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


Archive for February, 2010


Thank you!

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Editor and Staff,

I just wanted to drop a line and say thanks for a great magazine and E-newsletter. I look forward to getting the newsletter every month and the magazine every couple. I have several friends (hopefully future subscribers) who I have turned onto your magazine and and I know have been visiting the website.

I live in the depressed economy of Michigan and like many others is trying to keep my head above water. I hate going to my job due to the negativity and dismal spirit found there. I work in the auto industry and can tell you things are better than they were even just 6 months ago but I can still feel that my job is in jeopardy on almost a daily basis. It’s time for a change I just haven’t figured out what that is totally going to be.

You are always a bright light of hope as I can see where I need to go. I’m working on it and probably will be relocating my family in the near future to a property where we can practice the homesteading spirit. I don’t know what I will be doing yet but you have given me some direction on where to look.

Thanks again,

Jim Loomis


Pouring concrete

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Reading the article on pouring concrete for the home owner [Issue #121, January/February, 2010] there are a couple of points that I think need to be brought up.

1. Safety, wear rubber gloves and boots. Concrete is a thousand times acidic than water, it can cause severe chemical burns to unprotected skin. If you do get a burn, flush with vinegar, it neutralizes the acid. I’ve found applying olive oil helps the healing.

2. Bull floating should be done perpendicular to your screed rod. This flattens the ridges that your rod may leave. Bull floating helps flatten and seals the top of the concrete, this should be done right behind the rod to keep concrete from drying out too quickly.

3. If you haven’t run a power trowel, hire a finisher. A power trowel used incorrectly will screw your floor up in seconds. The average home owner doesn’t have the skills to fix it. The power trowel pictured doesn’t have the correct blades for wet concrete, those are finish blades for use when the floor is about done. For most work you want Combo-blades, that is what will come on most rental machines.

4. Curing and saw cutting. The fact is concrete cracks, it needs to have relief cuts put in it so you don’t end up with a cracked up mess. Sidewalks should be done cut every 6 to 10 feet depending on how wide it is, a 2 foot wide walk will need less joints than a 4 foot walk. Slabs should be done every 10 feet maximum 12, this both directions length and width. Joints can be either tooled in when you are placing the concrete or saw cut the same day it is poured with a SoftCut saw or after the concrete is cured with a wet saw. Your concrete needs to be cured, by either chemical or water. Depending on the weather and your pocket book either works, if in doubt ask your ready mix salesman.

Bruce Wright,finisher


Wonderful mag!

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Hello BWH!

I just had to drop you a line and let you know how much my hubby and I love your magazine. We have been subscibers for only a couple of years now, but have learned so much! In our plight for self sufficiency, your magazine has been so valuable to us-when we receive it…we actually flip a coin to see who gets to read it first! Cover to cover I might add! We always find a project that sounds good, so we put it on the to-do list. And we love the letters from the other folks who also are faithful readers.

Since subscribing, we have managed to put in an even larger garden than we had, and grow and can almost all of our veggies. Anything we need to supplement, it’s farmers’ markets and local farmers only.

We are surrounded by ocean so we do a lot of fishing, as we love fish…I doesnt cost us a dime and its healthy for us..and we love to go fishing!

We also built our own greenhouse from mostly recycled materials! We have a flock chickens for eggs and looking into getting a couple of cows for milk and meat and a few goats for milk for us and also to use in my soaps! Yes soaps!!!

My Hubby is looking into material to make some solar panels to use while we save up to get enough panels to go completely off grid.

We quit our jobs and are now self-employed. Not letting others profit off our labor is liberating!

We live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. I was wondering if there are any other readers around my parts. I saw BWH for the first time a few moths ago and with the self-sufficiency movement catching on…it would be a benefit and education for all who read!

We are so grateful to you for all the great info. You have been so helpful!!!!!

We look forward to many more years with you!!!

Julie & Don Goulart
Mashpee, MA


Issue 122 My View

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Hey Dave,

First, best wishes to you and yours, hope they are all healthy again soon.

Regarding the “My View” in the issue 122, will you be posting this on the web site? We need to send this as far and wide as we can.

Hope it’s not too late. Here’s to Obama-man of color, the color being in red!!! If you want to use that in any way, feel free!!!

Thanks for a great mag. Dropped my sub to Countryside quite a while ago. Kinda seem to have lost their way.

Tim Vander Waal


Yes, we’ll be posting it online a week or two after the print issue subscribers get their issues, which is happening right now apparently.



We miss you Claire!

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Dear Ms. Wolfe,

It has been a while since we chatted and I was just wondering how you were doing and so I thought I’d drop you a line. Personally I’m just fine. I’ll be moving to Maine sometime this spring or summer to build my own little gulch. I can’t wait even tho’ it will be hard.

We at TMM have acted rather childish with the whole S6 thing and at least for my part in it I am deeply sorry. If driving you away was the result, then we who said those things are idiots.

One other little thing, My Birthday is on the 8th. I’ll be 21. I can finally buy my own booze!

So, how is the desert treating you? Since I used to spend a lot of time in the Mojave hunting snakes and looking for fossils on family outings, I had to learn desert survival stuff.

Water being the most important I’ll just give this one tip to start with.

Yucca flower stalks are full of water. You cut the stalk off the plant at its base then cut the flower end off. Next you put one end in your mouth and squeeze the part in your mouth to release the water. It’s easy even if it tastes a little funny.

In the Southwestern US this can keep you hydrated if you get lost. Killing snakes with a big rock and frying them on a black one makes for good eats too. Or you could just build a fire.


