Letting the Sun Work

Long before we had given any thought to becoming farmers, Amanda and I began to develop the LetTheSunWork web site, focused on what we called the “Triple Threat” facing humanity in the form of peak oil, catastrophic climate change, and overpopulation. Our life as farmers, lived out endlessly (some would say excessively) here on Longleaf Breeze, has diverted our attention from LetTheSunWork, and it has sat largely forlorn and ignored for a couple of years.


Ignored, that is, until a day like today, when virtually our entire day has been spent living out its core message. And just in time. We had spent most of yesterday under a tornado watch and were grateful to get about 1.6 inches of rain in amongst the freaky periods of calm. This morning, the first day of December, dawned cold and clear. The gusty northwest wind made it uncomfortable to work outside, but that didn’t keep us from making the most of all that delicious sunshine.

It was Amanda who first remarked about how much we had used the sun today. But it’s hard to get her to write much these days, so it falls to me to tell you about it. Here are the ways we’ve used the sun during the day:

Clothesline. We had been storing up clothes for the past several days in anticipation that today would be a good drying day. We were not disappointed. Amanda washed three loads of clothes (and in our Kenmore front-loader, a load is a lot of clothes), and we worked together to hang them on the line. They flapped and flopped in the breeze most of the day, even though the clothes in each load had probably dried within 45 minutes after we hung them out. At the end of the day, we basked in the late afternoon sun as we worked together to pull them all down and fold them away.

The Sun Oven. We haven’t said much about the Sun Oven lately, and that’s a shame. I originally purchased it as a silly if expensive gift for Amanda, expecting that it would be an interesting novelty that we would use occasionally to whip up some toll house brownies or show off to our friends. I was wrong. The Sun Oven has become our go-to cooking appliance for vegetables.

It is one of the peculiarities of the Sun Oven that it works best on cold, clear days like today. If it has sun, it can cook fine in sub-freezing temperatures. With the cold northwest wind swirling around her, Amanda put some delicata squash in the oven about 10:15 this morning, and it was done by noon. Then she put in a big pot of broccoli I had cut up, and it was finished by 1:30 or so. Both are on the menu for supper tonight.

The fall veg. We’ve now had about four frost events, and some of the broccoli leaves are beginning to show the first signs of frost damage. However, each day of sunshine they get is like a tablespoon of Grandma’s tonic and a big hug. We could almost watch them rejuvenating themselves in the full sun of the day.

The windows. As we were enjoying our lunch together, we noticed how the sun is now bathing the interior of the apartment, because it’s low in the sky this time of year and comes blazing in when we need it most. As I write this, the sun has already set, but the apartment is still nice and warm from sunbathing all day. It’s 45 degrees outside, 72 here in the apartment. And that’s before we light up

The wood stove. Second only to the decision to live in a tiny space, our decision to install the wood burning stove was probably the smartest single decision we made as we built our little home. It may seem crazy to talk about a wood stove as using sunshine, but only until you think about how its fuel got here. Photosynthesis is nothing short of miraculous, and I’m remiss in not writing about it before now. It is the sun’s energy from photosynthesis, of course, that we had to thank for all those delightful BTUs we enjoyed this morning and again tonight when we lit up the wood stove.

Our walk. We had hoped to get out and walk this morning, but it was just too bitter cold and windy. Better to stay indoors. This afternoon, though, the temperature had climbed a bit, and more importantly, the wind had calmed a smidge. We took a wonderful walk as the shadows lengthened, being careful to stay in the sunshine every moment possible. And we made sure we returned while the sun was still up, knowing we still needed to get those clothes off the line.

My shower. I never shower indoors here at the farm. I frankly don’t understand it, but I find an outdoor shower so energizing, so calming, that I never want to miss an opportunity to shower outdoors, not even on the coldest day. Days like these, though, make me grateful that we placed the shower on the south corner of the apartment. There’s just nothing like a hot shower in the glow of the last remaining rays of the day.

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