Cooking Without Fire

cooking without fireFire and fuel for cooking are critical needs during an emergency situation. If you are in a location  where you cannot get fuel for fire, what are your alternatives? Why not use the sun!

There are four components needed for solar cooking:
1.  A fire proof container to hold your cooking vessel
2.  Reflective material to capture the sun’s energy and direct it
3.  A black cooking vessel
4.  A stabilizing base

Armed with this concept, Milwaukee retired restauranteur, Tom Burns designed his first solar oven in 1986 and the SUN OVEN® was born. Tom, a world traveling Rotarian, recognized the ever growing need for cooking fuel in developing countries and introduced his SUN OVEN® to the world to help reduce the ever-growing problem of deforestation. He took this centuries old idea and engineered it using cutting edge technologies to produce the world’s most efficient and effective solar cooking devices.

For the past 28 years, SUN OVENS® have been proudly made in the USA using virtually all American made components. We believe in free enterprise and seek to take a private sector approach to helping solve problems, many of which have often been left to governments. Millions of families around the world are benefiting every day from SUN OVEN®  products. We strive to assist entrepreneurs to make and market SUN OVENS® in the country in which they will be used. In addition, we assist in implementing projects to help organizations to gain self-sufficiency through the sale of bakery goods sun-baked in the VILLAGER SUN OVEN®.

The reason we are so passionate about our work in Third World nations is that it saves lives:
•  2.4 billion people still depend on wood, charcoal or dung for cooking fuel.
•  Women who cook with wood or charcoal inhale the equivalent of smoking 3 packs of cigarettes each day.
•  Each year, on the continent of Africa alone, over one million children under the age of 5 die from respiratory related disease. The leading cause of respiratory infections is the indoor air pollution of cooking fires.
•  Up to 85% of the smoke can be eliminated with the use of SUN OVENS®.

When you buy a SUN OVEN® you are helping us with this work. We think it is the ultimate win-win situation when we can help more people in the U.S. discover the joys of cooking with the sun as they help us expand the use of SUN OVENS® around the world.


Water – You Can’t Last Long Without It



Photo: Wikipedia

In its purest form, it’s odorless, nearly colorless and tasteless. It’s in your body, the food you eat and the beverages you drink. You use it to clean yourself, your clothes, your dishes, your car and everything else around you. You can travel on it or jump in it to cool off on hot summer days. Many of the products that you use every day contain it or were manufactured using it. All forms of life need it, and if they don’t get enough of it, they die. Political disputes have centered around it. In some places, it’s treasured and incredibly difficult to get. In others, it’s incredibly easy to get and then squandered. What substance tops the list of necessities for our existence? Water.[1]

Our bodies are about 60 percent water [source: Mayo Clinic]. Water regulates our body temperature, moves nutrients through our cells, keeps our mucous membranes moist and flushes waste from our bodies. Our lungs are 90 percent water, our brains are 70 percent water and our blood is more than 80 percent water. Simply put, we can’t function without it.
When you don’t get enough water, or lose too much water, you become dehydrated. Signs of  mild dehydration include confusion, dry mouth, excessive thirst, dizziness, lightheadedness and weakness. If people don’t get fluids at this point, they can experience severe dehydration, which can cause convulsions, rapid breathing, a weak pulse, loose skin and sunken eyes. Ultimately, dehydration can lead to heart failure and death. [2]
In the United States, water is regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act and distributed by local water treatment companies. They often deliver water and take away sanitary waste through an underground water/sewer system to homes in a community or city. Homes outside the delivery area need to provide their own water source from a well or spring and dispose of waste water into a septic tank. These systems generally rely on electricity to pump and move the water. In the event of an emergency disrupting the electricity, available water will be limited to what you have on hand.
Commercially bottled water for drinking (stored in PETE – food grade plastic containers) can be purchased as long as supplies last. To avoid the panic, storing water in larger containers will allow you to have some available for uses other than just drinking.
Empty Bottles from water, soda, juice, etc., can be used to store extra water. Be sure to wash them carefully with dish soap, sanitize with a bleach solution (one tsp bleach mixed with 1 qt. of water), rinse well and fill with tap water. If you are using municipal water, no bleach is required because it is already chlorinated. Well water should have 2 drops of standard unscented household bleach added per quart. Rotate the water once each year.
 Aqua-tainers holding 5-7 gallons are available in camping supply stores. These are made out of blue food grade plastic and come with a spigot for easy access. 7 gallons of water weighs about 56 pounds. The jugs are stackable, so you can store several in a small area.
Larger storage containers for people with extremely limited storage space include the waterBOB. This plastic container fits into your bathtub and holds 100 gallons of water. Using this will give you water storage without having to wonder when was the last time you cleaned the tub.
Water Barrels hold 55 gallons of water. Store these off direct contact with concrete. You will need a drinking water hose, bung wrench and siphon to start the water flow. [3]




Billie Nicholson, editor
August 2015

Be Prepared! Tips & Tools for Cooking with the Sun

National Preparedness MonthA free interactive online class

Who Should Participate? Anyone who wants to learn more about how to harness the power of the sun to cook, dehydrate, purify water and be better prepared for emergencies.

