Dear MOTHER: December 2016/January 2017

Reader letters on how to live a simpler life, hot water on demand, leaky ponds, pork belly bacon, Facebook Live, and more!

| December 2016/January 2017

  • A slab of smoked bacon is sure to pack the people around your dinner or breakfast table.
    Photo by Fotolia/Dima Beloconi
  • Morning view of the bay from the dock at Weslemkoon Lake in the Adirondacks.
    Photo by Fotolia/Gord Horne
  • The Boone's built this greenhouse from Spike Carlson's plans (June/July 2016).
    Photo by Savannah Boone
  • Post a picture of your favorite scenes, such as this squirrel, to Instagram and tag us @MotherEarthNewsMag.
    Photo by Anthony Marinello
  • Learn more about the Monarch butterfly waystation program at
    Photo by Christopher G. Padgett

Cut Back on Bills for a Simpler Life

I got divorced at age 52, and by 62 I’d lost everything in the stock market crash. At rock bottom, I lost my job and my unpaid-for fancy home and car. I realized that everything I had worked and saved for my entire life was gone, but I simply didn’t want to re-enter the corporate world just to go into debt all over again. I was tired of the rat race, so I took early retirement and decided I could still “have it all” with some serious adjustments.

I poked back every possible penny I could. I rode the $1 city bus, I never ate out, I only bought groceries twice a month, and I learned all the different ways to cook rice and beans. No cable. No extras. Eventually I saved enough money to pay cash for an old car with peeling paint that runs great. I kept an eye on houses as they went up for auction, and found a home on an acre with excellent soil and no nearby neighbors. The house had fire damage and had been gutted to the studs and rafters, but the price was right, and the out-of-state owner was willing to carry the note.

Now, every penny I save goes toward insulation and other materials for the home, which I’ll have paid off in 2018. I have a nice garden going, and an animal trap furnishes me with free rabbits a few times per month. I forage for wild foods and dig up starts for flowers and wild fruit tree saplings. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been, and I’ve learned that you can “have it all” at any age. The only way to forgo money is to banish bills!

Okmulgee, Oklahoma

Solar Hot Water on Demand

I read and enjoyed “Heat Your Water with the Sun” (August/September 2016), and have a question for the author, Bob Ramlow. I’m sure he’s familiar with on-demand hot water systems using natural gas as a heat source. I’m curious about whether a person could pair a solar water heater to complement an on-demand system.

Dallas Patton
Lindale, Texas

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