Household Dry Food Cooking

This is a guest essay by Craig Bergland. (A companion supplement to Household Dry Food Storage by J. Bradford)

As a frequent reader and infrequent poster to this wonderful site, I find that the Campfire series is one that I'm comfortable posting to. The recent Household Dry Food Storage article by Jason Bradford has prompted me to participate, as I do have some hands-on experience in building and using cute little solar toys, and other semi-practical devices.


A nice prime rib with horseradish is a wonderful thing as long as we can get it, but we know that it is more efficient to eat grains than beef. The EROEI on non-meat foods is far higher than farther up the foodchain. We also know they are healthier and clog our arteries less. Seeds can be stored long term with minimal preps. They can be ground and baked into flours (some say longer shelf-life when whole and living -- tho' old time bakers suggest aged flour is better). They can be soaked or cracked or flaked and cooked. They can be sprouted for greater bulk and superior nutritional content -- as sprouting changes the chemical composition and increases vitamins and mass. Some can be malted to make simple sugars for consumption, and for brewing beer and alcohol. A seed diet frees up resources for more food for more (hungry) people. 30 pounds of seeds carried into the boonies is going to last me a lot longer than 30 pounds of meat. And, importantly, they can be planted in your garden to replicate themselves. Indefinitely. Because of minimal prep requirements, and long storage, they are my preferred stash. Especially since they eliminate the need for freezers and other hi-energy appliances which may lack long-term sustainability. If you don't have the resources now for a solar powered freezer and batteries, etc., you can perhaps spend less current cash instead, and buy more food (seeds) for the buck. It all depends on how much money you have and how long you think we have I'm unfortunately an Early Topper and think Mad Max is going to meet the Donner Party near-term, and for more reasons than just Peak Oil.

Cooking some kinds of seeds can take a long time. Soybeans especially, and overnight soaking is almost a necessity. BTW soybeans are not done until you can squish them between tongue and palate. A pressure cooker is a big 'must have' for your survival kit, and to even lower your current energy use. They use less water/fuel and some claim lose less nutrients. Simple cardboard tube/blankets can be built to further extend the cookers capabilities and mine will keep the pressure up for 20 minutes after removing from heat, and hold to 150 degrees for an hour. Pressure cookers can be used for distilling. My dad made 'Grappa' one time in our kitchen and the cooker exploded. While too young to remember that, I was told we moved out shortly afterwards.


Many of us will be using wood and biomass to cook on. Open fires work well and are quick but fuel wasteful. Three stone fires are better but not much. Do a search for Rocket stoves, hobo stoves, and wood-gas stoves. I like the rocket stove, fairly easy to build with minimal tools, and hobo stoves are quick, too, but the best it seems is the tin can wood-gas stove which merely 'sips' fuel instead of a hungry roaring fire. (I posted a little about them on Jason's article's comments, and the flame is most impressive)


Solar cooking is the champion when available. Solar box ovens can be bought or made from scrap materials. They work well, however sometimes they have a hard time getting to 350 to bake bread. When that's the case, simply bake a little bit longer. A chunk of iron placed in the oven will help even out cloudy times and moderate the temperature.


I have a one meter parabolic mirror which is great for frying and hot hot hot cooking. It is so hot, however, that it discolors cast iron pans, and takes that nice dark seasoning away and gets very grey. It even discolored the pressure cooker. I want to see if it will allow small batch smelting of soft metals. Wonder if it'll melt a zinc penny for casting...? Probably illegal. When these were introduced into 3rd world countries, they were quickly shunned, because if improperly put away out of sunlight, they would often start folks houses and sheds on fire. Pretty dangerous devices, all told. There are several kinds of focussing cookers, and are not beyond the capability of many to make.

The solar winebox rice cooker I've built will do 20 oz of grains in an hour and a half. There is no need for tracking, just point it at the sun and soon it's done. The only cost was for black paint, and the rest of it is from recycled materials. This type of double jar glass solar cooking is great, and as discovered will reach over boiling -- enough to sterilize water.


At one time I saw a parabolic trough used as the heat source for an oven. It was built in the early 1900's I think, and was attached to a top oven which was surrounded with oil. The focus of the parabolic cylinder heated the oil-pipe to such a degree (bad pun) that 24-hour cooking was available -- according to the article. Very impressive, and a possible neighborhood project for folks. Another project would be to design and build a self tracking solar oven for a convenient any-time-of-the-DAY quick cooking. And it could also be used to recharge batteries with a small PV attached and tracking. Now, how to make it return to sunrise position when the sun is gone for the day...?

