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First Advocacy at an Event in 3 Parts

 
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SharonID



Joined: 24 Jun 2007
Posts: 74
Location: northern Idaho

PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 10:20 pm    Post subject: First Advocacy at an Event in 3 Parts Reply with quote

Solar Cooking Goes to the Santa Barter Fair, part one

My first full-scale solar cooking demo/display at a public event was a smashing success! Every September, we attend a Barter Fair in a mountain meadow near Santa, Idaho. This year I took my solar cooking advocacy to the fair. The display/demo was on Sunday, 9/9, from late morning through the afternoon.

The day was as perfect as September is going to get, with not a cloud in the sky and only a very tiny ambient bit of smoke/haze, and being close to 4,000 ft. altitude didn't hurt. I had to do it on my own... for various good reasons I won't go into, my husband couldn't camp overnight and stay for Sunday this year, and I couldn't pull everything together in time to do the demo on Saturday, so I had to manage the whole thing single-handedly (except for putting up the little picnic shelter/pavilion that the info and food prep tables, etc, went under, which he helped me with Saturday night, a very nice thing as it has 31 poles to connect up and would be very difficult to erect single-handedly).

It was super. I made up a sheet listing "Solar Cooking Advantages" that I printed on nice yellow cardstock to put on the two front corners of the booth, and it looked very nice. There was an information table in front, with the latest version of the leaflet for those with internet access, my own sheet of tips for solar panel cooking, a copy of my article from our Co-op Newsletter and one issue of the SCI newsletter, and even (since a lot of people in northern Idaho live more-or-less off the grid) printouts of the directions for building some of the simpler cookers (ROB, tire-tube, windshield, and SPC), for those who still don't have easy internet access.

As soon as I was up and running (I'd gotten into my sleeping bag in the back of the station wagon rather late the night before and was sort of half-asleep for about the last hour with one eye occasionally open tracking the sun-line so I'd be up as soon as I had the sun close enough), I set up five cookers in a spot just behind the booth that had excellent exposure. Soon after, the first stage of a six-quart batch of vegetable soup was beginning to heat up in my big truck windshield cooker (which is still the fastest-heating cooker I've got, especially for large quantities of food).

I kept an eye on the Easy Lid, and as soon as it was clear that it was going to break 200F and stay there awhile, I mixed up the honey cornbread mix I'd brought along and got that going. The car windshield cooker worked on a big 2-gallon water boiler, for washing-up later on and to show that it really can heat a significant amount of liquid to boiling, the SPC took a half-gallon cooking jar (which also let me showcase one of my favorite oven bag alternatives—a large candle-plate base from the Dollar Store and a top/cover that is a terrific straight-sided vase from Michael's that will take any size cooking/canning jar from pint to half-gallon), and another quart jar of water went into the cute little EZ3 that I've been developing for kid projects (though I can also envision a folding version for backpackers... it will cook a quart if you give it some time and can handle a pint with relative ease).

(Continued in response, because longer posts are getting cut off)

Regards,
SharonID
_________________
Idaho Regional Representative, International Women's Writing Guild
Visit the Guild at: http://www.iwwg.org/


Last edited by SharonID on Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:47 am; edited 1 time in total
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SharonID



Joined: 24 Jun 2007
Posts: 74
Location: northern Idaho

PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 10:21 pm    Post subject: part 2 Reply with quote

Everything cooked along nicely as I talked to passersby, chopped some more veggies to add to the canned tomatoes, corn, and lentils that were the base to the soup, and kept an eye on the cookers to keep them oriented nice and hot. The oven held steady at 225F or slightly above for hours and hours... pretty good for September in the north and plenty hot enough to cook the cornbread. Once the hard veggies were in and the soup had come to a good simmer, I added the preheated small flower pasta and quinoa and the chard leaves (which were very fresh and tender and would have overcooked if added at the beginning) and continued to work the crowd as people passed by (telling them to come back later for a sample of the soup and cornbread). I provided inexpensive sunglasses (but at least they were labeled "UV Protection") for people to borrow if they wanted a close look, and somehow managed to do a pretty good job of covering both sides of the operation.

People were very impressed! When they heard there were five cookers in action right behind the booth, almost everyone went to take a look, and some of them looked for quite a while. Most of them had heard of solar cooking but had no idea how relatively easy it is to accomplish. The truck windshield was very impressive with the big, black six-quart pot in an oven bag, obviously getting very hot, and the Easy Lid impressed everybody, too, as the thermometer hung from the back clearly showed it holding at a strong 225F for hours. A few people had a hard time believing that there wasn't something in the tubs that held the windshield funnels making the heat, but I assured them that the only thing in them was rocks to keep them from going over in the wind.

I was too busy being in two or three places at once to really track the numbers, but I would guess at least 300 people took a good look at the cookers and picked up information over the course of the late morning and afternoon, and at least a hundred people got a small sample of suncooked soup and a little piece of the cornbread. They were all impressed that one could cook such delicious foods with the free and abundant power of sunshine, and with power costs continuing to rise, people who do live on the grid are well aware that even small savings can add up over time.

I answered questions and pointed out benefits, doing my best to target the people I was talking to. Young men were assured that there are models you can make that fold flat for camping and travel. Housewives got the rap about the delicious flavors, convenience of getting much of the food prep out of the way early in the day (slow-cookers are very popular with many American housewives, so they can relate well to that aspect), keeping a cool kitchen, and easy clean-up of the pots and pans, and I also explained how to use a box oven to keep foods warm, if supper time will be after the sun has set. For the full-time fair-nomads, whose whole lifestyle revolves around driving their live-in busses or vans from fair to fair, I pointed out how conveniently the SPC and windshield cookers fold for transport, and I told the ones who seemed most interested that there were even plans for a collapsible box cooker at the website. For older men who were interested in details of the Easy Lid construction (it's painted now, and at least one man was sure it was made of wood!), I gave details, and for at least a few who looked like the barbecue type I mentioned the cooker with the big grill and all those truck mirrors.

