Dear MOTHER: Letters from Readers

article image
Photo courtesy MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
These are letters written to the editors by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers.

Used Cars with Great Mileage

Thanks for helping your readers pay attention to the efficiency of their automobiles. I am endlessly amazed at the great number of environmentally aware folks who can’t tell me how many miles to the gallon their cars get.

We recently considered a 2002 Toyota Echo. It was in excellent shape, had low mileage and cost only $7,000. But in the end we went with a 1999 Ford Escort SE sedan with a “Split-port Induction 2000” engine. We knew from our 1995 Escort LX wagon that an Escort five-speed would get 40 miles per gallon or high 30s on the highway and mid-30s in the “city.” The price was $2,500. We could afford the Escort out of pocket and save $4,500 in debt over the Echo, which would have slowed our investment in the homestead/farm. Our mechanic drives an Escort and says they are made well enough that, with proper maintenance, we can expect more than 300,000 miles from these great “low-end” cars!

In the mid-1980s, Volvo sold a car in Europe that, because of its superlight body (with a passenger area hardened to be as safe as any other Volvo), got more than 70 mpg. Likewise we read about a German car that got more than 70 mpg in the city and 100-plus on the highway. It seems that MOTHER could help light some fires with a report on how the rest of the world is addressing the mileage issue.

 — Patryk Battle, Burnsville, North Carolina

Alternative Transportation

Take the bus! I live in a metropolitan area and sold my car a couple months ago. No, it is not the quickest, most convenient transportation method, but it sure beats paying those prices at the pump. Carpool! My elderly neighbor offers the single mom down the street a ride when he heads to the grocery store. The single mom always pays him $6 to cover the cost of 2-plus gallons’ worth of gasoline. My husband and I own one vehicle, and we work out a fair schedule. Transportation needs are so different than wants.

 — Rachel Ann Gray, Troy, New York

Power of the Future

People who buy hybrids now are investing in a less oil-dependent future, and generations to come will owe them a debt of gratitude. Hybrid power is obviously the propulsion system of the future, and I foresee a distant time when people will look at faded pictures of our petroleum-only vehicles and wonder how and why we managed to keep them in use for so long. The strong sales of hybrids is a good sign that at least some people are paying attention, and the emergence of promising developments such as hybrid plug-in technology is a very good thing for the world.

 — Henry M. Bruce, Duchesne, Utah

Electric Bikes

I read your magazine on a regular basis, but I have never seen anything about electric bicycles. I commute on one manufactured by Optibike in Boulder, Colo., and have had tremendous luck with it. With your article this month on hybrids, I think you should cover the human/electric hybrids that truly are the future of transportation and that get the cost equivalent of 1,500 miles per gallon! My bike even came with a year’s worth of wind power included in the price. I do not even own a car since buying my bike! Help spread the word!  

 — Cris Weaver, Boulder, Colorado 

Low-Cost Fuel Economy

If we’re talking low-cost, reliable fuel economy, why not consider a motorcycle or scooter? I get 70 miles per gallon consistently on my 2003 Kawasaki Ninja EX250. They’re only $3,700 new (mine was $1,500 used). Think about it next time you’re stuck in traffic. Look around and see how many cars have only one passenger (seems like 80 percent in San Francisco).

 — Greg Mattson, Mill Valley, California

Great Info on Hybrids

Many thanks for a wonderful issue. I was particularly impressed with your comprehensive and accurate explanation of the advantages of hybrid cars. However, much to my chagrin, nowhere was the battery replacement cost discussed. I’ve read that they need to be replaced after five years and the cost is between $5,000 to $7,000. To spend this amount on a 5-year-old vehicle is possibly not acceptable to some people.

Five years ago, I purchased a 1989 Geo Metro with automatic transmission and air conditioning for $1,200. After having no major expenses for five years, the engine quit at 200,000 miles. I was able to purchase an excellent low-mileage (35,000) Japanese import engine, delivered to my door, for $375. The car may be tiny, but the owners’ handbook says even though it is not suitable for towing, it has a payload of 650 pounds. I regularly carry a dozen 44-pound bags of organic chicken feed with ease, and a stainless steel roof rack enables me to double the number of full-size alfalfa bales for the rabbits from two to four. That’s two inside with the rear seats folded forward and the hatch shut, and two on the rack. Even though ground clearance is minimal, it can be used in most places around our 10-acre farm.

 — David Goodsir, Yelm, Washington

Not Just a “Granola”

Your editorial “Long Live the Environment” (August/September 2005) was wonderful. It is nice to see that others believe helping and trying to protect the environment has nothing to do with politics. I also like the reference to the idea that just because you love the environment and try to keep it nice, it doesn’t mean you are a “granola,” as they refer to it in Moscow, Idaho. Thanks again for your uplifting letter.

 — Karen M. Pastori, Moscow, Idaho

Environmentalism Isn’t Dead

I am writing this in response to the letter from Jonathan McElroy (“Dear MOTHER,” October/November 2005). I feel sorry for anyone who can say that nature has “no inherent value.” Our love and appreciation of nature and our Mother Earth are the things that make us human! I understand everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, including that of “pro-human,” but human life could not exist without nature!

