchering them. We sometimes had as many as 200 rabbits. I was 13 at the time, so it was a big responsibility for me.

Dad had built the hutches according to the then-popular Department of Agriculture plans: wooden floors and frame, two cages high, with V-shaped holder for hay between each pair of cages. I regularly covered the floors of the cages with sawdust or wood shavings, and every couple of days I’d scrape the shavings out with a short-handled hoe. They went to the garden, where we grew vegetables.

The hutches were in an unheated barn. In winter it was cold enough for the rabbits’ water to freeze, but the rabbits didn’t seem to be hurt by it. In summer the barn was warm, but not unbearably so.

We used bowl-shaped water dishes, and feed dishes with a turned-in rim around the top that kept the pellets in place. Twice a day I’d empty the water dishes, breaking the ice in winter, and refill with fresh water, then refill the feed dishes. As necessary, I’d put more hay in the holder.

My technique for butchering then was somewhat different from that described in the article. First I would grab the rabbit’s hind legs in my left hand, then place the fingers of my right hand under the rabbit’s throat, and my thumb on the back of the rabbit’s neck. I’d stretch the rabbit out full length, then bend the head backwards. That would temporarily paralyze the rabbit. Then still holding the back legs I’d wack the back of the rabbit’s neck with a hammer-handle. Usually that broke the neck.

Then I’d make a small hole in one back leg, between tendon and bone, and hang the rabbit head-down on a hook bent on the end of a heavy-gauge wire, then put a big bucket under the rabbit. At this point I’d cut the rabbit’s throat, and the neck if necessary. With the head cut off, I’d let the rabbit bleed out into the bucket where I’d already dropped the head.

The next step was to cut off both forepaws, then carefully cut the skin around the joints in the back legs. Starting under the tail, I’d slit the skin on the inside of the thighs. then I could pull the entire skin downwards off the rabbit. It peeled easily, and always came off in one piece, inside out. I’d slip a wire stretcher inside the skin and put it aside. I’d cut through the pelvic bone and slit the abdominal cavity open down to the breastbone. The entrails and the lungs went into the bucket. However, I saved out the heart, kidneys and liver. After I removed the gall bladder from the liver, those dainties went to the cat, who had come running as soon as he heard me sharpening the skinning knife.

After Dad came back from the war and meat rationing ended, we tapered off the rabbit production. By the time I left for college, we had ceased completely. Now I look back on it as an interesting part of growing up, and know that I could do it again if I had to.

Joseph P. Martino
Sidney, OH

Freedom is what each person perceives it to be

Ms. Wolfe: I have just finished reading your article in BHM’s May/June issue. Truer words were never spoken, or written. It seems to me that today a great many people are looking for that special place. A place where birds always sing, plenty of flora and fauna to satisfy our longing for a better time. City dwellers always enjoy the siting of the first robin, the harbinger of spring. People flock to beaches and parks to get away from whatever they perceive to be, be it “forced servitude” or noise, pollution etc.

My paternal grandfather found his brand of freedom in vegetable plants. We lived in a three story house in an area that was once considered a suburb of New York City. The yard behind the house had a small patch of dirt where he planted tomatoes. The entire family enjoyed the fruits of his labor. It wasn’t enough. He wanted, like so many immigrants, a piece of land that where could plant more than tomatoes.

In 1948 or 1950 my father and grandfather purchased a plot of land that measured 100′ by 300′. In time, after the land was cleared of trees, these two men who knew nothing of house construction built a two room bungalow for the family to sleep when we spent our weekends and summers there. The area where our land was located was called Shirley. Shirley is located approximately 75 miles east of New York City, on Long Island.

After this bungalow was completed they started on a larger project, a larger house. Remember these two men knew nothing about constructing a dwelling, both houses are still standing. My mom still lives in the larger house, while the small bungalow serves as a storage shed. I could go on forever about the years my family spent there. Good years, full of hard work and fruits of the garden that my grandfather enjoyed so much. My grandfather would not let any tractor do the work of turning over the ground in the spring. He did it all by using an implement that I’ve heard called an “Italian Cultivator”. This implement has a short handle about 36 inches long and a wide blade. I have seen this same tool depicted in documentaries about ancient civilizations in Europe and here in America. It is a back breaker. This was my grandfathers freedom.

