Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Sustainability Review - The Hay Box

By Mike Forbes, Co-op Volunteer Writer

When you cook food much of the heat energy from your stove is used to overcome heat loss from your food to it’s surroundings.  Couldn’t we insulate our food so heat isn’t lost as rapidly thereby using less energy to cook it? Definitely.

Rice. Theoretically, once the rice boils the heat energy needed to complete cooking is present.  The heat leaves the rice because the food is insulated poorly. We overcome this loss by turning the burner down low and simmering it for 30-40 minutes, wasting electricity or fuel. 

What if we boiled the rice and then quickly put it in an insulated box where the heat energy couldn’t escape and the rice would then finish cooking? 

The catch is building a box that heat can’t escape from. What I’ve done successfully for years is build various insulated boxes from commonly available items.

I use them primarily for keeping food hot for a LONG period of time and cooking beans, millet and quinoa.  I’ve also been known to use it for steeping grains and preparing yeast in the beer making process…  If I put a hot food into the box I can pull it out 2-4 hours later still piping hot.

The trick to maximizing efficiency is to build a box that has as little air in it as possible with the largest pot you expect to use. My boxes are built from rigid foam insulation with a radiant barrier (shiny aluminum coating toward the inside).  I glue them together with hobby glue or foam adhesive (Natural Abode and MBS both carry non-toxic, low VOC glues that work well).  I put little strips of wood on the inside bottom to keep the hot pots directly off the insulation.  The door is just a rectangle of foam that wedge fits into the box. It is critical to make the door tight fitting, if you put a slight bevel to the door it will create a much better seal.  Using a table saw to make your cuts makes the process very easy and accurate.  Options for dressing up your box cosmetically are endless.  I typically wrap them in wood to make them more visually appealing but for years had a silver box wrapped in duct tape sitting on top my refrigerator.

If you build the box to your largest pot you can still use smaller pots with good success if you add more thermal mass to the box.  I found that filling small jars with hot water works well to eliminate these air spaces.

Currently we are planning on converting one of our kitchen cabinets into a haybox.  We’ll incorporate insulation into the door with the taper fit foam as mentioned earlier.   It is my understanding that this concept is old and that traditionally hay was used in the boxes as insulation, hence the name hay box.

Mike welcomes questions.  He can be reached at

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Green Transportation

By Jeanne McHale

Not In My Backyard –Un-green transportation in the Pacific Northwest

             Lately I’ve been thinking about the size of the proverbial backyard. Our planet is small and easily perturbed by our energy dependencies.  A careless decision creates an oil slick visible from space.  A nuclear reactor survives an earthquake, but not the tsunami.  Politicians permit the conversion of scenic byways into industrial corridors, and our neighbors to the north find their drinking water polluted.  

            Highway 12 skirts the Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers in parallel to the Nez Perce Historic Trail and the path of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Throngs of visitors find solace in the syringa and soaring eagles here.  Part of the proposed route from Lewiston to the tar sands of Canada, Route 12 also parallels the TransAmerica Bike Trail. This popular bike route follows the Northwest Passage Scenic Byway on route to Missoula, the headquarters for Adventure Cycling.
Outspoken critics of the industrialization of Idaho and Montana bike routes, Adventure Cycling grew from an idealistic bicycle tour of the US that took place in 1976.  We could use a little of that bicentennial spirit these days.     

            At the Alberta tar sands, two tons of earth are excavated to get one barrel of tar. Pollution associated with the bitumen extraction process has led to increased cancer rates among First Nations people. Gooey tailings ponds are death traps for wildlife.  Clean natural gas is being burned to make the dirty tar, and a criminal amount of CO2 is being released.  Making the equation even worse, a huge swath of the CO2-absorbing boreal forest has been clearcut. Our governor, who recently told Congress that Idahoans don’t care much for wilderness, made us an unwitting partner to this planet-wrecking project by secretly approving the corporate takeover of Idaho roads by Big Oil.

            On March 20, a group of Nez Perce and non-tribal members from our backyard gathered in Kamiah for the Heart of the Monster Solidarity March, a show of unity for the First Nations people of Canada who are impacted by the Tar Sands.  At the Nez Perce National Historic Park, we gathered to hear an elder’s prayer, and people spoke of their local and global concerns. The struggle straddles numerous cultural divides: cyclists, fisherman and women, tour guides, and all who are spiritually connected to the land.  Not in our backyard, not in anybody’s backyard.

Green Transportation is written by Jeanne McHale, a lifetime member of Adventure Cycling and a veteran of the Northwest Passage Route. 

GM Search Update

By Andrika Kuhle

And the search continues…………….. The search committee is hard at work, with little exciting news to report. We are getting the word out that Moscow Food Co-op is hiring a new GM. We’ve posted announcements in numerous venues such as our local and regional newspapers, and organizations such as Tilth Producers, Sustainable Food Jobs and Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network. Do you know of a strong candidate that you would like to nominate? If so, please let the search committee know by sending an email to We will begin screening applicants April 18. Stay tuned!