According to the teachings of Black Elk (Lakota leader), it sounds as if McElroy has the “Blue Man” mentality. This is a thought process that removes man from creation, when in truth we are a part of all beings upon this Earth, and they are a part of us.

Environmentalism is not dead! You would think that in the 21st century humans would realize that we are destroying our world at an alarming rate. We can no longer work against nature and hope to survive much longer. It is that kind of separatist thinking that will ultimately bring about our extinction!

 — Richard Buie, Ravenna, Michigan

Incredible Comment

I am sure I am not the only one to be really surprised to know that there (still) are people out there who lack the simple truth of how we have impacted the Earth’s delicate balance. Jonathan McElroy’s view on environmentalism is the result of the ugly, shortsighted thinking of a “Compartmentalization Theorist.” The inability of this person to possess enough insight angers, worries and embarrasses me as a fellow human being! It is not about so-called groups, environmentalists or crazy-acting people! It is all about continually substantiated scientific facts, done by real scientists, and the unfortunate findings of those studies. What are we going to do about it all? That’s the point!

We are all on this Earth together, like it or not! We need to take care of the soil beneath our feet and the air filling our lungs; it all works together like a perfect song. Thanks! Glad you are here MOTHER!

 — Julie Bakerville, Oak Valley, California

Shocking Letter

Jonathan McElroy’s letter was shocking but understandable to me. Some of my friends who study the Bible say that everything on Earth was put here solely for humans to use and consume. They also say “populate and you will prosper,” which I believe is leading us to a very unhealthy overpopulation.

Some people have a blind faith and a disregard/disrespect for Mother Earth. I haven’t lost all faith in humans because I know that there are more and more people who understand and believe the importance of sustainability.

— Jim Olson, McCall, Idaho

Best Eggs at Her Market

I have been selling my free-range eggs at the local farmer’s market. You put into writing what my customers have been saying all along — my eggs are the best-tasting eggs at the market. I didn’t have all the facts your recent article (The Good Egg, August/September 2005) gave — I just told my customers I have happy chickens that do what chickens do all day long and that lay me whopping big, delicious eggs in return! Since your article came out, I’ve been completely sold out of eggs! Keep up the good stuff.

 — Belinda Learned, North Stonington, Connecticut

Genetics are Crucial

As a small producer of grass-fed beef, I would like to thank Nancy Smith (Better Beef, October/November 2005) for a job well done. I have experienced the “learning curve” of raising tender, delicious grass-finished beef. Starting with the right genetics is crucial. We use Lowlines — a small Angus breed developed in Australia with the express purpose of providing grass-fed beef for the upscale restaurant trade. Our three-quarter-blood steers finish in 20 to 24 months at 800 to 1,000 pounds. They are extremely tender and tasty. We believe that once we get our grasses properly established and our management down they will finish months younger.

As we live 150 miles from any kind of city, we expected marketing to be a problem, but we are finding that local people are accepting that grass-fed beef is healthier and has a great taste. We sold our first grass-fed animal two years ago and currently have customers in five states. My wife does not care to go to restaurants and order beef anymore as it usually does not meet the taste and quality standards we have come to expect.

 — Dwaine Umberger, Rosebud Beef Ranch, Herrick, South Dakota

Kudos to Murray Greys

Our farm has been producing forage-finished beef for about 10 years, and I must say I have never come across an article on the subject that was so comprehensive, yet succinct as your Better Beef article.

The health benefits of grass-fed beef are beyond question. It is absolutely true that the demand greatly exceeds the supply. We are already sold out (by prior deposit/reservation) for our February 2006 harvest. Your writer was on the ball to be talking to the folks at the Stockman Grassfarmer newspaper. It is the bible of forage-finished meat producers; always timely and full of useful info.

There was only one shortcoming in the article: the mention of suitable breeds for grass-fed beef. Murray Grey cattle are exceptionally qualified to produce tender grass-fed beef. In addition, the Murrays are good mothers, extremely docile, good milkers and have few birth problems. As a bonus, the silver ones will shine in the moonlight! Kidding aside — I’m happy to provide more information to anyone about the Murray Grey breed of beef cattle.

 — Carole Brown, Beaver Creek Farms, Lawton, Oklahoma

Watch out for Fescue Fungus

Regarding grass-fed cattle: Fescue grass in the Midwest has an endophyte fungus that produces several potent toxins. These toxins cause disease in cattle, horses and other grazing animals. Please, please pay attention to this.

 — Paul Glynn, Sparta, Missouri

Highlands Good for Grass

I couldn’t agree more with your arguments for grass-fed beef; however, in listing appropriate breeds for grass-finishing, you overlooked the Scotch Highland breed. The Highland uses a long double coat of hair rather than a fat layer for warmth; thus it produces a carcass lower in fat to begin with — the lowest in fat and cholesterol of any beef breed. These animals will thrive on “pasture” that will leave other breeds starved. They are often only slightly larger than the Dexter — a perfect size for the small family farm — and are sweet-tempered. As for taste, a Highland steak is the best one can get. Don’t believe me? Check with the Queen of England — her herds at Balmoral are Highlands. The one drawback of Highlands? You may find them too cute to slaughter!

 — Chris Clendenen, Glen Haven Farm, Siloam Springs, Arkansas