Dear MOTHER: December 2014/January 2015

Reader letters about pressure cooking, food choices, swapping cloths for toilet paper, diversity in MOTHER EARTH NEWS, sweet spring gardening anticipation, and more.

Patrick Payne Workbench

Reader Patrick Payne built MOTHER’s sturdy workbench for his workshop.

Photo courtesy Patrick Payne

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Satisfied Builder

I just finished building my first workbench, and I used the plans in your article How to Build a Workbench in the February/March 2013 issue. Your instructions were simple enough that even a novice builder like me was able to understand them.

I’m looking forward to many years of projects on my new bench — I think this bench will outlast me!

Patrick Payne
Mesa, Arizona


Respecting Diverse Views

We read MOTHER EARTH NEWS cover to cover as soon as it arrives in our mailbox. Bryan Welch’s article Great Gardens, Pure Food and Clean Energy: The Ties That Bind (February/March 2014) was so refreshing. We are on the conservative side of the political spectrum — the less government involvement, the better — yet we know our way of living isn’t possible for everyone. Others have wants and needs that require a point of view that’s different from ours.

We’ve attended the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Puyallup, Wash., for the past four years, and, while there, we’re always conversing with other attendees. It never crosses our minds to judge anyone or wonder whose political views line up with ours. We’re all there to learn something.

There are few places these days where the media isn’t trying to interject a political stance. Thank you for letting readers make up their own minds without the “I’m right and you’re wrong” drama.

We are determined and conscientious.

Arlene and Bill Frank
Decatur Island, Washington


Pleased With Pressure Cooker

Thank you for inspiring me to try pressure cooking with your articles on the topic. Last autumn, I set about researching electric pressure cookers. My goals were to avoid getting the windows of my cabin drenched in condensation during winter when I cook rice or beans, and to have the cheapest, safest and quickest way to cook these foods.

My decision was the same as yours: the Instant Pot (August/September 2014). It’s one of the only pressure cookers on the market that has a stainless steel interior — very important! The Instant Pot met all of my hopes and expectations, and then some.

Tobin Gray
Twentynine Palms, California


Cloth Acclaim

I was interested to read the brave comments from someone who has made the switch from using toilet paper to using cloths (Creating a Reusable ‘Family Cloth’ System, October/November 2014). We’ve done this too, and, like most moves we’ve made on behalf of the planet, have found that it’s no big deal.

What surprised me, though, was that some people buy cloths. We tore up worn-out sheets for ours. Surely we all have old sheets, towels, shirts, tablecloths, etc., that we can recycle instead.

Becky Hammond
Ferndale, Michigan


Excited to Sow Seeds

I was impressed by the detailed instructions on how to grow seedlings in Barbara Pleasant’s article Best Tips for Starting Seeds Indoors. I can’t thank you enough for giving me the information I need to try indoor germination this spring. Pleasant’s writing has increased my excitement and anticipation for the coming season.

Michael Balliro
Dover, Delaware


Collective Responsibility

I found the reader letter Be Mindful of Your Privilege (Dear MOTHER, August/September 2014) to be offensive. To me, nothing in the editorial the letter mentioned (We Get What We Pay For, June/July 2014) or in other articles from MOTHER EARTH NEWS could be construed as “bourgeois experiences.” It’s all about learning self-sufficiency skills and how to use resources in a healthy, sustainable manner.

At one time, my children and I were on food stamps. I never gave up my freedom to choose clean, healthful food for my family, however, even if I had to grow it or barter for some of it. Did you know you can buy vegetable seeds with food stamps? And that many farmers markets have a kiosk for customers to pay with an EBT card?

People in lower economic classes can still be a part of shaping the food landscape through choices and self-education. MOTHER EARTH NEWS is a great resource for that.

It’s challenging at times, but limiting purchases from big-box stores and cutting out junk food helps me free up money for healthier options. I grow what food I can. I have containers for growing herbs and catching rainwater, and I do all of this on a small city lot using free and recycled materials.

