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Community Homesteading: Grow, Raise, Make & Preserve
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Solar Oven Cookery

Sun, 2020/10/04 - 3:42pm

Solar Oven Cookery
by Alessandra Haines
September 2020

Looking back on this extraordinary summer of environmental and social turmoil a bright spot (quite literally!) has been regularly cooking in the solar oven. It is super easy, safe and versatile. It’s near impossible to burn anything and can be left unattended while you are out. No fossil fuels are used and no fumes are produced.

The oven I have been working with is a Sun Oven. It is basically an insulated box with a glass top and mylar reflectors. It works very well for patio use and is easy to move about and store. There are many varieties of commercial solar ovens available and a plethora of DYI designs. It is an incredibly simple device with really nothing to break down or go wrong.

The beauty of solar cooking is that you can eat well and NOT HEAT UP THE HOUSE!!!! As our temperatures rise keeping our interiors cooler in the summer is paramount. We all know that fossil fuel powered AC is not really a solution to a warming climate!

There are things that cook especially well in the solar oven that require long cooking times and I probably wouldn’t bother to cook in the regular oven or stove top in the heat of the summer.

For example, it works very well for any type of simmered soups or stock, stew, posole, cassoulet and polenta. Dried beans can be cooked in 2-3 hours with no soaking. Simmering only requires about 220F so even if the sun is less than optimal your liquid based dish will cook.

It’s perfect for roasting or baking: potatoes, yams, beets, turnips, carrots,
tomato, summer or winter squash as well as any type of casserole, enchiladas etc.

For baking anything in the 350-400F range is possible. My solar oven tends to max out at 350F so if its a cookie that wants 400F it might just take a bit longer. Smaller baked goods will cook faster. For example, banana muffins might be a better choice than a huge loaf of banana bread. The temperature can be adjusted by adjusting the angle of the oven to the sun and by cracking the lid open a bit which also releases condensation on the glass.

Cooking outdoors with the sun does require you pay attention to the weather. On occasion, if it clouds up, you may have to finish up your baked potatoes or whatever inside in the kitchen oven. The optimal cooking window is from about 11 am to 4 pm.

Cookware should be dark and heat absorbing rather than reflective such as foil or stainless steel.

Dark enamelware (black, red, blue, dark green) heats up the quickest as it is lightweight.

Cast iron or dark clay cookers also work very well and a black enamel toaster oven tray is the perfect size for roasting vegetables.

Categories: Sustainable SW Blogs

Foraged Flavors of Santa Fe

Sun, 2020/10/04 - 3:30pm

Our friends at Slow Foods Santa Fe are putting on the following event:

Foraged Flavors of Santa Fe/ZOOM Event

Speaker: Ellen ZachosDate: Tuesday October 6Time: 5:00-6:30 pm
For more info on this upcoming event and to sign up,
go to: Foraged Flavors of Santa Fe

 

Categories: Sustainable SW Blogs

D0-It-Yourself Solar Fountain

Mon, 2020/09/14 - 7:02pm

DO-IT-YOURSELF SOLAR FOUNTAIN
by Teri Buhl

One of the best things you can do to encourage wildlife in your yard is to create water sources.  For migrating birds, especially in the Southwest, fresh water is a lifesaver.  According to the Audubon Society, “fall” migration is a protracted experience, starting as early as mid-June and lasting until the early days of January. Such a long migration season provides birders plenty of opportunities to witness the spectacle and joy of birds on the move.  Peak fall migration occurs from mid-August to mid-October.  Cornell Lab of Ornithology researchers used cloud and radar data to estimate that 4.7 billion birds leave the U.S. over the southern border, heading to the tropics.  As stewards of wildlife, we can help a big percentage of our flying friends make a successful journey by supplying water when they need a rest stop.

This project is easy, it has a spray head that hummingbirds like, a center bowl for drinking, and a ring/bowl that larger birds can use for bathing.  In addition, a solar panel means that you don’t need to be near an electrical outlet.  Last, but not least, it’s a closed system that’s easy to clean and maintain.  What’s not to like?  Here’s what you need:

A 5-gallon bucket $5 – 10 A 13-inch diameter plastic chip and dip tray $1 – 3 A solar fountain kit, minimum of 2 watts of power $20 – 35 1 to 2 feet of 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch plastic tubing $1 – 5

You’re going to put holes in the chip and dip tray to allow water to drain back into the bucket, and can use either a drill or a soldering iron.   Any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer probably already has these tools on hand.  If not, visit your nearest Habitat for Humanity Restore and ask about their tool lending counter – they’ll be happy to help you.

Good luck and happy birding!

STEP 1
Find a place near a sunny spot for your bucket, and fill it to about 4 inches from the top.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 2
Check to make sure your chip/dip tray fits your bucket properly.

 

 

STEP 3

Mark the drainage hole locations on the back of the chip/dip tray using the ejection pin and molding marks as a guide.  Start with 12 holes – you can always make more later.  (This need not be perfect.)

 

 

 

STEP 4

Drill the holes using a 1/16 to 1/8” drill bit.  Make one “pilot” hole in the center of the dip bowl of the tray.  You can use a soldering iron for the holes if you prefer.

 

 

 

 

STEP 5

Choose a drill bit the size of your fountain stem, probably 3/8 to 1/2″, and make a hole in the center using the pilot hole as a guide.

 

 

STEP 6

Fit the fountain stem into the center of the tray.  It needs to be just above the water level line to spray properly.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 7

Most pump kits have small segmented pipes that you can size to the height of a container or pot.  Assemble these to the pump and place the pump in the bottom of the bucket.

 

STEP 8

Cut a relief slot in the bucket rim for the pump cord.  A round file works well for this.

 

 

 

 

STEP 9

You may need to buy an extra piece of tubing depending on your pump kit.  Use it to connect the pump piping to the fountain stem – see next photo.

 

STEP 10

The tubing needs to be long enough to lift the tray to add more water.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 11

Solar panels come with hardware for ground or wall mounting.  If you use a ground stake, find a sunny place and face the panel to solar south.  The tilt should be about 30 degrees or less for maximum sun exposure throughout the day.

 

 

 

STEP 12

Keep your pump wet, grab a drink, sit back, and enjoy watching all the birds use your new fountain!

 

Categories: Sustainable SW Blogs