Reader letters about apartment living, urban homesteading, raising rabbits, sustainable investing, homestead advice, building with SIPs, wild meat, global warming, sustainable families and hope for the future.
Let’s create a world where anyone who wants to can live in the country.
ILLUSTRATION: FRANK FRETZ
I was planning not to renew my subscription because I live in an apartment and it is impossible for me to raise livestock, build outbuildings or install solar panels. But your last issue (April/May 2012) was so interesting and full of inspiration that I changed my mind and will renew my subscription. Many thanks for your fine publication.
Elizabeth Anne Middleton
Santa Barbara, California
Very glad you are staying with us, Elizabeth. We do our best to make MOTHER EARTH NEWS valuable to readers living in the city as well as those who live in the country. We’re sending you copies of The Urban Homestead, by Kelly Coyne and Eric Knutzen, and Urban Homesteading, by Rachel Kaplan with Ruby Blume. We think you’ll really enjoy both books! — MOTHER EARTH NEWS
I just finished reading the article The Threats From Genetically Modified Foods (April/May 2012), and I have been following closely the movement to label our foods. But what really hit home for me was the fact that most of the mutual funds in my 401(k) contain, in one form or another, Monsanto stocks or companies directly owned or controlled by Monsanto. I thought I was being responsible and saving for my future, when in reality, I’m contributing money to companies I would never knowingly support.
I would love to see MOTHER EARTH NEWS do an article covering responsible investment options and post a list of mutual funds and companies that are more in line with the “MOTHER base.”
Monroe, North Carolina
Readers, if you have experience with sustainable investing, please share your thoughts by posting a comment to our 2005 article Green Investing. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS
I was raised in rural Alaska by nontraditional parents, and MOTHER EARTH NEWS was always around the house. Now, as an adult, I’m going on my second year of subscription to MOTHER EARTH NEWS and am finding the knowledge and sense of community to be even more valuable as I chart a healthier and more intentional course for my life.
However, I believe there is an element of honesty missing from our conversation about sustainability. The reality is that we are in a position of great privilege to even be able to consider homesteading as an option for a family of two to six on 5 to 150 acres. There are more than 7 billion people on this planet and that number is rising. Despite its benefits, the homesteading model is as unsustainable as Big Ag monoculture for addressing the issues we face on a global scale.
Obviously, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for meeting the world’s health and nutrition needs. My challenge to MOTHER EARTH NEWS and to all of us: As we continue this conversation about sustainability, self-reliance and healthy, simple living, let’s explore innovative models and/or practices to address our evolving and dynamic needs honestly. A great website to investigate what others are doing on this front is Worldchanging.
We’ve given the question you raise a great deal of thought, Benjamin. We think that living in the country on a few acres should be possible for everyone who desires that life. This option can be a part of a sustainable world if enough of us stop assuming that human population growth is inevitable. Humans are pretty smart, and we think eventually enough people will understand that our population could just as easily shrink if we decided we could all enjoy a better life if there were only, say, 5 billion of us instead of 7 or 10 or 20 billion. Some folks will always prefer to live in cities, while others will prefer the country.
Yes, humans can be selfish, and sometimes our actions are downright stupid. But we opt to be optimists about humanity’s potential to evolve to a sustainable population level that allows for a variety of lifestyle choices. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS
As someone who is living frugally these days, I hesitated before buying the latest MOTHER EARTH NEWS, but I’m so glad I forked out the cash! I love the wisdom and inspiration that your nine homesteaders shared in Guide to Self-Sufficient Living: Advice From Nine Modern Homesteaders (February/March 2012) — practical, sincere and useful information from experienced folks who have been through it all. My next step: attempting homesteading as a single woman. I wish Harvey Ussery were my next-door neighbor so I could go to him for advice.
Readers, one issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS costs $5.99 on the newsstand. A new subscriber can get a one-year subscription (six issues) for as little as $10. Go to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS subscription page to sign up! — MOTHER EARTH NEWS
I read your article Is There Poison in Our Food? Concerns About BPA (February/March 2012) and found it to be excellent. Thank you for the heads-up, and I won’t be buying canned foods or drinks anymore. I’m getting rid of the few remaining plastics in my kitchen and am going to start using canning jars for storing leftovers. I’m also referring people to your article, especially those with children.
