About gDonna
The photo is my son and myself. Now days you can get a photo made to look old like this one. This photo was taken when this was the new look.

Harry S Truman was president when I was born and world war II had ended. I grew up in a time when lunch was put in a brown paper bag and a sandwich was wrapped with wax paper. There was no such thing as pantyhose, we wore stockings that attached to the rubbery clippy things that attached to the girdle. Convenience stores were not common and when we took a trip we packed a picnic basket because many places did not have fast food. Highways had places to pull over and stop, some with picnic tables. Read more ....

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Last day of September 2022

September 30, 2022

Our house is over sixty years old and a good solid house but the doors in the house were not good quality.  So Charles has been replacing the doors one by one and has been building some of our doors such as this linen closet door.  He works on them as he has the time. I really like how he makes them.

After I saw this picture that I took, I had second thoughts about posting it because I thought maybe I should organize the inside of the closet first but this is real life here and what this closet looks like at this time.  It is actually stuffed because of organizing. I went around and collected all of the linens and put them in this closet so I could go back later and make decisions on what to keep. 

With the cost of replacing things today, I am at the point now that I am not as easily discarding on my organizing journey. I am not having any problems with letting go of non purposeful items though.

We are doing all we can now trying to figure out ways to save money on things that cost us to run.  

This is a thermal cooker that we purchased awhile ago and it is an item that will save us money using it.

This particular thermal cooker did not come from the past but thermal cooking was done a very long time ago.  If we study the history of thermal cooking,  it is an interesting read about how food was cooked in clay or earthenware pots and then placed in other pots and put in the ground to continue cooking. 

Nothing says these things cannot be done today and probably are in some areas.   We read about hay boxes that were used and some people still do this by bringing the food to boil and then placing it into homemade hay boxes.

 When we use our thermal cooker it saves us money because it only requires boiling the food items for 2 to five or so minutes, depending what we are cooking. 

We purchased our thermal cooker to help save electricity and fuel when cooking.  Saratoga Jacks has videos on cooking with the thermal cooker.  We are still learning new ways to use it.  One way is to cook a smaller meal for Charles and I in the top tray of the cooker with the bottom part full of water so after eating there is hot water to wash the dishes.  This was not our idea but one we read somewhere on the internet. 

They make a large and a medium cooker, I am not sure if there are other sizes now.  We have a large and medium.  This one above is a medium size.

It saves us the cost of electricity or fuel by cooking our food for us once we do our small part of putting the food in the pot....and...

Bringing it to a full boil for 3 to five minutes, the timing all depends what we are cooking.

Then remove it from the stove and immediately place it into the thermal container it comes with.  It is similar to crock pot cooking only there is no electricity required.

Secure the lid closed.

If this is going to be lunch I will put this on in the morning and set it on the counter and let it cook the food.  If we are traveling it is setting on the floor board of the car and cooking while we are traveling to where we are going.  It will keep the food hot, timing is not critical once it has had time to cook.  We have been using this when going up to work on Myrtle.

When I took the picture above was a day we went up to Myrtle's and we had a nice stew to eat that afternoon.  It cooked all by itself and I cannot explain how it does this. 

We enjoy cooking baked potatoes in the cooker and we can make loaded potatoes.  The potatoes have been perfect texture each time with the technique of when it is time to remove them, pour off the water to drain and place them back into the cooker so they return to how a baked potato would be. I have no affiliation with this company, we have purchased ours.  We had to save the money to purchase them.  They have a video how to cook baked potatoes.

Someone might look at them and say, I cannot afford that cooker.  I thought that to but did the math.  If I guessed an amount higher than what it costs and just use $150.00 for an example.  I do the math of saving $25.00 a month for six months and then order it.  Or I save $6.25 each week, I will have the money to spend on the thermal cooker.  I estimated high because prices go up.  But this is how we buy the things we purchase.  We save the money every two weeks until we have the money for the item we want to purchase.  

Each time it is used to cook a meal that is less KWH used or Fuel. 

This is the most exciting thing that happened this week. We have to dress this up a bit, it was just done yesterday.  We had a plumber come and put in a turn off valve so we can easily turn off the water to our house.  

I thanked the plumber and told him he did not know how many ways this valve was going to help us. 

Winter is coming.....  These winter pictures are from a few years ago taken here in our yard. It does not snow here very often (southeast Alabama), but it does drop to below freezing off and on during winter. Each year I worry during a hard freeze that our pipes will burst.

