Dear MOTHER: February/March 2012

1 / 4
Growing your own food can be one step toward a lifestyle centered around needing less and self-reliant satisfaction.
2 / 4
From North America to Italy and back again, 'Floriani Red Flint' packs a rich, warm, complex flavor.
3 / 4
Matt Moody and Paula Davidson's hoop house in Cabot, VT
4 / 4
Keystone species, such as bears, help to maintain the balance of nature.

Learning About Sustainability

I’m a single mother raising three kids. My amazing father paid off my 10 acres of land, which has put me in a great position to stay home with my kids while getting my farm off the ground. I love your articles and read each issue cover to cover when it arrives. I’m a city kid, so I’m learning from the ground up. At this point, I’m selling starter plants and veggies at local farmers markets. I’m hoping to put a commercial kitchen in and get my milking barn up to a grade-A dairy to sell fresh goat cheese. I’m trying to do all this without borrowing money, so it’s one step at a time — each step paying for the next. Your magazine has taught me so much. Thank you.

Sally Upton
Red Bluff, California

Taking the ‘Bad’ With the Good

It never ceases to amaze me how people get themselves bent out of shape over the dumbest things. My family tends toward the conservative side of things, and while we don’t subscribe to the global warming theories, we do recognize the damage humans are doing to ourselves and the planet. We enjoy your articles on gardening, livestock and self-sufficiency, and for the articles that don’t jibe with our interests and viewpoints, we use the high-tech method of censorship called “turning the page.”

We won’t send you letters of outrage and won’t ask you to cancel our subscription. We love this magazine for the information and entertainment it provides us. And the other stuff? Well, we just skip over it.

Juliana Ferguson
Candler, North Carolina

Needing Less

There’s so much we feel we have to have, when we really need so little.

Since becoming disabled and having my income reduced, I’ve had to really cut back. I’m so thankful for my MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazines, which, through the years, have given me so many tips. Many of these were filed away for “someday.” Now I’ve pulled them out and am using them.

S. Pancake
Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Raising Meat Rabbits

I always enjoy your magazine, reading every issue completely from start to finish. However, I was disturbed by the October/November 2011 article Rabbit: A Great Meat Animal for Small Homesteads, complete with a photo of a lovely rabbit about to have its neck broken.

As a vegetarian, I opted out of the kill-as-you-go lifestyle decades ago, and I know there are other MOTHER subscribers who are vegetarian and may also find these articles and images disturbing. And speaking of meat, MOTHER has been covering the climate change issue quite well, and I would like to see some articles on the significant contribution of greenhouse gases that comes from our food choices, most notably the raising and consuming of livestock.

Shelly Ryan
Walnut Creek, California


I attended the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Seven Springs, Pa., last September. We had purchased our tickets in advance and hadn’t been waiting in line long before someone came by with wristbands for the early ticket holders. We were able to get in quickly as soon as the FAIR opened.

And then — the bookstore! Can I say how awesome it was? It was so easy to peruse books, and I was thrilled to see such a huge selection. And I have to say a big thank-you for the 25 percent off coupon you gave to everyone who preregistered. I came home with many fabulous treasures.

I also really enjoyed the workshops I attended. Thank you for a fabulous 2011 FAIR. We can’t wait for the next one.

Sarah Lee
Windsor Mill, Maryland

Backyard Fish Farming

Back in the ’70s, MOTHER EARTH NEWS promoted 5-acre farms. I did it on 1 acre, but in order to do so, I changed a few things, such as raising goats instead of cows. This meant I needed less space for the animals to graze. Now I see you are promoting chickens, but I’ve found raising fish requires less feed and space. A small rubber pool will do just fine to raise algae-eating fish, which are a great source of protein to serve alongside your homegrown veggies.

Tony Puleo
Tampa, Florida

To learn the basics of home fish production, see our aquaculture article, Fish Farming. — MOTHER

Computer Issues: Supporting the Computer-Less

I enjoy reading your magazine, which I have done since 1971. My concern is that your magazine is about living simply and old-time ways, but your articles sometimes include references and links to find more information on your website, and we don’t own a computer.

Fred Lauer
New Cambria, Missouri

Fred, by including details for some articles online, we are able to include more total articles in each issue. You can read the online details and have them printed at your local library, or write to “Letters”; MOTHER EARTH NEWS; 1503 SW 42nd St.; Topeka, KS 66609, and we’ll send you copies of the online pages you request. — MOTHER

Slashing Energy Usage: Exciting Goals

One day in the 1970s, I sat in high school waiting for Jim, a local energy conservation expert, to talk to us about energy use. As we waited, Jim counted all the fluorescent tube light bulbs and then did a little mental math. “In one hour in this room, the same amount of electricity is used in lighting as I use in our house in a week,” he said.

Soon after the talk, I visited Jim’s home. It was a small, one-floor house of about 800 square feet. Space and water heat were from a woodstove. All the electricity came from two truck batteries recharged on Saturday mornings by a vehicle generator powered by a small gas engine. The house was off-grid and, of course, at that time, had no CFL or LED bulbs. Lighting was targeted on specific tasks. Jim and his wife were happy, vigorous people who seemed to lack nothing.

