Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Plummer Gets on the Earth Day Band Wagon...41 Years and 1 Day Late

(apologies for the delay. I was busy and ran out of free-interwebs time)

Plummer celebrated Earth Day for the first time this year. It was done one day after the 41st Earth Day (it started in 1970).

Still, we're here now so...hopefully an even better celebration next year.
The food coalition I'm in organized the event...though "organized" is not in the sense one would have seen in Iowa. It was a looser event.

There were 3 presentations...I did two of them. Interesting.

The first was a demonstration of how to make a compost barrel from a rain barrel (the woman didn't understand why her husband was a tad peeved that she was using his rain was a 40 or so gallon food-grade plastic barrel. Those are going for 50 to75$ in Moscow right now and those are the used ones). Oh well, now they have a lovely compost barrel. Of course she also explained that one did not need a barrel, but watching her pour a bucket of food on the ground and cover it with a bucket of shredded paper would have been less impressive than watching her drill holes in a barrel and then pour the two buckets of stuff in it.

Next was my demonstration of vermicomposting. It was surprisingly well attended. I think about a dozen people came over to watch. The kids LOVED it and they all wanted to hold a worm. I donated the new worm bin (which WAS a hamster pen until Hammy croaked and was a rubber storage tub before that) to whomever wanted it. A young girl jumped up and grabbed it and said it would be the bin for the youth club. She was pretty interested and organized so I think the worms (I put a few in there to get it started) will be in good hands. A colleague from the food coalition brought her own bin to start so I gave her some worms as well. A few more people may be interested in worms but I only have so many at a time. If I give too many away, the food in the bin rots rather than becoming the world's best seed starter.

My other presentation was with the aforementioned colleague. She and I took a class on solar cooker construction a couple of months ago and agreed to do a SHORT demonstration at the event. As it turns out, it has been super rainy/cloudy since the class so neither of us had the chance to try cooking. Saturday April 23rd was a BEAUTIFUL day with lots of sun so the solar cooking went well. I did coffee in a quart jar in a panel cooker and sushi rice in a littl covered pot in another cooker. The jar and the pot were spray painted black on the outside with non-toxic spray paint. That is a tough item to find. I was afraid that things would not cook or clouds would come up so I started the cookers 3.5 hours before the presentation. Uh...there was plenty of sun. The jar of coffee actually pressure cooked for that long. It was quite delicious especially after the woman giving samples of raw milk came over and let people use the raw milk in the tiny cups of coffee (she provided the tiny cups too...she's nice). The rice was basically paste but it was very cool that it cooked. I totally admitted that I'd never actually done any solar cooking and opened the coffee up as people watched. It was impressive when it boiled over the top and I exclaimed "oh my god! It actually worked." A woman high-fived me and several people took pictures of the spewing coffee. The rice was less impressive since it had steamed until it was a solid block of starch, but was cool that I'd left rice unattended for 4 hours and it was not scorched.

Anyway, I had pre-cut a sample of the panel type cooker (a "panel" cooker is any solar cooker that uses flat panels to focus the light on the cooking vessel) with just a 1/2" bit left connection at each corner so I could quickly finish the cut out while they watched. It is a pretty interesting bit of engineering really. It was developed by a woman in Viola, Idaho. (for those in Iowa...that is about the same as gas station, no store, and I don't know if they even have a post office anymore. Not even a bar.) Anyway, take a cardboard box. Pick one bottom corner. Put the top flaps up and put on a little bit of tape so they stand up. From that corner you picked measure 12" along each side of the bottom and 16" up the corner. if the 16" goes up onto the flaps that is fine. Now draw 3 lines. On each side of the corner, connect the 12" marks to the 16" mark at the top. Across the bottom, connect the 2 12" marks. now cut along the lines (cut through both layers of flaps on the bottom of the box). When you get done, you will have detached that corner and it will be pointy at the top. Find the little flap-bit that will fill in a gap in the bottom. Keep that. Flatten the corner you've cut off and cover the entire inside with foil (glue it with any all natural glue...e.g. elmer's school glue (cut this with water to double the amount of glue), rice paste, flour paste, whatever) and rub it smooth with a clean and dry cloth. Clean off any glue schmears.

Let dry. If you covered the "crack" between the bottom flaps with foil, cut it open again. Now fold it back up into a box corner and put the whole thing in a turkey size oven bag. That's it. That's what boiled water and made the coffee. Actually, I had an oven thermometer in there and at one point the temperature got up to 250degrees. I was impressed. I made an extra reflector to set in front of the box-corner-cooker and propped it up to reflect more light into the cooker. I don't think I needed it.

The other cooker we demonstrated is made from a sheet of poster board (the flimsy stuff) and an aluminum foil turkey roaster. Cover one side of the poster board with foil. Let dry. Bend up the side rims of the turkey roaster and attach the bottom corners of the poster board to this with binder clips. Then use something to raise the cooking pot about 2inches off the bottom of the roaster. I already had my wire trivet in use keeping the coffee jar off the bottom of the panel cooker so I used a roll of tape. Put the cooking pan (already full of whatever you are going to cook) in an oven bag and twist the bag shut (I blew the bag up a little so there was a bit of airspace around the pan). Put on the trivet and fiddle with the poster board so light is mostly reflecting onto the pan. That's it. It's almost fool proof. Someone did let a pole fall on it at one point and that screwed up the cooking for a moment. I spent most of the day saying "could you step to the side so you're not putting a shadow on my cooker."
My landlord was at the next booth promoting a potential local credit union which was cool. He thought my antics were quite amusing.

We're thinking of having another festival/market later in the summer. I should find something to sell. ....Any ideas? Perhaps books from the "free books" bin at the recycling center?
Envelopes cut from those books? Notebooks make from recycled paper? Biscuits? Jam? (it probably won't be late enough in the summer for jam).

And now...I must go try to make my potatoes chit so I can get them in the ground...well, in the buckets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These4 solar cookers sound like a trip. Do you have any pictures you could post of the day? I'm trying to figure out how you politely tell someone, "Hey, could you kindly relocate your huge blocking-out-the-sun ass? I'm trying to make Shake and Bake here."

Maybe, you could adopt the Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy approach: