Reader letters about self-sufficiency and sustainable living, the U.S. Army’s net-zero initiative, backyard chickens, the White House garden, the Puyallup MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR, an outdoor wood boiler, The Encyclopedia of Country Living, raised garden beds and pressure canning.
Will Allen spoke at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR about his Grower Power programs. He, and other FAIR speakers, inspired readers like Blake McCoy to change their lives.
Photo By Crystal Saffel
My husband and I have been reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS for about seven years, and we love it.
I can name each article that gave us a “we can do this” idea. The greatest one we implemented was raising our own cow for meat and milk. It really was easy when we followed the article, and we have been milking now for five years.
Thanks to articles on backyard chickens and the best chicken breeds, we now sell eggs at the farmers market. Thanks to an article on growing your own grains, we have wheat ripening now, and an old Allis Chalmers All-Crop pull-type combine ready to harvest it — just to name a few successes.
When an organic transitioning consultant came to create a plan for our farm, he was absolutely floored at our level of self-sufficiency.
As an avid reader, I was thrilled to see the summary of the Army’s continuing net-zero efforts in a recent issue (The U.S. Army Net-Zero Initiative, April/May 2013).
The Army is indeed making significant investments in sustainability and renewable energy, driven by the awareness that such investments contribute to our mission effectiveness, enhance the quality of life on our installations, and improve relationships with our various community partners, whether at home or abroad.
Richard G. Kidd IV
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability
I recently received a gift subscription to your magazine and devoured my very first issue.
I would like to thank you for the article on broody hens (Raise Your Best Flock Using Broody Hens, December 2012/January 2013). It makes sense to have some older hens to create a family unit. I planned on getting chicks this March, after reading your article. I then purchased two full-grown hens and a rooster to help create a family flock.
I have also been wanting to raise a turkey for Thanksgiving this year, but because I have a small family of two, we really only need a small bird. Then I read The Midget White Turkey: A Great Heritage Turkey Breed for Any Homestead in my February/March 2013 issue and had my answer! I look forward to ordering a Midget White turkey or two.
Thank you so much for helping me on my path to sustainability.
Your publication has changed my family’s life in a major way. I grew up with a mindset that “more is better,” and “convenience is easier” — that life is about finding timesavers so you can run more of the rat race to keep up with the Joneses.
Fast-forward to me reading my first issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. I just recently turned 37, and over the past four years, my family and I have done an about-face thanks to reading your magazine. It was your publication that started opening my eyes to the fact that you can have less, consume less, appreciate nature, learn to be self-sustaining, and enjoy the little things in life that you can’t buy off a store shelf. I also learned to reduce my personal debt so I’m not tied to the almighty dollar. I learned to eat locally and support the independent people who are trying to separate themselves from the corporate giants of this world. I’ve learned to buy things that are made by local artisans or made in the good old USA.
Last but not least, we learned to eat organic foods and use organic products on ourselves and around the home. Since eating organic, I have lost 65 pounds and my wife has lost 30 pounds — just by changing our diets! We’ve found that by eating organic foods, we are full more quickly, which has helped us control our portions and appetites. The know-how that we have received from your publication is priceless, and I hope you always continue with food education.
Reading all of the articles about people giving up their stuff for a piece of happiness struck a chord in my soul. If all of those people could do it, why not my family? We got rid of the disease I like to call “stuff-itis” and got on a budget. Finally, after three years, we paid off all of our debt (except the house) and gained control of our financial lives. We just recently sold our home and left the big city. We are about to purchase a 900-square-foot home on nearly half an acre surrounded by woods. The house is affordable, so we are able to do a 15-year mortgage and work only part time.
We have so much respect for MOTHER EARTH NEWS that last year, in 2012, my wife and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Puyallup, Wash., where we got to listen to some of our favorite people speak, including Joel Salatin and Will Allen.
I could go on and on about the changes that we have made to finally get to where we are today — those listed here are just a few. Thank you for being the blessing in my life that not only opened my eyes, but also helped my family make changes for the better.
I want to thank you for printing the negative letters about the White House garden article (The White House Garden Sets a Powerful Example, April/May 2013) in Dear MOTHER: June/July 2013. Because I always read magazines from back to front, these letters were the first things I noticed. That reminded me that I had not yet read the article.