In later years my father took up the garden. On weekends the family would travel fifty miles out to Shirley from Brooklyn and the first thing my father did was check on the plants in the garden. My father worked five days a week in a clothing shop, where men’s suits were manufactured. He was a steam iron operator, standing on one foot while depressing a foot pedal and swing a pressing iron. Seven and one half hours a day, no let up, because it was a piece work job; you were paid only for the work you finished. The prices on each garment were measured in mills (one thousandth of a cent). All week long he thought and planned what he would accomplish in the garden come Saturday and Sunday. That was my father’s freedom.

I live here in Shirley in my own home about a couple of hundred feet up the road from my Mom. I have approached my Mom just twice about her moving to Florida or some other warmer climate. Hher reply: “What, and leave this house that Dad and Grandpa built? I will not.”

When I moved out here in 1971 it was a 70 mile commute to work, 700 miles a week. At the end of each day, after a three hour drive, I would pull into the driveway and listen to the sounds of the country. That was just a part of my freedom.

I don’t have a large garden, just a small patch twelve feet by twelve feet, some tomatoes in honor of my father and grandfather, and whatever I decide to plant that year, that is another part of my freedom.

I subscribe to periodicals that reflect the attitudes of the silent majority of this country. The people in Washington don’t care about Americans, so every chance I get, my representatives get a letter or phone call from me.

I could go on and on but this letter is too long already. Your article is 100% on the money. Freedom is what each person perceives it to be, but we must be ever vigilant as there are people and governments who would enslave us.

Keep up the great work and thanks for a great magazine.

Jack J. Galante
Shirley, NY

Getting insurance with wood heat and solar

We enjoy your magazine very much, don’t change a thing. We have been living off-grid with wood heat for ten years. We love the independence and the lack of bills except for taxes and insurance. We know you can’t help with taxes but how about insurance? We’re grandfathered with a house insurance company but they’ve nearly doubled our rate just last year. We’ve tried other agents and some have actually laughed when we mention wood heat and solar power. Has this subject ever been addressed in your magazine? How about an article on the subject and names of some enlightened insurers.

Chuck and Deb Kurt
Cohasset, MN

With wood heat, most insurance companies are very wary because they think it’s a potential fire hazard. Mutual of Enumclaw insures us, with reasonable rates, and we heat with wood. Solar power shouldn’t be a problem with most insurance companies. — Dave

Post Office getting a free read of BHM?

Someone in the US Postal Service is getting a free ride on my dime! Every time my Backwoods Home magazine gets to me, the little tabs you place on the top and bottom are both broken or cut cleanly and my magazine is already getting’ kinda’ dog eared before I even get the chance to read it! Tells me that there are some sobs in the Postal Service who have a keen interest in this great magazine, but are too cheap to pay for a subscription! I look forward to each issue and read every word at least once. Just can’t seem to get a virgin copy!

Just keep turning out this wonderful magazine and as long as the USPS keeps delivering it to me, I’ll keep enjoying it, “dog eared” or not.

Franklin Smith
Joanna, SC

More paper anthologies

I think it’s time, John and Mac, for another of your late evening chats over a campfire in the wilderness with Dave. It appears to me that you have forgotten to whom you are writing…the true “backwoods-person” who thrives on living the “backwoods” cabin lifestyle, off-the-grid, communing with nature, not in front of a PC monitor, be it a true desk-top PC & monitor, or a fancy, over-priced whiz-bang, RF-wi-fi’d laptop! Believe me…they don’t work on candle or kerosene lamp power!

Why am I going off like this? Because I have managed to collect that last 10 anthologies (incidentally #10’s spine title was upside down!) and now have come to learn that if I want 11 through 16 and on into the future, I have to get them on CD! How do I settle back in my Amish-built willow-oak rocking chair in front of a roaring fire, reading by either kerosene or Coleman lantern, and get a damn CD to play?

If this were a publication of finance, upper class home decorating (Martha Stewart), or even a current issue of Playboy…I can see it being published in only CD format….but for the outdoors-person, backwoods-person, buckskinning-person, 21st century prairie-pioneer-person, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Please, John, talk to Dave, come to an agreement to actually publish…on paper…in similar fashion to one-through-10…the rest of the anthologies. There really IS a market out there! The only other parallel I could draw is if “The Book of Buckskinning” set were only on CD…..duh…not that WOULD be a blonde thing!

