Dear MOTHER: April/May 2011

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Our Garden Planner will help you to decide where to plant which crops.
2 / 7
These Fjord horses like their insulated, solar-heated stock tank.
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Bread-baking continues to be a hot topic among MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers. As Maeghan, from Maine, points out, homemade bread “can save a lot of money and be a lot healthier than store-bought.”
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Reader Lily Hempt’s daughter cuddles a newborn kid.
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Chris and Emily Wakeham of San Diego love their Nissan Leaf.
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Paul built this outdoor oven from plans found in one of our articles.
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This small garden incorporates several vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs and whimsical ornamentals.

Judging by the rave reviews that have been rolling in, the new online MOTHER EARTH NEWS Vegetable Garden Planner is a big hit, which is pretty much what we predicted. Dave, from Nebraska, says, “This tool goes even beyond what I have been looking for.” And Alicia, from Idaho, is thrilled to be able to play in the garden so early: “I love looking at my colorful plan while the weather is cold and envisioning what is to come.”

When we first watched a demonstration of the Planner some months ago, even those of us who don’t usually spend much time planning our gardens on paper or keeping garden notes from year to year were excited by the features the Planner offers.

Bread-baking is the other topic that continues to excite many readers. As Maeghan, from Maine, points out, homemade bread “can save a lot of money and be a lot healthier than store-bought.”

The Garden Planner Reduces Garden Stress

I just wanted to tell you how excited I am about your Vegetable Garden Planner. Now there is finally a way to organize everything for my several gardens. The Planner enables me to plan more than ever and takes stress off my hands at the same time! Thank you so much for the thoughtfulness and creativity in this all-in-one Garden Planner.

Devin Koser
Hudson, North Carolina

It’s a Breeze

This will only be our third time planning a garden, but it was a breeze with the new Planner. We will start our own seeds for 99 percent of what we plant. Thanks to the Planner, we know how many plants we are going to need for every row. Thanks again, Mother!

Paula Spalding
Edinburgh, Indiana

Planner Saves Tons of Time

Your Garden Planner is so very easy to use! I have been drawing my plans out for years, and this is the “next step” to success! Even if all I do is plan when and where, print it out and put it in a notebook, you have saved me tons of time! I’ve used several programs like this for other projects, and this one beats them hands down. After a half-hour, I have three beds planned, spaced, printed and ready for implementation! Wow!

Marian Grove
Sisters, Oregon

Delicious and Foolproof

The World’s Best Cornbread recipe (Floriani Red Flint: The Perfect Staple Crop for Every Homestead, December 2010/January 2011) is easy, delicious and will be the only cornbread recipe we use. I have made the cornbread three times, and it’s foolproof.

Melanie Files
Martinsburg, West Virginia

A Sea Change on Global Warming

Lately there have been several letters critical of “global warming” in MOTHER EARTH NEWS. My first comment is that it is now recognized as climate change. Weather is getting more extreme: hotter, drier, wetter, colder than usual. Just look at the flooding at unusual times, the heavy snow in the mid-Atlantic region last winter, and so on.

My main point for why carbon emissions need to be reduced is for the health of the oceans. They are getting more acidic, much to the detriment of most sea life. There is an impending crisis. We cannot wait for every last “i” to be dotted and “t” to be crossed before we act. If this proves to be a false alarm, then we resume business as usual. But if we wait, we may have an irreversible problem.

John Shonle
Amherst, New Hampshire

MOTHER Hasn’t Changed Much

I just received your DVD, MOTHER EARTH NEWS: The First 40 Years, 1970-2009. I am so glad I bought it! The articles are amazing. And it is interesting how much things haven’t changed.

Debra Holderby
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Good News for Clean Water

I am looking forward to reading Gene Logsdon’s newest book, Holy Shit, and I’m glad you featured it in Green Gazette (An Excrement Expert’s Manure Manifesto, February/March 2011 ).
In an era when clean water is becoming a vanishing resource, I believe we are going to look back on these times and wonder what on Earth we were doing pooping into our perfectly good drinking water!

Alana Lucia
Grass Valley, California


I am surprised and dismayed at the spider extermination recommendation in the December 2010/January 2011 article Nontoxic Pest Control (in the Ask Our Experts department). Really? Exterminate some of the best and most proficient insect predators in your household?

