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


Archive for the ‘Farm/Garden’ Category



Thursday, November 10th, 2011

RE: Put your garden to bed for the winter By Jackie Clay

I planted my first (personal) garden this year. (I grew up with a family garden). And I was a bit unsure how to proceed at the end of the growing season.

I just read the above listed article and it was very enlightening, a good, fun, easy read, and very helpful.

Thank you for posting it. And, if possible, please thank the author, Ms. Clay.

Many thanks!

Briana Rae


Really great article

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Propagating grapes  By Sylvia Gist

Very well written/edited. Kudos to all and thanks a million.

Meryl Logue


Raise A Garden?

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Hello backwoods people,

This message is coming from the red hills of western Oklahoma adjacent to the TX panhandle. We are subscribers. Came here to a rural area because of the stability of the economy, safety factor and low crime. Many many jobs in the oil field. Newspapers full of adds for truck drivers and other oil field workers every week. Excellent tax base and taxes are low. Property values are low. We bought 5 acres, a brick air conditioned home and shop building for $69,900 in 2004. Population density is about 3 people per square mile. We have a hospital, a pharmacy, a real home town bank, a dentist, two doctors, one bar, 3 eating establishments, lumber yard and a variety store. There are NO national franchise stores in the whole county. There is not a single stop light in the whole county. We have a national park. Deer, turky, quail and other small game plus a resident population of mountian lions are present. Kinda neat place this Roger Mills County OK.

We have been here 6 years. Our garden has an above ground watering system into each of the 16 garden plots. It extends into the orchard of 15 trees, two blackberry bushes and numerous grape vines on the fence. All of our garden plots can be watered via soaker hose setups except for the strawberries. We water the strawberries with a movable unit overhead.

Most of the fruit from the trees was blown off in many windy days. The orchard harvest will consist of only perhaps 30 or 40 apples.

The mantra is: grow a garden; raise some food; save some money; can the excess; be more food independent. The last two years we have put on some 400 bags of commercial steer manure on the garden. Believe me when I say our soils are sandy. The top layer is mostly blown in sandy material from the dirty thirties. Rely on my judgement as I am a retired Soil Conservation District Conservationist. I know my soils. Last winter we hauled in some 4000 lbs of composted and dried cow manure from a feed lot. All of this went on the garden also. Finally this spring the soils looked beautiful. Dark, earthy, loamy and fertile.

Our estimation of the situation was the summer was going to be a scorcher. We were correct. So we planted lots of potaotes for an early crop two weeks ahead of the recommended time. Our last freeze was weeks before the normal. We have had an excellent potatoe crop of Yukon and Pontiac Reds. But three weeks ago the grasshopper hoards stripped the leaves off of every plant. So we dug them, washed them lightly and they are in the tornado celler. We think we harvested 180lbs. Also planted 1400 onions. Began pulling them yesterday because the 100+ daily temperatures  and 20 to 35 mph winds just dried them out.

Our corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, cabbage and okra are struggling for existence. We water twice a day. Even with a 70 ft long row of wooden palettes with discarded rugs nailed to them for a windbreak has not stopped the winds from wrecking havoc on our  arden. Usually the winds are from the SW but we are getting lots of west and north winds.

I have planted Okra 5 times and the young plants come up and die. They need to be watered every other hour to survice. I have saved 7 out of 50ft of rows.

The grasshoppers are numerous this year but many of the other insects we normally see are not here. Too dry. We are harvesting everything we can and abandoning the garden quickly.

Growing conditions are extreme. Local people in this area are having house water wells go dry for the first time in years and years. Cattlemen are jamming up the sales ring with cattle. No feed for them. Round bales are going for $125 each.

For anyone wanting to be independent and relying on a garden. This would be the starvation year for this area.

We are drier than the dirty thirties. Range fires are numerous.

At my home site we have had only 2.61 inches of rain since last December. Last week our yard thermometer read 119, 120 and 111 on three different days. Official temperatures from the weather bureau 40 miles away were 107 and 108. I think my thermometer was correct. Temperatures here have been excessive.

If, not when scarcity becomes the most important topic about grocery stores and Wally World you better have some stored food to start with. We do. Counting on the garden this year is not panning out. The only thing we are going to have it appears are the potatoes and onions.

