Two years ago James and I decided to replace our gas range with an electric one. The gas range was 20-years-old and the control panel was cracked and wearing out. But then COVID struck and no way were we going to have someone in our house. So we waited.

The cracked timer button broke. The electric ignition on one of the front burners stopped working, so when turned on, the gas would pour out but wouldn’t light. And then the articles about how polluting gas stoves are started appearing. It turns out gas stoves leak methane even when they are turned off, not to mention that burning gas in your house sends dangerous chemicals into the air you breathe.

Our electricity provider does not generate all electricity from renewable sources. If I can believe the numbers on their website, about half of my electricity comes from renewable sources and the rest from gas and coal. So an electric range is, in a way, outsourcing the gas pollution, moving it from my home to somewhere else. It’s truly hard to get a complete win on energy right now unless you don’t use it at all.

We shopped around for a range and decided on one made by Frigidaire. It’s a pretty basic model with no bells or whistles. We don’t need a large range, or a double oven–there isn’t room in our small kitchen for that sort of nonsense. Nor do we need a “smart” range to spy on us. Even a basic “dumb” induction range is spendy, but we’d been saving.

And it’s a good thing we saved, because the work to upgrade the electrical in our 1950-built house cost more than the range did by almost two times! And add to the expense sheet the need for a whole new set of pots and pans. Our beloved 30-year-old copper-bottom pots do not work on an induction range so we had to get new stainless steel pots with stainless steel bottoms. We can still use our cast iron pans though, we just have to be very careful to not slide them because they can scratch the stovetop.

By Tuesday afternoon this last week, everything was all set up and James was deep into figuring out how to cook on it. With gas you just turn the flame higher or lower, you can see it. But on an induction stove, you have to choose a number 1-10. Assuming 5 is medium heat, but how hot is medium on this thing? Judging by the speed the pot boiled over, pretty hot.

The oven is wonderfully insulated. It takes much longer to heat up than the gas oven did though. James baked bread last night and got a little frustrated over how long it took. However, once up to temperature, it heats much more evenly and the bread came out beautifully.

Once he gets it figured out, he has to teach me how to use it, because right now I don’t even know how to boil water for tea on in it! Seeing how the heat dome has arrived, I’m not currently interested in hot tea anyway.

Solar oven with a pan of granola inside
Solar oven

The electric range is not our only new cooking device. We bought a solar oven! We had intended to make one for years. I have a folder with plans in it for various solar oven designs. James even salvaged a piece of glass about a year and a half ago for it. But as days and months and years went by and we still hadn’t built a solar oven we decided it might be best to just suck it up and buy a high quality one someone else made. So we did!

Sun Oven is made in the United States and is sturdy as heck and really well designed. In addition to the basic oven, we got the dehydrator racks too.

Eager to give it a try, last Sunday we set it up on the deck and put a pan of granola in it to bake. The thermometer shot up to 400 degrees F within minutes. We were so excited. Look at us, cooking with the sun!

Ten minutes later, a thunderstorm blew in from nowhere and it was pouring rain. But that’s ok, the storm only lasted for about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the clouds never cleared away and there was no more sun for the rest of the day.

The following day was also cloudy.

On the third day, we had sun! Lots of hot sun. The granola cooked up in 30 minutes. And since there was still lots of sun, James also roasted pepitas to make into pepita seed butter.

The sun oven is great and we love it. The only drawback, of course, is the oven only works when there is sun. We are in for a long string of really hot days. I expect most of them will also be sunny. So we will see if we can figure out how to use the solar oven as a slow cooker to bake our beans or tofu or whatever while we are gone at work all day. We will be certain to have a back up plan in case of unexpected clouds.

In the Garden

My part of Minnesota is currently in a moderate drought. James and I have been watering the garden frequently. Thankfully, it is not as bad as last year’s drought, so I am not watching all my veg slowly die. Some parts of the garden are crispy though. The snap peas gave up pretty early, producing only a few small pods. The mustard had begun well in the cool, wet spring, but once it turned hot and dry it bolted without getting big enough to harvest more than once.

The summer squash plants are all small, but flowering. No squash yet though. So far only male flowers like last year. I’ve started giving them even more water and I hope that will help.

green beans
First green beans of 2022

The bush beans are doing well though, especially with no rabbit eating them. And today I picked the first beans of the season. The pole beans are all getting tall and some of them are starting to flower. We plant Kentucky Wonder along the side of the deck and then string twine up to the deck rail for them to climb up. I noticed today that two of them have made it all the way up already.

We are picking raspberries, black currants, and red currants. No gooseberries this year since the rabbit pruned them. But they are all looking good so next summer I hope to be in gooseberry heaven.

The apple trees are loaded with apples. The grapevine is covered in clusters of green globes that are slowly getting bigger and bigger. We gave the vine a hard prune in spring after I read that fruit grows on new shoots, and it worked! Actually, the entire vine has grown like crazy. I will not feel bad pruning in spring next year.

Lucy still has a plucked naked chest, and Ethel is still terrified of both the Dashwoods, but there has been no new chicken drama of late.