I told the plumber that I no longer want to run extra heat and water to keep the pipes from freezing because it runs up the utility bill when heating costs are already high.

I really get stressed during freezes because we have a crawl space under our house and it can get really cold under there where our pipes are.  We do put covers on our side vents and have foam on the pipes but I have seen what happens when pipes burst.

Years ago when houses were not piped for water everyone could just get into one room that was heated to get warm and sleep under woolen blankets and quilts and not worry about pipes bursting.  

We will be insulating this valve and pipe area.  Now we have the ability to turn off the water to the house and drain our pipes any time we need to without waiting.  It was worth saving up the money for this and we can check it off our list of things to do. 

We should look at the whole picture of our home to find ways to save money so we can afford to do the things that are needed.

I am making laundry soap photo above.

I grate it...

Then add washing soda and borax.  Depends on what I am washing. It will work into a powder just by rubbing it together, I use my cotton gloves to do this.   It can be done in a food grinder but it does well this way. 

I normally use homemade laundry soap but any kind of real soap will do.  A good castile soap that is not extra expensive is Kirks castile soap and it can be purchased unscented as well. 

I could probably find some low cost laundry soap but I don't know what is in it.  With all the extra work we have been doing on Myrtle, Charles skin is flared and so I am making a batch of laundry soap using a goat milk laundry bar that I purchase from https://goatmilkstuff.com/ They are an excellent company that I use when I am out of my homemade soap and do not have time to make it and wait for it to cure.  They tell on their site how to make your own laundry powder from using their laundry bars or you can buy theirs.  I purchase their bars and make my own using their formula. 

I use two scoops from this tiny scoop because we get our clothes pretty dirty working around here and I have a top loading regular washer.  

For darks and colors I normally put some of my powdered soap in my pickle jar with hot water and swish it around before I put it in the washer.  If I wash laundry by hand I just use the laundry bar. 

I made up extra this day because I had extra laundry to do. 

We are extremely dry here and now the wind has pretty much beat up the little test fall garden.  Our entire area is having a crunchy, very dry spell with no rain for a long time now.  Watering does not seem to help.

Hurricane Ian went by east of us.  Please pray for the people of Florida and other areas getting battered.

Satsumas are half the size they were last year.

The test radish garden is making leaves and should have nice roots now but only very small signs of roots. 

We have been putting the soaker on the lemon tree to help it along since it is so full of lemons.

Albert is still nursing the wilted peppers but they are still blooming.

My Thoughts, the solution to a problem is to do what is needed to avoid having a problem.

Grandma Donna


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Comments (35)


November 15, 2022 4:11 PM
We recently bought an All American Sun Oven and can't wait to try it out. I'm excited to try the idea of heating water on the bottom for dishes and the food in the top part because it's essentially the same as a thermal cooker in a way.

Miriam in Finland

October 17, 2022 4:12 AM
Grandma Donna, I was delighted to find out that you accept comments now! Thank you!

For those who can't afford ''Fireless'' or can't find hay for their hay box: You can use a styrofoam/polystyrene cooler instead of box and line it with something, preferably wool, like blanket strips, wool socks, wool cardigan etc, instead of hay. Make sure the lid keeps snuggly, both for the vessel you cooked your meal in, and for the cooler. This works for making yoghurt, as well.


October 6, 2022 6:12 AM
I am so glad to see you are accepting comments. I enjoy your blog very much. Thank you for all the hard work that goes into it. You've been an inspiration, and I look forward to even more inspiration through the comments community. i am excited to investigate the thermal cookers! Have a wonderful week!

Grandma Donna

October 5, 2022 2:26 PM
Thank you Teresa for the information.
I really enjoyed the video from Utility Jude's Cookery channel. I love her videos and have not seen this one. Thank you for sharing. :) Donna

Teresa Pittman

October 5, 2022 12:31 PM
Thermos makes a thermal cooker and I bought mine from Amazon. They can also be used to keep foods cold.

