Archive for the ‘solar’ Category

Getting ready for the heat.  Today I went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore – south side – to buy window screens.

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Lesson Learned: Security bars on windows make it hard to put in screens.  With the bars, putting screens on the outside of the window is impossible.  Putting screens on the inside is awkward because every time you want to open or close a window there is a screen in the way,  which is a pain-in-the-ruckuss.

Living close to the mountain means I get nice cool night breezes late into the season.  However, if I keep my window open without screens then my house becomes infested with weird desert insects.  Security for comfort is a unpleasant choice.

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Gopher update

Posted: February 17, 2011 in animals, animals, backyard, cooking, gopher, gophers, pets, protein
Tags: ,

I have yet to kill much less catch a gopher. I will spare you the details because otherwise you would think I am cruel.

One of the rules or expressions among the preppers is “eat what you store and store what you eat.” Another sentiment is “practice is better than just reading,” which I totally agree with. With those two ideas in mind the Survival Mom challenges her readers to a monthly challenge or skill. January’s was to bake a loaf of bread from scratch.  

Last night I was talking with my old friend “J” who is quite the foodie, and has been trying all sorts of delicious baking experiments in the last couple of years.  She commented on how she had enjoyed my solar oven posts  because she is going to build a solar oven in order to bake bread in, which I think is awesome.  I told her about the Survival Mom’s challenge because there are (currently) 71 responses to her challenge and some of them would be quite useful for my friends goal.

I did not have a lot of success with my experiments over the weekend. On Saturday I dug a shallow bath-tub size hole, put six handfuls of weeds in the hole, and covered it with clear plastic. This was my first attempt at a solar still.

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Water did collect on the bottom of the plastic, but did not drop into the collection device.  On the next attempt, I am going to put more weeds in the hole, and try to tap the plastic before I remove it. 

I was also unsuccessful at rubbing two sticks together to start a fire. I think I failed for two reasons. One: I was feeling very lazy having just dug the hole for the solar still and only tried for like 3 minutes. Second: My drill was pine. The drill has to be harder than the fireboard.  So I am going to keep my eye out for a good hard drill.

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I did however gather or make all the other necessary ingredients  for my second attempt: different types of tinder, a fireboard, and a coal catcher.

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The weekend was not a total wash, I was succesful in one thing. I successfully melted wax in the solar oven. I figure this is a good way to recycle the nubs of used candles to make new candles.

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I am looking forward to the weekend.  I had to work last Saturday, which made the last two weeks go long.  I have not been able to do many experiments in the last couple of weeks, so I spent more time doing internet research.    This weekend’s plans include the following:

  • Turn Brittlebush leaves into medicine.   A couple of weekends ago I went for a hike and saw the desert has a ton of brittlebush right now.   I gathered some leaves and have dried them out, so now I think I am supposed to mash them up or something.  While doing research I learned the sap from brittlebush can be used as incense and/or gum, which I think is pretty cool, so next time out I might see how much sap I can gather.

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Brittlebush in AZ Desert Botanical Garden

  • Build a solar still, which will involve digging a wide hole.  One is supposed to dig in a place that would have water in the soil, but as I am doing this in my backyard, I am going to supplement the water still but putting in weeds and sucking the water out of the plants. 
  • Use shadow of stick to figure out which way is west.
  •  

    • Prep for the no grid water for the weekend experiment.
    • Gather water bottles.
    • Gather pine needles for composting toilet.
    • Begin gathering some Creosote Bush stems.  According to Survivorman, one can burn the stems in a fire and the smoke can be used to clean (or rather disinfect) oneself.  The plant makes its own chemicals that make animals and insects not want to eat it, and these same chemicals can be used to disinfect oneself if you don’t have any water.  It is also one of the few desert plants that can be used for toilet paper in a pinch (bad pun intended).     One a side note, the plant is a virtual medicine cabinet for many other uses as well.   Maybe make some tea out of it?  Creosote is so good at repelling harmful stuff, I wonder if it would work on Zombies?

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    Creosote in AZ Desert Botanical Garden

    Last weekend, I built a solar over and tried to make sun-dried tomatoes in them.

    Needed:

    • Two cardboard boxes, one slightly smaller than the other.
    • Aluminium foil.
    • A piece of glass or clear plastic. I used clear plastic because I figured for first attempt best to learn on something that does not break easy.
    • Glue.
    • A knife.
    • Old issues of the New Times, specifically the ads for the strip joints in the back, because this is going to get hot!
    • Some other stuff that will be obvious.

    Step 1: Figure out the angle you want, generally 30% in summer and 70% in winter.

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    Step 2: Cut larger box at that angle desired.  Fold flaps back and cover with tin-foil, the flatter the better.  Be generous with the glue at the edges.

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    Step 3: Cut smaller box at same angle. Smaller box is to fit into larger box eventually.

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    Step 4: Line inner box with tin-foil.

    Step 5:  Place smaller box in larger box, use old New Times to insulate the oven by placeing crumbled snewspaper sheets between the boxes.

    Step 6: Place box at angle to get sun, best if box is portable.  Cover box with clear plastic.

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    Step 6: Watching a pot boil in the sun takes forever.

    Lessons Learned

    First time around I hit about 150″, it was about 70″ degrees outside. I cooked tomatoes and tried to boil water. Water never even came close to boiling, but would have made a nice tea.

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    In four hours the tomatoes were slightly dried out but not dried out for preservation.

    Temperature wise it did not seem to matter if I use glass or a sheet of clear plastic.  Some videos I had watched said they had gotten the temp. to 250 degrees, so I have a lot of room for improvement.   The glass was not flush with the box, so that is where I would begin working on improvements.

    Despite the fact I have yet to even coming close to catching a gopher, much less killing, skinning, cooking and eating one, at some point I am going to have to think about cooking.

    If I lived in the Appalachian’ foothills of my youth then wood would not be a problem.  But here in Phoenix it might be, the desert wants for lack of enough wood for multiple fires.  The wood is good for starting fires, but not good for keeping one burning for hours on end days in a row.

    There would be wood to burn from abandoned buildings, but it might take a while for people to abandoned buildings wholesale, and even if they did, a constant pillage of smoke would advertise you to the roaming pillagers, gangs and exiles.

    So next experiment will be building a solar oven, goal is to boil water, that would be two birds one stone.  And one stone for two birds is a good rule of thumb to follow after Armageddon.

    I am not sure if one can actually boil water in a solar heater, I hear tales of Ray Reeve’s doing experiments with a TV screen, but I plan to try.   From what I read, I need 5 walls of tinfoil, a glass wall, a door to go in and  out, and some way to hold the pot.

    In the meantime, anybody got some black sheets of metal I can have for the stove?