Mail Call: May/June 2013

Getting Your Dairy Goat  

I live in one of the smallest towns in Wisconsin. It’s a really great place to live: We have deer run through town, and geese fly over during the fall. There is one ordinance in our town that I don’t agree with, however, which concerns allowing farm animals within the town limits. I recently became interested in having a small herd of dairy goats. I live on the edge of town, so I don’t really understand what the problem would be.

I started showing goats a little over a year ago. We were at a 4-H meeting, and that’s where I met Katie Stringfield. Katie is the owner of Striden Hill. She also is the goat project leader in our 4-H group. She explained what kinds of activities she would be doing, and my mom asked me if I wanted to try. At first, I wasn’t sure, but I said I would try anyway. About a week later, Katie showed me around her farm. Once we got to the goat pen, we were sitting and talking about showing, care and management. I instantly knew I wanted to show goats. This last year, I’ve shown, helped with kidding, and done chores for Katie whenever she asked. Each time I go to her farm, I fall even more in love with goats.

I’ve learned a lot about these critters. I’ve learned what the judges look for in the animal, and what they are looking for in the showman: They look for someone who knows the goat they’re showing. They look for confidence, too. The main thing I’ve learned is that goats don’t just eat anything. Though they are often portrayed as tin-can-eating scavengers, they can actually be finicky eaters and clean herbivorous animals. The last thing I learned was how to hand milk. It’s really fun! At first I was terrible at it, but now I’m so much better.

Showing goats is a lot of fun. It teaches you things about your animal that you may not already know. You learn something new at every show. Each judge looks for something different and has something different to say.

Because of these experiences, I’ve wanted to start my own herd for quite a long time. When I told my mom, she said, “Well, if you stick with showing goats, I’ll think about it.” Well, I have stuck with it, and Mom has thought about it. The only thing that’s standing in my way is the village board and the ordinance against farm animals within town limits.

Over the last month or so, I’ve been working to change the ordinance. Katie and Ryan Stringfield have helped tremendously. Ryan is on the board and has found a lot of information on what has to be done. Katie is the one who gave me the idea to change the rule in the first place, and my teacher Mr. Johnson (for whose class I am writing this) has been a huge help to me, editing my petition to the village board and finding the town ordinances for me to read.

This has been quite a learning experience for me. I’m 13, and I’m doing this by myself.

By working on this challenge, I’ve learned to work hard to get what I want. By trying to get goats, I’ve realized that if you really want something, you can’t shy away from it.

Rachael Leystra
Cambria, Wisconsin

Gumbo Goof-up

In Gumbo Recipes Use Seafood, Okra, Smoked Sausage and More (March/April), it states that file is powdered sassafras root; it is actually powdered sassafras leaves. Sassafras root is used in other food products, though, like sarsaparilla (and other root beers) and tea.

John Atwell
Oakton, Virginia

Kind Words

I simply adore your magazine and couldn’t imagine trying to homestead without it. We love taking part in your surveys, too. I have a lower kitchen cupboard dedicated to your magazine, and it’s packed full; I will never part with them. Thanks for all your knowledge and dedication to people.

Beth Mitchell
via email

Thanks so much for the kind words, Beth. It’s a joy to put the magazine together, especially for folks like you. — Editors 

Gunpowder Cure

I enjoyed the article (Stories of Natural Cures for Common Ailments, March/April). It brought back memories.

My father, born in 1872, settled in the Oklahoma Territory, having made the Cherokee Strip Run on September 16, 1893. He used to prepare a home remedy for us children of his second family, way out on the farm, when we got the flu, croup, etc. He gave us a small dose of a concoction of honey, turpentine and black gunpowder. The turpentine (in small quantity) was for the antiseptic and antiviral values. The black gunpowder, which contained sulfur, salt peter and charcoal, was for the antibacterial action of the sulfur, primarily. The honey, I figure, was so we would take it.

Another home remedy, verbally handed down from an elderly man, was for chills and fever, or ague. He said to crack open two or three peach seeds, mash up the kernels or nuts (which look like almonds), mix them into a tablespoonful of lard, heat the spoon over the stove until the lard starts to boil, let it cool some, and take it. Peach pit kernels have a medicinal quality similar to quinine.

Larry Trekell

While we certainly cannot recommend consuming gunpowder and turpentine to cure the flu, we loved hearing from readers with their own remedies handed down from one generation to the next. If you have one, send it in! — Editors 

Patch of Paradise

My wife, Cecile, wanted a small raised-bed garden. Though we started with a simple 10-foot-by-12-foot patch, it turned into 10 raised areas. Everything came from an old sawmill including the timbers, the soil — the bark, dirt and sawdust — even the walkway is made from firebrick and stones from the 1943 wood-fired boiler that generated steam for the sawmill. My wife and I went through and picked up 3,000 of these. The only thing she bought was white stone.

Richard McDaniel
Pulaski, Tennessee

Paper Boy

Just wanted to let you know I am a former GRIT newspaper boy. I was featured one time in the publication as one of the top sellers. This was in the early 1980s. I still have my old newspaper bag that held the papers. I had a route or two, and I stood out front of the local grocery store — rain, sleet and shine — selling GRIT. I remember when GRIT went up from 50 cents to 75 cents, and a lot of my customers were unhappy about that. A few said they would no longer buy it. I whistled songs for the folks in between shouting, “Get your GRIT Newspaper, just 50 cents!”