And yet another project can be grain grinders as discussed well in a previous campfire article. While hand cranking is a grind (so sorry), electric or other mechanically powered grinders make life easier. In a pinch, of course we could probably make flour between 2 bricks or rocks, but not that desperate yet. This might be a good neighborhood project, the collective purchase and use of grinders and bulk grains and solar ovens. Kind of like, why does every house have a lawn mower, when one could be shared and thus less costly. We're going to have to do many things collectively when it hits the F. Why not start now, to help cushion the blow?


great post!!! gotta go. this one's a keeper!

I've really enjoyed the campfire series on TOD, but sometimes I wonder if the posts don't get lost to internet oblivion over time... In the interest of accumulating survival knowledge, I've created a Wiki branch of my What To Do When TSHTF site...

There is currently not really much info on there, but that's what a wiki is for, is for people to contribute to it! It's my hope that this format will be beneficial to those in the peak oil community in learning necessary skills for post-peak oil life. I've found that editing wiki pages can be a bit challenging at times, however. :/

My brother just recently completed a solar cooker, and hopefully I can get him to post his information on it on my site soon, as a topic related to one of the items in this TOD thread.

~Durandal (

Not much there Durandal sez.
Seems like nothing is there or else I am not that sharp with Wikis and I have visited many.

I will try to create something in the way of my ruminations on my current gardening, as I read Fukuo..whatever...on Mu and his natural gardening techniques. Versus S. Solomon and his COF and other subjects in his Gardening When It Counts.

Empty But yes we do need sone easy archival for all these very worthy post that can have the chaff winnowed out and leave pure grains.
Something easy to get to and find subjects. Or is Wiki a one way mule? One way mule... can always go home but can't leave.


PS. I just wanted to say that I have never tasted better store-bought beer than comes in a Heinkein Draft greentop ,nonreturnable keg.
I am on my second one and this is some outstanding draft!! And I do know my bier. Have even brewed my own quite a bit. This is my new target when I again break out my brewing kit. Sorry to interrupt,it just needed to be said. I intend to take this little jewel to the garden with me and set it next to my portable hammock,pipe and smoking baccer.

Hey Airdale,

I am no whizz with wiki either...but I tried the Random Page and there are few pages in there.

It would be a great idea to acculumate some of this knowledge in a known format.

I loved using my solar cooker last summer too. I do have to get myself a pressure cooker this year for pressure canning if nothing else.

Building a new cellar and if time permits I hope to toy with a earth sheltered greenhouse.

Been quite taken by earth sheltered designs the last in Canada I sometimes wonder why we build above ground at all. Even the Vikings were smart enough to build earth-sheltered designs (that are 100s of years old and still standing).

I might take a crack a few topics that I have some knowledge in as well (the beauty of wiki is if someone more knowledgeable comes along they can edit/enhance in the public domain(at least in theory)).

Random page? Yes I saw one that was created just today. Another on PV panels.

I put mine on the Community Portal. Perhaps I should have chosen otherwise? I don't see an index.


If you can afford a solar oven ... buy one

mine is over 10 years old

use it most every day ... just remember to put something in it ..

even if it is only some soaked grains or beans

we actually have a festival ...

Its either a solar society or a coal/ nuclear one

we can do it....

If you can afford a solar oven ... buy one

I'm all for solar and I most certainly do not begrudge anyone for selling something they make at a profit. However I clicked on the link and my first reaction after looking at the oven depicted and the asking price was: "You've really got to be (insert expletive of choice here) kidding!!!"

Anyone with a pair of scissors, a couple of discarded cardboard boxes, a few strips of aluminum foil, some glue and tape, and a piece of plexiglass can build a perfectly functional solar oven for a few bucks! There are plenty of free online plans available.

BTW by coincidence in the MSM today:

Inventor turns cardboard boxes into eco-friendly oven

I had the same reaction you had - but then I ordered one unit with all the accessories (including cook book) for ~$300 (including shipping).

I went ahead and bought one for two reasons:

1. I like to start with something that's field tested and proven - it looks like the model used by Craig, the author of this post, in the 4th pic above.

2. It appears to be built very well, judging by the product description, Craig's pic above and taking jmygann's word (that he has used his for 10 years).

I doubt my previous home-made unit will last as long or work as well - but I will test them side-by-side and find out ;)

You are correct ....

it is much more efficient and will last longer. probably one of the best $300 investments you will ever make.

This is great stuff! what material do you use to reflect the sunlight? Is that just aluminum foil? I can never seem to get the foil to work very well because it wrinkles up, however is there anything else with mirror like qualities that be gotten cheap?

I'd love to see some supply suggestions for Reflective Surfaces.

