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


Archive for June, 2009


Alternative Energy article

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Hello Mr Silveira

Your article Our Energy crisis: Part 3 was very informative.

Just wanted to tell you that about a year ago I invested in a mutual funds that only includes businesses world wide that involve alternative energy,
called New Alternatives (NALFX on the stock exchange).  Like ALL businesses, it took a hit last fall, but is rebounding.

I truly believe that alternative energy will be a profit maker someday, I just hope I live long enough to see it.

Kindest regards,

Coleen Czechowski
Alden, NY


Our Energy Crisis

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Thank Heavens – At last, a balanced, well written, factual article on “Alternative Energy”.

Useful data that was clearly well researched and presented in an unbiased manner that is nearly possible to pull off these days with this heated topic.

Congratulations to Mr. Silveira for providing a reference I will save and use for some time to come.

Katonah, NY


Firearms suggestion

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009


I’m a Vietnam combat vet and experienced shooter with a note about your article, “Economical Battery of Guns…” Outstanding and informative.

My suggestion is that your staff consider adding Sabot Flechette rounds to a recommended supply of ammo for your 12-gauge shotguns.

After using the Flechette rounds in the army, they’re far superior to buckshot and extraordinarily accurate and effective up to 125 yards. I have a cache for my Winchester Defender.

Legal for citizens to own, although expensive — but, what’s your life worth?

Tony Swindell
Howe, TX


Jackie Clay’s Cast Iron Article

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

I really enjoyed Jackie Clay’s article on cast iron. We’ve been using it for years and love it too. Just by experimenting with cooking and cleaning and restoring it we picked up most of the info Jackie covered already–but it was great to see it all in print! I hope that article is part of her new cookbook and I can’t wait to see that–I’ll definitely order one!

She’s a great inspiration and a fount of knowledge.  I’ve had several of my questions answered on her Ask Jackie Blog and am very grateful there’s someone out there who actually knows a few odd things and is willing to share the info.

Mary Thompson


Just read your article on transportation

Monday, June 15th, 2009


Great article. I also ended up with a electric bike and I’m loving it.

I’m currently, like you, modifying it to make it better. I have to get to work 15 miles away and have band pratice 40 miles away. Walking it is not really an option. It was just cool seeing someone appreciate the way the electric bike skates around the system a bit :)

No response necessary…enjoy your articles. You think in a very similar way as myself!

Jeff in Upstate NY


Door/gate hinges

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Good morning!

Some time back you had a two part article about how to make any door with hinges from scratch (not Dorthy Ainsworth’s article, though hers was also excellent.)

I had been wanting to make these wooden hinges since I picked up that issue and have finnaly finished a pair of lattice gates using them.  Wooden hinges might seem like too much trouble to some but I had a great time making them and they work and look great.

Pictures attached.

Thanks for the great magazine!

God bless,

Calvin Martin Stevens


Canning Article on Meat

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

I have been home canning since 1975 and I don’t think I have ever read a better how-to article. [You can safely and easily can your own meat]

I thank you very much.

It goes to show, you’re never to old to learn some thing new!!

MSG James M Reeder
U.S. Army Retired
Topeka KS


Stinky kerosene lamps?

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

As a user of kerosene lamps for over 60 years, if your kerosene lamp emits strong odors, or the chimney becomes cloudy or smoked within a short time, something is wrong.

More than likely the problem can be traced to the wick being too high, the design of the burner, stale (very old) kerosene, or the wrong type chimney for the lamp burner. Just because a chimney fits the size of the burner does not mean it is correct. If the chimney is too wide, and does not have the proper size throat, (Narrow at the top) the burner will not burn efficiently and will produce problems.

First check to see if the wick is the proper height. The wick should not exceed much more than 1/16 of an inch above the WICK TUBE….not exceed the top of the burner hood. So many times I see people attempting to turn the wick above the burner hood, thinking this is correct. Do not attempt this…it is incorrect.

I too, have had the experience of eye-smarting fumes, smoked chimneys, and difficulty burning kerosene lamps.

There is no need to purchase expensive lamp oil, or paraffin oil. Plain K-1 kerosene is sufficient. Avoid dyed or colored kerosene. It contains impurities.

Do some experimenting. Try a variety different lamp burners, different chimneys. Eventually you will discover which is right for your kerosene lamp.

