Mail Call: Letters to the Editor in our January/February 2018 Issue

Readers’ letters to the editors with stories of fig trees, Nor’easters, Delaware chickens, flower jellies, and more.

| January/February 2018

  • A Delaware hen moves along her chicks.
    Photo by Lori Dunn
  • ‘Brown Turkey’ fig has beautiful, widespread foliage, and requires only light annual pruning.
    Photo by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; RareSeeds.com
  • ‘Brown Turkey’ is cold hardy, and great for eating fresh, preserving, and dehydrating.
    Photo by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; RareSeeds.com
  • Bonnie Bridges sent us a photo of her homemade fly swatter and magazine holder, from Pendleton, Oregon.
    Photo by Bonnie Bridges
  • Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis, is a common perennial of the carnation family.
    Photo by Getty Images/Undefined Undefined
  • Fireweed grows wild throughout much of North America and makes great jelly.
    Photo by Getty Images/arenysam

Delaware Chickens

My husband and I love your magazine, but I do need to correct some information that was in the November/December 2017 article, “Hybrid to Heritage.” We have been breeding and selecting our Delaware poultry and working to get them back to the American Poultry Association’s “Standard of Perfection.”

Delaware chickens should be ready to butcher by 12 to 14 weeks. This is much shorter of a time frame than the article said — 6 to 7 months. They are a wonderful meat bird, good layer of large-to-jumbo brown eggs, and very friendly. We butchered our cockerels at 14 weeks this spring, and had a 31⁄2- to 4-pound bird.

Erin Angulo, Dawnridge Farm
Grass Valley, California


Nor’easter Question

When I lived on the East Coast, a “Nor’easter” meant a storm coming ashore out of (guess what?) the Northeast.



In Ed Brotak’s article, “Winter Weather Woes” (Page 36 in the November/December 2017 issue) he states that a Nor’easter is a storm that comes right on up the East Coast.

Lately, I’ve noticed that all weather “talking heads” use that term for any storm approaching the upper East Coast from any direction across the Midwest, down from Canada or up from the southwest. Who is right?

It was a fine piece. I really enjoyed it, and I love the Grit.

Louis Mitchell
Lebanon, Missouri

From the author, Ed Brotak: A “Nor’easter” is a coastal storm (low pressure area) that moves northward along the East Coast anywhere from the mid-Atlantic to New England. It typically produces strong northeast winds (hence the name) as well as heavy precipitation. It can originate to the south (even the Gulf of Mexico) or drop down from the northwest as far away as Canada. In many cases the original storm dies out and a new or secondary low develops right along the coast.


Fine Figs

We enjoyed the articles and recipes on figs in our most recent issue of Grit, as we have eight fig trees that are now, in mid-October, giving us fruit for the third year. Two ‘Brown Turkey,’ two ‘LSU Purple,’ and four ‘Letizia’ figs comprise our small fig orchard, and we have fun sharing our bounty with friends whose only familiarity with figs has been in Fig Newton cookies.

Each year thus far the trees (or are they called “shrubs” or “bushes”) have produced at least 50 percent more fruit than the year before, so we look forward to even more next year. My husband prunes them back and gives them winter protection. This year, aside from those we have eaten fresh and given away, we have dehydrated figs and made several batches of refrigerator/freezer jam. Just try a dollop of fig jam over vanilla ice cream for a heavenly dessert!

Once, after picking a big ‘Brown Turkey’ fig, I held it by the stem and bit off about one-third of the big guy. After swallowing that first bite of deliciousness, I looked at the remaining piece to see several tiny black ants crawling around the inside, and realized I must have given myself an extra dose of protein with that first bite. We now know to watch for ants on the figs, especially this variety that has a larger, more open “eye” than our other two varieties.

Several friends, who have expressed surprise that figs can be grown here in southern Oklahoma, are now saying they want fig trees, too.