Bernie in ND

We’re on track to do printed versions of 11 ands 12 this year, 13 and 14 next. I apologize for not getting them out any sooner. I realize there is a large pent up demand for them. It just takes time and money to get them out. — Dave

Geting started slowly with solar electricity

We inherited some property with no electricity. PG&E wanted $72, 000 to provide us with some. Water was in a holding tank a 1/4 mile from where we wanted to put the trailer we bought. We started with one 12 volt light that we plugged into the car battery to give limited light when the generator wasn’t running, plus we had aladin, kerosene, and pump-up lanterns. We eventually got enough batteries that the generator charged. We bought a few solar panels at a time and soon we had a system. We used propane for the refrigerator, hot water, and cooking. I used a wood cookstove in the winter and wood heat. My husband was working so we were able to add to our system slowly. He passed away, but I am still using the system and have enough power for most of my needs except for pumping water and running the cooler in the summer. My son and his family live off the system also. We run the generator for about 2 hours at night. We don’t quite have enough solar panels for both families, especially on cloudy days.

You don’t have to have a lot of money to get started. Just look back to how life was lived at the turn of the century and try to figure out how they lived without all the modern conveniences. My project now is to only go to town once a month. I keep lists and it is an all day adventure when I do go. I only spent about $30 on fuel last month. That is important on social security. I hope to do better this month.

Connie Lourence

Tax reform

As a reader and admirer of many of your articles and editorials, I read with some interest your article on tax reform. I am a “reformed tax attorney” who has been working for the past 15 years + to repeal the income tax and replace it with a national retail sales tax.

The problem with the flat tax is that it will not stay flat and it is still an income tax. We still will have reports and we will still have an IRS who will have to decide what is or is not income. As we were warned in the Federalist Papers, the type of tax we should have is an indirect tax—like excise taxes, imports and duties. The income tax is a direct tax. The government asks each citizen to report and punishes the citizen who does not do it the way that they want.

The retail sales tax is indirect. Unless I use a credit card no one knows what I bought and I have no reports to file to anyone. Under the Fair Tax proposal ( the taxes will be collected by the states. Each retail merchant will receive compensation for doing the government’s work of collecting and remitting taxes.

Will there be evasion under the retail sales tax? Of course, but compared to the income tax it will be much less. The State of California collects 90% of its sales tax from 8% of the merchants. Unlike the 20-30% evasion under the income tax, the amount of real evasion will likely be under 10%. But even if the evasion rate was the same and all of us paid for those who evade, wouldn’t it be better to not file tax returns and not report to the government?

Steve Hayes

John Silveira’s The Last Word on One Good Reason for Tax Reform (May/June 2005) was right on target. His last question was “Congress could mandate right now; So why don’t they?” The answer is because the tax system and IRS are a cash cow and they like to spend our money. The biggest crock going is The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT – block 44 on Form 1040 for 2004). It’s not indexed for inflation and is adding more people into its bracket every year. If they don’t get rid of it, eventually it will include everyone who pays taxes. It’s a tax on tax with a separate table to figure it out. The result is you pay more, more, more, which is what the government really likes.

Happy Kono,
Las Vegas, Nevada

Our gradual move to the Maine woods

All my life I have wanted to have a piece of backwoods land (big enough to hunt and enjoy the privacy on) with a cabin on it. A few years ago my wife and I discussed the idea while camping in western Maine. After researching land for a couple of years and getting listings by e-mail from realtors in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, 2 years ago we bought 22 acres of woodland in western Maine at a bargain price! I was simultaneously researching log cabins and last year our cabin was built. I have since made friends with one of my backwoods neighbors up there, and he has helped me with everything from digging my well to plumbing and wiring (I have much to learn). Although our cabin is primarily a vacation getaway for now, it is also to be our “plan B survival cabin” if conditions deteriorate down here. You give good advice in going about independent living gradually. I have enjoyed a subscription to your magazine for several years now, and have an anthology, emergency preparedness guide, and cookbook as well. I like your philosophy and your articles have been very helpful – full of great ideas. Eventually I’d like to have solar power in our cabin, since we are “off the grid.”

Jack Kavanaugh

Quitting our jobs & pursuing our wild idea too

I started chuckling to myself as I read My View in the March/April 2005 issue. The title “Training for the Boston Marathon” caught my eye. I recently started my own exercise plan again and decided that I needed to set a goal. My first thought was to train to run a marathon, thus my interest in the title. I have always wondered why anyone would want to work that hard, and could see no point in it, but now thought it would make a great goal for fitness.