You heat the food to boiling in the inside pot, then put it in the sleeve. You are usually done within 8-12 hours, so it doesn't cool down to the point where bacteria growth would be an issue. You do have to experiment with how long to cook things. Here's a video on using a haypot: https://youtu.be/P6QUukrpYL8

Grandma Donna

October 4, 2022 7:14 AM
Marie, thank you for the story about the painting of the little girl with blue shoes, a light blue dress and the bluebird. Now the painting is even more special to me. :) Donna


October 4, 2022 4:22 AM
I love the idea of the thermal cooker and will investigate more. They don't have them in the shops here, but one can order online. I have to check import costs though.
Blessings, Pam in Norway

Marie Dybing

October 4, 2022 12:54 AM
Dear Donna I was so excited to see the picture up near your door. I think it was called the blue bird of happiness and hung in my bedroom at my family home when I was a girl. I loved the pretty girl but especially the blue shoes. We had black school shoes and a pair of runners for sport. I wonder if girls now appreciate all their pretty clothes. I was dressed in hand me downs from a neighbours cousin and had a fluffy. green beret and a pair of blue socks, in one of the bags I thought how lovely they were such a change from white socks. I was surprised my mother didn’t yearn for pretty things she just wanted clean warm clothes. She did like pretty fine crockery and when we went to the city we would often window shop and look at it on display.
Your garden is looking productive it is a joy to see. Blessings Marie7

Grandma Donna

October 3, 2022 9:12 AM
Pam, I really cannot explain how the thermal cooker works, I bought a Saratoga Jacks from their company and follow their recipes and suggestions. I do not that a lot of catering people use these as well as Church organizations.
Charles and I have had no issues, the directions say that a slow cook roast takes eight hours. It is the first boil that gets it cooking. Some things you boil a hard boil for ten minutes. Baked potatoes we only hard boil 2 to 3 probably 2 and half and it always turns out good. :) It is nice that you have a well and a river on your property., Very nice. Donna


October 3, 2022 3:04 AM
A thermal cooker sounds very interesting. A little curious about bacteria growth, if left for many hours, how long do you leave it and does it keep a high temperature for a long time?
We have bought a 1950's house and a bit of land in rural Norway. We now have a well and a river on our property, aswell as our own water pump. We need to insulate the well-lid and put in a small thermal cable in the pipe to prevent freezing. Luckily the well is in close proximity to the house.
Blessings, Pam in Norway

Grandma Donna

October 2, 2022 7:41 PM
Debbie, I enjoyed your story about the exhaust pipe cooking. :) I think I will hold off on that one too. Lol Thank you for your comment. Donna


October 2, 2022 9:45 AM
I am intrigued by the thermal cooker. I use a slow cooker quite a bit, and this would be another avenue to try. I had heard of hay box cooking used in the UK during WWII as well. I showed my husband your story about the thermal cooker, and he mentioned an article in Popular Mechanics magazine in the 1960's about cooking on an exhaust pipe while traveling. They didn't have a family car, so he was thwarted in his desire to try it! LOL! Out of curiosity I searched for it. I didn't find that particular article, but did find a number of others about it! I am not interested in trying that method, but goes to show you that there are many ways to achieve the same goal!

Your pictures look lovely, especially of the snow.

Grandma Donna

October 1, 2022 9:09 PM
Thank you Claudia for answering my question. I agree, it would be difficult to cut back further.


October 1, 2022 8:14 PM
In reply to your query Donna,yes; we generally assume it is a percentage of what is normally used. This varies, of course, by the size of the family: larger families will surely use more. However, they are suggesting that an ideal value would be around 54 gallons per person per day. We are all wondering how we can cut back even further, but there comes a point when you just can't. This has happened by stages, though. At first it was just cut back; then cut back by a certain percent (this depends upon where you live), and it is further complicated by how people feel about the whole problem. Wealthier people who live in areas like L.A. where they are being fined; or in the South Bay where there are also fines, feel that if they can afford to pay the fine, they will. Then they continue to use up the water and pay further fines because they can. Many of us are disgusted by this; and it may get to the point where it does not happen like that any more. Wells are drying up, and some farmers have never seen summers this hot, where their produce is just burned. While the wealthy can afford to pay for more, many of use feel that they should not be allowed to. We take 3-5 minute showers, use a bucket to collect the water until it warms up, use grey water for ornamentals, and turn the tap off at any opportunity like brushing our teeth. Dish washers should be full before run, laundry too; and smaller loads are desirable, of course we dry the items on a line outside to spare electricity. If there things to be washed by hand; use a pan and a rinse receptacle. We use taps to reduce the water flow, are not encouraged to use toilets as waste baskets, sometimes do not flush toilets until absolutely necessary, use a displacement device (a water-filled bottle) in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water required to flush. We are encouraged to check for leaks and dripping faucets. Avoid running the tap for a glass of water, and put a bottle in the refrigerator to stay cold. We sweep sidewalks and driveways instead of washing them down with a hose. Take vehicles to a commercial car wash where they are recycling the water, and encourage small children at home to bathe together, and only filling the tub half full for this purpose. In gardens, we don't water the gutter or use it to clean up the sidewalks. Low water gardens are suggested; and not watering during the hottest parts of the day are also water saving ideas. There is only two of us as well, like you and your husband. We use about 50-54 gallons of water a day, and this is reasonable. It includes bathing, watering the garden, dishes, laundry, a quick bath for the dog, etc. Sometimes there are days when we use more, but that is the average; a lot of us are wondering how we can do any better.

