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


Archive for October, 2010


Keiffer pear article

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Thank you very much for the article by Alice B. Yeager on keiffer pears.

I have had a keiffer pear tree for a number of years, this year quite a large yield, but the fruit is always like a rock. Her article was very helpful regarding the use of the pear and what to expect from it.

Skokie, IL


Bottle-raise a calf, by Jackie Clay

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I am a new subscriber & with my subscription I received a copy of the November/December 2009 issue. I was glad to see an article, Bottle-raise a calf, by Jackie Clay to help those that might be interested in owning a family milk cow & raising it from a calf. There are a lot of benefits to this act. But I really think that this article is “old school” & would be what some county extension services would tell you too. It just doesn’t take into account the new genetics we have today in our cattle and the research done by the dairy industry & universities on raising calves to reach their full potential. Our own local extension service still thinks sexed semen for artificial insemination is brand new, but it’s been available since the late 1990’s. Some of the information in the article is wrong or just left out. That’s why I felt that it is important to get this information to your readers for them to draw from.

My parents began dairy farming when I was 8 years old. We started our farm by buying 30 registered Holstein baby heifer calves & some weaned calves too. Being the oldest child, feeding the calves became my before & after school job. A year later, I started showing some of our Holsteins at several fairs a year. When I went to college, the job followed me. I was raising the babies & weaned calves for the college owned dairy farm. I am now 36 years old & still raising the baby calves.

First, the Jersey breed is great, but the article left out some very critical information; Jersey baby calves require either Jersey cow milk or milk replacer formulated for Jersey calves. They require higher butterfat milk & protein than the other breeds. Feed any other milk replacer and they will develop diarrhea & dehydration from starvation, which no medicine will take care of & eventually the calf or calves will die an unneeded death.

Second, a Jersey cow can produce as much milk as a Holstein (100 lbs. per day), so be prepared to make butter, cheese, give it away, sell it, or get another calf or two to feed the leftover milk. Most of the time this will take up to the 2nd or 3rd lactation for any breed to reach that much in milk production.

When buying a heifer for a family milk cow, you should go directly to the farm to buy your calves & not the auction. You’re asking for trouble if you go to the auction barn to purchase something this important. The farmer is your greatest source of information to help you choose a calf. He will know when the calf was born, out of which cow, & bull; plus know their pedigrees & traits, so you don’t end up with a calf out of a long line of cows with ADHD. Trust me it’s possible. How the calf is built is important too. The calf should walk squarely, have a wide rump, & should seem to be walking high up on its hooves. This will ensure longevity in your cow & ease of calving.

When you get the calf at home, you should know when the calf was last fed. Feedings should be every 12 hours. If you had to travel a great distance & the calf is about 1-2 weeks old, you may want to feed it 3/4 of a 2-quart bottle then a full bottle 12 hours after then & on. If the calf is older, feed it normally. If they are newborns, feed 1 quart every 8 hours for 2 days. If you only went a short distance, you can feed it normally. Also make sure that they have feed available as soon as you get them at their new home. Hay or grass is not necessary until they reach 3-4 weeks old.

A calf should never act like they are starving or you will end up with problems, like diarrhea & dehydration. I have had a few calves that had a high metabolism and needed extra feedings because they were not getting enough in the 4 quarts of milk a day.

At 1 week of age they were getting 6 quarts of milk a day spread out into 3 feedings to keep their blood sugars up. Before doing this they would be lethargic within 2 hours of their feeding time. After tests were run we found that their blood sugars were very low. It’s important to watch the calves feces after bring them home & when increasing their milk intake. All calves should be eating grain between 3-7 days of age & hay or grass shouldn’t be introduced until the calf has been eating grain for 2-3 weeks. Some will develop a liking to hay & quit eating their grain. Hay alone can damage the lining of a young calf’s stomach if introduced too early or too much, which leads to a bad case of diarrhea that takes a long time to heal. Do not offer water until the calf is 2 weeks of age unless the outside temperatures are 90 degrees or higher, if they are older have water available all the time. Keep Pepto on hand at all times to soothe any signs of loose stool caused by upset stomach. Just add it to their milk or water with electrolytes. Do not jump to giving injectable antibiotics unless coughing or a temperature of 103.5 or above is accruing or the diarrhea has had no change in 3-4 days. (Normal temperature is 101.5 – 102). There are some great oral antibiotics, just ask your vet. The ones from feed stores are not the greatest & are more expensive. There are also stool thickeners that are awesome; an example is Deliver. I have all calves drinking their milk (2 quarts per feeding) from a bucket at 5-10 days old. This makes feeding easier; they will eat feed better, easier to sanitize their bucket between feedings, makes it easier to feed a larger volume of milk & less likely to have problems with them trying to nurse each other when weaned. I increase their milk intake to 5 quarts a day at about 3-4 weeks if no problems have incurred. By the time they are 6-7 weeks they are getting 6 quarts a day.

