Dear MOTHER: December 2015/January 2016

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People from all walks of life join forces at our MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRS to learn and share information about eco-friendly lifestyles.
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The New York-based nonprofit Free Quilts transforms donated quilting material into hand-sewn quilts for the needy.
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Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed leaves.
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Geothermal systems tap energy from the Earth to heat and cool buildings.
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Richard Lancaster built this homemade apple cider press from the directions in our article “Build Your Own Cider Press” in our September/October 1981 issue.

The Ties That Bind

I recently read the article Self-Reliance Is the The Tie That Binds (Beautiful and Abundant, February/March 2014), and I want to thank you! It’s frustrating to see politicians and pundits group people into parties to support their own platforms. I’m grateful that your article addressed this. 

In my family, the Republicans are the green health nuts, and the Democrats are not. In my husband’s family, it’s the reverse. Being a responsible citizen and caring for the Earth should have no bearing on political party, financial situation, employment or location.

Ruth Mills 

Dedicated Reader Retires

I’ve been reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS since 1975, and I still have every issue I’ve ever purchased. Because of your magazine, we bought acreage in the country — and still live on it! I can also quilt; make soap; and can, freeze and dehydrate a wide range of edibles. 

Unfortunately, it’s time that I retire my subscription. I’m afraid I’m getting a little old, and just can’t do what I used to. I’ll miss you, MOTHER. Thank you for 40 years of the all-time best magazine on the planet!

Phyllis Johnson
Dover, Florida 

You’re welcome, Phyllis! Thanks for staying with us through the years. We feel lucky to have such dedicated and engaged readers. — MOTHER

A Solar Shed 

I’m interested in building a solar “power plant.” I can’t afford to install solar panels on my whole house, but I am curious about building a solar shed to power a refrigerator and charge power tools if the grid ever fails. Do you perhaps have an article or some advice on this? Thanks for all the great information!

Kevin Altmiller 

Kevin, our article DIY Solar Power System Offers Easy Emergency Power Supply (Ask Our Experts, December 2012/January 2013) should answer your question. — MOTHER

Surrounded by CAFOs

Your article Bird Flu Outbreak Sweeps Across Factory Farms (Green Gazette, October/November 2015) is particularly timely for my community. I live in rural Randolph County, Arkansas. It consists of only 656 square miles, and, as of 2010, the population for the entire county was 17,969. Peco Foods Inc. is the eighth-largest poultry producer in the country, and the company plans to build approximately 600 large concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in our small county. Peco Foods brought in about $1 billion in revenue in 2012, and some of its clients include Tyson, Buffalo Wild Wings and Church’s Chicken.

Yes — 600 huge factory farms will soon surround us here in Randolph County. This has pitted neighbor against neighbor. The farmers think they’ll be making millions of dollars by raising chickens for the Peco plant.

These 550-foot-long chicken houses are no longer required to have cement floors, and because they’ll be on bare ground, many people living near the future CAFOs are extremely worried that the small springs, creeks and rivers nearby will be damaged by high levels of runoff.

The public really needs to be aware — as your article stated — that taxpayers already had to spend more than $3.3 billion this year on cleanup expenses of the bird flu outbreak (via the U.S. Department of Agriculture). All taxpayers should be outraged!

Cynthia Parke
Imboden, Arkansas

Cynthia, we’re sorry to hear about your county’s situation. Our article How Tyson Kills Small Rural Towns (December 2014/January 2015) offers more information about the local impact of concentrated chicken production. — MOTHER

Q Fever: Similar to Lyme Disease

I enjoyed the article How to Get Rid of Ticks and Prevent Lyme Disease in your August/September 2015 issue. Another infectious disease that most people aren’t aware of is called “Q Fever.” It is rare, but can cause the same symptoms as Lyme, and can also become serious. When I was 46 years old, I suddenly developed severe arthritis in all of my joints. Three months after a tick bite, I couldn’t even stand up without support, and I lost most of the strength in my hands.