Grandma Donna

October 1, 2022 12:26 PM
Hi Sara, I am happy that you have a thermal cooker. I had gotten away from mine but working on Myrtle has made me start using it again and it has helped with meals ready when we work. We got the big one first and then the smaller one and I am glad we have both. :) Donna


October 1, 2022 11:53 AM
You inspired me to take out my thermal cooker and cook some potatoes. They came out great. Then this morning I used it again to make some pasta sauce. Also worked well. The pot that I have is a bit large for us. I think the two pot system would work better for my household. I think I put that one on the wish list.

Grandma Donna

October 1, 2022 10:06 AM
Katie H,
Thank you for your comment.

Grandma Donna

October 1, 2022 10:04 AM
Laura, many years ago I got my laundry bar recipe from mommypotamus on her website. It has been a good recipe. I use a crock pot because it is a coconut oil soap made using heat. Here is her website page below and if you scroll down you will see her recipe for the laundry bar. All of her bars are good. My daughter loves washing her hair with the bath bar even though she has a shampoo bar listed. I guess just copy and paste will take you to it.

Grandma Donna

October 1, 2022 10:00 AM
Thank you Caudia, I have a question if you happen to read this comment, when they tell people to cut by 20 percent or 50 percent are they going by your normal meter read usage? I have always wondered this because we do our best to conserve and if we were asked to cut 20 or 30 percent from this we would be in trouble here. I have wondered many times what we would do about this and if we need to just use normal use. Just curious.

Katie Hartman

October 1, 2022 8:58 AM
I do so love reading your blog. The linen closet is quite pretty with all the colors and the door is lovely.
Thank you for sharing your journey, it is nice to read something positive and inspiring in these times where most everything a body reads is negative or worrisome.

Laura W

October 1, 2022 8:55 AM
Dear Grandma Donna,

Can you please tell me what the measurements are to make your laundry soap ? I have the ingredients but am unsure of the quantities.

Thank you so much.


October 1, 2022 8:28 AM
Great post, Donna. I always enjoy your blog and check it several times a week as I never want to miss anything. Here in California it is dry as usual and the fourth year of drought. We are still struggling with dry gardens and have to monitor our watering severely. Some communities are being fined for using over a certain amount; ours is being asked to cut water use by 20% or more. The town twelve miles north of us is on 50%! We are all using water we save by running a shower until it warms up, using greywater to water ornamentals; fresh water only occasionally. I have had to choose which vegetables I want to grow each season. Gone are the days of growing just what you want. I use the soap bars, too, to wash clothes. Marseilles soap comes in very large cubes, and is traditionally unscented, although you can get scented ones for bath use if desired. Love the stuff, there is no purer way to clean laundry. Thanks for all you give us each week.

Grandma Donna

October 1, 2022 8:12 AM
Thank you Little Penpen, I hope you find some good information. :)

Little Penpen

October 1, 2022 8:01 AM
Your linen door is just beautiful and I love seeing all the neatly folded linens inside. Your posts are filled with so much information and wonderful photos. Coming here to visit is such a treat. I’m off to google the thermal cooker now. Have a great weekend!

Grandma Donna

October 1, 2022 7:41 AM
From Donna

Thank you Jennifer for the extra information about the fireless cooker.

Gail the Saratoga Jacks company is based in Saratoga Springs Utah, USA. About cooking on a small fire, I have always been impressed with people that cook in very simple ways, such as cooking on the ground and this is the only way that they cook so they are experts at this way of cooking. Such as Mayo Utuk on YouTube. She knows how to live on very little and cook with wood. Thank you for the compliment on the linen closet door. :)

Jennifer C-L

October 1, 2022 6:51 AM
Dear Grandma Donna,
In addition to hay-box, another term for thermal cooker is “fireless cooker”. For a free vintage cook book that features info about it, search Project Gutenberg (Gutenberg dot .org) for:
The Fireless Cook Book;
A Manual of the Construction and Use of Appliances for Cooking by Retained Heat, with 250 Recipes


