Monday, January 28, 2013

Country Living Expo

  Linda and I had a fun day at the Country Living Expo on Saturday.  Linda seemed to enjoy her chain saw for girls and tomato classes. She seemed less enthused about the fly fishing class.  The prime rib lunch was absolutely heavenly. I've never seen such thick slices of prime rib. We both enjoyed browsing around the vender tables.  I met quite a few alumni of my bee classes and discovered an interesting group advocating butter and lard as being more healthy than most vegetable oil.

    I really enjoyed the Build a Cob Oven class. A cob oven is also known as an earthen oven and is generally built outdoors, often from locally gathered materials. I would really like to build one in our back yard. Maybe after I finish the cedar ceilings I'll have the time to build an outdoor bread oven. I think it would be a great preparedness project. Think of the fun pizza parties we could have.

    The class lasted two hours and was very "hands on".  Actually it was as much "feet on" as it was "hands on".  About a dozen people were willing to remove their shoes and socks in order to mix the sand and clay.  Instead, I volunteered to work on the sand form for the oven cavity.  The cob oven or earthen oven is usually built on a foundation that gives it a comfortable working height . Since the  class took place in the Stanwood High School wood shop our oven was obviously going to be moved. Consequently, we built it on a foundation of plywood. The base consisted of 12 fire brick. We built up the form for the oven interior using wet sand. When we had got it to the right height and width we covered the mold with newspaper. It was sort of like building a big smooth sand castle
The interior sand mold is formed on the firebrick base
Meanwhile, others work the sand-clay mixture with their feet.
The clay-sand mixture is added over the interior sand mold

   Soon after we had finished the mold for the oven interior, the clay sand mixture was ready to apply.  It was built up over the mold until there was a two inch layer of cob material.  Now it just needed to dry sufficiently for the door to be cut out and the sand removed from the interior cavity. I'm not sure how long that takes, but probably a little longer in our wet climate. The whole process of building the actual oven only took an hour and a half.  The oven I would like to build in the backyard is going to take longer to build.  First of all, I'll have to build a foundation to a height of at least two feet.  Secondly, I'd like my oven to be a bit bigger than the one we did in class.  It was only 22 inches in diameter and 14 inches high. Also I would like my oven to be shaped like a bee skip. I'm thinking the artistic aspect will probably add to the construction time.  The particular oven we made in class also lacked the additional insulating layer and exterior plaster. The insulating layer increases the ability of the oven to hold heat. I can see I'm going to have to read a book or two before I get serious about oven building. I'd hate to go to that much work and then be less than fully satisfied with the results.

The completed oven now needs to dry


  1. Wowzers. I'm sure grandkids would love mixing cob with you.

  2. James really wants to help, too. You might even get him to help with the cedar planks because he's so interested in cob.