Dear MOTHER: February/March 2015

Reader letters about livestock guardians, homemade deodorant, bidets for TP-free living, emergency generators, leeks, meat coverage in MOTHER EARTH NEWS, the wonder-working slow cooker, and more.

Spicy Eggs with Kale

“The magazine was hot out of the mailbox when I spotted the recipe for Spicy Eggs with Kale. Dinner plan, done!” — Sandy Pickard; Stafford, Va.

Photo by Erin Kunkel

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From Page to Plate

Whenever I receive my copy of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I always flip through to look at the photos before I read it cover to cover. Well, the magazine was hot out of the mailbox when I spotted the Spicy Eggs with Kale Recipe (Easy Meals: One-Pot Recipes for Every Season, December 2014/January 2015). Dinner plan, done! It was on the table within an hour and before I had read a single other article. And, oh my — it was delicious! I will be making this recipe again.

Sandy Pickard
Stafford, Virginia

An Ode to Odie, Our Gentle Giant

Here’s our own steadfast homestead companion, Odie, wanting to read the article about livestock guardians for himself (Solve Your Predator Problems with Livestock Guardian Dogs, Donkeys, Llamas and More, December 2014/January 2015). Odie is a rescue dog from our local animal shelter. He’s a Great Pyrenees and possibly part German Shepherd.

We are urban farmers, and we have three hens that need to be protected from our neighborhood opossum. Odie walks the fence line all day, making us aware of predators, trains passing through, loud cars, and unwanted dogs and cats.

Your article gave us new ideas as to how we can engage Odie in even more guardian functions on our homestead. To him, we are his flock — my husband, our 5-year-old daughter and myself, along with the trio of hens, a kitten, an adult cat, and a Chinese Crested dog that Odie continues to boss around daily. Because of Odie’s presence, we feel safe and confident that nothing will enter our domain as long as he’s on guard.

Some people report that Great Pyrenees bark too often, but Odie barks only to let us know if something is out of the ordinary. I have owned many different breeds of dogs, and Pyrs actually bark less than some others do — at least our gentle giant does.

Sara Davis
Lexington, North Carolina

Wide-Ranging Opinions

My mom subscribed to MOTHER EARTH NEWS the first year it came out, and it has been a part of my life ever since. Your growth has attracted a diverse group of people with varied ideas about life. This has allowed for intolerance and ugly emotions to sometimes show up in your letters-to-the-editor section.

Folks read your articles to learn how to go green and live a simpler life, and to gain hope that others are doing the same. Exchanging constructive ideas is fine; providing a forum for know-it-alls and negatively opinionated thinkers does not fit what I think your mission is. I suggest sticking to education by removing letters to the editor from the magazine.

We are committed to sharing our readers’ range of viewpoints, even if the conversations are sometimes intense and uncomfortable. Our hope is that such open discussion will be constructive for us all.MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Melanie Goforth Hosch
Wirtz, Virginia

If Not in MOTHER, Where?

Don’t back off discussions of climate change, organic vs. conventional agriculture methods, water resources, and other environmental matters. They may represent “political” issues for some readers, but they are real issues, and if they can’t be discussed here, among people who love the Earth, then where can they be discussed?

I think MOTHER EARTH NEWS has done a great job of not taking sides but still having a dialogue on these critical topics.

Michael McLane
Roswell, Georgia

Homemade Deodorant Hack

I was happy to see the article Homemade Bath Products: Shampoo, Deodorant and Toothpaste in the December 2014/January 2015 issue. I’ve been interested in simple-ingredient body care products for some time, and I first made my own deodorant about a year ago using a recipe identical to yours. It turned out great, and I even omitted the essential oils because I do so love the smell of coconut oil.

The only problem was that here in Arizona, the temperature is often above 76 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the melting point of coconut oil. A short bit of research suggested beeswax could keep my deodorant solid. So now, I use about a half-ounce of pure beeswax melted in with the half-cup of coconut oil. That tweak allowed me to use my homemade deodorant through the hot summer months.

Dugan Eckstein
Phoenix, Arizona

Meat in the Middle

Thank you for your wonderful magazine! I have been reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS for several years now and enjoy it very much. One subject nags at me, though: Please include a fair and diverse representation of opinions on eating meat.

Your coverage, from what I have been able to observe, is very one-sided. I’m quite sure that, among your readership, there are far more vegetarians than there are among the general populace. I think we’d all benefit from a deeper and wider discussion of the issues involved in eating meat.

April Ford
Sacramento, California

Living Small? Share Your Story!

