His Heart Attacked Him!

000funny farmI remember a hilarious scene in the 1988 movie Funny Farm with Chevy Chase, one of many scenes when I couldn’t start laughing.  My jaws and stomach hurt when that movie was over and I have seen it again several times since. The funny scene I’m talking about is the one when an elderly woman explained to Elizabeth (Madolyn Smith) that she was sitting in the very chair that her late husband was sitting in when his heart attacked him. 🙂

Well, it’s not so funny when it really happens – to you.

Ray had a mild heart attack several months ago.  Subsequent tests revealed he need immediate cardiac bypass surgery.

This is the guy that, during the previous week, had split a cord of wood.  We had no idea that this major hurdle was in our future.

Thanks to great doctors, nurses and facilities, I am happy to report that Ray is now better than ever!  His chest is healing, his strength is returning and our future, once again, looks wonderful!

But let me be honest and say that we didn’t know if all our dreams of building a homestead from scratch were gone.  And while we are being honest here, I have to admit I was a bit annoyed with my husband and the new pickle we were in.

You see, after I knew he was going to survive, I started thinking about our future and all the dreams that we had… that I had… that were probably going to have to be abandoned.  We knew years ago that Ray had high cholesterol, a family history of cardiac disease, etc., and Ray has been on cholesterol lowering drugs for years.  But, he also had a sedentary job (computer programmer), an addiction to sugar, and refused to exercise more than doing what he called a “power walk” two or three times a week.  I had nagged, begged, bribed, bitched and tried to shame him into exercising and watching what he ate so that he would lose some weight.  He was never obese, but carried his weight around his belly, which is not good for a man with cardiac problems.  I wanted to grow old with him, so I became the food police and reminded him that soda was empty calories full of artery destroying sugar, I “washed” the hamburger, served fresh fruits and vegetables with almost every meal, and gave away my deep fat fryer.

Firewood warms you five times!

Here is the stack we had when we were a little more than half done with our wood cutting, splitting and stacking. Ray was doing all this with clogged arteries!  Go figure…

When we moved up to our fledgling homestead last year after Ray’s retirement, he had no choice but to exercise more.  Cutting down trees, raking rocks, shoveling dirt, building sheds – he started to lose weight and gain muscle.  We began eating a more plant based, healthy diet.  We didn’t have a choice because the nearest restaurant is more than one-half hour away, and we only had enough freezer space for whole foods rather than pre-packaged foods with all that bulk.  I refused to buy soda and we drank more water, lightly honeyed (from our own organic beehive) iced tea and coffee.  I thought that all the years of nagging and shaming were behind me (I honestly didn’t like who I had become) and we were looking forward to starting to build our new home.

And then he had a heart attack.heart attack2

All those years of his health neglect added up, and even the new, healthier lifestyle wasn’t going to reverse the damage that was already done.

I know this sounds terrible, but I said to him “I told you so” and I meant it.  Sorry.  I know that sounds pretty harsh, but I am being honest when I say that I was blaming him for upsetting our dreams.

While Ray was healing, we couldn’t live on the homestead.  It was in the middle of winter – cold and wet – and the dirt and gravel road had become mud and deep potholes.  Just getting to and from our homestead was iffy during a rainstorm.  What if he had a complication and needed to go to the hospital which was more than one-half hour away?  He was restricted to lifting 5 pounds or less, and there was no way I could expect him to use an outhouse when his chest had been cracked apart, leaving a 12 inch scar!

how to build an outhouse

As cute and functional our outhouse is, I couldn’t imagine Ray having to use it by trudging up the hill in a possible rainstorm, just after having had major surgery!

So, we rented a cute little house in the city where the hospital and his cardiac surgeon were.  Besides, once Ray’s surgical scars started to heal, he had another 12 weeks, three days a week, of cardiac rehabilitation to go through, and it was certainly easier to live near all the facilities he was going to need.

Then, while Ray was recovering from his major surgery, I became quite depressed.

Living in a tiny cottage

A cozy corner of our “tiny cottage”!

