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r ranson
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Let's look at the challenges and solutions that come from fridge free living.

There are all sorts of reasons why I don't like refrigerators. They make noise, plastic, trap smells, freon, energy consumption, but most of all I just have a strong, irrational prejudice against them. One day, in the not too distant future, I hope to live without one. People did it before.

At first I thought I would build a root cellar or three (one for food, one for wine, one for cheese making). A cave like place, dug into the earth on the shady side of a house, with good air flow has been used for millennia to keep food fresh. The challenge with this is that it is not as cold as a fridge, so it will require learning new skills to keep food fresh - like salting, curing, fermenting, &c. That's possible, and well worth investigating further.

Evaporation cooling is another option. This is my favourite:



We can can food of course. I'm not a big fan of this because it takes so much energy and the time requirements are during the hot season and when things are otherwise busy on the farm. But it is a useful skill to have and can be very handy for preserving food.

So what challenges have you faced when keeping food fresh without refrigeration? What solutions have you discovered?
 
Thomas Partridge
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Have you considered fermentation and/or drying as other alternatives to using fridges/freezers?

With fermentation you can take many things that normally would either need to be canned or frozen, and make them something that you can eat or drink year round. Fruit and vegetables mostly of course but those are also some of the things that are the biggest dilemma for those avoiding freezers and fridges. Right now most of the recipes are limited to things that have been tried in the past (sauerkraut, wine, ect) so it might be interesting to experiment with recipes that haven't been tried before. Of course you would want to consult with someone who can help you avoid all the pitfalls, otherwise you could try a recipe and it make you sick.

Drying fruits, vegetables, and meat are things that have been done for most of human history. You could probably dry most things and reconstitute them into some very tasty stews, casseroles, ect. In fact in my travels through the internet I came across a hiking website that specialized in recipes made entirely out of reconstituting dried ingredients. There are probably plans for solar dryers that would work for more than just things like herbs and even if there weren't dehydrators are probably more environmentally friendly than fridges.
 
r ranson
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I love fermenting. Personally I think it's the best fridge free solution.

I can't say enough how marvelous this solution is. I've done a lot of work with it and even though I use the technique daily, I find there is always more to learn.

Lactic fermentation is great for veggies. Alcohol ferment my favourite for fruit. Salami for meat and cheese/yoghurt for milk. There is so much more one can ferment. There aren't many things that can go wrong with fermenting if one trusts their senses. However, to encourage the different bacteria/yeast/invisible beasties, it helps to have the right environment.

One of the challenges I have with fermenting for preservation is that there is no where in this house cool enough to store the ferments in the summer (when the most food is ready to ferment). So once the initial ferment is over, the vat/cheese/sausage goes in the fridge. I've tried adding more salt, and this helps a bit, but I still have the challenge in the summer (and I don't much like over-salty sauerkraut).



Drying is something I'm keen to get into more. Thanks for the hiking site idea.
 
Judy Bowman
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Before we got refrigeration we would can a lot of our food. I've actually pressure canned over an open fire but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who wasn't experienced in both pressure canning and open fire cooking. Our non- refrigeration, non-canning strategy would have to be based on fresh food and yogurt, drying, fermenting, curing/smoking. These are the issues we have in a hot summer climate:

We have a partially finished root cellar under the house, roughly 9 ft x 16 ft. The temperatures average mid 50's in the winter and mid 70's in the summer. 50's will work for aging cheese but I have lots of mold issues. 70's are fine for storing dried things, but they have to be in a moisture- tight container because of humidity. I have stored dry-cured ham down there, but again excessive mold is a problem. The best use I've found for the root cellar in summer is for making wine and fermented products like kraut. We do have to can any excess kraut to keep it much past the time fermentation is complete. This summer we hope to finish the cellar, installing insulated walls that will help lower the summertime temp.

We also have a spring down on a seasonal creek below the house. It needs a spring house but the problem has been that the spring opens down in the lower part of the creek bank and when hard rains come we have a fairly powerful creek rise that would flood and possibly destroy a structure. Hopefully we will be able to improve the spring to where it runs from a point further up the hill. The water temperature at the open outlet runs about mid 60's in hot weather. We are able to use the spring for a water source that we purify using a bio-sand filter.

We raise a feeder pig or two every year and are fairly proficient in curing and smoking. Our cured meat is a late winter/early spring treat as we have found and verified historically that cured meat is generally getting rancid by early summer here in the south. Once the weather warms we can both ham and bacon to hold the meat longer.

We also raise rabbits and chickens which are traditionally summer meat, but realistically both will be tough if not kept cold to age and come out of rigor for at least 24 hours after death. If you go from slaughter straight to the cook pot it's best to stew or braise, both of which are fuel intensive.

While we live in a generally dry summer climate, our homestead is located in the bottom of a canyon which provides us with a lovely, moister microclimate. Unfortunately it can make dehydrating tricky. We have decent luck with dehydrating most fruits and veggies in the greenhouse but it can be hard to get things dry enough. The humidity also makes evaporative cooling techniques less effective.

We are fortunately warm enough to make yogurt in ambient temps in the summer which in turn makes a nice soft cheese. Feta works pretty good for intermediate storage as well. Our real issue is probably that we make more milk than two people can reasonably use, which is a different topic altogether.

For things we do can, we've started to use Tattler reusable lids. The failure rate is a little bit higher than metal lids, but not unacceptable (about 5 to 10% after the learning curve).


 
Matt Powers
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I want a trompe powered home with cold air and water used to keep my walk-in cooler the perfect temperature (this is the ideal lol)
 
Steve Hitchen
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I don't understand this - this doesn't feel like good permaculture to me.

