• Publishers' Note Summer 2008

    Publishers' Note Summer 2008

    As the weather warms here in Vermont, we get to experience the promise of another growing season. But many people in our communities struggle with food security, unable to get access to Vermont’s amazing bounty. Summer is a good time to think of these community members. Here are some ways that we can make a difference.

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  • Llama Beans for Your Beds

    Llama Beans for Your Beds

    At our small hilltop farm here in Craftsbury Common, the melting winter snow recently revealed piles of one of Vermont’s gardening treasures: llama manure. Also known as “llamanure” or “llama beans,” llama manure has become the fertilizer of choice for many friends and neighbors of llama farms. Thus, on a recent bright spring morning, our neighbors arrived in pick-ups, shovels in hand, ready for the spring ritual of scooping poop provided by our small herd here at Maple Leaf Llamas.

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  • A Cheese for the Ages

    A Cheese for the Ages

    One can easily imagine the feelings of pride in the hamlet of Plymouth Notch when a cheese factory opened there in 1890. It was a cooperative community venture, founded by five local families, and it soon became a centerpiece in the town of Plymouth.

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  • Farm Camp—Planting Confidence, Harvesting Strength

    Farm Camp—Planting Confidence, Harvesting Strength

    As I downshift off the Putney exit of I-91, my husband, Jerry, is roused from his dozing by the hollow sound of several hundred jostling maple syrup jugs. It’s April, time to buy containers for our maple syrup at Bascom’s 10% container sale, and time to post Farm Camp flyers.

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  • Set the Table with Hot Peppers

    Set the Table with Hot Peppers

    There’s an old adage that says, “You can’t grow peppers in Vermont.” But then there’s another expression: “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those doing it!” In the heart of dairy country in West Addison, Michael and Lisa Shannon are growing an extensive assortment of hot peppers on approximately one acre. They say these fairly tough plants, many of which originated in Central and South America, can thrive in Vermont’s climate.

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  • Diary of a Farm Apprentice—Part 1: Spring

    Diary of a Farm Apprentice—Part 1: Spring

    I want to be a farmer. It is 5:30 in the morning, and the rooster, who lives very close to my window, is crowing before dawn. I find it useful to remind myself: I want to be a farmer.

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  • Beyond Ben & Jerry’s

    Beyond Ben & Jerry’s

    Let’s face it. We’re spoiled by many artisan food producers in Vermont. Bread bakers Randy George and Liza Cain of Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex. Cheesemakers Willow Smart and David Phinney of Willow Hill Farm in Milton. Bob and Martha Pollak, makers of Snowflake Chocolates in Jericho. The list goes on. Vermont is a foodie’s paradise.

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  • Three Square—Summer 2008

    Three Square—Summer 2008

    Growing up in Vermont I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura daylilies. I recently returned to live here full time. Since then, I’ve noticed that conversation often turns to food. What’s for dinner? In this series, I visit a variety of Vermonters in their homes, peer into their iceboxes, and share their thoughts about what they eat. Because of the often personal nature of their stories, I’ve chosen to omit their last names.

    I’m sitting with Ezra on a couch in the living room of his family’s apartment, upstairs from On the Rise bakery in Richmond. I ask him what he likes to eat for lunch. Ezra is six.

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  • An Interview with Tom Stearns

    An Interview with Tom Stearns

    High Mowing Organic Seeds is a thriving Vermont company that sells to gardeners and farmers around the country. In January, High Mowing became one of four plaintiffs in a lawsuit that asks the federal government to postpone the release of genetically modified (GMO) sugar beets until a more rigorous environmental analysis is done. (Sugar beets are used to make sugar; table beets are the ones we eat.) Tom Stearns, founder and president of High Mowing Seeds, talked with Local Banquet about his company’s decision to join the lawsuit. – Caroline Abels

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  • Build a Solar Food Dryer

    Build a Solar Food Dryer

    I built this solar food dryer about 15 years ago and I’ve been using it ever since to dry vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms. The design is similar to a suitcase. Each end has a simple screen–covered frame that allows warm air to circulate from the bottom, over the eight drying racks, and out the top, while preventing unwanted guests from getting to your food. This easy–to–build project is a great way to preserve food.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Baby Tastes

    Farmers' Kitchen—Baby Tastes

    There’s an old adage that says, “You can’t grow peppers in Vermont.” But then there’s another expression: “Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those doing it!” In the heart of dairy country in West Addison, Michael and Lisa Shannon are growing an extensive assortment of hot peppers on approximately one acre. They say these fairly tough plants, many of which originated in Central and South America, can thrive in Vermont’s climate.

