It’s Scorching Out… Let’s Solar Bake!

It’s a toasty 101 degrees here in Baltimore today. Pretty uncomfortable… but at least I get to finally try solar baking!

I was reminded about solar baking a few weeks ago when listening to a Kojo Nnamdi show. Here’s a link to the show if you want to listen yourself.

The show discussed American diplomat Patricia McArdle’s experience in Afghanistan, and how useful solar ovens can be for that country and many other third world countries.

Firewood is still a major source of cooking fuel in many countries, resulting in massive deforestation and requiring a lot of labor to gather enough fuel. Solar ovens are a great source of renewable energy, and can free up the time of many woman and children who no longer have to collect firewood and stand over a hot fire to reheat food.

Solar Cookers International is the best place to go for recipes, designs, and other fun facts.

Of course, solar oven baking doesn’t just have to be about using the best source of renewable energy we’ve got (the sun!) It’s also a fun science experiment, and a great way to cook food while not having to turn on your oven in this hot hot summer heat.

My favorite part in Patricia McArdle’s interview was when she was demonstrating her first solar cooker at a village in Afghanistan, and someone asked where they could get a reflective surface like the aluminum foil Patricia had borrowed from the army commissary.One of the Afghani men whipped out his cigarettes and pulled of the foil wrapper inside. Talk about DIY!

There are many different models of solar oven, from large parabolic cookers to simple cardboard box models. The model I used is the simple windshield shade model.

I’m attempting to cook a loaf of french bread as we speak!

Sadly, I’ve kind of got a feeling it won’t get hot enough. I forgot to cover the roasting pan with clear plastic to hold in the heat, and the angle of my foil reflector isn’t quite right. Sigh.

This bootleg method might work for simple dehydration or making crackers or something, but I think I’ve got to do a lot more troubleshooting. We’ll see!

The bread recipe I got from Solar Cookers International recommended that I cook the bread for 2-3 hours. I let the pan pre-heat in the bed of my truck from 9 to 11:30, then put in the dough. It’s partly cloudy today so I’m leaving in the bread for the maximum amount of time.

I’ll check it around 3 p.m. and let you all know how it turns out!

Here’s the dough when I put it in:

4 p.m. update: total FAIL!

I had a feeling after I reviewed the Solar Cooker website that my oven wouldn’t get hot enough. It didn’t. The outer layer of the dough was dried out, and the whole thing was still completely gooey. Booo.

At least the chickens and ducks can eat the dough mess so it won’t be a total waste. Oh well!

Boone Street

This page presents the development of Boone Street urban farm and community garden in chronological order. I hope you enjoy seeing it grow.

How to find us:

The garden is located in the East Baltimore -Midway neighborhood. We are on Boone Street between 21st and 22nd street, one block east of Greenmount Ave. Google 2300 Boone St. for a map of the location.

Look for our produce or produce from other amazing Baltimore Urban Farms at the amazing Baltimore Farm Alliance table at the Waverly farmers market on Saturdays.

My email is Get in touch if you want to come by for a visit, or to be added to our email list for event announcements, harvest info, recipes, and more.

Thank you!

March 24, 2011 (Week One):

March 19th, 2011. We break ground! And pick up trash, meet the neighbors, and start some seedlings. City Council President Jack Young comes to say hello. More information is posted on the Greater Greenmount Community Association blog. Thanks to Lowell Larsson for the photos. The BaltimoreDIY post about Day #1is here.

March 30, 2011 (Week Two):

Week #2 post is located here. We measure our first two rows and till. Two hundred feet total!

End of April 2011:

Community beds are built  and forty cubic yards of compost are delivered!

May 2011:

Perennial plant barter. We put in sorrel, chamomile, strawberry, echinacea, and more in a perennial herb garden.

The SWAT team invades our radish harvest!

June 2011:

A MICA class comes to visit Boone Street. First visit and second visit. The plants are in the early stages of growth! We’re growing peanuts, cucumbers, okra, kale, collards, tomatoes, potatoes, beets, carrots, sorghum, black eyed peas, squash and zucchini, hubbard squash, oregano, peppers, and purslane.

6/19/11: Urban Food Fair at Real Food Farm.