Apart from Mr Borlaug and his amazing wheat, it's unlikely that there has ever been any innovation by man which has saved more lives than the fridge. Certainly the UN believes that the fridge has saved at least three times as many people as anti-biotics have ( for one thing because without fridges, you can't have anti-biotics....), and more than 5x as many people as DDT has ( you may not like it, but DDT has saved the lives of 100million+ people)

Given it's criticality - why would you actively work against it? For the same effort as working against it, you could find a way of making a method of cold storage that works for you in your situation.

Isn't that what we strive for?
 
Jo Hunter-Adams
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we were really surprised how much energy a standard, small, bar fridge uses, particularly when the motor is starting up. We have limited solar and weren't able to power the fridge because we'd have to buy a much more expensive inverter to handle the surge. So we became fridge-free by accident. We still have a small chest freezer, which is on during the day, off at night-- our solar power system can handle that better. It does limit us-- we can't store fruits and veg, but we are generally able to store meat. I'm not knowledgeable enough yet to preserve sufficiently via canning/drying/fermenting. But our current solution is a good step-down in energy use for us, as we try to figure out how to preserve in other ways and muddle our way.

To me, fridges aren't bad in and of themselves- but conventional fridges (even tiny ones) use too much energy to be sustainable for every household in the world to use them. I think the challenge is balancing our needs and wants (ice-cream), mourning losses that become difficult without proper cooling (ice-cream), and moving on.
 
r ranson
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Good question. Why not want a fridge.

I don't want to go into this too deeply because its a thread about fridge free solutions, not why we would want to get rid of a fridge (feel free to start a thread on that topic if you like).

I listed a few reasons in my original post. But it doesn't cover the safety issue.

Refrigeration came after the acceptance of many industrial food processes... like keeping livestock confined in small, overcrowded lots for milk production - which makes raw milk have less probiotic and leaves the milk open to diseases. So refrigeration came at a great time, especially for milk. We can pasteurize the milk, then keep it cool and save lives.

Pasteurized food, foods shipped long distances, all these modern inventions require refrigeration to keep food safe. (over generalizing of course)

But then again, these modern food processing methods are just that, modern. They weren't around 150 years ago. Humans were. Humans survived and thrived for centuries without refrigeration... until we changed the way we produced food.

I feel we can again... and we may have to at some point in the future (be it near or distant). For that reason, I feel it's useful to keep the skills necessary for fridge free living, alive.
 
Victor Johanson
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No need to eschew refrigeration off grid--build an icebox and let the sun make some ice:

http://www.free-energy-info.com/P13.pdf

Or you could build a modern version of the IcyBall and use wood power:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icyball
http://crosleyautoclub.com/IcyBall/HomeBuilt/HallPlans/IB_Directions.html
 
Steve Hitchen
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But......

LOADS of humans *DIDN'T* survive... because without fridges they died. Not a few handfuls of them.... millions of them. Literally millions. Fridges are pretty important things.



Jo: If your challenge is the initial current draw, then by replacing the kicker capacitor with something much heftier, you can slowly trickle in current and you won't get the initial massive draw down. Also - wrap the door, sides and top of the fridge, but not the back in Kingspan, or some other insultation, and keep the back of the fridge eithr cool or in a draft ( a draft is better ) and you will see a very large drop in your energy consumption.

As a general concept, putting a super-capacitor bank into your system sounds like it would be very beneficial for you to handle large "lumpy" current items better - you can very easy get the plans for such a system for free on the internet and the parts themselves for perhaps $30 - $40 if you are in the US.

I would guess that the most efficient, and most ecologically sound way of cooling would be an ice house - you can even go as far as making a communal ice house. They were very common in victorian england - you pack it with ice during the winter and you still have ice left the next winter... and they are very practical to make out of earth, so would be cheap. You would only need 1 ice delivery a year - or none if you live in an area with snow in the winter.
 
Jeremy Franklin
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I saw this thing the other day, and it looked really cool. Sort of a performed root cellar that would solve a lot of the moisture problems. At $10,000 apiece though, they're a little ridiculously overpriced. http://www.weltevree.nl/US/collectie/groundfridge
 
Patricia Sanders
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Being vegan sure simplifies things. When I lived at a moderate altitude (3300') in Arizona, that simplified things, too, because we could garden year round. That meant that, for me, the most tempting use for the freezer was to freeze persimmons to eat in the summertime. They're like sorbet. YUM.

I dry a lot - greens, stews, sauces. When it's sunny the cab of my truck makes a great dehydrator. You get those cardboard flats from the grocery store, that canned goods come on, spread out the food on them (maybe use parchment paper if it's something wet or sticky) and stack the flats one way then the other so they make a tower. Park where the cab will get warm but the food won't be in direct sun. Roll the windows up or down to regulate air flow and temperature.

There's the old trick of having an ice chest open at night and then closing it in the morning, keep it in the shade during the day. We did this with eggs, cucumbers, squash, anything we'd get a large amount of that needed to be kept cool a few days until farmers market. We had a big restaurant walk-in cooler that we would keep relatively cool this way without using the compressor.

Wrap a wet cloth around a jug or jar, and the evaporation will cool the contents.

My favorite thing on a hot summer day was to go for a dip in the water tank with my clothes on, then get on the bike and coast down the hill.
 
Tyler Miller
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I think there might be a little confusion in this thread (or maybe I'm the only one confused). Are you talking about living without cold storage, R Ranson, or are you talking about living without the modern kitchen appliance known as the refrigerator?


I spent a lot of time living off grid as a kid. In theory we had a generator for power, indoor plumbing and a propane refrigerator, but those things seemed to be broken more often than not.

The refrigerator was the most inconvenient thing to live without, and being in Alaska I think my climate was better suited to life without a refrigerator than most other places. In the winter we could keep things outside pretty well, but that was more of a freezer than a refrigerator. By keeping things right next to our drafty front door they would usually stay cool without freezing, but sometimes it would be too warm and sometimes it would freeze even inside. There were little tricks like leaving the milk outside during the day and bringing it inside during the night so that it would (hopefully) be thawed enough for our oatmeal in the morning.

