Last week, Her Outdoors came back from the local garage fuming.
She’d just discovered that a 25kg bottle of gas (we use one a month for cooking) had gone from €26 to €32 in one hit – a massive increase in anyone’s cheque book.
Now, we might be able to stretch to this extortionate price hike, but why should we? Besides which, it’s not a sustainable thing to do. If you’ve read anything about “peak oil”, you’ll know that these increases are only the beginning, at the end of which there will be no more fossil fuel. No one can say when this will happen, but that it will happen is certain. We are living through a few fleeting years in planetary history where our species’ success is a direct result of the non-renewable resource beneath the deserts of the Middle East and, tragically, the soon-to-be-fracked green and pleasant lands around the world.
So how did we respond? We put the new gas bottle next to the cooker in the kitchen and didn’t plug it in. We took the cover off the clay oven and started to see our woodburner as something more than a way to keep warm.
That was nearly a week ago. Here’s a shot from the second firing of the clay oven:
o corn bread muffins for the following breakfast
o roasted squash and garlic mash
o beans for the next day
o bread rolls for the day after, too
o sausages were in the oven at this point
It’s not without stress. Learning how to keep the clay oven hot enough to do several things, cooking without some very specific tools that would make the whole thing much easier, and walking to and from the kitchen several times to fetch ingredients and utensils is all a bit of a pain. But there are huge positives.
Cooking is now at the centre of our attention, as a family. The kids were out looking for scrap wood for the clay oven the other day. They’re seeing meals being made in front of them, instead of in the kitchen 15 metres away (in another building). The Daughter even made dinner for her and Boy on the woodburner the other night. Only a simple one, but how many 12-year-olds in her class have done that this holiday? Or ever?
It’s too early to have a routine, but we plan on firing the clay oven about three times a week for baking. Probably a loaf of bread, then a casserole as the oven cools. Making pizzas is quite stressful and not enjoyable for the person doing the making, so we won’t do that too often. We use the woodburner most of the time which means the yurt gets a bit warm three times a day. Surprisingly, it boils water in a pan from cold almost as fast as our stove-top kettle did, so although it takes longer to make essential things, like coffee first thing in the morning, the inconvenience isn’t huge.
I could write a very long post about our thoughts over the last week, but I’ve got quite a lot to do at the moment. I realise this is not the kind of thing many people can do, but it is exactly the kind of thing we set out to do. Our original plan was to have a beautiful Esse wood-fired oven for cooking in the Winter and then find another option for the Summer. I suspect we’ll eat a lot of salads and barbecue when we need to. A friend gave us a solar oven that we’ve been using to prove bread. We’ll explore rocket stoves, too. I’m not sure how else we’ll be boiling a kettle.
Have we plugged the gas bottle in yet? Yes. My tractor doctor came round the other day to take a wheel away (I don’t have the gear to fix a puncture) and Her Outdoors offered him a coffee before realising the woodburner wasn’t on. We may be happy to live like this, but we can’t assume other people will understand.