Thursday, August 25, 2011

Townhall: Water

Townhall - Water

* Bill Richardson, Former Governor of New Mexico
* Pat Mulroy, General Manager, Southern Nevada Water Authority
* Grady Gammage Jr., Senior Sustainability Scholar, ASU Global Institute of Sustainability, and Senior Research Fellow, ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy
* Heidi Cullen, Host, Forecast Earth, and Research Scientist and Correspondent, Climate Central
* Moderator: Anne Thompson, Chief Environmental Affairs Correspondent, NBC News

Africa - 1 in 3 have no regular access to clean water.

Sustainability is the issue of this age.

Most water usage by Americans (150 gallons a day) is used to flush toilets, taking showers, baths, etc.

Heidi Cullen - Fresh water sources are stressed
Population growth is impacting fresh water levels a lot.
Climate change is part - but climate has always been changing.

Pat Mulroy - Most of water in Las Vegas is used outside (70%). Southern Nevada reduced water usage by 1/3 despite population growth. We use way too much water per capita. Largest users of water in the world.
We have to change.

HC - The southwest would have water issues even without climate change

Grady Gammage Jr - City of Phoenix today uses same water as it did a decade ago. 1/2 of water goes to agriculture in Tucson/Phx corridor. He thinks agriculture gives us a buffer. We lower their use to keep city use normal. We are going to lose this buffer in the coming decades.

Bill Richardson - This is a huge international issue about to explode. Some areas- crisis situation. Somalia is example. 28k children dead in last 2 months from water and political issues. Other areas- too much water (Bangladesh). Lives are threatened with rising water.

GG - Political challenge in the world is great. Senses that we have lost our collective will in this country to build things (canals, dams, etc). We would build stuff that would help the country function. The collective will isn't there.

PM - This is really an issue.

HC - Part of the challenge for this generation is to do the smaller stuff. Efficiency. Recirculating. Using brakkish water.

BR - We are not bringing in climate change as much as we need to into water planning.

Moderator- we've become a society that is all about me- to heck with you. How do we build a concensus?

GG - California is the Big 'them' for Arizona

PM - Look at the Colorado rivershed. Guess what? We are all interconnected.

HC - We decided what was normal in the early 1900s. What was normal in the 1900s is not normal now.

BR - You can't keep governments and politicians out of this, it is not going to happen. We have to encourage better Federal and State cooperation. Relatively good relationships exist between compact members. We need to find ways to settle a lot of these tribal issues that have been around for 100 years.

Opening up to audience

Question (from audience) - Haley Paul - 20th century was big dams and canal projects. What of the 21st century. what is the next wave? (listed off ideas of catchment, reuse, etc)

PM -All the above. Lots of different pieces. Will depend on where you are. Singapore is all about reuse and desalin plants.
#1 usage of water in country is not agriculture- it is power. Must lower demand by customers (of power).

GG- Politically this is a real challenge.

PM - Federal Government needs to echo what comes from the state so message is same.

BR - Can't have sensible water policies without climate change and renewable energy. Have to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy- which uses less water. Have to have a dramatic reduction in green house emmissions. Has to be a connection, action on climate change at State and Federal level. Lot of states wait on Federal Government to act- who isn't.

Quiz: Water covers 70% of planet. What percentage is fresh? 
(Answer) 2.5 %
2/3 of that is locked up in ice


Conflicts over water at home and abroad

(Video showing Vegas trying to take water from northern Nevada towns.)

PM - Nevada has the toughest ground water usage laws in the country. 90% of Nevada water comes from Colorado. If Lake Meade hits 1075 or 1025, Nevada loses their water. [Lost connection briefly so missed full quote]

BR - Our region will have the most water shortages. Our compacts. If you want to stay alive politically, you don't mess with the compacts. He ran for president and 'water sunk it'. Maybe we need a water czar to oversee water in country. He wanted to look at some relationships or compacts where we could pull water from Great Lakes.

GG - Seems to think journalists from back East thinks moving water long distances is a bad thing.