As a cameraman, I've used Silver Mylar Lighting Gels (By Lee or Rosco, usually) which can be bought through professional lighting rental companies ( try ) as cut sheets for $4-$5 each (I think they're like 20x30 inches large) My LEE swatchbook lists one numbercode as #271, Mirror Silver, which from the sample feels a little bit rigid, a little more than paper.. this would hold a fairly clean reflection a bit better than tinfoil.

I collect mirrors when I find them, and mirrored Plexiglas as well, and I've been keeping an eye out for used commercial Kitchen equipment, which is often made from sheet stainless-steel, which looks like it would hold a polish pretty well. I've also got a stack of 'WineBox Bags', the silver mylar pouches that, ahem!, quality beverages are served from. I've put padding inside these to make window quilts and other insulated, reflective covers.

Art Stores also have silver-faced plastic sheets, like this self-adhesive one.. ( SILVER ADHESIVE MYLAR 20X27 SHEET US$5.98 - ) And people might play with making solar ovens using the Foil-faced Foam Insulation, which can serve as both the structural and reflective components.

Bob Fiske

This probably needs to be bought in bulk, but it looks interesting:

It's currently used as the reflective surface for some parabolic solar thermal troughs.

My homemade solar oven has big reflector wings made of foil faced foam insulation boards. They work good, but the wind does catch them occasionally and stresses the connections.

The inside of my oven uses duct insulation board (a yellow colored compressed fiberglass insulation) covered on the inside surface with black paper-mache. (black poster paint mixed into the paper-mache glue)

The paper-mache has held up well. The oven gets hot enough to bake bread with the reflectors on.

Greg in MO,
Sounds like your oven has larger reflectors than the 'store bought' model.
When I use the box oven for bread, it often has trouble reaching the 350 degrees for baking.
Even tho' I put a chunk of iron in the bottom to cushion the heat loss, it still drops 50 degrees and takes awhile to get up the temps. So, generally the bread cooks longer, and when it releases the moisture (picture 4), then it is pretty much done.
I think I'll have to add extensions to the flaps of the domestic-built oven to get just a bit more of sunlight into it.
Also, an added layer of glazing I've read makes a huge difference.
Thanks, and good cooking....

I wish I knew how to post a picture here...

The flaps are large, like 4' tall. Cut from a couple of 4x8 sheet of foil-backed insulation board.

My box is wooden and is on a tilting stand with casters. (tilt for lining up sun angles and casters for rotating for good orientation)

The glazing is a piece of double-pane insulated glass. The pot holder is on a pivot so it doesn't spill when adjusting the box angle (like those beer can holders on a speedboat...)

If anybody knows how to post a picture please let me know :-)

This is listed under the TOD FAQs:

How do I include an image in my comment?

* First, you must upload your image to a web-accessible server. Several image hosting services, such as Photobucket and Flickr provide space for free.
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Two more sources..

The Lighting and Photo and Art stores will be able to get hold of Silvered Card stock in 30"x40" sheets. In film and video production, this is an expendible item referred to as 'Shiny Silver Showcard'

And the Free alternative to this is the silvered lids from takeout containers .. and don't ignore the aluminum pans below, either. I've never tried it carefully yet, but I have a nice stack of Aluminum Pie Plates from ready-made crusts, waiting to be smoothed into flat or parabolic shapes and then polished up. That aluminum is rigid enough to hold it's shape if you're just a bit careful.. and then can be glued to a firmer backing for real durability.

I'm told by the New England R2D2 builder's group that you can ultra-polish aluminum to a mirror finish with the help of some WD-40. I don't talk about PO with many of them.. but they're good guys.

I used "aluminum" duct tape* purchased from the local hardware store and covered two DishNetwork Parabolic receivers (left behind by past renters).

They can ignite paper held at the focal point within a few minutes on a sunny spring day at the 45th parallel (45N).

After reading this gem of a post, I'll be trying Sun-Fried, home-layed chicken eggs one of these mornings ;)

There is hope among us roaches.

(* = Nashua-brand tape,

Aluminum foil works just fine and it can be made very smooth if applied to a piece of stiff cardboard.
Here is a good link for plans

Hi SofD,
The material I used in the winebox cooker is the inside bladder that holds the vino.
My intent was to build a usable solar cooker with existing throwaway stuff. BTW, when you get your (full) winebox, check and be sure the bladder is reflective. They're using clear material now.
The only cost for the cooker was a bit of spray adhesive (scotch tape will work), and the black spray paint to paint the inner jar. One could use soot from a fire I suspect for the black material, but ickkk.
I don't worry too much about the wrinkles, there seems to be enough solar to overcome my lack of construction skills.
Wrinkles are no big deal IMO, heck, I'm wrinkly and I work ok....
But then, after emptying the winebox, I wasn't too particular about neatness.
Foil works great for these projects, and if you use spray adhesive, put the foil on carefully, as it doesn't re-position well.
This is a project that I thought would be nice for the kiddies to learn to build and use. BUT extreme caution must be used as the jars get wickedly hot.

