A “Berry” Good Year

The fog’s rolled in again this morning so it should be a pretty comfortable day.   So far this week, we’ve picked about 15 pounds of huge, juicy blackberries. Of course, you pay the price for picking such tasty treats since the vines are loaded with thorns. This blackberry, produces “larger than you thumb” sized berries but such treats come with a small price, however, it’s worth a few “ouches.” Of course we gals aren’t stupid, we give that job to one of the guys figuring they can handle it!

This year we are actually harvesting a decent crop (well, about 1 cup so far) of blueberries and the bushes are still loaded. Actually, I have enough to make blueberry muffins – that will be a treat especially with our own blueberries. Also, surprisingly theGoumi’s are producing enough berries this year to actually pick them. These red edible berries are good fresh and excellent for jelly & pies. The weeping mulberries are loaded with fruit and will have to pick those sometime today.

Red roses are blooming and that means it’s time to make up a bunch ofrose petal syrup (sans the red coloring of course, who needs that?) that I usually can or freeze. The syrup is great and wonderous addition to lemonade or fruit sauces.

LA guide to green living

Green Resource Guide

Recently, the folks at Greenopia offered those who are listed in the new green guide an opportunity to purchase and sell these guides to our local community and customers. You can now purchaseGreenopia online through our site. I do have to add, unfortunately, there is a bit of confusion over our listing. We should have 2 listings. Path to Freedom should be included and listed in  ‘Community Advocacy’ as Path to Freedom. The listing of ‘Path to Freedom’ under ‘Specialty Market’ (pg 67) should be changed to “DerVaes Gardens.”   I have contacted someone from their office and hope to have the listings corrected by their next edition.

Powering Down

Yesterday, I made blackberry cobbler in ournewest sun oven to join our sun oven “family.” In addition to thefoldable, lightweight “CooKit”, and our homemadesun oven we built ourselves over 4 years ago, this latest “sport’ oven worked quite well.   I like the fact that it’s long, easy to carry/handle and we are able to fit at least 2 pots inside or large glass casserole pans.   Since it was foggy in the morning we started cooking about mid afternoon, while the cobbler was cooking in our newest oven, vegetable lasagna was warming in our homemade solar oven for dinner.

How long have you been using your sun oven?

We’ve been using solar ovens since the late 1990s. Over the years, we’ve made our share  of cardboard solar box cookers (including one from a recycledpizza box).   However, over time the cardboard would get dented or just look ratty.   So, about four years ago, the guys built a more permanent one using scrap wood, metal cookie sheets and mounted the oven on a cart, to which they added old bike wheels for easy mobility. What I like about our homemade sun oven (besides that we built it ourselves) is Jules’ neat “invention” — the “swinging” interior shelf. Whatever angle you adjust the sun oven, the suspended shelf adjusts to level, allowing you to place the food without worrying about spillage.

What sort of foods can you cook?

Everything!  Rice, vegetables, fruit, soups, meats, pizza, breads, cakes and more.

How long does food take to cook?

(On sunny days)  Rice, vegetables (above ground), casseroles, fruit take about 2 hours or less. Potatoes, root vegetables, some beans, breads take 3-4 hours.   Soups, most dried beans 5-8 hours.

Leftovers are easily warmed in 2 hours or less.

Solar Cookers International says the “Golden Rule” of solar cooking is ” Get the food in early! Don’t worry about overcooking.”

How do you use the solar oven?

We divide the foods into “fast and slow cooking.”   Dark colored pots with dark colored lids work best.

There are many benefits to using solar ovens:

Foods cooked in sun ovens are more nutritious and no water is added to fruits, vegetables or meats – therefore the food retains more vitamins and minerals. The slow cooked process means food is more flavorful and tender. Tender foods aids digestion and nutrient absorption.

Sun ovens are very efficient. There is no need to stir food. You can “abandon” your food – run errands, go on a hike, etc without worrying about the food overcooking.