Moderator - Why should 'we' (Great Lakes) give up our water to you, who lives in a desert?

PM - One man's flood control project is another man's water supply. Talked of flooding in Missouri and Mississippi, sending water from west to east for Kansas and Nebraska farming.

HC - Compact was drawn up during a really wet period. People think flooding in the midwest is going to become normal

GG - We need to get past territorial issues. The desert is a good place to live, great place to grow crops- birthplace of civilization.

PM - Points out that large cities up north (NYC, San Francisco) pipe water 100s of miles. There is rarely enough water in that location to service the community (city)- citing Chicago as an exception. Do we really want to sprawl people everywhere, or do we build more urban and more dense (cities)? Her point was about building sustainable communities.

BR - 1/3 of population lives near coastal cities.

GG - Will never forgive himself if he does not go back to the idea of a water czar - not convinced that is a good idea. Bigger picture decision making is a good idea. We in AZ have made a lot of decisions about water -and it is made in many places. Thinks centralizing water decision making is not a really good idea.

Quiz - Where should water resources go?
1. Cities and town
2. Business
3. Agriculture

Question from audience - Colorado River Compact has a system to deliver water - is it going to continue to work? With population growth, etc?

BR - It is going to continue. How much longer? Depends on population, water, etc. Thinks we need to preserve our ecosystem (animals, etc). Who is making federal policy on water?

Audience member asking question - Bureau of Reclamation

BR - Them and US Army Corp of Engineers..[sorry, I missed the others] We don't have any federal entity that says 'this is our policy', find out our policy on the Colorado River.

Moderator - If Federal Government can't agree on policy of climate change, how will it figure it out with water?

PM - When you look at the compact, it allows 7 states to do whatever 7 states can agree to do- but they cannot roll each other no matter how big they are. The compact is evolving. The minute it stops changing, it gets rigid and will break.

GG - It has changed more than people realized (the compact).

Quiz(Answer from audience) 45% city, 18% manu, 41% farming

PM - Thinks this is a terrible question. We need all 3! "I like eating. Look at my hips. I like eating!" There are no easy answers out there.

HC - The concept that the environment should be pitted against the economy is false. We need sustainabilty so they can work together.


Global water issues - powerful video on drought in North Kenya

HC - The places we expect to see most trouble - Mediterreanean, Middle East, here in the southwest.

Moderator - They say the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water. Is this so?

BR - Yes. I want to commend NBC for consistantly covering Africa. when we are talking about climate change, crisis, Africa is the center piece.

Question (audience) - Nalani Chhetri - An article came out that established links with conflicts due to El Nino. This effect has doubled number of conflicts. Question - What is it, what kind of science, what kind of report gets picked up by the Media, and Government, and what does not? And what we can we do in Academia to help make this leap into policy?

PM - Great believer in ASU's Decision Theater. When you say this is going to happen, they can conceptualize it different. but when they see it happen, and what happens, they can see the result of their decision.

HC - When you look back over history, part of my focus was on paleoclimate. The industry didn't want to assign climate to reasons for culture collapse. This isn't the sexiest story, but these play out over incredible time scales. (Analogy of turning the oil tanker)

GG - Comment on report 'Watering the Sun Corridor'

BR - Heard of what has happened in Arab Spring - populations exploding over heads of state. This wasn't done by traditional media- but by social media. He is suggesting using alternative media as much as you can- get involved. If you want to raise awareness- run for office.

Moderator - #changingplanet on twitter


Video - 1 in 3 homes has a pool in Phoenix. Conservation now has to be part of solution. Americans are using water more efficiently that we have in the past. This may not be enough for Phoenix.

Moderator - Americans are using water more efficiently. We use less water than we did in 1980- not per capita- a total usage.
Fears water could run out in next 25 years.

GG - (Addressing Arizona) Thinks people have perception water will run out. We have too robust a water system. We need to decide if population growth is most important thing for economy? If so, we need to modify our lifestyle. If not, then we need to discourage growth. That's a tough balance, and we have not kept up with that. The track we are on would price agriculture out of business within 25 years.

