Archive for April, 2011

Oven base (earth oven pt4)

Quite by suprise, I had a few more helpers and we ran out of other jobs to do – so we got on with the next stage of the pizza oven which was to add an oven clay base over the top of the insulation level.  I made this with 1pt clay to 1pt sand.

We stomped the base together using boots to start with, but found this was much more difficult than using barefeet.  Boots seem to grab the clay and you end up with platform shoes.  Barefoot seems to be non-stick (apart from between the toes!)

we leveled the clay with the brick rings (three high by this point and still badly made) and put a layer of sand on top.

The red fire bricks were recycled from an old storage heater.  Scrubbed well and layed as flush as possible so sand and ash don’t build up.  I also ensured they were as level as possible.  Almost ready for the dome!

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Insulation (earth oven pt3)

This was the first level of insulation and I’d like to thank the various friends who have increased the number of empty bottles in my collection over the last few days – even my neighbour chucked a few over the fence to help out.

I started making a clay slip the day before by drying out clay on the garden path.  This was then mixed with water to make a cream like consistancy mud soup.

My local timber yard supplied sawdust which I mixed into the clay slip.  The bottles were bedded down on a layer of it which I then backfilled to fill gaps.  This’ll provide airspaces which will trap heat for longer, and insulate it against the cold base.

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Earth oven foundations pt2

Following on from the previous days work, the concrete had set and we were ready to start building.

We decided on a dry stone structure using the rocks we’d dug up from the rockery.  My wife and I stacked them carefully on top of each other using scraps of knowledge I’ve picked up on dry stone walling.

I topped off by laying perhaps the worst built brick circular surround and backfilled it with debris and old tarmac gravel until it was level.  We found that it wasn’t exactly circular, so we used a stone slab we found down the side of our house to make enlarge it back to 48″ diameter.  It does look cobbled together (rustic) but it does look fairly good imho 🙂

The neighbours have become very interested in it and are looking forward to trying the pizza!

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Earth Oven (for bread and pizza!)

The idea of an earth oven is not a new one.  You can cook everything you could cook in a normal conventional store oven and more because of the higher temperatures.

Another advantage is that it has no moving parts, relies solely on the fuel you add to it and no power cuts can cause you to have an uncooked dinner.  It does require more skill and if you’re looking to buy one rather than make it yourself, expect to shell out for it.  You can also add more steam to your oven which won’t affect electrics but will make a crunchier bouncier loaf and it can get to higher temperatures for longer to cook pizzas or slow cook a roast overnight.  It’s very fuel efficient!

Today we built the foundations by digging a foot deep hole 48″ across and added waste brick from one of my recent demolition projects.  We stomped it all down and put steel rebars in which we found in a shed.  The concrete was purchased, but we only used a couple of bags.

PS there is no tiddles buried under the pizza oven, just a bit of quirky humour…

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Living Green – Book Review

Recently I was approached by a firm to review a couple of books for them and when they arrived, I added them to my fairly substantial pile.  Unfortunately my wife has made off with the other book (composting) so to start with, I’m reading the Living Green book.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I recieved this book, I’ve read numerous green books so I was looking forward to reviewing this one. 

The book itself is layed out in sections each concentrating – briefly – on subjects entire books have been written about.  It’s not an indepth guide on any given subject but that’s not to say it isn’t interesting.  It covers a lot of areas and I consider myself very well read in most areas of green living and I still found areas I didn’t know about (or hadn’t even thought about).  It’s fairly unbiased and none of the tips are impractical, though I did cringe a few times when I saw the ideas of buying commercial products where reusing or repurposing items readily available in the users own home would have been more green… but for simplicity sake I guess it’s easier to tell someone to go out and buy a commercial product which will come with instructions on how to apply it, rather than explaining how to DIY it with  doublesided tape, clingfilm and a hairdrier.  It’s not a book on saving money however, it’s a book on being green!

Generally it’s a dip in and out book on particular subjects you may be interested in.  It’s definately been written for an international market so whether you’re in the UK or the USA you’ll find something in there to help you along. 

The negatives are that if you’ve read green books before you’ll see the same sort of information cropping up – but again, it’s all in one place.  It’d make an ideal gift to someone who’s just starting to get interested into getting greener or to give to someone who probably needs a bit of greening!

You can click on the above image/link to visit amazon (and even read a bit yourself)

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Earth Oven

This long weekend I’ll be starting work on the earth oven.  I’ll be using the book “Build Your Own Earth Oven”.

This book has a lot of detail on how to build one from the foundations up and includes a set of plans to build one at home.  A lot of the oven is being made from recycled materials of which I have in abundance at the moment.

My plan is to build a BBQ next to it at the same time, so the foundations will need to take this into account.  I’m not sure whether I’ll have enough bricks from the wall I knocked down, so I’ll probably do a dry run to see what I need.  Photos to come.

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First mow of the season…

Over the weekend we pretty much finished off the plasterboarding and only have a few finishing touches to do until the plasterer comes in.

We also did a bit of general garden clearance – all the piles of dead tree got moved up to the top read for a fire and the ground raked so I can use a flymo on it.  Not my ideal lawn mower, but by the end of my garden landscaping there will be little grass left to mow, so I won’t need a highly powerful mower.

The flymo was donated to me from an uncle who’s moved nearer to us because of his failing health along with a black and decker strimmer which almost immediately caught fire when I started.  Nevermind…

Now however I can start work on the base for the pizza oven and am planning to get a mini digger in to get the pond in as well as the fruit trees.

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Black Morels with Pasta

I’ve created an instructable on here which is my Black Morel and Pasta Recipe.

You need:

Black Morels (I had the three pictured)
1 tbsp Butter
Small Onion
1 Clove garlic
1/2 Cup of cheese (I used strong cheddar)
1tbsp double cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put the pasta on to cook.  Chop the onion and garlic finely (or use a crusher) and slice the morels.  Put into a frying pan with the butter and cook until the onions are transparent and the morels have started to shrink and are gently browning.

Add the drained cooked pasta to the pan, add the cheese and cream.  Turn down and wait until melted.  Add salt/pepper to taste and serve quicky!

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I got a telephone call the other day from my mum saying “We’ve got Morels in the garden”

So naturally I dropped what I was doing and ran round to have a look and sure enough, there were Morels!

You can tell a morel by the distinctive honeycomb like texture on the outside – but also because it has a hollow inside.  The cap is also completely connected to the stem – false morels cap grows down the stem (never connecting) and can have a fleshy inside.  If you’re not sure, don’t eat it – though they’re very rare and expensive – the black version my parents found is especially expensive!

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Trub as has been previously mentioned is a waste product of brewing.  Mostly I’ve used trub on the compost heap, but I’ve found a tastier alternative – making very delicious bread with it.  It’s a very simple process and I used a breadmaker, you just need a bit of forward planning of when you’re going to need bread!  Find the recipe with pictures here…

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