Butte Creek

The heat wave has broken and the boys and I want to get one more little getaway in before other obligations keep us close to home.  Where to go? It can’t be too far, but I want someplace new, too. A quick search of  camping areas not too far away results in our choice of Butte Creek.  Not the Butte Campground in the Lassen National Park, but a no frills, dispersed camping spot. We find one, about 40 miles away on forest service road 35 N15, off Hwy 44.  Close to the edge of the national park, but not IN the park.

I spend Friday morning transcribing and becaue I loaded most everything up in the van Thursday night we are on the road at noon. The pups, as always, are so excited! We’re going some place — new P-Mail to check out!

The Butte Creek dispersed camping spot is just a semi-cleared area off the dirt road about two miles in on 35N15. No water, no toilets, no table, no fire ring. It’s just a spot to park, but hey, we’ve got all we need so this will do nicely. 

Our routine begins. Get the dogs settled in shady spots, set up the solar – The stand I made for holding the solar panel at an angle so it gets the most sun works perfectly, and because it is made out of  PVC  pipe it’s lightweight and sized so it fits right into the frame of the solar panel–  


Set up the folding table, pull out the anit-gravity lounger, get water and a leftover meal of Thai Peanut Sesame Noodles in the solar oven to heat. Those chores taken care of I take the boys for a walk down the narrow dirt road to check out the area. We find Butte Creek dry as a bone.  The ditch cut for irrigating someone’s pasture or whatever will not be seeing water again for a while.  As we walk farther down the road I spot a large  field tinged with the brown tones of the coming autumn and an old homestead through the trees. That’s where the irrigation ditch goes.  DSC_0005


We walk on and I see dust being kicked up. I get the boys and myself off the road, but no one ever passes by. Obviously there is an intersecting  road up ahead;  we turn around and head back to camp. I plan to kick back and begin my goal of finishing the novel I am currently reading.

Friday night isn’t as restful as I would have hoped. Burger couldn’t get comfortable in his front seat bed and every time he pawed and pulled trying to rearrange his quilt The Chiweenie Brothers thought they needed to go see what was wrong.  Consequently a longer than usual nap was in order for Saturday morning.

The nap accomplished we take a long  walk enjoying the soft breeze soughing through the pines, a trip to the dry Butte Creek to get a container of sand for a project at home, and then a lot of reading. 

In late afternoon I decide to break camp and prepare to leave for the Hat Creek Rim Vista Point  sometime in the evening.  That chore taken care of I feed the dogs, and eat my own dinner; baked potatoes from the solar cooker and a large salad.  We take a nice long walk and dilly dally around for a couple of hours. DSC_0007

I want to see the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter that will occur around sunset and we head out about 7:00 P.M. for the vista point which is about 20 miles back the way we came; halfway to home.

I’ve forgotten my telescope!  Dang.  Guess that’s a reminder to get a trip list check-off made up. Until we are out there on a full-time basis there’s still that chore of toting stuff back and forth from house to van and from van to house. I hate it. 

The telescope is a new addition to my travel items. A dear friend who knew I was looking for one found a nice 60 X  at a garage sale she was helping with and set it aside for me.  FIVE DOLLARS!  I was so excited to have a specific event in which to use it and left it home. Ah well. I was still able to see the  conjunction, though. It wasn’t visible for long, but cool to see nonetheless.

We sleep better this night and are up early in order to get a few shots of Mt. Lassen just as the sun begins to peek over the eastern horizon. DSC_0025DSC_0024


Not much to do in a vista point once you’ve take in the scenery so we head for home.

Thanks for stopping by 2Dogs.  Until next time …

Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely. –Karen Keiser Clark 

Peach Cobbler

Hey there–today I have a tasty post; a solar cooker experiment that turned out really well. I wanted to try something sweet, but it still had to be diet friendly and delicious. This peach cobbler filled both those requirements.

First the recipe. It’s one from the McDougall cookbook so there’s no refined sugar in it and since I had an abundance of peaches from my tree this year (that’s only happened twice since I planted fruit trees 7 years ago.) I swapped out the blueberries called for in the recipe for these luscious peaches  I had on hand. Fruit is a crap shoot in Burney, California, and I won the jackpot this year.



Peach Cobbler (or blueberry, or ?)

2/3 C whole wheat pastry flour        2/3 C vanilla almond milk

1 1/2 tsp Baking powder                       3 Tbs Honey

Pinch of salt (optional)                        2 C sliced peaches

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in “milk” and honey and mix until smooth. Pour batter into a dark non stick baking pan, 9 x 13, and sprinkle fruit over the top. You can sprinkle some cinnamon on top, too, if you like.  Place the pan inside a clear plastic bag, vented to let the moisture escape, and place in the solar cooker. Go do something fun.   ** If you’re cooking in a regular oven preheat to 350, use an 8″ square pan, and cook for 45 minutes or until browned and bubbly.


