Our Philosophy

Festina lente
-make haste...slowly

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Cob Oven Reveal

As my ol' pal and prodigal son, Ix, noted in the comments section of my last post - and by the way, Ix, I'm glad to see the money you invested in finishing school is paying off - the rough sketch of the fledgling cob oven on display in my last post was somewhat baffling.  Agreed.  I've been able to see it in my head since I started stacking rocks, but there's no reason to believe anyone else could have.

Well, ponder no more!  It isn't completely finished (I still have to do the finish plaster and finish building the shed over it) but it is now a legitimate oven, fired dry and hard, 6" thick dome, with a few tasty pizzas under its belt.  Check out the video of the first firing:

Burns surprisingly well (later, bigger fires) for not having a chimney.  Must be the door height to dome height ratio thingy that I mentioned last time.  I seem to have gotten that part right.

The thing I have to do next, though, is build a door to close it up tight.  I can put a lot of heat into the mass of the oven (about 500 lbs of cob alone), get it way up over 500 degrees in there, but it just hemorrhages heat once you remove the fire.  Everyone says a tight door is a must.  I agree.  A door is next.  I think it'll work great then.

Or you could build a version large enough to leave the fire in while you bake if that's your preference.  I could see that being a better party trick anyway.

So I've got $20 invested in the thing so far, for sand, that I used as a mold over which the cob shell was built.  I'll reuse that sand in the finish plaster, too, though I might have to buy a little additional pigment to add to the native clay to get the desired finish color.  Very affordable for its gravity.

Although...with a chance to look at it from the typical angle, and the little cooking tool and woodshed going up around it, I'm afraid the split down the middle in the target look of "wheat seed" looks a little more like "fat man's derriere."  Never mind what that would make the entry to the oven look like.

Nah, I think I'll plaster over that and make it smooth...we'll just pretend it's there to help the plaster hold onto the structure better!

Everyone who has seen it so far wants one, wants me to help them build one.  I think I could just about start a career building these things.  Pretty fun, too, but took plenty of physical effort.  Probably a full work week of effort all told, just to this point.  Core workout the whole way through, too.  Not like sitting at a desk.  Cobbing is actually very physical.  Surprisingly physical.  Every batch was a workout.  But left me feeling really good.  To be able to take heavy, natural, (and free) materials lying right around you and make something beautiful and useful out of them is uniquely rewarding.

If you're ever in the neighborhood let me know and we'll fire this baby up.

In the meantime, I've been churning it out lately.  I'm going to have one of the best photo updates in years ready for the winter solstice post!  Please stop back by.

Tripp out.


  1. About 15-20 minutes after I posited my question to you re: not getting it, it dawned on me. The white mound was sand with some sort of weak binder, the stuff under the arch was something similar, and both were removed once the 'cob' set... You should've had an elaborate, monster keystone!!!

    The sifting soil thing - finally figured that one out, and it's sure a lot of work with a wheelbarrow and a 1/4" mesh filter box (especially on pure carbon compost - even moreso with dry mulch [why? dunno])...

    There is a place near here called McMinnamin's Edgefield, which is an old hotel that's been converted into a brew pub/golf course/concert venue/large garden. I noticed they grew their apple tree rows in an 8 foot wide bed of comfrey - looked like an interesting idea. Been propagating bocking-14 everywhere for a few years now - getting huge plants like in your pictures, with 4 harvests so far this year. You've just gotta love comfrey (smells like cucumber when you harvest). I need to figure out a good salve recipe and other uses, besides mulch/compost/liquid fertilizer (I don't eat it).

    Mushrooms are popping up all over right now (been tempted for decades to try and prepare slippery jill boletes [even spore printed them on microscope]), which is also a nice sign. FWIW, I've gone the apple/plum/peach/pear/blueberry/raspberry/grape/garlic/asparagus route, with the usual peppermint/lemon balm/sage/thyme/rosemary/lavendar/echinacea, wherever I can fit them. It's become a literal jungle in my front yard, and I've got it hedged off with Laurelhedge (so it is almost like a maze to navigate)! I've even got a Walnut tree (from a start years ago that squirrels leave all around here - not sure where the fruiting tree is), but don't know if/when it will ever fruit. Got a couple 'wild' hazelnut trees on the side/in the back I let grow, and they do produce - but I've not gotten busy w/ the pruning yet...

    FWIW, I get sick of talking about an economy with nearly 70% of GDP due to high frequency/millisecond bankster (automated) trading. GDP counts each trade (transaction) - not sure where there's any value WHATSOEVER in a trade between a trade between a trade between computers (growth/growth/growth! QE/money printing). And don't get me started on the fraudulent unemployment or inflation numbers...

  2. Sounds like I'd be right at home in your yard! I need to get on the echinacea though, and more flowers in general next year, oh, and honeybees, and goats, and yeah, always something more to add isn't there? Should be able to do some serious comfrey expansion next spring - interesting approach with the apples. All my trees have at least one, but maybe they need a lot more.

    Tons of shrooms round here too. Most shiitakes ever. Haven't tried more than half a dozen bolete species yet though. Watch out for the toxic root zone of that walnut. Or are you doing a permie-type guilded detox around it? You know, hackberry, goumi, and all that.

    No argument on the financial shenanigans. What shocks me is all the supposedly smart people who just can't see it. Mind-boggling. How much longer can the puppet show go on?

  3. My backyard is a lot larger and more comfortable/secluded, but a few tall deciduous trees keep it completely shaded all summer, and vacant all winter. A good solar regulator for seasonal house temp (backyard SSW). And a great source of black gold (TM). U used to live in WA, correct? They legalized it, We (OryGone) legalized it - Peter Tosh (Bob?) fought the good fight?

    I am looking into eventually building my own bee hive, as well as a chicken coup (they're finally allowed here [3 females], a couple years back). No rabbits or goats tho. They use goats a lot out here, to eat misc/blackberry hedges. I believe I forgot to mention the west side of 'this' property (we can share it with you - *KNOW* man owns this Earth we 'roam') is blanketed in blackberries (himalayan and evergreen), growing out over the arborvitaes (SP?).

    The walnut is still small and stunted (~8ft), and was planted 6+ years ago in a terrible location to begin with (a desert pine tree used to be there, then died from disease 2 decades ago) - nothing wants to grow there, even the laurel hedge...

    I'm not sure if I've got black walnut, but I think I will heed your advice and just chop it down. I've seen mature walnuts in the vicinity that reach 80ft tall (80ft radius toxic zone - OUCHIE!), and I don't see *mine* fruiting in the next 5 to 10 years, NE-waze. Besides, it just kinda gets in the way currently (comfrey and some clover seem to grow just fine by the trunk, however).

    TEOTWAWKI, and I feel fine? Hah, it always seems to devolve into that discussion you attempt with acquaintances, who deem your discourse either too doomer, pessimistic, conspiratorial, or simply *boring* to bother spending any time thinking. Best avoid them? They're still 30% of the people who vote. FWIW, those sockies still spamming JHK 24/7...

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  5. Haha, redundancy deleted, yet echoed above! Have you ever tried horseradish? It's supposed to spread like a weed - yet, I find it significantly less invasive than comfrey/lemon balm/spearmint (it must really like nitrogen)...

  6. I have some horseradish in my kitchen garden, and it's maybe doubled in 2 years. My soil is too lean for it to spread where I don't want it. Now, the horseradish in my dad's garden, in that 25' (yes, foot) deep black loam that makes Iowa almost tolerable, is beautiful. Grows big and spreads fast! Too bad about the Iowa part...