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Letters and email from readers about Backwoods Home Magazine and the BHM website


Archive for December, 2008


Home Survival

Monday, December 29th, 2008

I love reading your articles, all of them, not just the Home Survival stuff. You have really given me such great advice that I just had to let you know.

I am not able to have a garden, or can a whole lot of stuff, but I do have a freezer and fill it every chance I get. I get most of my produce from the local farmers market, in the summer months, and put up whatever I possibly can. I love pulling those blueberries out of the freezer in January and making pancakes. It’s just amazing what you can do with just a little room and a deep freezer. This is the first time I ever made Apple Butter and I shared it at work. My friends really enjoyed it. Now my daughter told me I have to enter it into the county fair this coming year. (haha)

As for meat. I’m afraid to can meat. So my husband’s friend got a deer this year and well it’s in the freezer too. Most of the things I freeze I use the vacuum sealer on.

Anyway I could go on and on, So please accept my thank you for being here for me. May God Bless You !

Michele Cawthorne


Don’t Get Stranded In Winter article

Thursday, December 25th, 2008

I’ve been a subscriber for several years, and have the following feedback on the “Don’t Get Stranded In Winter” article from your Jan/Feb 2009 issue.

Freeze plugs:

The primary purpose of the holes these go in is to drain the sand (from the cores) after the engine block is cast. Protection against freezing is a secondary purpose, and should not be relied on. Also, while steel plugs corrode more readily than brass, brass brings its own problem: copper and its alloys have a stronger tendency to grab electrons than iron or aluminum, so brass freeze plugs increase the rate at which the water passages in your cylinder block corrode (although with the plug being much smaller than the block, this is unlikely to be the limiting factor in engine life).

Engine block heaters:

The article mentions that block heaters are a problem for off-grid people due to their high power consumption. There are fuel-burning block heaters available (e.g. the Espar Hydronic series, and the Webasto BlueHeat coolant heater, both of which have gasoline and diesel models), although they cost more than electric block heaters. These have no “outside the vehicle” connection required, so in addition to not draining an off-grid power system, one of these will let you run your block heater when you are away from home with no electrical outlet available (e.g. out in the bush on a hunting trip).

Winter specific “must-have” items:

– A bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt, or kitty litter (good for added traction).

While salt is used for de-icing pavement, it takes time to work, and the resulting slush gives even less traction than the original packed snow. Grit is a much better solution. Also, some of the “traction sand” available is so fine as to be virtually useless – you need fairly coarse (1/16″ to 1/8″) sand with sharp-edged grains (i.e. not the rounded grains from river-bottom sand). With kitty litter, you need the conventional (clay-type) litter, not the newer clumping or “pearls” type. Finally, don’t carry a bag of it – after you’ve opened the bag and used some, it can’t be re-closed properly, so it’s likely to spill all over the trunk of your vehicle. Instead, save and dry out some empty washer fluid jugs, and fill them with the grit.

– Jumper cables

Be sure to get a set that is both heavy-gauge (able to handle the current needs of a starter motor) and long enough to reach (you can’t always get the helper vehicle “nose to nose” with the dead one) – the 10 gauge 8 foot cables commonly included in automotive emergency kits are vitrually useless. I carry a set of 6 gauge 16 foot cables (long enough to reach even if the dead vehicle is parked “nose-in” with other cars on both sides) in my car, and 2 gauge 20 foot cables in my work vehicle.

Also, not all vehicles have a good ground easily accessible and within cable reach of the battery (last connection is made to a ground, **NOT** the negative battery terminal, on the dead vehicle, since a spark can ignite hydrogen gas). I have a “cheater cable” – simply a battery cable with the battery end replaced by a jumper cable clamp. Attaching this to the negative terminal of the dead battery provides a good electrical connection far enough away to avoid igniting the hydrogen gas. Finally, some jumper cables have a retractable “tongue” on their clamps for side-terminal batteries (used on GM vehicles), or you can get side-terminal adapters (look like a large spade lug with a tapered throat). Good to have even if your vehicle has a top-post battery – the other one might have side terminals.

Robert Wolff
Willowdale, Ontario, Canada


Hydrogen as a car fuel

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

I think we are taking the wrong approach by thinking of hydrogen being transported in liquid or highly-compressed form. Natural gas has a high hydrogen content and the infrastructure for distribution is already in place.

If we use intermittent electricity sources (such as wind or solar energy) to generate hydrogen and distribute by existing pipes we can use hydrogen for domestic heating (in here in the UK, that would make us less dependent on Russia as a supplier).

If we are to move towards the use of hydrogen as a car fuel, the logical step would be to supply the hydrogen at a normal pressure to filling stations and carry out the compression there. Sure, it’s costly, but compare it to the cost of transporting liquid hydrogen, not to mention the safety aspect of working with large quantities of highly compressed hydrogen.

As a byline, remember that the other product of electrolysis is oxygen which also has a fair market value.


Ian Sinclair


The gun battery

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Enjoyed the article.  The importance of user preference and environment are crucial where I live.

Part of my gun battery includes a ruger 10/22.  My problem exist when the outdoor temperature reaches -20 F or colder i.e. weapon jams.  Here in the Alaskan interior -20 F or colder is a very common  winter temperture range.

Another situation is user preferance.  Due to my work, I am gone from home several days at a time.  My wife dosen’t like pump shotguns, but due to our remote location, she has encountered a varity of situations where a single shot shotgun is inadaquate.  She currently uses a Stoeger 12 gauge over and under.

I don’t have much use for a handgun, although I do own a few.  For defense I use a Remington 870 defence version.  By alternating slug rounds with double ought buck shot I feel very safe during bear encounters.

For hunting, I use a Remington model 700 chambered in 30 06.  It’s the old reliable.

Well, this is just one family’s battery.

Stay warm, Gar

Gar Blackledge



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