When I see articles about folks nowadays trying to live off-grid who say that even with $60,000 worth of hardware, they don’t have enough electrical generating capacity to meet their current and future needs, I have Jim’s numbers for comparison.

Experts say that in less than 40 years, we must drop our energy consumption by 80 percent. Jim’s example shows it can be done.

Nick Guthrie
Courtenay, British Columbia

It’s true, conservation will almost always save you more money than installing alternative energy systems. But if you’d like to install a modest, solar-powered electric lighting system in your home or outbuilding, check out Easy DIY Solar Lighting. — MOTHER

Loves the Great Bread Recipe

I just tried your Easy, No-Knead Crusty Bread recipe (December 2007/January 2008) for the first time. I used whole-wheat flour and loved it. I immediately started another batch after trying the first slice.

I sent my mom the recipe, and she went right out and bought a cast-iron Dutch oven. I can’t wait to talk to her after she tastes her first loaf. Thanks for a great bread recipe!

Victoria Meyers
Sanford, Florida

Needing Less: Kudos From Down Under

We recently became aware of your magazine. It annoys us that your publication is better than any we’ve seen here in Australia, and we’ve been looking around for some time.

We would like to also credit your Customer Care department. There are usually teething problems with new subscriptions or purchases (we ordered your Archive DVD, too), but your staff has been nothing short of fantastic.

We live in what we believe is the most beautiful part of Australia, where solar, wind or microhydro systems can be used in conjunction with one another. We have been living simply for seven years, and we are off the grid.

Your magazine has given us so many ideas. We sincerely thank you.

Lucy and Noel Smith
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Floriani Corn Available

I want to let your readers know that we have had a successful harvest of the nutritious, richly flavored, open-pollinated ‘Floriani Red Flint’ grain corn that you have been writing about, and we are now selling whole corn by the pound for grinding fresh cornmeal and making grits and polenta. We harvested the heirloom corn by hand, and it was cleaned by Roberts Seed Inc. (read more about Roberts in Nebraska Rural Living’s Rural Success Stories). All proceeds from sales of the corn will go toward preservation of the Starke Round Barn. This National Historic Site, located east of Red Cloud, Neb., is the largest true round barn in the world, measuring 130 feet in diameter. For information on how to order the Floriani corn, go to the Starke Round Barn Historic Site website.

Liz Rasser
Red Cloud, Nebraska

To read more about this heirloom corn, see our ‘Floriani Red Flint’ Heirloom Corn page. — MOTHER

Hoop House Inspiration and Building Tip

I’d been pondering the idea of building a modest hoop house, but your article Build This Easy Hoop House to Grow More Food really inspired me to get going on it. The article did a tremendous job of simplifying the process, especially constructing the ends of the hoop house, which had always stymied me.

I do have a tip that might help those with soil that is hard or rocky. Instead of just pounding the plastic ground pipes in straight away, I pre-drilled each hole with a 30-inch length of iron pipe.

David Gaydos
Newfield, New York

People as Predators

I have a really hard time listening to people who seem to think humans are the only predators who should be allowed to exist. To those who pick out their plastic-wrapped, supermarket chicken each week: Consider getting your next meal out in the woods armed with nothing but your teeth and see how humanely you can kill anything. Then go to a factory farm and see what really goes on to produce that convenient, pre-processed chicken. It makes all those other carnivores seem downright angelic.

Humans alone are responsible for the extinction of thousands of species of animals, with thousands more to come, because we as a species are selfish and greedy, with little respect for our planet and the other creatures we share it with.

Lea Hardwick
Milford, New Hampshire

Sides With the Wolves

Just a word of encouragement: My wife and I appreciated your report on predators. Yes, I suppose everyone has a right to a point of view, but we felt MOTHER EARTH NEWS received unjustified criticism for the predator story.

We have lived in North Carolina for 10 years. Many folks around here see an animal and just shoot it. It doesn’t matter how old or harmless it is — they shoot the animal strictly for pleasure. All things considered, I’d rather be with the wolves.

David Snell
Dillsboro, North Carolina

Killing Humanely: Inhumane Humans

After reading Bryan Welch’s article What Does It Mean to ‘Kill Humanely’? (October/November 2011), I felt prompted to voice my disgust at some of my fellow human beings.

My wife and I live in a rural area not far from the small town of Battle Ground, Wash. From the almost steady stream of new cats that appear, one would think there is a sign nearby that says “Dump your unwanted cats here.”

Apparently people who decide to relieve themselves of their pet responsibilities think all cats naturally know how to fend for themselves. Wrong! Cats that aren’t taught by their mothers have no idea how to hunt and kill. We recently took one of these starving cats in because it was trying to survive on the birdseed that had dropped to the ground from one of our feeders.

Then there are the three teenage boys who recently confessed to the drive-by shootings of more than 100 cats around our town.

In the last paragraph of Welch’s article, he says, “We can do better.” Indeed.

Neil Nagel
Battle Ground, Washington