Moderator - Pat?

PM - Technology will play role in this. LA has adopted new water resource plan. Entire new resource supply in next 25 years is reuse and conservation. We used to look at water as something to throw away. We can't do that anymore.

Moderator - Governor?

BR - I think what is important ... the science. We need to find more ways to protect endangered species, impact fee on developers. More info on droughts. A drought info system to share. Develop an internet portal of Federal and State governments on data sharing so we can each share data on water allocation, reuse, recycle, etc. We don't have that.

GG - Price? Yes, water should be more expensive. We don't charge for water. We put a cost for delivery of water. Las Vegas' water is dirt cheap. Phoenix is in the middle of pack for price. The most expensive is Seattle (no need for outdoor use for water in wet seattle). Depending on where you are in US, how do you price water that is above basic human existance? Should industrial water be cheaper than other?

PM - Problem with GG's theory. If everyone earned the same money, then you are right. Her biggest customer was a Sultan. What do you charge him? He doesn't care. So only the poor should have to conserve, GG?

GG - But most people will care. Most people are not that wealthy.

Question (audience) - John Sabo - Agriculture uses 80% of water in the West, half goes to crops via irrigation. Farmers produce great food very cheaply. It would seem prudent to implement water efficieny, but doing this would raise prices on food. How do we do this without the impact of prices?

BR - I don't know

PM - Talks of having to pull salt from the soil in Imperial Valley. Lots of water wasted on this. Remember when we decided to grow our way out of the energy crisis? We don't have enough water to grow our way out (in the West). Now those in Mid West switched from growing wheat to growing corn. Those in california turned from alfalfa to wheat. This is more water intensive.

GG - We have made food policy bad. Ground water is so subsidized to pump, it doesn't make sense. AZ has program to make surface water more available to farmers- doing this would require farmers to use more efficient water techniques.

BR - The farmer in this country are hurting. Talk of removing 'subsidies' during this economy. We don't make it worse for them. I'm going to yield to you, the scientist, for the answer. You tell me?

(Audience question) John Sabo - Life style choice of pricing and allocation. Tiered water pricing. A tax that is used to fund programs to fund reclaimed water systems.


Who will lead these efforts?

Question (from audience) - Collin Tetreault - All of your thoughts on what role industry and business has in the water paradigm. public policy? R and D?

GG - There are industries in AZ that are working on this- such as golf courses [are you kidding?]. There is a water company that is almost exclusively engaged in water reuse- development (purple pipes) using reclaimed water. He has clients speculating in water business, now. Market functions do serve a purpose

BR - Industry needs to lead the way. to work with schools like ASU. If you promote sustainability in private sector, you can win out. Industry can take the lead in R and D.

HC - Industry needs market signals, needs government to put this in place.

PM - There is one role for industry. They have a leadership role. One way she had success was to go directly to business community. Depoliticize it and make it a real issue.

Moderator - Quiz - What you would do to reduce water consumption?:
1 Take shorter showers
2 Plant native plants (GG says most effective)
3 Was car less often
4 Flush toilet less

GG - Says new report that water usage is about 50% out of home, now, here in AZ (not 70%)

Question - Water management community has bourne brunt of budget cuts in economy. Wondering what strategies they are to cope with lack of money and brain drain. Will this be long term? Privatize?

GG - Arizona Department of Water Resources has been savaged by budget cuts. One solution was to ask cities to step up and keep them functioning.

BR - Look what happened with debt limit negotiations- 10 year decrease in Federal spending. what does that mean? local, local, local. More citizen participation. levees. enormous growth issues. Federal Government, Congress took a walk for 10 years.

Question (from audience) - Will Greene - The CAP is pumped by Navajo Station (largest coal plant in us). Giving total failure of congress to pass clean energy policy, what do we do?

BR - Think there will be a wake up call- eventually. Not just with this, but with for other things. Was against this coal plant, something about clean coal. How do you manage the political process? How do you make a difference? Run for congress. Do something. Give it a shot. It sounds simplistic. He thinks in 2nd term (Obama) there will be legislation for this.


