issue 98 – letters – self-reliance – preparedness – homestead

Letters To The Editor

From Issue #98

Hurricane Katrina

As an eyewitness to Katrina and the aftermath (and a longtime Backwoods reader) you hit the nail right on the head with this month’s editorial. Unprepared people…period. From the man on the street right up to the state government (who then tried to blame the Feds for shortcomings that aren’t even in their job description) with an utterly unqualified media leading the pack. I’ve covered wars and disasters for over 13 years. New Orleans was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. A big fat reality check dished out in spades. Sad, but there it was.

Jim Bartlett

Dave, you said it all in the first and last paragraphs of My View in issue #96. I’m guessing you get your news & information from short wave talk radio, where you get the truth. Your magazine and anthologies have helped me prepare immensely for the perilous times close at hand. Katrina was the best trial run for our household. We only had to stay hold up for five days. The local residents found out that the road crews wouldn’t get to clear our dirt road from downed trees for at least a month. So they pulled together with chains, chainsaws and four wheel drive trucks to open our road. We were without the power grid for 22 days. Fortunately for us, your magazine helped us prepare for worse than this. However, I seen a lot of people who were not at all prepared. I learned a lot from Katrina that only first hand experience can give. Personalities change when under pressure (for the better or for the worst). People with bad intentions was my biggest concern during that time. Water was next. Our animals and us used water sparingly and still used a lot. My advice would be get set up so obtaining your water is not labor intensive. (not a problem following Backwoods Home Magazine’s directions). The bottom line is cover ALL YOUR BASES when preparing. You only have your self to depend on. We know, we were there.

Rob Pilar
Chunky, Mississippi

Mr. Duffy, Mr. Silveira, and other BHM article contributors constantly remind us of the benefits of self-reliance and the need to independently think for yourself. How logical and very true that is!

Yet, the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, for one, is the perfect demonstration of the great fallacy of having any blind faith at all in government “expert” decisions, short or long term, without very critical independent self-thought of what is being proposed. Much like Mr. Duffy’s handling of the local evacuation presentation offered by 14 “experts” in the event of an offshore tsunami swamping Gold Beach, as he mentioned in My View, July/August 2005.

While nothing can be done to prevent hurricanes (or tsunamis), much, if not all, of Katrina’s flooding incurred devastation, loss of life, up-rooted families, etc., could have been totally avoided altogether. How? By the cadre of government “experts” years ago NOT deceiving themselves, the taxpayers paying the on-going costs to date, the residents of Louisiana in general and the residents of New Orleans in particular, that a series of levees could protect New Orleans while they lived their life in a man-made hole in the ocean. To be sure, the levees did protect for over 100-years, bolstering a false confidence that living 10-30-feet below see level was a great idea. But the sea is relentless in working to reclaim its land, and of course, Katrina decided to be a little different and a little more powerful than previous hurricanes, much to the chagrin of all the planning “experts.” How dare Mother Nature not follow the same “official and legal” game plan as the “experts.” We now all know that outcome. How very sad for all those affected who paid big-time for their blind faith!

Isn’t it interesting that current “expert” officialdom (not to be confused with “expert” dumb officials) point the blame-finger to each other at all levels of government (they wouldn’t be trying to cover their own asses, would they? Nah!), but totally avoid discussing the initial decision error of fooling people all along in the first place into believing that enlarging a city in a hole in the ocean is just fine. Do you think that current “expert” officialdom will move/rebuild New Orleans to/on much safer above sea level ground, out of future hurricane induced ocean flooding harms way, or simply continue the established myth and rebuild in the same hole in the ocean? Will “experts” or logic prevail? Time will tell.

For the rest of us, we must always keep in mind that in the final analysis whenever we don’t think for ourselves we still pay-the-price, sometimes with our life, for someone else’s “expert thinking.” We as individuals are the only true experts of controlling our lives. But being a self-expert requires never-ending work, both the thinking and physical kind. Work is a four letter word to be embraced, not avoided. That is the essence of self-reliance…and a successful life.

