Last Sunday I began the day as I usually do. I quietly made my way out of bed, trying not to wake the baby beside me, and headed to the stove in the camper to crank out breakfast in the cast-iron skillet. The hungry masses were still asleep as I struck the match and turned the knob to the burner.
Apparently, I hadn’t noticed the night before that I had used the last of the propane to cook supper. And, also apparent, was the fact that I had forgotten to fill our backup propane tank in the weeks since the last tank was emptied.
Since we began this off-grid journey 2.5 years ago, propane has been our main cooking fuel. In the winter we utilize the wood stove as much as we can for cooking and heating water, but for about 3/4 of the year it just hasn’t made sense to heat up this little cabin with a fire.
That said, we know that we want to get away from having to use propane. Long-term it makes more sense to utilize wood, either in a large cast-iron stove or a rocket stove, and possibly our most abundant resources – the sun. Late last year we got a solar oven, and just now the shocking fact that I haven’t shared that with you is occurring to me.
Here she is propped up on one of the many barrels Stewart has acquired for homesteading projects.
Side note: This barrel once contained vanilla extract. It took me days to figure out why in the world the solar oven made everything smell like cookies.
Anyway, bleary-eyed and slightly disoriented last Sunday morning, I did what any capable homesteading woman does. I panicked a little on the inside before realizing that this lack of propane could be a good thing.
Because we try not to make many trips to town, it was a given that we weren’t going to run out and just fill it up. Besides, most filling stations are not available on Sunday anyway. Stewart was already planning to head to town the next day for building materials and would fill our tanks then.
So, being that it was going to be well into the 90s that day, we started a small fire in our Dutch Oven and I threw the skillet on for a breakfast of fried potatoes and eggs. It took me awhile to cook the potatoes, in between adding more sticks to the small fire, and when Stewart walked up for breakfast after his morning chores he said “Hey everybody, it’s like we’re camping!”
I later found out that I wasn’t the only one who just then thought “We’ve been camping for 2.5 years.” But, it’s true what they say, everything tastes better cooked over an open fire.
After breakfast I assembled a couple of pots for the solar oven. Rice and lentils, a common meal for us, went into the solar oven. I thought that would be lunch, but when I checked it around noon neither dish was anywhere near cooked. Plan B was put into play.
Another fire was built, more sticks added, and a one-skillet pasta dish became our lunch.
Thankfully, the lentils and rice were ready to go by 6 p.m. and I wondered what I’d been waiting for. I had been looking forward to using the solar oven in the summer, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. I can’t even tell you what a blessing it has been to not have to cook supper during the hottest part of the day.
The next morning another small fire was built and soaked oatmeal was cooked up quickly.
I’m not sure why I waited for this little practice in alternative fuels, but it was just the kick in the pants I needed. I hope to cook at least one meal per day in the solar oven this summer. Two, if I can get my act together.
And maybe someday everyday can be a day without propane.