I’ve spent decades writing about hand-built, unique and tiny homes. The important thing about the tiny home “movement” happening these days is not that all people should be living in tiny homes, but that the size of new homes should be getting smaller rather than continuing to expand. The interest in living small is definitely growing: Shelter Publications’ book Tiny Homes has sold more than 60,000 copies, and, with the recent surge of attention on the subject, it’s selling more than 1,000 copies per month. To encourage the shift to smaller houses that aren’t necessarily “tiny,” our next book will be Small Homes, as a small home is a lot more realistic for the majority of people than a tiny home is.

We’re inviting MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers to send us photos of and details about their own small homes, or to pass along leads of people living in — or currently building — small homes, so we can potentially include these in our next book. We’re looking for homes that are 400 to 1,200 square feet, or thereabouts. (The maximum size of the homes featured in Tiny Homes is 500 square feet.) You can send information to us at Small Homes. We’re planning to publish Small Homes in a couple of years.

Lloyd Kahn
Shelter Publications
Bolinas, California

The Luxury of One’s Own Land

Joel Salatin is a great leader in the effort to change our views on food, but I do have a comment about his article Fighting for a Sane Food System in the October/November 2014 issue. Salatin exposes a lot of our cultural excuses for not investing in healthy foods and offers ways to confront them; however, I thought he didn’t adequately address the fact that having your own land — and being able to manage it as you wish — is not a luxury everyone has.

Many people don’t have access to land to garden or raise livestock on because they are renting property they don’t have the right to till, or they live in neighborhoods controlled by fascist neighborhood associations, or they live in small apartments with no land at all.

Also, for half the United States and many of your readers, water is an expensive and limited resource. I would welcome articles about simple and efficient DIY, gravity-fed irrigation systems, as well as articles about the community gardens and shared-livestock programs available across the country, which would be helpful to anyone — but especially to the landless.

Kolby Olson
Rancho Cucamonga, California

Dubious About DuPont

I’m writing in response to the DuPont public affairs representative’s letter defending one of the company’s newest pesticides (Dear MOTHER, December 2014/January 2015). According to the research group Corporate Watch:

“There is hardly a single chemical toxin in which DuPont has not played a major role in developing. The company pioneered the production of sulfur dioxide, leaded petrol, CFCs and, recently, deep-well injection of hazardous waste. The company then used dubious science, political manipulation and cover-up to avoid restrictions on their use. During its 200 years of existence, DuPont has committed a staggering amount of corporate crimes.”

Norman Nyburg
Akron, Ohio

Going TP-Free

The idea to use cloths instead of toilet paper (Creating a Reusable ‘Family Cloth’ System, October/November 2014) is a good one, and I’ve heard about it before. It does seem funky to the uninitiated, but really it’s no different from reusing cotton diapers.

I have my own method for saving toilet paper that I have been using for more than a year: a bidet. Bidets are quite sanitary and have been around almost as long as the flush toilet (which I haven’t used at my home since 1982). With a bidet, you feel fresh and clean, and it takes less time than wiping with anything. After I “wash,” I pat dry with a washcloth. I haven’t used one square of toilet paper since I installed my bidet, and even though it uses warm water, the amount of water is well less than a quart. For those who would like, there are bidet attachments for a standard toilet instead of a dedicated bidet.

Joseph Kaye
Phenix, Virginia

Want more info? Go to, a great website for learning about bidets. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS

Emergency Generator Tip

I enjoyed Steve Maxwell’s piece about backup emergency generators, and I agree with his suggestion to go with a larger generator upfront (Emergency Generators Great Source for Backup Power, December 2014/January 2015). I did the same thing, because we, too, have had our share of more frequent power outages of seemingly increasing durations.

However, I have found a better way to go than the “mandatory” transfer switch Steve references in his article. (My solution might not be available yet where Steve lives in Canada, but it works great here in New York!)

I bought a dual-fuel, 7,500-watt, electric-start, portable generator, added an adapter for natural gas, and decided on an interlock kit. This little item absolutely ensures that the backup power supply is completely isolated from the utility supply and provides power to every circuit in the electrical panel, so no advance decisions are necessary to determine which outlets and appliances will have power in an emergency. The electrician and plumber cost me less than $500 for their part of the effort.

Todd Messler
Nanuet, New York

‘Leeking’ a Culinary Secret

In Growing and Cooking Leeks and Winter Squashes (December 2014/January 2015), Barbara Damrosch wrote that leeks are never eaten raw. While this may be true traditionally, there is certainly no reason why they shouldn’t be. Raw is pretty much the only way I eat mine.