After my test results came back negative for Lyme, my doctor referred me to an infectious disease specialist, who was familiar with Q Fever, to be tested. My results were positive.

I’m writing because I know many people are in chronic pain, and some are being treated for fibromyalgia because their doctors can’t determine what’s wrong with them. If you’re one of those people, ask your doctor to test you for Q Fever.  

Nova Randolph
Thompsonville, Illinois

Sometimes,Ticks Happen

Your recent article about ticks had many useful suggestions. In spite of attempts to minimize and ultimately eliminate the threat, however, sometimes “ticks happen.”

I read in Consumer Reports that a Sawyer product based on the synthetic compound Picaridin is highly rated, and now I swear by it!

The Consumer Reports article notes that Picaridin can stain clothes. However, the Sawyer customer service team provided an approach for avoiding the minimal fabric staining the product can cause: Apply the Sawyer products while still in your undies. Let dry for several minutes, and then dress in your outdoor togs. No stains!

Bill Best
Arlington, Washington

Roundup Linked to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Thank you for the article Active Ingredient in Roundup Is Probably Carcinogenic (News from MOTHER, June/July 2015). A few years ago, I came across the results of a study on glyphosate — the main ingredient in Roundup — published on March 15, 1999, by the American Cancer Society. Eminent oncologists Lennart Hardell and Mikael Eriksson led the study, and they found a clear link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

That was 16 years ago, and cancer organizations should’ve drawn more attention to it by now. I’m sure all the non-Hodgkin lymphoma victims would’ve appreciated the information. MOTHER EARTH NEWS is an important source of news in my world; thank you!

Janice Carter
Orlando, Florida

Hot for Geothermal Energy

In my opinion, geothermal energy has not been given the attention it deserves. Many homes aren’t conducive to wind or solar, but everyone can tap into the benefit of geothermal. In my quest to minimize my use of fossil fuels, I researched geothermal and felt that it would give me the biggest benefit and return on investment. Last April, we replaced our propane furnace and hot water heater with a ClimateMaster geothermal system. We’ve been satisfied with the results so far.

We expected our electric use to rise as a result of the new system, but we’ve only seen a small increase in our electric bill — about $6 per month. Additionally, when the system is in cooling mode, the removed heat transfers over to the hot water heater, which in effect gives us “free” hot water. Now, I’m considering installing solar to help cover some of the electric cost. Because the federal incentives for geothermal are scheduled to expire at the end of 2016, now is a good time to consider this Earth-friendly means of heating and cooling your home or business.

Lesle Goodhart
Blanchester, Ohio

Oil for Tick Prevention

In the last paragraph or two of the article How to Get Rid of Ticks and Prevent Lyme Disease (August/September 2015), you included some good tips for tick removal. Folks could also try applying olive or coconut oil to their skin where the tick is attached.

Oil, in many cases, suffocates insects by coating their breathing patches. I wonder whether this might work on ticks, too. I would probably add another ingredient, such as rosemary oil (an antiviral). I would apply the oil after taking a shower, and then I’d scrape off any excess oil, along with any critters.

Jeanette Schuler
Oakland, California

Soy’s Link to Obesity

Richard Manning’s powerful article Linoleic Acid in Soy Strongly Linked to the Obesity Epidemic (Green Gazette, August/September 2015) has influenced the way I shop at the grocery store. My husband and I, both in our 80s, struggle to keep our weight down with exercise and careful diets. In an effort to eat well, we purposefully chose to eat more chicken and fish than red meat. We tended to buy industrially raised poultry and fish products, however, so I was disappointed to read that those animals are fed diets heavy in soybean oil — which contains an omega-6 fatty acid that’s linked to obesity. This is new-to-us information about the health benefits of buying pastured or organically raised meat and fish.

An article in Newsweek revealed that obesity contributes to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. If an abundance of soy is fed to animals and added to our processed foods, then we will continue to become fatter and less healthy. I was happy to see, in the August/September 2015 issue, that MOTHER EARTH NEWS is coordinating a project to test omega fatty acid levels in pastured meat, eggs and dairy products. I’m excited to see those results! Thanks for the well-researched information; I’ll make sure to share it.

