"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Monday, 28 March 2011

Earth hour and energy efficient cooking

On Saturday evening we switched off our power. I had signed the petition at Earth Hour a couple of months ago, and once I give my word, I can't take it back.

We had participated in Earth Hour last year, so I knew that RMan would have no objection.

But - Earth Hour has taken it one step further - they have requested that we take the hour further by commiting to action which takes us beyond the hour.  Make long lasting changes, wherever you can, to reduce your electricity usage.  I like that :-)

This past week we had a few days with overcast skies - threatening rain, but nary a drop on the side of the mountain where we live.  T'is so very dry - the pavement grass is all crispy brown, and even the bushes are all drooping.  So sad.

But, here in cape Town we have a Mediterranean climate - which means we get rain in winter, and Cape Town celebrates that with what they call the "Green Season".  Hotels, bed 'n breakfasts and guest houses offer specials, so do restaurants - all trying to attract business.  It works too - for we get many tourists during that time - well, it doesn't rain every day!  And the Western Cape in winter is stunning!  If we do get snow, then it mainly falls onto the Mountain tops - and mad Capetonians all get in their 4 X 4's and rush off to try and reach the snow so that they can have a snowball fight LOL
I love the rain, and far prefer a wet climate to the winters' which they get upcountry - freezing nights, hot-ish days - but unfortunately all the shopping centres have their warm air conditioners blasting away - so hot, in fact, that when one walks into the centre, you have to strip off your layers of clothing, for fear of fainting in the heat.  Such a waste of energy, I feel.  And up country they get the winter crispy brown grass which we experience at the end of our summer.  Such a depressing sight - especially when your (sun)light is weaker.

Winter should be winter - be that rain or snow.  Sunlight, in my book, does not make winter.

But, with the decrease in sun available to me in our south facing garden, I have had to make a plan, cooking wise.  My solar cooker goes into hibernation in winter - although on the farm I wil be able to use it all year round.

So I tend to make lots of soups and stews.

Moroccan Beef
But I don't make winter food conventionally.

For instance, for Earth Hour, I made Moroccan Beef, with baby potatoes (RMan doesn't like couscous) prunes, butternut and chickpeas.  I left the meat part of the dish to RMan and RSon, and only ate the vegetables and gravy - absolutely delicious.
RSons old toybox, converted into a
hotbox / haybox, filled with shredded paper
from the office.
The meal was as tender as butter.  And I did that with a maximum of only half an hour of cooking (simmering) on my stove top, and 6 - 7 hours of cooking in my hot box.  The hot box really does produce the most tender, tasty food you will ever eat, with a gravy which contains all the goodness of the raw food that you placed in the pot. (In conventional cooking far too much of that goodness escapes in the steam.) And this type of food preparation uses a fraction of the energy that would normally be expended by a stove top meal.  In fact, it uses even less than a slow cooker :-)

And for the bread, which RMan loves to sop up the gravy with, I made a loaf of beer bread in the barbecue...
Bread baked in the barbecue
(I'm not normally so wasterful - usually I would simultaneously do a roast chicken, or something similar, whilst I have the barbecue lit.)  The addition of the unglazed clay floor tile (from the farm) works a treat, for that disperses the heat underneath the grill, and also warms up nicely to assist in baking the base of the bread :-)

We had asked friends to join us for dinner - to share Earth Hour with us.  We had finished eating 7.30pm, so we switched everything off, pulled out the candles, and an old box of Trivial Pursuit from the '80's LOL  What a trip down memory lane!

We didn't play it conventionally, with the board.  Instead we turned it into a type of "Who wants to be a Millionaire" game - the quizmaster (we all took turns) had to pick a question, any question, from the card, and devise four answers, using the correct one as one of the options.  (That's not easy, hey - it really challenges what you think you know!!  In reality we are all the Weakest Links LOL))  Then the players had to jointly decide which was the correct answer.

It was so much fun (well, to be fair I reckon the two bottles of wine helped also) that by the time we realised that Earth Hour was over, it was 12.45 a.m.  We hadn't used any electricity for over 5 hours!

A perfect evening - and enjoyed without any modern conveniences at all!  Why do we think we are so dependent on modern conveniences?  Why do we allow ourselves to be so dependent?  Have we forgotten that sitting round a candlelit table, playing a game with the family, can be fun.

Such a simple pleasure.  And one which we can all afford - for after all, all it is costing us is our time.


  1. What a great idea with your hot box. That is really amazing. I agree, life is much less complicated with less. And in turn, that makes us happier.

  2. Jane - less is indeed more :-)

  3. I Love the hot/hay box idea for cooking and found an article in Mother Earth News (U.S.A.) how to make one. Your evening around the table playing a game sounds like fun. I have that same edition of Trivial Pursuit ;)

  4. Mrs Mac - the funny thing is, one doesn't think a hot / hay box would work, but damn, it does!!

    Trust me - t'was a fun evening... ;-)

  5. I'm so excited .. I have rigged up a hot box and dinner is cooking unattended :) Will blog about it tomorrow. On the menu .. Beef stew.

  6. Mrs Mac - your excitement is infectious - I can't wait to read about your meal. I hope you remembered to return the pot to boiling point just prior to serving?


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