Humble Garden

ReSkilling for future food independence

Archive for February, 2009

Impatient for green!

Posted by Nika On February - 27 - 2009

Nasturium Leaves

(Edible nasturtiums, before blossoms. Leaves are fascinating)

February in New England can be a hard month to wade through. Seed ordering and seed packet receiving frenzy is long past. Planning of planting is done. Now its just waiting for time to pass for the moment that indoor started seed can be planted. As of today Friday the 27th of Feb, the most I can plant is some herbs and eggplants that I want pamper well past the flea beetle stage.

At the moment, there is nothing more to start indoors. The snow still sits on the garden, can’t even really clean up because there is too much snow pack.

Crappy Day: miserable garden

Parts of the yard are melting into a dank gooey mess that the duck and chickens love to foul even further.

Crappy Day: cold wet chickens

Having lived here more than a decade (and growing up a good part in the frigid midwest), I knew that planting seeds like a mesclun mix for use long before the sun warms the garden would be crucial.

When I feel especially doldrumish, I hover over my mesclun greens, marvel at their complex beauty, nibble a few to see how they taste and to dream about the green summer to come.

Indoor mesclun

Ye olde soil blocker

Posted by Nika On February - 16 - 2009

Manna Contest shots: 100mm

I just thought I would share a few shots of some of the things we are doing around here. Its all really low key and a lot of planning and dreaming – not too scintillating :-)

I bought a soil blocker doodad from Johnny’s seeds and have been using it to make seed starts indoors.

small soil blocker

small soil blocker

small soil blocker

You pack the form with starting soil and then plop it down in trays like below. I will be the first to say these are the not the most beautiful soil blocks!

soil blocks

I let KD (6 yo and headstrong) help with some of the seeding, here you can see that she put quite a few basil seeds into a tiny bit of soil!

Sprouts gone bad

Sprouts gone bad

I have also been growing mesclun indoors simply for the green and to eat long before the beds thaw enough for planting :-)

Mesclun sprouts

Radical Photons

Posted by Nika On February - 2 - 2009

(This was cross posted to two of my other blogs Peaknix and Nika’s Culinaria)

HEAT egg

Recently, I came across a solar cooking wiki and a whole group of YouTube videos about how Africans are adopting parabolic solar cookers in their villages. The importance of this didn’t really sink in for me until I saw how women walk hours through elephant infested nature preserves to find wood that they poach unsustainably. They get chased by angry elephants (its THEIR home after all) and the women spend ALL DAY finding dwindling resources, leaving behind unattended or poorly attended babies and small children.

Parabolic solar cooker

In particular, there is the Zambian Mfuwe Solar Cooker Project initiated by Manda Chisanga, a guide in South Luangwa National Park who had won a guiding award and decided to spend his prize money on Solar Cookers.

“The documentary covers the installation of five SunFire14 Parabolic Dishes – the project has been expanded to 15 and we are looking at ways to get 500 Parabolic Dishes into the community to cover 6000 families.” source

parabolic cooker

With a parabolic solar cooker, all of these risky and ecologically unsustainable practices are stopped immediately. The women can stay with their kids, young girls can go to school instead of watching babies or collecting wood all day themselves.

If that doesn’t sound radical and revolutionary, you are not thinking it through.

You can learn all about the basic principles of solar cooking and see plans for building your own DIY cooker at the Solar Cooking Wiki. Give it a whirl and see what you think.

I have been wanting to make our own DIY solar oven for ages and have finally scraped together some found objects that we have used to make our first winter relevant solar cooker. No cooking is happening yet because I am still testing it and there was no sun to speak of today! We do this in part as a homeschooling project too so the testing is an important part of it.

If you do this, share! Let me hear about how it is going for you.

DIY Solar Oven

DIY Solar Oven

DIY Solar Oven

Found materials and also some high heat enamel spray (which I bought for this project)

DIY Solar Oven: outer box

Cut to fit insulation on bottom of the oven

DIY Solar Oven: interior box

Crafting, with duct tape, the interior box

DIY Solar Oven: box inside box

Need to trim height of the box

DIY Solar Oven: interior box

Trimmed and taped and ready to be sprayed with enamel

DIY Solar Oven:

DIY Solar Oven:

Sprayed, dried, inside larger box, found insulation in place

Next step is to make all manner of reflectors to sculpt the photons into the oven

DIY Solar Oven: for reflectors

Materials for reflectors

DIY Solar Oven:

Two reflectors made. I rigged up a tape slide holder on the backs so that the reflectors are placed without taping them onto the oven part.

DIY Solar Oven: reflector

Slide holder rig

DIY Solar Oven: one reflector

One reflector rigged up

DIY Solar Oven: testing

DIY Solar Oven: testing

Black covered pot and temperature probes

DIY Solar Oven: testing

Solar oven set up inside as we test it out

DIY Solar Oven: testing

Made a third reflector and started testing positioning (which isn’t really intuitive, more experiential)

I know I could buy a solar oven but what fun is that?! Not terribly frugal either :-)

Once we get a good sunny day I will test it properly and share back here!

About Me

We are a family of 5, including Nika, Ed, Q (14), KD (7), and Baby Oh (4). We garden 1024 square feet of raised beds plus assorted permacultural plantings. We also have 13 LaMancha dairy goats, 40 chickens, and one guard llama.



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