The second part of the article, on other wild ideas, is what prompted me to write. My wife and I are in the process, over the next 6 months, of selling our house in crowded New Jersey, quitting our good paying jobs, and moving to a farm in New York State. We already purchased the farm property, which needs a lot of work, and I do plan to find a job that offers health benefits until we are self-sufficient. But the humorous part is the reactions that we have had from some people, just as discussed on the magazine page. They have varied from envy, to concern, to almost outrage that we would do something so stupid. The last makes us more determined to be successful.

Ed Honrath
Flanders, NJ

Irish Spring soap to ward off bears

Living in the middle of the Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania, I have countless wild animals around. For years the bear and deer have posed a problem. When I would forget to bring the birdfeeders in at sunset, they were often gone in the morning. I would find them smashed in the woods around my home. When the bears came and the feeders were inside, they would lean over my 4 foot fence and eat the seeds the birds had dropped, making a mess of the fence. The deer developed a taste for my numerous hostas, and often I would find only stems where there had been beautiful leaves. I am a nurse, and while discussing this problem with a patient, he advised me to put new bars of Irish Spring soap on the fence where the birdfeeders hang. I was willing to try anything. So I put the soap in suet feeders and placed it along the fence. NO BEARS! So I took my kitchen grater and grated soap over the hostas, and for the first time in years, the deer have not eaten them! Occasionally I replace the old bars with new ones, and grate more soap over the plants (which have not seemed to be affected by the remedy). I also have hung a bar on the door to my shed after a neighbor’s shed door was torn off by a bear trying to reach the birdseed stored inside. Friends who have tried this ‘repellent’ have reported no damage, too. Give it a try!

Pat Leach
Tiona, PA

Stop doing the stickers

I love the mag, I agree with you and the rest most all the time and Etc. Great job!

BUT! (You knew there was one, right?) The little round stickers on the magazine when it comes in the mail are a BEAR to get off before I can read it without tearing the covers! I have carpal tunnel damned bad and wish I could get you to stop doing the stickers.

Carl Pietrantonio

Before the stickers, lots of magazines got torn in the mail, and we had a lot of complaints. Now we get fewer complaints because the issue arrives intact. I’m sorry about your carpal tunnel. Try using a knife to cut the the sticker and just let the cut ends hang off the edge. — Dave

Arkansas family still wants your seeds

I would like to tell the world about Lillian Faubus of Summit AR (see her letter May/June 2005). For now, let me just tell readers out there.

Lillian and husband are hard working seniors who plant a fertile garden. From its bounty, they share with those in need. Lillian wrote that she was in need of seeds for this ever increasing project. Here was an item which, at long last, was something I could do. Not long after, I received the most beautiful letter, describing the efforts and heartfelt lifestyle of these dedicated elders. Lillian’s letter was one I would love to share with others, but have not asked permission to do so. For now, may it suffice that there is a wonderful family in Arkansas who will plant and nurture the seeds (and words) you wish to send.

JB Murray

Lillian Faubus’s address: P.O. Box 197, Summit, AR 92677 — Dave

A better way to grow 150 lbs of potatoes

A comment on your potatoes in a pot and growing potatoes in general.

I was taught all my life how to plant and dig potatoes. Well let me tell you, I am tired of digging taters!

A better way is to first prepare the soil by tilling it (I add a 55 gal drum of ashes from my winter heat) and then making it level: that’s right no hills for this boy.

I then take all the baby taters from last year’s crop that have started to eye out and just lay them on top of the soil.

After that you put about 3 feet of old hay from what’s left of your round bales on top of the taters and pour on the water (nonchlorinated water is best).

Make sure to water once a week. The hay keeps the water in. During the 90-120 days the hay compacts to about 8-12 inches.

Then just pull the hay back and pick those taters off the top of the ground. I also get much larger taters as they don’t have to fight for space under the hay

You can’t beat it. I can raise 150 lbs of taters in an 8′ by 14′ patch at a time and I do that twice a year.

Kevin Bradway is a valuable resource

I just came across today totally by accident; I don’t even remember what I was searching for. What a great site!

I’ve been looking for a site like this for a while now. It’s down to earth, full of great articles and tips, and definitely back-home sensibility. Makes having a computer more than just a toy.

