Monday, July 16, 2012

Making an earth oven!

I can tell you from the get go that this is a big job but a worthy job.  This is when the pedal meets the metal with your friends.  Tell them all and see who shows up and how long they stay.  Luckily the process includes lots of fun and plenty o' exercise for those like me.  The more the merrier, right?  If you are looking at the end game, you would not miss this experience for the world!  Here's what the process looks like:

This is where we started since the base had been made in May.  Remember the photo of Jesse with all the rocks brought in for him to choose from.  (see previous blog) WOW!

Art along with many others making the first mixture of clay and sand which will cover the sand form topped off with wet newspapers, being the first layer of the dome. It was fun and great exercise mixing until a handful packed ball could be dropped from waist height and not fall apart on impact. 

The acid test in progress!

Meanwhile the firebrick was being laid on top of the base.  A layer of mortar and sand was used for leveling and the firebricks we tamped tightly together.  They formed the tongue and the floor of the oven. The firebricks are laid upright to create the mass of the earth oven floor.  Heat will be more readily absorbed and retained the greater the mass.

Jesse had built the arch from brick and mortar in what felt like no time. Oh the hands of experience! Jim had made the lovely form for the door.  Notice Jesse shimmed the form so it would come out easily when it was cured.  The outer edges of the firebrick was surrounded by the first layer "stuff" to hold everything in place and to create a ledge around the oven itself.  That ledge supports the depth of the first layer which is 4-5 inches thick.
The form is sand and is made stable by compacting it.  When it is the right size and shape and is compacted, you cover it with wet newspapers to separate the layers. That way, when you remove the sand you will know when you have reached the first layer of the dome of your oven.

Some of us started putting on the first layer while others were still making the materials we needed more of.  It made sense to make wedge shaped "bricks" to cover the sand form.

Working in on the top of the first layer.  Now you can understand the reason for the wedge shaped "bricks" we were making.

Covered with the first layer of clay/sand mix.  While this layer was drying out a bit, we rehydrated, had a bite and started making the second layer which was a combination of clay slip, cut straw and vermiculite. This layer would be the insulation layer to keep the heat from dissapating too quickly. Now, this was fun!

                 A new version of slip n' slide. Tarps, and lots of them, are an integral part of this process.

Second layer done.

Third layer of clay, sand and straw being mixed in the traditional fashion. A la foote!

Third layer going on.

The arch is opened and there is all the sand.  It was amazing the amount of sand that came out. 

We took turns based on willingness and arm length.  Then we got a board to help move the sand without damaging the inner dome.

Truly a thing of immense beauty!

Well, that is the short version of building an earth oven with lots of friends, old and new.  We were all tired and quite pleased with ourselves.  Jesse is an amazing man.  He led us on an adventure, guiding and teaching us every step along the way, empowering us to have the know how to build our own earth oven and enjoy it once it is built.  It was a delight to have a shared experience that was fun, challenging and interesting. Guided along together we were able to see the results in a fraction of the time it would have taken us on our own. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything.  Many thanks to Jesse (the great) for sharing his knowledge and know how and to Cat and Jim for making this happen for the rest of us and sharing the experience at their beautiful place.  Thanks from the bottom of my heart.  We'll be calling y'all when we get around to building ours.  Remember, everything tastes better when it is cooked outside!

The next edition will be about the party we just had yesterday to reconnect with our cohorts in crime, fire that baby up and enjoy the fruits of our labors.  Wondrous, but that will have to wait for another day.

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