Debbie Darintony
Astoria, New York

Love the anthologies

I just want to tell you how much I love your magazine and anthologies. There is so much good info in them. We love the jokes too! We used to live in Chicago, then the suburbs (YUCK!). We now live in a small town and are very seriously considering a move to the country. We love the peace and quiet when we take long walks in the country (our town is surrounded by farms). We are a homeschool family. This year we planted a large garden and dried or froze the vegetables we could not eat right away. We hand dug out the grass out of the garden area-WOW that was a big job! Our garden did real well. The children got a good feel of what our forefathers had to go thru. I use some of the articles in your anthologies and magazine to teach the children about what happens in different situations. They really enjoy them and some of the jokes too. Tell Jackie Clay that I really admire her. Because of her, I have requested both types of canners for Christmas.

I am so glad you decided to put the anthologies in book form. I like to read in bed before I go to sleep and in the morning before things really get going.

Linda Brown

Being prepared

I really enjoy your magazine. I’m glad to see other people believe in being prepared. I ordered several of your Emergency Preparedness books, I gave each of my grown children a copy and a few friends.

One friend thought I was being silly and looking on the dark side of things. Until Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. Now she admits I’m right.

My husband was military and worked for the government for 42 years. We lived overseas several times. We saw hurricanes, earthquakes, riots, martial law, floods, mudslides to name some of the things people don’t expect. I have been a believer for a long time and have our children convinced. They are trying to be prepared too.

Jeanette Kinsey
Knob Noster, Missouri

Finally made the move

I have been thinking about moving to the country for decades. Yes, decades. With family and career responsibilities and a spouse that wouldn’t go to a rural area I put off my dream.

Well, the spouse is gone and the dream is back and in full bloom. I bought an old Amish farm in KY and I’m moving there this winter. No electric, no plumbing, wood stoves and oil lamps. Spent a week there fixing things and trying out the stoves and lamps. Everything works fine. I can’t quit smiling; this is home sweet home. All I need is a buggy, a horse or two, chickens, goat or cow and the garden to grow. It’s been a long time coming, but I am glad I made it.

Kay Arnold

From dreams to bliss

You people and your brilliant magazine are the very reason this person’s life went from stressed-out and buried in debt, to BLISS. You see, I’ve been one of your dedicated readers for 8 years or so—a subscriber for some of those—and in the beginning, was just a dreamer of a better way of life. At that time I was a lone female, business owner in New Jersey with both feet mired ankle-deep in corporate America, but every 60 days I would wait, bleary-eyed, hands shaking and nails chewed to the quick for the mail carrier to bring me my BHM “fix.” My existence was so puny, I thought, compared to the people living the life I was reading about. And I would absorb every morsel on every page until the whole thing was terribly moth-eared, and I dreamed some more.

At some point, I don’t remember when anymore, your inspiring magazine succeeded in helping me build the confidence to begin an actual transition from life as I knew it to life as it should be. Not an easy task for a woman by herself dunked into the world of the unknown, but once I began the process I found it impossible to turn back.

First, to get rid of the debt…..that took almost 5 years, but while I had that plan in motion I spent a lot of time at the local library checking out books that you guys had recommended as good reading for help finding that new piece of real estate. Then the endless driving trips all over creation to check out those places based on some demographics I had decided were important to me. Eventually I found that piece of heaven in an abused little cottage (but with a nice well and an almost-new septic) on a decent-sized parcel, with ½ acre pond, in Upstate New York. The best part…it was in foreclosure, so I offered back taxes and to pay off the existing mortgage (just like one of those books had suggested). The bank agreed and it was mine free and clear! That was the fall of 2001. I sold the business and home in New Jersey the next spring and drove away from that life forever.

The sad little place I now called home was in need of a foundation so it was moved to higher ground on the property and given a nice block one. Then the land cleanup and house remodel work began. The clay ground was improved and 6 plots for vegetables, brambles, and berries were carved and fenced. The fruit and nut trees went in. A garage/potting shed/wood storage building was built, and the cordwood was delivered. A Farm-stand contraption and henhouse was built out of remodel scrap and me and my aching back finally sat down and called it “done”! A colossal labor of love that took an entire year, and I’m here to tell you that a single female in her 40’s CAN do it!…..OK, OK I hired-out for all the buildings and a kind neighbor was a huge help with the fence posts.

