Backwoods Home Magazine

Imagine Martha Stewart as a gun-toting radical libertarian and you’ll have some idea what the always informative and entertaining Backwoods Home Magazine is like. Even though its primary emphasis is rural off-grid living, every issue has something to offer for the urban homesteader. The current January/February issue features a detailed article on how city dwellers can maximize their vegetable production in small spaces. Even the article on running a cattle ranch has the side benefit of letting us all know where our food comes from, and the challenges of running a family farm, “Jessica Troxel has donned a plastic sleeve, greased it with mineral oil, and reaches in through the cow’s anus to see if this one is pregnant.” reads the caption over a photo in that article.

While the mainstream media fawns over the latest gadgets and ignores the nefarious doings of our proto-fascist government, the folks at Backwoods Home are calling hydrogen cars bullshit and informing us of Halliburton’s contract for building domestic detention camps.

If that ain’t enough the magazine features long, rambling reader letters, recipes, fetishistic firearms advice, and endearingly naïve cover art! But what SurviveLA especially appreciates is the magazine’s emphasis on techniques and knowledge over technological gimmickry.

Six issues (one year) is $23.95, but most of the articles are available for free online.

Country Wisdom

Thanks to a tip from the Soapboxers, SurviveLA augmented our homesteading library with a copy of the extremely useful book, Country Wisdom & Know-How by the editors of Storey Books. Country Wisdom is a compendium of tips culled from the Country Wisdom Bulletin published in the 1970s and oriented to the “back to the land” movement of that time.

While geared to country living there is plenty in here for city dwellers such as ourselves. Divided into sections covering animals, cooking, crafts, gardening, health and wellbeing, and home repair/construction, Country Wisdom has straightforward advice with clear illustrations.

While we don’t anticipate having to skin and eat bear anytime soon, “Bear meat is dark and well flavored. The layer of fat should be trimmed off or it will give the meat a strong gamey taste” we did appreciate things such as the three pages of quick bread recipes (we’ll test some and let you know how they work) and the tips on using herbs. And lots of folks in our neighborhood could benefit from the dog training advice.

Who knows, someday we may find ourselves sitting down to a meal of backyard squirrel and possum . . .

La Alternativa

Today’s Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required) has an article on the Cuban equivalent of Martha Stewart, Margarita Gálvez Martinez who writes a column for the Pinar del Rio dioscecan bulletin Vitral and if tough times are coming, SurviveLA would rather have Margarita on our side than Martha. While Martha is out fretting over terry pillows and Halloween cupcakes, Margarita is surviving.

Cuba has faced some very tough years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the loss of trade (oil for sugar) from the former Soviet Union. Gálvez’s advice falls under what Cubans call la alternativa, or alternatives for the luxuries we in the US take for granted. As the Wall Street Journal article notes, Gálvez’s advice has included everything from salad dressing that doubles as hair conditioner, beauty treatments that consist of soaking in bread crumbs and warm milk, a flan made with fruit or vegetables rather than scarce corn starch and eggs, and laundry soap made from the jaboncillo tree. What we like most about Gálvez is that she is a strong proponent of urban gardening, maximizing every available space for food, a contrast to Martha Stewart’s useless pesticide and fertilizer drenched flower gardens. See the the film Power of Community How Cuba Survived Peak Oil for more on Cuba’s inventive urban gardening.

While we hope that the US does not face a Cuban style economic crisis, we at SurviveLA believe that it’s time for la alternativa for other reasons, namely reducing our environmental impact and rampant consumption.

If you speak Spanish, please enjoy Gálvez’s recipe for vinegar made from pineapple rinds or banana peels. There is an recipe in English (not quite the same) here.

Dwelling Portably

Dwelling Portably is one of the finest publications we have ever come across. Produced on a manual typewriter in a yurt in an undisclosed location in a forest in Washington State, Dwelling Portably is a how-to guide to living without a permanent roof over your head. In short, this is a guide by homeless folks for homeless folks. Holly and Bert Davis have been putting this collection of tips and anecdotes out for decades. Formerly known as the Message Post, this zine has evolved from multiple pages with a staple to just a single sheet or two with incredibly small type, so as to save paper.

Content ranges from cooking and bathing out of your car, to edible weeds, to improvised bicycle pannier bags, to musings on 12 volt microfiche readers and the practicalities of nudism. The advice, written in a consistent and factual manor, is interspersed with letters from readers who are also living the portable life. These stories offer a glimpse into a lifestyle most of us have not lead, and offer a perspective on and compassion for those who don’t have a place to call home. Even if you do have a roof, the practical advice in this publication should be a part of the library of every Urban Homestead.

Holly and Bert Davis don’t have much nice to say about computers or the internet and as a result the only way to receive this fine periodical is by mail at $1 per issue 2 for $2, or 6 for $5, or 14 for $10 with back issues available. The P.O. box, which Bert and Holly check when they are away from the yurt is:

Dwelling Portably
POB 190
Philomath, OR 97370

DPc/o Lisa Ahne (just the initials of dp, ie, NOT spellled out)
POB 181
Alsea OR 97324

Via Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools blog here is an excerpt from Dwelling Portably:

Legality of salvaging from dumpsters. Amy Dacyzyn, who phoned several police officials, said (in The Tightwad Gazettte, July 1993), “Dumpster diving is generally considered to be legal with the following exceptions: — If the container is on CLEARLY MARKED private land, behind a fence or locked up. However, most dumpsters in ‘semi-public’ areas such as parking lots are fair game. — If the discarded items are outside the dumpster they should not be taken.” A deputy district attorney in Santa Clara, CA, where many people rummage for high-tech discards, told Amy: “By putting items in a dumpster, the companies have abandoned ownership…. The idea that people are stealing is not a prosecutable case.”