Solar-powered cooker wins $75,000 climate prize

OSLO (Reuters) – A $6 cardboard box that uses solar power to cook food, sterilise water and could help 3 billion poor people cut greenhouse gases, has won a $75,000 prize for ideas to fight global warming.

The "Kyoto Box", named after the United Nations' Kyoto Protocol that seeks to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, is aimed at billions of people who use firewood to cook.

Costing 5 euros ($6.60) to make, it can also make it easier to boil polluted water.

"We're saving lives and saving trees," the Kyoto Box's developer Jon Boehmer, a Norwegian based in Kenya, said in a statement.

The Kyoto Box oven - which costs just £3.50 to make - can slowly cook casseroles, boil water and bake bread.

It is made from two boxes, one inside the other with an acrylic cover, which lets the sun's power in and traps it.

Black paint on the inner box and silver foil on the outer help concentrate the heat while a layer of straw or newspaper between the two provides insulation.

It is the brainchild of Kenya-based entrepreneur Jon Bøhmer.

Mr Bøhmer, a Norwegian, set up Kyoto Energy with his Kenyan wife Neema, and has used his own money to fund the project.

The oven is targeted at the three billion people who use firewood to cook in developing countries.

Mr Bøhmer said: "We're saving lives and saving trees.

"I doubt if there is any other technology that can make so much impact for so little money."

He plans to use the prize to conduct mass trials in 10 countries, including South Africa, India and Indonesia and gather data to back an application for carbon credits.

The box aims to save some of the millions of children who die each year from drinking unclean water by allowing families to boil water.

He believes it will also halve the need for firewood, saving an estimated two tonnes of carbon per family per year.

He has now developed a more robust, longer-lasting cooker in corrugated plastic, which he says can be mass-produced as cheaply as the cardboard version.

And from Bohmer's website:

I didn't realize that had won. Good for them!

Very cool!
As far a soybeans and cooking, a pressure cooker is a must. I went through a soy burger phase, and an over night soak, and a pressure cooker was the ticket. I have changed my opinion of soy, and now use it as a condiment, rather than a major source of food.

Will this kill solar energy?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Obama looks at “climate engineering”

The president’s new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth’s air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

“It’s got to be looked at,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of taking any approach off the table.”

Holdren outlined several “tipping points” involving global warming that could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of “really intolerable consequences,” he said.

Twice in a half-hour interview, Holdren compared global warming to being “in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog.”

At first, Holdren characterized the potential need to technologically tinker with the climate as just his personal view. However, he went on to say he has raised it in administration discussions.

Holdren, a 65-year-old physicist, is far from alone in taking geoengineering more seriously. The National Academy of Science is making climate tinkering the subject of its first workshop in its new multidiscipline climate challenges program. The British parliament has also discussed the idea.

The American Meteorological Society is crafting a policy statement on geoengineering that says “it is prudent to consider geoengineering’s potential, to understand its limits and to avoid rash deployment.”
Last week, Princeton scientist Robert Socolow told the National Academy that geoengineering should be an available option in case climate worsens dramatically.

But Holdren noted that shooting particles into the air — making an artificial volcano as one Nobel laureate has suggested — could have grave side effects and would not completely solve all the problems from soaring greenhouse gas emissions. So such actions could not be taken lightly, he said.

Still, “we might get desperate enough to want to use it,” he added.

But Holdren noted that shooting particles into the air — making an artificial volcano as one Nobel laureate has suggested — could have grave side effects and would not completely solve all the problems from soaring greenhouse gas emissions. So such actions could not be taken lightly, he said.

Still, “we might get desperate enough to want to use it,” he added.

When I read shit like this it makes me want to hit the people who make these idiotic statements upside the head with a 2 X 4 with rusty nails sticking out of it!

If this is the best that the Obama Administration's Science Advisors can come up with then it's really time to forget about anything good coming out of the government. Not that I ever had much hope.

Maybe they need Bobby Jindal to set them straight about volcanology or something, Idjits!

The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles…hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages…And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet…the planet…the planet isn’t going anywhere. WE ARE!

George Carlin

I really miss ole George, he had a knack for cutting through straight through all the bullshit.