With solar cooking there are some key points to remember:

  • You must use a dark pan … this pulls in the needed heat. Shiny will deflect the heat.
  • For baking, and best results, you need to keep the cooker facing the sun so this means turning the whole cooker every now and then. This is to keep the heat consistant.
  • Shallow pans are best, but if the batter is right near the rim you will have to use something to keep the plastic off the top of the cobbler so it will brown –otherwise you’re going to have soggy cobbler. I used a shallow pan for my first attempt and ended up having to use a glass jar to prop the plastic up.
  • It will take much longer to cook by solar than by convential means.  Probably 3 to 4 times longer. The nice thing is, other than turning the cooker, you don’t have to babysit it. It won’t burn!
  • Baking means venting. You will need to enclose your baking pan in a plastic bag to hold the heat in, but it will also need to be vented so moisture doesn’t build up.
  • The pan will be HOT. Use mitts or a towel any time you grab a pan in the cooker and wear sunglasses so the brightness of the cooker doesn’t blind you. 😉 Only half kidding about this. I have really sun sensitive eyes and I do wear sunglasses when solar cooking.

Thanks for stopping by 2Dogs. Hugs, Shawna  Life is uncertain

Solar Cooking

What to do when you can’t be out there enjoying some camping/travel time? Work on your solar cooker, of course! I have been wanting to do this, and just never had what I felt was enough time, so today was the day, and this week is the week to try it out.

I bought a used solar cookbook last winter, and was pretty amazed with what they said could be cooked using a solar oven; everything from boiled eggs to baking a cake and everything in between.  Instructions for two types of cookers; a box cooker and a panel cooker, were also included, along with a list of retail sources should you want to buy instead of make.

I want to be keep “stuff” to a minimum, but I also want to have what I need, and with a single burner propane-powered stove, a tiny folding backpacker’s stove that utilizes wood, alcohol, or solid fuel, and now my panel solar cooker (which can be stored flat), all bases are covered for any situation and any weather; and all three take up very little precious space.

For this first attempt, which ended up being my only attempt so far, I utilized leftover Reflectix from other Freedom projects. The directions were written to use cardboard which is then covered in aluminum foil, but I didn’t have cardboard on hand, so Reflectix was my choice. No cardboard used and I didn’t need to glue aluminum foil to anything; the Reflectix is sturdy enough on its own.

There wasn’t quite enough of the Reflectix left from the window and ice chest lining projects, but I had some irregular pieces that I duct taped together to get the sheet of Reflectix to the size I needed per the instructions in the book.  What the heck. I figure I can always make a prettier one somewhere down the road.

Piecing the Reflextic Together
Lines Drawn
Cutting to Make the Fold

What the pattern boils down to is drawing lines on your material at specified points as a means of knowing where to cut using the intersecting lines on each side of your panel to remove a triangle out of each side. This enables you to fold it up, kind of cupping your cooking vessel to catch as much sun as possible and reflect it back to all sides of the pot. The sunbeams bounce everywhere! Per the instructions, there’s a slot cut in each side to put the ends of the folded panel into for stability. Not sure what I did wrong, but my side panels wouldn’t stay in the slots.  Not be deterred, I used  two binder clips to secure the sides.  *smile*

Bottom line: IT WORKS. I am very impressed with just how well it works. I’ve cooked whole potatoes in it. They came out great!

Being the skeptic that I am I had to find out for myself just how well things would work, or not work in some cases. Yes, the experts are correct when they say the shorter the cooking vessel, the better. Squat dark pans with  large dark lids work best. Dark cake pans, one for the bottom and one for the lid, work very well. Keep them together with binder clips.

Cooking With the Sun! It worked, but there are techniques that make it work better and faster.

Yes, you have to enclose the cooking pot in a clear plastic bag to keep the heat from dissipating. I didn’t have a bag big enough to enclose the pot in the above photo. I tried a smaller pot enclosed in a bag and it worked much better. Note: The potatoes did cook in the pot in the above photo, but it took longer. I can see where the bag would come in as essential if you were trying to cook on a windy day. It would be tough to keep the pot hot enough with out it.

I went through way too many oven cooking bags for my liking, so I ended up digging out my roll of Food Saver plastic and made a bag long enough to accommodate the largest pan (a 13 x 9) I will likely use, ever, and I believe because of the thickness of those Food Saver bags it will hold up through many, many cooking sessions.

One other thing I did was to spray paint a couple different sizes of glass jars with lids a flat black to use as small solar cooking vessels.  They work great for smaller portions or one potato, and are especially useful to warm up cooked food. Lay them on their sides for maximum heat absorption and quicker cooking/heating. I can envision using them to heat up lunch on the dash of the van if we happen to be heading into the sun.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Information and instructions on solar cooking taken from Cooking With Sunshine, Lorraine Anderson and Rick Palkovic. Lots of recipes and information in this book.

Thanks for stopping by 2Dogs! Hugs, Shawna


A watched pot never boils…