I understand that many people have irrational fears regarding spiders. However, spiders are far more terrified of you than you are of them — guaranteed. Consider these truths about spiders before you exterminate them: 1) You are many thousands of times larger than an average household spider. 2) Even with eight eyes, spiders are notoriously nearsighted. 3) Spiders prey on insects, not people. 4) Spiders are solitary creatures; they don’t want to hang out and be your bud — they just want to be left alone, thank you very much. 5) Spiders are incredibly efficient predators, evidenced by the jumble of insect carcasses beneath any cobweb. For these reasons, certain household spiders should be welcomed as the most organic form of pest control available.

I do not advocate allowing your home to become overrun with spiders (or insects for that matter), nor do I advocate allowing black widow spiders, brown recluse spiders or violin spiders to reside in any household. However, there are various other types of North American spiders that are allowed to reside in my house: cellar spiders, running spiders, smaller wolf spiders and jumping spiders. They do a bang-up job of pest control all by themselves!

Mike Harte
Fort Collins, Colorado

Solar Stock Tank Success

Thank you for publishing the instructions for building a solar stock tank in the October/November 2010 issue . I promptly set about constructing one, as we were facing our first winter with our “new” Norwegian Fjord horses. I used more rigid pink insulation than the instructions called for, including gluing a layer
in the lid.

The horses were not at all intimidated by drinking out of the “small” hole. The gelding had his head in there shortly after I started filling it. I put in a drain-plug heater, and also added a metal strip to the edge of the lid to prevent the horses from chewing on the wood.

Jenny Wettersten
Grand Rapids, Minnesota

Two Bread Recipes Are Better Than One

I “hybreadized” your recipe from the December 2009/January 2010 article Healthy No-Knead Bread Recipes with the December 2010/January 2011 issue’s Homemade Bread: Truly Easy and Delicious to make a five-day supply of easy-as-pie, best-batch-yet, chewy wheat bread. The hardest parts of the process were gathering wood for my woodstove to make a toasty environment for enjoying a slice of extra-sharp cheddar on the warm bread, and then pacing myself not to eat the whole loaf in one sitting! You’ve made bread-making truly fun and simple, and I can’t imagine how you will improve the process next year.

Lorna Reed
Palisade, Colorado

Bread Recipe Correction

Thank you for the great article, Homemade Bread: Truly Easy and Delicious, in the December 2010/January 2011 issue. I have never attempted to bake bread before, but wanted to give it a shot. I went with the recipe for Crusty White Bread and it turned out much better than I had expected.

My bread looked much like that in the picture, and my family loved eating it warm and fresh. The recipe called for letting it cool two hours?—?I don’t think it lasted more than 30 minutes! (One lesson learned, though: Don’t throw a room-temperature baking stone into a 500-degree-Fahrenheit oven?—?it tends to break!)

Jason Heimann
Waleska, Georgia

We’re glad you enjoyed the bread, Jason! For those of you who have tried the bread recipes in that article or plan to, note that author William Rubel has made a couple of modifications to the Opulent Farmers’ Bread recipe after a few readers wrote to tell us they had tried it, and the bread was getting a little overdone. The updated recipe is available in the online version of the article. — MOTHER 

Awesome Bread Tips

I just wanted to say thank you so much for the awesome bread-making tips. I tried making bread before, but it never came out right. I made the Crusty White Bread but substituted wheat flour, and it came out perfectly. This is going to save a lot of money and be a lot healthier than store-bought bread!

Maeghan Fredrikson
Augusta, Maine

Bread-Baking Made Easy

Ever since you published the bread recipe in 2009, Healthy No-Knead Bread Recipes, I actually enjoy making bread. Every time a new recipe shows up, it helps make the process even easier. I love bread to begin with, and now I can make it myself and know exactly what goes into it. It makes for a great potluck food, and doesn’t take too much extra work for me as long as I have a batch ready for baking in the refrigerator. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Jana Ross
Abilene, Texas

Easy, Quick Bread From Scratch

I recently baked the Basic Sandwich Bread recipe from the article Homemade Bread: Truly Easy and Delicious in the December 2010/January 2011 issue. For my first time baking bread from scratch, it truly was easy and delicious.

