Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

This past winter, the power was out in my town for 10 days. That is very long time if you aren’t ready for it. If you have a gas stove that work without electricity, you can cook very acceptable meals on your range top, as long as the propane holds out. I have several alternative cooking methods at my fingertips. The are pros and cons to each.

Solar oven

I have a very good solar oven. In the summer, I use it a lot. The temperature gets up to 350 degrees on a sunny day. Keeping the oven oriented to the sun and out of the wind helps a lot in keeping the temp up. Mine has an electric back up in case the sun goes in. I can’t cook anything too tall this way as the oven body is not high. It is best for things like stews and casseroles that need long cooking. Plan on 50% more time than in a conventional oven.

sterno stoves

I have 3 of these little one burner, fold flat stoves.  I keep one in each vehicle. They are cheap, and actually put out quite abit of heat. It works quite well for boiling water and heating soup. I wouldn’t try use it for anything else. The biggest benefit is for the apartment dweller with very little space or someone with very little money.

propane camp stove

These are the 2  burner stoves that a lot of keep with our camping supplies. We cooked on this while our power was out. I was surprised at how efficient it was. Again, one can be had for very little money and the propane canisters are also inexpensive. I store about 25 fuel cylinders.

gas grill

I guess if you have no other option you can cook on your grill but you have to heat the whole thing, even if you only want a kettle of hot water for tea. Not very effiicient. You also have to cook outside which isn’t much fun in a blizzard.


Same as above but uses charcoal instead of propane. I have one, just in case, and I store a couple of bags of charcoal, along with lighter fluid and matches.

Obviously, if you have a wood stove, you will cook on that. Bruce got me a stove top oven for Christmas. You set it on a range top or on top of the wood stave and You have and instant oven. It is not large but you can cook up muffins or meat loaf. i tried out a couple of home made stoves from cans. They use paraffin for fuel. They were smelly and smokey and not at all efficient but you might want to make one with your kids. I like to know how to do things which explains why we spent a couple of hours making a pizza box solar oven with the kids, then another larger solar oven out of some big boxes. I worked pretty well considering it was made from junk we had lying around the house.

The point here is that you never know when you might be without power. Sharon Astyk did a very good post today about all of the scenarios that might leave us in the dark. All are possible and some, quite likely.


I watched a news segment on homelessness in America yesterday. The images of families living in tent cities and walking streets, waiting for shelters to open has haunted me. Today, take a look around your home. Take in the sights and the smells. The home you live in now may not be the home of your dreams. It probably does not measure up to some of the homes you see on television. Perhaps your home is cluttered with the flotsam and jetsam of family life. If Martha Stewart came to call, she might not find you properly decorated for the season. But this is the garden were you must grow for now. This place deserves something from you. The fact that the roof is over your head must be held with gratitude.

Take one small step today to make the house you live in your home. Repair one broken thing. Hang a picture or plant a flower. Buy a fire extinguisher. Wash the windows. In an uncertain future, we must nurture the things we have that are real and abiding; our family, our friends, our communities and our homes.

A good deal of the financial pain that many are feeling today is the result of seeing their homes as financial rather than emotional investments. People who should have known better removed permanent equity for fleeting pleasures; the car, the vacation, the boat. Our country will not recover until we figure out a value system that is based on something beyond a culture of stuff.