Saturday, January 28, 2012

Baking Biscuits in the Woods

Sage and NativeDave with their biscuits
Sometimes I am amazed still that we are able to live a very civilized life in the woods.  Yesterday David and Sage baked biscuits using basic ingredients: flour, baking powder, butter, salt and milk.  The recipe, Baking Powder Biscuits, is here:  You could tweak it to make it more nutritious but this is our first experiment with biscuits from scratch.

Sage and I have baked cookies and pizzas and made peanut butter fudge, all using a propane-powered oven.  Purchased at Cabela's for about $250 but Academy has carried it recently for just under $200.  Here it is:

Propane-powered stove/oven
This appliance also boasts a two-burner stove, as seen in the pic above.  We use the sauce pan above to boil water and pour into a french press to make delicious coffee.  Soups, pasta or rice dishes, and sauteed veggies are made easily and comfortably in regular-sized cookware.  Typically we prepare simple dishes that do not require more than two burners.  With both burners flaming and oven baking, we refill the 20-lb propane tank once every couple of months.  Refilling tanks is convenient: nearly every city and large town in the US has an independent propane dealer, RV park or WalMart nearby that offers this service.  Average price for refills is $15/20-lb tank.  Simple, efficient, economical, off-grid, portable/mobile, and sustainable.

The downside to this Camp Stove/Oven is that it must be used outdoors.  No problem.  Ours is perched on the deck under the rainfly.  Plenty of ventilation as well as protection from rain, falling leaves, and bird droppings (we live within a Live Oak/Redbay forest and have numerous feathered friends.)  Food baking in the oven is sealed away by the door, obviously, but pans on the stove must be covered at all times.  Wildlife is very accustomed to our presence now, and it is not unusual for tiny birds to hop around our deck or fly into our truck and hang out.  I really need to get a pic of that sometime.  Remember that we are on the Texas Coast -- a very breezy place, to say the least.  Only a few times has our flame blown out; see the wind guards surrounding the stove in the pic above.  The other downside to cooking outdoors here on the Coast is insects, primarily I'm referring to mosquitoes.  I nearly gave up cooking last fall because they were so dense.  We have a screen kit we will put up before it gets buggy again.

So what is "sustainable" about this appliance?  First, its size.  Its dimensions are 21" wide x 12" deep x 17" tall.  Compare this with a standard Kenmore gas range: its dimensions are 30" wide x 25.75" deep x 45.375" tall.  Ours is compact, perfect for a small deck attached to a tiny home.  Smaller footprint.  Second, its cost.  While the propane appliance averages around $200, the Kenmore gas range is on sale now for just under $400.  I  have already quoted the cost of operating our range; I can not compare that with the cost of natural gas purchased from a utility company.  If you have that info, please shoot me an email and I'll update this post.  Next, convenience.  The camp stove/oven can go anywhere, anytime.  It's light--it weighs about 20 lbs.  Its energy source is portable and mobile.  The Kenmore range, although a stand-alone, can not go along when you tailgate.  Sure, the Kenmore has twice as many burners as our appliance.  But if you are trying to simplify your life you will learn quickly how to prepare just enough food for the number of mouths you will feed.  You will discover ways to prepare meals that are delicious, nutritious, simple and economical.  Lastly, its energy source.  Propane has been touted as a clean-burning natural fuel.  It is collected in a similar manner to drilling for fossil fuels, and frankly if solar ovens were as efficient as my propane range, I'd prefer to go that route.  Solar ovens are typically too costly and too slow, and perhaps not as versatile as my appliance.  If I find one that is small, cost-efficient, convenient and powered by free and renewable energy from the sun, I'll make the switch immediately.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Best winter we can remember. Warm, dry weather. Crazy busy, almost like spring. New services will be ready by March 1st. Lifestyle consults! And more...