Tethering Goats, How to Catch Rats and Other Homesteading Tips

A new MOTHER reader shares his experience with keeping hens laying, feeding pigs, trapping rats and more in this letter.


| July/August 1974


Dear MOTHER: 

A very dear friend — a retired college president — gave me his back copies of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. A gift of life! Where have you been? Where have I been? I'm deeply moved to learn of the depth and magnitude of longing felt by my kindred across the country as shown in page after page after page of pleas from cultural prisoners I never realized existed.

I've always attributed the urban mess to the urban mentality ... a sort of sloth and over cultivated fastidiousness that makes people willing to be exploited by the economic system in exchange for a false sense of security. And, for the past six years, I've considered myself a lone escapee from the middle-class ghetto. Sure, I've suspected that there were others like myself lone eccentrics here and there — but I never dreamed that there was a whole class of beings who desperately want out and back to the good earth.

My own break took the form of homesteading 40-plus acres on the Animas River (a shortened version of the Spanish name, "River of Lost Souls") here on the Colorado-New Mexico border. Thanks to MOTHER EARTH NEWS, several of my projects — solar heat, wind power, methane generation — are looking more pragmatic and feasible. All promise to alleviate some of the mistakes I've made so far and add new dimensions to my goal of self-sufficiency.

There are still problems, of course: I find I lack some skills I need (welding, for example) and I have yet to learn where to get things like bearings and a shaft for an S-rotor wind machine. Also, for economic reasons I've hung on to a 40-hour-a-week government job and commuting 35 miles each way every day leaves me precious little time for homestead development, and even less for writing.

Nevertheless — now that I've discovered my kind — I'd like to squeeze out time enough to share experience and knowledge. I'm well up on irrigated gardening, dowsing for water, raising chickens, pigs, goats and cows, trapping fur-bearing animals, hunting big game (almost 100% success with elk and deer), home care of game meat, low-cost housing construction and food preservation by drying, canning and freezing. I can also advise on building with stone (I was a masonry contractor at one time) and on income tax and social security problems (my government job). And I'm able to provide information on this part of the country. My working territory covers all of northwestern New Mexico, but I'm familiar with the entire "four corners area" of New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.





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