Thursday, August 18, 2011

Baby, It's Hot Outside

It seems like, for the past couple months, every other Facebook entry was talking about this unusually hot summer everyone has been experiencing. We haven't been experiencing quite the same heat wave since we have winter this time of year. But, since we can swim year-round the sun is our constant companion for better or worse. 

One of our biggest goals as orphanage directors is to find ways to keep our operating costs down and provide the most reliable services. Up until recently our options for cooking were electric or natural gas energy. Many times the electricity was out or too low a current to operate an electric stove. Natural gas is a natural (sorry) solution, but the only problem is that we have to bring the bottles up from Lusaka. We have a transporter that we work with, but he is not always reliable. Our final option is charcoal but this is a serious cause of deforestation in this country and we really try to avoid using this option.

One compact package
Tom has been researching using solar energy and has even worked on his own design but found it difficult to come up with the raw materials. This was why he got very excited when he found a company called Sun Ovens. They are a small company that builds portable solar ovens that are affordable. The ovens are so portable that they can be taken on as luggage on a plane. That's how we got them over here. Our latest team brought them with them as check in luggage.

Very portable for packing,carrying & storing when not in use.
I was skeptical, but like a good wife I listened and supported Tom in this new idea. Then, after we had ordered the ovens and were just waiting for the team to bring them over, I came across an email with a link to this blog post. I got very excited about the possibilities. Tom just rolled his eyes and said, "But that's what I've been telling you for months". I guess I had to hear it from a woman. LOL
We ordered pots and bread tins with our ovens and all that packed right into the oven for easy transport.

It's fun to have these space-age looking contraptions sitting in our driveway.

The oven gets up to between 300 and 350 degrees (Fahrenheit) after just 30-60 minutes in the sun  

Our first 'meal' was a vegetable stew. We threw a few veggies and some beef stock into the little pots and within a few hours everything was cooked and delicious. There is a bit more work involved with a solar oven than in using a crock pot or slow cooker since the sun oven needs to be moved every 30 minutes for optimum heat but, as Tom says, "The food tastes better when it's free".

I've cooked chicken, curries, soups, lentils, cakes and more in the sun oven. My cakes still need tweaking (remember the Dr. Suess cake?), but I'm looking forward to the experimenting and practicing. I'll let you know how things go.

Do you think you would ever consider using a solar oven? I never thought I would, but this is an exciting chapter in the Adventure of My Life.

Sun Ovens is not paying for this review. We did get a non-profit discount, but this review is completely my own opinion because I simply LOVE saving money.


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