During the summer things kept pretty well in our root cellar, or even just on the floor of our pantry. I don't know how well that would work other places. I imagine that in a hot, humid place like Florida food could start going bad in a matter of hours, where as we could leave a pizza on the table and still eat it a few days later (weeks later, actually, but by that time a pizza is more pepperoni flavored hardtack).

The ground water temperature where I live is just barely above freezing, so my local climate seems like a pretty good place for living without a refrigerator*. Bigger and better root cellars are on the top of my list of projects for when I have my design more finalized and have the money to rent an excavator.

I'd like to build an ice house like Steve Hitchen mentioned. It's pretty much going to be a root cellar with lots of water filled containers. My plan is to have an air intake pipe and an outlet vent with a fan. I want to rig up some micro-controllers that will turn on the fan when the air inside the ice house is warmer than the air outside the ice house, pulling the relatively warm air out and drawing the relatively cold air in. I think with our cold ground temperatures and long winters an ice house would work without the fans, but the fans would hopefully kick it into overdrive. I'd put a roof over it to keep the ground shady and dry during the summer and keep the snow from insulating it in the winter. I think it would be worth dividing it into two sections, an entrance area that would be more like a walk-in refrigerator and the main area that would hopefully be more like a walk-in freezer. I don't know how well it will work out, but I think it will be fun and relatively inexpensive to try.

I had a second idea to create an artificial spring house, but I haven't thought it through too deeply and I don't know much about plumbing. We live in a rainy place and very rarely have to irrigate our outdoors plants, but we've got a bunch of big high tunnels and those require regular watering. Like I said our ground water is very cold, we have to let it warm up in the high tunnels before watering the plants or it can shock them pretty bad. If I built an insulated "spring house" and ran the water line through it I could end up with some good cold storage and pre-heat the water going to the hose just a little bit. I'd have to isolate the water sitting in the spring house from the water heating up in the high tunnel, but that seems easy enough to do with a valve and gravity.

Mold is a concern. I think with the ice house idea it would be cold enough to be less of a concern, but with the spring house idea it would be more of a concern. Have you folks researched using certain salts as dehumidifiers? I haven't looked into it too deeply, but my understanding is that certain kinds of salt naturally pull moisture out of the air. The kind for melting ice is one, but supposedly there is a kind that works even better. The method I heard about was simply to put a bunch of the salt in a bucket and leave it in the area you want dried out. Eventually you end up with a bucket full of salty water. The salt can be re-used by evaporating the water out of it.

*Personally I'll probably keep a refrigerator in my house for the convenience. I'm more interested in using some of these low-power techniques to create larger cold storage areas on the cheap.
 
Tyler Miller
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Victor Johanson wrote:No need to eschew refrigeration off grid--build an icebox and let the sun make some ice:

http://www.free-energy-info.com/P13.pdf

Or you could build a modern version of the IcyBall and use wood power:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icyball
http://crosleyautoclub.com/IcyBall/HomeBuilt/HallPlans/IB_Directions.html

Thanks for linking that! My grandmother told me about having an IcyBall when she was a kid. Her father was really into technology, so funnily enough they had electricity, refrigeration and indoor plumbing out at their ranch well before the people living in town did.

She said that when she visited her grandmother in town she would go out to get the butter from the well where it was left hanging in the bucket for cold storage. Obviously this was a rural town, not a city.

I'll have to ask her if she still has that IcyBall somewhere.
 
r ranson
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Tyler Miller wrote:I think there might be a little confusion in this thread (or maybe I'm the only one confused). Are you talking about living without cold storage, R Ranson, or are you talking about living without the modern kitchen appliance known as the refrigerator?...


The original goal of the thread is to brainstorm ways we can keep food without the use of a refrigerator - so like drying, canning, fermenting, &c. But also, non-electric ways we can keep food cold as well, like evaporation cooling, root cellar.

How we do this is going to depend on the resources available. Some people might live where they can dig a hole in the ground and make a root cellar, other people might have a more nomadic lifestyle and not want to lug a refrigerator around with them. Some people live where it's hot, other places where it's cool... most of us where it's sometimes hot and sometimes cold. Some are off grid, some don't like the expence of the electricity it takes to run a fridge... all sorts of reasons and situations. The common theme is that they don't want/have a fridge.

That was just my intent when starting the thread, the thread will go where it will go - grow organically as it were.

Then again, Paul's expressed that he likes the threads to stay as on topic as possible. The general theme of this thread is as the title says 'fridge free solutions'. A nice broad topic we can explore different ideas within it. The discussion of why we want to be fridge free is drastically different that simply fridge free solutions - it really deserves it's own thread.
 
Wyatt Barnes
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My grandmothers non electric household had a set of shelving built under a stairway that could be lowered into the basement. Basically a dumb waiter except a taller multi shelf box. Not sure what the temperature in the basement was during the summer but it would be cooler than on the main floor.
 
Victor Johanson
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Tyler Miller wrote:
Victor Johanson wrote:No need to eschew refrigeration off grid--build an icebox and let the sun make some ice:

http://www.free-energy-info.com/P13.pdf

Or you could build a modern version of the IcyBall and use wood power:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icyball
http://crosleyautoclub.com/IcyBall/HomeBuilt/HallPlans/IB_Directions.html

Thanks for linking that! My grandmother told me about having an IcyBall when she was a kid. Her father was really into technology, so funnily enough they had electricity, refrigeration and indoor plumbing out at their ranch well before the people living in town did.

She said that when she visited her grandmother in town she would go out to get the butter from the well where it was left hanging in the bucket for cold storage. Obviously this was a rural town, not a city.

I'll have to ask her if she still has that IcyBall somewhere.