You see, we had owned our future homestead for 12 years, and during that time had put in a septic tank and well for the future house, along with a sturdy tool shed that we turned into our “tiny cottage”.  We had planted a beautiful fruit and nut orchard that was just starting to mature.  We had sold our home of 25 years and moved up to the future homestead with thoughts of a wonderful new life in our peaceful and beautiful new home.  We were going to have chickens that I already had names for: Beulah, Phyllis, Melba and Pearl. This was to be the home we would live out the rest of our lives, and it is the home I have been designing and dreaming about for 12 years.  Living in someone else’s house in a strange city actually made me feel lost and lonely, especially now that the realization of my dream, our dream, was in question. 🙁

It didn’t help that we had already spent over $23,000 for the insulated concrete forms for our new home and would have to forfeit %10 of that money if we pulled out – about $2,300.  Plus, we had already spent well over $5,000 for our house plans, which are almost finished, and we would not get ANY of that back.  Not to mention that real estate has recently taken another downturn in our area of California, and we would never get the money out of our land that we have put into it.

I know I sound like I am whining, and I apologize, but I’m just laying it all out and baring my soul.

I was pretty miserable until a nurse told me that Ray will actually be stronger and healthier once he is healed, than he had been for the last 10 years!  A week later Ray’s doctor affirmed that.  You see, for a few years now, Ray had been slowing down and was not able to do as much physical labor as he had just a few years ago.  We just attributed this to the fact that he was getting older, as we all are!

But, you can now understand, age wasn’t the problem!  It was just that his heart vessels were clogging up and he wasn’t able to get enough oxygen to his muscles!  Now that his heart has all new, clean and clear pipes, Ray is, indeed, getting stronger every day!

And he is kicking his sugar addiction!  Hallelujah!

So, our plans and dreams are back on track!

Ray has finished his cardiac rehabilitation with flying colors and we have moved back to our fledgling homestead – full steam ahead!

I want to thank all of you, my dear blogging friends, for your inquiries and concern during my absence.  I apologize for not answering some of your questions and comments (which I will start doing today), and plan to get back into blogging about our adventures very soon.

Life is good. Live it while you can.

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These are some of the places I party:

Thank Goodness It’s MondayClever Chicks Blog HopGrand SocialMix It Up MondayCreate, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me MondayMotivation Monday;  Homemaking Mondays; Show & Share TuesdayThe Gathering SpotTuesday Garden PartyBrag About ItTuesdays with a Twist;The ScoopTwo Cup TuesdayTweak It TuesdayInspire Me TuesdaysTuesdays at Our Home;   Lou Lou GirlsParty In Your PJ’sYou’re Gonna Love It  Make, Bake and Create;  Wicked Awesome Wednesday;  Wined Down Wednesday;  Wake Up WednesdayFluster’s Creative Muster;  Homestead Blog HopWow Us Wednesday;  Wonderful WednesdayOur Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  The Handmade HangoutCreate it Thursday;  Think Tank Thursday;  Homemaking PartyTreasure Hunt ThursdayThis Is How We Roll; Inspire or be Inspired;  Inspiration Gallery;  No Rules Weekend Party  Freedom FridaysFriendship FridayFrom The Farm Blog HopFriday Flash Blog PartyWeekend re-Treat;Family Fun FridayFriday’s Five FeaturesReal Food FridaysShow Off FridayCraft Frenzy Friday;  Awesome Life FridaySimply Natural Saturdays;  Saturday Sparks;  My Favorite Things;  Dare to ShareScraptastic Saturday;Share It One More Time  That DIY Party;  DIY Sunday ShowcaseSnickerdoodle Sunday;   Best of the BlogosphereSmall Victories Sunday

Book and a Cuppa Reveal!

Oh My Goodness – I am absolutely hooked on blog party swaps!

I recently read about blog swaps on Wendy’s blog, A Day In The Life On The Farm, and was directed over to Beth and Angie’s blog Chaotic Goddess Swaps!  This is where I read about a blog swapping.  No, we didn’t swap blogs!  It is a swap party where people who have blogs participate in a themed swap.  In this swap we were supposed to swap a cup or mug and a book, along with a few related goodies!  It sounded like a lot of fun, so I decided to jump in!  book and a Cuppa Swap I was partnered with Beth, one of the co-hosts, and boy was I the lucky one!  Beth has a great blog, Printcess, about her love of books and hobbies, but also makes and sells her own home-made eye shadow. Check out her shop! Though Beth is much younger than I am, I found that we have quite a lot in common.  We both love tea, books and chocolate!  I am her newest fan and follower.

That’s what is so great about the swapping – you get to know your swap partner by reading through their blog and through e-mails, so you know what type of gift they will love. Through this exploration, it is inevitable that you will make a new friend.  I have!

