Friday, April 23, 2010

Cob Oven

Our cob oven was one of the first projects completed as a group. The first task was to clear and level the site, then build up a U-shaped dry-stacked stone foundation to a height of about 20". A board was set in place with cob to span the gap.

Atop the board, we created a 2” thick perimeter of cob about 4” high to act as a sort of bowl to hold our insulative layer of glass bottles and sand. Levelling the sand served as the base for the firebrick floor of our oven’s interior.

After laying the firebrick, we created a sand dome to act as the oven's form. The sand was moistened slightly (finer sand would have made the dome sculpting much easier, but we used what we had), then formed into a dome 40cm high with a base circumference of 60cm. Wrapping the dome in a clay-slipped hessian sack, we let it set overnight.

Two days later, we began to prepare materials for the next steps. A ‘fire-cob’ mix of 1 part pottery clay to 4 parts sand was the first layer (the finer the sand the better – large grits or rocks could fall from the oven’s ceiling on to your bread or pizza), and we slowly packed it around the sand form 8cm thick, always pressing down rather than in toward the sand base. It was important to build in even levels and keep each level perpendicular to the sand form’s curve. Though we had sculpted this layer around the door (12” wide and 10” high) as it was set in place, Christo suggested it would be easier to create the full dome, then cut the doorway out later.

After the fire cob mix was applied and then smacked with a board to compact it, a layer of slipped straw was wrapped around the fire-cob 12cm thick. This was followed shortly after by wet cob ‘pancakes’, applied thinly over the slipped straw insulation. We then dug out the sand form. The next week was spent drying the oven out. We waited two days after the outer layer had been applied, then began keeping small kindling fires inside of the oven. After several days, it was possible to see steam rising up from the oven, meaning that the moisture was travelling to the outside. Because the back side received little sun or wind, it was damp for almost a full week. Although a few small holes had appeared (straw catching fire and burning through), they were easily patched with slipped straw and cob. One week after the first kindling fires, we built a rather large one to finish the drying process. That evening, we baked our first sourdough breads using our hand-made peels.

Then the following evening we applied a coat of plaster and invited Paul & Therese’s family and friends over for a pizza party.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Last day in Ireland for this one, we had amazing weather and loads of laughs, learning and great food, stories, finds and ingenious clothes washing in the Ara river, thanks to Graeme, Sam and Peter for this entertaining episode! Thanks to Grant with out your peels no pizza!!!! Thanks to Sara for passing through and helping out!!! Thanks to Thomas for enjoying the cooking of all the cooks and keeping the mobile whole!, Thanks to Karen for the goodies, and care in the house and on the site!, Thanks to to Alastair for the humor, beercan sandwich and lovely lunch before I left. thanks to you ALL! for being supportive, hungry, eager and such great spirits to be around and share with!!! May the Pooka protect you and shine it's light on you in a mschieveous mannner to keep you humble, laughing and fired in spirit along your journey. Working together is a blessing to remember!
And last but not least thanks to Paul and Therese for making this all possible for me and all to come! You've an inspirational dream to be a part of!

Love and hugs,


p.s. I miss you all already!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

First week

The first week of the internship has been a full one! Timberframing the outdoor bathhouse/composting toilet has started, the earthen oven is built and drying in the glorious spring sun! End of next week the first baking session of pizza and bread! The garden is coming along and before to long the first lettuces should be ready to harvest. Therese has spoiled us the first week with amazing cooking, this coming week we will start on the foundation work and 101 other small projects. Looking forward to loads of learning, laughter and getting to know eachother better!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Photo Album

Our photo album is now online with pictures of our first week's progress. Check back often for new uploads:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Hi, Welcome to our Blog. We are Alastair, Graeme, Karen, Grant, Sam, Thomas, Peter and we are Natural Building Interns in Tipperary Ireland for the next seven months with Paul & Therese, Christo, Jo, Jim......