Dear MOTHER: October/November 2010

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This year marks 40 years of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and it all started with issue No. 1.

As you may recall, 2010 is our 40th anniversary. Earlier this year, we invited you to share your tales about how the magazine has changed your life. Many veteran readers wrote passionately about how MOTHER EARTH NEWS has guided them over the decades. Some folks shared how the magazine inspired a new sense of hope and possibility. Many commented on their gratitude to other readers who have shared their tips and stories over the years. You can read more of the feedback at Why I Love My MOTHER. We’ve included our 10 favorite reports here, and each author will receive a copy of one of the all-time great homesteading books, the late Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living.

MOTHER Always There for Her

MOTHER EARTH NEWS didn’t change my life … it has been my life. You were with me in the 1970s as I sat with friends and we dreamed of starting our own community of simple living. You were with me when I moved to the “big city,” started my first garden in my small backyard and rented space from a community garden. You inspired me to visit the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Eco- Village in Hendersonville, N.C., and see firsthand examples of rammed earth and cordwood buildings.

You were with me when I moved to New Mexico with my best friend and first husband. It was there I learned that raised beds don’t work in the desert and that you have to water three times a day!

You were with me when I returned home to Ohio, divorced and nursing my wounds, looking for a small house to start my garden over again.

You were with me when I met the man I will now spend the rest of my life with. Together we grow a small garden and sell produce and fresh flowers at our local farmers market. We live in an earth-bermed home. We heat entirely with wood. We keep a few bees for honey, a couple of chickens for fresh eggs, and we tap the maple trees in spring to take syrup to market.

You never preached what one should or shouldn’t believe or do. You simply started doing it and passed along the information for us to pick and choose as we saw fit.
Jan Dawson
Bellefontaine, Ohio 

Inspired a Garden and a Career

I’ve always gardened, but MOTHER EARTH NEWS inspired me to cut out all chemical fertilizers and use only natural, sustainable methods for our gardens. It also inspired me to pursue a career doing what I love: growing heirloom vegetable plants. It’s been a challenge to find resources, but it’s so exciting to create a career doing something I believe in and love!
Julie Thompson-Adolf
Moore, South Carolina 

Immediately Hooked and Enlightened

How has MOTHER EARTH NEWS changed my life? Only totally! I still remember in 1970 picking up a copy at a friend’s house. I had no previous knowledge or interest in anything along the lines discussed in this publication, but I was immediately hooked and enlightened. I became an avid reader and subscriber starting with issue No. 2. I just recently purchased the 40-Year Archive on DVD, as my old paper copies are quite worn and fragile by now!

I now live in a 100-year-old farmhouse on 10 acres in the country. We raise lots of animals, veggies and fruit, and continue to plant more. We are beekeepers. We heat with wood and have set up a rain barrel system. We can, we dry, we save seeds. We have learned all these things from MOTHER EARTH NEWS, and when we want to learn something new, where do we turn? To our MOTHER, of course!
Janice Houck
Rome, Georgia  

Fun and Useful Tips for All Ages

In 1975, my parents moved from a small town to 40 acres in the hills. I was 8 years old, and we were homesteading. We had chickens, goats, rabbits, cows, horses and pigs. We built raised beds, cold frames and a greenhouse. We didn’t have electricity, but we had propane for the fridge, cookstove and water heater, and woodstoves for heating and cooking in winter. We also had a subscription to MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

Even at 8 years old, I read MOTHER EARTH NEWS cover to cover. One of my first MOTHER EARTH NEWS memories was learning how to make a whistle out of a willow branch with my pocketknife. I must have made dozens! One of the best tips I learned was to split wood from the bottom up. I immediately tried the bottom-up method, and I can attest that it works — and that it was a good trick for a young kid trying to prove his manhood!
Shannon Gardner
Reno, Nevada 

Making Sustainability Doable

For three decades MOTHER EARTH NEWS has been a guiding force in my life. Reading about the principles of passive solar heating and cooling learned from the pages of MOTHER EARTH NEWS influenced each project in the gradual rebuilding of my first home. My small, dark cottage grew into a light-filled, cheerful place — easy to heat with a woodstove in winter and easy to cool with open windows and cross breezes in summer.

Thanks for making sustainability doable!
Adria Beach
Wayland, New York 

Finding a Better Way

How many times in our lives have we thought, “There has got to be a better way”? For us, it was after scouring the grocery store for healthy, local produce that we didn’t have to take out a loan to purchase. It was after having heart palpitations over the ballooning electric bill. It was that sneaking sensation that, despite all the feelings of ownership and possession, none of what we had was really “ours,” and if the plug were ever pulled, how would our family survive?

We found the answer to that question in the pages of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. Although just a newcomer compared with many of your loyal readers (I’ve been reading MOTHER EARTH NEWS for five years), I have found myself referring to the magazine and the website at least a dozen times a week. I read it from cover to cover and find that every article has value, whether for immediate use or set aside for another time.