When I received my swap package in the mail, I couldn’t wait to tear inside.  Look what I found:

This box was just chock full of goodies! I was literally squealing while I opened it! :)

This box was just chock full of goodies! I was literally squealing while I opened it! :)

I could tell right away that this wasn’t Beth’s first swap.  She wrapped everything well and even some packages came with bows.  But the most special thing (in my opinion) was the way she labeled every gift, explaining why she chose them.

First up:  Tea – lots of it!  Organic Chamomile tea, home-made Rosehip Rooibos and also caramel matcha green tea, and some specialty teas one called Apple Mint Cardamom Green Tea and the other Pineapple Angle Food Cake White Tea.  Don’t those sound absolutely devine?  Then, to top everything off, she added one more tea called Peppermint Marshmallow Melting in Hot Chocolate…  yup – that’s what it’s called and, let me tell you, it smells just like peppermint marshmallow melting in hot chocolate!  Yum!

Tea - lots of tea! I love drinking tea, day and night, and especially while reading a good book!

Tea – lots of tea! I love drinking tea, day and night, and especially while reading a good book!

Beth is an avid reader and one of the generas she likes is historical fiction (me too!) and so she sent three books of that genera:  Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer, The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, and Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant.  Along with those, because I am a budding homesteader, she sent a book called DIY projects for the Self-Sufficient Homeowner.  Thank goodness it’s still cold and wet outside, because that gives me the perfect excuse to sit down and read, with a good cuppa tea, chocolate at my fingertips!

Four books! Wow! I am almost hoping for dark, dreary days in the next month so I can sit down and read - nonstop!

Four books! Wow! I am almost hoping for dark, dreary days in the next month so I can sit down and read – nonstop!

The swap was called “A Book and a Cuppa”, so did Beth send me a cup?

Nope.

She sent two!  One was a large mug in my favorite color of green, and the other was a cute mug in a set with a tea infuser and spoon rest.  Holy Cow!  I just love them both!

Aren't these the best? And the color of that large green one - gorgeous!

Aren’t these the best? And the color of that large green one – gorgeous!

Was that it?  Noooo…

Beth went over and above what I had expected!  Knowing that I love chocolate, she filled the green mug with hershey’s kisses and Dove dark chocolate bites, and also included a chocolate candy bar – Dark Chocolate with pumpkin spice & Almonds!  Doesn’t that sound delish?

Chocolate. Mmmmm... chocolate. What more can I say?

Chocolate. Mmmmm… chocolate. What more can I say?

Thank goodness it’s still cold and wet outside, because that gives me the perfect excuse to sit down and read, with a good “cuppa” tea, chocolate at my fingertips!

Is it Christmas? Is it my birthday? No - it's a Chaotic Goddess Swap!

Is it Christmas?   Is it my birthday?   No – it’s a Chaotic Goddess Swap!

Thank you so much, Beth!  I am so glad to get to know you and your blog, Printcess, and because of your generosity, I am so hooked on swaps!

Oh Yeah – P.S.

Our Wall of Keys - not very efficient.

Our Wall of Keys – not very efficient.

You know those cute little tags Beth included with each gift?  Well, Ray and I have a key wall right next to the door in our trailer.  It holds keys to the tool shed, back road cable, tiny cottage, chipper/mulcher, the laundry shed and the quad.  Needless to say, they got mixed up.  We needed labels.  An epiphany hit me when I saw those tags – I could use them to label the keys!  That way, I will be reminded of how much fun this swap was every time I used one of the keys!  You know what I always say: Reduce, REUSE, recycle!  😉 Book and a Cuppa Swap Results 8

 

So, Angie and Beth of Chaotic Goddess Swaps, what’s the next swap theme?

 