Donna Shelby
Rural Comanche, Oklahoma




No-till Advocate

I was just looking over your article about the best tractor attachments, and I see a concern: the tiller. Sure, a tiller is sometimes needed and useful with bad or difficult land, but repeated tilling does damage to the soil structure. This negatively affects the soil’s ability to hold moisture, hinders nutrient retention, leads to erosion, and disrupts life for all of the critters under the surface that are beneficial to our soil (earthworms, bacteria, and more). Please be the leader that you are and educate people about no-till farming. Our planet will appreciate it.

Jason Faulds
via email


Gritty Delivery

I just picked up the Nov./Dec. 2012 issue of Grit while my auto was being serviced. When I was about 8 years old, 60 years ago, I sold a newspaper called Grit. It seems to have been the precursor of this magazine. I lived in a very rural area of New York state and rode my bike 12 miles to sell 20 Grit newspapers per week. They cost 15 cents each, and of that, I got to keep a nickel, plus I got points that would add up to a prize. I never did get my prize. Anyway, my maternal grandmother would buy a copy from me if I could discuss an article from the previous week. She was a schoolteacher and really motivated me to read your newspaper. That started a life for me that has been filled with books and all kinds of reading. I have told this story many times. I was happy to see the Grit magazine, it brought back many fond memories and also reminded me of long bike rides in summer heat and winter snow storms. Thank you for being the Grit!

David Clark
Plattsburgh, New York


Forever a Fan

I love your magazine. When I was young, around 13 or 14 years old, Grit was a newspaper. My cousin, Jeff Anderson sold it door to door for 25 cents. He sent them the money he made, 10 cents for every paper he sold. Now you all are magazines. Hey! I am 71 years old. You really have a good magazine. I really enjoy reading it.

At first, I was expecting a newspaper to come through the mail, but when I got my first magazine, I told my husband, “they changed to magazines.” It was a wonderful surprise. So much information, most I forgot about.

Mary Penton Ponthieux
Saucier, Mississippi


Building Up Children

I don’t usually write in for anything, but I felt moved to congratulate you both on the birth of your lovely twins (“Becoming Dad,” September/October 2017 issue). What a double blessing from God.

My husband and I raised three boys, and they are such a joy and adventure. Each child is so different. Just remember to rely on God in raising them, and always tell them how smart they are and that they can do anything they set their heart on. My youngest son recently thanked me that I kept telling him how smart he was. He was slower to read than his friends and thought he was dumb. He said he didn’t believe me at the time but heard it so much he eventually started believing in himself. Don’t miss those opportunities to build them up.

I didn’t realize how important it was until my last one, so now I am doing it with my grandkids. Enjoy your life and don’t worry about the little things. May you be truly blessed in this new adventure together.

Debby Witvoet
Cedar Lake, Indiana


Young Fan

Your editorial in the July/August 2017 issue (“Tending the Fire”) made me smile — funny how some memories (no matter how little or insignificant-seeming at the time) linger on and on. Every time I get a whiff of “Bouncing Bet” (aka soapwort, Saponaria officinalis) I am a little girl again sniffing one elderly neighbor’s flowers — and hoping she wouldn’t catch me!

My grandson visited last month from North Carolina and was fascinated by our veggie garden (and backyard stream). He also read my copy of Grit, cover to cover. I would like to encourage his enthusiasm and am enclosing a subscription order for him to have his very own issues to devour. He is 10 years old, and already a “green” person.

Keep up the good work!

Donna Collins
Canaan, Vermont


Flower Jellies

I read with interest your article on flower jelly recipes in the July/August 2017 issue (“Blooming Jellies”).

Where I live, there are people making jellies from the blossoms of the fireweed plant (Chamerion angustifolium), which grows all over a large portion of North America. Also widely used here are the blooms from the wild rose Rosa acicularis, which seems identical to the wild rose Rosa setigera, which I was familiar with where I grew up in Michigan.

Both of these make a very good jelly; some of which is sold in gift stores in our area.

David Akins
Talkeetna, Alaska


Share Your Thoughts

We welcome letters from our readers. If you would like to comment on an article or share your opinions, send us an email (with photos, if available) to letters@grit.com, or send a letter via the USPS to:

Grit Mail Call
1503 S.W. 42nd St.
Topeka, KS 66609

Electronic submissions are more likely to generate a timely response.






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