And last but not least, it’s good for the environment by using a clean (FREE!) energy source, thus cutting our reliance on fossils fuels. Sun ovens are being sent and used to many third world countries to help slow down (or prevent) deforestation. In many areas around the world, family members (mostly women) spend up to 20 hours or more per week gathering firewood. Using sun ovens allows women to spend more time with their family and is a healthy alternative — it pasteurizes water and reduces lung and eye disease caused by cooking over fires in closed spaces.   It’s estimated that 2.4 billion people lack adequate fuel simply to cook their meals.

Where can I get the plans to build my own?

Solar ovens are easy and fun to make. Here are some helpful links to get you started on the solar cooking path. It’s fun, it’s easy and best of all you are using a renewable (and free) energy source.
Solar Oven Plans
Instructions to Build a Solar Box Cooker
Making and Using a Solar Cooker
Solar Oven Plans
Review of Solar Cooker Designs
Principles of Solar Cooker Designs
Review of Solar Cooker Designs
Cooking With the Sun
Amazing $1.00 Solar Cooker
Cooking With the Sun
Solar Cooking Basics
Solar Cooking News From Around the World

It’s been a very productive “power down” week. We are reducing our natural gas usage for cooking food and heating water by using simple and appropriate technologies – sun oven and solar shower.

No Comments

  1. claire says:

    wow, the solar ovens look great, and inexpensive. worth it even for the few times you could use it here. . .the rest of the time it could be used to channel rain!? how great they must be in hot/dry places, to save familys having to gather wood. thanks for that post , very thought provoking.

  2. Paul Cooley says:

    We’ve been using a commercial Sun Oven from Sun Oven International. We would have never bought one, but I spotted this one at the thrift store for $18.00. It works so well that I probably wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one. It heats up to around 300 degrees fairly quickly, and I’ve seen it as high as 350. Environmentally speaking, it’s probably better to build one from material at hand, but if you want a commercial oven, it’s worth looking into.

  3. Wildside says:

    Anais, Thank you for your very nice comment about my homestead garden… I found it yesterday and am so happy I didn’t miss it. But as you know, it is your own very productive gardens there in sunny so’cal that we all admire and are inspired by!

  4. Anais says:

    Hi Paul

    Thanks for your commment. We did by one (two, actually) of the Sun Ovens back in 1999. However, after using the oven a few times the interior of the ovens started to “bubble.” We weren’t very happy with the quality of workmanship,return the ovens and asked for a replacement and the replacement oven did the same thing!

    So instead hassel with that, we built our own and have been using our homemade ones ever since — until recently. Our homemade one can reach about 375-400 and was fairly easy to build.

    I think the Sun Oven’s poor workmanship at the time was caused by the Y2K scare — high demand so the quality suffered.

  5. Christine says:

    I had no idea about solar ovens! It makes perfect sense to use the sun to do the cooking. Here in Texas we seem to see the sun alot, and it gets hot enough too!

    Thanks for the links to the solar oven plans. I’m looking them over and we’re going to build ourselves one. Any suggestions on your preferred plan?

  6. Heather says:

    Thank you for all the sun oven info. Living in Arizona, I tend to eat out alot in the summer, cuz it is just to darn hot to cook. Now we can make asun over and stop that whole waste of money.
    And I just had to brag a bit, I just went outto a garden and picked a big bowl of yellow pear tomatoes, and basil. I mixed that with some feta goat cheese that a friend makes from the milk she gets from her goats… so my lunch will be with in a 100 miles! : )
    Heather in Tucson

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the info on solar ovens. I’d like to hear more about what you cook, how you prep it, and the design of your oven(s).

    I just finished the “minimal” solar box cooker from your 4th link and tried it out this last weekend. Tried some chocolate chip cookies which were edible, but not a complete success. And some chocolate cupcakes which came out perfect. I think they cooked well partly because they were dark brown.

    Anyway, another benefit of solar cooking. My two little girls (4 & 6) can participate. There’s still danger of getting burned, but much less than with a gas or electric oven. And we can watch the food cook. 🙂