Ryan AKA GaurdDuck


The Path to Another Depression

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Dear Editor:

Although largely unresearched, I generally agree with the thought process in Mr John Silviera’s The Path To Another Depression.  My feeling is that in the constant clash between politicians and the economy, most generally the economy suffers in order to benefit the politician’s quest for monetary/political gain.

However, in the third to the last paragraph, one of Mr. Silviera’s conclusions is; “Hence, GM’s Saturn, Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, and other small car disasters that have befallen Detroit.”  I have read and heard several times over the past few years that the PT Cruiser was the most successful new car rollout since Ford’s Mustang in the early sixties.  Obviously, my current understanding of the success of this rollout seems to be in direct contrast to Mr. Silviera’s conclusion.

If Mr. Silviera’s statement is correct, why was the PT Crusier a disaster?

If I am correct – the PT Crusier was the most successful new car rollout since Ford’s Mustang – what other statements in the article are incorrect?  or is the article just the personal unresearched feelings on the issue by the author?

Thank you,

Stan Thibault

The PT Cruiser may have started out with a bang, but by 2007 Chrysler was losing money on it and was trying to get rid of it.  (Here’s one site talks specifically about the PT Cruiser: .  You can find others on your own.)

The reasons Chrysler was trying to get rid of it were many, customer complaints about quality being among them.  But because of average-mileage constraints placed on the fleets of cars each of the “Big Three” manufacture, they are obligated to keep small cars in their fleets, even when they’re losers, otherwise they face congressional and bureaucratic wrath.



Kindred spirit

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010


Just a note to tell you how much I like your writings. They are GREAT!

I’ve been baking bread for a while now so you really struck a chord with your article about this, but I really like your perspective and look foward to all of your aticles and now that I found your blog I’ll checking it out regularly.

Hope all is well in the high desert today . We normally have mild winters here in central Texas but it is overcast and wintery today.

Best wishes,

Charles Allen


Choosing the high desert

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Ms Wolf,

I am curious why exactly you decided to settle on your present location?  While you drop some hints (suggestions of low tax and “reasonable” land prices), the fact that you provide no detail in this regard is a little perplexing.  Considering that you must have certainly kept your cost of living suppressed at your cabin in the PNW, makes many of us wonder at the meaning of the property tax issue.  I know that at one time your truck died and it seemed a major financial hurdle to replace it, from which time you were on foot?

Perhaps to pose a counterpoint, I currently live in Michigan, Napoleon Township to be specific.  It is not a wealthy community with a median income level of $43k/household.  I live on a dirt road, do have electricity and NG and due to our proximity to a sizable lake system a township sewer service was installed in the late 90’s which was quite expensive.

To get to the point, I pay nearly $400/month property tax for our 1/4 acre and 1300sqft floorplan home.  The summer and winter millage adds up to 46.01/1000 in property value or 4.6% of the assessed value per year.

It is specifically this high and unavoidable tax which could be increased at any time (virtually unavoidable now with the population in exodus, over 20% unemployment and a 50% drop in home prices, which are not reflected in our valuations).  For me, I see no possibility of retirement in this environment.

My search for my “Shangri La” has taken me to south eastern Colorado, specifically Custer County.  If you take a look at this website County assessor you can see that taxes on 36 acre lots and homes vary from $6 – $800 annually depending on whether they are zoned agricultural.  Centennial Ranch is an example of a subdivision which has a cattle grazing lease, which provides allows for agricultural zoning.

The location gets 16″ of rain per year, so is not nearly as dry as the spot you are in, and wells are generally successful.  The fact that the valley base elevation is approximately 7000ft does of course contribute to low humidity year round and one can forget about growing things without a greenhouse.  No need for air conditioning.  The area is not terribly remote, although obviously the farther one is off the beaten track, the more attractive the property prices.  I have been to a few places with my dodge ram 1500 (2wd) that were rough enough (in summer) that I was passed by others on horseback…..   One does have a large number of days per year with good solar insolation (clear blue skies) so passive solar, photovoltiac and water heating are all feasible most of the year.   In summer, the daily temperatures may rise into the 80’s but with the low humidity it feels very pleasant.

I am personally somewhat stuck with my home in Michigan, since if I sold now I would be walking away with a balance of about $80k that I would have to pay off (difference between mortgage and market price), so I figure I have a few more years to go before I will be able to get out of here.

Custer county has many of the challenges you mention, including lack of work opportunities in the vicinity.  I am fortunate in that my wife is an RN, so her job is very portable and relatively in demand and I expect to be gainfully employed building the home 6 months of the year and working as a migratory worker all winter during that phase.  Once the home is built I hope to be working on a consultancy basis for remote clients and I have a fair amount of time to work that plan out prior to the move.  Wireless and sattelite communications are certainly making cyber commuting easier all over rural america, the biggest hurdle is between the ears of your potential manager, where ever the work is at.

In closing I must say that I enjoy reading your essays, although it would be nice if you wrote a book and disclosed all the facts that are left out of your short stories.  I would buy it,that is for sure.

Best regards,

Keith Olivier
Jackson, MI


Guns & Women

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Thank goodness there are still a few men that realize women with guns is not a “male” thing.

Being the oldest of four children, my father elected to teach me to hunt and use guns in a responsible manner. I am a petite woman that has lived in Alaska for six years, brought down moose, caribou, elk, deer and even bear that was maruading my homestead.

I carry a .270 Manlicher with custom stock using 110 to 150 gr. ammon (depending on intended targets) and a .38 police special. I can put three rounds the size of a 50 cent piece at 100 yards off hand with the .270.

Would I hesitate to use a gun to protect myself or someone else if necessary? No qualms here! And freshly killed game on the table beats beef, pork or chicken any day.


Linda Alexander
Gold Beach, Oregon



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