Having now read the article, I want to thank you for carrying it. I found it to be a wonderful story and am thrilled Michelle Obama has undertaken this project. How better to set an example for all of us than having the First Lady (and “first dog”) plan a garden and share it with the public? After reading the article, I could not help but wonder whether the letter authors had even bothered to read it.
My garden is only 25 containers on the sidewalk in front of my apartment, but three years ago I had only three small flower pots. My garden and I have come a long way, and I am loving it.
I found the article about garden beds by Cheryl Long interesting (How to Make Cheap Garden Beds, April/May 2013), and would like to inform you about my garden addition.
I will be 87 next May, with arthritis, and I have a hard time standing up after working in my garden on my knees. This last winter, a friend helped me put together six garden beds measuring 4 feet wide by 8 feet long and 3 feet high. We screwed three-quarter-inch plywood to 4-by-4-by-3 posts, and covered them with 6-mil black plastic. We made them in my garage and took them to the garden with a two-wheeled cart.
We first started filling them with cardboard and newspapers, then grass clippings. The grass came from my yard, two neighbors’ yards, and a man who cuts lawns for a living. We topped the beds off with 18 inches of purchased dirt.
One of these beds needed to be moved about a foot to be lined up with the other beds, so I had to dig the dirt out on one end of the bed to slide it. To my surprise, there were hundreds of red earthworms in the bed already.
Now I have 10 raised beds that are 3 feet high, and nine beds that are 1 foot high. I made a deal with a neighbor to take charge of all the low beds. I am getting help from a 62-year-old experienced gardener and a 50-year-old wounded veteran, and we all will be sharing in the garden produce.
I was delighted to read about the first family’s garden — it is an inspiration to us all. They also have two beehives and have used the honey to brew the White House Honey Ale.
They may not be “homesteaders” in the traditional sense, but they definitely have some of the core values in their hearts, which is why I was surprised by some of the letters in the June/July 2013 issue. The vehemence certain people feel toward the first family is surprising.
My only complaint about the White House garden is that, in their second term, the Obamas didn’t push the homestead envelope and get some chickens, pigs, goats or a cow.
Fulton, New York
Here are some “favorite things” from attendees of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR this June in Puyallup, Wash. We have two more MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS coming up this year — Sept. 20 to 22 in Seven Springs, Pa., and Oct. 12 to 13 in Lawrence, Kan. Go to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR website to learn more. Hope you can join us! — MOTHER EARTH NEWS
It was an awesome experience. It was inspirational. I felt like I had regained a part of me that had been missing. Kudos to all!
The MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR was absolutely excellent all the way through, with a ton of fabulous information. My favorites were definitely Joel Salatin and Andrew Morrison (a leader in straw-bale building education). These two presenters clinched the deal on my ticket purchase, and they were absolutely worth every penny — and so much more. The only thing I could ask for is another day of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR with a few repeated sessions from certain speakers.
Diana Jo Marmont
We’re so glad we learned about the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR and were able to demo our wood-fired forge. My favorite part was talking with the people who came by our booth and understood the importance of self-sufficiency, the reality of the learning curve and hard work, and the profound goodness of connection to the land and community. I was also super-impressed with the professionalism and good attitude of the staff. The whole thing just makes me smile.
Tammy and Chuck Whitlox
My favorite part was the black Minorca cockerel in the poultry barn — what a stunning bird! Representing an old and beautiful breed, this guy won Reserve Champion large fowl. He was just so pretty with his black feathers, white ears and red face!
This MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR was our third year in a row, and it just keeps getting bigger and better! My husband learned a ton about solar in the Northwest, I hung around anything herbal, and my mother-in-law was all over the place. I’m hard-pressed to choose a favorite part; we picked up some really great gifts (including a signed book by Dave Duffy, editor of Backwoods Home Magazine, for my brother, who says Duffy’s “one of the greatest minds of our time”), went to some great classes, and picked up a lot of cool stuff. Among my favorites would have to be getting my new JarBoxes and driving the new eco-friendly Fords.
I have to give a shout out to those who ran the King Arthur Flour baking demos. I can now give pie crust and bread a go without fear — well-done, both in the learning and tasting departments. The garlic presentation was interesting, too. Best booth? Can’t say, as they all had useful products. I learned a lot and had a great time.
