Vegetables Front and Center


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Vegetables Front and Center

Veggies on the cover of Mother Earth News? What a nice surprise. I was beginning to wonder if I had subscribed to People magazine. Thank you for omitting the celebrities from this issue. It was wonderful to read helpful articles about fencing, gardening, farming and more, without having to waste my time flipping past the famous-people stories. Hope you publish more magazines like this outstanding issue.

Terry White
Sprague River, Oregon

Celebrities Welcome

Keep up the wonderful way you are incorporating stars of film and television who are promoting and supporting environmental protection and betterment for all of us on this fragile gift we are given called EARTH.

James Carlson Jr.
Paw Paw, Illinois

Recruiting Allies

I am a longtime subscriber to Mother. I would like to respond to the complaints regarding articles about celebrities. I have a feeling that some people who would not otherwise pick up a copy of Mother may just do so to read such an article, and may just read some of the other articles, and even may think more about their choices as a result of it. Sounds like a good hope to me. Keep at it, Mom.

Jan Mills
Banks, Oregon

U.S. Isn’t Negligent

Your article “Bob Redford’s Quest” (December/January 2006) was very biased in implying the United States is “playing Nero while the planet burns.” This is simply not true. Even though the article was about Robert Redford, you did a disservice by implying that Kyoto is the only option to solve our climate disruption woes and that the United States is negligent in environmental matters.

Marcia A. Hintz
Grand Rapids, Ohio

Honoring our Storytellers

Your interview with Robert Redford brought to mind a very powerful moment in my life as a writer. I was privileged to hear Elie Wiesel speak at the University of Houston. He spoke of the liberation of Auschwitz, where he previously had been held prisoner. He said that, at that time, Jews around the world began to hope that the truth finally might be told about the treatment of Jews in Europe. He said they believed that once the evil was exposed, this kind of thing could never happen again. Yet, he said, today we look around the world and see the same evil happening.

At the end of his talk, Wiesel held out one avenue of hope: faithfulness to telling people’s stories. Storytellers, he said, were the only ones who could stop the progression of evil.

As Redford has, let us honor the tellers and the telling by attending to them. There is our hope.

Paula DeMichele
Ashtabula, Ohio

Fence Offense

I was dismayed to see your endorsement of offensive fencing and barb(aric) wire in “Fencing for the Homestead,” February/ March 2006.

I have watched panicked donkeys and a confused cow and her calf be ripped by barbed wire. I have seen birds and small animals zapped by electric wiring, and an armadillo galloping along woven wire pursued by dogs. The author has a 7-foot-high electric fence to keep out deer. Why is he worried about deer? Livestock and irresponsible grazing practices have destroyed 99 percent of our prairies. There wouldn’t be a deer problem if predators hadn’t been trapped, poisoned and shot to extinction on the chance that two or three cows might become prey before making it to the slaughterhouse. I wonder why a magazine called Mother Earth News is perpetuating the fundamental error made by European settlers of the New World: inability to coexist with native peoples, plants and animals.

May I suggest alternatives for people with acreage? Don’t fence?—?restore habitat and maintain corridors for wildlife.

Hope Phillips
Austin, Texas

Childhood has Changed

Your review of Richard Louv’s Last Child In The Woods was a breath of fresh air (“Green Gazette,” February/March 2006).

Today’s kids aren’t nearly as active as when I was a child. I grew up on a small farm in a rural area of New York and would often go to friends’ houses, or they would walk or bike over to mine. Pickup games of baseball, kickball and the like were common, but the most common activity was just being kids: seeing who could jump across the stream without getting their feet wet, making a treehouse out of scrap lumber our dads gave us, lying on the back hill in the sunshine watching the clouds go by.

Today’s children are plugged into either computers or televisions for hours at a time. I rarely see the kids of my town out, let alone playing together. Thanks for reminding us again why we need to be connected to our Mother.

Denise A. Gaylord
Philadelphia, Tennessee

Clandestine Use for Cards

In response to comments about insert cards in your magazine, I have a suggestion. First, I have to trust Mother Earth News’ response that this is the best, most economical way to get subscriptions.

Given that, I decided not to recycle the inserts in the traditional way but to place them in the library, the gym, on any bulletin board I can find, etc. You would be surprised at the places you can find to leave them.

I have even, rather clandestinely, placed them inside other magazines in doctors’ offices. I will never know if this actually results in new subscriptions, but it’s better than complaining, and there’s always the possibility that someone out there will take the bait and subscribe!