Our first market goes well! We sell beet greens, mixed kale and collards, pickled beets, radish kimchee,  canned foraged serviceberries, lavender syrup, and lavender or  serviceberry lemonades. We will use the proceeds to support ourselves  for next year so we’re not as grant dependent.

7/15/11 Artscape 2011 Market

We turn our eight pounds of cucumbers and pound of carrots into rice vinegar-honey pickles for vegetarian vietnamese sandwiches. Zucchini bread with our zucchini was also available. Click on the link (Artscape 2011 Market) for recipes!

7/29/11 Clean-up for the BLOCK PARTY… coming August 6th!

8/6/11 Block Party! Photo slideshow posted here.
August 2011 Value Added Produce

Harvesting about 4-5 lbs. of food every other time we visit the garden! We’ve got okra, greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, basil, even a bit of sorghum, leftover beets, a mediocre potato harvest. Working on various markets to sell the food, creating a neighborhood distribution list, and preserving lots as value-added product.

9/8/2011 It’s raining. A lot.

9/14/11 HampdenFest

9/19/2011 Participating hosts for the Greenhorns Urban Ag Conference

9/24/11 Johns Hopkins volunteers help out for the President’s Day of Service! Thank you
10/26/11 Building the hoop house

12/1/11 The hoop house plastic is on!

1/1/12 Kicking off 2012 with a Brunch Bake Sale!

Due to space constraints on this page, I have decided to cap off the “Boone Street” page at year one. Feel free to click through the blog for post about year two, or just start reading the blog and Facebook page to find out what we are up to.

This year (2012) we will be having Monday Markets at the garden from 6 to 8 p.m. You can read our Monday Market post for full information on how and where to pick up, or possibly receive delivery depending on your location.

Thank you!

Baltimore Free School

Around 75 people turned out last night at 2640 for the first public discussion about the new Baltimore Free School. Energy was high, and by the end of the night a wall was covered with brightly colored paper listing ideas for classes on topics ranging from Semiotics to Solar Cell Building to Arabic to Apartment Gardening (Guess who volunteered to teach that last one~)

Wikipedia (the ultimate free school!) has a pretty great description of the history and socio-political structure of this idea: Of course, we did talk about how great it will be to be in a classroom with other fun folks instead of learning alone from screens or books, which many of us are already doing.

There was a strong mix of participants at the meeting, from old skool adults to us younger peeps. There was of course a strong Red Emma’s contingent, as they were the seed for this idea and are always totally on it as far as logistical planning like getting building space and figuring out how to pay the rent.

Many teachers from both the university and public school level were there, as well as college students of various levels, excited about the alternative structure of the school. Many of us working-type folks were also excited about the prospect of breaking free of the rat race to explore and experiment.

We are all looking forward to spreading the love of learning for the sake of learning rather than receiving a number on a piece of paper. Not having to pay tuition is a plus too! Rather than complain about what other people need to fix, let’s just form our own systems and fix society from the inside out.

The teacher-student relationship will be horizontal, rather than the typical top down structure where a teacher stands in front of the room and dispenses information to the silent people in desks. This of course is based on our belief that open collaboration leads to better ideas and a more positive, collective, stronger environment. Just as forests are strong because of their biological diversity, so is the classroom & the mind!

The financial arrangement will be horizontal as well. This of course is crucial to the DIY ethic. Rather than rely on grants or other large organizations, this project will be funded by many small donations from a wide range of people. This prevents us from having to worry when our one source of funding from a grant or similar source dries up.

I’ve already signed up to donate $25 per month to the space- that works out to less than a dollar a day. It’s totally worth it. If you’re interested, check out the Free School website (a more developed version will be coming soon.)

To top it all off, this whole idea came together in the space of a few months. Just like the insane City from Below conference, which went down in late March. Folks from all over the country and even Canada came to Baltimore to workshop & talk about restructuring society in a more positive way. Plus with Baltimore Foodmakers and the @nodespring hackerspace blossoming, it seems like great collectives have been sprouting up all over in the past year or so. I couldn’t be happier to be in such an organized, motivated city! Once again, thanks for reading BaltimoreDIY.