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Thank Goodness It’s MondayClever Chicks Blog HopGrand SocialMix It Up MondayCreate, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me MondayMotivation Monday;  Homemaking Mondays; Show & Share TuesdayThe Gathering SpotTuesday Garden PartyBrag About ItTuesdays with a Twist;The ScoopTwo Cup TuesdayTweak It TuesdayInspire Me TuesdaysTuesdays at Our Home;   Lou Lou GirlsParty In Your PJ’sYou’re Gonna Love It  Make, Bake and Create;  Wicked Awesome Wednesday;  Wined Down Wednesday;  Wake Up WednesdayFluster’s Creative Muster;  Homestead Blog HopWow Us Wednesday; Wonderful Wednesday:   Our Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  The Handmade HangoutCreate it Thursday;  Think Tank Thursday;  Homemaking PartyTreasure Hunt ThursdayThis Is How We Roll; Inspire or be Inspired;  Inspiration Gallery;  No Rules Weekend Party  Freedom FridaysFriendship FridayFrom The Farm Blog HopFriday Flash Blog PartyWeekend re-Treat;Family Fun FridayFriday’s Five FeaturesReal Food FridaysShow Off FridayCraft Frenzy Friday;  Awesome Life Friday:  Simply Natural Saturdays;  Saturday Sparks;  My Favorite Things;  Dare to ShareScraptastic Saturday;Share It One More Time  That DIY Party;  DIY Sunday ShowcaseSnickerdoodle Sunday;   Best of the BlogosphereSmall Victories Sunday

Home-made Kelp Fertilizer

Make your own kelp fertilizer

Our compost pile consists of kitchen and garden wastes. Sometimes the wildlife and at other times the neighborhood dogs spread it around for us. ;)

Ray and I have been composting for several years now.  We throw all of our fruit and vegetable waste into the pile, along with tea bags, coffee grounds and washed egg shells, then turn it once a week or so.  Other than the egg shells, we had to stop putting any type of animal product (old cheese, unwashed egg shells, expired milk, etc.) into our compost pile because the local wildlife and some of the neighborhood dogs were attracted to it, and they would spread the compost from here to there, making a terrible mess.  Even so, we still got good compost!  But, let me explain why we don’t want to rely on our compost as our only soil amendment, and decided to make natural kelp fertilizer.

Before I go any further, here’s a little vocabulary to know:

Macronutrient:  an element required in large amounts for plant growth and development, consisting of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium.

Micronutrient:  an element or substance required in small amounts for normal growth and development of living organisms, including iron, copper, iodine and zinc. There are actually many more micronutrients than macronutrients.

Monoculture:  planting the same crop year after year, usually in large plots of land.

Make Your Own Kelp Fertilizer

Monoculture: where one crop is grown year after year on the same large acreage.

🙂

One of the biggest problems with monoculture  is that many of the micronutrients that we (humans) require are well used up from the soil after just a few years. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, are added back to the soil by farmers, but what about selenium, copper, magnesium and cobalt? Generally, these micronutrients are not added back to the depleted soil, which means the resulting food produced on this land will not have these essential micronutrients.  Soils depleted of micronutrients is one reason why many of our foods available at the supermarket are not as nutritious as foods offered just one hundred, or even fifty years ago!

In the compost pile we can easily take care of a plant’s need for macronutrients.  Nitrogen, which promotes leaf growth, can be provided by chicken manure.  Potassium, which aids in flower and fruit development, can easily be added to the compost in the form of wood ash, which also adds calcium.  Phosphorous stimulates root growth and can be obtained from bone meal or bone char (burned bone meal).

But what about the micronutrients?  Where are they going to come from?  If a lot of the fruits and vegetables you purchase at the grocery store are lacking (monoculture) in micronutrients, therefore throwing your apple cores, squash peels and moldy carrot tops aren’t going to magically add these micronutrients.

Of course, you could always use a fertilizer that you purchase ($$$$$) containing a lot of the micronutrients that may be lacking in your soil.  Or, you can make kelp fertilizer!

Why kelp fertilizer?

Because, unlike soil that generally sits in one place and can be lacking this nutrient or that, our oceans are constantly circulating water (that carries micronutrients) all over our earth, and therefore the plants that grow in the ocean (kelp/seaweed) have more nutrients available for them to take in!

Kelp only has a small percentage of potassium, so it’s not a primary fertilizer of macronutrients, therefore it must be added in conjunction with other fertilizers, such as the aforementioned chicken poop, wood ash and bone meal!  Better yet, the nutrients in kelp are held in organic molecules, which is a form readily available to plants.

Another benefit of Kelp fertilizer is that it contains cytokinins, gibberellins and auxins, all valuable plant hormones. Studies show that cytokinins play a vital roll in cell division and enlargement and gibberellins aid in stem elongation, germination, and flowering.Make Your Own Kelp Fertilizer

So, last September Ray and I vacationed on the Pacific Coast and harvested an ice chest full of kelp.  We got lots of Bull Kelp, Kombu, Porphyra (nori) and Bladderwrack. According to Superfoods for Superhealth, in California we can harvest 17 pounds of seaweed/kelp per day from most public beaches!