    Continue Reading

  • Last Morsel—Jr. Iron Chef

    Last Morsel—Jr. Iron Chef

    If you had walked into the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction on April 12, you would have seen dozens of teenagers from around Vermont having fun with... sprouts. And root vegetables. And wheat berries. And winter squash.

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Build a Solar Food Dryer

solar food dryer

Written By

Meg Lucas

Written on

June 01 , 2008

I built this solar food dryer about 15 years ago and I’ve been using it ever since to dry vegetables, herbs, and mushrooms. The design is similar to a suitcase. Each end has a simple screen–covered frame that allows warm air to circulate from the bottom, over the eight drying racks, and out the top, while preventing unwanted guests from getting to your food. This easy–to–build project is a great way to preserve food.

solar dryer notch detailI started by constructing the sides of the dryer. They are made up of two pieces of 3/4” pine. The outside piece is 3/4” x 3” x 39”; you’ll need to cut two of these. The inside pieces are cut from 3/4” x 2 1/2” x 39” stock and they are then notched to receive the drying racks (See detail for measurements). To assemble the sides, I simply glued them together.

Next, I made the frames for the top and bottom of the dryer. Using 3/4” x 3/4” stock I cut 4 pieces to a length of 24” and 4 pieces to a length of 3”. I notched out each end of the stock to create a lap joint. I then assembled the frames using glue and a brad to hold them in place while the glue dried. Once dried, I covered the frames with a nonmetallic mesh screen, which I purchased at the local hardware store. Here I also used non–rusting staples to attach the screen to the frames. For the back of the dryer I used 1/4” plywood cut to 39” x 24”. Next I cut 4 pieces of 3/4”stock to 1 1/2” x 24”.

Assembly consists of first gluing and nailing the back to the sides. I then attached the 1 1/2” pieces to the top and bottom of the back using finishing nails. Flipping the dryer over I attached the remaining 1 3/4” pieces to the top and bottom of the two sides using the same method. At this point the top and bottom screen frames can be attached to the dryer using finishing nails or screws.

The door of the dryer is constructed of two pieces of 3/4” x 1 1/2”by 36” stock and two pieces of 3/4” x 1 1/2” by 24” stock. A 22 1/2” x 34 1/2” piece of 1/8” Plexiglas fits into a 3/8” deep by 1/2” wide rabbet cut in the back of the doorframe pieces. I used 3” wood screws to assemble the frame. The Plexiglas is held in place with a 1/4”quarter–round molding, mitered to fit the frame. The finished door is mounted to the dryer using two 2 1/2”butt hinges. At the top of the dryer frame I attached two double-wing flush clips.

There are eight drying racks and they are constructed of 3/4” x 3/4” stock, 21” long and 4” wide and covered with the same nonmetallic screen. The racks sit in the grooves in the dryer’s interior and can be inserted or removed as you need.

solar dryer back detailFor the back legs I used 2 pieces of 3/4” x 1 1/2” x 18” stock for the legs and 1 piece of 3/4” x 3” x 21” for the middle brace. I used 3” wood screws to fasten the legs and middle brace together. I also attached a 3/4 ” x 3” x 4” piece of stock to the back of the dryer below the leg assembly to mount the double wing flush clip. The leg assembly is attached to the dryer using strap hinges (see detail below).

To help reflect the sun I painted the interior of my dryer with white milk paint, since the idea is to dry the food not cook it. The final touch was to install a handle on the side.

To use the dryer all you need to do is set it up facing the sun and arrange your food on the drying racks. I like to slice the vegetables and mushrooms thinly as I find this aids the drying time. The great thing about this solar dryer is that it’s easy to transport, set up, easy to use, and easy to store.

About the Author

Meg Lucas

Meg Lucas

Co-publisher Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine

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A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.

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