The Energy Environment Simulator

e demonstrates energy inputs and demands. Depending on how you turn the knobs, you can either engineer a future of never-ending power or, on the other extreme, your own personal zombie apocalypse. One of the energy sources is labeled “new technology.” This could either be solar or that UFO doughnut from the Thrive movie. The only info we have on it is that it was manufactured by Tenntronics, a defunct company that was in business from...

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The Sundiner–A Groovy 1960s Era Solar Cooker

Backywards beekeeper Dennis of The Buzz in the Dale, was nice enough to gift me his vintage Sundiner solar cooker that he found at a garage sale a few years ago. Resembling a cross between a portable 1960s record player and a satellite, the Sundiner is compact, light and easy to carry. A built in thermometer lets you know when you have hit cooking temperatures. The unit is so efficient, that when I set it up at noon it hit 350° F within minut...

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Permaculture Design Course at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano

ent cycle overview (nitrogen, carbon cycles), soil science overview, building biomass- focus in permaculture, keeping backyard chickens, composting methods workshop / build a worm bin MAY 11 / ENERGY + SHELTER – Passive solar design, walk through an energy audit, how to read a utility bill, ‘going solar,’ tour of energy-efficient home, design an alternative energy plan for your own energy-efficient home / home-scale energy audit MAY 31 / DE...

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Summer of Solar Cookin’

Homegrown Neighbor here: I was lucky to recently receive a really nice solar cooker from a family friend. Apparently it had been sitting in her garage for a while, and I was happy to take it off of her hands. The model is called an SOS Sport. It is a box style cooker with a black interior and clear, insulated lid. It also has a removable reflector to help concentrate the light in the box. The reflector is helpful, but I’ve seen the tempe...

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How To Dry Food With the Sun

Drying Apricots in Southern California–early 20th century style. Dehydration is one of my favorite food preservation techniques. Drying food concentrates flavor and is a traditional technique in our Mediterranean climate. Best of all, drying food is one of the best applications for low-tech solar power. In many places, you can simply set food out under cheesecloth to dry in the sun. But there’s a catch to sun drying: humidit...

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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

Like many of you, I suspect, we’ve got a few too many tomatoes at this time of the year. One of our favorite ways to preserve our modest harvest is with our solar dehydrator. There’s nothing like the taste of sun dried tomatoes, but unless you live in a very dry desert climate like Phoenix, Arizona you can’t just set fruit out in the sun and expect it to do anything but go moldy. In most places in the world, including here in...

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Hay Boxes or Fireless Cookers

an one dish at a time. In that case you might be able to build one in a hall bench or a big toy chest or trunk. If you can’t scavenge anything, you could build a wooden box with a hinged lid. A well-insulated, box-style solar oven can do double duty as a fireless cooker, too. Whatever you choose, the box should have a lid that either latches or can be weighed down so it closes securely. If your box is not built pretty much airtight–sa...

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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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A Parvati Solar Cooker

Damn, is solar cooking easy! Put some rice in a pot, place the pot in this simple panel cooker, made with cardboard and aluminum foil, stick it out in the sun and two hours later you have lunch. We built our “Parvati” solar cooker with plans designed by Shobha Ravindra Pardeshi that can be found here. Pardeshi, who runs an “appropriate technology” company with her husband in India has another design for a similar dish-sha...

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