Weaning for heifer calves shouldn’t be before 16 weeks of age. Any sooner and you’ll delay the growth of the heifer. At 15 weeks of age, I give them 1 feeding of milk and extra fresh water at the other normal feeding time. Sixteen weeks of age is not set in stone. We have fed a calf up to 20 weeks or till the weather was nicer before turning them out into the open field. Weaning a heifer at 16 weeks old means you will have a larger calf then those weaned at 7 weeks. Take into consideration when beef farmers wean the calves off the cow. It’s a lot longer than even 18 weeks. The growth is so noticeable that at 13 to 14 months of age you can go ahead and breed that heifer. She will then calve at 2 years of age & give you 1 full year of milk before the early weaned heifer listed in your article has even been bred. You may have fed her another bag or two of milk replacer but you have gotten that bigger bodied heifer that will milk a year earlier; see the benefit. And let me stress, a calf should never act like it is starving! Yes, it should be acting like it’s hungry close to its feeding time, but the remaining time it should be content & happy.

It might seem that I have really nit-picked your article, but this is something that I am passionate about & want other people to succeed. I know you  do too or you wouldn’t have started this magazine & published so many books. I really enjoy the magazine & it serves a great need. So keep up the good work!

Michelle Patterson
Fair Grove, Missouri


Glad to hear you’re a new subscriber and that you have so much information on raising calves. Let me tell you about my calf-raising experience, so you’ll know where I’m coming from. First, I’m a veterinary field technician, with over 20 years work with veterinarians, largely on dairy farms. Second, I milked a herd of Jersey, Guernsey, and Milking Shorthorns myself for over 10 years, raising all the baby calves by hand. I also have been buying, raising, and selling calves for over 40 years, both dairy breeds and beef crosses. Sometimes I only have four or five; at other times, I’ve had twenty or more at one time.

Okay, to your comments: I’ve raised a lot of Jersey calves on both goat milk and good quality calf milk replacer. I’ve had no problem with scouring because they weren’t fed Jersey milk replacer. But then, up until recently, there WAS no Cow’s Match by Land O’Lakes, only regular milk replacer. I NEVER buy the cheap milk replacer with soy base–you’re asking for scours.

Yes, while a Jersey cow CAN produce 100 pounds of milk a day, few grade, “common” Jerseys make that (mine milked about 45 pounds a day). Nor would I want a 100 pound Jersey cow on my homestead. They might be fine for commercial dairies, but they are very prone to milk fever and early breakdown because of such a huge milk production. I, personally, don’t need a 100 pound cow on my place. We don’t need that much milk and pulling on teats as long as it takes to get over 12 gallons of milk twice a day would kill me! (Not to mention trying to get a friend to take over milking chores for even a day!)

I agree, and said in my article, that you should buy calves from a farm, if at all possible. But in some instances, it is just not possible, within reality, to FIND a farm with calves to sell. We didn’t think about that when we started buying calves on our new homestead, but after 6 months of asking around, we couldn’t find baby calves ANYWHERE within 150 miles! So we bought four at an auction And, yes, we had scours, which we treated; calves are all now 800 pounds. Finally, we found a farmer only 70 miles away, from whom we now buy our calves.

On page 52, I mentioned asking when the calf was last fed, then go on to give feeding tips. Mine are similar to yours.

