This past weekend, I attended an earth-oven building workshop at Green Mountain Flour in Windsor, Vermont. It was fun and very educational, in addition to being a superior workout. Cooking food with fire appeals to me so much, and it was wonderful to spend time with like-minded people who know a lot about using the arc of the heat to turn a bunch of ingredients into a bunch of noms. Also? I LOVE MAKING MORTAR. If the whole copywriting thing ever goes south, I am becoming a mason.
Above you see a picture of the oven when the clay layer that forms the shape of the oven has been applied, and the cob layer (with the straw sticking out) is starting to rise. The cob is for insulation, and it is made of clay, sand, water and oat straw. It helps the oven retain its heat so it can be used for hours without having to build a new fire. This is a commercial oven that Zach the baker will use to make the breads and pizzas that Green Mountain Flour sells to those fortunate enough to live in east-central Vermont, which explains why the oven is so huge. Because there are a lot of hungry people in east-central Vermont.
When we build our oven at home, it will be much smaller. After I had unpacked, my husband and I sat on the sofa, pointed our feet at the fire and started plotting. We evaluated our assets, browsed From The Wood-Fired Oven (the informative and inspirational book that the workshop teacher, Richard Miscovich, had just published) and worked out a plan in which we net an earth-oven AND a wood-fired hot tub; the Coronet cookstove gets to return to the kitchen it has not graced in about a century; the Hen Cottage chickens can join the greater poultry society of the barnyard (because we need their real estate to build on); and we get a new bardyard gate to replace the laughable one I made out of a pallet and have been patching with hay twine ever since. So. Super easy! No problem! Stay tuned!
Here’s a picture of how many people it takes to have a good time and still get a lot done on a giant oven. The take-away: make YOUR earth oven a party from Day 1.