Sure--and with regard to the enhanced rootcellar, I kind of have that going, although it's not an ice house. In my dirt floor basement, I walled off and insulated space for a rootcellar. I've got thermostatically controlled intake fans on both the cold and warm sides, and can thus regulate the temperature within a narrow band. Not much good in summer, but during winter it does function very well as a walk-in fridge. It really simplified things for us; before that we were trying to keep stuff in coolers, but that didn't work very well and we lost a lot of the things we grew to mold and decay (plus it was way too much work swapping in new ice).

We're planning on moving off grid within a few years, and I do plan on building one of those solar adsorption icemakers to take care of summer refrigeration. I've also considered the icehouse strategy you mentioned, since it would be no great feat to freeze any quantity of ice for summer use. For winter, I'll rig up a system like I've got now, with the hope of using woodgas and wind to keep the batteries charged during the dark months when solar isn't viable.

BTW, sorry I lost track of you last summer--I still have that kiwi vine potted up for you in my greenhouse (and given the mild winter, I suspect it survived just fine, even in a pot), so next time you make it up here feel free to come by and get it.
 
Alan Loy
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Wyatt Barnes wrote:My grandmothers non electric household had a set of shelving built under a stairway that could be lowered into the basement. Basically a dumb waiter except a taller multi shelf box. Not sure what the temperature in the basement was during the summer but it would be cooler than on the main floor.


You could use this concept and dig as deep as needed, think well with a moveable cupboard

A Coolgardie Safe was a common method of keeping things cold pre refrigeration in Australia. It uses evaporative cooling. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coolgardie_safe

Dairies were built with heavy masonry walls, large verandahs and a breeze way to encourage airflow. In a hot climate the construction would be worth the effort
 
Rebecca Norman
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Our school uses only off-grid solar electric, so we have not picked up that new-fangled fridge fashion that has come in around here the past ten years, when municipal supply in the town became somewhat regular. I lived for years in this region when nobody had fridges at all.

In a society and economy without fridges, customers buy fresh food every day. It's not, as I've seen westerners assume, that the spices cover up or preserve rotting food. It is, in fact, that people eat fresher food than the developed world, who eat old food kept fresh with refrigeration and preservatives.

At our school:
We eat a greater variety of vegetables in summer, and eat seasonal vegetables.
We ferment pickles in October and November, that last in the root cellar till May.
We can apricot jam in August, and tomato products in September and October.
We dry a lot of vegetables in summer: tomatoes, eggplants, cauliflower, broccoli, leafy greens, turnips, and sometimes others.
We grow leafy greens in the greenhouse over the winter. Maybe they don't grow in January but they produce a lot up to December and in February.

But we are not self-sufficient by a long shot, so we still have to buy vegetables, and we don't have a huge excess of vegetables in midsummer or anything.
 
Sarah Joubert
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I really like Rebecca's solution: eat seasonally and Patricia I think your icebox solution is really cool, not to mention your "dehydrator"-awesome! I know these don't address the issue of storing short life food mid term until you can deal with surplus and it can feel wasteful having to throw out/compost/pigerize/chickenize what spoils.
I think people need to figure out what they use a fridge for to work out if they need one.
A fridge is essentially a "short term" storage solution. Now I know that does not apply to cultures and fermentation, I realise that is a big problem, but as Rebecca says-each to it's season. If you really want that stuff all year round, little and often during the hot months may work for you.
A clay pot fridge or Victor's post about the Coolgardie may be sufficient to keep today's dairy/meat fresh.
I appreciate that people who are not growing/producing their own have less options.
Coming from a subtropical, hot climate I'd really appreciate some way to keep some things cool because you need to chill pastry, keep a small supply of drinking water cool and have a cooler than ambient temp for culturing and fermentation. Research has revealed that evaporation cooling doesn't work so well in high humidity-but I will be trying it. Wanting to go off grid on a limited budget, I like the idea of a smaller array and battery storage etc, anything I can take off the power usage calculator is a bonus. Not to mention reducing my carbon footprint by buying less plastic/ materials produced unsustainably, far away.
I think I may be able to live without a fridge but not a freezer at this stage (I know carbon footprint etc, but if I can REDUCE my unsustainable materials footprint by 50%, and as I would have a chest freezer, I would reduce my power consumption substantially)as that is a major long term storage option with the benefits of ice cream(yum), ice and I can also use it to chill water. I was thinking of testing to see if using an insulated cooler box would keep things chilled without freezing.My sister once had to go without a fridge and she used to keep her milk in the freezer in a container of water-the water in the container would freeze but the milk stayed liquid for far longer.
In the older thread on today's dailyish there is a really cool "how to" about using your chest freezer as a fridge for less power usage.
Neither of these ideas would help in a situation without power which is the topic of this discussion, but pirating the words of the "Duke", it may encourage people who are not inclined to be as full-on-crazy as me but wanting to reduce bills/footprint, to consider the options out there.
 
S Bengi
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We use freezers to buy 6 month old meat, that we normally consume in a week or less less.
So we would have to find a way to preserve meat for a week. Smoking+Dried meat once a week/month/season is very doable.

We also use our freezer to store ice-cream. Maybe I will just make kefir milk/fruit+banana smoothies.

I use the fridge to store potatoes, carrots, cabbage for a week. They could also last for a week in my pantry in the summer.
I also store my leafy green in the fridge for a week, maybe others buy and store 90 days of food in their walkin fridge, spinach/kale/chard can be fermented+stored for a week, they can also be dehydrated.
My dehydrated grains and nut can store in my pantry.
My milk can be be kefir fermented for 2 days but I can make cheese with it that will last for over a week.
My dehydrated herbs/seasoning can store in my pantry
My wet condiments can probably store for a week after I open it, I can also make my dressing weekly.
My fruits can last on the counter/pantry for 7days+

Based on these list of alternative we could go easily go without a fridge.

