Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Extremely Useful Things for the Makeshift Water System

So I've been thinking a bit about water.  OK.  I've been thinking a great deal about water.  Like I need a well and it's expensive and you don't know the price until it's done and in.

I'm still hauling water a gallon at a time from work and from friend's houses and from wherever I find myself.  I keep the empty gallon jugs in the car and fill up as I go.  A friend just asked if she could have a couple of gallon jugs for a raft trip and I blanched...uh...they are all in a constant rotation and in use.

There you have the first useful thing: Gallon jugs.  Bigger containers are fine too, but not as useful.  One can discretely fill a gallon.  Filling a 5 gallon is less discrete and requires a spigot and/or a hose or filling a gallon which you then dump into the bigger jug.  FYI: garden hoses are chock full of toxins that they leach into the water.  I don't want to use them for drinking water.

Here's my current system for the gallons:  Fill 2 or 3 per day during the work week.  2-3 at a time are in the freezer part of the work fridge.  These are swapped out every 2 days and taken in a transport cooler to my homestead where transfer them into the 2-3 coolers I have with chill foods in them.  The thawing gallons from the chill food coolers go into the empty transport cooler.  One often just becomes the current drinking supply.   The chilly thawing ice water is used for the final hair rinse or refreshing drink.  I also use that transport cooler and the thawing gallons to chill left overs or new foods headed to the chill coolers.  That saves my frozen gallons in the chill cooler for an extra several hours. I can usually make it 2 days, unless it's in the 90s, on one ice transport. The weekends are a challenge when it's hot.  Sometimes I will run errands in the town where I work, which is not the preferred errand town, so that I can pick up fresh frozen gallons.  Not ideal, but cheaper than a well and an electrical system.

That system brings up another extremely useful thing for this makeshift water system: a good cooler.  Right now I have 5. Only one was bought new and that was about 2 decades ago.  One is a vintage metal cooler.  It's rugged but doesn't hold cold very well so it is a transport cooler and has another task that will appear later or in another blog.  One was a cast off from a friend that I meant to use just for one trip, but it fit so well on the floor of the car and is a great size in general...a frozen gallon fits well and leaves room for a dozen eggs right on top of the gallon (this is the non-handle tall square gallon water style, not the milk jug style).  The other two are recent thrift buys because the system is better with a spare or two.

At the end of a day, if there is a partial gallon and I'm not short on drinking water, I empty the partial into a sun tea style glass jar with a spigot at the bottom.  I have a one gallon one inside the camper at the sink for hand washing and whatever.  A 2 gallon model is on the old library desk that serves as an outdoor kitchen area.  It is over a 5 gallon bucket so the drain water can be reused.

Which leads to the 5 gallon buckets...so many uses.  In the water system they are my drains and my irrigators.  Often one serving both purposes.  If there is nothing greasy or soapy in the drain bucket water (and I try to keep both out of there), it can go on the garden or compost pile.  If it's greasy or soapy it goes either down a gopher hole as gopher harassment, or into the bucket-trap for mice.

I also use buckets, these a bit smaller than 5 gallon, to haul water from the creek to the holding tank buy the garden bed.  We'll get to the tank in a moment.  The haul buckets are smaller because 1) I had them on hand and 2) easier to carry 3 gallons on each hand than 5 gallons on each hand.  They are 3 gallon buckets from the recycling center's free-bucket bin.  If people have used buckets or rubber tubs or whatever, they put them in the bin and anyone can take them and use them.  I have another bucket at the creek. I walk down to the creek, not far, yards rather than miles, use the creek bucket to fill the haul buckets.  Then up the bank and pour into the holding tank.

So...the holding tank.  This is a LARGE plastic tub I got at....the recycling center free bucket bin.  Lots of things go in there.  It holds about 10 haul buckets worth of water. It would technically hold more but the wall strength isn't there.  It's starting to break so I keep the level down.  I do haul two final buckets from the creek and just leave the water in the buckets.  For a hot week, I haul twice a week or so.  On a not-hot week, once a week will be enough for the raised bed and all the containers to stay watered.  The holding tank isn't totally necessary, but really helpful.  For one, it allows the sediment to settle out.  For another, the water warms through the day and I tend to water in the evening when the shade hits the garden.  This way the water soaks in and the plants have time to take it in before it evaporates in the morning.  The warmer water won't shock the roots.