We need to reshape a food system that has been taken over by multibillion-dollar conglomerates, and it’s going to take all of us — no matter who we are or where we come from — using our brains and our brawn to do so. We can choose to grow and prepare food with love and thankfulness, and then share our knowledge with others who need and want it.

Sandy McWhorter
Knoxville, Tennessee


A Gathering of Like Minds at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Back in September, I attended the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Pa. It was an 11-plus-hour drive down on Friday and an 11-plus-hour ride back home on Sunday — but you know what? It was totally worth it.

It was my first time at one of the Fairs, and I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there would be vendors and workshops, but I had no idea. The first thing you realize when you get to the Fair is that you can breathe just a little easier. You realize, as you look around, that you are among your peeps. These are all people who are interested in what you’re interested in — a healthier and more vibrant life.

There was so much to buy (of course, you didn’t have to buy anything, but you would have needed strong willpower to resist). From handcrafted soaps to carved spoons to fermented foods to farm machinery, if a sustainable-living enthusiast couldn’t find it at the Fair, then she probably doesn’t really need it.

And the workshops: Every hour and a half, a new round of dozens of workshops that were focused on a variety of self-reliance topics would begin — which to choose, which to choose? Every time I sat down to listen to a workshop, it was like being in a classroom, and the know-how being given out was priceless. I found myself taking page after page of notes.

Everyone — and I mean everyone — wanted to share information and stories. It was a gathering of like minds in the truest sense of the phrase. I can’t stop thinking about the things I learned and the experiences I had, and you can bet I’m already planning to go back next year.

Wendy Thomas
Merrimack, New Hampshire


Image Check

I have thought for a while that MOTHER EARTH NEWS does not give enough recognition to the millions of people of color in the United States. There is a movement and a market taking place among us that you could be a part of. You would be wise to change your elitist, white-folk image. I’m a longtime subscriber just trying to pull your coat with love.

Abubakr M. Karim
Charlotte, North Carolina


Remembering PJ

PJ Benet-Davis, a longtime reader of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Aug. 11, 2014, still full of dreams of chickens and goats and gardens and compost piles. I (her husband) will miss this good woman forever.

Rich Landers
Eureka, Nevada


Follow Your Food Dollars

I want to thank Joel Salatin for his article Fighting for a Sane Food System (October/November 2014). I’ve been trying to get the concept of food choices across to people for decades, and, as Salatin did, I often use coffee as an example.

Instead of just thinking you’re buying a $5 cup of coffee, consider the amount of coffee you’re paying for in terms of gallons. After all, you buy heating fuel, gas and milk in gallons. Five dollars for a single coffee comes to more than $50 per gallon. Suddenly that cup of joe sounds mighty expensive.

Josephine Howland
Albany, New Hampshire


Diet Debate

Although Richard Manning’s article addressed some important issues surrounding industrial agriculture (Hidden Downsides of the Green Revolution: Biodiversity Loss and Diseases of Civilization, June/July 2014), he made several arguments that are not supported by my reading of nutritional science. A high-carbohydrate diet without animal protein and refined foods (oil, sugar, white flour) is the only diet that has for decades been proved to prevent and even reverse heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Whole grains, beans, corn and potatoes are the basis of the world’s healthiest diets. Whole plant foods contain all the protein, calcium, iron and healthy fats we need. Sadly, the majority of grains, beans and corn that promote human health are used to produce meat, corn syrup, oils and biofuels. Finally, cholesterol is vital, but our bodies produce it. Cholesterol from foods is unnecessary and potentially dangerous.