Unfortunately my TV dinner wouldn't make the cut.
 
Judy Bowman
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Patricia Sanders wrote:

There's the old trick of having an ice chest open at night and then closing it in the morning, keep it in the shade during the day. We did this with eggs, cucumbers, squash, anything we'd get a large amount of that needed to be kept cool a few days until farmers market. We had a big restaurant walk-in cooler that we would keep relatively cool this way without using the compressor.


This is how we deal with curing meat (in winter) during warmer spells
 
Judy Bowman
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Another thing we've found is that many things that most people refrigerate keep fine at room temp. Condiments - ketchup, mustard, even mayonnaise - were developed to preserve the harvest.
 
John Smithe
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Patricia Sanders wrote:Being vegan sure simplifies things.
There's the old trick of having an ice chest open at night and then closing it in the morning, keep it in the shade during the day. We did this with eggs, cucumbers, squash, anything we'd get a large amount of that needed to be kept cool a few days until farmers market.


Why would a vegan need eggs?
 
Wyatt Barnes
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If a cold water well exists on a property and a hand pump can access that water then using the households daily water to also cool a food storage area sounds doable. Example, a household uses X number of litres in a day, divide that into batches that will fill the hollow wall space of a double walled watertight insulated chest. The chest would need an easy drain to another draw off tank, and an easy way to fill. Cycle the water through the system based on how much heat it picks up. In a chest type " fridge " you might get away with swapping the water 3 or 4 times a day on the average day.
 
Garry Hoddinott
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Consider a low cost freezer conversion. Freezers are much better insulated than fridges and this solution uses less than 100w per day - and can be powered by the smallest solar setup. No Fridge may mean compromising health and missing out on whole swags of food types that need refrigeration. A second hand chest freezer may be cheaply had.

There are afew vids out there on conversion, but I had not see the little device shown here. A 5 cubic foot GE freezer was converted for $15 using a temp control system bought online. It used 40 watts of power in 24 hours after getting cold. Perfect for a single / double plate solar system.

Here's the Youtube vid


There is sure to be a topic on this somewhere else on Permies that you can reference.
 
Pamela Smith
Posts: 64
Location: BC Canada Zone 5&6
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I am with Garry here. We have been off grid for almost 4 years now. We use our upright freezer as a fridge. It sits in our mudroom which is not heated and on the north side of the house so it is cooler in the summer and cold without freezing everything in the winter.
About 6 months of the year we never have to run it. The rest of the time it takes about 200 watts and runs on our solar. most of that other time we simply have to run it 1-2 times a day for about 30 min o so. For a few months of the year we have it on a time and it runs about 45 mins every 3 hours. We bring it below freezing and it is set for a while.

The only issue I have is high humidity and therefor need to be sure to keep things clean or I get mold.

I ferment many veggies, I can foods, I dry foods in a solar dryer. We set up a cold room in our house, we have a high water table so a dug out cold room will not work. It is all insulated. we have a cold air vent that keeps it cool. It keeps the room cold in the fall, winter and early spring. Occasionally in the summer we turn on a small air conditioner to bring the temperature down if necessary. At that time we usually have full sun and it runs on solar power.

 
Sadie West
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Another possibility is buying food that has already been dried. I'm loving 'Dried Whole Milk', which is available from various sources through Amazon, and elsewhere. Amazon also has dried chopped veggies in small packets under $4: cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, leeks/green onions, celery, tomatoes, etc -- which I'm getting ready to try.
 
Pamela Smith
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Location: BC Canada Zone 5&6
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Other solutions if you own your own land for those just building, add to your kitchen an underground cellar. It can be as simple as adding a cement portion that can be accessed from your kitchen like a pantry.
If kitchen is on north side build an insulated pantry with a cold duct close to the floor and make sure you have a screen on it to keep out vermin. if no basement you can build a cellar underground like they did in the old days.
My friend built a cement cold room then covered it with sod so it looks like a hill next to their home. Even though we get summers in the 3 digits their cold room maintains a temperature of 50F/ 10C
One can attach a cooler to a strong rope and lower it into a shallow well or river.
There is also a clay pot method. There are a couple of ones out there this is but one way I just found.I was looking for another I remember seeing a couple months ago.




My home is always cool especially the mudroom. Just to keep a few veggies cool for a few days one can keep in a cooler on the floor in the coolest part of one's home. Simplest is to grow your own veggies and pick daily, ferment, can and dry foods.
 
Andrew Parker
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Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
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Canning, fermenting, salting, smoking and drying have been around for a very long time. If you want to live free of refrigeration and don't live in the tropics, you will need to learn at least some of those skills, in order to maintain a balanced diet throughout the year.

Even in the tropics, meat and fish often need to be preserved during times of plenty, in order to provide animal protein for the rest of the year, or to transport and sell. Refrigeration has been a real boon for tropical agriculture, allowing more diversified crops that can be pulped or juiced, then flash frozen for storage and transport. (Such was the premise for the movie, "The Mosquito Coast." Hopefully, your experience will be more positive.)

I was raised in the suburbs, but my parents were both raised on or around farm country. We canned fruit, made jams and jellies and concord grape juice. What we couldn't grow in our yard, we would pick from commercial orchards, for a fee.

There are many off-the-grid refrigeration options. If you have freezing winters, you can build an ice house. You might also try building a root cellar and/or ice house in a wofati-style, insulated berm, but your goal will be lowering the average annual temperature, rather than raising it.

Propane (or any other heat source) refrigerators are pretty basic and fairly reliable. Solar refrigeration has been getting more efficient and less expensive (a little). You can get either compressor driven, peltier junction or thermal (basically the same as the propane ones). There are also hybrid units.

I have been following a company from Austria for many years now, Solarfrost. They are primarily a research firm and seem to have a difficult time locking in a product and selling it. There are at least two or three viable thermal solar refrigeration designs on the market right now.
 