I am a college student and appreciate any easy, quick recipes, but I also love good food, and it’s not too easy to accomplish both.

Andrew Hostetler
Worcester, Massachusetts

Loving the Nissan Leaf

My wife and I believe in changing our lifestyle to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions because the survival of many species on this planet depends on how humans live. Our house has been carbon-neutral for years, but getting to zero-carbon transportation was harder. We were lucky to be among the first to receive the all-electric Nissan Leaf. A 240-volt charger on the wall of our garage charges the car at night. So far, all charging has been done at home from our solar panels.

Connecting the charger takes only a few seconds. We have driven 550 miles so far in the vehicle, and we love it. The ride is incredibly quiet and smooth. It takes a while to get used to fluctuations in displayed range and speed, and hills have an enormous impact on the car’s range. Range is specified as 100 miles, but with real driving in San Diego, the range is closer to 70 miles, which is still plenty. We are averaging 4.1 miles per kilowatt hour (excluding charging and battery efficiency). We added 2.1 kilowatt of PV in anticipation of the car; and this will give us approximately 10,000 “Leaf” miles/year. The Leaf cost $34,210, but with rebates of $7,500 (federal) and $5,000 (state), the total was $21,710.

This is our first Nissan. So far, we are happy with the design and quality of the vehicle. For instance, if we forget to plug in the car when we get home, the car will send us a text message or e-mail! Most of all, though, we are happy to have carbon-free transportation.

Chris and Emily Wakeham
San Diego, California

Green Tomato Pie

The October/November 2010 issue discussed uses for green tomatoes (What to Do With Green Tomatoes). My family has always used the abundance of green tomatoes at frost time to make green tomato pie. Some people wrinkle their nose when I say that, but it’s actually quite good.

We slice the green tomatoes with the skin on using a food processor and freeze them as we do apples. If we want a pie, we pull out a bag of tomatoes and make one. I don’t really have a recipe, I just improvise. I use green tomatoes, sugar and cinnamon. Any apple pie recipe can be followed, substituting green tomatoes for the apples. Most people who have tried it think there is some resemblance to an apple pie in taste. Enjoy!

Milton W. Schulz
Smolan, Kansas

Let’s Sue the EPA

Regarding your article about the collapse of honeybee colonies, there is a new concern: The EPA has allowed the German chemical company Bayer to market a pesticide called clothianidin that is dangerous for bees. It has been used on corn since 2003. See any connection?

Documents show that EPA scientists warned administrators not to allow this product on the market. I think beekeepers and farmers should sue the wonderful people at the EPA and Bayer! I hope you guys follow up on this and raise Cain!

James Fridas
Oakley, California

We share your outrage, James. Everyoneneeds to raise Cain. Learn more by reading Leaked Document Shows EPA Allowed Bee-Toxic Pesticide Despite Own Scientists’ Red Flags from Grist. — MOTHER 

Always Be Prepared

I read the December 2010/January 2011 article Emergency Survival Kits. Here are my suggestions for items you should add to your survival kit:

  • Use coffee filters for initial filtering before purifying water.
  • Use a hand-cranked, rechargeable flashlight.
  • Make a sewing kit: Glue a piece of felt inside the lid of a dental floss container and stick a couple of heavy needles in it. The floss container has a cutter built in.
  • Learn how to make fire using a flint and steel, a fire piston or other nonflammable means, and carry tinder with you.
  • Add 100 feet of paracord to your kit. It’s stronger than string and more versatile than rope for small tasks like lashing.
  • Add hand-warmers and, if desired, footwarmers (the kind that you stick in your pockets/shoes).

Also, practice “what if” scenarios before you need to, including taking different routes to destinations.

Karen Isaacson
Woodinville, Washington

Corn-y Memories

The corn pancakes recipe in the December 2010/January 2011 issue  is a winner. Mine didn’t look as pretty as those in your photo, but they sure were good! They reminded me of the cornmeal mush my mother made when my brothers and I were children.

