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Living Notes

written by Rene K. Mueller, Copyright (c) 2007, last updated Fri, April 4, 2008

Updates

Sun, December 23, 2007: Added a few delicious jam recipes.

Sat, November 17, 2007: Non-dairy recipes added, soy-, rice- and oat-milk, as well my own soy yogurt recipe. First version, separated from my Yurt Diary for now, with a few hints on cooking, washing and shower.

Here a few notes on living in a temporary building, partially "off the grid".

I still can use the WC and laundry machine of the farmer who rents me space for the yurt. This means I haven't build myself an off-the-grid toilette (e.g. compost toilette), neither a laundry facility as of now - this may chance as I dislocate spring 2008.

For now these notes which may be useful for you too:

Cooking

Water Usage

I usually cook with a little amount of water and reduced amount of pots. Use the right amount of water to boil pasta or rice, so no water is cant away, with little experience you will know how much water is sufficient. There is no reason to use so much water than it has to be cant away once rice or pasta is finished boiling.

Hint: short before water runs short while cooking, add more cold water slowly - use it as base of a souce: use a small bowl, put some flour, and cold water, and mix it - then add it to the cooking pot of pasta or rice.

Cook pasta or rice including the vegetables, choose the right moment to put vegetables in (fast cooking vegetables rather late, long boiling vegetables along with rice or pasta). The lesser pots you use the less water you require to clean them again.

Example recipe:

  • 2 cups of rice (sufficent for two meals), apprx. 20 min to cook
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 garlic toes
  • 2-3 zucchini

Cook rice with water, apprx. double height of rice as water in the pot. Add small cut carrotes at the beginning. Add half of small cut garlic from the beginning, keep other half to add 5min before finishing cooking. Add small cut zucchini 10min after carrotes. Last 5 mins add salt and spices (e.g. curry). Pay close attention the last 5-8min when water may run short, add short before finish some olive oil.

As a general reflection, once in a while visitors suggest to me "improvements", like using a hose to have running water, more light, modern stove, etc. and in particular about running water I realized if I had a hose and running water I would not have started to appreciate water as precious as I do now. It's certainly a way of learning - I do have almost all day running water at the well nearby, ca. 5m away, yet, I prefere to get it by PE bottles.

Reuse Leftover Creatively

Don't throw food away to compost, e.g. usually when I have it for more than two meals and still leftover, then I spice the rest with more salt, very hot spices, onion or garlic and add lot of oil (e.g. olive oil), blend it with a blender, and cook it again, and fill it up in a jar: paste for bread or additives for rice or pasta menus again, or base for a salad dressing. Good jars are highly recommended, such as ones with soft rubber sealing.

Haybox Cooking

I learned about "haybox cooking" just recently from InTheWake.org: Cooking , where it's shown using a container where you put the food with water to boil, bring temperature to 100°C or boiling (depending on air pressure / elevation), after 5-10 mins depending on food you place the container in a hay insulated contained and leave it for 1-4 hours until it's ready, saving up to 70% of energy. It may most suitable for long cooking vegetables like potatoes, chickpeas etc.

Cleaning Dishes

Step 1: I use small amount of cold water, and no soap, cleaning off the larger parts of leftover from the dishes with a brush. If required I use boiling hot water for very oily dishes, and equipment where sterilizing is important, e.g. jars for self-made yoghurt or jam.

Step 2: Then I use "microfiber" cloth to clean and dry in one step, it absorbs all oil and stain - even though the microfiber cloth will start to smell, it still will clean properly for a long time. Once in a while I wash the "microfiber" cloth along my other clothes.

If you have a lot of dishes to clean, some people use some little soap so the oil washed off by the brush doesn't attach itself on the brush itself and the surface of the bowl where you clean the dishes, yet I don't do this myself.

Washing Body without Shower

I boil a 1/4l hot water, and mix it with 1/4l cold water, into a bowl - there I wash myself using a piece of cloth with little use of soap. If I feel dirty (e.g. after riding bicycle through various cities with lot of pollution) I wash myself with soap first, and 2nd step with hot water to remove the soap. I use as little soap as possible, e.g. for the legs and arms I don't use soap, only a little for the face, armpits, and personal parts. It's very noteable one is able to wash oneself with much more care and awareness than standing under the shower and pouring large amount of water, soap and shampoo over oneself.

First it's a bit a "step back" but I don't miss the shower anymore in through the winter months where I can't use the "camp shower" which uses sun heat to warm up.

Washing Hair

I used to wash my hair frequently before I moved into the yurt, now I do it maximum once a week, usually every 2nd week, and my head skin does much better. I also use a minimum of shampoo, e.g. really a drop or two, not more.

Heating 1/3l water, and mixing with 2/3l water in a bottle, use 1-2 dl to wet your hair over a bowl, and then 1-2 drops of shampoo, rubbing on both hands and then shampoo your head over a bowl. Take your time, at minimum 5min - the longer the better. Then with the rest of water wash the shampoo off, 6-8dl are sufficient with neck long hair, longer hair may require more water.

Note: Use very little shampoo, I bought a bottle of shampoo of 250ml, and after one year I used half of it. It is a false idea to use shampoo extensively, it dries your skin and finally you use oil to provide the moisture, it's a vicious cycle to "rape" your skin, rather treat your skin with little soap and oil as possible.

Summer Shower

I use a "camp-shower" which is essentially a black bag with a hose on it, fill it with 10-20l and heat it up in the sun light - usage this way limited in summer months.

In winter it can be used by heating hot water and mixing it with cold water and fill the bag for a shower. I personally haven't used the bag this way yet.

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