Lessons from history

Question on Hohokam and canals in Arizona desert (they built them 1200 years ago).

What happened to them?

GG - Not sure. Now saying that they don't think it was a big event that did them in- but a long term decline. a lot of them left, he says. Says that the tribes left are direct descendents of them.

Question (audience- requesting statement, not question)
Vernon Masayesva (Member of Hopi Tribe) - I am a member of the Hopi Tribe. We lived here in Arizona, Black Mesa, for a 1000 years. We are dry farmers. We don't need irrigation water. wWe have learned to grow crops -the 3 sisters. Corn- 6 varieties. Squash and beans. We have no lakes, running water. Desert. We are desert farmers. Guess what? We are here. We survived. How did we survive? We learned the mystery of water. Water is a mysterious force of which we know very little, if anything. Water is life. It is our breath. We are water people. We come from water. When we pass away, finish our journey on earth, we go back to water. The water in our body seperates from our earthly bodies. We join with our ancestors, the rain people. the cloud people. We journey back to the ocean. And we nourish all forms of life. Through rain and snow. We are water people. We are of water and water is of us. Water connects us. To other continents. Through the ocean. Represented by the water serpent. Water connects all of our parts together. Water connects us to the cosmos. To the planets. So the universe is in us and we are of the universe. And this is an important lesson we need to understand. We American poeple have total confidnece in science to fix the problem. We still have this misconception that we can manage water. We do not do that. Water manages us. And we all have to learn to live within the limits of water, fresh water, which is finite. And we have the ingenuity to do. Because the creator gifted us with 3 things... The spider, intelligence, the weaver, the maker, the scientist, the commnicator, the word smith. We are all word smiths here, today. We are all sharing in a dialogue. It begins with your thinking and it begins with breathing and the water in the air moves through your larnyx and up... Water is energy. Science has harnessed water to create weapons of mass destruction. But because we are water people, we have enormous energy in our bodies that we are not using. So if we can learn to connect the brian, the hand, the language, and us it in the right way. To keep the water serpent calm... That the weaver, the echoer keep the water serpent calm... (They are twins.) If one twin slips off, the snake will start to roll. If the 2 fall off, the snake will turn over and the world will turn upside down. We are the twins that should be keeping the serpent calm. We are not doing it. we are poking it by putting so much junk into the air that we are having climate change.

Moderator - Are we trying to do the impossible to fix nature?

GG - He has a point. The Hopi are still here. There is a point that technology has limits. But we cannot change american culture to live more like the Hopi. He thinks we have to continue to rely on systems we have.

PM - i think the biggest message I heard is that a lot of this is our individual adaptation, our expectation. Don't think we can put 9 to 15 billion people on planet and not have to adapt.

HC - The world will change a lot. This is a values discussion.

Moderator - Who should lead this, Governor?

BR - The people of this country should lead it. The message he got was (besides how we treat Native Americans) ... respect our resources, ecosystem, the wildlife, the land, the protection of water. one comment he made- we are trying to manage the water, but water is managing us. Maybe we should ponder what he said a bit more carefully.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Another site, more education

I'm always happy to help share information. The more we share, the more we learn. And I don't care if you live in Alaska or Cape Hope or anywhere inbetween. Our world works best when we work together.

Another site that could help in learning about solar ovens and how to make them can be found at It shows how to make a solar cooker as well as some videos and links to recipes.

Check it out!

Success! Progress and moving forward

Ok. It's been a little while since I progressed on my solar cooker- the fryer. I'm updating with what is current.

The aluminium foil just would not work for me. I decided to scrap it, pull it off and clean the dish. This took some doing as glue isn't known for letting go. But I got a lot off.

My 2nd attempt was with a high gloss silver spray paint. While the application was easy, I could never generate much heat from it.

I kept looking around town for 'reflective tape', but everyone kept pointing me to the tap used on mailboxes and so on. This wasn't what I was looking for. I considered finding some broken mirrors and gluing the pieces to the dish. While this sounded cool, I decided not to do it this time. My first goal is to have a fully functional solar fryer and I knew I had a long way to go.