There was a moment early in the morning last weekend, around 6 a.m. while we were having breakfast and I looked out the window and saw some large creature moving through the garden greenery. I thought it was a cat at first, but the critter was not moving like a cat. So then I thought perhaps possum. James got up and opened the sliding window and started barking. Since we don’t have a dog, he likes to bark, but I don’t think he is fooling anyone.

The critter did not bolt, but ki did decide to leave the garden once James went stomping out onto the deck. And then he saw not cat, not possum, but big raccoon. Thankfully we had not yet released the chickens from the coop, so they were closed up safe and sound.

Weaving

I mentioned recently that I finished my box loom weaving project. This is the first thing I have ever woven, and it shows. Behold! The spinning tools bag that is too short to be a bag so it got turned into a woven basket:

Yes, it is lopsided and uneven, but it was loads of fun to do and I look forward to learning more and getting better. I will be sending this off to a friend who complains I always tell her about my craft projects but never send her anything I make. I hope she finds it funny. Heh.

I think my next project will be a produce bag that we can use for apples or potatoes. I will make it out of twine from the hardware store. I will do it on a frame loom. So first, I need to make the loom. One should beware of projects that require making things in order to make things, but I love making things so much that I am all in on making a frame loom from pieces of a pallet we scavenged. This means I might not actually get to weaving for some time, but no matter. There is much pleasure in the process and I love learning how to do new things, even when they come out wobbly and uneven and nowhere near the intended result.

Cycling

A couple weeks ago I got to go on a group bike ride with Clarence Eckerson, founder of StreetFilms. StreetFilms produces short films about transportation design and policy with the goal to make streets more livable. He was visiting Minneapolis to learn more about the recent speed limit changes– 20 mph on residential streets and 25 mph on city streets. It’s a long story how I was invited to this ride, but I am happy I was. Clarence is a really nice man and I got to meet lots of other bike people who, when I said I recently went carfree, didn’t blink because most of them were carfree or nearly so.

Anyway, here is the film Clarence made. I didn’t get a speaking part, but I appear multiple times. I am the one in the blue jersey with the white sun sleeves.

Reading
Listening
  • Podcast: For the Wild: Dr. Max Liboiron on Reorienting within a World of Plastic. This was super interesting. Plastic is not going to go away, so what do we do about it? I learned that islands of floating plastic in the oceans act as little oases that support all kinds of ocean life large and small. Many scientists have zero tolerance for these plastic islands and, after studying them, will remove them from the ocean, thus destroying the island of life that had adapted itself to the plastic island. I always saw plastic as a black-and-white issue, but this made me realize there is nuance I must learn to see.
  • Podcast: Green Dreamer: Helena Norberg-Hodge: Reorienting towards economics of happiness. Norberg-Hodge is a treasure of a human being.
Watching
  • Movie: Raising Arizona. Still makes me laugh. Though I realized everyone in the movie has a southern accent. People in Arizona do not have southern accents. What is going on with this? Why did it take me so long to even notice? I feel a small crack has formed in my enjoyment of this movie.

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11 thoughts on “Now We’re Cookin’!

  1. The raccoons…they are everywhere! The wildlife relocation expert who “relocated” 17 from my yard said they’re overpopulated because people don’t trap them for food or pelts anymore.

  2. Exciting times in the kitchen (and outdoors!). And, you’re a movie star! Speaking of movies, Raising Arizona is the funniest movie ever. End of story. I will not be taking any further questions. (we love that movie so much and quote parts of it frequently!) My garden is being really weird this year; we had a very long, late, cold, wet spring, and things are finally heating up a bit (but not too much, thankfully). As a result, none of my lettuce seeds ever sprouted (which is very odd, this has never happened to me — I suspect pests ate them all), my tomatoes are stunted, and my beans are JUST getting started. But, the basil finally sprouted (I have a ‘hot bed’ out by the chicken coop that has herbs and asparagus and the basil likes it out there), and the two zucchinis I planted are blooming. Two zucchinis? What was I thinking?!? (I was thinking that one is for me and one is for the chickens!) After a near-complete failure with anything started from seeds, I finally caved and bought some starts of things that usually do just fine being planted in the ground. Oh well. Next year I will be more diligent with starting things indoors first. My plans for automatic watering systems have not come to fruition, but I still plan to do some this summer. I feel like we are cramming in summer fun this year, after 2-3 years of pandemic depression and lethargy, I finally feel like doing things again — which means that some chores are not getting done. Oh well!

    1. Another Raising Arizona fan! Woot! Sorry to hear of your gardening troubles this year. But I’m glad you were able to get some starts and hope those are doing well. I think with global warming the gardening is going to get weirder and weirder. Heh, i hear you on trying to cram in the summer fun after all the pandemic difficulties. The chores and project will be there, it’s ok to have some fun!

    1. Heh, Melanie, my late reply helps me know that you have a couple zucchinis now! Yay! Thanks for the link to your Rosenberg review. It sounds really interesting!

      1. Yes! I still have flowers, and they’re still falling off, but I did pick two zucchini. One of them is a bit squishy on the end, and I’ve since learned that I may be overwatering them.

          1. I just read your post about the flowers falling off due to a specific temperature range making all the flowers male! My mind is blown. I’ve only had two zucchini so far this year and not another one in sight (but loads of flowers).

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