Third Solar Cooking Attempt

Is it called an attempt if you don’t know the outcome yet? This morning at 10:40 I placed a pot of pinto beans out in my home-designed solar cooker. In only 20 minutes, the temperature on top of the pan was 240 degrees, with the ambient temp being only in the 80s.

I soaked the pinto beans in a bit of water on the kitchen counter all night last night. This morning I rinsed them before placing them in my oval roaster. With fresh water, I added salt, chili powder and 1/2 of a japaleno. After placing the lid on, I slid the roaster inside the oven turkey bag (which was used the last time I solar cooked) and promptly took it outside…well after I took some photos anyhow.

So as we are waiting to see the end product, here are a few photos to ponder….. oh and by the way…it is okay to chuckle at my contraptions…

pinto beans ready for the solar cooker



Please Pardon Our Dust

Isn’t that what the store signs say when they are remodeling? The theme template that I have been borrowing for my blog  just hasn’t seemed to fit the mood or idea behind what I hope for my blog to become.  For some time now, I have been trying on different looks and taking them for a spin. Usually, I try to do that late at night in hopes that no one will notice. On occasion, I have totally fouled things up..imagine that!

I am not CSS savy, and just barely able to say I know some HTML, so this process is tedious and has me relying on theme templates that someone else has designed. (Just a heads up here, if you EVER see a wordpress theme that would fit the “mood” of  my site, please ,oh PLEASE,  contact me!) For now I am trying out a brand new theme that was only uploaded yesterday. Unfortunately, like so many other themes that I have loved, the theme is not widget-aware for the sidebar. The original sidebar was adorable, but it would not allow me to add anything… not even an admin login. Well, I think I have the sidebar challenge conquered as far as functionality goes, but I lost the cute little icons. Being frugal (sometimes that means B-R-O-K-E), I am not to the point of paying someone else to figure it out for me…..

so…I ask again…PLEASE Pardon Our Dust…until I figure this out…or am covered in dust…whichever comes first.

~The 100th Post!~

Here it is…my 100th post! I almost don’t believe I have actually written 100 posts. In celebration of the event, we should have a cyber-party! What would a party be without prizes?

Recently, Mother Earth News revamped their website and is now including daily articles. The other day, while looking for ideas about alternative tomato cages, my search ended with the article, “Do-It-Yourself Tomato Cages” at Mother Earth.  

So, I have decided to place all of the names of people who comment on this post into a drawing for the gift of a subscription of “Mother Earth News”.  The contest begins immediately and will end at midnight on Monday, June 16th. 


Would you like your name entered for the drawing twice? Just mention me on your blog, with a link back to the 100th post, and I will enter your name in the drawing twice. Just let me know by sending me an email or by mentioning it in your comment. Thanks everyone!

Solar Cooking – First Attempt

My first attempt at solar cooking was not a total success, but subsequent efforts totally bombed. We constructed our makeshift solar cooker out of a cardboard box, weed barrier (which I would not recommend), glass from a screen door and a thermometer. At one point, I had the inside temperature up to 170 degrees, but when I had to reposition the items inside, I must have rearranged it enough that it did not seal as well. We had preheated the oven to around 120 degrees. After a couple of hours, I used a potholder to remove the items…a jar with broccoli and a pan of rice.

solar cooker
The rice and broccoli were not as done as I would have liked it, but it was all still edible.

rice and brocolli
The next day I was going to try some lentils and rice, but the wind knocked over my window and it shattered. I had seen a video about cooking in black jars using aluminum pans, but I just could not get the temperature up high enough. Luckily, DH is in favor of solar cooking, so I was able to order the Sport Solar Oven from the Peddler’s Wagon. I am so excited because the solar oven kit comes with two black cooking pots,  a solar reflector, oven thermometer, water pasteurization indicator and recipe book, which I am certain will come in handy.  I had looked at the other solar oven they offered, but was happy to see that the pans were included with this particular solar oven.

The Future of Food

This past week, I have had several different blog topics rolling around in my head. Most of those thoughts have been about food…either the growing of, the shortage of, the cooking of, the harvesting of, the preserving of, or, yes, the genetic engineering of…..OUR FOOD!

These thoughts have prompted a couple of movements for me.  I requested Michael Pollan’s books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, , In Defense of Food, and A Place of My Own, from our local library. As I have begun to read, I have been wishing I belonged to a book club with members with whom I could discuss my readings and thoughts. DH has been kind enough to oglige, but it would be nice to hear what others have to say.

On another path, I attempted some solar cooking last weekend and hope to share my failures with you soon. Because of those failures with a home-fashioned solar cooker, I purchased a new one from The Peddlar’s Wagon at Path to Freedom/Urban Homesteaders. I am excited about the possibilities of not heating up the kitchen and still being able to prepare a meal.

What brought me to all of these thoughts about food and has me attempting action on those thoughts? First was the Path to Freedom Sustainable Food UCLA Lectures hosted on YouTube. Part four was just recently uploaded and now we are waiting for the Q & A video to be released. In Jules Dervaes’ lecture he mentioned Deborah Koons Garcia, the wife of Jerry Garcia, who is the producer of The Future of Food Documentary about, well, the future of food.  Immediately searching YouTube for Garcia and the future of food, I found several videos from which to choose. DH and I listened to Mrs. Garcia on a radio show broadcast, as she talked about the history of the documentary and her journey with food.