October 1, 2022 3:19 AM
Hello Donna, it’s been awhile since I wrote my last email to you, however I do look forward to reading your posts. I’m am so encouraged to keep finding new ways of doing things after reading your sensible approach to life. Hear on the east coast of Australia we are having so much rain that our spring garden is now suffering, just like yours although ours is too much rain. I was interested to see that your thermal pot has a kangaroo on the front which makes me wonder if it could be an Australian company. Times are difficult for many just now and we all must knuckle down and start preparing for the uncertain times ahead. Thermal cooking may be the way to go if we start getting the power outages that we read might be coming as well. I have thought that we could heat food on a small fire made with a couple of brick a a grate on top out in our yard. When it comes to the boil just pop it in the thermal cooker. Very little wood needed as well. I am also doing a lot more one pot meals now and this also saves on electricity. A sun oven is something I would really like to have as well, however I think one would really need to know it will be often used as they are expensive over here.
I really like you linen cupboard door and also the fact that this picture wasn’t staged to look perfect.
Take care of yourselves and thank you for your writings.
Blessings Gail.

Grandma Donna

September 30, 2022 11:00 PM
Thank you Karen for your comment. You have some good ideas to help with the garden. I tried to grow early as I could in spring and now trying to grow more in fall. But the drought has squashed my garden. We are not in an official drought her but we are parched.
We are going to have to do some thing different if the heat keeps getting worse because the farmers are struggling too. I like your thoughts about leaving the weeds. I found that frost cloth has helped save our celery from the heat. It was all I had and the celery did good under the cloth.


September 30, 2022 10:48 PM
Hello Donna
Many here in NZ are talking about the Summer that is predicted to be hotter than last year and how they will.vegie garden.
Many are talking about buying shade cloth and this must be so as there's not a.lot.instore. I am planting much more crops than normal to allow for some loss and mulching thickly. Not allowing bare soil and even leaving weeds in for that purpose. Flowers popped in any spaces. I know plants survive better in ground rather than raised beds as they heat up and cause plants to bolt.
I'm greatly encouraged by your blog and thank you for your faithfulness to us all in writing it.

Grandma Donna

September 30, 2022 9:15 PM
From Grandma Donna

Darlene, there could be other companies that make them now so I suggest in doing some study on this, I guess I should have written this in the post. I hope that Hurricane Ian is kind to you. Donna

Darlene from Ohio

September 30, 2022 9:10 PM
Hi Donna,

I had never seen a thermal cooker before. How interesting. I will look this company up. I think this is a great idea.

I think it's wonderful you got a shut off for your water that you can easily use. As someone who has had busted pipes more than once, using a water shut-off and draining your water pipes in a freeze is a very good thing. Having a flooded basement in the Winter is awful.

It's too bad you are not getting any rain for your Autumn garden. I'd gladly send you some of ours! We are still having to mow twice a week as the grass is going gangbusters with all the rain we keep getting. Saturday we will be getting rain from Hurricane Ian. I hope you are able to get a good harvest anyways.

I like your thought, "The solution to a problem is to do what is needed to avoid having a problem".

Take care~

Grandma Donna

September 30, 2022 6:25 PM
From Grandma Donna

Thank you Jennifer C-L, for the information.

Laura, I hope the little ones behave for you and pay attention. Can't wait to see the pictures.

Danielle, I am happy that you are feeling encouraged. Thank you for the haybox information. :)

Jennifer C-L

September 30, 2022 6:10 PM
Another term for thermal cooker is “Fireless”. Project Gutenberg (Gutenberg dot .org) has a cookbook you might enjoy perusing:
The Fireless Cook Book;
A Manual of the Construction and Use of Appliances for Cooking by Retained Heat, with 250 Recipes

Laura Lane of Harvest Lane Cottage

September 30, 2022 5:21 PM
You've given more to think about as usual my friend. Hope you have a lovely weekend and week. I'm going to substitute teach kindergartners next week for the first time! Trying to bring in a little extra money to rebuild our savings after the wedding. I'll have photos up on the blog Saturday night.

Hugs to you!

Danielle P.

September 30, 2022 5:10 PM
Grandma Donna, I just recently read through your past posts and have learned so much! You're encouraging me to try new things, to always keep learning, and most of all to trust in myself. Thank you!

For those interested in making their own haybox, I highly recommend watching the videos on a YouTube channel called "Dutchhomestead." Bregtje cooks simple delicious meals in her home-made haybox, and her home is delighful!
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