Donna S. Lepley
Tucson, Arizona

That is the pretty straightforward view as developed over a couple of generations in nutrition science programs at land-grand universities. However, an emerging and compelling body of research counters this view. The New York Times reported on a recent study, backed by no less than the National Institutes of Health, that showed that people who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat — even saturated fat — lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet. I’ve looked at much of the research on both sides, and I am firmly in the low-carb camp. — Richard Manning


Freedom to Create

I’m surprised you’re still receiving letters regarding the article about remaining childless (Making a Green Choice: Childfree Living, February/March 2014). I’m old enough to remember the days when women were criticized if they admitted they didn’t want to have children. How crazy that seems now.

I have four children. One has a child, one does not want children, and two are looking forward to having children. In my uneducated opinion, all people want to be creative and want others to admire what they create. It could be their artwork, their garden or their children. As humans, we have a need to create, and it’s each individual’s decision as to what he or she wants to create. For your article to be so controversial shows that we’re still judging others according to our own principles instead of simply appreciating the different ways in which people create. I read MOTHER EARTH NEWS to get ideas for what I can create next, and no one should tell me which ideas I should follow.

Kaethe Phelps
Petaluma, California


Tackling the Tough Topics

Thank you for all the information you publish on the hows, whys, benefits and economics of Earth-friendly, sustainable living. I am nearly 80 years old, and I remember when, before World War II, most of the “hows” were common parts of everyday living.

You are to be highly commended for tackling two of today’s most crucial topics that are affecting the quality of human life, and, perhaps, even the continued existence of life on this planet:

1. Taking issue with the genetically modified foods being fabricated by certain multinational mega-corporations for profit, as well as the disturbing business tactics those companies use to promote these products as food sources for humans.

2. Looking at the issues being brought to the fore by the population explosion of the past 50 years. In my lifetime, the world population has tripled from about 2 billion to more than 7 billion. Bryan Welch’s article A Vision for a Better World (October/November 2013) struck a chord with me — in particular, his mention of the inevitable question from critics as to who to kill. Of course, his answer — that the human population will begin to decrease if most of us choose to reproduce ourselves only once — was correct and worded politely. But part of the answer, too, is that if we don’t do away with our apathetic mindset and start working to reduce our population over the next few generations, we’ll probably end up lobbing nuclear or chemical weapons at each other, and then we won’t have to worry about who to kill — we’ll all be dead, and this beautiful planet will be a barren mud ball. At least then we won’t have to worry about GMO-contaminated foods.

Thank you for your campaign to bring this potential disaster to the public forum. At my age, I don’t think I’ll live to see it resolved either way, but I hope to hand on to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren our world as beautiful as it was when I received it.

Mary Hart Pousset
Brighton, Michigan


Chemical Correction

I ask that you make an immediate correction to your article Another Study Links Bee Population Decline to Neonicotinoid Pesticides (October/November 2014). Cyantraniliprole is incorrectly identified as a neonicotinoid. DuPont does not manufacture neonicotinoids.

Cyantraniliprole is a diamide insecticide. When used according to the label directions for the intended applications and crops, including according to instructions provided to mitigate risk, cyantraniliprole products will not adversely impact bee populations.

Gregg M. Schmidt
DuPont Public Affairs
Wilmington, Delaware

We regret our error. As you might guess, not everyone agrees with DuPont’s claims that the new diamide insecticides are perfectly safe. In 2013, the Center for Food Safety and the American Bird Conservancy submitted 18 pages of comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), opposing registration of cyantraniliprole. The EPA chose to ignore the groups’ concerns and registered this new insecticide. Last summer, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, Defenders of Wildlife, and Earthjustice sued the EPA, arguing that cyantraniliprole should not have been registered. As chemical companies continue to push more potent and persistent systemic pesticides (both neonicotinoids and diamides) into widespread use, researchers are now warning that the cumulative effects of sublethal doses may include the disruption of food chains because of disease outbreaks in bats and birds, as well as harm to bees, butterflies, other insects and even mammals. (Check out the report: Immune Suppression by Neonicotinoid Insecticides at the Root of Global Wildlife Declines.) — MOTHER EARTH NEWS