This radio broadcast is a bit longer than most YouTube clips…but you will gain so much info for a small investment of your time.

Introduction to The Future of Food

The Path to Freedom Sustainable Foods UCLA Lectures began with Part One……

I had not written a post, because I was not certain what I, as an individual, could say about the mess that we appear to be heading toward. My head is reeling from everything that I am learning. Today, at Prairie Dreams, Anita posted an entry about farmers being thrown out of the Food Shortage Summit in Rome and though Rome is on the other side of the earth, I know that we are all in this together…farmers, consumers, and unfortunately, large agribusiness corporations. As Jules Dervaes often speaks…it is time for a HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION. While our backyard and patio “farms” will not head off world hunger, it might just make a difference in our own household.

I encourage all to “do your own research” and take some baby steps toward sustainability. That is all that we can all do….each take baby steps toward a success.

Fun Meme!

This looked like such a fun meme over at Prairie Dreams. Anita “borrowed” the idea from Daily Dose of Zen Sarcasm.

The Sustainable Backyard Meme
Go ahead…make your own!

 Here’s how:
a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.

b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

1. What is your first name? anajz
2. What is your favorite food? Italian
3. What high school did you go to? R. L. Turner High School
4. What is your favorite color? Green
5. Who is your celebrity crush? Liam Neesom
6. Favorite drink? Strawberry Margarita
7. Dream vacation? World Cruise
8. Favorite dessert? Pecan Pie
9. What you want to be when you grow up? I don’t know
10. What do you love most in life? Family
11. One Word to describe you. Confused
12. Your flickr name. the sustainable backyard

Thanks for the following Flickr members….

1. old church, 2. RG Tests, 3. v. R.L. Turner 8, 4. ♫ YO Yo yo, there’s no place like a green penthouse… so i told the genie i wanted to be well hung. ^o^ ♫ nah… wildlife from singapore♫, 5. liam neeson, 6. Tipsy, 7. Queen-Victoria-Southampton, 8. Mexican Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars, 9. For you / Para vosotras (Sant Jordi), 10. The Avenue in mist and sun, 11. Which set applies to me?, 12. Sustainable Style

This is DH’s….

DH Meme

1. J…at Macricostas Preserve, 2. T-Bone Steak, 3. DSCN5612, 4. water droplets in the shower – o.k. bokeh, 5. 206, 6. The Dr. is IN, 7. colorado elk, 8. Grandma’s Famous Cheesecake, 9. Hay – Panoramic, 10. Hot Wheel Memories (with reflected self), 11. disneyland reflections, 12. Prairie Sunset

STAYcation Update

To make the STAYcation Extravaganza a bit more interesting, I have decided to add a little twist.  We are going to have give-aways!

I like receiving gifts, but I LOVE giving gifts even more. Every person who posts a comment at the original contest post will have their name entered into the drawing, even if it is onlyto just mention that they are participating.  If you write a post about the contest in your blog and include the STAYcation Extravaganza icon in your sidebar, your name will be entered a second time (just let me know by a comment or by email so I can add your name twice 🙂 . The third entry chance for the drawing comes when you actually write about your own STAYcation on your blog and then link it with Mr. Linky (again, I am still trying to figure that all out…might have to find someone who has used it before to help me out.) The drawing will take place after midnight on August 22, 2008.

STAYcation Extravaganza Summer 2008

The Sustainable Backyard is hosting our first ever…

STAYcation Extravaganza



Summer is here and I am “itching” to go on vacation. In an earlier post I wrote about staycations as a means to having a way of celebrating summer without spending all of your child’s inheritance.  Not all of us can afford what most of us would normally call a real getaway to places unknown, but ALL of us can plan a STAYcation Extravaganza. What is that, you ask? Anything you want it to be, I answer! A backyard campout, day trips to local attractions in your area, a day camp or carnival run by the kids in the family, a read-a-thon, a day spent pampering yourself, a couple of days with the house to yourself and the kids at grandma’s, a house swap with a neighbor…YOU decide!

The Extravaganza will continue through the summer until August 22, which is actually two weeks after our kids go back to school. Hopefully, that will add little extra time for those who don’t return quite as early. Your STAYcation Extravaganza can last a day or a month…again, you choose.  I am in the process of trying to figure out how  Mr. Linky works  and will have him up and going soon, so that we can all share our successes and even our disasters. Don’t hold back! Maybe someone else can learn from your experiences.

Being my first proprietary attempt at carnival or meme, I am certain there will be continueal editing issues as I am learning. Feel free to offer suggestions or to ask questions.


I like receiving gifts, but I LOVE giving gifts even more.

Every person who posts a comment (even if it’s only to say that you are participating) on this original post of the Extravaganza will have their name entered into the drawing.  If you write a post about the contest in your blog and include the STAYcation Extravaganza icon in your sidebar, your name will be entered a second time (just let me know by a comment or by email so I can add your name twice 🙂 . The third entry chance for the drawing comes when you actually write about your own STAYcation on your blog and then link it with Mr. Linky (again, I am still trying to figure that all out…might have to find someone who has used it before to help me out.)

The drawing will take place after midnight on August 22, 2008.

thumbnail staycation extravaganza