DIY Kelp FertilizerOnce home, the seaweed was soaked in fresh water for about an hour, drained, then soaked in more fresh water.  This was to help remove the salt, sand and any little critters from the seaweed.  The seaweed was then placed in a large barrel with more fresh water and left to soak overnight.  Through the process of osmosis, a lot of the salt in the tissues of the seaweed are extracted into the fresh water.  That water was dumped and more fresh water was added – just enough to cover.  Now it was time to brew up some fertilizer!  A screen was placed over the barrel, and it was left in the hot sun to start fermenting.

how to make kelp fertilizer

Our ice chest full of kelp/seaweed.

The brew had to be stirred at least once a day.  Twice is best.

Boy, did it ferment!  The first few days everything seemed to be going well.  When I took the lid off the brew smelled like the beach the seaweed was taken from.  A little sour and musty, but nothing extreme.  There were a few flies trying to get into the brew, but I was able to fend them off.  That was until about the fourth or fifth day…

Peeeeeee yooooouuuuuu!

Let me tell you, this stuff gets stinky!  By two weeks we were wondering if the smell could get any worse!  Every time I went to stir the concoction, my eyes would water because it smelled so bad.  If I could describe it to you, it smelled like, well, hmmmm….

… actually, there really isn’t a description for the smell.  Just take my word for it, it’s stinky smelly!  If you decide to make your own kelp fertilizer, don’t say I didn’t warn you!  I could smell the fermenting sea juice at least 25 feet away.  50 feet if I was down-wind!Diy Kelp fertilizer

After a month, I could see that the kelp was breaking down into a stinky, almost gelatinous brew.  While I was stirring, I would always think of my high school days reading Macbeth…

“Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.”
After a couple of months the brew wasn’t quite as stinky.  Either that or my nose was just starting to get used to it! 😉  Apparently, the fertilizer is ready when it is no longer stinky, but instead smelled like a fresh summer day on the ocean.  So, I wasn’t quite there yet.
Now that we were into November and with the cooler days, the fermentation process was slowing down.  No matter, at least I wasn’t afraid of what the neighbors were thinking anymore!

But then Thanksgiving was just around the corner and Christmas shopping had to be done. Between birthdays and holiday festivities, I forgot to stir the goop every day.

How to make your own seaweed fertilizer

Looking into the barrel, you can see the fermenting, gelatinous and stinky, very stinky kelp!

A few weeks later, when I remembered, I noticed the smell wasn’t noxious anymore!  I’m not sure I could describe it as a fresh summer day on the ocean, more like soured jasmine flowers, but I believe the fertilizer was finally ready for bottling!  Hooray!!  At that point I fished out most of the remaining solid pieces of kelp, and added it to the compost pile, but I thought I should let it sit for another day or so to let any other solids float to the bottom before I used the spigot to bottle my liquid gold.
Then we went away for a week and came back to this:DIY Kelp fertilizer
And this:How to make kelp fertilizer
And this:Make Your Own Kelp Fertilizer
A bear had visited our homestead and tipped over my precious barrel of fertilizer!
Yes.  I did say some “not-very-nice” words such as #$%& and &@$#%!   After all that work! Waaaaaaaa….
Instructions on making your own seaweed fertilizerI was able to save a little more than 1/2 gallon of my precious fertilizer.  The good news is that the kelp fertilizer is to be diluted 15:1, so I actually have quite a bit of fertilizer left to add around my plants.  And as a foliar spray it should be used 20:1.  That was the good news.  The better news?  My dear husband suggested we go for another vacation to the coast to get some more kelp!
Yes, please!

 

 

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You may find this post at some of these fun blog parties!

