Early Summer Update, Solar Oven, and Baby Robins

By , June 13, 2010

How’s your summer going so far?

Mine’s nice! It’s just starting to get hot here, after an unusually cool, wet, windy spring. I usually don’t love hot weather, but the heat feels good right now, after being cold for such a long time…for the last 8 months, it seems.

I spent the last 3 weeks house/cat sitting for my parents, since they were out of town house sitting for family friends. It was great to stay in a real house with a real yard. While of course we have a nice apartment in the attic of a 100-year-old house, I do miss having a clothesline, a private yard, a front and back porch, and my gardens. I spent most of my time outside on the porch, reading and drinking tea! It was like a little retreat. And since my parents have a piano, I played a lot of piano while I was there. I love playing; it’s both a creative outlet and a stress release for me. Though I sure hated those piano lessons in my younger years! But now, I’m so glad my mom & dad forced me to stick with it. (Side note: If you’re considering the Suzuki method of piano instruction for your children, beware! I’ve been playing since I was seven… I took Suzuki lessons for nine years… and I still cannot read sheet music proficiently and I really regret that! It takes me hours upon weeks to learn a complicated piece, and although I then have it memorized, I would give anything to be able to sit down in front of an unfamiliar piece of music and just play it. If I were going to invest in piano lessons for my children, I would make sure they learned how to read music!) Anyway, moving right along!

In other news, my gardens are doing well; as always, some veggies are doing better than others, and it’s different year to year. This year the spinach did nothing. Which was actually fine with me, since last year it went berserk and grew waist-high (it actually did!). The kale has more than made up for that, having self seeded from last year. We have organic, homegrown Red Russian Kale everywhere! What a wonderful “problem”! I’ve been making lots of lacto-fermented kale (like sauerkraut) with good results. The recipe for that is forthcoming.

I’ve heard you can also toast kale in the oven at high heat to make kale crisps. Has anyone tried that?

Over Memorial Day Weekend, I hauled out my solar oven while I was house sitting. I built it six years ago and used it all the time that first year, but since then it’s mostly been in the shed, sadly. I dusted it off, and baked some wonderful things in it – eggs topped with garden herbs and parmesan cheese, apple-blueberry crisp, and a homemade frozen calzone. The temperature inside reached an amazing 330*F! I’m going to write up and post some instructions for you on how to build a solar oven…it’s easy, cheap (a few dollars total), and completely fun and satisfying to cook stuff using nothing more than the sun in the sky. [UPDATE: I’ve posted the instructions here.] It’s also very useful for summer cooking, since you don’t have to heat up the house with your regular oven – and of course that will also save you money on the energy bill.

Baking herbed eggs with parmesan and apple-blueberry crisp in the solar oven.

I have to show you one more thing. There’s a brand new family of robins at the house next to my parents’. The house sitting job came at the perfect time because I was able to watch each day as the robins vigilantly sat on their eggs, keeping very silent so as not to attract attention. One day the robin was gone, and instead I saw a little yellow beak — wide open — waving frailly back and forth above the edge of the nest. Now there are four little babies packed into that nest, and every day they’re bigger and stronger. It’s so incredible to watch! Take a look:

Mama's tasks: 1.) Be very quiet. 2.) Keep eggs warm.

"What do I do with it?"

...And Then There Were Three...

A fresh, plump worm for snack.

I'm still HUNGRY!

A quiet moment.

FEAR. (She had just heard crows squawking overhead.)

Serving up dinner bugs.

You'd be exasperated too.

5 Responses to “Early Summer Update, Solar Oven, and Baby Robins”

  1. Mary says:

    About how long does it take to bake something in your solar oven? … about as long as a conventional oven? I’ll be looking forward to seeing just how you put yours together.

    And your bird pictures are GREAT!

  2. snowpeas says:

    What a great post, and the pictures of the robin family are extraordinary!

  3. KC Compton says:

    Hi Lindsey:

    I enjoyed your blog and thought you might be interested in a recipe for kale crisps, from an article we excerpted from the Frugal Foodie cookbook: http://www.herbcompanion.com/cooking/the-frugal-foodie-kale-krisps.aspx

    So glad to read about your great garden-y, herb-y life!


    K.C. Compton
    The Herb Companion

  4. Lindsey says:

    K.C. –
    Excellent! Can’t wait to try the Kale Krisps! That’s exactly what I was looking for…thank you!

    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  5. Lindsey says:

    Hi Mary,
    Generally the solar oven cook times seem to be about the same; my frozen calzone went from freezer to sizzling in about 40 minutes (with a nice crispy crust!), which is about the time it takes in the regular oven at the same temperature. I noticed that when I put my apple-blueberry crisp into the solar oven, though, the temperature dipped for a while because of the somewhat large mass of cold food. The oven slowly climbed back up to 330*, but for that dish, I’d say the cook time was longer than the regular oven. Hmm, so maybe the answer to that is “it depends”. Not too helpful…ha!

    It’s funny because you can smell your food cooking from across the yard; that’s how I know it’s almost done.

    Aren’t those bird pictures neat? So amazing to watch those little babies. I can’t wait to go back and take more pictures. I bet they’re a lot bigger even now!

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