Date: Monday August 31, 2015

Time: 7 pm CDT (Replays on Demand through September 12)

Duration: 60 minutes plus live Q&A

Overview: Paul Munsen, of SUN OVENS International, will cover everything you need to know about using a SUN OVEN.  He will show how practical and easy it is to cook in a SUN OVEN and discuss the many economic, health and environmental benefits of cooking with the sun.

Learn how to never have to worry about burning dinner again. Discover how to use a SUN OVEN to naturally dehydrate fruits and vegetables. Find out how to reduce your utility bills while helping families in developing countries around the world.

Title: Be Prepared! Tips & Tools for Cooking with the Sun

Time: Monday, August 31st at 7 pm Central Time

Listening Method: Web Simulcast

Space is limited reservations on first come first basis

To Reserve: CLICK HERE

Long Term Storage for Pasta

Contaminated pasta

Often considered the ultimate comfort food (right after chocolate) dried pasta also can last a long time if properly stored. Pasta usually is purchased from a grocer in plastic bags or cardboard boxes. The boxes are marked with a “Best if Used By” date and can last for up to three years in it’s original package. Sometimes pasta is contaminated with weevil eggs which will hatch during a warm summer. We thought we were storing our pasta carefully inside the original box and sealed in a zipping bag. Surprise! If the weevils hatch, they’re not satisfied to stay in the package and just eat the pasta. Oh, no, they chew through the cardboard box and even through the plastic bag!We discovered a contaminated box and into the trash it went. Concerned that the weevils would make their way into other stored packages we began the search for bugs and for a way to help us keep our stored pasta safe. We learned:

1.  Dried pasta stores best long term if it is packed in containers along with an  oxygen  absorber and vacuum sealed.
2.  A dried bay laurel leaf added to pasta, grains or flour will keep the critters away.
3.  Mylar bags can work to preserve pasta, but sometimes the sharp edges cut the plastic and the seal is lost. Instead we use wide-mouth glass jars and attach the sealing top from our Food Saver to pull a vacuum.
4.  If you need to seal jars, but have no electricity to pull the vacuum, use a new brake bleeder. These are available at Harbor Freight. The hose connects to the ones from the Food Saver and with a little hand exercise, you can pull 25 psi and seal the lids. Carefully remove the sealing top and add a jar ring. Store in a cool, dry place.

long term storage for pasta

Photos by

Billie Nicholson, editor
August 2015




When you listen to the news from around the world, does it make you wonder when society will fall apart? You can sit and worry or you can look at the situation and understand that you are responsible for your own survival, if the social order as we now know it falls apart. So being self reliant means second guessing what might happen and devising a plan on how to handle it. We call it preparedness, but where do you start? Sometimes the thought of getting prepared can be overwhelming. Procrastination leads to paralysis, so doing nothing is not an option. We’re advised to make a 72 hour kit,have 90 days, then a whole year’s worth of supplies – WHOA!!

Where do you start and what do you put together? Let’s start here: take those empty 2-liter juice containers, wash them out and fill them with water. Or, buy a case of water from your grocer and put them in the closet. Now you’ve started on your water storage! We need 2 gallons per person per day.

Next, when you go to the market, instead of buying one can of corn, spaghetti sauce, or canned meat, buy three and tuck the extras away on a shelf set aside for food storage. If you do this each time your budget allows, you will see your food storage grow.
Do the same with non-perishables like toilet paper, alcohol and bandages, and soap. Gradually as you collect extras of the things you use every day, you can begin to look critically at what life would be like without services like running water and electricity. You will learn to prioritize what is important for you and you’re off.

