Embracing low-tech

19 October 2010
Hanno and I are always looking for low-tech ways to improve what we do here so when Tricia and I stopped at a thrift shop the other day and saw a Coolgardie safe for $40, I grabbed it. I gave it a good scrubbing and now it's sitting on the kitchen bench. I'm going to use it as it was originally intended, to store food without refrigeration.

In the old days, before the introduction of electricity, Coolgardie safes were used to keep food, including meat, milk and cheese, cool. The safe is made of sturdy wire mesh on four sides with a tray at the bottom and top. The top tray held a pool of water, the bottom one prevented ants climbing up if the safe stood on the ground. The one I have has a handle on top to hang it in a tree or on a hook on a verandah. When full of food, hessian/burlap bags were thrown over the top, they soaked up water from the tray and when a breeze came through, this wet covering cooled the air that entered the safe, thus keeping the contents cool. This one has lost its trays but as I do not intend using it with the hessian bags, I'm not bothered by it.

I am using it to store my bread and cakes, as well as butter during the day. I'll put the butter back in the fridge overnight but the rest can stay out, safe from any flies or bugs that might wander by. I intend to put my homemade bread in a bread bag and put that in the safe to stay fresh and covered without the need of plastic or electricity.

It got me thinking about other low-tech methods we're currently using. I often use a broom instead of the vacuum cleaner. I soak stained clothes after adding my liquid soap to the stain instead of spraying with a harsh chemical. In winter, I place my rising bread dough, covered by a clean tea towel, in the sun to rise instead of turning on the oven for a few minutes to warm. Cooking in a solar oven would be another example of taking advantage of a low tech method to get a job done. Hand sewing instead of using a machine is another low tech method I often use. And, of course, all us knitters know the value of a pair of knitting needles and how often they outshine even the best high tech knitting machines.

What other low tech options are you using in your home? I'd love to expand on what we're doing here so I'm looking for clues in the comments today.