Our lovely new home is at the end of a very long dirt road. Given our last home this has provided a measure of peace, quiet and solitude that we appreciate greatly. But there are also some challenges that we have found that we need to adapt to.
The town maintained part of the road ends about a quarter mile before our drive. Our drive is also a bit long. We have decided not to plow the drive and road this winter. Instead we don our snow shoes when we have a fresh snowfall. We pull laundry, groceries and 4 year old on a sled back and forth to our car at the top of the road. The benefit to this is that we are getting a lot of exercise without even thinking about it. The downside is that some services that were once easy to deliver are no longer easy.
One service that will not be delivered is propane gas. We only use this for cooking. Fortunately, we had a delivery the beginning of December when the road was open. But we will not be able to have another delivery until our mud season is over. Hopefully by May. So we must conserve the propane if we want it to last that long.
We have several strategies for conserving the fuel. First we do have a woodstove with a nice flat top. I use this several days a week to slow cook stews. We keep our tea kettle on the stove so we always have hot water for tea. If we need to heat up anything we put it in a pie pan with another pie pan on top of it. When I bake bread I make sure that I am not baking only one item at a time in the oven. So I will time the bread baking with a casserole dinner or muffins. And now there is one more way to conserve fuel...the almost fireless cooker.
I found the original idea for this at John Micheal Greer's (JMG) Blog the Archdruid Report. He has begun his Green Wizard project; in which he shares some ideas from the appropriate technology movement, as a way to learn to adapt and gain skills in a world of diminishing resources. I was inspired by this post on Hay Box cookers or retained heat cookers. In that article, he challenges his readers to try a small experiment with a cork matt, a tea cozy and a metal pan in order to cook some rice. My tea cozies only fit my tea pots so I decided to come up with my own version.
If you would like to try one yourself you will need:
bulky wool yarn, I used Lopi
a large pot holder
a pot for cooking rice in
knitting needles, I used size 10 1/2
a tape measure
a cork mat or a piece of wood, I found an old cutting board at the thrift store for .50.
some wine corks, I have not tried this with the synthetic corks because I was not sure how they would handle high temps. I had some corks saved and some acquired for our wine making.
a glue gun
very basic knitting skills
First, I gathered my corks and arranged them on the board so I would know how they would fit. Then I glued them onto the board.
Then, measure the pot you will be using. Measure height and diameter.
This requires very basic knitting skills. Once you have your measurements you must do a gauge swatch. This will determine how long, and how tall the bottom part of your pot cozy will be. So cast on about 16 stitches, and knit each row for about 16 rows. Cast off. Take your tape measure and lay it flat on your gauge swatch. Count how many stitches are in an inch. My pot measure 21 inches. I had 3 stitches to the inches. I multiplied 21x3=63. This will be the number of stitches I use to cast on. You could add a couple more stitches for selvage ( the stitch lost when sewn up) but you want a snug fit. Now knit to the height of the pot. Cast off.
For the cover I measured the size of the pot holder I would be using. After figuring out the number of inches of the pot holder's width, I figured out the number of stitches and double it. I knit to the height of the pot holder.
Now you will sew your two pieces. For the pot I took a couple of clothes pins and figured out where I would need a hole for my handle. Sew up just these spots. I used a back stitch.
For the top piece, fold and sew up two of the sides.
Weave in the ends. Turn right side out. Put you pot holder in the wool pocket cover. Heat rises and this will help to retain heat.
In part two, I will post about how to use your fireless cooker and our results.
Here are a few helpful links:
How to sew a backstitch.
How to cast on and knit