Archive for May, 2011


The day of the big housewarming party had arrived and I don’t think I’ve worked so hard for some while!  My friend Ben and I did the rounds in the morning picking up chairs, tables, glasses and other assorted party stuff from relatives then rushed home to setup.  We’d booked a bouncy castle and invited both sets of neighbours either side who’d helped clearing the garden or who’d provided us help over the last couple of months!  Friends and family rolled up and we got the BBQ running.

Ben had spent some of the morning making a great peel and a door for the pizza oven.  We intended to fire it up around dinner time after everyone was sick of BBQ food and provide some nice pizzas.  I wish I’d had time for another dry run with the oven but decided to wing it on the day.

I started the fire around 4pm and got it going for a good burn until about 6pm when we raked out the ashes and tried our luck.

I started off by putting some raw dough in – and within seconds it’d become rather excellent naan bread.  Encouraged the first pizza went in.  It came out quite deep panned but had a lovely crunch at the base – ten times better than oven pizza (including the ‘fresh’ pizza dough I’d used in the oven a couple of weeks before).  We managed another two pizzas before deciding to start the fire again and brought it back up to temperature.  Pizzas were taking about 5-10 minutes to cook, so I’m fairly sure my oven was still a little on the cool side, so I’m looking forward to firing it up again perhaps as soon as next weekend…

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Party Keg

The beer has been ready for a couple of weeks now, but today it’s been moved into my bar ready for the weekend.  I’ve done this early as it allows the beer to settle out again after being moved… Roll on the weekend!

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This tent may not look like much, but I’ve had it for a number of years – it has to be over ten years old now.  It’s still very much useable and believe me, it’s seen a lot of use.

Last year we went to Munich and camped at The Tent.  Which allows very convenient access to the beer halls without paying out for a rather expensive hotel.  It’s actually nicer as you get a feeling of community there as well as having a campfire and a bar attached.  Unfortunately it did rain quite a bit when we were there and in september it was very cold (though we were offered blankets when we checked in, we were fairly well equiped and didn’t need them)

My tent leaked like a sieve.

So on my return I bought two rather enviromentally unfriendly products and rewaterproofed my tent.  It’s now cleaned and ready for the new camping season and will definately be in use when I’m not using my new hammock toy (a hennessy asym deluxe)

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The Man Cave

One of my side projects is making my self a bar/cinema room outside (by the pizza oven) to enjoy movies and computer games which is my idea of fun after being ruined by my 3hr daily commute.  Today I managed to get the optics and built a bar out of scrounged bits of wood.

Yes that is the first JD…

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Adding insulation (earth oven pt8)

Making up another batch of insulation I insulated the oven. A few bottles went round the sides as well.  Hopefully this’ll make it easier to get the oven up to temperature.

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Pizza Fail

I got up early and started my fire before anyone had a chance to get their washing out (about 7-8am).  A full large bag of wood later and I thought I had a nice warm oven.

The idea was to make a pizza for my friend Allan who was coming to finish the electrics in my man cave.  Unfortunately my fire was neither hot enough nor l0ng enough lasting.  After a two hour burn the outside of the clay was getting hot and yet the inside still felt only warm.

The dough I’d made went into the fridge for the next day and made a nice pizza in the oven (if not only a little over cooked!)

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First drying fire (earth oven pt7)


Last night I scooped out the sand and lit the first drying fire which was quite small.

I was surprised how well the fire lit, the small amount of smoke and well, frankly that it worked!

I light a lot of fires when camping but never in a container like an oven.

Once the wood caught properly there was no visible smoke and after I raked out the ash and embers the inside was considerably warmer than I expected!

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Popping down the lottie

During the busy weekend we also managed to pop down the lottie to check on things.

Plenty of stuff is still growing – carrots, purple sprouting, rhubarb etc.  We’ve also got asparagus (already a couple of feet high) amongst all sorts of other greenery. 

We also had plenty of weedsand stinging nettles – it took over two hours to get everything well mowed and several of the beds deweeded.  We rescued some strawberry runners to take back to the house which are already in full flower – so not long now till strawberries! 🙂

Now comes the arduous task of planting, as we’ve been in a poor state this year I have no seedlings sorted, so it’ll be a few trips to the nursery instead – not so bad because with all the activity decorating, building ovens and knocking down walls I’d have probably neglected them anyway.  Similarly we’ve only had 10% of the average april rainfall, which would explain why everything looks dry and dusty at the lottie (and would have killed most seedlings as well!)

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Cutting a door (earth oven pt6)

An oven door has to be 63% of the height of the sand form and half the width.  Unfortunately for me I didn’t pay too much attention and only did a rough guide.  Also having built the oven I uncovered it in the morning and by the afternoon it’d had started cracking.  Cracks aren’t fatal and shows that my clay was probably too higher quality and needed more sand/silt to produce a better finish.  Nevermind… it’s a bit late to worry about it now!

I patched the holes and recovered with a tarp.  By late evening the oven had started to reabsorb the excess moisture from undried sections of clay and the hard skin had become soft clay again.  You’re recommended under these circumstances to let the oven dry slower under cover, which is basically what I’m doing.

Next steps will be to add additional layers of insulation and do a bit of styling.  I’ll start lighting small fires either tomorrow or thursday to start the internal drying process.

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Oven dome (earth oven pt5)

Finally everything was in place to start the earth oven itself!  We had four bags of sharp sand which was pretty much all we needed – though I did later learn that our oven mix had too much clay and more sand would have meant less cracking!

I started off by making a 22.5″ diameter circle using a tape measure and pencil.  Sand was piled upto and a little over the edges and tamped down.  Fortunately the sand was pretty wet from the bags and we didn’t need to wet it further to keep its structure.

Usually you’d then add wet newspaper, but it was so windy any attempt to stick newspaper to the dome failed.  We put clay directly over the sand, firming down rather than squashing it onto the dome which would have dented the sand form.

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