Martha A. Berg
Fairhaven, Massachusetts

Read The Big Fat Lies and Omega-3s and More: The Importance of Fat in a Healthy Diet for more about this emerging health issue. — MOTHER

A Fan Since 2004

I’ve been a fan of MOTHER EARTH NEWS since 2004. An article concerning nutrition in our food supply titled Is Agribusiness Lowering Nutrient Content? (June/July 2004) is what brought your magazine to my attention. The article was a comparison of the concentration of nutrients in our food between 1975 and 2004.

I appreciate all of your articles, and every day I look forward to the information you send in your free online newsletters. They’re the only emails I read top to bottom! Thank you for your honest and valuable content.

Wesley Thompson
West Jordan, Utah

Great Time at Wisconsin FAIR

This year, I attended my first MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in West Bend, Wisconsin. Long story short, it blew my mind! I’m 23 years old, and dream of becoming a homesteader someday. Attending the Fair made that dream seem attainable. I think I learned more useful and valuable information in those two days than I learned in my four years of college. From attending aromatherapy lectures to watching Joel Salatin butcher a chicken, the Fair was everything I imagined and more. It will definitely not be my last — thank you!

On another note, for dinner last night I made the Chiles Rellenos Recipe featured in Barbara Damrosch’s article Growing and Cooking with Cucumbers and Peppers (Gardener’s Table, August/September 2015). They were amazing! What a great way to showcase the beautiful poblano pepper — as opposed to throwing it into salsa and allowing it to drown in tomatoes. Thanks for the recipe!

Laura Tacheny
Madison Lake, Minnesota

A Call for Faster Progress

I enjoyed Bryan Welch’s article Our Quest to Create a Sustainable Farm in your October/November 2015 issue. It’s a pity that sustainable lifestylers such as Mr. Welch are in the minority. I think people are slowly turning toward sustainability, but we need to mobilize rapidly to be effective. We have almost passed a dangerous tipping point, and our planet can’t continue to withstand the manner in which the majority of people treat it!

Brian Holland
North Canterbury, New Zealand

Do Monarchs Like Zinnias?

I live in a ground-floor apartment and have a nice growing space for flowers and vegetables in front of the building. This year, I planted heirloom and organic plants, including zinnias. These zinnias did well and have attracted an unusual number of monarch butterflies. While this did please us, we all assumed that their plant of preference was milkweed. Can you enlighten us?

David Rygh
Monroe, Wisconsin

Monarch caterpillars must feed on milkweed leaves. The adults only lay eggs on milkweed, but they feed on nectar from many kinds of flowers, including zinnias. — MOTHER

We Found Our Tribe

We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet the MOTHER EARTH NEWS crew at the Wisconsin Fair — what a refreshing bunch of enthusiasts! The passion and dedication you all have for your jobs, knowledge base and customers is incredible. The MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR is so much more than the ad in the magazine can describe.

First of all, it really is for everyone. I think we may bring along a group of friends and family next year — the excitement is contagious! The Fair is also encouraging to those who are in the middle of their homesteading adventures. We really found our people — our tribe. Nobody, not one person the entire weekend, said, “Why would you do that?” about the way we’re farming. It was such a joy to be surrounded by like-minded people who get it.

The FAIR was also a great opportunity to make connections, get information, find vendors for that special item you’ve been looking for, and listen to speakers who rock in their areas of expertise. It was seriously a life-changing weekend!

Jennifer Eby
Cassopolis, Michigan

Apple Cider Press

Here is a picture of the finished cider press I made by referring to the article Build Your Own Cider Mill (September/October 1981). We pressed two plastic grape crates of apples — ‘McIntosh,’ ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘Cortland’ — and got 4 gallons and 1 quart of great-tasting apple cider, which we froze.

Richard Lancaster
Westfield, New York

Solar Ovens

I enjoyed the article Everyday Solar Cooking in your August/September 2015 issue. I love that people are trying things such as solar cooking — and succeeding!