(Continued in response, because longer posts are getting cut off.)

Regards,
SharonID
_________________
Idaho Regional Representative, International Women's Writing Guild
Visit the Guild at: http://www.iwwg.org/
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SharonID



Joined: 24 Jun 2007
Posts: 74
Location: northern Idaho

PostPosted: Mon Sep 17, 2007 10:23 pm    Post subject: part 3 Reply with quote

I also talked about the benefits in the 'big picture' of the larger world, the wonders it is working in areas of deforestation, refugee camps, areas with unsafe water, etc, and made sure they knew that the SCA website has information on developments on those fronts, too. I think some people really intend to check us out... I hope so. (If anyone from Santa Barter Fair is reading this, hi and welcome! Register and post a response so I'll know you're here!) Maybe by next summer there will be a lot more cookers winking on in the fields, forests, and mountains of my region. I would think that the people who cook with wood year round here would find the idea of a cooler alternative in the hottest weather very attractive.

Packing up and loading up all by myself was a bit of a nightmare, as I'd only had about three hours of sleep Fri. night and maybe five on Sat. night, and then was literally on my feet and mostly on the run for most of Sunday (between what I needed for the solar trip and what I needed for my own little camp, we're talking a medium size station wagon loaded almost to the roof plus a clamshell type top carrier stuffed to the gills). I was so tired by the end of my very successful event that there was no way I could pack and load it all on Sunday, so I stayed over one more night and had to pack out in the heat of the day, but I eventually managed it and made it down the road a couple miles to a friend's house (the one I built the memorial cooker for) and took a break and bit of a nap there before the rest of the 60 mile drive home (which also meant I drove it in the slightly cooler early evening instead of the heat of what was probably one of the last upper-80s days of the year).

Got home exhausted but safe, and very proud of myself for pulling it off. I'm really glad I did it, because it looks like my solar project with the Roots & Shoots kids is going to have to be put off until spring due to various school scheduling conflicts. I just got connected with a local group called Backyard Harvest that helps channel people's extra garden/home orchard produce to people who need the fresh foods, via the Food Bank system. They're taking some of my overabundance of the few things I have an overabundance of this year (the grasshoppers have been horrible beyond anything I have ever seen in thirty years of gardening and have completely done in several crops that are usually dependable, and the deer got some of the rest). Anyway, the chairperson or coordinator or whatever she is and I are discussing the possibility of some sort of solar project in the spring that would use their chains of communication to reach people who are living on very thin shoestrings, to whom even a small savings from the free, abundant power of the sun could be significant. I might be able to reach a lot of people with that idea. We'll see, but I'm hopeful.

Anyway, my first big event advocacy was a really good start, and I'm working on more ideas for how to promote this most excellent idea of cooking with sunshine. Cool

Regards,
SharonID
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Idaho Regional Representative, International Women's Writing Guild
Visit the Guild at: http://www.iwwg.org/
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coconino



Joined: 21 Nov 2006
Posts: 77
Location: Sunny Brixton

PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sharon, thank you so much for posting that really inspiring report and well done for putting the demonstration together. Did you take any photos you could post? I'd love to see how your stand looked, especially as you and I were doing our exhibitions on the same day but thousands of miles apart! I reckon that when I was packing up my stand around 6 pm it would have been about 11 in the morning there and just when your cookers were really getting going. It's kind of nice to think of handing-on the baton like that (and it's given me an idea!)

I hope you get some good feedback from your visitors; It was surprising and gratifying how much interest there was even though the day here wasn't bright enough to cook, and I hardly had time to do anything but chat to people. Someone brought me a cup of tea which was cool by time I got to it. One thing which came out of my event was that a local permaculture group has asked if I'd be interested in running a cooker-building module as part of the courses they do, and of course I'd be very interested!
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SharonID



Joined: 24 Jun 2007
Posts: 74
Location: northern Idaho

PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2007 3:24 am    Post subject: PHOTOS! Reply with quote

I finally learned how to compress the photos so they're not totally enormous for sending and uploading. I am such a tehno-klutz! Wink

The photos were, unfortunately, taken very late in the day, when the sun was low and the people were mostly gone, because what with minding the whole operation of information and five running cookers single-handedly (except for a couple of darling friends who helped parcel out soup and cornbread samples), there wasn't time for shooting pictures! I would estimate though that at least three hundred people toured the cookers and at least 100 people got small samples of the soup and cornbread. It was quite a bustling place at the height of the afternoon!

Anyway, here's the front booth, with the information table way out front because it followed the shade during the afternoon



Next we have the five cookers I had up and running (impressively so... I really lucked out with the sky and altitude does help) all afternoon - my first kind-of-original EZ3 (sort of a hybrid panel oven, since the whole cooker is enclosed in an oven bag), my first Easy Lid, 2 winshiield funnels (one car and one truck, though the truck one looks smaller because it is farther back, but it's really a monster that can handle food by the double gallons or up to ten pounds of meat in good sun), and my first SPC.



Last, but by no means least, a picture of the last bit of delicious soup that at least 100 people got to sample, plus the last bit of solar cornbread in the upper left corner:



So finally, there are a few pictures from that event!

Regards,
SharonID
_________________
Idaho Regional Representative, International Women's Writing Guild
Visit the Guild at: http://www.iwwg.org/
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