Water Use and Cooking in the Bush

Hey All! Sorry I’ve been offline for a while! A lot of you have been writing, commenting, and giving me positive feedback on my blog! Love it! Please keep it up 8) It’s a great morale booster and beneficial to my mental health!

You’ve also been asking questions, which I love! I can’t wait to get these answers out to you. Please don’t hesitate to ask, anything from how I’m mixing my white wash, to project identification, to how I mix mortar to patch and build things around the house! I’m glad to share and offer what I can.

On that note, let’s get down and dirty with some details about my daily life. I want to address two questions in this blog. The first is how I get my water, how I keep it, and how I manage to treat it, given the circumstances of my bush life. The second is how I cook, what I use, my plans for a cook stove, where my fuel comes from, etc.

So, here we go. I’ll try to include details without boring you all too much. On the topic of water, my water comes from two sources. I have three-twenty litre improvised jerry cans, and one-ten litre jerry can. Two of the twenty litre cans are old cooking oil plastic containers (thoroughly washed) and one contained de-ionized water at one point. To clean them I mixed bleach, building sand – (clean sand with the consistency of beach sand) – and detergent paste with a small amount of water, then shook the containers, rinsed them and repeated. The sand serves to help rub the residue and oil off the container. The bleach and water help facilitate the soap in removing it. After 6 times of this process, I tested the containers and found no residue/film on the water. I then began using my water containers.

My drinking water comes from a 45m bore hole – long pipe, bored into the water table that takes advantage of a hand pump to bring water to the surface. The bore hole is old, the pipes rusted, leaving a small amount of rust residue in my containers, and dirt in my water filter. The newer bore hole is broken, and unfortunately the cost of its repair is exorbitant and out of the community’s reach. The labor is specialized and the parts hard to find. I’ll talk more about that in a later post. After tapping my water, I haul it using my bike, back to my hut, where I add chlorine (a commercially produced water purifying agent, that used chlorine). The water sits for at least 45 minutes and then by 3 litre increments, is added to my British Berkfield water filter. The water filter has two ‘candles’ and a 3 litre capacity. The candles act as a filter which can be cleaned with a toothbrush and some toothpaste or some mild detergent and a cloth. Their lifespan is about 6 months. I’ll be replacing mine in January.

The other two-twenty litre containers I fill from the local river. This water is used for cooking (only foods that will be boiled) washing, and bathing. River and lake water here can be dangerous due to waterborne illnesses. Specifically, I worry most about Giardia, Shistosomaisis, and Bilharzia – which are all issues in the area. In addition to my jerry cans, I purchased a 50 litre container with a closed top, much like a storage tub for clothes. This becomes important because chlorine/bleach/chlorine doesn’t kill shisto/bilharzia, but you can interrupt these diseases life cycle by allowing the water to sit for two days – 48 hours. I add one capful of bleach (not chlorine which has a different chlorine content) to each container (20 litres) and let them sit for 48 hours. Then I take the water and add it to my 50 litre container. This container then becomes my usable reservoir of water. Remember that this is not drinking water, and is not filtered, but it still contains bleach to help prevent mold/smell/living things as it is river water. I’m working now on making a cloth lid out of folded chitenge (a thin cloth material that is readily available here) to act as a filter between my jerry cans and my reservoir to filter the water as I add it, but figuring out how to secure it while adding the water and remove it after is becoming tiresome. Just now I’m using brick chunks tied into the corners of the chitenge and draping it over the container as I poor the water in. It’s working, but I’d like to refine it further.

That just about covers my water. I monitor and try to increase my water efficiency each day, as hauling water is a time intensive and difficult task. I use my bathing and laundry water for my garden, as I’ve made an indoor bathing shelter, and outlet pipe which runs to a bucket set outside and collects the runoff. I’m designing and need to implement a roof-rainwater catchment system, but haven’t had time to make it a reality as of yet.

Now, on to the exciting world of cooking, heating bathing water, heating laundry water and anything else exciting and fun to cook (soya). To cook I use charcoal, made by igniting a pile of wood, attaining a desired heat, closing off the air source and allowing the wood to carbonize – wooo! Biofuel! I did this once in my community and have since decided to buy all my fuel needs… I’m supporting local business! Right? Anyway, charcoal attained, I add it to a metal brazier, made either of sheet metal, old car metal, car rims… pretty much any metal that can be scavenged and bent and welded into a circular shape. It is well perforated, with a lower air chamber to collect ash, and a raised fuel bed. It doesn’t have a chimney, thus preventing it from becoming a rocket stove (my future improved fuel efficient stove project). The pot then rests on the metal rim, directly above the charcoal. Due to good air circulation because of the raised fuel bed, the charcoal burns hot and efficiently. Some heat is lost due to the lack of insulation, but it ends up working pretty well.

I use a handy dandy tuna can and some methylated spirits, or fire starter (purchased in the provincial capital) to start the charcoal and then cook/heat as long as I need. The nature of the brazier allows me to place the tuna can/fire starter underneath the fuel bed, to ignite the charcoal without having to build a bed of grass/sticks etc to start the fire.

I’ve got to say, tuna and tin cans have been a wonderful resource. They’ve served as everything from candle holders, to fire starters, to makeshift stoves (to heat my morning cup of hot cocoa (thanks Jean!) with some methylated spirits), I’ve even used ’em as nursery holders to make hanging nursery beds for my garden – they are small but I can hang five or six of them each above each other, perforate the bottom, add water to the top and let it drip down through each, not too shabby. Plus, it comes from a luxury that I’m loving – tuna… mmmmn. Hahaha.

Speaking of candles and candle holders, I found some tinfoil – yay wrappers! – and made some sheets out of it, then stapled the sheets to my brick walls behind my candles, offering improved reflection and increased light in my evenings. Pretty awesome.






One response to “Water Use and Cooking in the Bush”

  1. Alex Berger Avatar

    Fascinating to see the process, the tools used/re-purposed, and the final products.

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