John Putters

No more liquid apple pie

I was just re-reading your note from issue #30, 1994. You wrote about a recipe an old friend of yours, Vernon Hopkins, had made that you/he called “Liquid Apple Pie.” Since he was 82 in 1994, it is a good guess that he is possibly not still alive….sad to say. My question: Have you ever, or could you some day, give out or sell the recipe for that gem of a libation? It just sounded really ……interesting.

You know, even after all these years, it is still just as entertaining and interesting to read these issues as it was when we first got them.

Kyle Daylong
Denver, Colorado

Vernon died and the recipe went with him. I hadn’t seen him for a couple of years before he died, so I never got the chance to get it out of him. Damn shame! — Dave

Applesauce cake in a jar

Just a short note to tell you again—we LOVE your magazine! Was talking to my ex-sister-in-law yesterday, said she wanted OUT of the hectic rat race of city life, etc., but was afraid she couldn’t do it alone! I proceeded to tell her of my latest issue of BHM. July/Aug. (Special section, self-reliance for women.) I will loan her some of my issues, then she can subscribe or I will get it for her! (She’s an R.N., but has recently moved back and forth to East Texas and has a lot of debts to pay off. Also, I’ve been bringing in about 200 lbs. of produce from our garden (everything from A-Z)!! I was going through my pickle recipes and found this recipe for “Apple sauce cake in a jar”. I thought ya’ll and your readers would enjoy having it! I’ve made it and it’s quite easy and very tasty! Great survival food—treats that will keep at least a year. Also great for gifts. Here it is:

Apple sauce cake in a jar:

2/3 cup shortening
4 eggs
2/3 cup water
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 2/3 cup sugar
2 cups apple sauce
3 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup nuts (optional)

Cream together shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs, applesauce, and water. Sift flour, (I use a small whisk), baking powder, soda, salt, and spices, and add to mixture. Stir in nuts, if used. Pour into well greased pint jars, (ones with wide mouths and no necks.) Fill ½ full. Bake at 325° for 45 minutes. wipe jars clean. Put canning lid and ring on and screw tight. Jars seal as they cool. Decorate tops of jars with material and ribbon for gifts if desired. Store in cupboard. This recipe makes 12-14 pint jars.

P.S. This is a little spicy for our taste, so you can cut back on some of the spices if you like.

Barbara Jenkins
Venus, Texas

I’m not alone in my quest for self-reliance

I want to thank you for your magazine. I just subscribed. I have been buying it on occasions, when I could get to Borders at Plaza Las Americas Mall , the only place I could find it. I love the articles, love Jackie . I learn so much and like the feeling that I am not alone on my quest of being as self-reliant as I can. I love living in the country, planting, raising chickens, composting, foraging, etc. But I am sort of the exception to the rule cause most people around me don’t do these things, so it’s nice to read about other people that feel the same way I do, that live like they want to live, not like everybody else does. In your last issue I found out about the use for nettles, (we call it pica-pica, which means “itch-itch”). I didn’t know I could eat the darn thing, and we have lots of it. We also have wild raspberries, grapefruit, one cocoa tree, breadfruit, plantains. Too much rain and pests, but we manage. I bought a Neem tree at a fair and will be using it as an insecticide soon. Would like to see articles on organic gardening and pest control.

So, here I am in Puerto Rico, waiting anxiously for my next issue and gifts. My husband and I live in a mountain about 15 minutes from town. We have about 2 acres of land. He works in a factory that will probably be closing come December but we are preparing and looking for ways to live off the land. We go to all the agriculture festivals we can. Recently I got into making cheese, so we’ll be buying goats soon, also rabbits, which I raised before for meat and fertilizer. After reading about Jackie’s goats I decided that is the way to go. God Bless you all and may you always be there for us.

Country Island Girl
Puerto Rico

EPSG book a home run

I finally, after what seems like forever, subscribed to your genius magazine, but that’s just the start! You sent me the EPSG Guide (Emergency Preparedness and Survival Guide)! What a shock to see in print someone who could stay so focused in print on what has become so real of an issue. You guys have hit the longest home run of your lives. I am so proud of you guys for so much. The book is a masterpiece of facts staying on track. You guys are superb. Please always be there for people struggling to keep our feet grounded in these, to quote “Howard Ruff”, in these ruff times.

Congratulations on your momentous mission and goals of doing what your life has taken you on. I am so sorry for not subscribing years ago. Been mainly a bookstore buyer. Forgive me, and for eternity I am grateful for people like you. Will keep waving my banner and hopefully thousands more in the future who will follow in keeping our country true blue and fed well.