One day as I sat thinking about the mirror and the reflector tape, I mumbled that I wanted the tape to act as a mirror. Mirror tape. So I put that into google and hit enter. Lo and behold, I found it. I found it here at identi-tape.

One of my goals was to use local and easy to get items, but I wasn't getting far doing that. I really like the idea of using broken mirror pieces to create a sort of mosaic to achieve this down the line, but for this go around, I chose this mirror tape.

So I received it. I proceeded to put it on the dish.

As you can see, the foil and paint still show, but they are nothing compared to the tape. I continued to put it on.

As I went I learned that if I were to do it again, I would start with the center and move out. This would save some overlapping of the tape.

I had purchased a 3 way clamp with the silver spray paint and had painted it black (using ... black spray paint). I was never sure if it would hold the heat, but I liked the idea of it holding the pot or pan on top.

I put it out into the sun to 'fire it up' and try to boil some water.

I put a thermometer in the water to measure the heat.

I stood back and watched the heat rise.

It slowly rose to about 155 degrees. But it wouldn't budge much higher. Why? Well ...

The wind was blowing and it helped blow high clouds over head. Before long there was too little sun to produce heat. I was frustrated as I felt I was on the verge of success. I abandoned the project until the sun came out.

A few hours later it was blazing. No clouds. I went out and started it up again.

It quickly rose up to 160 and held at 165. Now if you look carefully at the picture above, you'll see the bright light under the pan hitting the piece of wood I use. As I tilted the dish down a little, the wood began to smoke -a lot-. I tilted it back and decided to try cooking with this.

I chose a single egg as my first attempted meal made with the solar cooker. I used the water to water a small chili plant I hope is going to grow and then dropped in some butter and the egg after the butter melted.

I had quiet hopes that it would cook quickly. I broke the yoke and stirred it a bit.

After several minutes, it began to cook! It was slow and a bit frustrating. And exciting. I had a mesh of feelings inside of me stirring at once. Slowly, over the course of 10 minutes,

it began to cook

And it did. I finally removed it from the pot, placed the solar oven in the shade and took it inside. I shared my single egg and enjoyed it completely.

I need to seriously modify this before I can call it good. I need a more solid base (the wood isn't level as it is boughed). I need to figure out a way to have the pan placed up above the dish, and be able to adjust its length as well as adjust the level for the pan (or pot). I do believe the clamp is not helping at all. I may opt for a method to suspend the cooking dish so it gets the direct sunlight.

So I've a ways to go. But you can see I am getting there. I am excited and hopeful that this will become exactly what I envisioned- an almost daily option to cook my meals without any other power than the sun.

Monday, May 30, 2011


I stood on a hill overlooking Phoenix International Raceway to the west, the Gila River to the east and the Salt River to the north. The hill overlooked the confluence of 2 major rivers that have been apart of the history of the region of the Sonoran Desert, in what is today Phoenix, for 1000s of years.


Before the Americans, the Mexicans. Before the Mexicans, the Spanish. Before the Spanish were those who have gone before us. And yet they remain amongst us. Native Endians have been around for 1000s of years. They built an advanced civilization here, in Phoenix, that lasted for 1200+ years. I wonder if Phoenix will last that long. We certainly have the capability, if we are smart and not greedy. Right now, Phoenix is 130+ years old.

Gila (what's left of it)

There were 2 gentlemen with their children and dogs. The children were keen to go do something. The men reluctantly were led away. They had enjoyed being up there, I think. The sun wasn't quite summer hot, though it beamed down on all on a cloudless day. Behind me was a gentleman and his son. After the others departed, we talked a bit. His son had turned 13 that day. And his father was showing him his heritage. He was telling him about hiking in the moonlight up in the estrellas. He was talking to him about the rivers. He told me he was sharing his heritage with his son- just as his father had done, and his grandfather before him and so on. His family had been in the area a long long time.