I never said a calf should act like it was starving. I mentioned this on page 53, after saying it was while giving only one quart, 3 times a day just when the calf gets home, to get it over stress of hauling, then increase to 2 quarts a feeding, twice a day thereafter. You’d be surprised at how much this tip decreases the chances of that calf scouring. Stress often kills new bottle calves.

I’ve never had a calf eat grain at 3 days old. Maybe they’ll slobber some around when you stick your hand, with grain in it, in their mouth, but eat, eat it? Nope. Sometimes after a week a few will give it a nibble, few calves really eat grain till 2 weeks or even later, even when encouraged. And I’ve NEVER seen a calf that would stop eating grain because he/she was eating hay or grass. If a calf is getting enough milk replacer and grain, it won’t eat much hay at first. (What about beef calves out on pasture? They start eating grass right away with their mothers.) I know it’s “old school,” but I firmly believe that having calves eat grain, hay, and grass early on develops their rumen, making them larger consumers early on, so they’ll go on to grow meat and make milk later on.

I disagree with the Pepto in the milk when there are signs of scouring beginning. I’ve tried that, but found that STOPPING milk right away, substituting oral electrolytes with gel works much better. Giving doses of oral Kaolin-pectin is more effective in between feedings, as you are dosing on an empty stomach and gut.

I also advised talking to your vet if your calf runs a temperature and see what antibiotics they recommend.

I disagree about having calves drink milk replacer from a pail. Sorry. By drinking with their heads elevated in a normal nursing mode, the milk goes more easily into the right stomach and the calf is much less prone to gulping the milk down. The milk replacer also tends to settle out a bit from the time you mix it and get to the barn to feed. With the bottle, you not only can shake it up just before feeding, but as the bottle is held “upside down,” the heavier solids are mixed back up as the calf drinks.

Yes, you can increase the milk as the calf gets older, if you wish. But that’s a personal preference. By that time, the calf should be eating grain well, and the extra milk is not necessary for good growth. And the extra milk IS expensive to the average homesteader. Beef cows nurse their calves all summer, but many beef calves don’t get grain either, on range conditions.

Yes, that 15 weeks of bottle feeding will grow a nice big heifer, but I’m very set against breeding a 13 month old heifer, just to get her milking sooner. I know many commercial dairies do just that, but I’ve helped pull a lot of calves from those 2-year-old heifers. Just because you get another few months of milk from a cow isn’t always the best for her future in the milk string. I’d rather wait awhile and keep them around for a long, long time.

Sorry that you picked up on the word “starving.” Perhaps that was a poor choice of words on my part, but when the calves are butting the bottle while they drink and jumping back and forth, I think they look “starving.” To another person, they would just look “hungry.” All of my animals are fat and shining and none of them is remotely “starving!” If you feed a calf 2 quarts of good milk replacer twice a day, plus a good quality calf grain and fresh legume/grass hay, they will never starve.

Sorry, too, that we disagree on several things. But remember that there is more than one way to accomplish the same thing; some work best for some people–others work for other people. I wrote the article from my own experience and from helping treat hundreds of sick calves for others.




Friday, October 22nd, 2010

I love your website. I found it by searching for building snares & live traps. We may not be homesteading, but we live just outside of town in the country of Oregon City. We have chickens, ducks, a goat & rabbits. We also have wild deer that roam our yard. Now we have something coming after our chickens and ducks & we are not rich financially to purchase live traps, etc.

Your articles are a wealth of information. My husband gave me a greenhouse for a wedding gift & I still don’t know how to use it, let a lone setting it up. Your articles will help us in many ways.

I am surprised you are in Oregon. I half expected you to be in Ohio or Missouri or someplace like that. Keep up the great work!

Cindy Wanvig


Great Magazine

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I am writing to you via my personal E-mail and not business or junk E-mail out of respect and appreciation.

Just as an impression of the reader, I am a 39yr old man from Indianapolis Indiana originally. I now reside in Brown County Indiana which is a little more country. We live in a wooded area but city life is only 30 minutes away. I have not been here long and actually change periodically from the bigger city in Indianapolis to the much more beloved country life here in Brown County. This time I have only been here for a few months now. So my interest in your articles are not just with the country in mind.

