Dear Mother: October/November 2008

Letters from our readers on MAX and 100 mpg, no-dig garden beds, manure as a deer deterrent and more.

| October/November 2008

Jack McCornack and MAX

Jack McCornack and MAX just before being on the receiving end of a fender bender. Fortunately, Jack’s just fine, and MAX will be soon enough. You can follow their progress in the Energy Matters blog,


Get 100 mpg — Today

I would like to applaud Jack McCornack (Here Comes the 100 MPG Car) for his efforts to help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil and the pollution our vehicles cause. I believe we will see changes in the automotive industry over the next few years, the likes of which we haven’t seen in many decades.

I’d like to remind everyone not only to drive a fuel-efficient vehicle, but also drive efficiently. Every driver should be able to obtain a 20 percent to 30 percent improvement over their vehicles’ combined EPA ratings just by modifying their driving habits. The most important tip is to slow down. In effect, you’ll spend an extra 20 to 30 cents per gallon for every 5 mph you drive above 60 mph.

I’m not waiting on the 100 mpg car — my 2000 Honda Insight has a combined rating of 53 mpg, but by modifying my driving habits I’m averaging above 100 mpg. My last 10-gallon tank covered 1,050 miles, or 105 mpg. Let us not forget the most efficient transportation is still our own two feet.

Reid Stewart
Irving, Texas

Many Roads to Fuel-efficiency

Thanks for the article on Jack McCornack’s quest to build the 100-mpg car. It’s an interesting project, and I look forward to reading more about its progress.

Looking further down the road to a post-petroleum world, I’d like to see you come up with a project to build a velomobile (i.e. a weatherproof pedal powered vehicle). A few such vehicles are available, but they’re ridiculously expensive and most don’t have cargo space for even a couple of bags of groceries.

I remember Mother Earth News published plans for a practical and inexpensive recumbent trike some years ago; perhaps these plans could be dusted off and brought up to date!

10/3/2008 11:37:56 AM

Good Fire cont... As i was saying, then fill stove with logs cut to fit in a log truck loading style. With front bottom logs resting on the coals, then shut the door, and close down both vents all the way, then open both one full turn only! Then damp down the flew to at least 3/4, this will need to be experimented with depending on length and diameter of stovepipe. Then, just walk away, your fire will burn all night, and the stove will still be warm the next morning, and have enough coals to rake forward and start the process all over again. The stove is cleaned of most creosote deposits during the hot kindling phase of the process. There is not other stove out there that can perform like a Fisher! And useing so little wood! And no, I am not affiliated to Fisher stoves in any way! Happy Heating

10/3/2008 10:46:12 AM

I read with great interest the commentary in the latest issue regarding proper wood burning technique. It seems he and I have much diffeent ideas of what constitutes a "good " fire, or even woodstove for that matter. I was trained twenty years ago by a man who built Fisher stoves in Pennsylvania. There is only one way to burn effeciently, and it requires the correct woodstove to do so. A long narrow stove is the most heat effecient first of all. the stove draws from the front and vents at the back, and there are chambers in the upper story of the stove. There are other brands out there, but the Fisher stoves have always been consistent, and back then anyway, came in three sizes, baby, mama,and papa bear. The right size stove for the square footage is imperative. The Fisher has a profile of a square boot on legs. The entire top surface area is suitable for cooking,with pots and pans of various sizes, and the two different levels allows for heat variations. A stove that is cooking your meals while it heats your home is doing two jobs for the price of one! Back to technique. A good fire starts with good dry kindling, and very little paper if any will be needed to start a fire, ever! Pine is perfect, and it should be cut in strips , just as thin as your aim will allow, this job is best done with a very sharp ,small hand ax. The kindling should equal in a mama or papa bear about a loaf of breads worth pile. lay it in the middle of the firebox, put a match to it, and shut the door, with door vents and flew wide open. There should be a lot of roaring and ticking in both the stove and the pipe as the stove heats up, when the crackling subsides add about 2 or 3 pieces of wood that your hand encloses easily, right on top of embers, and repeat the same process, then, open door, rake coals all the way forward, and using logs that are precut to the length of your stove, lay your fire. If you have done everything right, you can fill the stove with wood in a log-truck

dairy goat


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