Friday, October 4, 2013

By Hand

Over the years we've made an effort to transition from dependence on energy-reliant appliances to manual ones. Certainly not in everything, and we definitely have a long way to go, but we've found some pretty cool gadgets that could easily take the place of powered things.

Some of my gadgets are little more than conversation pieces - like the laundry wringer I have. I've used it during a power outage, but for the most part, it's not something I use every day. It's a just in case - like the generator we bought many years ago, and still have new ... in the box.

On a side note: I'd like to sell the generator and use the money toward the purchase of some marine batteries and an RV-sized windmill. Whatever we could get for the generator wouldn't totally cover the costs of those things, and neither would an RV-sized windmill give us the same amount of electricity as the generator, but in an extreme situation, the only reason we need electricity is to keep the freezer cold. Everything else is a luxury or we have alternative ways of satisfying those needs.

Back to the point, I've prided myself on how much we've managed to shave off our usage, and how easy the transition was from all electric stuff to mostly manual tools once we committed to the change. My favorite change has been in how we make coffee. To brew the coffee, we use a French Press, which requires only that we add hot water. During the winter we heat water on the woodstove. Since we're already heating the house, keeping tea kettle of water uses nothing extra. In the summer, we, currently, use an electric teapot, which I know seems to contradict the assertion that we're reducing, because we're still using electricity, but the little electric teapot uses significantly less electricity to heat water than using the stove top does. It's a very small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

I read an article a couple of weeks ago that talked about how to prepare the perfect cup of coffee, and the article said the perfect cup of coffee was brewed in a French press (score one for me!). We bought the press, originally, because it allowed us to brew coffee quickly and easily and all we needed to was hot water (and French presses can also be used to brew loose-leaf tea). The longer we use it, though, the more I appreciate it. The only draw back is that it doesn't keep the coffee hot, but we can put it in a thermos - and problem solved. Or we just let it go cold, and then, have iced coffee.

The second part to the perfect cup of coffee has to do with the beans, and according to the article, the best coffee is fresh ground. We had some fair-trade coffee beans we bought at some point, probably by accident thinking we were getting the ground stuff. For the week or two before our trip, we tried to use up all of our consumables, because we didn't know what our farm sitter would want for food or drinks, and we didn't want to come home to a refrigerator full of science experiments. We used the last of the ground coffee the weekend we got back and didn't get any more.

Luckily, we've found some very cool manual gadgets at the thrift store over the years, including: a very cool coffee grinder.

The result is that, this week, we've been enjoying the "perfect" cup of coffee - fresh ground, brewed in a coffee press, and lightened with real cream.

And this little coffee grinder, including working really well, is also a very nice conversation piece.


  1. I bet that coffee tastes fantastic Wendy.

    We also use a french press to brew our cuppa as I refuse to purchase any electronic gadget that uses disposable capsules to make my coffee. They don't work when the power is out, and are just so wasteful.

    Gav x

  2. I had a friend who used her manual coffee grinder to crack grains for the chickens. Every time a child visitor arrived she would hand the child the coffee grinder and a scoop of grain. My children used to love going to visit and grinding the grain for the chookies.

  3. I have your book on pre order over here in the UK and it is only due to be released here on 31st October. Looking forward to reading it.
    I also use a grinder and french press for coffee, you can help keep your coffee hot longer by making a little woolly or fleece jacket to pop over it. My friend made one from a felted sweater sleeve with slits cut for the handle and spout, gathered at the top with a hole for the plunger. Works well :)

  4. A friend of my husband's convinced him to try coffee made with a press a couple of years ago and we had to drive all over Okinawa trying to buy one after that. Ultimately we found one at Starbucks (imagine that). If anyone in your family knits or crochets, there are patterns on Ravelry for French press "cozies" that will help keep the coffee or tea warm too. (If you don't, let me know - I have "faved" a couple of them and would be glad to try to make you one. :) I'm sure they could also be made from an old sweater or sweatshirt or even quilting too!)

    We checked out a couple of local antique stores a few months back as I was on the hunt for a manual coffee grinder for him as well. When he bought the press we bought an electric grinder, but it is rather loud, obviously requires electricity, and is not anywhere near as much fun to use as the manual one. I lucked out and found a German one, which of course has other value for us as well.

    Enjoy your cuppa!