I feel as though this magazine is designed around my own beliefs and interest.

The reason why I am really writing to you is not only to inform you of my approval of your Magazine, but also to say “THANK YOU” thank you very much for posting the free articles. They are invaluable to me. I am very very poor at the moment and the money I do get I focus on my 3yr old Daughter. Its terrifying having such a young child so late in life. She is my first and I love her so much, I do not want her to do without. Anyway I unfortunately can not afford a subscription, but I love this magazine so much since recently finding it. I have been sharing the name of your publication with family, friends and anyone who will listen.

So your articles really help me so much. I get to still enjoy the rich content that your Magazine has to offer. I am so sorry that at the moment I can not contribute cash to the purchase of this well deserved Magazine. I can however, offer you my deepest appreciation for what you do and my admiration for the way you have built this enterprise, which too is a dream of mine, to create a business which frees me from the corporate grind allowing me choice and freedom and the ability to educate and strengthen my Daughter in the way I feel she will need, so that she can be prepared to be on her own sooner than most, given my age.

I want so much, for what it is worth for everyone responsible for such a selfless act to know that it does not go unnoticed. Thank you, Thank you and Thank you so very much from the bottom of my heart.

Thank You!


Rick Johnson (Loyal Reader)

God Bless You!


Buying gold and silver…

Monday, October 18th, 2010


I just read the article on buying gold and silver and thought is was a good start but felt that it needed more for people to understand metals.

The author touched on buying a set amount out of every paycheck which is a great idea but explaining dollar cost averaging might have been helpful for people to know.

Also, I agree that metals aren’t an investment as much as they are a buoy to maintain the value of your money. When US money had silver in it, you could buy a gallon of gas for a quarter ($.25) and without exception since 1964 (the end of silver money) you could always buy a gallon of gas with the value in that same silver quarter. It’s not that gasoline went up, it’s that the value of the U.S. (fiat) paper dollar WENT DOWN. Since the Federal Reserve act in 1913 the value of the U.S. dollar has gone down 93%!

I felt the author should have mentioned that Roosevelt confiscated ALL the gold from US citizens in 1933 except for some jewelry and then manipulated the price of dollar. I felt that it should have been mentioned that silver was stripped from the money in 1964 (except for 40% 1/2 dollars for a few more years) and that Nixon officially took the U.S. off the gold standard allowing the government to print as much money as they wanted.

Also, ETF’s and other “paper” gold investments are a very bad idea as there is not enough gold in existence to fulfill these contracts and gold and silver are used and needed in industry and electronics manufacturing.

Just look at the government scam of depositing US cash into bonds, money market or interest bearing accounts; say you put $1000 in for a year and they paid you the vast sum of 2%. After one year, in the government’s eyes you now have $1020 of which the government will want to steal about 20% of your $20 “profit” in taxes leaving you with $1016. BUT because of the Fed’s inflationary ways the purchasing power of your $1000 LOST about 12% which now leaves you the equivalent $880 plus the $16 “profit” for a total of $896. This is a sucker’s game. But if you had purchased $1000 worth of silver instead, more than likely you would have at least preserved your purchasing power.

You folks do a great job, thanks!

A loyal fan,

Jim Hirschberg
Lohrville, IA


Love the magazine

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

I’m a recent subscriber but I also bought a number of back issues and anthologies. I’ve learned something from every issue.

– The recent water treatment articles have been helpful. Tim Thorstenson was very generous in offering to answer questions. I sent him some questions and also suggested topics that would be good for additional articles. I hope you’d be open to that. With a little reorganization, the articles would make a good booklet. (Mostly more clearly defining subtopics and putting all the info on a subject in one spot.)

– The recipes and commentary by Richard Blunt are always well written, interesting, and helpful. I have a degree in foodservice, was in the business for 15 years, have done most of the cooking for 40 years, yet I have learned something from each of Richard’s articles. I’ll have to try every recipe he suggests in his most recent article.

– Can you ask Norman Bennett a follow-up question on his metal roofing article?

The most commonly cited question/problem re: metal roofs is leakage around the screws after 5 to 10 years. Supposedly, with expansion and contraction, the holes in the metal enlarge and the seal on the screw deteriorates. What has Norman seen re: any problems?