Celia De Frank
Big Bear City, California

Best Issue Yet

I love the February/March 2011 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS! I sat and read it cover to cover with my coffee this morning. I especially love the article on wabi-sabi (Wabi-Sabi: Finding the Beauty and Peace in Ordinary Things). Tell everyone on your staff great job!

Deb Phelps
Olathe, Kansas

Coming Home With MOTHER

I want to let you know that I just love, love, love your magazine, and I have used some of the methods described in Mother on my small farm in Costa Rica. Thanks for having such a great magazine — I only wish that you would print every month. I lived in Chicago for most of my life (but am originally from Puerto Rico). I know some of the trade-offs that come with a farm and I know the negatives of living in a large city, so I bought a small mountain farm in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, and I love it so much. Finally, I feel at home. There is a lot of work, but it’s so much more rewarding than the city.

Carmen Robles
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Stevia Supporter

This is in response to the comments about the natural, no-calorie sweetener stevia in the December 2010/January 2011 issue (Dear MOTHER), which said, “It’s too bad it is only available from multinational corporations.” After reading a MOTHER EARTH NEWS article on stevia plants (Stevia: This Sugar Substitute Is Sweet and Healthy), I was so motivated to kick my sugar habit that I asked my greenhouse about the plant and was assured it is available for home growers. Stevia is great for people like me who have a huge sweet tooth.

Carol Repass
Bowling Green, Ohio

Best Wood-Fired Oven

I finally put the finishing touches on the wood oven I built from your April/May 2010 article (Build an All-in-One Outdoor Oven, Stove, Grill and Smoker).

I’ve been using it for the past three months, and I just love it! We have cooked just about everything on it, but my favorites are still pizza and calzones.

I did all the work myself, learned a lot about masonry, and couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.

Thanks again for your great magazine!

Paul Kubic
Ferndale, Washington

Anti-Establishment Rants

I’ve been a subscriber for several years and, quite frankly, the tone of the magazine seems to be changing into a platform for anti-establishment rants. I don’t want to read about “evil” corporations. I don’t care about your opinions as to why family farmhouses are empty. I live on a farm; I know why they are empty. Can you guys just stick to giving us good advice on the simple stuff — how to make bread, how to raise chickens, etc. I don’t need the radical opinions that are starting to become common in your magazine.

Michele Lee
Nashville, Georgia

No Politics Here

I just picked up your December 2010/January 2011 issue from my grocery store. I must say it’s nice to see you’ve dropped the heavy political themes that seemed to run through your previous years’ issues. Keep this up and I may consider renewing my subscription.

Holly Lind
Kempton, Pennsylvania

Hates High-Tech

It is really a shame you seem to have forgotten that your core clientele has little or no interest in your apps and high-tech gadgets. We country people see no need for devices such as iPads. We have computers and Internet connections, but often the Internet available to us is slow compared with that of city people. An iPad on a farm is like teats on a boar hog — not of much use.

As you move more to the left, we are moving to the right and dropping our interest in your publication. It won’t be long before our dissatisfaction turns to disgust and we just ignore your magazine. Following high-tech trends, in my opinion, is making your magazine circle the bowl, and it won’t be long before it’s in the sewer.

Dean Curtis
Dodd City, Texas

Celebrates Diverse Views

I find it strange that people cancel subscriptions to magazines that promote views other than their own. I personally enjoy reading opinions that are different from what I believe. I find it’s the best way to learn new things and challenge some of the stuffy old ideas stuck in my head.

One reader commented that MOTHER should “truly look into the meaning of social justice” (December 2010/January 2011). I did, and was amazed and enriched by the wide variety of interpretations and definitions of social justice. What a wonderful topic, what a breadth of views ranging from right-wing Christians to Karl Marx through to Islamic mullahs. Wow!

Thanks for publishing material and supporting organizations that hold views different from mine. My world is richer and more interesting because of your magazine.

Brian Nelson
Ohaton, Alberta

Just the Facts, Please

I wanted to drop a note of appreciation for your publication. A couple of years ago, I acquired a stack of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazines from 1979 (the year after I was born) and was instantly fascinated. I promptly Googled you to see whether you were still in circulation. Shortly thereafter, I subscribed. I thoroughly enjoy your articles and cannot express how wonderful it is to see how politically neutral you manage to be. Exceptional! Makes all the difference in the world to people like me, who just want the facts and not the propaganda.