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I can't say that my family is a big user of pressure cookers. It may be that for pressure canning it's of benefit - but we've found it an energy hog for regular use (rice, dolmas). At issue is this massive, thick wall, pot that has to be heated. There is virtually no savings in time when one considers the time to heat the pressure cooker and then the time to wait for it to cool back down.

If I can find a 1500W element I'll meter how much energy it is - but just going by how hot the entire stove top gets, and how hot I have to keep the heating element - it is highly unlikely that a pressure cooker can save energy. An insulating jacket will help that ... but I would not cover the one we use, and am still very disbelieving that energy would be saved.

Solar cookers are cute - and it looks like they work wonderfully in AZ and other southern states - but I can't say as much up here in Canuk-a-stan. We've tried pre-soaking. One can cook cuscus easily, white rice on a great day, but not brown rice.

I've been using a grinder myself and recommend it for the following:

creme of brown rice - do a coarse grinding of brown rice then bring to a boil and simmer for 20 - min. - add dried fruit (dates, raisins, pear, apple, cherry)

creme of whole wheat - a coarse grinding of hard or soft wheat will give a creme of whole wheat that is brown, and takes a bit longer to cook, and is a whole lot cheaper

oatmeal - a coarse grind on my Porkert grinder gives everything from flour, to bigger chunks and it cooks fine mixed with quick rolled oats, but when used straight it clumps very easily.

corn bread - 1.25c ground corn, 0.25c whole wheat, 2Tbl sugar, 1.5 tsp baking powder, enough water to make it soupy and cook for about 25min at 375F in a toaster oven

wheat flour - I grind soft or hard wheat, with the Porkert, and use it to bake breads and am happy with the results. I've recently started using a sponge technique again - 6c water, 6c flour, about 2tsp yeast, mix, cover and wait 3 hours, the add the rest of the flour (around 8c), a bit of sugar and whatever else goes into the bread.

That recipe for cornbread? No wonder you folks are in trouble!

Here is the southern style (and the best) recipe.

Nothing but cornmeal. Martha White if you can get it. WHITE.Not yellow, white. The name Martha White doesn't necessary mean white corn.

There are other brands but they have strange things added and muck it up badly.

So straight pure white meal.
Add some salt. Takes a pretty good hit of salt. For 2 cups of meal I put in maybe two tablespoons of salt,perhaps a bit less.
Marha White is self-rising but you might have must plain meal so add some baking powder and baking soda and to work with these add some buttermilk. Maybe half a cup? Don't use pure buttermilk instead of sweet milk. The sweetmilk makes a huge difference. Buttermilk is best in biscuits.

Add regular cows milk to make a somewhat thin mixture. Most people make it too thick. More like pancake batter. Between regular pancake batter and crepes batter. This you need to learn by doing.

Add melted bacon grease. This is the one ingredient that makes a huge difference. Pork grease and good bacon grease at that. Most bacon these days is bad. Thin and sleazy. I don't buy that stuff and instead use real true hickory smoked,salt cured bacon. No nitrates.

Again the amount of grease is a personal call. I heat and iron skillet, put in some grease,,maybe 4 tablespoons and pour all but a bit into the batter.

You now have a hot skillet,some batter well mixed, so pour it in the hot skillet and put it in the oven. Like 350 or so or even 400.

Here is one part that most get wrong. The amount is crucial. How far up the sides of the skillet. The thinner the more like a pancake it is. The thicker the more like a cake it is. This is a call and I pour in enough to about 1/3 of the height of the skillet. This has a most unusual effect on the taste. It needs to be somewhat crunchy on the bottom and sides and fully done on top.

I forgot. An egg. Mix and egg in to the batter after the milk.

If you do all this right or find the nirvana of it then you get the best cornbread that is possible. Of course some yanquis put in sugar. Which would gag a red mule.

One can also make corncakes. Or called corn dodgers or ashpones or just cornpones. You just spoon some of the batter into the skillet and fry it on the stovetop. Just about as good but something essential is missing versus the baking.

Eat with white beans and a slice of onion. Vidalia is best. Some bacon on the side and fried potatoes. Southern style.

Airdale-sorry for tromping on the topic but hey,,you could do this with a solar over thing possibly

Hey Airdale,

Well, there are a few complications in my life.

I'm vegan (not religously though) - mainly because I do not trust the animal farming food chain. It was one thing when we raised our own animals ... Going vegan wasn't hard - I absolutely detest the smell and taste of eggs and cheese.

I've always cooked the corn bread in the toaster oven. I did try the cast iron pan on the stove top (burnt quite badly) - and then read you're supposed to do it in the oven - but I'll not use that much energy. I like the way it cooks right now.

