Haybox cooking

The other day I was going through my posts, and Marcus’ posts on permies.com, and I suddenly realized how many permaculture ideas we have already implemented in our lives, which we simply just don’t think about anymore, because they have become an integral par of how we do things. The compost toilet (which we will write about later), collecting water (which Marcus has a video about, comming up), alot of the thoughts about the construction of this house, our terraces, the worm farm, the seed collection etc.

Part of the permaculture philosophy is to work smarter, not harder. Many many people who homestead work 100 hour weeks. We actually do not want to do that. We don’t want to live in a cold house and we don’t want to work 100 hour weeks. One of the reasons people fled the country to go to the cities during the industrial revolution is that life was hard in the country. We don’t want to go back to their way of living. Yet saving energy is crucial when you live off grid – because solar panels are expensive, batteries even more expensive, and gass/diesel etc. expensive and unsustainable. But that was actually not the reason we got the hay-box in the first place.

The reason was that at the same time as we started this whole journey towards living off grid, spending less money etc. I also started on my journey towards “real food” (ie. the food our grandparents and great-grandparents would have simply just called “food”). An real food requires quite a lot of machinery – expensive machinery. Now I am in no way against machines – but the amount needed to produce all or 90% of all your own food from scratch is staggering – especially as a one time investment. Some of this stuff would be things that were handed down generation to generation in the old days – with 3-4 generations living under one roof, you didn’t need one pr. nuclear family, and people would just have it. Some of it is electric gadgets made out to make life easier on the modern “real fooder”. A fruit dehydrater eg., a crok-pot, yoghurt incubators, blenders, kitchen aids etc. So I found myself in a pickle wanting to buy all these things, each an every one of the some €100 a piece… And then I thought about some of it.

The first item on the list of things I wanted was a crock-pot – I could use it to make bone-broth from chicken, I could use it to make yoghurt, slow cooking some of our families favorite recipies like Osso Buco but we had decided to stop spending so much money all the time… and I also wanted a gärtopf for my saurkraut, and a smoke-oven, and a milk-jug for getting raw-milk from the dairy – the list just goes on.

So frugal me looked at my soup-pot, and I looked at my laundry basket and I looked at a host of baby duvets, that I was to either sell or give away or find new use for. And I looked at a bunch of styro-foam lying around in our storage room from my husband’s failed attempt to do aqua-ponics in the back-yard. And I made a hay-box.

The laundry basket from IKEA that we use as a haybox.
The laundry basket from IKEA that we use as a haybox.

The box is an IKEA laundry basket in wood (sorry to my family who still has to throw their laundry in a pile on the floor), lined with styro-foam and aluminum foil. Yeah – I know, not very environmentally friendly, but I haven’t bought any new aluminum foil since, not even to complete this project – a more environmentally friendly version would be to line it with wool. Insinde I’ve thrown two baby duvets at the bottom and two more to put on top. I need to put these into some kind of dirt resistant material (lanolised wool comes to mind) – because I do spill a little once in a while, actually I spill more than I would like and it is a waste to have to wash all the duvets every time. I usually put the soup-pot inside my old knitting bag – it was broken and it fit fine – this does prevent some spilling, but sometimes I need to put two small casseroles into the box, and then the bag is not really practical (it actually ads to the spilling). This system is plenty to keep the casseroles warm for 24 hours – which means that I can make a stew the day before guests are comming, put it in the haybox, and when they arrive all I have to do is bring it to the boil (to be sure that if we have any backteria growth – very unlikely – it is killed).

As I said I use it for all kinds of things – I even cook rice in it: After we moved up here, we have only had one gas-burner, so cooking meals is a challenge, or would be if not for the hay-box. The hay-box means that I can cook a whole meal for numerous people very easily: It fits one soup-pot or two casseroles, so I can put the rice to the boil, put it in the box and start wok’ing, or I can make sauce for spaghetti bolognese put it in the haybox and come back 4 hours later to cook the spaghetti and pull out a perfect sauce by the time the spaghetti is done. When we have our garden co-op here on Tuesdays and Fridays, I prepare lunch before they come and then when we are ready to eat, I just pull the warm food out of the hay-box and presto – warm food. haybox_2

One of the things I like about the hay-box is that it is exactly not making my life harder, yet I am saving heaps of energy. It is so easy and because it doesn’t use any energy – I can leave it! I can cook in the morning before the kids wake up, go on a field trip, be gone for hours and come home and have a warm meal. I can leave it over night, I don’t risk food getting burned if all the water evaporates – it just works. Many times I see myself implementing things that I think would be ideal – permaculturewise, healthwise etc. and then abondoning it again because it is just too labor intensive – this is not. I actually saves my labor too – because I don’t have to keep an eye on the food. So I can concentrate on other things – like gardening or taking care of my kids. Now that is permanent culture 🙂

If you want to learn more about hay-box cooking – hop on over to permies.com – there’s a thread for that 🙂


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