Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A winter update

Dear Solar Cooker folks,

I just read a posting on the SunOven blog. I'm not sure who will read this, but here goes . . .

I've been a user of solar cookers since 1989, when I first read about them in a Christian Science Monitor article that described the solar box cooker. I wrote for the plans for the Solar Box Cooker -- Patio Model from Sheri Cole from Phoenix, Arizona, and worked with my teenage sons to build one over a couple of weekends. (The plans cost $5, and the materials were about $75, mainly for the double pane glass). We have used it during the summer months since then. It's big and holds 2 pots or more, with a huge reflector lid.

But the major problem with it is that it's basically useless during the winter months. So when I learned of the Global Sun Oven and what it would do, I was intrigued. My neighbor had one, so I was able to try it out before purchasing one for our familly. We bought one for ourselves and for the two sons who worked on the original one, who are now in their thirties, one married and one single with his own home. Some other people went in on the purchase as well, so we were able to get the lower price (5 or more ovens ordered).

I am delighted to have a sun oven that works during the winter months. We were out of town last week -- attending the Inauguration in Washington D.C., a fantastic experience -- but the week before I made solar brown rice and some banana bread. Today, with partially cloudy skies, I put in some wheat to make "wheatberries" for breakfast cereal and "bulgar wheat" for salads or other dishes.

My interest in solar cookers is mainly in using my food storage and in energy conservation. We make use of the oven probably 2-3 times per week, weather permitting.

I'll try to dig our old tried-and-true solar box cooker out of the snow pile for a photo one of these days. It continues to work miraculously during the summer. However, today in Logan is cold, and it would only warm food, not boil water.

The sky has now clouded over, but I think that there was enough sun at noon to cook the wheat. If not, I can put the pan in a snow bank and fire it up on another day.

It will be fun to share recipes and tips. I think sun ovens are the key to using food storage and to eating more nutritiously (and I do like food!).

Signing off on a Tues. afternoon in beautiful Cache Valley -

Nick Eastmond

Friday, January 16, 2009

Getting my Sun Oven

I recently received my Sun Oven and was pretty skeptical at first. It seemed like an interesting concept, but getting the necessary heat without using electricity or gas seemed far-fetched. I had talked to some other Utah residents who had used it, so I figured it would be worth a try. I set it up the first time at about 3:45 in the afternoon, just to see how hot I could get it. It would go above 130 degrees, but I was assuming because it was winter and the sun was getting pretty low in the sky by that time.
I figured I would try it on a Saturday when I was home during mid-day. I set it out in my backyard on top of my patio table (which had a nice 1" layer of ice and snow on it) and let it pre-heat. After about 30 minutes it was at 325 degrees, which is what my brownie recipe called for. I had my kids help me mix it up and then placed it in an 8x8 cake pan then stuck it in the oven. I set the timer for 50 minutes, because that was what the recipe called for. However, my wife needed me to run to the mall to buy her a new shirt because we were getting family pictures taken that day, so I didn't get back to pull them out of the Sun Oven until 75 minutes after I had put them in the oven. In a conventional oven, that would have been some pretty burnt brownies, but I was surprised to find my brownies pretty moist and well cooked throughout.
I shared the brownies with my inlaws and around the office the next Monday. I had filmed my endeaver and it can be viewed from the video bar on the side of this blog. Needless to say, it did work and both my wife and I think it is pretty cool and can see some real practical applications for the Sun Oven and emergency preparedness. Check em out, if you haven't yet, and see about getting one. They are cool (though they get hot) and fun to use, I just have to plan a little further in advance when I plan to use it.
I'll keep posting and sharing my experiences, and trying to add some videos to the blog, too. So keep checking back.