Leeks are excellent sliced into fall and winter salads, or as a topping on a fried-egg or salmon-salad sandwich. In any dish in which raw onions or scallions would be tasty, leeks would prove tasty, too.

Merri Morgan
Greenville, West Virginia

Stop Barging In

I live in Juneau, Alaska, and about 99.9 percent of our entire food and medicine supply is shipped up here. There is no road in or out — literally, every necessity must be flown or barged in. I would like to see some articles in MOTHER EARTH NEWS about communities’ efforts to increase the viability of local food production. We have seen a huge revival of purposeful cultivation here in Juneau, and a lot more people than you might imagine are diving in. Getting the community involved is still challenging, but in spite of that, the number of gardens here increases every year!

Reena Etheridge
Juneau, Alaska

Primitive Skills

Could you include more articles about “primitive arts” in the magazine? I would like your take on things like homemade camping stoves, how to spin, making a loom for simple weaving projects, using hand tools around the farm, and other such projects.

Ayn Whytemare
Suncook, New Hampshire

Thank you for the suggestions. In addition to the feedback we receive from readers through letters and emails, we decide which topics to cover in the magazine based on input from our online Editorial Advisory Group. Anyone who wants to weigh in on which articles we should include can join the Advisory Group to take the short surveys that we send out via email about once a month. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS

A Hunger for Home Ec

While I totally agree with Joel Salatin that we need to combat the notion that processed food is cheap and “integrity foods” are prohibitively expensive (Fighting for a Sane Food System, October/November 2014), perhaps there is an additional dilemma we need to consider. I watched a news program recently in which parents in lower-income households routinely bought expensive, highly processed, microwavable meals that don’t taste good or satisfy hunger. It was puzzling, until I realized that neither the parents nor the children knew how to prepare a healthy meal from raw ingredients. They only knew how to microwave.

We need to bring back home economics classes in middle schools and high schools so students can learn basic cooking and baking skills as well as how to follow a recipe. Combine that knowledge with an electrical outlet and a slow cooker, and any number of healthy, time- and budget-friendly meals becomes possible.

For less than $10, a slow cooker can turn a couple of chicken thighs, rice, and fresh or frozen vegetables of your choice into a nutritious, delicious meal.

Perhaps nonprofit organizations would consider providing lower-income families with a free, basic cooking class, a recipe book and an inexpensive slow cooker. Time-crunched, working families could put dinner together before leaving for work, and, instead of stopping for fast food at the end of the day, could then enjoy a ready-to-eat, tasty meal at home with very little money or effort.

¡Viva la slow cooker!

Sally Smith
Monroe, Oregon

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Our Facebook community had a range of opinions about Fossil Fuel Divestment: A Growing Movement (December 2014/January 2015):

We are all dependent on fossil fuels because our modern world was structured that way. I support divestment because we have to change our way of thinking and press for alternatives. — Michael Abel

I just remembered why I dropped your magazine subscription years ago. Agendas aren’t welcome. — Ryan Anita Murdock

When are people going to wake up? There is no climate change! It’s been proven. It’s just the Earth’s natural weather pattern, and the government is trying to make us pay taxes to fund something someone dreamed up. — Doris Phillips

I don’t get this all-or-nothing mentality on both sides. We should develop alternatives while still utilizing fossil fuels. It’s when people go all-or-nothing that we get all sorts of unnecessary conflicts. The only fact that matters is that this planet is our home and we need to take good care of it. — Ivan Nenov

Words as Tools

I’d like to thank Joel Salatin for pointing out the power that words can have in his article A ‘New-Fashioned’ Food System That Helps and Heals (December 2014/January 2015). In addition to Salatin’s new phraseology, there’s another small yet powerful word that can be used to attract people to more sustainable living: “free.”

In today’s economy, the word “free” garners immediate attention. Imagine the looks on the faces of the people at the soup kitchen when I tell them they can find medicine in their backyards disguised as weeds (plantain, comfrey and many others). I can give a friend a potted tomato plant and tell her that if she gives it a little water, it will give her free tomatoes. Free-range chickens not given any supplements will also give eggs (just not as frequently as they would if they had layer feed). Many people are not averse to putting in a little extra work if they know they can get something “free” out of it (as with gardening), and some are even willing to make an investment upfront to gain benefits down the road (as with renewable energy).

My family of five has lived below the poverty level for the past 15 years, and we are always looking for ways to save money. That’s what first started us down the road to becoming more self-sufficient, and a gift subscription to MOTHER EARTH NEWS gave us the tools to do it.