Virginia Maus
Camp Hill, Pennsylvania

The Call of the Catalogs

I really appreciated your article on great garden catalogs (December/January 2006). However, I would never say that Peaceful Valley Farm Supply’s catalog “overwhelms” me! On the contrary, I read it cover to cover and have learned a great deal by doing so. Not only do they offer a wide range of organic products, they provide the best customer service. Unlike many gardening supply/seed catalogs, this one also has a thorough product index.

Thank you for your many comprehensive gardening articles.

Celia Ann De Frank
Big Bear City, California

Great Wildflower Seeds

Thanks for the great article about seed catalogs. I would add the wildflower catalog from Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas. They offer seeds in amounts from packets to pounds, for all areas of the 48 contiguous states. There also is excellent gardening information in the catalog.

Elva Pilling
Great Falls, Montana

Nervous About Imminent Animal ID System

Nothing to do with Food Safety 

The National Animal Identification System (NAIS) discussed in “Big Brother in the Barnyard” (“Green Gazette,” February/March 2006) is a serious issue with far-reaching ramifications. If it becomes a mandatory USDA program, all livestock owners will have to register their property and animals with the government. Several states already have implemented mandatory programs. Consumers might think that’s good, because it will keep our food safe, but the NAIS has nothing to do with food safety. It is intended to create a database so animal diseases can be traced through the life of the animal. So what’s wrong with that?—?don’t we need to control diseases like mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE)?

The truth is, the NAIS would work only after a disease was discovered. It is a backwards tracking program, not a preventive program. Currently, the USDA does postmortem BSE testing on only a very few animals relative to the 35 to 40 million slaughtered in America every year. Since the USDA doesn’t test every cow postmortem, as Japan does, it’s unlikely to find BSE, and no traceback or control can take place. Even worse, we are still eating beef that has never been tested for BSE.

The NAIS won’t work under current USDA standards. Who will pay the price? All of us. The federal government already has allocated about $50 million, final price tag unknown. Anyone who owns even one goat, sheep, cow, horse, etc., will have to buy radio tags or implant chips, so don’t think it will just affect the large factory farms.

Elaine Kist
Hartsel, Colorado

Conflicts with the American Dream

Articles about the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) say the government is planning a mandatory program in which all animal owners eventually will be required to register their land and animals and to insert electronic tracers into all their animals. Eventually, NAIS may require retinal (eye) scans or DNA?samples.

Who will pay for this? It will burden small-scale owners?—?say of a chicken or two or even of a single pigeon?—?leaving large corporations as the only animal owners. This conflicts with the American dream of self-sufficiency. I know I am not alone in the suspicion that government management would mean mismanagement and waste.

My spouse and I have spent the last several years working hard to save for our own land, our own animals, our own lives. I fear this new infringement on my privacy, liberty and enjoyment of life may well destroy all we have worked so hard to build.

I also am concerned about required registration by way of a “secure” database of private information — no database is secure.

Marion Parker
Leavenworth, Kansas

We share your concerns about this new system. The USDA’s take on NAIS is posted at You can read other perspectives at,, (search for “terrorist chickens”) and numerous other Web sites. We encourage readers to convey their concerns to the USDA and to their elected representatives. — Mother

Female-scale gardening

I am a woman market gardener. Most information on greenhouse construction, row width, etc., is scaled to men. Women are shorter and have less body strength (for the most part) than men. I would like some references on how other women have done things. For example, have other women figured out how greenhouses can be set up and maintained by one woman alone? I have conquered the bed-width dilemma by using 3-foot-wide beds and making them longer. I am a no-till gardener and am buying a piece of land that is fallow. Is there a tool that can be rocked back and forth to loosen the soil that is only 3 feet wide, and that a woman of reasonable strength can maneuver?

Jackie Smith
Bloomingdale, Michigan

Lynn Byczynski, editor of Growing for Market, a monthly journal for direct-market farmers, replies:

I do know several farms run entirely by women, and from them I have learned a couple of things that everyone, male and female, might appreciate as they get older.

In our hoophouses, we use the broadfork for loosening the soil, rather than tilling it with every crop. If you aren’t familiar with this tool, Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers three sizes. I was in a greenhouse in Pennsylvania recently that consisted of 8-inch-deep raised beds erected on top of greenhouse benches. It was used for salad greens and microgreens, which are labor-intensive, and this system eliminated bending during harvest. As for breaking out fallow soil at your new place, get a neighbor to plow and till the field, then seed grass paths wide enough for a riding mower. Mulch the beds once they are plowed and tilled, and the grass paths will make life wonderful. We switched to this system for all our field crops a couple of years ago, and I can’t tell you how much easier it is now to plant and harvest.