Don Goddard
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So for those who would like to live without a refrigerator, I would ask is that Live without any such device or would a satisfactory solution be to live without a "refrigerator" as we know it?
Allow me to elaborate. Leaving aside such systems as ammonia absorption systems, most refrigeration is done by compressor systems. If you compress a gas it gets hot If you let it expand it gets cool. If you compress a gas, and then get the heat out of it you can even converte it to a liquid. Then when you lower the pressure it not only gets cool by expanding it can evaporate and get really cold. A system such as this requires a few basic components.
-- A compressor
-- a heat radiator called a condenser because when you take the heat out of a compressed gas it can condense into a liquid.
-- an expansion system using a tiny oriface through whic the gas is allowed to expand and hence evaporate This system is called the expansion valve and evaporator, and is just another heat exchanger.

Now the one component that is frequently overlooked is the mechanical power source that runs the compressor. On your car it is the engine by way of a rubber belt drive. In a houshold refrigerator it is an electric motor usually built integral with the compressor. But the power source can be anything with enough power. It could be a water wheel, it could be a horse on a tread mill, or it could be a windmill. So if you have a windmill on a tower, a copper pipe coming down to ground level could be the condenser. If you put an automotive AC compressor on a wind mill and then robbed the evaporator out of the car, and used the copper piping from the compressor to the ground as a condenser you have potentially a refrigeration system. Now lets not have anybody lecturing me on the whole big thing that cold is an absence of heat. I know that! So when I talk about storing the cold for later use, I am speaking of storing cold stuff. and then using that cold stuff as a place to dump heat that you want to get rid of..

If such a windmill driven system is used to draw the heat out of a tank of brine (brine so it won't freeze) Then air tubes run through the tank will cool the air. Or containers placed into the brine will result in their contents becoming very cold. So for those of you who do not want a "refrigerator" Would such a system be satisfactory? Yes, Yes, I know the bulk if not all of the good refrigerant gasses are a nasty lot in one way or another, but what if we could drastically limit their release The reason automotive AC systems require lots of maintainance and recharging and expensive repairs is largely because the compressors are driven by a shaft coming from outside the system and going inside by passing hrough a shaft seal which is the Achilles heel of the system. This does not need to be so. the system has another weak point. Because theengine shakes and wobbles, and the compressor is mounted on the engine the refrigerant lines practically have to be hoses and they leak the refrigerant right through the wall of the hose. There are ways around that but they are not cheap on a car but they cold be on a windmill. A "prototype, proof of principle" system ought to be buildable using automotive components. A refrigerator service tecnician with an understanding of various refrigerants may be able to pull that one off, otherwise it will require an engineer well versed in thermoscience. A mechanical engineer shold be able to get rid of the shaft by using a magnetic coupling. (such things already exist). Direct conversion of wind energy to refrigeration should be a very sustainable technology, but it would be essentially a fixed location technology. and would llikely need something like the brine tank I mentioned to "store the cold" for when the wind does not blow ("store the cold" is speaking conceptionally not strictly scientifically. I know that !) And yes using the heat off the condenser does offer use of the system as a "Heat pump"
 
John Janssen
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Matt Powers wrote:I want a trompe powered home with cold air and water used to keep my walk-in cooler the perfect temperature (this is the ideal lol)


Matt I looked at this - trompes are awesome! What I was looking at was using a trompe for the pressure to feed a few LARGE tanks and then run the air through a vortex tube - one for the fridge and one for the freezer. (Can do -40 no prob)

ONly prob is the trompe, almost no technical data on one - the only way is build it and see how well it performs. Build is pretty simple.

Plus how cool to say, casually, I run my walk in -22 freezer off grid with a trompe - not a single moving part. (well maybe an thermostatic air valve to control the vortex tube.)

My plan was underground walk in freezer fed by vortex tube with spill over feeding adjacent fridge and that spillover feeding house (in the summer)

Alas my water volume/head is not suitable enough in my mind to undergo the install cost. So instead running a water wheel with a PMA and an electric fridge is the new plan - all plans subject to change on an epiphany.


John
 
Jeanne Wallace
Posts: 17
Location: Cache Valley, Northern Utah (zone 6a, 4,900 elevation)
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I rarely see anyone mention my favorite book on this topic: Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Stage, and Lactic Fermentation (1999). The various methods
and recipes were submitted by the gardeners and farmers of the Terre Vivante in southestern France.
It details little-known traditional techniques for storing and preserving edibles. Reading it is like sitting at the kitchen table with folks of
generations ago and chatting about how they stored a wide variety of foods without the "conveniences" of modern kitchen appliances.

There are so many gems within its pages—like storing apples (esp pippins) with dried elderflowers to extend life and add a delightful flavor twist—and I especially appreciate the inclusion of ingredients like mountain ash berries,
sea buckthorn, elderberries, quince, angelica, grape leaves, nasturtium seeds, glasswort, linden flowers, cardoon and other rare/unusual edibles that I'm growing and still learning ways of preparing and enjoying.

I believe this book deserves a spot on every permies' bookshelf.
www.chelseagreen.com/preserving-food-without-freezing-or-canning
 
Autumn Hughes
Posts: 13
Location: Scottish Highlands
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We looked at those Colman Extreme insulated coolboxes and decided they were far too expensive so we bought some cheap storage boxes that were much larger than our (ordinary) coolboxes and packed the space between the inner and outer boxes with polystyrene. We keep the boxes on the north side of the van (though they have to be moved regularly as the sun moves round). They cool down a great deal overnight and stay cool enough for the rest of the day to keep things like milk and cheese fresh. We're lucky that our daytime temperatures rarely rise much above 16 or 17 degrees (C), even in the summer.
When we build our house we are planning to build an insulated room on the north side to use as a pantry.
 