There is another portion of the water system...warm water.  A few elements contribute to this.

Solar shower.  I have one.  It's 2 years old and I left it lying outside all winter.  Still good.  15$.  Worth it.  It says it will hold 5 gallons but then I'd have to lift 5 gallons over my head and tie it up.  That's a great deal of weight and water.  I usually have 1-2 gallons in it.  On a sunny day it heats up nicely.  On a not so sunny day I can add a tea kettle of boiling water and it's good enough.

Tea kettle...for heating water for everything including showers, tea, coffee, and dish washing...on cloudy days.

Clear 3 gallon jugs are another key element in the warm water system.  These look like the jugs one sees in office water coolers, but smaller.  I have 2 3 gallons and also have 4 of the large 5 gallon versions.  All but one of these is from the free bucket bin.  The other is from next to a dumpster at a state park.  I cleaned them with borax followed by vinegar.  The new, shiny, clean ones are drinking water storage.  The questionable ones are the warm water system.  Just fill and leave in the sun.  It gets plenty warm enough to do dishes, wash hair, fill the gap when I forgot to ready the solar show in time to heat it up.  The 3 gallon size is manageable.  the 5 gallon size is heavy and awkward which is why they ended up as long term storage rather than active use.

That's about it for the water system. It works well and other than buying gallons of water initially, often at the dollar store, to get the gallon jugs, it's free.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Bit More Solar Cookery and a Laundry Drying Triumph

So, in no particular order let's start with the bread and breadlike products:

 This bread was quite heavy since I made with 100% sprouted whole wheat flour, a bit of yeast, salt and water.  That's it.  It rose really fast due to extreme heat.  I punched it down and threw it in.  Then it didn't rise so much but it's QUITE good.  And it is keeping well.  I've left it in the pan (metal plus lid equals mouse proof...also, I took it in to work with a jar of almond butter I got on super sale to use for lunches this week)

This is service berry bread!  Service berries are similar to huckleberries or blueberries but grow on tall bushes and are easy to harvest.  IF you beat the birds to them.  It took me 3 or 4 days to accumulate a cup and a half.  Birds love them and I'm not going to put netting over random shrubs and make life harder for the birds this year.  Anyway, first I soaked the berries in my homebrewed honey vinegar to make a sort of shrub liquid to add to water, ginger ale, whatever.  It's delicious.  The berries are of course still good and a bit tangy.  I drained off the shrub and used the berries in this. 

The berries are a bit vinegary and tart, in a good way.  So I cut out one egg and added extra baking soda.  The soda mixes with the vinegar as leavening.  The vinegar made for a less sweet bread.  I'm liking it a lot.  In fact, it was gone in 3 days.  It was also made with all sprouted whole wheat flour but was not too heavy.  Quite moist.  Here's a view of it cut.

It was baked in a stainless steel fridge container with a slide on lid (hello mouse proof!) which made it easy to transport and works super well in the solar cooker.  I left the lid on for about an hour then took it off for a bit to let the top get a bit more crusty like I like it.

This and the bread above were cooked the same day.   The oven ran about 325 steadily without too much turning or aiming. I was a totally sunny clear day with almost no smoke or dust haze.  I'm not sure why the oven wasn't hotter.  I may need to do a better job getting dust off the mirrors and glass cone.

Here's an earlier whole wheat bread that was WAY too heavy.  I still ate it though.

The cooker was running even hotter that day and things got a tad burned.

Below is yet another bread.  This one part high gluten flour to help along the sprouted wheat flour.  It turned out fabulous.  The downside was i ate it all way way too fast.

 In the skillet is a squash and amaranth frittata (my word for stuff in eggs, baked or fried).  It was actually SO hot and sunny that day that when I opened the cooker and took the lid off the skillet to check the frittata, it was sizzling!  The cooker easily hit 375F that day.  Putting the cast iron skillet with lid in there, I suspect the frittatta was a bit hotter than that.

All this cooking was in the "Death Ray" or "Solar Chef".