I believe that our industrial food system, plastics and a host of other modern materials are responsible for many of the health and development issues plaguing modern humans — including autism. It seems to me that the increase in autism is much more likely to be attributable to the lifelong exposure to the poisons we eat and drink than to limited exposure to a small amount of material in childhood inoculations.
I’m writing, though, because of a tip you printed in the same issue. Barb Hildebrand wrote in to say that she bakes zucchini bread in cans that she saves all year. I would have thought it was a wonderful suggestion, but, after reading the BPA article — especially the part about BPA being released with heat — the idea scares me.
North Royalton, Ohio
I just read your excellent online article on preserving eggs. A few years ago, I took a dozen eggs to be judged at the grange fair. They were delivered to the fair on a Sunday in August and available for pickup the following Sunday. That meant they sat out for about eight days in August. Instead of throwing them away, as others were doing, I took the 11 survivors home and stashed them in my spare refrigerator — and promptly forgot about them. In early December, I remembered they were down there and brought them upstairs and used them for my Christmas cookies. People were amazed at this, but your article proved that it was not a fluke.
I’m writing to commend you on your amazing website! I’m a single mother who aspires to live an organic life, raising heritage breed animals and heirloom veggies. I live in London, Ontario, and am working to save money and educate myself about farming. Currently, I’m only able to raise meat rabbits and grow a small vegetable patch, but I’m always looking to learn new things, and when I’m looking for answers (on Google), your site is always where I end up! I’m grateful to be able to have your website bookmarked and be able to go there when I need guidance. My deepest thanks.
I read the Caprine Community blog post on selecting a dairy goat, and I am concerned about the comments made by Caitlyn Menne regarding the Oberhasli breed. I‘ve been raising dairy goats since 1976 and have had experience with every breed. I’ve never experienced bad-tasting milk from an Oberhasli, and it is the breed preferred by many of my fellow goat breeders because of the breed’s sweet, tasty milk.
As a third-generation carpenter, I felt that a response was warranted to some concerns that a reader voiced in your October/November 2011 letters section comparing SIPs (structural insulated panels) and ICFs (insulated concrete forms) construction. I’ve been a part of many house-building projects, including a number of SIPs homes. The technology that the SIPs manufacturers have put into their panels in the last 25 to 30 years is incredible. A SIPs structure is no more susceptible to termite damage than conventionally framed houses. As for mold or separation of the layers of OSB and foam, those are all water damage-related issues and should never be a major concern when putting up a new SIPs structure.
One of the more attractive features about SIPs is how incredibly quickly you can put up the walls and roof and then wrap the house. With a small crew and a crane, an average-sized house can be up and covered in a day. Also, their sound-dampening qualities are unreal. The only real drawback of SIPs that I can find is their cost. They are rather expensive, but should I ever have the resources to build my own home, I would not hesitate to have an ICF basement with SIPs walls and roof.
I wanted to thank David Petersen for his contribution in the February/March 2012 issue (Why I Eat Wild Meat). I absolutely loved it! David’s eloquent and poignant article articulated the many good reasons for hunting. There is certainly no joy in the act of killing. In fact, at times it has been known to make a grown hunter shed a tear in reverence for the passing of a beautiful animal. Hunting is about being close to nature and taking responsibility for our own food.
We are also staunch supporters of the reintroduction of the wolf in our home state of Arizona. This surprises some people, as my family roots are in the cattle ranching industry even to this day. Simply put, we’re supporters of all wildlife, nature and its delicate balance. All of us on this planet are stewards of this great land, whether we realize it or not.
I’ve been reading your magazine for about five years, and I’ve always been impressed with your willingness to show multiple sides to every story. What I especially love is how you print criticism of your publication right next to the compliments. That type of transparency is especially rare. I do, more often than not, disagree with the criticisms, especially those who take offense at things you’ve published and then decide to cancel their subscription. That’s exactly the kind of narrow-mindedness that causes problems.
Global warming is a hoax. I will most likely unsubscribe to everything you do and essentially throw the baby out with the bath water. Yes, it is that repulsive, especially given that people look to you for answers and they get this globalist unproven junk science. I really had more confidence in MOTHER EARTH NEWS.