Billie Nicholson, editor
August 2015

Dry Your Own Herbs

drying herbs

Rusty Buggy Enterprises

One of the advantages of growing your own herbs is being able to harvest fresh plant parts when you need them. Also, when you grow your own, you can select plants that might not be readily available in the local market. Preserving some herbs will allow their use year round. Drying herbs is the most energy efficient way.
Harvest herbs when the plant has enough foliage to sustain growth. With annual herbs like basil, you can cut 50-75% of the plant and it will recover. Cutting off flower heads will encourage more leaf growth. For perennial herbs like parsley, remove no more than one-third of the plant growth at any one time. Use pruners or a sharp knife to make clean cuts that will heal easily.
Harvest early in the day after plants have dried from the morning dew and before it gets too hot. Make sure that the plants have not been sprayed with pesticides.
The traditional way to preserve herbs is by air drying or by using low heat. Drying concentrates the flavor of herbs so you can use less dried herb than the amount of fresh ones in recipes.
After harvesting, gently wash and dry them thoroughly on paper towels. Pick over them to remove any dead or damaged material. They can be tied in loose bunches and placed in small paper bags with the stems sticking out the top of the bag. Punch ventilation holes in the bag. The bags help protect the drying herbs from dust and other contamination while drying. Place the herb bunches in a warm, dry, well ventilated area out of the sun. It may take up to a month for them to dry completely.
For quicker completion of drying, we utilize a home food dehydrator or our Sun Oven®. We strip the leaves from the stems and spread the leaves on drying trays. Maintain a 95º F temperature for a day. Check the herbs for crunchy dryness and pack carefully into glass jars. Clear glass jars store best in a cool, dark place. Crush the herbs just prior to using them. Most herbs retain their flavor for about a year.
Freezing herbs is easy, but herbs preserved this way are most useful in the cooking process. Frozen herbs often thaw out limp and are not suitable for garnish, but the flavor quality is not altered.


Billie Nicholson, editor
July 2015

30+ Ways to Prepare for an Economic Collapse

Today I asked several people what would they do in the event of an economic collapse. The blank stares I received in response were not funny. After a moment one person said, “Without banks and money, people would lose their homes.” Then he said, “I think I should go ask my dad, he remembers what happened to his parents during the Great Depression. I think they had to start a shoe repair business to make ends meet.” Just in case you haven’t thought much about the economic impact of nations verging on the brink of economic collapse, here are some tips on how to prepare should that collapse impact your community.

  1. Store food – how long could your family survive on what you have right now?
  2. Clean water – do you have a plan or some stored around your property? Plus get some water purification tablets or use your Sun Oven® to pasteurize the water
  3. Shelter – where can you stay, do you have a tent and sleeping bag?
  4. Warm clothing – blankets, sweaters, rain ponchos
  5. Ax – may help with gathering wood for fuel
  6. Lighters or waterproof matches
  7. Comfortable shoes
  8. Flash light or lantern with batteries
  9. Radio
  10. Communication equipment; walkie – talkies etc. Have an emergency meeting place
  11. Swiss army knife
  12. Personal hygiene products
  13. First-aid kit and other medical supplies; pain meds; extra prescription meds
  14. Extra gasoline with Stay-Bil® added for long term storage
  15. Sewing kit – for sutures and buttons
  16. Self defense equipment – pepper spray and more, plus ammo
  17. Compass and printed maps to help find your way
  18. Hiking backpack for a bug-out-bag filled with food, water & clothing
  19. Community – some way to get together with others
  20. A back up plan – how will you provide for your family without centralized services like water, sewer and electricity?
  21. Special needs of babies and pets
  22. Card games, etc. for entertainment
  23. Stock up on vitamins – survival food may not be very nutritious
  24. It could get to be too late to grow some of your own food
  25. Move away from the big cities
  26. Start a side business – look for a community need and prepare to fill it
  27. What expenses can you reduce?
  28. Acquire some silver and gold
  29. Get out of debt
  30. Keep some cash at home/ in your vehicle and coins
  31. Have money in more than one financial institution
  32. Build up an emergency fund to cover all your expenses for at least six months
  33. What small items can you use for trade/barter? Learn the art of trade and barter
  34. Keep your plans a secret
  35. Physical fitness
  36. Spiritual preparations – prayer and scriptures


Billie Nicholson, editor

July 2015

Non-Edibles to Add to Your Emergency Supplies

Non-edible Emergency Supplies

Non-Edible Emergency Supplies photo

Of course, we recommend that everyone have a Sun Oven® in their cache of emergency supplies. In addition, and not related to food there are over a hundred other items that every family should have. recommends these four easy to carry items that should be with you every day:

  1. High Quality Knife – useful for more than just cutting, some versions have additional tools as well.
  2. Paracord – with over 100 uses itself, don’t leave home without it! Using it you can secure a tent, make a tourniquet, tie up bad guys, and floss your teeth, just to name a few.
  3. Small Flashlight –  night without electricity is really dark.  Remember to stock up on the batteries, too. Solar lights and luminous packs are also helpful.
  4. Fire starter – featherweight fire starters consisting of flint and magnesium will spark a fire in the worst situations.
  5. Cell Phone – has multiple uses including sending messages via voice or text if phone lines are down, signal mirror, night light, GPS locator beacon. Look for a solar charger to add to your supplies, too.