Thank Goodness It’s MondayClever Chicks Blog HopGrand SocialMix It Up MondayCreate, Link, Inspire;  Amaze Me MondayMotivation Monday;  Homemaking Mondays; Show & Share TuesdayThe Gathering SpotTuesday Garden PartyBrag About ItTuesdays with a Twist;The ScoopTwo Cup TuesdayTweak It TuesdayInspire Me TuesdaysTuesdays at Our Home;   Lou Lou GirlsParty In Your PJ’sYou’re Gonna Love It  Make, Bake and Create;  Wicked Awesome Wednesday;  Wined Down Wednesday;  Wake Up WednesdayFluster’s Creative Muster;  Homestead Blog HopWow Us Wednesday;  Wonderful Wednesday  Our Simple Homestead; Share Your Cup Thursday;  Home and Garden Thursday;  The Handmade HangoutCreate it Thursday;  Think Tank Thursday;  Homemaking PartyTreasure Hunt ThursdayThis Is How We Roll; Inspire or be Inspired;  Inspiration Gallery;  No Rules Weekend Party  Freedom FridaysFriendship FridayFrom The Farm Blog HopFriday Flash Blog PartyWeekend re-Treat;Family Fun FridayFriday’s Five FeaturesReal Food FridaysShow Off FridayCraft Frenzy Friday;  Awesome Life Friday  Simply Natural Saturdays;  Saturday Sparks;  My Favorite Things;  Dare to ShareScraptastic Saturday;Share It One More Time  That DIY Party;  DIY Sunday ShowcaseSnickerdoodle Sunday;   Best of the BlogosphereSmall Victories Sunday

 

 

 

Cooking With The Sun!

Look what I got!

Cooking with a Sun Oven

My new baby! I couldn’t wait to try out my new Sun Oven Solar Cooker!

I have been reading the Taylor Made Ranch blog for a couple of years now, and have been so jealous of Tammy’s beautiful Sun Oven.  I have several plans that I found (here’s a good one in Mother Earth News Magazine) to build my own, but somehow my husband and I have never found the time to build one.  When the Sun Oven went on sale this past fall, I jumped at the opportunity to own one!

The oven can do so many things.  Of course it can cook and bake, but it can also be used as a dehydrator and a water sterilizer!  Since Ray and I are trying to live a self-reliant off-grid lifestyle, we decided it would be a great idea to have several methods of cooking food, and the Sun Oven is one of the best off-grid cooking methods we have found!

Cooking in a Solar Oven

Wild blackberry pie filling – nothing better!

I couldn’t wait to try it out.  The oven was out of the box and cooking within an hour! 😉

For my first item, I decided to bake a blackberry cobbler.  Ray and I live in an area where wild blackberries are very abundant. Every year in July and August we gather the blackberries and either freeze them to use in muffins, infused water, cake filling, etc. or make blackberry pie filling. I can the pie filling in pint (for cobblers) or quart (for pies)sized jars. So, I got a pint jar of the blackberry pie filling and made the cobbler, then set it into the preheated Sun Oven.

Wow!

Just…          Wow!

Even though it was early November with the sun low in the sky, the cobbler cooked very well, browning nicely around the edges!  It was really good and I was so impressed! In a normal oven this recipe takes about 45 minutes to cook.  In the Sun Oven, it took almost an hour to cook.  No matter – it wasn’t using any electricity, natural gas or propane, so I was happy to let it bake away!  It was delicious!  (and gone within 24 hours 😉 )

Solar Oven Baking

The cobbler is almost done. You can see that it is starting to brown a bit around the edges. You can also see the temperature dial, showing approximately 340 degrees inside the oven.  Niiiiiiccceee!

Next I wanted to try cooking some kind of meat.  I had a pork loin in my freezer and I also had a bottle of Morse Farms Mandarin Jalapeno Barbeque Sauce, so I thought the two would make a wonderful pulled pork sandwich.

Cooking in a solar oven

Here is a pork loin roast sizziling happily away in my Sun Oven!

Without bothering to preheat the oven, I stuck the roast in and let ‘er go! No, I didn’t add any liquid.  The instructions that come with the Sun Oven says that it’s almost impossible to burn anything, so I decided liquid wasn’t necessary! Within an hour the roast was sizzling and browning and smelling oh so good.  I let it cook for about 3 hours, as the temperature never really got over 325 that day and actually hovered between the 275-300 degree fahrenheit range, due to the overcast skies.  What’s cool about this is that the oven was working much like a slow cooker or “crock pot” and I knew the meat would be good and tender after several hours.  After about three hours, I shredded the pork loin (easily done with 2 forks) and added about 1 cup of the marinade. But wait, there’s more!  I decided to try stacking an apple/raisin/walnut crisp on top of the now shredded and flavored pork loin.  The Sun Oven came with these stacking pans and they work wonderfully!

Here is the apple/raisin/walnut crisp baking, stacked on top of the pork roast! The smell coming from this box was amazing!

Here is the apple/raisin/walnut crisp baking, stacked on top of the pork roast! The smell coming from this box was amazing!

