Remember to Label Those Jars!

Label, label, label!” This was one of the most important lessons I learned in my Master Food Preserver training. You’ll note, from the jars above, that I’m not very good about this. When were those jars canned and what’s in them? I have no idea. They were probably the result of some late night canning frenzy two years ago. At the time I probably thought to myself, “I’ll label them in the morning.”...

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Build a Solar Dehydrator

...ces in the world, including here in Los Angeles, the relative humidity is too high to dry things out in the sun. Solar dehydrators work by increasing air flow to dry out the food. The one we built uses a clever strategy to get air moving without the use of electric fans such as you’d find in your typical store bought electric dehydrator. Our solar dehydrator is constructed out of plywood and consists of a heat collector containing a black m...

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CooKit Solar Panel Cooker

I’ve been experimenting with a nice panel solar cooker for the past week and, so far, the results are impressive. Called the CooKit, it was developed in 1994 by a group of engineers and solar cooking enthusiasts associated with Solar Cookers International and based on a design by Roger Bernard. It has a couple of nice features: It produces ample heat to cook rice and simple casseroles. When you fold it up it takes up no more space than a...

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Campfire Cooking: Fish in Clay (& Vegetarian Options!)

...about their acorn processing workshop back in October. This month we were fortunate to have taken their class on cooking with clay. This is an ancient cooking technique. Clay provides the insulation necessary to keep the fish from scorching on the fire. You can also try cooking veggies and firm fruit in clay, though Pascal also showed us that for veggies, a layer of grass can also work quite nicely. The principle is the same: insulation. We̵...

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What’s the Best Solar Food Dryer?

...makes this approach risky. Food can spoil before enough moisture is removed. That’s why you should build a solar food dryer. Brace Direct Food Dryer. Image: FAO. There are two basic designs for solar food dryers: direct and indirect. Direct dryers are just a box with a piece of glass on the top. Indirect dryers use a box to collect the heat of the sun and then, thanks to the fact that hot air rises, take that heat up into...

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Solar Light Hack

We wanted a solar powered light over our new entrance arbor. The problem is that most of the lights available are just plain ugly. And the solar panels on the cheaper models are usually mounted on the light itself making it impossible to place them in a shady spot. I came up with a simple solution. First, I bought an inexpensive solar light intended to be mounted on a fence. I took it apart and desoldered the LEDs off the circuit board. Nex...

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DIY Outdoor Shower

...But we urban homesteaders don’t need to be stinky since it’s possible and easy to build an outdoor solar shower. There are two reasons this makes sense, particularly in a place with as warm a climate as LA. First of all, you can direct the water straight into the garden and in so doing irrigate some plants and keep that water from uselessly running down the sewer line. Secondly, placing the shower outdoors makes rigging up a solar h...

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Build a Ghetto Solar Cooker

Using crap we had laying around the homestead, SurviveLA fashioned a solar cooker based on plans from Backwoods Home Magazine, the Dwell of the Ted Kaczynski set. We just substituted an old cooler for the cardboard boxes, and we finished it off by using one of Los Angeles’ ubiquitous abandoned car tires as a cradle to keep the cooker oriented towards the sun. It ain’t pretty but it works. In our first test we reached 160º inside the...

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Bean Fest, Episode 2: Falafel and Babaganoush Recipes

...ese devices would be a useful investment. I really wish I had any one of those items! We have a light, homemade solar cooker–as opposed to a more sturdy, enclosed solar oven–which is handy for grains, but really doesn’t have enough ooomph for consistent bean cooking. And we’re lacking in both space and money for new kitchen gadgets. So around here we’re stuck cooking beans on the stovetop. Seems everyone has their...

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DIY Solar Space Heating

...here in Los Angeles. In the northern hemisphere it’s time to consider heating. The always useful Build-It Solar blog has a detailed link to a DIY solar space heating system in Virginia (pdf). Collector panels mounted on the roof heat a reservoir which is circulated through a floor-based radiant heating system. It even has an Arduino based data acquisition component that tracks performance. There should be a DIY Nobel Prize for this project...

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