I was working at our office at Kennebec Metal Recyclers, and I mentioned that I love MOTHER EARTH NEWS. One of the women in the office piped up with, “They did a story on my husband’s father and his outdoor wood boiler back in the 1970s.” Another woman suggested the magazine should come back for an update.
His boiler is still running and he is 96 years old. His name is Marcus Ashley.
How cool! Thanks, Allison. Readers, be sure to check out our 1977 article about Marcus’ outdoor wood-burning furnace at Outdoor Wood-Burning Furnaces: Beating the High Cost of Energy. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS
My small flock of chickens, all of whom were quite old, have died one by one, leaving only one hen. She, of course, is quite lonely and has begun following me when I work in the garden. She even hurries every morning to join us on the deck for treats.
One warm spring day, the door to our den was open and, much to our surprise, she walked in, looked at the TV for a while, then, seeing me, flew up on the recliner and made herself quite at home. She sat there for some time — even took a nap — before hopping down and returning to her passion of hunting slugs and worms.
I guess she figures any friends — even if they don’t cackle, crow or sport feathers — are better than no friends at all.
Meadow Vista, California
While we were foraging through an antique mall last summer, my wife found an interesting book titled An Old-Fashioned Recipe Book by Carla Emery. It was more than 600 pages long, and I paid $10 for it.
I didn’t know the author or anything about the contents of this treasure until I did a little research. Now, I have read, reread and used this wonderful collection of wisdom.
It has information on just about everything you need to know to get started with a country lifestyle, including cooking, canning, raising animals large and small, growing crops, butchering, and on and on. I highly recommend that all of your readers get the current, revised edition, which is entitled The Encyclopedia of Country Living. They’ll probably have to force themselves to put it down!
Jefferson City, Tennessee
The Encyclopedia of Country Living is an essential resource for modern homesteaders. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS
I have subscribed to MOTHER EARTH NEWS for many years. The April/May 2013 issue contained an article that was so offensive that I’m seriously considering not renewing my daughter’s, my son’s or my subscriptions.
The article Conscious Capitalism: Doing Well by Doing Good is complete and utter bovine excrement, and has no place in a magazine dedicated to self-sustainability and do-it-yourself principles.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS, “The Original Guide to Living Wisely,” has nothing to do with capitalism and supporting the corporatocracy. I hope in the future you’ll leave this kind of article for the political blogs.
I have been an ardent follower of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for more years than I care to mention, purchasing advertised products and engaging in many how-to projects. Yesterday, I purchased your latest issue and found myself aghast at how completely “for the wealthy and elite only” your magazine has become.
I did a bit of quick math and discovered that, if I purchased just one-fourth of the things I’d need in order to pursue the ideas discussed in the first 50 pages, I would not be able to eat for the next three months. Worse still, those who need your ideas most likely cannot even afford to purchase your magazine. Obviously, this is my last copy.
Valley Falls, Kansas
I see you are suggesting biofuel to people. I respectfully suggest you rethink this. I have lived and worked in an impoverished African country. I know companies are buying up land in Africa — where millions of people are starving every day — to plant crops to make biofuel.
The use of biofuel is immoral. You should be boycotting it instead of promoting it. Go to Anti-Slavery and you will see that slaves are being used to make biofuel.
I have been reading this amazing magazine for a little more than a year now. I never considered myself a “live-off-the-land hippie,” but I must admit, the advice in your pages has really opened my eyes to living a more sustainable life by growing my own food, canning, collecting water — the list is endless.
Martin D. Dugan
One warning for pressure-canning enthusiasts: If you have a glass-top or ceramic cooktop, you should check with the manufacturer about using it for this purpose. It is generally not recommended because of the potential for breaking your stovetop. The fact that my stove has this type of surface has kept me from taking the next step in home food preservation.
Karen’s cautionary words about smooth-top stoves are true, but not, as many believe, because pressure canners are too heavy. The problem lies with the way this type of range operates: The burners cycle on and off during cooking, meaning they don’t provide the consistent heat necessary to maintain the canner’s pressure or kill microorganisms within the canned food. Also, readers with smooth-top ranges should read their warranties carefully, because pressure canning often voids them. You can read the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s fact sheet about canning on smooth-top stoves at Burning Issue: Canning on Smooth Cooktops. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS
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