The late summer crops of peppers, tomatoes, corn, Okra, beans are very much in doubt. Our corn is up to 6ft tall but I am not seeing any ears develop on it. The beans are slowly dying.

This is not a good year for a garden in this area. We have developed our soils and constructed a good watering system. However the trump card this year is the weather.

One more note: my two calibrated radiac meters from KI4U are recording a steady 0.3 rads/hour of radiation for the last 6 weeks. Normaly they only show a slight bump on the scale after zeroing. Hello Japan.

Have you read the ‘Weather Conspiracy’ published in 1972? It is a good read about why we are now having the weather patterns that are being expressed.

Have a good week end and enjoy our national holiday. we will fly our flag…..


Joe and Dar Cullen
Cheyenne, OK


The family cow

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

I read the article about the family cow.  I am seriously thinking about buying one.  I have an Amish neighbor looking for one for me.  He has a jersey.  I stop everyday on my way home and visit with her.  She would have been perfect for us.  I hope I can find one like her.

Your article really made me examine how we do things here on our hobby farm.  We have goats and have gone that way and I have always wanted to try out the family cow.

Thanks for the article.  It was nice to read and I am going to give it a try.  Wish me luck in finding the cow.

Kevin Gross


A New Use for Old Tires Article

Monday, March 28th, 2011

I just wanted to say that this was EXACTLY what my husband and I were looking for on how to utilize old tires!

We have a piece of land that has been vacant for about 10 years. People have been throwing their old tires there for years and we were perplexed on how to properly dispose of them and really wanted to recycle them. This is saving us hundreds of dollars and offering us some peace of mind in being environmentally sound and organic with our gardening.

Thank you!

Lindsey McClure


Articles in the recently issued magazine

Friday, March 4th, 2011


Thank you for the articles on the Morels and Propagating Plants. The scope and details (including pictures) in these articles is exactly what was on my “to do” search list.

Please consider an article on how to find ginseng? Other people, who have since moved on, have had our permission to harvest morels and ginseng on our property. With full retirement around the corner, we are interested in both activities.

Again, thanks.

Alice Riffle
A subscriber for many years


Praise for Jackie Clay’s books

Thursday, January 13th, 2011


I must write to tell you how much I have enjoyed Jackie Clay’s books.

I just finished reading “Starting Over.” It is a wonderful read, very entertaining but also very educational. On every other page or so, I learned something new. She didn’t just write that some project was accomplished, she explained how it was done, in detail! I expected to enjoy reading about her life and how her homestead unfolded. I never expected to learn so much or be so encouraged by her words.

I also just finished reading the Self Reliance book “Recession Proof Your Pantry“. I thought I knew about all there was to know on the subject, and still learned more. The same with “Growing and Canning Your Own Food.”  I would recommend all of these books to anyone interested in homesteading and self reliance.

“Starting Over” should be required reading for any woman attempting to homestead (or farm) on her own.

Thank you to Backwoods Home and to Jackie Clay,

Mary Hartsock


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


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


Great Article

Monday, May 24th, 2010


I found your website while taking a break from planting corn.

The article “Grow Open Pollinated Seeds for Self-Reliant Gardening” by Jackie Clay is excellent!!

I’ve read hundreds of pages on the net about gardening and this is probably the most helpful I’ve seen.

I just wanted to let Jackie know and to say thank you very much for posting it. I’ll be reading more of your articles on my next break.

Patty Wisniewski


Chicken feeder

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I loved the bucket feeder idea. I can’t believe how much they want in the feed stores for such a simple container.

I have been looking around yard sales and flea markets but someone had just snatched them up. This idea makes my day.

I even think it works for ducks. At least they think so.

Thank you

Jackie Smith



Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

I enjoyed the piece on grafting very much. It brought back memories long forgotten.

When I was a freshman in high school a part of my curriculum was “Agriculture”, for want of a better term. We had a general class on grafting and which plants were in what family. After this lesson I went home and, without informing anyone, grafted a yellow running rose to one of Mother’s peach trees. Needless to say, it took and everything went smoothly until the graft began to bloom. After the “investigation”, my britches got dusted, but the rose remained until the tree died some years later. Oh, I used twine and candle wax to bind and waterproof my graft.

Use as you see fit.

