Dear MOTHER: February/March 2016

Reader letters about inspiring market gardeners, the health benefits of bison, Tyson’s effects on Arkansas homeowners, the term “urban homesteading,” industrial egg products, forest burning, and more.

Jean-Martin and Maude

Market farmer Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife, Maude-Hélène Desroches, earn their living on 1.5 acres of organic garden beds in Quebec.

Photo by Alex Chabot

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Inspired by Market Farmers

The article Market Gardening: How to Make a Living on 1.5 Acres in your December 2015/January 2016 issue was super-insightful and inspiring. I enjoyed reading about the good fortune that market farmer Jean-Martin Fortier (pictured above) has experienced. He and his wife are clearly living a happy life and giving back to their community. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

I also love that this couple proved so many naysayers wrong. You can make a living as an organic market farmer; it just takes dedication! 

Jason Lee Beck
Drapher, Utah 


I’ll Never Retire My Subscription!

I’m a longtime MOTHER EARTH NEWS subscriber. In fact, in my library I have a copy of every Mother Earth News issue ever printed. I’ve lived the MOTHER life — I built an earth-sheltered home, have grown gardens, installed both solar- and wind-powered systems, and more. The next project on my bucket list is to build the Best Ever Solar Food Dehydrator that was featured in your June/July 2014 issue. That June/July issue, by the way, was one of your best yet.

Even at age 75, I’m not ready to “retire” my subscription. I have provided in my will that, in order to always receive my copies of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, a mailbox should be part of my tombstone. 

John James
Pierson, Florida


Advice for the Future

We’ve been reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS and your sister publication GRIT Magazine for many years, and they’ve both played an important part in our lives. We hope they’ll prove valuable for our kids’ lives, too. I’ve been cutting out and printing articles from both magazines to keep in envelopes. I stash the envelopes in the kids’ baby photo albums in the hope that our children will someday find the articles and use them as they start their own organic gardens. Thanks for all the years of hard work; they mean a lot to our family. 

Bill Woodsman
Sparrow Bush, New York


Freeze-Resistant Livestock Waterer

The reader-submitted idea about using insulated tires to keep livestock water from freezing is fantastic (Country Lore, December 2015/January 2016). I live in northern Utah and have been searching for such an idea for years. In my experience, heated electric buckets are costly to purchase and use. Plus, many of them don’t effectively keep water thawed. My husband and I are trying to move our homestead off-grid, so this tip for keeping water from freezing will be useful. 

Peggy Johnson
Northern Utah


Finding an Affordable Piece of Land

I greatly value my subscription to your magazine and have learned many life lessons by reading your pages. As a somewhat recent college graduate, I appreciate your articles that focus on building a debt-free home.

My husband and I are considering buying our first piece of land. I would love to see more articles that focus on the struggles of gaining access to affordable farmland for young farmers and homesteaders. 

Amanda Canham
Portland, Oregon

Amanda, check out the article How to Buy Farmland, Even if You Think You Can’t in our October/November 2012 issue. — MOTHER 


Bison, the Better Red Meat

The December 2015/January 2016 issue included the article Which Grass-Fed Beef Labels to Trust (Green Gazette). I say trust none of them! I’ve become a firm advocate of the nutritional value of pasture-raised bison that’s harvested in the field.

I became a bison proponent after reading the great book Buffalo for the Broken Heart while traveling through Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. During my travels, I talked with several ranchers who believe that pasture-raised bison meat is healthier than beef, turkey and pork. I’ve learned that bison meat has a high concentration of iron, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Many ranchers sell bison meat, but buyers should find out whether the animal was 100 percent grass-finished. This matters because when bison are fed grain — even just as a finisher — it reduces the meat’s healthy fat content. Also, try to source an animal that was killed in the field; this practice is less stressful for them. 

Ray Probart
Fort Pierce, Florida


From Sunroom to Greenhouse

I live way out in the country in northern New York state, and I have a semi-off-grid, 300-year-old farmhouse on 2 acres. About 11 years ago, I added an enclosed sunroom that faces south. It gets sun from about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during summer. The windows on three sides are completely insulated, but I haven’t used the room for years.

Can I convert this sunroom into a greenhouse?