After just another hour, the pork was moist and delicious and the apple crisp was done.  I had dinner and dessert!  The stacking pans really come in handy.  If I was just a bit more industrious, I could have also put in a small loaf of bread on the rack right next to the pans!

Pulled pork in Mandarin Jalapeno barbeque sauce, with a slice of Swiss cheese on a hamburger bun. Sooooo Gooooood!

Pulled pork in Mandarin Jalapeno barbeque sauce, with a slice of Swiss cheese on a hamburger bun.

The pulled pork turned out very moist and delicious.  The apple/ raisin/walnut crisp was to die for!

The best part?  Nothing burns!  Really!  To be honest, folks, I am notorious for burning things.  In fact, when my kids were growing up they used to tease me and say that the smoke alarm was their dinner bell!  😉  Even after cooking the pulled pork for an hour in sticky barbeque sauce, they were very easy to clean up afterward.  I literally swished the pans with warm soapy water, rinsed them off and – et voila’ – clean!

Speaking of bread…

Cooking bread in a Sun Oven

Two full sized loaves of french bread happily baking away in the solar oven. They didn’t really brown much, but that’s okay because they tasted amazing!

I had to try baking bread.  French bread.  On a day with lots of white puffy clouds.

Hmmmm…  It was sunny first thing in the morning.  Not a cloud in sight!  So I made some french bread dough, let it rise, made it into loaves and let it rise again.  Just when I was ready to pop them into the preheated oven, a few clouds obscured the sun.  Then a few more.   Lovely.  Can you hear my sourchasm?

It didn’t matter!  It took almost 2-1/2 hours to get these loaves baked, but by golly, they baked.  And they were good!  The insides achieved a great crumb with really nice texture in spite of the weather.  I thought they would be concrete inside, or perhaps gooey, but no – perfect french bread minus the browning.  I read that I could get the bread to brown if I put either a sugar glaze or an egg white wash on the loaves, but that’s just to make them pretty.  We don’t care if our bread is pretty, we just want it to taste good!

My next experiment?  Brownies!  My youngest son was coming up for a day to help out with some of the heavy chores, and one of his favorite desserts is brownies!  Michael graduated from college recently with a Major in Social Science and a Minor in Sustainability, so he was excited to see how the Sun Oven performed.  Well…

Baking brownies in a solar oven

Mmmmm… these brownies turned out great!  And I didn’t have to worry about burning them!

These brownies turned out so good!  I could have left them in the oven just a tad bit longer, however, because the very center was a bit on the gooey side. Since foods cooked in the Sun Oven don’t burn, I shouldn’t have been so hasty to take them out. No matter, that’s how Michael likes them anyway!

So, what have I learned so far?

  1.  Cooking in a Sun Oven is a lot of fun, and it really does work!
  2. Food does not burn in the Sun Oven, so if in doubt whether the food is done, cook it a little bit longer instead of constantly opening the door to check it.  Every time the door is opened, you loose a lot of heat and it will take just that much longer to cook.
  3. The food cooking in the oven smells so good, it will attract various wildlife along with your local neighborhood dog.  Place the oven where you can see it at all times or, better yet, put it somewhere the dogs can’t get to it.
  4. Wear sunglasses.  The reflection from the oven can be blindingly bright!
  5. Use hot pads.  Yeah – for some reason I had it in my brain that these don’t get very hot.  They do.  If the temperature gauge reads 350 degrees, your food and pans will also be 350 degrees.
  6. Place the Sun Oven on a level surface.  Since I have been cooking during the winter, the sun is very low in the sky, so the Sun Oven is tilted at it’s max!  If you don’t have a level and sturdy surface, the oven just might tip over!

My next experiment is going to be making zucchini chips and hamburger jerky, because I am curious to see how the Sun Oven works as a dehydrator.

I am so glad we bit the bullet and bought this Sun Oven.  We still plan to build our own solar oven with the plans mentioned above (here is another DIY solar oven), because there will be days during the summer when we will want to cook down tomatoes for canning, bake bread, dehydrate vegetables and fruits, etc., all at the same time!

The solar oven is another important tool for our off-grid homestead.  On days when the sun is shining, even in the winter, we have a free energy source to cook food.  If the time ever comes that our well goes dry and we need to drink our collected rainwater, the solar oven will provide a way to sterilize the water and make it safe to drink.

Have you ever cooked in a solar oven?    0001

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