Saturday, April 21, 2007

We fired the oven!

(A note from the editor...
The work on this oven was done over several weeks, but the posting over several hours. Post dates and times do not reflect true chronology, but were broken up into several posts to clarify the steps we took in the actual process.

Anyone interested in seeing the creation in rewind should start here. Everybody else, scroll down a few posts and start there.)

Luke and Kate, two of our favorite people (we have many), flew in from Sitka for a visit on Saturday, April 14. We had been hoping to finish the oven in time to christen it with them, and we did!

We took advantage of the beautiful weather, cut a door, scooped out the sand, and lit a fire. To be more exact, Bryan, Luke and the girls did these things. I made lunch and took a nap, awakening to the sight of flames licking at the newly framed doorway and steam rising from the drying clay.

Bryan spent most of the day rushing between the oven in the back (stoking, poking) and the garage around front (cutting more scrap wood for firewood, making necessary tools and a beautiful door) and ended up smelling like a campfire.

While the pizza dough rose, Kate and I went to the store and returned with resources for excellent earth-oven pizza. It was almost 9 PM before the first ones were coming out of the oven, but they were superb!

Shaping the void

Rain and rehearsal kept us away from the oven this morning, but by 1:00 or so it had cleared off enough to work. The girls jumped in to build the sand dome while I made a Wilco run for a tarp and more sand.

Then we rolled up our sleeves and our pants legs and danced in the dirt. (did the Trinity dance like this when mixing Adam’s clay?), kneading, squidging, slopping, shaping…not your typical dance moves.

The division of labor sorted itself out, me on the tarp, mixing and picking out rocks; Bryan carefully packing clay around the crumbling sand dome; and the girls shifting between the two of us with occasional detours past the swing set and the water bucket.

I kept hoping the dome would take shape more quickly as we neared the top, but we seemed to slow at about the same rate as it grew. The day ended with cheers, pictures, and foot-washing all around, followed by take-and-bake pizza. (If we couldn’t use the new oven yet, at least we could have pizza!)

Now we wait to discover how long it takes mud to dry…in Oregon…in April.

A firm foundation

Over the last few evenings, Bryan has done quite a bit of work on the base for the oven. We decided to insulate with 4 inches of lava rock underneath the bricks.

A layer of mud follows to prevent sand from sifting down, then said sand (4 more inches) and finally red brick set into the sand.

We had a bit of trouble finding the brick. Many places we looked carried red-dyed concrete, but your basic clay brick was a bit tricky to find, and locating firebrick had us completely stumped.

Given the intermittent use we hope to get out of this oven, we think the red brick should work just fine. It looks great…and we can’t wait to cover it up!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Flocks of chicks and bricks and rocks come

I've been meaning to write about these things for a week or so now, and, although they are completely unrelated, wanted to lump them together in one post just for the fun of the Dr. Seuss reference.

"These things" are...

On a recent visit to Kookoolan Farms (one of our favorite sources for milk, eggs, chicken, laughter, and friendship) we helped clean the chicken brooder and were invited to return later in the week to help transfer a shipment of baby chicks into their new home.
We picked them up, all 200 of them, at the Yamhill post office, much to the relief of the postal employee who had just about had it with the shockingly noisy fluffballs.

Then we drove them to the farm ("peep, peep, peep" all the way home) and put them into the brooder. All together now...Awwww.

Our other excitement this week came in the form of rocks, bricks and sand (thank you, Craig's List) for the foundation of our earth oven. I'd been mulling the idea of an earth oven for several months now, but since I couldn't supply much more than the dough for the project, didn't pursue it any further than reading a book on the subject, always a good idea anyway. This week, during a brief evening escape to the back porch, Bryan and I talked over where, if we built an oven, we would put one. As soon as we pictured it nestled between the raised bed and the fence, just 2 steps from the back porch (of course, everything in our tiny back yard is just steps from the back porch), the project became inevitable.

Still, it surprised me, when the next evening, Bryan showed up with a pile of rocks for the retaining wall/foundation, and the next brought buckets of sand for the interior mold. He dug out the clay soil to save for the oven (finally it will be good for something!) and built the rock wall.

I went online to request that book from my library again.