Catherine Shaw Hoyt
Venice Center, New York

Catherine, your sunroom should work well as a greenhouse during winter months when the sun will be lower in the sky and sunlight will come more directly into the room. You could probably grow cold-season crops, such as spinach, without adding any heat if you start the spinach in fall. You will probably need to open the windows on warm, sunny days to prevent the room from overheating. — MOTHER


Corrections to Recent Articles

Roofing squares: In “Homesteaders Must Start with Money, Right?” (Dear MOTHER, October/November 2015), we reported that the Trumpey family spent a little more than $100 per square foot on its metal roofing material. This was an error; we should have stated that the Trumpeys spent slightly more than $100 per roofing square. A “roofing square” refers to traditional shingles packaged in bundles that each cover 100 square feet.

Omega count: The two rows referring to beef in the chart “Why Grass-Fed Is Better” from our article “Fat Matters: Understanding the Science” (December 2015/January 2016) were incorrect. We have amended the numbers in the online version of the article and in the rows shown here.


Try Squash with Cumin

The recipe for warm cucumbers with cumin in your August/September 2015 issue (The Gardener’s Table) is almost identical to the way I finally convinced my late husband to eat zucchini and summer squash. The main difference is that I use olive oil instead of butter (because of a dairy allergy), and I also include garlic. The aroma of this dish sizzling on the stove was enough to make a fan out of even a die-hard squash hater.

Sylvia Wulf
Brooksville, Florida


Living in ‘Tysonland’

I greatly enjoyed your article How Tyson Foods Kills Small Rural Towns (December 2014/January 2015). My wife and I live in Arkansas, and it’s a shame more people don’t know what Tyson is doing to the people and land here.

Tyson essentially owns Arkansas and can do no wrong. If you have a complaint against any Tyson farm, it sends people from the University of Arkansas in Tyson trucks to intimidate you. Tyson is even trying to get a state law passed that would make the disclosure of information about or pictures of its operations a felony.

A disgusting Tyson composting shed that employees throw chicken carcasses into is located right across the road from our home. To make matters even worse, raw human sewage was pumped onto open ground near the composting shed, which makes for an intolerable stench.

Thinking of how horrible the smell must be inside the compounds, I asked some of my neighbors, who work for Tyson, whether they wear masks when they’re inside the chicken houses. I was told that the owner of the chicken compound doesn’t require the employees to wear protective masks at all. The employees say they weren’t instructed in how to care for the dead chicken carcasses in terms of turning the compost, maintaining the compost at a certain temperature, or adhering to any sort of safety standards.

Bill Honeybee
Northwestern Arkansas


An Austrian Winter Peas Success Story

The community I live in received a U.S. Department of Agriculture high-tunnel grant, and we used it to put up a 30-by-75-foot tunnel in August. We tilled the site for construction and kept pulling weeds as they came up, but I worried that long-term weed control in a tunnel would be nearly impossible.

I began researching cover crops that met the requirements of the grant, the community and the soil. I learned about Austrian winter peas by reading your article Salads All Winter? You Bet, with Austrian Winter Peas (October/November 2014), and I realized that these peas would fulfill all the conditions. The peas suppress weeds and fix nitrogen in the soil, plus their shoots are edible. Thanks for such a comprehensive story.

Chrystalynn Cook
Ozark County, Missouri


Term ‘Urban Homesteading’ Can’t Be Trademarked

I thought you’d like to know that articles from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Archive were cited by a judge as crucial pieces of evidence that the phrase “urban homesteading” is generic. The trademark “urban homesteading” was registered by the Dervaes Institute of Pasadena, California. Self-described as a “religious society,” Jules Dervaes and members of his family operate the institute. After the Dervaeses complained to Facebook about trademark infringement, the company disabled multiple pages.

Court filings show that the Dervaes Institute tried to prevent others from using the phrase and had issued cease-and-desist letters to authors, publishers, farmers markets and even a public library. The urban homesteading community united in protest against the Dervaes Institute by starting two new Facebook pages and an online petition on Change's website that all demanded cancellation of the trademark. In December 2014, a small farmers market named Denver Urban Homesteading in Denver, Colorado, sued the Dervaes Institute and Jules Dervaes. The judge eventually cancelled the trademark because the phrase is generic, and generic words and phrases can’t be registered as trademarks. Readers can learn more about what transpired to revoke the trademark and free “urban homesteading” on the Denver Urban Homesteading website

James Bertini
Denver, Colorado


Goodbye, MOTHER

I started reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS in January 1970. I have every issue up to today’s date. When your magazine first came out, I felt it was the best DIY magazine on the market. However, throughout the past few years, your magazine has slowly become less interesting. It has become nothing but ads for expensive objects.