The Survival Mom also recommends:

  1. Deodorant/antiperspirant – will be an instant morale booster when you’ve been hunkered down in a stressful situation for a few days or weeks.
  2. Feminine products – menstrual cycles don’t stop for crises. A six month’s supply of tampons or pads will greatly improve your quality of life. Plus, they can be used as sterile pads to reduce blood flow from wounds.
  3. Bar soap – always welcome to wash everything from laundry to hair.
  4. Zip-Locs of all sizes – seal everything from food to waste products.
  5. A pack of new underwear for each family member.
  6. A battery-powered CD player & CDs with music to calm all the savage beasts.
  7. Medicine – any prescriptions you must take should be stocked. Pain meds will always be welcome.
  8. Toilet paper – obviously.

Angela from Food Storage and Survival  suggests we include:

  1. First-aid kit, bandages and hydrogen peroxide
  2. Vinegar, hand sanitizer and an emergency toilet
  3. Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  4. Insect repellent
  5. Assorted paper products from plates and napkins to paper towels and tissues
  6. Clothesline, clothes pins and a large bucket for washing
  7. Tent, sleeping bags and plastic sheeting or foam pad
  8. Alternative season clothing like gloves and hats
  9. Sewing supplies for mending
  10. Battery powered radio or two-way radios
  11. Hand tools like hammer, saw, wrenches and screwdrivers

The list goes on and on. We also need to think about multiple uses for everyday items. What’s on your list?

Billie Nicholson, editor
May 2015

Young Women’s Group Gets Sun Oven® Cooking Lesson

Solar Cooking LessonsOur Young Women’s group planned a “Tea” for their moms. Solar cooking was one of the lessons required for their preparations for Girls Camp coming up later this summer. So they decided they could learn how to bake the cookies planned for dessert in a solar oven. Robert and I set up the Sun Oven® to pre heat while the girls mixed the cookie dough  and took turns spooning it onto the parchment paper covered baking racks. By the time everyone had eaten finger sandwiches and yummy potato salad, the cookies were ready to serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. “It gets a lot hotter than I expected,” said one of the young ladies. There were no leftovers.

Billie Nicholson, editor
May 2015

Clean Up Mold and Mildew

Baking SodaDo you have a problem with mold and mildew in your home? What can clean up mold and mildew without using harsh chemicals? Some natural household items can be used to clean up the moldy mess, but first determine what is causing the problem. Check for plumbing leaks around water pipes, waste lines, ice-maker lines or spigots. Remember that water can run in any direction. You may need to extend your search to exterior building leaks. Look for leaks in the wall or roof, vents, window wells or for downspouts emptying near the foundation. Even badly sealed ductwork could be the problem. Warm, moist air condenses and forms water on ducts carrying cold air. The condensation is a sign the that the duct is not insulated or is missing a vapor barrier. Moisture forms anywhere warm air escapes. Eventually the water saturates insulation and drywall and mold spores, which are everywhere, begin to grow. Once you’ve located and repaired the water problem, it’s time to clean up the mess.1

The following common household ingredients can be used to get rid of mold and mildew.

  • Use Baking Soda to remove odors from closets, bathrooms and refrigerators.
    Recipe: Mix baking soda and water to form a paste in a ratio of 1:1. Apply the paste to the affected area and let it dry. Scrub with a small brush and wipe away any cleaning paste remaining.
    2 To remove mildew from your plastic shower curtain or liner, put it in your washing machine with two bath towels on the gentle setting. Add 1/2 cup baking soda to your detergent during the wash cycle and 1/2 cup vinegar during the rinse cycle. Let it air dry.
  • Use White Vinegar undiluted.
    Spray distilled vinegar on the mold satins using a spray bottle. If the stain persists mix a little baking soda and a little elbow grease. Leave the surface to dry.
  • Use Tea Tree Oil
    Recipe: Add one teaspoon of tea tree oil to one cup of water. Mix well and pour into a spray bottle. Mist the mixture onto the surfaces that have been tarnished by mold and wipe the surface clean.
  • Use Grapefruit seed extract
    Recipe: Add 10 drops of grapefruit seed extract to a cup of water. Mix well and using a spray bottle, mist the affected area. Wipe and allow to dry.
  • Use Lemon Juice
    To get rid of mildew on clothes, make a paste of lemon juice and salt; rub into the affected area, then dry the clothes in sunlight. This works well on rust stains, too.

Restoration contractor and Do It Yourself television personality Mike Holmes says, “It’s  about healthy homes. We know mold can reduce indoor air quality, and poor air quality affects our health.”4 He recommends a product called Concrobium Mold Control. Have you tried it?

Billie Nicholson, editor
May 2015


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