Homesteading Month at the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center: Solar Power From the Arizona Sunshine

Reader Contribution by The Mother Earth News Editors
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Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center staff member, Berta Nelson, sent us a review of the solar charged Homesteading Education Monthevent held in Taylor, Ariz.

Here at the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center in Taylor, Ariz., we celebrated International Homesteading Month by showing off our many ways of working with the sun.

On the first day of autumn, Saturday, Sept. 22, we offered tours of our facility.  Participants learned of the benefits of an earth-bermed home featuring thermal mass to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter.  Our visitors saw DIY solar batch hot water heaters, marveled at our passive solar water distiller and enjoyed the fresh taste of our garden produce drying our downdraft solar crop dehydrator.

Monday, September 24, our emphasis was on solar cooking, especially canning fruit with the sun.  This year’s bumper crop of apples gave us plenty to work with!  We showed how the apples are cooked using a variety of solar cookers and then put in canning jars (also sterilized with the sun). The all-natural taste of “just apples and the sun” (no water) was a winner.

This is the home of the late Barbara P. Kerr, widely acclaimed as the inventor of the modern-day solar oven.  Our guests learned how the lives of hundreds of thousands of women around the world have been improved with solar cooking.  They saw the WAPI (Water Pasteurization Indicator) — a simple, inexpensive way to determine when water has been pasteurized.  When used with the solar ovens, this device has helped save countless lives from the ravages of contaminated water.

It’s safe to say that our guests left with a greater appreciation for the many ways the sun can help us with our homesteading tasks — all for free.  

Photos: Top: Dehydrating Patti Pan squash from the garden in the downdraft crop dehydrator, dried squash is in the jar, and drying squash pieces on the racks and a squash awaiting the drying process;  bottom: Lynn Frazier and Donna Kunz examine a WAPI that has just come out of a DIY solar oven.

Photos from Berta Nelson