Skip to main content


Showing posts from August, 2019

Photo Wrap-Up for August

A random collection of photos I took this month.

Solar Pantry Part 3: Alternatives

Continued from "Solar Pantry Part 2: Analysis."

Trying to solve my potential problem of losing refrigerated and frozen food during a prolonged power outage sent me scouring books and websites for affordable ideas. People preserved their food for millennia before they had electricity and refrigerators, but like other traditional knowledge and skills, the how-to has been forgotten, lost, or simply discarded in favor of high-tech alternatives. Unfortunately, not all of the technology we laud has been terribly smart: the processing and overuse of fossil fuels for example. The simpler the better, I say.

So while Dan and I are discussing options and forming a plan, I've been collecting ideas. This is what I've got so far, pretty much organized from lower tech to higher. Obviously, not all of them are feasable for everyone, because they depend on regional resources and conditions.

Spring house - If one is lucky enough to have a wellspring on their property, this would be an ex…

My First Rice Harvest

I can't help but take a pause from my Solar Pantry Series for my very first rice harvest. I've never grown rice before so this small patch has been an experiment; an experiment on which I've pinned great hopes.

I planted two varieties of upland rice last May (blog post here). Upland rice is different from lowland or paddy rice because it doesn't have to be flooded. It can be grown without a rice paddy.

The Cho Seun variety is said to be ready to harvest somewhere around 125 days after transplanting or whenever the heads are golden brown.

 I cut mine at day 123 with my hand sickle.

The patch was small so it didn't take long. It filled my wheelbarrow.

My next step is to thresh it. This variety is supposed to be relatively easy to thresh because it is awnless. We'll see!

The second bed of rice, Loto, still has a lot of green seed heads.

So I'm still waiting on that one.

My seed packets contained 7 grams of rice seed each, so I'm curious about my yield. We'll t…

Solar Pantry Part 2: Analysis

Now what? In "Solar Pantry Part 1" I shared my calculations and conclusions about the feasibility of putting the fridge and freezer in my pantry on a small dedicated solar energy system.

The conclusion was that such as system would cost considerably more than my available funds at this time. That was not only disappointing, it also left me with a big question mark regarding my goal of minimizing food loss in the event of a prolonged power outage. I had to ask myself, are there other alternatives? How did people in my part of the country keep food before electricity? (I've mused on that topic before - see "Food Storage in the South.")

Dan and I have taken small steps toward a simpler, less complicated lifestyle, but we are still products of the 20th century. That means our solutions to problems are usually based in modern methods and technologies, simply because that's what we know. It's taken some time, but we've gradually been learning how to think o…

Solar Pantry Part 1: Feasibility

One of our goals for 2019 is solar back-up for the refrigerator and freezer in my pantry. If we ever lost power for more than several days, I'd have to scramble to save what I could and lose the rest. In summer, a lengthy power outage would likely be due to hurricane damage or an intense lightning storm. In winter it would be from an ice storm. So far, we haven't lost power for long enough to worry about food stored in these appliances, but these scenarios are very real possibilities.

I got the idea for a solar pantry from a book I reviewed awhile back, Prepper's Total Grid Failure Handbook. (An excellent book; you can read my review here.) The authors bring solar energy down to a small-scale, realistic level for someone like me. My thinking has been that if I can at least have solar energy for my fridge and freezer, I won't have to worry about losing the food I have stored in them.

My first step was to measure how much electricity these appliances use. From that I would…

Cheesemaking: Halloumi

My daughter had the opportunity to visit Israel earlier this summer. When she got home she invited me over for an Israeli style lunch and to see her photographs. One of the items she served was a delicious sliced cheese. I asked what it was and learned it was halloumi. Because of my interest in Mediterranean cheeses, I wanted to give it a try. I didn't find it in my cheese books, so I turned to YouTube where I found several videos by traditional cheese makers, fortunately with English subtitles!

Halloumi is a traditional cottage industry cheese of Cyprus, made with a combination of goat and sheep milk. What I found especially unique is that it contains no starter culture. That intrigued me even more.

In looking for a recipe, I noted slight variations depending on the cheese maker. My first try was somewhat successful, except the cheese was a little stiff rather than pliable. The second time I modified the recipe a bit and paid close attention to the temperatures and times. That batc…