Dale Ziemianski
Posts: 9
Location: Lancaster Ohio
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Mike Reynolds designed a thermal mass refrigerator that I hope to build when we finally build our little shack on our land. He's got a full description of how to build it in I think his second Earthship book.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_mass_refrigerator



It uses a thermal mass chimney to suck the heat out of the air as it sinks down from outside. He lines the food part with beer cans - the little bit of alcohol in the beer helps prevent freezing and the metal also sucks out heat. He keeps it closed in the summer and open it in the winter to let cold air in. He also adds refrigeration coils and motor that runs on very little power, mostly cuz it doesn't have to run that much. You could use it without the coils, just disconnect it, but the coils are a good backup during really hot weather.

I've never used it so I can't vouch for it -- still a couch permie -- but it makes sense. I'd build it so it opens from the top to keep the coolth in. I like that it also uses the already cold winters, so we don't have to have a cold bx in a hot box

We read an article in the Bangor Daily News a couple years ago where people were commenting about the power outage from the ice storm they had there that lasted a few weeks. One person complained that all their food in their refrigerators was going bad cuz they had no power. LOL. It's an ice storm! Ice = cold = refrigeration?

Also - we saw Sandor Katz at Mother earth News one year and he's awesome. The way he describes it, you really can't screw up fermentation without it showing obvious signs of 'ew'.
http://www.wildfermentation.com/
We have his book and have tried several things. It's a lot easier than it seems.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
Posts: 57
Location: Wisconsin Rapids, WI
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R Ranson wrote:Let's look at the challenges and solutions that come from fridge free living.

There are all sorts of reasons why I don't like refrigerators. They make noise, plastic, trap smells, freon, energy consumption, but most of all I just have a strong, irrational prejudice against them. One day, in the not too distant future, I hope to live without one. People did it before.
So what challenges have you faced when keeping food fresh without refrigeration? What solutions have you discovered?

In the northern states, we have advantages most of you may not have: a long cold season. But if it freezes where you live, there is a way. Do you know that King Louis XIV had some ice cream in 1700? This is the way it was done: In the winter, people would go on frozen lakes and with a curved saw, they would cut large blocks of ice which they would then lift and transport to a barn. (It was backbreaking work, as a chunk of ice may float, but it is another effort altogether to lift it out of the water!) They would cut it in manageable chunks and keep it very cold in sawdust (Wood is an excellent insulator). With the added advantage of spaces between the bits of wood, the king and some of the richer folks could get ice cream in the middle of July. It was still done not so long ago in this country as I remember seeing some of those 2 men saws and the scissors-hooks to pull the chunks out.
I'm sure we could make an acceptable ice box but we'd have to buy the ice, which defeats the purpose of being off the grid, plus that energy is not really saved if someone else is making the ice for you.
Another solution (again in cold climes) is to pump water when it is very cold outside and freeze it in containers, (bigger is better, but you have to be able to move it around. Leave it in large chunks rather than ice cubes, it keeps better) unmold the ice and start preserving it in sawdust, which you would then place underground for added protection. It would solve the lifting the ice out of the lake, you would not need a lake, your ice would be a lot cleaner. I remember when I lived in the south of France, we did not have a fridge and every third day or so, we had someone deliver some ice to put in the ice box. It was not very big, and mom would always tell us to "think before you open the ice box" and quickly close it, of course. The inside was maybe 2'X 2'X 2'', so 8 cubic feet, and the walls must have been maybe 4" thick.I suspect compacted sawdust was inside, because it kept the things really cold. Once you had a block of ice in there, there was not much room, but in those days, folks did not refrigerate eggs: They put them in flour: Remember that eggs have to stay fresh for 21 days even in the heat of august for the eggs to hatch, so this nonsense of putting eggs in the fridge is just that: Nonsense. Nonsense and maybe convenience. We sometimes had frozen lettuce because the leaves had touched the ice blocks. The inside was zinc, like the bar tops, and few things, if any, were in cellophane. We did not refrigerate bread or apples or tomatoes. Carrots and other roots went in the root cellar. Apples were wrapped in newspaper then went in the cellar, usually far from other goods. Onions, garlic hung on the wall somewhere. We bought more dry sausage that could also be hung in the kitchen. And then we had peas and a few other things that had to be canned.
If you find different ways to keep various food goods, you really do not need a large freezer.
 
Erica Wisner
gardener
Posts: 1191
Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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I think the eggs thing is partly due to washing their coatings off - it's required to wash them to get rid of poop, but it also makes them more open to losing moisture and accepting bacteria.
Modern battery farms are sort of intrinsically unhealthy and then we wash the outside to feel better about it.

We keep eggs at room temperature and have not had problems - if we get them locally, they are fresher than from the store, and keep several weeks.
We also practice the old method of hefting the egg (very light may be older and dehydrated), and cracking into a bowl before using (if the yolk breaks easily, or there are other signs of problems, the dog gets a treat).

I use 70% of my fridge space for things that are no longer fit to eat, like moldy yogurt (might make plaster one day!) and forgotten leftovers. So I could see reducing the size tremendously, and adding more insulation, at a minimum.
We have friends who live in the tropics with generator-only electricity, and on their behalf I'm interested in practical cooling solutions without electricity.
I have also seen a bad shed fire from a leaky propane fridge, so I can see wanting a lower-tech solution (that is within your maintenance capability).

I have seen creek water used effectively; a plastic crate or basket holds the food in jars.
I have used insulated coolers effectively while camping or feeding larger groups on a small-fridge site, especially in combination with available snow, shade, or damp cloths for evaporative cooling.

Also, how you eat changes if you do this regularly.

Fresh produce is kept in the garden, not a box.
Meals often have fresh-cooked elements, and then a "fill the gaps" element like bread and butter, cheese and fruit, pickles and sausage, chips and salsa, compote and cheese, nuts and dried fruit, or desserts like brownies and cake that are sweet enough to keep under glass for a day or two. (And too tasty to last much longer!) Many of the same foods are the classic "ploughman's lunch" that can be carried in a sack and still edible after working half a day in the sun.
Yesterday's bread becomes breakfast toast.