Amy Smith
Lavonia, Georgia

Baker Creek Kudos

We enjoyed reading How to Source Truly High-Quality Seeds in the December 2014/January 2015 issue, and we’d like to pass along to fellow readers another seed company that we think falls in line with those mentioned in the article. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, started by Jere Gettle in 1998, is an excellent company that distributes non-GMO, non-hybrid seeds that are never sourced from Monsanto. We’ve had a great experience working with Baker Creek, and we’ve had terrific results with the produce we’ve grown from their seeds.

Judith Edwards and Evan Schneider
Portland, Oregon

The Bees’ Needs

In response to the article Plant Pollination Primer for Backyard Gardeners (October/November 2014): There has been a lot of news recently about colony collapse disorder and the threat of poor harvests as a result of it. Perhaps monoculture farming techniques are to blame. Growers of single-crop fields or orchards should consider planting shelterbelts that attract, protect and nourish native pollinators.

John Foster
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Concerned in Vermont

While reading Vermont Leads the Way on GMO Labeling, Worker-Owned Cooperatives and Sustainable Population (Green Gazette, October/November 2014), I became frustrated. I’m a resident Vermonter, and the things highlighted in the article are the kinds of things that are turning Vermont away from the simple dairy-farming state it used to be into one with a high-bureaucracy, anti-business climate. We average Joes who love living the homesteading lifestyle are left struggling in a stagnant economy.

Most upsetting was what sounded like a lobbying group (Vermonters for a Sustainable Population) that is working to find a way to shrink the state’s population by 126,000 residents. In our small state, that’s a ton of people. My family will probably be one of the ones that gets weeded out because of the lack of jobs, the constant leaps in taxes, and the fast-rising cost of living.

Ben Olsen
Elmore, Vermont

A Fan of Cam

I have been a longtime MOTHER EARTH NEWS subscriber. I enjoy reading the articles, cutting out all the projects I want to try, and then adding them to my 30-pound accordion folder. I also enjoy looking at the photos of farms and living off the land — I call this my “farm porn.”

I have read many books recommended by MOTHER EARTH NEWS, but one of my favorites that has stuck with me is Thriving During Challenging Times by Cam Mather. Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.

Thank you, MOTHER, for continuing to educate me. No matter how many years I have subscribed, I still learn something new with every issue, whether it’s from an ad or from other readers sharing their experiences.

Stephanie Young
Lexington, South Carolina

A Note of Gratitude

For years, I have read your magazine and browsed through the articles umpteen times, studying and taking notes on how to have a better garden and save money. I even raised chickens according to what I discovered in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

As long as I live, I will never ever be able to thank you enough for all the hard work that goes into making such a great source of information. I will forever be a subscriber to MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

James Reynolds
La Porte, Indiana

Finding Camaraderie at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

We exhibited at our first MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Topeka, Kan., in October. Unlike many of the other booths, the only thing we were selling was awareness, spreading the word about our ranch community for adults with intellectual disabilities. We were blown away by the number of people who stopped by our booth to talk to and encourage us.

We’re working hard to become a more sustainable operation on our 410 acres, and we returned home with all kinds of ideas and resources. And do I need to add that we had the time of our lives? Thanks, MOTHER, for a great adventure in the heartland.

Judy Horton
Elgin, Texas

‘If Only School Had Been That Enjoyable!’

What a great time we had attending the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Kansas! We got a much-needed break from our hectic lives and actually got to do something as a couple, leaving our four wonderful children with grandma. Perhaps it was these almost honeymoon-like circumstances that made us so giddy, but I’m suspecting the FAIR contributed much to our happiness.

We spent two days meeting some amazing people and cramming our brains with new information. Oh, if only school had been that enjoyable! Is there any chance, in the future, that you would consider a FAIR venue a little farther south? We drove 8-1/2 hours, from southeast Oklahoma, to attend.

Jennifer Davis
Antlers, Oklahoma

Jennifer, we continue to add locations for our FAIRS every year. In 2015, we’ll be bringing the FAIR to Asheville, N.C.; Albany, Ore.; West Bend, Wis.; Seven Springs, Pa.; and Topeka, Kan. For event dates and much more information, go to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR website. Hope to see you again at a FAIR!MOTHER EARTH NEWS


Homesteaders of the Year nominations. We’re proud to announce our fourth annual Homesteaders of the Year contest. We’re seeking individuals and families who embody the self-reliant, modern-homesteading lifestyle. To nominate your family or someone you know, send us 500 words explaining why your nominee deserves to be recognized, along with at least three photos. Use the subject line “Homesteaders of the Year.” The deadline for entries is March 15, 2015.