Free Heat from Scrap Wood

A few issues ago, we read an article about heating with scrap wood. We use natural gas in our farmhouse, which was good until the gas cost was predicted to rise 70 percent this year. We just built a barn, and we saved all our scrap wood. A friend stopped using his wood/coal stove and let us have it, so we were in the heating business. We found a door company that would deliver a dump-truck load of scrap oak, about 8 tons, for the hauling bill of $25. We have it in the wood shed for this winter. The temperature already has gotten down to 10 degrees, but we are warm as can be, and so far the heating for this winter has cost us just the $25. Thanks for this information, a very good idea that works with little or no effort.

Freddie and Jane Wilkinson
Bristol, Virginia

A Car-free Combination

I was disappointed that you did not mention bicycles as an alternative means of transportation (“Green Means Go,” October/ November 2005). Also missing was public transportation. Bicycle and train combined allow me to get to work without stopping at a gas station. I also save on car payments, registration and insurance.

Kirk Wells
Corona, California

We have articles about bicycles and motorcycles underway. Public transportation certainly is the way to go for those with access, but unfortunately it is not yet widespread.?—?Mother

Awesome Folding Garden Cages

Terrific for Tomatoes … 

When my husband read your February/March 2005 issue, he was impressed with “Woody’s Folding Tomato Cages.” We, too, had our metal-caged tomato plants collapse in storms.

This year, when we first put our plants out, my husband made eight tomato ladders. The results? Our tomato plants are taller and stronger than ever. We even used two of the ladders for cucumbers.

Making the ladders was well worth the effort, because they were far superior to anything made out of metal. Thank you, John Woodzick and Mother Earth News!

Frank and Linda Mach
Chicago, Illinois

… Beautiful for Beans, Too 

I enjoyed “Woody’s Folding Tomato Cages” so much that I used the materials list and directions to build a pole-bean tower for my garden. I followed Woody’s suggestions and added twine for my green beans to climb.

We took this picture of me with my bean tower and my grandson in July. By September, the beans had covered the tower completely. Thanks for this great do-it-yourself project.

Don Fekete
Kennewick, Washington

You can build John Woodzick’s folding wooden tomato cages quickly, using scrap lumber and a few screws. Read this popular article at—?Mother

57 mpg — in 1978!

In the discussion of older cars that get better mileage, I never see mention of the 1978 diesel Volkswagen Rabbit. I bought a stock 1,600-cc diesel Rabbit in 1978. One road trip, I filled up in Houston, drove to Fort Worth and returned on the same tank of fuel. Driving 55 mph (the speed limit then), it calculated out to a hair over 57 mpg for the round trip. Why don’t they get that now?

Elbert Marks
Houston, Texas

They Can Do Better

Just finished reading “Green Means Go” in the October/November 2005 issue. I am not impressed — many of the vehicles don’t get even 35 miles per gallon. I own a 1980 Toyota pickup with over 350,000 miles on it that still gets almost 30 mpg. It seems to me, in the space of 25 years, that automakers could do better!

As for the gasoline/electric hybrid Toyota Prius, 60 mpg seems disappointing. As the article says, the Prius is still two-thirds dependent on fossil fuel — I think Toyota engineers could do a much better job.

Victor McKechnik
Timberon, New Mexico

Hybrids for Everyone

Some readers have asked why hybrids don’t get higher fuel economy, considering that some cars of a decade ago got up to 55 mpg. It’s a good question with a simple answer. Small, minimally powered (49 to 55 horsepower) cars like the Geo Metro did achieve great fuel economy, but they were far from cars for the masses. Buying patterns over decades have shown that small cars with modest performance have not been high on the American car buyer’s shopping list. Hybrids such as Toyota’s Prius and Honda’s Insight and Civic Hybrid also get exceptional fuel economy, with combined city/highway fuel economy estimates of 55, 63 and 50 mpg, respectively. They are far better cars than the Metro in all respects.

Ultimately, the goal shouldn’t be just to create a small number of very fuel-efficient vehicles, but to apply efficient hybrid power to a wide range of popular vehicles, from family sedans and pickups to minivans and SUVs, with sports cars thrown in for good measure. Hybrid systems can make all vehicle models much more fuel efficient while also reducing tailpipe emissions?—?features that will help improve air quality, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and significantly reduce petroleum use.

Ron Cogan 

Editor and Publisher, Green Car Journal

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