Jerry Giles
Wichita Falls, Texas


Forest Burning

I’m glad that in the article The Benefits of Smart Forest Management (October/November 2015), Joel Salatin recognized the role of Native Americans in managing forests. When I was teaching at Sonoma State University in California, my archaeology students — who came mostly from rural, agricultural backgrounds — told me that their fathers and grandfathers had learned how to perform controlled burning from the remaining local Native Americans. However, they had to abandon the burning practice when it was outlawed by the state.

In 1996, I was doing fieldwork in northeastern Oklahoma in a rural, mostly Cherokee community that still practiced controlled burning (though furtively, as burning was illegal there, too). In late summer, I could see little red fires creeping along the ridges during the day, but I could never spot flames at night. Anthropologists know of such controlled burning practices taking place around the world — in North America and Australia, for example. We’re reviving the traditions we’ve abandoned. 

Jeffrey Dickemann
Richmond, California


Ditch Industrial Eggs

Regarding the article Bird Flu Outbreak Sweeps Across Factory Farms (October/November 2015): I work as a cook at a breakfast restaurant (that I’m sure would rather not be named), which specializes in egg dishes. Mentioned in the article is the $700 million cost to taxpayers that was required to cope with the flu outbreak. Not mentioned, however, is that restaurant chains have caught wind of the crisis and purchased up to one year’s worth of freezable egg products, including beaters, whites and scramble mixes, in advance. This leaves taxpayers (if they can even find these products) to pay nearly double for egg-based items in some cases — on top of the millions we’ve already paid to support this industry.

I encourage everyone to jump ship now. Buy eggs from your local farmer or homesteader instead — the prices are now comparable with supermarket eggs. Support our communities and local businesses, and hold these corporate egg-pushers fiscally responsible for their costly and unethical practices. Now is the time for us to turn the tide on this corner of agriculture. 

Cody Crandell
Grand Junction, Colorado


Loves the FAIRS

I so enjoy all the speakers who come to your FAIRS to present. Being around a whole culture of like-minded people feels so good. Sometimes, it seems as though I’m the only one in my daily life who enjoys gardening and fresh produce, but attending a MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR revealed that thousands of people think just like me!

David Bentz
Omaha, Nebraska


A CSA in Sweden

We’re currently in the start-up stages of establishing a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program in Sweden. It will be the first of its kind in this area, and we’re really excited. Your article Market Gardening: How to  Make a Living on 1.5 Acres (December 2015/January 2016) is amazing and full of useful information that we’ll apply toward our endeavor. Thank you so much! 

Claire Leivers
Gothenburg, Sweden


Inspired by Vegetable Art

Thank you for Lynn Karlin’s wonderful photo essay about the beauty of vegetables (December 2015/January 2016). I loved Laura Dell-Haro’s text that accompanied the photos, specifically the quote “Grow with gratitude and honor the small wonders of your garden and harvest basket.”

Dianne Foster
Portland, Oregon


Displeased by Cigarette Ad

I was appalled to see an advertisement for cigarettes in the recent issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. It doesn’t matter if tobacco is organic; the ad still promotes an unhealthy habit that goes against everything your magazine stands for. My family loves your magazine, but that ad was disappointing. 

Drema Niece
Butler, Kentucky


Backing Up a Trailer

I received my first copy of MOTHER EARTH NEWS today and am enjoying the many wonderful articles and ideas. I read the article titled Fully Loaded: Types of Trailers for Your Homestead (October/November 2015) and saw the diagram demonstrating how to back up a motor vehicle with an attached trailer. The directions begin by stating, “Backing up requires … knowledge that the trailer will move in the opposite direction that you steer the tow vehicle.” This is, of course, correct, yet often maddening to accomplish.

However, if one steers the tow vehicle with a hand on the bottom of the steering wheel, the trailer will travel in the same direction the driver’s hand is moving. Try it — it’s much easier. And trust your mirrors.

Don Pastor
Adams Center, New York


MOTHER's Wish List

Email us to provide us with any of the following. We’d love to hear from you!

Roundup of homemade hot water setups. If you’ve rigged a low-tech system to provide solar hot water or water heated by your woodstove, please email us the details and use the subject line “Hot Water Setup.”

Homesteaders of the Year nominations. We’re proud to announce our fifth 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.” Deadline is March 15, 2016.

Omega-3 testing. Our initial testing of pastured products is going well (see more at MOTHER EARTH NEWS Omega-3, Omega-6 Fatty-Acid Testing). We’re organizing a new round of testing, both for pastured products and to measure fatty-acid levels in people who consume pastured foods regularly. If you would like to participate, send us an email with the subject line “Omega-3 Testing” or watch for more details in future issues.