I told him I wish I had had that in my life. I told him I had to learn about the rich culture and history here, on my own. He seemed pleased to hear this and hoped his son was paying attention. We chatted about the rivers and the dams and the power plant he worked at. We chatted about petroglyphs and where to go and see some. He soon departed with his son. I turned my gaze back to the rivers and the mountains and the desert I live in.

I haven't had a heritage. I have no history with a land, a place my parents shared with me. I have no Illinois or Wisconsin or Mississippi or New York or even Arizona. My heritage and history was a constant movement between towns and suburbs. Mostly suburbs. I am a product of a poor part of suburbia. I never had a tie to land in any meaningful way. I chose Arizona as my home as an adult- though I had been here since I was a youth. I chose to live in the desert and dwell as one from the desert. I have no stories from this place that my parents can share that aren't town-centric. I can't point to a place where we vacationed when it was too hot to stay in the valley. I can't relate the rich history of a city or region. I didn't have the heritage, the oral tradition, the traditions, the people or practices.

I had some tidbits from external to my family, from a time in scouting and volunteering and exploring in my youth. And those are the roots of what little I have. I live in the desert and that means I must learn the desert, learn its strengths, weaknesses, how to coexist and thrive in a way that doesn't require me to subjugate it as we see so many in suburbs do (and this is so very hard for people to understand or do- including me). Should I live in Florida, I would learn to live that way. Should I live in New York City, I would try and do the same (god help me).

I hope I can create stories to tell my children so they can relate to theirs. Ones of the land, the water, the sun above and the deserts and mountains below. And I hope others do the same. And if you have that rich tradition- enjoy it and share it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Solar fryer

Parabolic solar cookers. I had long thought of something like them. I saw a neat idea at, where they used a fresnel lens to focus the heat off a mirror onto their cookware to make eggs, spaghetti and .. popcorn, I think. I think the popcorn failed, but you get the idea. Or not. Here's a link to that site (and yes, it is popcorn)

I love their videos.

Anyways. I was at the state fair last year when I saw a project a student was doing to generate electricity. He was using an old dish that was discarded to focus the sun onto a heat sink (I think) with a power generator on top of it. He had pictures of it and so on. I thought 'why not do the same, but cook with it? So I looked about for a dish. I have some amazing friends who own a home with an old dish on top. So I asked them if I could come and take it off of their hands. "Sure" they replied. And I did.

I took it home and looked at it for a while. I decided to build a stand for it. So I went to Home Depot and found some scrap wood for a few dollars and grabbed some screws for a few dollars. Total cost: 8 bucks. I then made an "H" stand for it, and mounted it. From there, I glued aluminum foil on the dish itself. (Eventually I will replace with reflective tape- should I ever find some).

At this point, I simply want to test. It will be rudimentary. Eventually I want to be able to adjust it for the sun, and have a swivel plate to put a frying pan on (or whatever).

I came up with this:

Notice the 'H' stand, the aluminum foil that isn't very smooth and how very 'thrown together' the whole thing is. It will mature as I go along.

I used a coat hanger to create the stand. After playing around I found the 'sweet spot' and placed it so the sun would reflect at that exact point. I took my trusty solar pot (it is black and a leftover from an old camping set). Initially I just put a thermometer on the coat hanger stand. It reached 225. I got excited. I replaced the thermometer with the pot- with water in it. I put the cover on.

The pot got hot. The water got hot. Bubbles formed and steam came off of it. I was hopeful this would mean it would go to a full boil. But, alas, it did not. I am not sure how much of this was due to the wind we've been getting. I know it is playing a factor, but not sure how much.

But it did something. So then I considered what to do about making a plate for it. I cast about for what I had on hand. We have a few skewers that I never use a veggie grill plate for a propane stove. And I came up with what is below.

It never boiled. The temperature got to 150, but that's not high enough. But you can see the sun is being concentrated on the pot. The goal, ultimately, is to focus it on the plate and get it hot enough to use a frying pan on top of it. I'll update as I go on this.