Now in the fall of 2005 as I’m about to renew my subscription I have a chance to think of you all with such a fondness for what you helped me accomplish by the existence of your magazine, Kudos! And Thanks!

Lynn Duryea
Penn Yan, New York

Learning the basics may become necessity

I use to subscribe and then for some reason haven’t for a while…. I don’t know why. I miss your great magazine and wonderful old and new ways. My father taught me to subsist on what was available to me…it was one of his greatest gifts to me. I need to rekindle this in my life. I have two young sons, aged 19 and 21. I want your magazine around for them to read and learn from. We have a small farm on 5 acres, but not near far enough away from the crazies of the city. I want to be as self sufficient as I can be in case of a national emergency, but I will also have to know how to protect what we have. The ones uneducated in the basics and unable to care for themselves live too near to me. I find your articles reassuring in how to get along with your neighbors and social diplomacy. Not to mention all the great recipes and everything else. Anyone that doesn’t educate themselves on this back to basics lifestyle and self preservation may be in a sorry situation someday…especially with the way things are in today’s age. I love BHM.

LeeAnn Hightower
Port Townsend, Washington

Leaving the rat race

I read on your card that you write about ways to make a living. I spend about 7 to 10 days a month out in the woods with bears and snakes prospecting for gold.

Last week I got almost ¼ oz. of small nuggets and larger flakes out of one bedrock crevice in about 3½ hours. YES! Tennessee has GOLD! Being in Gold Beach, Oregon, I assume you are familiar with prospecting. Do you ever do articles on this subject?

I’m in the process of finding land to build a log cabin on. The more remote the better. I’m NOT going to use a prefab Lincoln Log type kit. What type of notches do you recommend, and why:? I know of three: 1. Round or Radiused, 2. Steeple or Triangular, 3. Square

Looking forward to your magazine, I’m ready to drop out of the rat race. Totally! I won’t even have electricity

Would you be interested in photos of my cabin construction?

M. D. Mangrum
Nashville, Tennessee

We’ve had articles on making a living, gold prospecting, log cabin construction, dropping out of the rat race, and living without electricity. We’d be happy to consider publishing your photos of your cabin construction. — Dave

46 states, 3 countries, and BHM is the best

This is truly a wonderful magazine. I don’t subscribe to many because they are full of trash and drug company ads. This is one I do not want to ever do without.

I’m 81 years in this world. I’ve lived in 46 states & 3 countries. I’ve raised 12 kids by myself. Driven trucks, worked in law enforcement, owned my own detective agency and was born on a farm, obviously off grid—there wasn’t one then.

One year ago March 29 just past I bought 20 acres of abandoned land, a real jungle. I’ve cleared with a chainsaw and have a mobile home and numerous outbuildings as well as a greenhouse. I work horses, use a hand pump, get pipe water all the places I need it. I use wood and propane. The propane sparingly.

I raise turkeys, chickens, guineas, pheasant, Jacob sheep and goats. I have an orchard as well as pecan and walnuts and berries.

Yeah, its rugged but #1 It’s mine and paid for, #2 I am free of public utilities, and #3 it is just beautiful here in woods amongst all the wild life. Where else could one live very, very well on $244 SS a month?

The peace and independence is priceless, then along comes my newest issue of Backwoods and I’m transported back to my childhood.

Keep ’em coming. Enclosed is my new address and a check for 2 years.

Janice Whitehead
Boynton, Oklahoma

Marijuana in prisons

I’m writing in response to John Silveira’s “Last Word” in the Nov/Dec 2005 edition of Backwoods Home. First off, let me say I appreciate the free-thinking articles that you publish and let me commend Mr. Silveira for his ingenious approach to prison reform. For far too long prisons have resembled gang warfare arenas and not the places of reformation that they’re supposed to be. I think it would be a fine experiment to try legalizing marijuana in prisons. Sadly, I doubt that any of the current professional politicians would ever take such a drastic measure as they are far too concerned with maintaining the current abhorrent status quo. The 2008 election will be coming around soon…is John looking at running for President? If he is, he already has my vote.

