Wood gas, in practice

With the experimentation now done, there was only one thing left to do.

Prepare an actual meal with a wood gas stove.

So, this last Saturday, I got a 12 liter pot and invited some friends over, for a good old braai (BBQ for those not living in South Africa.)

Here I got all the usual stuff ready. I put 3.25 liters of water in the pot, as per the cooking instructions for the pap I had.

That's 1 kilo gram of maize meal you see there. Enough to feed a family of 5. You could easily double that number by adding some meat or vegetables.

The fire was lit at 17:12 and the pot went on at 17:14.

At 17:37 the water was boiling. I added the 1kg of of maize meal along with some salt.
At 17:41 I removed the pot from stove, as per cooking instructions, and left it to cool a bit.

The stove was working very well indeed.

At 17:47, I added 250 ml of water to the pot, and placed it back on the stove.

At 17:53 the maize meal was cooked. So I removed the pot from the stove, and stood amazed at the ease and speed with which that was accomplished.

But the stove was still going, so I decided to grab some onions and tomatoes to make a gravy.
I put the pot for gravy on the stove at 18:06.

At 18:20 the gravy was done.

Now I could waffle some more here, I could add more pictures and go on about how we ate the pap along with some pork chops and the gravy, of course. I could carry on about the kettle I put on a normal fire and how it took almost 5 times the wood to boil 3 liters of water and how we later kept the water warm on the stove.

But my goal has been achieved, I've done what I set out to do. There is no more question in my mind about the utility of these virtually cost free devices and how they could change the way rural communities live.

For the sake of completeness, here are some more facts about preparing the meal.

- The total amount of fuel used for this, was 752 grams of wood.
- The time it took to cook the pap, came to 41 minutes.
- The gravy cooked in 14 minutes.
- The gravy was prepared entirely on the residual heat, after the flames from the stove died.

Now, when I was a kid, I saw a documentary about a woman living in a rural community. She had to wake up at 04h15 in the morning, to prepare breakfast and a cup of coffee for her husband, using a normal fire, before he woke up at 06h00 in order to go to work.

In order to do this, she had to start that fire, in the cold, outside her mud hut. She had to chop wood during the day, while her husband was at work. She had to walk miles in order to get that wood in the first place.

Basically, the thing that touched me, was the fact that she had to put so much effort into getting a simple meal done for her family.

While watching that documentary, I felt like climbing through the TV and helping her carry that ridiculous load of wood that would last her for the day.

Now though, I'm preparing the manufacturing instructions for these devices. Once done, I'll start approaching some NGOs in order to see about getting the information into her hands. If I ever meet her, I'll give her the stove I made.