Solar ovens in general

Ah solar. I love it. If it didn't cost 2 arms, a leg and a 20 year leash, I'd have solar panels on my roof right now. A solar hot water heater would be on that list (and yes, I am aware that they are not as cost effective as an energy efficient hot water heater, but my goals are to run as much from the sun as I can).

A passive solar house is something I dream of, think of, and want. As I have to convince others who share my home with me on this, it isn't going to happen overnight. But I'll get there. :-)

There are several types of solar cookers:

The ones I've shown in previous posts are 'box cookers'. Meaning they take in the sun and retain the heat, and this, in turn, cooks the food.

Panel cookers reflect the sun from several panels to concentrate the light and heat in a direction to cook the food. The CooKit is one such example. And the only reason I did not get one of these is because they require a plastic bag to be used, and my goals were to make something that didn't require me to have to buy more of something. I do believe they also offer a template of these, should you want to make your own, but the money they make is donated - and they aren't expensive.

This is an image of the CooKit ( Panel cooker.

Solar Kettles- I don't know anything of these. I've not seen them.

Parabolic cookers - I've been intrigued by these. The box cookers are great, but you can't stir fry veggies (and I love stir frying veggies), you can't make scrambled eggs, you can't grill up food in them. They aren't made for it. Parabolic cookers can. So if you have both, you eliminate the need for your oven and stove combo. And why would I want that? Here in Phoenix, the summer daytime temps go above 110 and the nighttime temps can hang around in the 90s. Thus, it is hot hot hot. Normally the desert cools off at night, but the city is so large that we have a 'heat island' effect, and so the concrete retains the heat and cooks our brains.

Any person on a budget views summertime electric bills here with fear. It is damn hot and it is damn expensive to cool your house (unless you have a passive solar home, in which you may still require some cooling options because of the heat island). Cooking anything in your house simply heats it up. That's great when it is cold outside, but sucks beyond belief when you are trying to lower the temperature inside of it. And running the oven and stove forces the AC (or Swamp Cooler) to run harder and longer.

Some people grill outside all summer. Some people cook and bake in the early hours of the day. Me? I'd like to use the sun to do my cooking for me. So .. parabolic cookers. Interesting idea.

The one posted above tries to do, in my opinion, what a box cooker does.

According to the wikia page, there are also hybrid solar cookers that can either use the sun or electricity. I call this cheating. But I readily admit that nothing sucks worse than having clouds roll in and your meal is left unfinished. And that is a downside to solar cooking.

Solar oven part 3 - my baby

I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could cook in the winter time, with the sun so low in the sky. I considered wooden solar ovens. I considered buying a solar oven online, but my goals had always been to do this with as little expense as possible. And up to this point, I had succeeded. I read online ( and spent a lot of time thinking about it. My birthday was approaching and I was asked what I wanted. I sent off a link of a solar oven I had eyed, but didn't put much stock into getting as it cost a good chunk of change. 

To my surprised, I did get it. 

This solar oven came from The Solar Oven Society. Included in the kit was the oven itself, 2 pots with lids, the reflector (not shown) the thermometer and a device to tell you when water is potable (should you need to treat your water). It also worked year around, simply by turning it over and lying it on its back. This allowed it to get more direct sunlight from the lower angles of winter-time sun.

(As as aside, these ovens are made from recycled plastic as they state here: "The plastic portions of the Sport are produced from post-consumer PET or recycled pop bottles using a special process developed exclusively for the Solar Oven Society. It takes 68 20-ounce recycled pop bottles to make one oven. The Sport is one of the first products, and the largest injection molded part, made from post-consumer PET.") 

As long as the weather wasn't cloudy and the temperature wasn't below 40 degrees, I could cook. And I did. I have used this oven between 1 and 3 times a week since then. I've baked bread in it, cooked steak, made chili, stew, 'baked' potato, and many other things. I am slowly working on gathering recipes that I can and will share as I go. 

Now, please don't be discouraged. I plan on using all 3 ovens to try and show what you can cook with them. And I still plan on trying to put together an oven that is inexpensive and usable year around. My goals are still to cook using as frugal a method as possible- while still making good food.