Zachary Kencheloe
Harrah, Oklahoma

Procrastination pays off

I’ve recently been procrastinating, and questioning, renewing my subscription to BHM due to financial restrictions. Having received my final issue (issue #96) I can’t imagine not having BHM to look forward to.

Fortunately for me, my procrastination has paid off. I’ve been meaning to order the very book you’re now offering as a free gift. For once my shortcomings have paid off.

Norman E Daby Jr
Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts

Series on water?

I found a spot quite a ways up on a hillside on my property with water just 2 feet below the surface. It is supersaturated clay but a 4-foot hole dug with a post-hole auger was half full of water after about 3 hours. It seems to be along an underground rock ledge so I could install an intercept trench and some sort of underground reservoir to pump from.

Alternately, instead of a hand pump, a horizontal pipe from such a reservoir would turn it into a free flowing spring. Or not?

While I was considering such ideas it occurred to me that methods of developing springs and shallow wells would be a good topic for an article in Backwoods Home. Or maybe I am just a latecomer and you have already published some good advice on the subject. If you have, I would like to buy a copy.

In the meantime I am getting lots out of your magazine and heartily endorse your reminder that we had best be prepared to care of ourselves in case of whatever disaster comes our way.

Max Whitaker
Silverton, Oregon

It would make a good series because there are a lot of different scenarios. I’ll look around for a knowledgeable writer. In your situation, it seems like you could simply dig a hole, fill it with rock, and drain off the water with a perforated pipe?
— Dave

How about obtaining health insurance?

Backwoods living is great but I’m having difficulty understanding how it is really practical. More specifically, how do you deal with the high cost of health care and property taxes? With health care being the greater issue. I currently pay $711 each month for health insurance. That much each month will quickly eat through your savings. I would like to see an article on how to avoid or minimize monthly reoccurring costs.

Bruce Melvin

Taxes are cheaper on rural property, but they do pose a burden if your income drops. Health care is another matter. It’s a major hurdle to self-reliance and getting bigger all the time. Regrettably, there is no good solution. I plan to work as long as I can so I can pay for my own company’s health care plan. Retiring to Medicare is an option when you reach age 65, but relying on Medicare may become a bad decision when the baby boomers strain the system beyond its capacity.
— Dave

“Firefly” a good show

In the March/April 2005 issue of Backwoods Home Magazine there was a “Claire goes to the movies” article be Claire Wolfe titled “The best TV series you never saw” about the program “Firefly.” Well, it’s true; I never saw it or even heard of it. (I, like Claire, am not a big TV fan.) Still, based on Claire’s recommendation, I bought the 4 DVD set of the first and only season of “Firefly.” Man was it a good show! I like it on so many levels that I wouldn’t know where to begin to explain it. Way to call it Claire!

Boyd Evans
McLeansville, North Carolina

McVeigh article

Just ran across the link today for the backwoods site…still perusing it..but saw your article (very old obviously) about the impending execution of Tim McVeigh.

I have read “No More Wacos” and am familiar with the Ruby Ridge fiasco.

Having said that, the most pregnant question I have about McVeigh’s execution is why was it so efficiently processed? How many murderers have ever been executed within such a short time of conviction? That should be enough to give you pause! In Texas, which uses the death penalty more than any other state, the average time on death row is 10-11 years. Why was McVeigh executed so quickly?

Call me paranoid, but I believe it was to shut him up ASAP. There’s more there than meets the eye. I believe that he intended for whatever reason to blow up the Murrah building….but I think he was like Lee Harvey Oswald….an idealistic jerk that someone took advantage of. McVeigh thought he was a martyr….and he was willing to die for what he thought in his own delusional way was right, but I don’t think the gummint could take the chance in him having a change of heart, and therefore his execution was processed with amazing speed and efficiency. Kinda like how quick Lee Harvey Oswald was silenced!

Dave Stoops

Irreverent Jokes

Without a doubt, the irreverent joke page in issue (Nov/Dec) was the best that I have read. I get the mail, so I got this issue first. Got to have my humor fix, started to read the “classes for men,” then decided that I should read it out loud to my wife. We were both laughing so hard by the time we got done with “cow politics” that we both needed a nap. It was great just like the rest of the magazine is..