I have been reading about the population debate in MOTHER EARTH NEWS for a while. I can’t recall anyone mentioning that not only does the number of children we have matter, but how we raise them matters. I happen to have five wonderful children and many people would cringe at that, yet I would challenge them that we are using fewer resources than many other high-consuming families with fewer children. Some brief examples: I exclusively breast-feed, use cloth diapers, make homemade baby food, buy all clothes secondhand (except underwear), home-school, and my kids all know to put their peels and cores in the compost and turn off lights when they leave the room.
We are currently building a passive solar straw bale home on 4.5 acres, with cash, and have a large organic garden and orchard. Our plans will soon include meat rabbits, laying hens and broilers. Meanwhile, we only eat locally raised meat, eggs and raw milk. We vacation locally and plan on going back to one vehicle after our home is finished and my husband can bike to work. We faithfully tithe more than 10 percent of our income to charity and routinely produce homemade foods, soap and more. My idea of a good time is bargain hunting at a rummage sale or used bookstore.
I could go on, but my point is that before you judge a family just by its size, try looking a bit deeper and see how they are truly living their lives.
I would like to comment on the The Joys of Building a Home Together article (December 2011/January 2012) about the Baker family. I think they are some of the smartest people I’ve ever read about. What a heritage for their boys. Such a solid home; I can see grandchildren running in and out on the porch. Don’t ever sell it!
My husband, Tommy, decided he wanted goats after his last deployment to Afghanistan. At first I thought he was nuts. “Goats?” I said. “When did you decide you wanted goats?” But he convinced me and now I am as goat crazy as he is. Here’s a great picture of Tommy [image gallery link](a big ol’ tough First Sergeant with the U.S. Military Police) sitting on our couch with our newest little doeling wearing a pink collar cuddled in the crook of his arm. He loves all the animals on our little farm and is a total softy when it comes to any fuzzy-wuzzy little critter.
Welcome home, Tommy. You can read more about raising goats in our Caprine Community blog. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS
I’d like to extend my gratitude to you for publishing the article Rabbit: A Great Meat Animal for Small Homesteads (October/November 2011). I have wanted to raise rabbits for meat for some time but have trepidations regarding humane butchering. I greatly appreciate the photo showing the proper placement of the rabbit for a quick and humane death. For those of us who have chosen to include meat in our diet, it is important to have respect for the life we take to nourish our bodies.
Dripping Springs, Texas
I want to say how much I enjoyed your how-to-raise-rabbits information. We were teetering on the fence about raising rabbits or chickens, and you helped us make our decision. Of course, chickens will probably come later, but I’m looking forward to the rabbits for their garden enhancement and as a way to compost my extra garden scraps. The fact that the return on meat is so great is an added bonus!
Greenwood, South Carolina
In your News From MOTHER, Hope for the Future (February/March 2012), you asked: “Why is there peace?” The answer is truly simple. To have true peace, both sides of a conflict must decide to have peace and work to make it happen. The same answer applies to developing a sustainable lifestyle.
Everyone should work to develop the skills for self-reliance. The true challenge is understanding when to be self-reliant, when to be interdependent and develop community, and when to be dependent because you recognize your inability to do for yourself. Learning to recognize when to use each one is necessary to have peace and develop sustainability.
First, let me say how much I have enjoyed your magazine through the years. Next, I want to say how confused I am with the editorial Hope for the Future in the February/March 2012 issue. How can you print that violence is on the decline when the next article (Is There Poison in Our Food? Concerns About BPA) tells us that the chemical industry is knowingly poisoning all of us?
Murder may be on the decline, but bullying is epidemic. We have a food industry in this country that disguises chemicals as food and encourages us to eat them, knowing they are bad for us. Each week, runoff petroleum pollution in our oceans equals the Valdez oil spill. Children are being removed from their homes because parents refuse to put harmful chemicals in their children’s bodies. Violence goes beyond murder, and war is not always a conflict between nations. Violence is not declining; it’s merely taking other forms.
Is there hope? Yes. Each time someone looks honestly at our world situation and sees the mess and then says, “What can I do to help?” there is hope. Each time someone realizes that different does not mean bad, there is hope. Each time someone goes beyond themselves to act for the good of all, there is hope.
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