Sometimes people would tip me, some would ask me to whistle or sing a particular song, usually old country songs by Hank Williams Sr. and Willie Nelson.

One time, a couple of rough-looking guys came up to me and bought about four or five newspapers, which at that time were pretty tall and elongated. They rolled them up like a baton and attacked a man who was on one crutch right in front of me. He was swinging his one crutch, and they were whopping him with the GRIT newspapers they had just bought from me.

Brad Jestice
Alexander, Arkansas

Yikes! While our paper is of the highest quality, we prefer our readers share the information on the pages with friends rather than brandishing our magazine as a weapon! — Editors 

Kentucky Homesteading

I discovered GRIT/CAPPER’s when the rooster on the cover of the November/December 2012 edition caught my eye.

We live in rural west Kentucky and have gradually fallen into a self-sustained lifestyle. We have always hunted and fished for our meat and processed it all ourselves, but, four years ago, the ice storm of the century hit our area. Our survival skills were put to the test when we were landlocked for four days and without power for three weeks, all the while having a 1-month-old baby to care for. We managed quite well, if I do say so myself.

I started making my own laundry soap and saved us almost $400 a year. Then I started planting fruit bushes and trees. Then I built a raised-bed herb garden. Now I’m working on a chicken coop. My husband and our two children, ages 15 and 4, are having as much fun with it as I am.

Your magazine has been a wonderful tool to help us along the way to living a healthy, self-sufficient life.

Thanks, and keep all the great articles and recipes coming!

Athena Abshire
via email

Gluten-Free and Glad

I just wanted to say thank you so much for including a gluten-free pizza recipe in your magazine. I love rural and farming magazines, and it is nice to finally see the gluten-free lifestyle carrying over into a normally bread-loving community. Though I am a diagnosed celiac, more and more non-celiacs are beginning to enjoy eating gluten-free. Normally I skip over all the recipes, but I was extremely excited this time around.

Blaze Baxter
Newalla, Oklahoma

Glad you found them useful, Blaze, and we’ll have more gluten-free recipes in the magazine in the future. Let us know how they turn out when you try them!— Editors 

Parbaking Pizza

I love every issue of your magazine, but I especially loved the March/April issue. I am very interested in syrup production, and the recipes were wonderful. I can’t wait to try the pizza recipes.

Recently, we had a new baby. To prepare, I froze many meals to eat during the hectic postpartum period. One thing I learned is to parbake a pizza before freezing, so the dough will have a chance to rise. To do this, prepare your crust and bake at 400 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes (exact time will depend on the particular crust recipe — it should be 80 percent of the total bake time). Then prepare the sauce and toppings as you would normally, wrap in plastic wrap, and freeze. To bake the pizza, simply put it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is brown and the cheese is melted.

Sometimes even preparing a pizza is more than you have time for, and it’s so nice to have a homemade meal on hand to simply throw in the oven! 

Jennifer Goss
via email

Threshing Know-How

I would like to comment on the Threshing Folk item by Donald T. Smith from Gage, Oklahoma, that appeared in Super-Efficient Outdoor Oven and Portable Pig Pen for Pastured Swine in the March/April issue.

If the machines are headers, they were not used to windrow the wheat, they were used along with a header barge that the header elevated the wheat into. It was then hauled to a location of the farmer’s choice to be stacked in large stacks and later be threshed by the threshing crew. The threshing crew worked their way through the community.

The farmers exchanged labor to cut down on cash outlay. Cash was in very short supply during that time. The header barge was a horse-drawn wagon, or hay rack, that was driven alongside the header, close enough that the wheat fell onto the barge. There were usually a couple of fellows stacking the wheat on the barge so that it would stay on while riding to the stack location. The wheat would then be pitched from the barge onto the stack, where the fellows on the stack moved the wheat around to form a neat, well-formed stack. Stacking was an art, as the stack had to be built and topped out in such a manner that rainwater would run off. This was before combines took over.

Maybe this is more than you wanted to know, but I had to throw in my two cents.

Ralph R. Look
Wichita, Kansas

Sassafras Tea

I just received the latest copy of the magazine. In Heart of the Home (Stories of Natural Cures for Common Ailments, March/April issue), the third story made mention of drinking sassafras tea as a spring tonic.

I, too, remember my mother making this for us each spring, and I enjoyed the flavor. I have tried to find sassafras root in recent years with some difficulty. Several years ago, I found some in southern Ohio, but when I brewed the tea, it wasn’t pink, nor did it taste anything like I remembered as a child. Could someone tell me if there are different varieties of sassafras and if there is a secret to brewing it? Spring is approaching, and I’d like to try it again.

Orval Dean
Colbert, Washington

Cutworm Collars

Here is a great way to get a second use out of the cardboard tubes inside toilet paper, paper towel, or aluminum foil rolls. Melt paraffin in a double boiler, then cut the rolls into 2-inch lengths and dip them into the melted paraffin to coat them. Take them out and set them on old newspapers to dry — instant waterproof cut worm collars! They work great in protecting those young transplants in the garden.

Ronald J. Sortor
South Branch, Michigan 

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, or send a letter via the USPS to GRIT/CAPPER’s Mail Call, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609. Electronic submissions are more likely to generate a timely response.

  • Published on Mar 21, 2013
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