Last week, I purchased a very nice 100 + year old kerosene lamp at a yard sale. It had been severely neglected. The burner is probably original, but probably never cleaned in the last 50 years. The wick was so old it had rotted inside the burner. A clean lamp is absolutely necessary to burn correctly. Also try to use a 100% cotton wick. Some new wicks are made from synthetic materials including a mixture of nylon and cotton. These wicks are very inferior and will not burn correctly.

Clean your lamp well…. soak the lamp font, wick and burner, for three hours, in a mixture of 3 tablespoons of ammonia, 3 tablespoons of liquid dish detergent and two cups of tepid water. This mixture will dissolve most gummy deposits. With several rinses and being allowed to dry sufficiently the lamp is ready for testing.

Tonight, I tested the old lamp I purchased last week. I am very happy to say it is burning as I write and I cannot detect any odors. The chimney remains clear, and the light is bright.

Bruce Clark
Interlaken, New York


Bad ammo rounds

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Just read your article on ammo.

When you come across a round that shouldn’t be shot, how do you safely dispose of the bad round?

Thanks from a new gun owner,

Steve Martin

If you have a bullet puller, you can safely disassemble defective cartridges, thus salvaging the components.

Some folks soak them in metal penetrating oil, which after long enough usually renders them inert, and then just throw them away.

NEVER simply toss them in the trash as that can cause an accidental shrapnel injury to someone when the round in the garbage goes into the chopper or the incinerator.

Personally, I just bury them.


Mas Ayoob


Loved the article!

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

I came to your article for the 10-day survival pack and the low cost, do-it-yourself approach.

There is one item you could add that costs about 2 dollars and offers a great deal of versatility, a “candle heater”.

There are a variety of instructions for various versions on the web.

What I’ve settled on personally is 3 cans of varying size.

– A #10 with it’s plastic lid for containing the whole set-up. Used to be a simple coffee can, but they are plastic now, an empty paint can will work but it needs to have all it’s chemical plastic coating/paint coating burned off in a camp fire first. Restaurants still get things in #10 cans and some come with the plastic lid, if you can find one.

– Nest inside that can two others, a typical bean/soup can preferably taller than your emergency candles and punch a few holes around the rim of the open end for air flow

– Nest either a third can of larger diameter than the bean/soup can (tuna) or a metal measuring cup or coffee cup

– A few pieces of heavy foil are a good addition, lets you ‘cook’ other items (a fish) or reflect more light around a space

– Some large 3 inches tall 1 inch diameter emergency candles, other sizes work, see can note below

The large can is your container and insulator.

It’s a bit of a puzzle, but once you get the two smaller cans nested, surround them by all the candles you can fit, matches and dried legumes.

Close it and wait for your emergency.

Set it up by:

Making a nest of dirt in the largest can (you can use the legumes but you can’t eat dirt)

The soup/bean can then rests nestled in the dirt in the #10 can

Two or three candles in the center can are the burner.

Rest the third can on top as a pot of sorts to make soup (with the legumes) or boil water for other food/drink

By inverting the third can (pot) as a lid on the candle can you protect the flame, but keep the heat (don’t forget the air holes mentioned above).

Sit it on the floor of your car between your feet or on the ground under your camp chair. (might add a few pieces of reflective foil depending on camp chair material)

You need to be smartly cautious, it is open flame and it will get hot, but the air space between the soup can the #10 can means you can touch the sides gingerly to move it around and not get burned. One candle makes a surprising amount of heat.

It’s nearly free, we have one in each car and two in the house with other emergency stuff.

Anyway, thought I’d pass the idea along to use as you see fit. What makes it great is that it’s DIY, you can use those hideous Christmas tapers instead of regifting them, any collection of cans will work as long as they are different sizes. Each family member can have their own, and they are relatively safe – knocked over the wax would probably put out any flame and the whole thing would still be kind of enclosed.

Thanks for a great site and great ideas. 9-11 made us all really think. And for us, Dec. 2007 10 days without power in the Pacific Northwest, made all the emergency prep worth it!

Jane H.


Build a Pallet Fence, Issue 69

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009


This is a great use of free materials but one thing should be considered, how pallets are treated to prevent insect infestation and transfer. There are (2) ways this is done, autoclaving and chemical dunking. As best I can tell autoclaving is done primarily in Europe whereas chemical dunking is done more commonly in Asia. In the US, both methods are used.

Obviously if you were fencing around a garden you would want to use pallets that were autoclaved rather than chemical dunked. There is likely a way to determine what method is used as all pallets are stamped with manufacture coding but I could never uncover that info. I had planned to make raised bed garden boxes from them when I stumbled upon the potential chemical aspect of pallets. Whoduthinkit?

Take care,




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