Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

satellite dish solar cooker

from the July 14, 2013 Newsletter issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center in the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas, on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA
MY BEAUTIFUL, UGLY SOLAR COOKER

Though I'm already living in the nature center, it's not finished yet, nor is my solar cooker. However, like the nature center, there's enough of the cooker in place for it already to be doing its work, inelegant as it may be. Above you can see the cooker cooking my Thursday stew in an iron pot suspended above it.

Yellow squash, bell pepper, carrots, onion, garlic, chili pepper, Swiss chard, parsley -- from the garden -- plus brown rice, grits, lentils, some stale tortillas, and two eggs... Each day the recipe differs but it always smells good cooking, and tastes even better. You can see a typical stew below:

solar-cooked stew

Later I'll finish covering the abandoned satellite dish's face with reflective aluminum sheeting, and it'll rest on rails instead of being propped into position with sticks and a chair. There'll be some manner of suspending the pot at the focal point other than by having it dangle from a bent Ashe Juniper limb held up by a tripod of other juniper stems.

However, I want to show you the cooker now, instead of when it's finished and better looking, to make the point that even with such a homely, roughly made, simple contraption some wonderful meals are being cooked free of charge, and not contributing to global warming. With this cooker I make cornbread that's even tastier than what I prepared this winter with a gas stove, and stews that as they cook bless the entire landscape with the smell of luscious bubbling stew.

You can see how the cooker works: Sunlight bounces from the parabolic dish's shiny surface to a certain focal point, exactly as radio signals did earlier from satellites in space. But instead of radio signals focusing at the focal point, the suspended pot receives concentrated sunlight.

You can see several other solar cookers I've built over the years at http://www.backyardnature.net/j/solardsh.htm.

Thanks to my neighbor Phred for helping me find the dish, transport it, and for supplying most of the tools and materials.