So, clutching several MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazines in our sweaty palms, we made the leap. We packed up the family and our menagerie of critters, moved from our close quartered home to a 55- acre spread covered in old growth maples and wildlife of every sort.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS has allowed us to regain control of how our family lives. It has provided us with better health, laughter and debate material. But most of all, it has shown us there really is a better way.
Alison Sherman
Lansdowne, Nova Scotia 

Making a Positive Difference

MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps me remember what a small part of this world I am, yet what a big difference I can make with smart choices. I want to pass on this big, beautiful planet to my children in a little better shape than I received it.
Vicki Nyberg
Bellevue, Nebraska 

Finding My Place

In 1992, I decided to move to a rural area to escape the chaos and turmoil of a rapidly deteriorating city life.

I had virtually no experience with homesteading or farm life, but I knew deep in my soul that this change was essential for my well-being.

I ultimately acquired a small ranch house on a 1.25-acre lot on the border of 88 acres of protected wetlands. I had always felt connected to nature (even in the city), and now I was surrounded by trees and by endless possibilities.

But where to begin? I wish I could remember the exact circumstances regarding my first exposure to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, but suffice it to say it was like manna from heaven. Armed with my new subscription, I tilled the soil, grew an organic garden, collected rainwater, pruned trees, and constructed a cold frame, greenhouse, chicken coop and storage sheds. I began growing shiitake mushrooms, purchased a dehydrater and installed several beehives — all under the tutelage of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

My life has been far more fulfilling now that I have found my place, and MOTHER has been by my side ever since, and always will be.
Anthony Victor
Jackson, New Jersey 

Allows Me to Keep Dreaming

Having been a reader of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for many, many years, I’ve found the recipe for no-knead bread from the December 2007/January 2008 issue to be the most helpful to me. I have been making my own bread for more than 30 years, and this recipe is the most reliable I’ve ever seen for perfect bread every time. For me, MOTHER EARTH NEWS reinforces my own lifestyle and allows me to continue dreaming about sustainable methods of living I have not yet accomplished.
Jo MacDonald
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin 

Enables Synergy

MOTHER EARTH NEWS has been in my blood since issue No. 1. I was a “rebel” back then, and having a way to live outside the system was a real goal of mine. I knew there were others out there who could hold my hand as I tried to escape.

This is what makes MOTHER so important: First, it lets us know there are others out there who have the same kind of ideas and goals. Second, others are willing to share that information, and MOTHER is the vehicle that enables this synergy to take place. Without MOTHER, I would not have taken the step to live on a farmette, I would not have experimented with alternative fuel sources, and I would not have had the courage to actually produce my own food.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is much more than just a magazine; it is our comfort and friend!
Tom Fafard
Winnetka, California  

Thanks to everyone who wrote in on Why I Love My MOTHER. The Encyclopedias are in the mail for those whose letters are printed above. — MOTHER

Home Canning Concerns

A suggestion for reusing supermarket jars and lids caught my eye in one of your articles. The person quoted stated that he has been using this practice for years without problem. He is darn lucky. One small, unnoticed error in canning can result in the growth of harmful (and often unnoticeable) bacteria and bacterial toxins. This is most likely to happen if foods are not processed properly or lids are not completely intact. Stunningly rapid and deadly illnesses — particularly botulism — may result from consuming improperly processed and canned food. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk for severe illness and death. I meticulously follow standard home canning practices and never reuse lids. I view this as money and time well spent, as following these practices means I never risk causing others or myself the agonizing and deadly foodborne illnesses that can come from improperly processed food.
Deborah Sampson
Hancock, New Hampshire 

Already Dreaming

I’m 12, and whenever a new MOTHER EARTH NEWS comes in, it’s a battle between my mom and me as to who gets to look at the magazine first. Of course, the one who pays for it, my mom, always wins this little competition of ours. When it is finally my turn to look at the magazine, I spend hours poring over every word of every article. I fantasize about our family owning a farm. I will keep on dreaming about finally giving back to our Earth and living a sustainable life.
Haleigh Owen
Swansboro, North Carolina  

In Favor of Buying Used Farm Equipment

There are a lot of good used tractors just sitting around people’s farms. Because farms have gotten a lot bigger over time, a lot of good, cheap and small equipment no longer has a use on most people’s farms. For example, there are a lot of Ford 9n, 8n and 2n tractors out there. You can get these tractors for really cheap. In my area it is not uncommon for them to go for about $1,000 to $2,000, with some implements included. Or, if you need a larger tractor, the Farmall H and M models are also a dime a dozen. Tractorhouse and Craigslist are gold mines for good used equipment at good prices.
Chris St. Peter
Fort Lupton, Colorado  

Best Customer Service of Any Publisher

I just want to thank you so much for your wonderful magazine and for the marvelous quality of the package I just purchased (the Archive and four special issues). I am so enjoying all of it. Most of all, I want you to know that you are providing the best customer service of any publisher I have ever worked with.

