A little conservation

We cook from a little propane camping stove with two burners. It runs on little quart jar sized disposable propane canisters. When we got here we were in the midst of a record breaking cold streak. Our little straw bale hut is heated exclusively on passive solar techniques. It’s extremely well insulated and has south facing windows that capture the sun. It stays at a comfortable temperature 95% of the time, and we experienced that other 5%. For those days we made a lot of tea to heat us and the place up.

We went through a couple canisters of propane quickly.  I found where the spent containers end up: there are dozens of them stacked up in a corner of a trailer on the property. Unable to be recycled, they wait until someone has figured out what to do with them. It made me feel more aware of the impact we make with our cooking.  Made me want to minimize that impact.

Already we are using no refrigeration and have found ways to adapt to that. Being the desert, it always cools off at night, and if you leave a cooler outside in the shade the temperature inside will stay fairly cool. We only get as much milk as we can drink in 3-4 days, and most everything else will last over a week.


We’ve started to employ some techniques to reduce our need for propane. Grains like rice and quinoa (which we eat a lot of) are brought to a boil in water then continued at a simmer until they are cooked. We’ve found that after the grain is brought to a boil, we can take the pot off the heat and wrap it up in insulation (we use our sleeping bag), and the trapped residual heat finishes the job. It takes more time, but uses half as much propane.

Also, sun tea! Making sun tea is a breeze.  Just fill a glass jar with tea and water (cold water is fine), then set it out in a warm and sunny spot.  Wait a few hours, then strain and drink.  It’s such an easy way to brew tea without using any energy, save that which comes directly from the sun.

Disposable propane tanks are not ideal, and I’d prefer a lot of different methods to cook my food. Still, I’m grateful that they have me feeling more conscious about my fuel use than if I just got a heating bill every month.




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