You may think solar power is a 21st-century concept. But a Los Altos woman, born before the invention of the airplane, can still teach us a thing or two about it.
The late Margaret Hill Smith, whose husband planted the apricot orchard in 1901 that now surrounds Los Altos City Hall, loved apricot jam. But she didn’t like cooking it over a hot stove on warm summer days. Instead, she mixed her jam in a low pan and placed it outside on a table in direct sunlight, covering the pot with a piece of glass. The glass magnified the sun’s rays, which then cooked the jam. She placed four matchsticks at four different spots where the glass met the pot, to allow the air to circulate and cook the jam more evenly. Four days in the sun and the jam was done.