You avoid the problem of refrigerating leftovers, by not gathering or preparing excessive amounts of perishable food.

When I shop for car-camping, I get more canned goods, cheese, summer sausage, more likely to get tortillas than bread.
Apples are easier than berries - berries you eat fresh-picked, or as jam, but you don't try to haul them around for weeks.

I do make cheese. Keeps four to ten times longer than milk. I store much of it in the fridge or freezer. But I am working on a cold cellar to do more aged cheeses. Even an ordinary tin box works for aging well-sealed, store-bought cheddar, to turn cheaper "mild" cheddar into 6-month-aged cheddar like we prefer (but costs twice as much in the store). My own cheeses don't age as well in a non-optimal environment (hot then cold, and too dry for cheese). Need more practice.

I do can apple-butter, and sometimes jams or marmelades.
I have had good success with alcohol fermenting, indifferent success with lacto-fermenting.
Drying and dehydrating is dead easy in this climate.

Temperature control is a key element, we get 60+ degree swings from day to night, and though the house is more moderate, it's not the ideal range for cool-loving cultures for safer preserved foods.
I like the "cellars" idea.

We are looking at using a big terra-cotta pot with some racks and a heavy lid, buried outside, for a cheese cave.

But I think I want a bigger one even before we try the little one.

I've also heard the British used no-electric fridges with good insulation on all sides and an unglazed clay plate on top, you poured water on and evaporation generated a nice cool interior. smaller fridge than we're used to, but effective.

I think putting the pantry in a cool corner of the house is good design sense, too - no south-side storage pantries in the North!

We may prefer refrigeration, but being prepared to live without it in certain times and places is good sense.

-Erica



 
C. Letellier
Posts: 228
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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First off a couple of things I know work some places.

1. My mother when she lived on the mountain had what they called the spring house. It was simply an insulated building over a small spring that always ran. It maintained about 45 to 50 degrees. In the summer the water cooled the building and in the winter it heated it. Only a few people have access to springs but it should be on the list of possibles.

2. She also used to tell about a cooling shed that they used during canning season late summer and early fall when they had to keep stuff cool while getting it processed. The shed had a double roof. During the night they opened things up to cool with night air. During the day they hung wet blankets around it to reduce the rate it warmed up.(I assume light colored) Through the winter is served as a combination animal tight freezer and wood shed close to the house.

3. Growing up we had an old root cellar we didn't use. If it was left open through the winter and closed up in the spring there would still be ice/snow in it come mid july. By August it was warming up but still way cooler than the outdoors. Also wondering if that could be stretched. The good root cellar else where we always built a haystack over. Would that help in this case. Build the stack while the ground was still frozen in late winter or early spring and remove it just as winter was getting to freezing the ground.

Then some comments.

A general comment on trumps. They are great but to produce much pressure you either need a lot of fall or a lot of volume which most people don't have.

Cécile unwashed eggs keep. That does NOT apply to store bought eggs that are washed in unrefrigerated situations. Eggs have a natural coating that protects them from bacteria. When they are washed that coating is washed away, they become risky. You still might eat thousands without getting sick. But get the wrong one and you have problems. Sick as a dog certainly and it can kill you.

Don three comments on your post.
1. Why Brine? You want the tank to freeze because the phase change energy of ice is huge. It will be a better frig with less mass.

2. Now for speculation. The wind system I had been thinking on for a fridge was compressed air. Build the air compressor right and it could scale itself to match wind velocity. Low wind only a small piston working. High wind all the pistons working and staging to really boost pressure. During the summer months run the air down a pipe spiraling around the tower to cool it. During the winter run it in an insulated pipe down the middle of the tower and then dump that heat indoors to heat the building. Either way dump that air in the storage tank. This is to settle moisture out and to create waves of power for the next stage. Below the pop off pressure for the tank add a valve that trips when the pressure is reached. Use that air to run a compounder to convert some of the air to extremely high pressure.(remember this only runs when there is excess air)(also remember the vent air from the compounder will be fairly cool). Store the high pressure in something like oxygen tanks. 2000 psi is possible here. That high pressure air after its storage cools to room temperature has great cooling capacity when vented.

3. As for magnetic drives I had been looking at a wood stove driven stirling motor for a while. That needs a sealed system at about 100 to 200 psi for best efficiency. So I had looked at magnetic drives for that. Problem is most magnetic drives won't handle that kind of pressure because it uses plastic. Metal won't work because of Lenz effect. My answer to this is to wonder what would happen if I made the crankshaft hollow and put the magnets inside it. Inside that run a glass tube. Inside that run the exterior drive shaft with its magnets. Glass is incredibly strong under that type of compression and is very impermeable. Sealing it with orings at either end is doable. Would something like that work with your thinking too?

 
Ferne Reid
Posts: 122
Location: SW Tennessee Zone 7a average rainfall 52"
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We're in a warm, humid climate with generator only power. Having moved from the chilly north, where I could start using my front porch as a refrigerator starting around October, it's been a bit of a learning curve. Down here summer is the challenge ... it's hot and humid, and food just doesn't last long.

Most of what we do Erica already posted above ... we eat more non perishables in the summer, shop for perishables daily or every other day, and do our best to buy and cook just enough so as to minimize leftovers. Mind you, I'm a mom of 5 ... I still make too much supper. But this is why you have dogs, right?

The biggest challenge, really, is that when it's 100+ in the summer and you're sweating like a pig, there isn't anything really cold to drink. Last summer, there were a few times when I would have traded anything I had for a few ice cubes. I'm going to try the clay pot evaporation idea this year and see if we can at least keep some water cold.
 
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