Saturday, September 16, was the day that I was going with Perro-O, David Sliwa, and David Rice to the solar food dehydrator workshop. It was held at another farm that we had to get to by a roundabout route of traveling up and down country roads. We couldn't take the direct route to this other farm because the bridge over the Upper Iowa River that would have led us there has been under reconstruction for some time and, so, was blocked from use. So, we took the scenic route, which was OK with me.
When we arrived at the farm, we began to paint metal. Unfortunately, a wind kicked up and I was hit by wet oil-based paint. Someone cleaned my pants with solvent and gave me a change of clothes while my own clothes were being cleaned. Amazingly enough, as I discovered later, most of the paint was successfully removed from my clothes. Dressed in my new I-don't-care-if-it-gets-filthy fashion statement, I returned to the workshop. I helped to cut a special type of screen, called "food grade." A partner and I then used stainless steel screws to attach the screen to a frame. This was slow work, and it took all morning for a bunch of us, working in pairs, to get the screens attached to the frames. Despite the mildly tedious nature of the work, I found it interesting to see these solar dydrators being formed from wood, screens, and stainless steel screws. It didn't take long before the power screwdrivers needed to be recharged.
I could see that David R. was having a fantastically good time. His hobby is woodworking, and he got to have the fun of putting together many of the wooden frames. He brought a good number of his tools with him and was really enjoying working with them. When David is not making solar dehydrators, he makes wooden toys. He especially likes making puzzles with a variety of moving parts.
After we were finished putting together the screens and frames, it was time for lunch. Most of the approximately fifteen to twenty participants in the workshop had brought food with us. The people who owned the farm that hosted the event had made potato soup for us as well. We enjoyed the soup and we shared our food with one another. We had sandwiches, raspberries, pears, homemade apple cider, and cheese. There were also pies and cakes and other sweet things to eat. We enjoyed conversation and laughter, as well. The instructor of the workshop, Larisa Walk, told us that the majority of the work in constructing the solar food dehydrators was done. Larisa Walk is the author of a pamphlet called A Pantry Full of Sunshine-Energy Efficient Food Preservation Methods. She said that it is actually possible to use a car as a solar dehydrator. She is an expert in food preservation, and she is also the designer of the "deluxe super dryer" that was being built at the workshop.
Since much of the work was already done before lunch, Perry-O asked me if I'd like to have a little "artist time" after we finished eating. We spread some blankets under a tree, and I sketched a picture of a very tiny house with a big porch. The house was made of wood and it had an enormous overhang. It was some house. David S. took a closeup look at the house and found that the lower floor was just one room with a little kitchenette and that there was a flight of stairs that led to a loft. It looked like a very cozy little house, perfect for one person or for a couple who love constant togetherness.
Finally, I was able to get back into my original fashion statement. The workshop was done, and I took a picture of one of the completed solar dehydrators. It was quite an interesting contraption. The solar dehydrator was quite large so that a good amount of food could be dehyrated at one time. It is a good item to use, especially for fruits, such as pears, that are very perishable and will start to go back within a short amount of time of being picked. These solar dehydrators were on sale to the workshop participants, who, basically, paid for the cost of the materials. Ten dehyrators were made, and six went home with workshop attendees.
Some of the people at the workshop asked me about SOA/WHINSEC. Of course, I am always happy to talk about that topic. I just happened to bring some SOA Watch palmcards with me for the next vigil on November 17-19. So I gave them away to anyone who was interested.
David S. and David R. put one of the solar dehydrators on top of the car. They tied it onto the car, but they had to sit on the back seat and hold the thing in place as it was so large.
Perry-O carefully drove us to another farm, where there was a house that she and David S. described as a "straw bale house."
I could hardly wait to see the "straw bale house." I imagined a house that was built out of straw, just like one of the houses in "The Three Little Pigs." My vivid imagination conjured up a Big Bad Wolf, growling or howling (?), "I will huff, and I will puff, and I will blow your house down!"
The reality of the "straw bale house" was nothing like the image in my head. I actually could see no straw at all. It turned out that the straw was the insulation between the house's plaster walls. We got out of the car and had a visit with the young couple and their three children who live in the house. They seemed to be so very happy to live in their straw bale house. They were getting ready to go into the woods for a camping trip but they still had plenty of time to give us a tour of the straw bale house..
We then left the straw bale house and drove back to the farm, using the scenic route, as the direct route was unavailable. That's where we met up with David R.'s wife, Jeannie. She had stayed at the farm all day and had used the time to prepare dinner for us. She cooked a vegetable beef soup, which turned out to be an all-day event for her.
Perry-O and I picked raspberries for our dessert. The raspberry bushes were full of fresh berries, both red and yellow. I had never seen yellow raspberries before. They were pretty and a nice color contrast for the red raspberries.
We brought the berries inside and had dinner. It consisted of the soup , bread, cheese, apple cider, yogurt, and raspberries. It was good and filling.
Perry-O then gave me a tour of the cold room, where much of the food is stored and the room with the big batteries and the electrical converter (from direct current to alternating current). She also showed me the room where wood is stored for the winter, when the wood stove is used. Perry-O explained to me that, by the end of autumn, the wood room will be full, and the cold room will be filled with jars of home-canned fruits and vegetables.
The rest of the evening was filled with conversation, storytelling, and laughter.
I went outside and saw that, once again, the sky was full of stars, so much so that it reminded me of a planetarium.
The nighttime was quiet, peaceful, and dark.
I fell asleep, happy to be in such a calm space.