Eryn LaForest
Olathe, Kansas

You’ve Been Reading My Mind

I just want to tell you: You rock! Every time your new issue comes out, there on the front cover is an article on a project we have been discussing or planning. It may or may not be a psychic connection, but it sure has been fun!

Angela Ellis
Hansen, Idaho

Can’t Share

I know why MOTHER EARTH NEWS is “the most read magazine in the United States” (News From Mother, October/November 2010). I just can’t put it down. Not only do I read the magazine cover to cover, I can’t pass it along. My sister passes along magazines to me that she thinks I’ll enjoy, but I hold on to MOTHER EARTH NEWS. I often reread older issues, always finding valuable information and ideas.

Evelyn Fisher
Willits, California

Super Online Seed Finder

Thank you! Thank you! MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the best and has been for years. I really appreciate the plant finder?—?it’s fast, easy and just wonderful.

Ann Pharr
Phoenix, Arizona

She Found a Friend for Life

When a friend gave me my first MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, I was a young, single mother living on a remote hill in western Montana with my 3-year-old daughter. I had never even heard of your magazine, but the moment I started reading it, I knew I had found a friend for life. You put like-minded people and companies that shared my ideals right at my fingertips. You expressed beautifully the truths I had only begun to explore and could not yet put words to. Without your encouragement and expert advice, I would never have dared to begin my own mini-homestead.

I started my first garden last year, and I am now the proud owner of dogs, cats, a flock of chickens, five emus and a herd of miniature dairy goats. They provide us with all the eggs, milk and companionship we need, and seeing my daughter (now 5 years old) learn firsthand the beautiful balance of nature and milk her own goat all by herself is priceless.

Lily Hempt
Darby, Montana

Springtime Gardening Enthusiasm

Although I do not have sprawling acreage in rural America or a farm of my own, my father’s house sits on a rare triple lot within our small community. It’s surrounded by nature, and has been big enough to create a sizeable garden retreat — a destination my father and I both love!

There are only a few magazines that I consistently subscribe to, and Mother Earth News is one of them. I look forward to every new issue, as each is jam-packed with tools, techniques and resources to help nurture my gardening hobby.

Our garden is not huge, but the fenced portion (about 30 feet by 40 feet) supports two or three favorite varieties of tomatoes, two types of corn (sweet and ornamental), an assortment of culinary and medicinal herbs, spinach and salad greens, several varieties of sweet and hot peppers, summer squash, and cucumbers. Outside the fence perimeter, we often grow an assortment of whimsical ornamentals, including decorative fall gourds, luffa, birdhouse gourds, and a variety of perennial flowers for decoration. Rounding out our urban gardening oasis is solar lighting, a stone path and a greenhouse.

Just writing about the garden makes me eagerly anticipate the approach of April, which is when we’ll start many of our plants indoors.

Dave DeProspero
Rome, New York  

Wanted: U.S. Company to Import Sorghum Mills and Hand-Powered Milking Machines

Two key products homesteaders can produce for themselves are syrup made from sorghum, and milk and dairy products from homestead cows or goats.

As far as we know, no one currently sells sorghum mills (aka sugarcane crushers) in the United States, so we are looking for a company that would like to import them from overseas. (Vishwakala produces a foreign sorghum mill, and Google “sugarcane crushers” to find others.)

We’ve also spotted a nifty hand-powered milking machine that’s made in India, and not sold in the United States, but looks like it would be a terrific tool for anyone who wants to reduce the time it takes to milk a cow or goats. Again, we would like to hear from any companies that may be interested in importing this milker.

Wanted: Tales From Off the Grid

We’re working on an article for later this year, and we want to hear from those of you who are living off the grid. Please send us a letter or email describing why, when and how you went off-grid. What’s the best thing — and the worst thing — about off-the-grid living? Would you do it again if you could start over? Send e-mails to and address snail mail to Off the Grid; MOTHER EARTH NEWS; 1503 SW 42nd St.; Topeka, KS 66609. Be sure to include your name, address and contact information. If you would like to blog on our website about living off the grid, please let us know in your letter.

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