I recently had a metal roof installed by an independent contractor–the one that the metal supply company said was their best installer and that they send out to solve problems. (I engaged the supply company owner in a conversation and kind of worked it out of him.) The job looks great and the trim, etc. is as Norman recommends. But I wish I had seen Norman’s article before spending the 10K!

I needed a new roof because a wind storm broke off 20% of the “tabs” on 10 year old builder-grade asphalt shingles. The metal roofing contractor laid a premium foam underlayment (Palisade) over the old shingles . I had and still have some concerns about the screw issue but my feeling is that even if a screw does leak, the water has to drip around the screw, then through the plastic underlayment, then through the old shingle, then through the old felt, enough to rot the plywood. So it should be a very tiny leak thus taking a long time for any real damage to occur–right?

– I find it interesting that several of those canceling because they disagree with your libertarian principles also complain about all the lies on Fox News. Are they talking about all the liberal hosts on Fox–at least 25%?  The liberal political operatives? Or is it Glen Beck, who usually shows video clips of progressives convicting themselves with their own beliefs. In any case, why would they watch a show they think is presenting lies?

I’m interested in how many of the cancellations are from those who subscribed for more than one year. Or are they plants who subscribed within the last year–just so they could cancel? You should post the number of issues those canceling have been subscribers. I also can’t imagine any homesteader or someone even thinking about living in the country being antigun–don’t they know about rabid raccoons, bobcats and coyotes?  These cancellations smell even more like outside agitators since it’s easy to skip over the gun articles.


Irv K.


Newsletter comments

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Dear Dave,

Just a quick note about E-NEWSLETTER VOL 12, #8.  The 2 Eagles and a Duck photo essay was beautiful!  I sent it to a bunch of family and friends.
And I laughed out loud at the humor section!!!

Marco Polo!!!


Nancy Perry
Hollywood, Fl


Why I renewed

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Just wanted you to know that the reason why I have kept your magazine above all others is the quality of advice by your experienced writers.

I can collect lots of info on-line but would rather not follow the “tried it once and it seemed to work” folks.  If I have more experience in the subject than the writer their articles usually just waste my  time.

Keep up with the good writers and I will always be a subscriber.

Holly B.


Last issue’s bacon recipe

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

[This letter relates to Butchering a hog by Tanya Kelly in Issue 125, Sept.Oct, 2010. Issue is available here.]

I will never be insecure about making bacon again! IT was a lot easier than the mixes I have bought in the past and it tasted better!

To start with, I do not have any fresh sides of pork but I improvised. There was a sale on pork shoulder roasts and each one had a thick piece of fat on one side. So, I cut that off along with a little underlying meat and I used that.

I sliced it as thinly as I could and I mixed it with 1/2 cup of honey and 1/4  cup of salt. I then set the dish in the fridge for 2 days: in the article the gent marinated it for a week but I sliced mine first and he did not. I figured that slicing the meat would make the brine penetrate more quickly, and make it faster to smoke.

Then I soaked it for a bit, and it was ready to smoke.

I draped the strips inside of my backyard grill, started a fire in a metal bowl, dropped soaked twigs on top of the fire and closed the lid. I did this twice that afternoon and then I simple cooked the bacon in the usual way.

It was EXCELLENT! The fat part tasted like bacon with a touch of ham flavor, and the lean part tasted like ham with a bit of bacon flavor. It made for a very good dinner and my husband was impressed!

My only thought was that next time I would use more salt and less honey, as it was a bit sweeter than I prefer. It was a sweet as the maple sugar bacon found on the grocery store shelf, and that is too sweet for me also!



Article appreciation

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

My thanks to you for this excellent piece on finding, harvesting and using rose hips (an under-known source of nutrition).

I harvest them at the seaside this time of year in Maine (they grow prolifically here as elsewhere, and the idea that the ocean has enriched them with its energy is irresistible to me).  Curious onlookers always ask what I’m doing and what I plan to do with them.

After this I will refer them to this article if they are serious about learning to use them.

Thank you again,

C Anne



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