Johnny H. Frost


Life in the country

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I woke up this morning much like every other morning. 10 minutes before the alarm clock. Another 10 minutes of sleep robbed from me.

I stumble into the kitchen to make the morning coffee and look out the widow that’s over the sink. There she is. Like every morning for the past 2 years Annabel is standing by the water trough staring at me. I have no idea why but she starts her day off the same way. She stares at me for a few minutes, moo’s and then walks off to the south west corner of the pasture. That side just happens to meet up with my neighbor’s horse pasture and where my neighbor dumps her leftover hay when she refills her bails for the horses. Annabel will wait patently for her morning leftovers and then she wanders the pasture. When I get home she meanders over to see if I have a treat for her and then she goes back to her spot next to the horses. I’m not sure if this is social hour but it is a routine for her.

I thought to myself how sad it must be to have your day so repetitive, so scheduled. I then walked to the chickens and threw them some scratch. Went into the house and started supper. The same things I do everyday. So much so it is as if I’m on autopilot.

While at the sink peeling potatoes I looked out to see Annabel playing with the goats. Kinda like a parent playing with their kids. It seems me and Annabel have more in common than I had ever thought. Our biggest difference is the size of our pasture. I run from one end of mine to the other. I have a routine similar to hers and find myself sharing the same simple pleasures of a good meal, a quiet sunset and time with loved ones. Perhaps Annabel’s day isn’t so sad. After all what else do I need but these simple things?

My kids would tell you plenty they need. The latest Youtube video sensation, a new game for the play station or texting their friends. The list is almost endless for them just as it was when I was a child.

It took many years for me to understand that none of these things that seemed so important could replace the beauty and simplicity of the views from my porch. Watching the last of the leaves blow off the black walnut tree. Seeing the dog chasing a chicken around the side of the house, then watching the rooster chase the dog back around to the other side. The shadow of the barn slowly working its way across the field until it fades into the darkness of the night. Kids chasing fireflies and watching the same spider build its web for the 100th time this summer. All the things I used to be too young to care about and too busy to be concerned for are now some of my favorite things and most precious memories.

After spending the first half of my life rushing through it I think I’ll spend the last half sitting on my porch enjoying it.

Thanks BWH for helping me achieve my goal.

Aaron Roots and family
Warrensburg, Missouri


Enchanting Chanterelle

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009


I’m an organic farmer/homesteader in southern Louisiana and have been a fan of your magazine for a number of years. I have to admit though that I haven’t picked up a copy in quite sometime. This article reminded me of why I should.

I have been searching the web and books for an identification of what I believe to be chanterelle mushrooms that are growing in droves in the woods surrounding my farm. No image that I could find was an exact of this particular mushroom, until coming across this article by Devon Winter.

It turns out that the mushroom I have is the Cantharellus Lateritius, which has a less pronounced ridge than the other species I have come across.

Thanks for settling this issue for me. My farm could sure use the extra income in this particularly harsh season we have been having(too much rain).

Thanks to Devon Winter if you happen to speak with him.

I look forward to the next issue of Backwoods Home I pick up.

Joel A. LeLeu


Jackie Clay’s new book

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

The new gardening and canning book by Jackie Clay is absolutely top-notch!

It’s practical, understandable even by newbies, and very comprehensive.

Thanks SO MUCH!!!

J Millhorn
Plano, Texas


Repeating mouse trap

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

I normally don’t do this but, in this instance, am willing to make an exception! This repeating mouse trap is simply genius.

My thanks to the author for sharing it!




Kinder Goats article

Sunday, October 4th, 2009


I was simply doing some research about goats, meat and dairy goats when I found your article. THANK YOU! You have an outstanding idea going here and your article is chock full of wonderful information.

I am also very excited to have found your web page as I have recenlty moved out to the “country” (less than a mile away from a grocery store) and I am all about raising my own food on my tiny 1.25 acres!

I can hardly wait to continue browsing your web site.

Thanks again!


Dugan Flynn
Longmont, CO


Thank you!

Friday, September 18th, 2009

I just read online: Start a self-sufficiency garden even in a cramped apartment By Nancy Wolcott

I want to thank you for the article, especially because it contained very specific plants and sources.

So often articles speak in generalities and leave one with more questions than answers.

I’ll be subscribing to your paper magazine soon.

[Name withheld by request]


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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