I'm also very partial to using my home grown Indian corn - yea the corn bread ends up grey, black, red - but never white or yellow! I resort to locally grown, organic, corn as the coons are partial to helping me eat my corn. Indian corn is sweet and soft if you pick it at the soft/yellow kernel stage.

The last wrench is that I'm a somewhat McDougaller - that is to say the McDougall diet - no added fat vegan. What can I say - I shed 30lb and my blood cholesterol is so low that a heart attack isn't a possibility ...

Now - when we're skiing down the other side of the peak oil curve I don't expect to stay vegan. We're looking for 2 to 30 acres right now. Funny how the realestate prostitutes can't quite wrap their mind around wanting a property with solar orientation for the home and garden, caring about how much the taxes are, not being interested in an existing home due to the energy sucking nature and lack of a cold cellar, cistern ....

Our goal is to be able to grow more of our own food and store it, have a home that heats itself during the shoulder months of the winter and offers south facing glass, or a greenhouse to start the garden plants.

A friend was going to try putting a black water tank in an old chest freezer to heat water - but came around to my point of view - it's useless up here given how cloudy it is during the winter.

We've tried several variations of the solar cooker and may try some more. The best one so far is our black beast of a car. I use it to heat water for washing myself, dishes and laundry - just stick pails of water in the back.

My recipe for solar oven corn bread ...

Soak and rinse yellow dry field corn for 2-3 days (just germinating) ...grind ...add olive oil and salt add water if desired ... place in pan in solar oven.

One can grind dry corn but the germinated corn has more food value.

an egg can be added . also grated carrots or other vegetables

If you do not have a grinder a blender can be used with water to make a batter and a waffle iron can be used to make corn waffles.

slow typer so i'll be brief.

i use pressure cooker on woodstove but have troublegetting it to 'pressurize'. i usually put it on the stove after boiling hot.[i'll bet the energy use is overall better for some food.

today i reopened to check progress- not pressurizing as i expected with smaller load in the stove; got the more rapid/flashing to steam?/ boil when opening , replaced the lid, & we-la it pressurized & is holding. not quite 'jiggling' the weight but holding some pressure. fine for cooking.if i had no ele/gas then this trick would be important.


my cooker is not that thick walled & i cook large amounts for efficiency also, so for slow cook items i can't believe it is not more efficient.
besides i often need the woodstove heat anyway; like this morning & cooking is an afterthought as i couldn't wait out the sunshine.

lotsa little things to learn like airdale's not drinking the dregs & some i've learned-some the hard way- that we & our kids will be learning [gobs of things in the gardening areana]. that'd be a good campfire topic.

i need to build several solar items; dryer, oven, etc. so thanks for the topic/links.

guess i wasn't so brief afterall.

Thanks for the recipe. The cereals I grind now are especially tasty. Generally I toast the wheat, barley, oats, and brown rice in the solar oven when it's sunny, or instead toast them in a large fry pan over the wood stove.
My motorhome has a very small caboose stove which I bought some 30 years ago. It has a tiny box, but reasonably roomy top. When I use the pressure cooker, I remove the lid of the stove, and it allows the cooker to get up to steam in good time - tho not as fast as on a stovetop. It does tend to make the bottom of the pressue cooker all sooty, but I store it on newspaper, and don't use it except on the wood burner.
Granted, pressure cookers may not be the cure-all of energy efficient cooking, but when using the woodstove to heat the motorhome, I figure that some of that extra heat is basically free pressure cooking.
While pressure cooking might not be all that much faster than ordinary pans for cooking some foods, using them for soybeans I am convinced uses less energy and is quicker than (most) other methods. I like to make my own soymilk, and eat filling soybeans and rice. To cook soy conventionally takes a very long time, even if pre-soaked.
My method for pressure cooking is to get it to steam, and then turn off the burner (if using the kitchen stove), and cover it until it loses steam. Then, while still somewhat hot, put it back on the burner, back up to steam, and then repeat until done. Soybeans take about 3 to 4 cycles, and I suspect this method uses less fuel than just keeping it on the burner until done.
Granted, it may take awhile to cook this way, but you don't have to watch the pot all that long.
You do raise some good points, however.
The bulk of the cookers do take longer to heat up, but they're especially great for long-cooking foods.


I made my first solar cooker from cardboard, aluminum foil, tape, and a bootlace according to these plans, and the result was a pretty fair solar cooker. Since there is no oven chamber, all cooking takes place at the parabolic focal point.

Since the wife wanted something to bake in that was not susceptible to partly cloudy days, and additional solar cooker would provide additional cooking capacity, we chose a solar oven with an electrical heater backup to maintain the desired temperature.