Mike and Nick McGrath
Poulsbo, Wa

Looking for a back issue

I’ve never written a “fan letter” before but gotta do it this time.

I first found your magazine in a little library in a small town in South Western Michigan. Had some time to kill so scanned the magazines and picked up yours. Humm! This looks kinda interesting. Here’s a good article on greens of all kinds. Here’s one about a forever floor. I like this. I should subscribe to it.

I copied the subscription page and carried it home. Left it lying on the table, then carried it to another spot, and another. Having recently lost my job, I thought I shouldn’t spend a dime, and finally lost the order blank. I really, really like that March/April issue, and went back to that library and it was gone! There was a new one in it’s place.

I asked Ms. Librarian if, since there was a new one, could I maybe have the old one? No! It seems they keep them for about 10 years. So again I made a copy of the subscription page, carried it home, put it one the table, but this time I mailed it. Sometime after that I got my first issue. I’ll have it worn out before my next one gets here.

Today I got a renewal form for another year. I’m mailing it today. I have added $5 to the total cost to see if I could maybe get the March/April issue? Huh? Please? I promise I will save it 10 years, just like the library does.

Thank you for a great magazine. I’m looking forward to a couple of years of it, even if I never get that back issue.

Christine Groves
Marcellus, MI

We sent you that back issue—our last copy. — Dave

A way to get rats/mice

In almost every magazine there is a problem with mice/rats. No poisons/traps. In a shallow pan mix 50/50 corn meal and plaster of paris. Rough way to die. Even if a cat eats one it won’t hurt it. When using the regular old mouse traps, super glue a raw peanut to the trigger. You can often get several mice with one peanut.

Arnold Bruce
Grandview, MO

Kevlar thread beats polyester thread

In issue #94, on page eleven of Dorothy Ainsworth’s article, “Make shade when the sun shines,” I have a suggestion for an improvement. She says “It’s important to use 100% polyester thread because it is more weather resistant than cotton.” I agree with her totally. However, a person can buy Kevlar thread that is almost indestructible. It is amazingly strong and lasts almost forever. It is the same thread that bulletproof vests are made of. It’s not as expensive as you would think it would be. Sometimes it is a little hard to find but with a little time spent on your computer you will find several sources for it. I have used it several times and it is very easy to use by hand and it works well on a sewing machine. I have used it on a sewing machine to fashion towing straps made from rolls of army surplus webbing and I have towed vehicles out that were bogged down to their axles that weighed two tons or more. I have never had it break or deteriorate and I have some things that I used it on that I have been using for many years. It won’t add but two or three dollars to your project and it is well worth the extra price.

Dorothy Ainsworth must be one heck of a lady. It is amazing what things she has accomplished.

Garnett E. Doyle
Clarkson, KY

Thanks from Mom too!

First let me say I enjoy Backwoods more than any magazine I have ever bought. My heart goes pump pump when it comes in the mail. My mom and I live 500 miles apart. Mom is 86 years old. I was talking with her two months ago and told her about your magazine. I sent one of my old issues to her. That’s all it took. Mom now receives hers every other month. Mom loves it and says thank you, and I thank you for making Mom’s life a little happier.

I was born in Northern Vermont on a very small farm, chickens, goats, rabbits and a very big garden so I know what work is all about. My favorite pastime was picking any and all wild berries, starting with wild strawberries, then red and black raspberries, then came along blackberries by the tons. So I think I know my berries. In the May/June issue, #93, page 15, Harvesting the wild blueberries, on the lower right hand corner, is a picture of what you call strawberry plants. Sorry, they are raspberries, not strawberries.

Edwin Blood
Newark, NJ

Oops! — Dave

Thanks for the skills

I have been reading Backwoods Home since the early 80’s when my 6 small stairstep kids were all at home. Now that I am down to my youngest son (almost 16), he and I fight over who will get to read the current issue as soon as it gets brought in from the mailbox. All my other kids are not interested in the homesteading lifestyle, but he loves it as much as I do. With the skills we have both learned through your magazine over the years, he is helping me carve out from scratch my little homestead.

I know you didn’t ask for a long explanation—I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks not only for a wonderful homesteading magazine, but for the wonderful people that put it al together for the rest of us!

