caption: Ivy, star of Storage Wars, and Christopher
[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Squatter in Los Angeles,” and other books. He has led wilderness expeditions since 1974. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.]
One day I get a call out of the blue.
”Do you know anything about solar ovens?”
”I suppose so,” I responded. “I’ve taught people how to make low-cost solar cookers for 20 or so years, and give the step-by-step process in my “How to Survive Anywhere” book.”
“We’re looking for a solar oven expert. Are you a solar oven expert?” asked the man on the phone. He identified himself as a producer with the Storage Wars show. This is a program where various individuals bid on the contents of storage units that the owners quit paying for. The show tracks each of the bidders to see what they get in the storage units. Sometimes they get junk, and sometimes they get some real interesting things. They hope that what they end up with is worth more than they bid on the unit.
“Have you ever seen the show,” the man asked me.
“Nope, I’ve never even heard of it.” The producer laughed.
“That’s OK,” he told me. “It sounds like you know about solar cookers.” He went on to explain that one of the stars of the show purchased the contents of a storage unit, and has an object that is believed to be a solar cooker. “We want you to look at it, on film, and tell him what he purchased.”
I said OK.
I explained to him that all of this could be done in about 10 minutes in my own backyard, but I was told that they wanted to do the segment in a more natural setting, preferably somewhere in the desert.
We agreed on a day, and a man in a fast car picked me up one morning and whisked me out to the desert, beyond Palm Springs, in a very wild-seeming area.
The star of the show, Ivy, rides up in his SUV, and we meet and greet, and we set up the box he brought me. I’d never seen that particular solar oven before, but it was a top-of-the-line Australian solar oven called the Sun Cook solar oven. I opened it and showed Ivy how to use it, and we even put some eggs and sausage into a pan to cook.
It was overcast when we started, but then the sky cleared as Ivy and I did a short walkabout, looking at the desert plants.
When we came back, the breakfast was done and we feasted on some sun-cooked food.
The Storage Wars show focuses on the dollar value of the items so I had to give him a dollar figure of what I thought the oven was worth. It was not new, but I estimated it could probably fetch $450 at Ivy’s secondhand store in the high desert, and $450 was a bit more than he paid for all the contents of the storage unit.
It was an enjoyable day. If you want to view it, go to http://youtu.be/Y-3sG0azfBU. My segment comes in at 20:53.
Cooking with the sun is an ancient art. But modern solar ovens are quite another thing. At home, I have the American-made Sun Oven, which cooks about as fast as being on a gas oven if the day is hot and sunny. It easily gets up to 350 degrees f. temperature.
Simple low-cost solar ovens are easily made. I begin with a box that has a lid, such as the boxes where reams of paper are stored. I find a smaller box that goes into the bigger box, and I fill the space between the boxes with crumpled newspaper for insulation. I line the smaller inner box with tin foil, and then I cut a hole in the lid and secure a pane of glass to it. That’s really all there is to it, and this low-cost solar cooker doesn’t cook as quickly as a commercial model, but it still works well. [All the details can be found in my “How to Survive Anywhere” book, available anywhere.]