Your office is friendly, helpful and speedy with processing everything. I have enjoyed my affiliation with you and your products. I’m sure I’ll be a customer for a long time.
Jeff and Katie Snider
Dayton, Ohio  

Unusual Water Heater Savings

A great way to save on heating water is to upgrade your central air conditioner to one that has a high SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating, and to add a heat recovery unit to it that will not only heat your water for free but will also make your air conditioner run more efficiently. Four months ago I did this and I am very pleased with the results. My water heater has been turned off the past three months and my water is much hotter (150 degrees Fahrenheit) than when I had it turned on. The total expense for my new 3-ton unit, air handler, duct work, and heat recovery unit ($500) was $5,700. I will receive a $1,500 tax credit for the purchase, so my actual cost is $4,200. My new air conditioner comes with a 10-year warranty and will almost pay for itself with the energy I am saving.
Dale Blake
Tampa Bay, Florida  

Bag Gardens Save the Day

In Start a Quick and Easy Food Garden, you discussed gardening in bags of top soil. This summer, our branch of the Adams Public Library planned to have the children attending our summer cooking class grow some of their own food, but most of these children had no access to a garden. Your article allowed us to think in a different direction. We planted four bags with green beans, cabbage, zucchini, radishes and lettuce. We are now harvesting the green beans, and the zucchini are flowering like mad. We’re not having much success with the cabbage, radishes and lettuce, but we had an unusually wet spring followed by instant hot weather. We also have cherry tomatoes and strawberries hanging in containers. Thank you so much for the wonderful idea!
Rose Bryan
Geneva, Indiana  

Beating Back the ‘Bad’ Bugs

Just like in the article Why Natural Insect Control Works Better, I was able to avoid dusting my potato plants. Before I even received the issue in the mail, I started checking the plants when they were about 4 to 5 inches tall. I first got rid of any eggs I found on our 200 potato plants. As the plants grew, I would handpick off larvae, never seeing many adult Colorado potato beetles. I would do this every evening, and it was amazing to see the good bugs — such as praying mantis nymphs, ladybugs and soldier bugs. When I would see a soldier bug attacking the larvae or adult potato beetles, I left it alone. Now when I look at the plants, there are very few beetles or none at all. To me, the key is to get rid of the eggs and/or larvae before they become adults and start reproducing.
Joyce Huber
Ste. Genevieve, Missouri  

Taking the Long View

Interesting comments about global warming in Dear Mother: June/July 2010. I have two scenarios that people on either side need to think about.

The first is, assume the country implements actions to stop global warming, but later learns that global warming either does not exist or is not caused by humans. The actions taken include expanding sustainable solar and wind power, investing in transmission lines, and investing in the manufacture of more efficient transportation, including automobiles, trucks and trains. The result is threefold: We would enhance America’s manufacturing base, which would increase jobs and improve our nation’s security; lessen our dependency on fossil fuels, thus reducing the amount of poisons we’re breathing from the air; and, finally, send less money to people who don’t like us very much, thus improving our balance of payments and overseas debt burden.

Now let’s assume that we decide global warming either does not exist or do nothing about it, but it turns out we were wrong, and global warming is actually real. We continue using fossil fuels, continue to add poisons to the atmosphere, continue to send money to people who don’t like us, continue to expand our foreign debt load, continue to deplete reserves of oil, continue to cause environmental disasters like the current mess in the Gulf of Mexico, and, finally, cause some real problems for people living on the coasts. The benefit: We get to drive our SUVs for a few more years and we leave an ever-expanding mess to our children and grandchildren.

I would rather assume the threat is real and be wrong than take the chance otherwise. Whether real or not, we wind up in better shape.
Fred Mucha
Temple, Texas  

Enjoying MOTHER in Iraq

I just got several issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS and want to tell you how happy and thankful I am! I will spread them out over the next several weeks and enjoy them slowly. Thank you so much, and please keep up the great work!
Ethan Dean

Working by Hand Is Enlightening

When we decided to make our return to the land, we used as many “hand tools” (human-powered tools) as possible for environmental, political, economical and health reasons.

Without really thinking that we could do it only with hand tools, we decided to give it a try. It has been nothing less than an enlightening experience. How could you reach enlightenment working with a shovel, you might ask, when a backhoe or a tractor would obviously do the work in a fraction of the time?

There is no arguing the fact that machines speed up the process, but really, how much? I never asked myself this question before, but trying to figure it out has been worth the sweat. It changed my whole perception of this thing we call reality. Not convinced? Give it a try.
Sylvain Pilon
Bridgetown, Nova Scotia  

Better Beef

Thank you so much for printing What You Need to Know About the Beef You Eat. I have forwarded this article to all my friends. Now I’m trying to get them to care enough to read it and act! The information the author provided in the article is overwhelming and almost more than one can truly appreciate. I salute the author and all those who put this together. Fine work indeed!
Millicent Tishweed
Mango, Florida  

Tickled Over Pickles

Regarding Ozark lime watermelon pickles (I found the recipe in Recycle That Watermelon Rind on your website): My dad was from the Missouri Ozarks, and he often spoke of the watermelon pickles he remembered from his youth. As much as tried, we could never replicate the taste he remembered. He’s gone now, but thanks to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I now have the opportunity to let his grandchildren taste those yummy pickles!
Patricia Routon
Lawton, Oklahoma