The best of everything to Jackie, (my wife’s favorite) …

Jake and Flora Anthes
Centerview, Missouri


I am in the prison at Umatilla and your magazine has been such a blessing to me for over a year, and that is why I just ordered it for two more years. I will be going home soon, and there are so many things I will be using on my 100 acre homestead.

…Dave let me also say that the section that Jackie writes is really great. Thank all of you for one of the best magazines.

Is there any way you can tell Dorothy Ainsworth that I think she is one heck of a woman and after reading about her house and the fire then to build the house again she has earned the respect of a hard headed old Oaky hillbilly.

Zeldon N. Linn
Umatilla , Oregon

I have received some very valuable information over the years from your publication. Thank You. I am 4 months shy of 78 years (Feb 18, 1928) and now I find out that Hillary Clinton got through part of her control the public health bills and I will have to start paying at least 1 years subscription rate every month for drugs that I do not (Thank the Lord) have to take. This is the same way the National Socialists took over Germany 1928-1933. The country, city, state lawyers have destroyed the Constitution with the help of Schumer, McCain, Kerry, etc etc Clinton etc. I do not see much hope left for the Constitution. Thanks for all that you have given me through the magazine

George James Smith Jr
Moravia, New York

This week the mail brought my first issue of Backwoods (issue 97). . . .

When I called, the phone was answered by a pleasant English speaking human. What a pleasant surprise in these modern days of outsourcing. . . . What a great surprise when your magazine arrived.

Hey, it’s great!! . . . I well remember Mother Earth News of the early 1970’s, (before the Deification of Shuttleworth). This magazine is looking good, maybe we’ll see what’s inside.

I have tried other magazines, and modernized Mother probably has a readership that homesteads in condos or still lives with parents. A more primitive titled effort was directed mainly to survivalists that shop with LL Bean. Backwoods is looking good.

Inside the front cover is an ad with a picture of Anthology 12…. A snow covered cabin…. Oh, my. Been there, done that…. Looks entirely too real…. No foot prints and snow on the roof….. It’s cold in there..

The articles are fine…. No real experts here, but written by folks who are doin’ it:

  • Page 14, unleavened bread recipe that calls for yeast…. OK
  • Page 17, potatoes with no mention of potato seeds or Burbank
  • Page 24, who cares about vacuum cleaners, but Lee’s style is Primo!
  • Page 31, But guns aren’t warm and furry like all of nature.
  • Page 39. flashlights, Yes! Thanx for the side bar at the end.
  • Page 44, fire, Last paragraph, Practice. Best article ever.
  • Page 47, Vinegar, and buy it by the cheap gallon and refill the jars
  • Page 54, Sourdough, a bit basic, but we’ll learn by doing
  • Page 56, The Bird Death, too damn sensible, won’t sell any papers
  • Page 68, Publish, Ok, but still requires work & discipline.
  • Page 76, Kids….. Not my area of interest..
  • Page 70, Movies…. Try to avoid them
  • Page 80, Poem….. Love`em
  • Page 81, Jackie, canned goods will explode in unpressurized planes
  • Page 86, Letters….. Love`em
  • Page 92, Personals…. Like Mother’s Positions & Situations, as usual, I’m not good enough, guess I’ll stay with my bride of 27 years.
  • The Last Word? Ok, I dig secession, anarchy and even Utopia…. But what about my government check?

Just a super great magazine, Mr Duffy. Thanks for producing it…. Perfect ? Well a little more mention of hard wheat, soft wheat, and gluten might have made the bread article more usable…. And God bless the folks that try for natural sour dough starters….. Maybe if you set up outside a San Francisco bakery to capture their famous yeasts…. I seem to remember that in earlier times we all knew Coors Beer was unpasturized and that was a fine place to brew yeast….. Besides you can always drink your mistakes.

Hell of a Magazine….. When you going monthly ????

P.S. I only want to live in a town where the elevation exceeds the population….

Mike Dougherty
Baker, California

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