The solar powered grain grinder is an interesting idea, but there are other alternatives. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, it would be very common to have a small treadmill, from which something like a grain mill, or butter churn, or turnspit, would be powered. Hitch up a dog to the treadmill, and off you go. A good way for a dog to earn its keep.

PV panels are likely to remain expensive; most people are going to be able to afford few, if any. Thus, it will be important to prioritize applications, and only use PVs to power the most important apps. This means that just because something could be powered by a PV panel does not mean that it necessarilly should be. If an alternative power source is available, that alternative will often be the power source of choice, leaving the need for PVs as minimal as possible.

never heard of such but found this;

"Some of the old
pioneers had dogs trained to do the churning. They


were fastened to the treadmills which operated the
churn and after the churning was done were rewarded
with a piece of bread and butter. Some of them
dreaded the work, as did the old turnspit dogs of Old
Country kitchens of former days. When they saw pre-
parations being made for churning or roasting, it is well
known that the dogs would run off and hide themselves,
necessitating oftentimes tying them up beforehand."

i've seen mules walking around a grinder/mill for sugar cane juicing. i know big dogs, benards, can pull a cart. interesting. my dogs are gonna hide; they are lazy like most of us. as a friend said to me at a peak oil meeting; we'll be working our arses off.

Dear WNC,
Thanks for the reply.
IMHO solar PV is for the wealthy, and to power our existing unbermed mega-houses with them is folly, especially with the availability of solar water and air heaters.
And, with the cost of plug-into the grid PV and its expensive converter and wave-matching boxes (costing big bucks), I am trying to learn how to use direct PV without the expense of batteries, etc.
I recently bought a set of 3 panels (45W total) from Harbor freight on sale at $199. To my amazement, just one of the 3 panels will power the solar grinder. Tho' 2 in series works much better, (it is a 24V. slot machine motor), it will run on 12V but more slowly.
My hope is to build some of these for folks in our community, to use in a neighborly way (sharing) to make fresh flour and ground cereals. At a cost of about $70 per panel, and with a small Jupiter grinder costing about another $100, then I suspect this might be an affordable item if split between several families. On sloooow speed, with only 1 panel, the grinder puts out enough flour to bake 1+ loaf of bread in an hour. In a theoretical 8-hour day, that's 8 loaves, and at a half loaf a day each, will conceivably make enough bread to feed over 16 folks.
Granted, the slot machine motors I have stashed (20 of them left) will only allow 20 of these grinders to be built, but certainly other motors can be adapted also.
So I'm estimating the costs to build these first grinders will be about 200 each. Split between 4 or more families, that's not a huge expense.
I will keep and use my original unit, and when not grinding flours it will directly power the swamp cooler on my motorhome, helping eliminate batteries, etc. Also, I am building a solar water heater system which will heat my horse-trough hot tub, eliminating the need for propane/electric heating of those 140 gallons, and the PV will power a small 12V circulating pump for it.
Thanks to all for your nice comments, and I am delighted to be able to post on this wonderful site.

Great article, Craig. I love this can-do approach.

Readability suggestions:

Huge paragraphs (like the 3rd paragraph from the top) are rather forbidding, especially for people reading online. Please break paragraphs up, so that no more that they are no longer than 2 to 4 sentences. This is especially true at the beginning of an article, when readers are still undecided whether to plow through the rest.

Avoid ALL-CAPS. They give the impression of SOMEONE SHOUTING AT US. Use boldface instead if you want to emphasize some text - even then, be sparing.

Love the photos.

Energy Bulletin

just wanted to share my recent experience of building a simple solar oven.

they are so simple to build, and what could be better than cooking your dinner with no added energy. fantastic.
if you don't cook with this sun already, i'd thoroughly recommend it.

Good article. Solar cookers are a wonderful tool that should be part of every household.

Regarding the comments on meat versus grains: As long as we're talking about meat bought in a typical grocery store, I find little to argue with. But when I think of my own system I tend to disagree. I certainly take Craig's point and agree given his implied context, but still have to comment:

First, just a couple quick points: One doesn't have to carry meat as it can carry itself. It is relatively easy to train a flock to follow the shepherd. (The individuals that don't cooperate get sold or put in the freezer... I mean solar food drier.) I have two sheep that are better on a tether than my dog is on a leash. Better yet, use the livestock to carry the grain! In a similar theme, meat stores very well on the hoof, one just has to feed it to keep it fresh. But enough tongue-in-cheek digression.