Lynn Royal
Olympia, WA

Use BHM in classroom

I very much enjoy BWH Magazine. I have used several articles, non-gun articles, in the classroom. My students need to learn to think, and alternate cooking, heat, and growing plants helps them do that. I would like to see more on container and upside down plant growing. I did this with tomatoes this year, with some success, and my students could not believe that the plants could do that. Your magazine teaches thinking “outside the box.” This more than any other reason is why I took a lifetime subscription to BWH, plus I received (and receive) so many extras. I hope you keep up the great job and remember those of us to whom it is only a dream.

Mike Saucer
Del Rio, TX

Tips on PVC piping

On the PVC article: When wanting to heat-bend a piece of PVC, one of the easiest ways is to use a heatgun, and rotate the pipe, although recently was wanting to bend some, was running an underground line for a clients hot tub, and had no heatgun……..then spotted the owner’s gas grill. Problem solved.

Also, being a carpenter, discovered many years ago that the absolute best way to accurately and neatly cut PVC is with a power miter box. A carbide blade works best, then deburr, and you are off to the races.

Jacksonville Beach, FL

I know I’m not alone

Thank you for teaching me so much. My grandpa told me learn till the day you meet your maker but I never realized. My husband also died 2 years ago September so this issue for women is great for me. Leonard was into stockpiling and surviving.

I felt like doing nothing until I got the magazines and book, Emergency Preparedness and Survival Guide, 6 months ago. I live alone in the desert area on the Cal-Mex border of Algadones. No relatives but the last 6 months my friends saw me pull out of literally going down hill. So thank you.

… I will put my garden in again in September. Being in this region it’s almost year-round growing. Maybe will do citrus trees too. It’s endless here. I actually visit my neighbors in the park here and am in my yard everyday. Now I know I’m not alone, I just didn’t know what to do with life. Thank you, I’m moving on.

Samantha Rae
Winterhaven, CA

Removing calcium content from pipes

I’ve just read Dorothy Ainsworth’s letter about her water supply and its calcium content. Our water supply comes from central Wales and the water is positively Rambo-like in its hardness. Everything it touches gets coated with the usual white limescale. Or at least it used to. We have installed a small device called ‘AquaMate’ to our incoming supply pipe. It has two wires that simply wrap around the outside of the pipe – we have copper pipes, plastic is just being introduced on new buildings – and the device creates a magnetic field in the water that passes through. The theory is that the calcium particles become magnetised and do not then stick to your heater elements etc.

Now I’m no physicist, but I can tell you we have had NO limescale deposits on any appliance since it was fitted over two years ago. It is connected via a plug to the electricity supply, but it draws next to no current and I’m sure folks with their own power generation would hardly notice it. In any case, it saves us a small fortune in repair bills and de-scalant.

Mike Cooper
Malvern, Worcestershire, England.

Question on Sanders’ corn cob jelly recipe

I just received a copy of “Backwoods Home Cooking” which was sent for re-subscribing. It’s a very nice book. I have a question about the corn cob jelly recipe on page 127 by Charles A. Sanders. I think he means to use fresh corn cobs. Should the corn be left on the cob or can you use cobs where the corn has been taken off?

And just for the heck of it, have you ever seen any information about how to interchange the different kinds of pectin? I get curious about things.

Becky Blue
Cedar Ridge, CA

When gathering corncobs for the jelly recipe, I get the freshest ones I can. I usually wait until I see some of my neighbors shelling corn in the fields in the fall (using the huge corn pickers). The cobs are fresh, dry and it’s easy to pick up enough for a big batch of jelly. These are bare, dry cobs from which the grain has been removed by the shelling equipment. I like to get them right behind the picker, so to speak. They are cleaner, and the deer, raccoons, and wild turkey haven’t been picking over them.

As for the pectin, Sure-Jell is merely the brand that I use; any variety should work. — Charles A. Sanders

Corn cob jelly recipe

12-14 red corn cobs
6 cups sugar
2 pkgs. Sure-Jell

Start by gathering a few dozen red corn cobs. Most field corn varieties have red cobs. I’m not sure if the red cobs do anything for the flavor, but they do add the nice red color to the finished jelly.

Take a dozen or so of the cobs and break them into thirds. Put the pieces into a large pot and cover with water. It should take about 9-10 cups of water. Cover the pot and boil for 30 minutes. While the cobs are cooking, get your jars and lids ready. After that time, drain and strain the liquid through a cloth, such as a clean old tee shirt. Take 6 cups of the liquid and put back on the heat. Bring to a boil and add 2 pkg. of Sure-Jell. Next, gradually add 6 cups of sugar. Return the pot to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking or scorching. Boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and ladle into the clean and ready jars. Snugly apply the lids, cover the filled jars with a towel, and allow them to self-seal. Makes about 5 pints.