Online tips for cooking various foods with a conventional slow cooker might be relevant to cooking in a solar oven. Be aware that for meat and other foods, the temperature has to reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit within a short time to avoid food poisoning.

Robert Rinehuls
Tallahassee, Florida

Rhubarb Leaf Bird Bath

While reading the August/September 2015 issue, I saw the reader-submitted project DIY Rhubarb Leaf Stepping Stones (Country Lore). I also make stepping stones with leaf molds. I would like to add that if you make a “hump” of sand to use as a mold, you can then make a leaf-pattern bird bath.

Lorraine Rezentes
Floyd, Iowa

An Honorable Hog Harvest

Recently, MOTHER EARTH NEWS shared my Facebook post about the upcoming Hog Harvest class that we (at Shady Grove Farm) offer. When the magazine shared this, many people opposed to eating meat made rude, angry and mean comments regarding the harvesting of animals for food. One of the comments was in reference to our use of the term “harvest” instead of “slaughter” or “butcher.”

I believe that one of the most important aspects of my job as a farmer is to bridge the gap between people and food. It’s my opinion that if we’re going to eat meat, then we should have a true and realistic understanding of how that meat reaches our plates. I prefer the word “harvest” because, first of all, that is exactly what it is to me: a harvest of food. Just as we harvest carrots, tomatoes, kale, onions, etc., we also harvest meat.

Secondly, I believe that in order to take back our food system from corporations, we need to change people’s perspectives. One way to do that is to keep things positive. “Harvest” is much more positive than “slaughter.” After all, we don’t “slaughter” carrots or “butcher” beets. Plant or animal, we’re taking a life to sustain our own.

Follow Shady Grove Farm on Facebook, and learn more about raising, butchering and marketing farm animals at Bakers Green Acres.

Randy Buchler
Gwinn, Michigan

Beet Broth Benefits

Beets are one of my family’s favorite vegetables, so I really appreciated Barbara Damrosch’s article Winter’s Jewels: How to Grow and Cook Beets and Carrots (Gardener’s Table, February/March 2015). She mentions that “the nutrients that give beets their fine color are soluble in water, which means their nutrients may vanish in boiling water.” I learned from a friend, who does research on beet pigments, that if you consume this water fairly soon after you steam or boil your beets, when the beet broth is still red (not brown), you should still get some of the beet broth’s nutritive benefits. At our house, we use the beet broth in smoothies instead of drinking it straight.

Julie Perkins
DeMotte, Indiana

Long-Lost Plowboy Interview

I searched for years to find a copy of an interview I remembered with Dr. Linus Pauling (Plowboy Interview, January/February 1979). Dr. Pauling was a two-time Nobel Prize winner, one of the founders of the fields of quantum chemistry and molecular biology, a peace activist, and a proponent of taking large doses of vitamin C for optimum health.

One day, I saw the name “MOTHER EARTH NEWS” and a bell went off in my head. I knew that was where I’d originally read the interview! I’ve told dozens of people about the interview, and I’m so glad to have finally traced it back to its source.

Rick Deuel
Rochester, New York

Great Customer Service

I just want to thank you for having such excellent customer service. I had to call to change the address on my subscription. The call was answered after the first ring, and I didn’t have to be transferred. Also, the representative was so nice. I wish I could remember her name. Great job!

Heather Rosado
via Facebook

Regional Gardening Article Was Disappointing

I was disappointed in the article Year-Round Gardening: Tips for Your Region in the August/September 2015 issue because it skipped right over the lower South.

A common trend seems to be that most authors know little about our area, and therefore completely ignore it. If it isn’t the Pacific Northwest, New England, Ohio or Virginia, it just gets overlooked in the sustainability and permaculture world!

Aaron White
Columbia, South Carolina

If only North America wasn’t so danged big! Covering every region is always a challenge for us, and we’re sorry the article didn’t include yours. If you need recommended spring and fall planting dates for your specific ZIP code, visit our online What to Plant Now page. — MOTHER