I do still use the cardboard box corner with foil cooker to make my weekend coffee.  It isn't ready at 8am, but a lovely cup of coffee at 9:30 or 10 is a good reason for a break from hauling garden water or fretting about plans or whatever.   I was talking to Gramma last weekend as I drank that coffee and since I don't bother with careful filtering as I pour it into a cup, I noted that I had hit the grounds.  She said her dad's answer to that was another spoon of sugar and then chew.  I hadn't added any sugar but I may try it with the grounds.

And finally...my laundry triumph:

2 loads of laundry on the awesome 6$ thrift store purchased rack! (the same one that was inside before) Yeay!  That saved me about 4$.  And wear and tear on the clothes.  And I must say I much prefer the smell of sun and breeze on my clothes to leftover-bounce from public laundromat dryers.  These euro style drying racks are more compact than the american ones.  So far it's holding up well.  The cardboard under it is in case something fell off.  And to keep the grass/hay seeds off my clothes.  I spend too much time picking pine needles and seeds out of surprising places.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

And Then It Rained For 2 Days and 2 Nights

And lo...she had to hang the laundry inside.
But thanks to the ability to pile crap up, the fact that most stuff is stuffed into stackable rubber tubs, AND thanks to the amazing find of a Europe style clothes horse which holds a ton of clothes in a small space, she is able to do it.

I TRIED to dry them at the laundromat.  The load was in the dryer for an HOUR and still slightly damp.  I gave up thinking "well at least the dryer I used for the sleeping bag worked."  Uh...then later I unrolled said bag and lo, it too was dampeth.

So, I put on a sweatshirt with my long jammy-pants and slept under the bag rather than in it.  I figured my body heat rising through it would help dry the damp.  The next day I was going to be in Moscow so I took it to a laundromat there and put it in a giant dryer on the "center of the sun" heat setting for 10 minutes.  That bastard was DRY then.

The laundromat in St. Maries (pronounced "Saint Mary's" not "Saint Marie's") was more expensive than those in Moscow, but I was already in St. Maries for something else so I think overall it saved money.  Normally I would not bother with a dryer.  I would hang the stuff from the start.  Since it was raining all weekend, I tried going ahead and using the dryer for most stuff...though not the bras or the spendy wool socks.   I learned about the bra thing from Hedwig starting at 33 seconds:

Also..I totally want that tooth phone...dang. I had a fake tooth put on the implant last week and I didn't get the phone add-on.

Anyway, back to laundry.  It took a good 24 hours to dry the damp jeans waistbands.  The weekend before it was nearly 100 degrees with a stiff wind (want to see the scorch marks on my back from wearing a tank top?  Pretty grim.) and my clothes were hung on the clothes horse outside.  The first items hung up were pretty well dry by the time I hung the last items. 

I spent my rainy time well.  I got called out of town on a job duty on Saturday and Sunday mooched a shower at a friend's house (Thanks Sally!!!) and did the radio show.  We had an ACTUAL astrophysicist on the air!
Sally said "astrophysicist" like 8 times and never once did this happen (53 second mark):

 Anyway, the drying laundry in the camper was a good bit of practice on tiny simple living...it can be done!  I still had the entire dinette-bed area to lounge around in which honestly is plenty of space for reading and whatnot.  I also learned that I STILL have a ton of clothes with me despite downsizing to one rubber tub, 4 cookie tins (no mice in the undies please!) and a 5 inch wide closet for clothes.  There is also a change of clothes in a suit case in the car in case of emergencies  like I spill something, and several pairs of boots/shoes in various places from work to the car to the trailer.  Of course, winter things and some things I hadn't chucked yet are in storage.

More on camper life anon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rhubarb Raspberry Cobbler in the Solar Cooker!

This was fun...and delicious.

I admit I got cobbler mix at the dollar store...it was easier.  I still had to stir in some fat and water (which was supposed to be milk but water worked fine).  Then it looked too runny so I threw on some corn starch.
The filling was local rhubarb and local raspberries from the Plummer farmers market.  I had already soaked the berries for shrub.  Yum.  So they were a bit tangy from the vinegar.  I had brown sugar already opened so that was the sweetener.

The cooker heated up fast on a SUPER sunny day yesterday.  And I baked it in about 40 min.  While baking I did leave the lid on the pan.  the pan is a small black enamel roaster.  Works really well in there.