Thwarting squirrels

Regarding the PVC article, I’m not sure what kind of squirrels and raccoons Mr. Sanders has had experience with, but here in Mississippi our squirrels and raccoons go right up a slick 4″ PVC pipe.

To solve the problem I installed an old 5-gallon paint bucket about 4 or so feet from the ground. I cut a hole in the center of the bottom to fit over the 4″ pipe. Slide the bucker over the pipe upside down after placing 3 screws in the pipe to hold it in place.

Jay Harvey
Hom Lake, MS

Our much dreamed about homestead

I am a country girl from Massachusetts and Maine, living in Central Florida for the past 10 years. It’s a long story (I’m a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Inspector—Fruits and Vegetables Division). I don’t love it here, but when my husband and I one day manage to get our much dreamed about homestead, things will be that much better! I am really into organic gardening, so for now we’re opting for containers as we just moved into a new house (not in the country). I long for the solitude and atmosphere of the country, the mountains and fresh air.

Could you do some articles on mulch, gardening, composting, organic growing, etc.? Perhaps you already have, but being a new subscriber, I might have missed these.

Carol Borrelli
Leesburg, FL

Our anthologies cover all these topics. — Dave

Waterproof concrete floor under a wood floor

Just found 20 copies of your magazine from early 1990’s to 2000 in a recycling bin here. Wow, what a goodly number of interesting articles on rural living! As a big “L” liberal and conservationist, I don’t always agree with your pronouncements on politics and protecting wild places, but your other articles are outstanding.

However, I hope someone has responded by now to “Cement floor help” letter, page 82, March/April 2000 issue. To prevent rotting of a wooden floor atop a concrete floor, it is absolutely imperative (except in maybe desert climates) to waterproof the concrete first. Indeed, many building codes wisely require this. Waterproofing methods are many, but two I know of are hot mopping (or cold asphalt emulsion) tar or laying down a heavy (say 6 mil) polyethylene sheet atop the concrete. One floor up here had to be replaced 3 times in short succession as they rotted, until waterproofed.

Tom Nawalinski
Stehekin, WA

800 lbs. of tasty pork

This is a way we made pork meat delicious. Back in the 1920s October was hog killing month.

800 lbs. of pork meat
1 lb. of salt peter
2 lbs. black pepper
5 lbs. brown sugar
30 lbs. of salt

We put up saw horses on planks. We killed 9 or 10 hogs each year. Put the mixture in a #3 tub. Put a sheet on the planks. Rub it first time. Put the meat side down to draw the water out. Next day rub it all over, put the skin next to the boards. This is done 3 days.

Now it is hung in top of smoke house, smoked with hick woods. Ours was a 10 x 10 smoke house. We had it so the smoke had to come low to get out.

Dig a hole in the ground, get char coal outside burning good. Put it in the hole you dug, stack and cover it with hick wood. Cover the wood ashes and don’t let the fire come out. If it does, cover. Don’t stay with it all the time. It takes about 3 weeks.

A.G. McGeyer
Huntsville, AL

Finding “glass nuggets”

I can’t convey the enjoyment I got out of the article, “Solar window panel” by David Lee, in the May/June 2005 issue. I was particularly interested because I have a large attic window that I would like to use this type of window treatment on.

Reading through the article I waited with baited breath to find a source for the “glass nuggets” you referred to on page 52. Boy, was I ever let down when no material source was listed. Would it be too much to ask for some pointers and/or references as to how I can get the materials to make a window of my own.

I am particularly interested in finding some deep maroon and whites. I think the word I need to use is translucent glass, rather than the normal transparent, or would opaque be a better word choice. Either way I hope you catch my drift…

Since we don’t have many of those “sad” winter days down here in the “sunny south,” I probably wouldn’t rely on the heating capacity to cheer up my days but the beauty of the projects would add rays of happiness to any area/climate.

H.L. Calloway
Raymond, MS

On the internet go to, or any stained glass business can get them or tell you where there are some. — David Lee

Perfect tsunami timing

I couldn’t believe it when my copy arrived yesterday and here was the story about tsunamis! What perfect timing. I sat down and read the entire article right away.

Barbara Legoe
Bellingham, Wa

Comments are closed.