Purely to feed our family at the moment, I raise sheep and egg-laying ducks (in addition to a quickly expanding garden). The ducks need grain, and even though they are good foragers, they need a lot of it. So we're agreed there. But the sheep are a different matter. As ruminants, sheep can survive off pasture alone. With the help of a skilled shepherd, they can thrive on pasture. In climates with mild winters, there is no need for stored fodder. In climates with severe winter (ie. mine), some of that pasture can be stored as hay, but it can also be stock-piled as standing forage and fed out if/as conditions allow. We've used this technique to significantly reduce our stored feed requirements. I also put up some hay each season solely by hand (scythe, rake, and pitch-fork) and have no doubt that a healthy male could harvest enough hay for a small flock (say a dozen animals and five months of feeding) in a work week.

My inputs are about 15 minutes of labour a day (on average, shearing day is a lot longer), an electric fencer and three rolls of electric-net fencing every decade, two 12-volt deep-cycle batteries (20 amp-hour and 100 amp-hour) every four years, two 20-watt solar panel every 20 years, a 12-volt electric water pump every 10 years, about $20 of veterinary supplies each year (only necessary if I've screwed up, which does happen), a bushel of grain per year (just to keep the sheep friendly), 50 small square bales of hay (we have five months of winter) and about five acres of marginal pasture land. The result is a system that conservatively generates about 8 lambs/year (three times as much meat as my family of four can consume), more wool than we know what to do with, 8 lamb hides, and provides a fraction of the fertility we need for our garden (because the only manure that gets onto the garden is produced when the flock is fed stored fodder).

Our sheep flock is as close as we've been able to get to a sustainable food production system. If we scaled it up a bit, I think we would do better, but returning the nutrients from sold sheep to our land would become a real problem. In contrast, even if we were on very fertile land, without five tonnes of manure and a great deal of mulch per acre per year our garden would peter-out fairly quickly. When we first bought land, I thought that special attention to recycling nutrients (ie. humanure) could yield a sustainable system based only on vegetables and grain. Now, I'm realizing that there is probably a short-fall of nutrients in such a system. Pasture and ruminants are one way of making up the short-fall (trees may be another). In a different climate, this might not be the case.

Here in the south and as well in much of the midwest hogs are considered essential, at least back in the homesteading/farming days of yore.

Consider if you will. Pork is very easy to cure and thus provides sustenance in the form of meat year round. They can eat most anything. Easy to contain and easy to feed. They do a great job of rooting up the ground if you put them to it.

We always used to have a large bucket in the kitchen where we placed leftovers and such. It was called the 'slop bucket' and when full it was taken to the hog pen and poured in the hog trough. No waste here.

Southerners are fond of their pork for these reasons. Plus you get lots of grease,call it cooking oil, for frying and other purposes such as seasoning.

I don't think city raised folks can really appreciate hogs as meat animals and generally handy around the farm. They reproduce easily and at most stages are usuable.

The pork one now buys at the supermarkets no way resemble the real pork. What you get is confinement fed animals that have very bad features.

I get my cured pork from a county not too far off and I purchase hams and slabs of bacon. This bacon will last a very long time for it does not shrink or curl. I save whats in the pan in a quart jar and put it in the icebox and it will remain viable for months on end.

For me I prefer pork over beef and chicken. Yesterday I brought a whole boneless pork loin for $1.89 / lb. Sliced it up and put most all in the freezer and left two very large pieces for making a pork roast or to BBQ.

This one loin will last me easily until fall. I have been using one large bacon slab since last fall and still have one whole cured ham in the icebox since last fall. One I cooked for Christmas and still eating on it.

For just myself one hog would take care of me easily for a whole year. For a homestead of two then two hogs would suffice.

Better yet when the BPD(big power down) comes one could just ear cut them with marks and let them free range.


Thanks Airdale, your nuggets of traditional agricultural wisdom are appreciated. Please consider a Campfire article series on those approaches and techniques that others could take advantage of.

We already raise sheep, and are starting chickens this year (as are many urban and suburban families), using a grass-based portable pen approach ("Chicken Tractor") that Joel Salatin has advanced. The interesting part about this is many cities and towns allow a small number of chickens. And moving them around in portable pens allows them to get a large part of their nutrition from eating grass and insects. Chickens are also a good means of converting non-meat leftovers into eggs or broilers (meat leftovers will become more and more scarce).

Others are also raising rabbits in a similar manner (same kind of pens, though don't need a roost), which provide a quick turnaround like chickens. Note that freezing is not necessary as one can have a table fare of fresh chicken and/or hare every x number of days, an important point to consider with regard to the "Big Power Down").

Dairy goats are another consideration, as the does provide a constant supply of milk and the billy kids grow up in a few months to provide meat. There are small dairy goat breeds (e.g., Nigerian Dwarf) that can provide a quart a day while living on the grass of a 1/4 acre suburban lot.