Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Building an earth oven

The background:  Some of you may know that we have a second piece of property.  It's where we plan to eventually retire, but right now it's very "roughin' it".  We cook over an open fire (or a camp stove if it's pouring rain).  There is no running water (unless the waterfall is flowing), no clean water at all actually, no hydro, and a very minimal sleep cabin with four bunks.  What it does have is peace, quiet, birds and wildlife, and potential.  I decided an earth oven may give us a few more cooking options, and over our visits there this summer, I set about building one.

This book has great step by step instructions on building your own, and I used it thoroughly.

Here's my adventure:

First you build a foundation of rocks so the moisture can't get up into your oven (see picture above).  I chose not to use mortar as this is the trial oven, and I was intending to build it with just what was available.  The space in between the rocks is filled with ash from the fire pit.  In hindsight, this may not have been the best idea.  The book says to use rubble, but the ash MAY let moisture in.  We'll know next year.

Collect your materials.  I built mine over a period of about 2 months, so it wasn't that exhausting.  Still very hard work if you are out in the wilderness and have to bring everything in uphill.

Next, you make a dome of sand - this will be the size of the interior of the oven - so mine will be big enough for one small loaf or a personal size pizza, or something of that size.  Cover it with wet paper to act as a barrier, and then add a 3" layer of "building mud".  Those beer bottles are part of the insulation layer.  There is also a layer under the dome, but I forgot to take that picture.

All of those pails are my building materials.  You'll need clay, sand, water, and a clay-based mud.

That big blue bag was my mixing bag at first, as I was only able to handle small batches at a time.  You can also use a tarp, and mix with your feet, but I was getting filthy enough as it was.

Keep adding your "building mud" until you have a nice thick layer over your whole dome.

Once it's dry on the outside, you take all the sand back out of the interior.  I lit a fire to dry out the inside so I could add the next layer right away.

Then comes the insulation layer - sawdust mixed with clay slip - good thing I know a potter :).  This is half of mine.  I did it in two parts as we ran out of sawdust on that trip and I had to wait for the next batch of dead trees to be chainsawed.

Next trip: I added the rest of the insulation layer, and the final coat.
My finish coat was clay slip mixed with sand, and of all things...cattail fluff.  It was the best fibrous material I could think of that could be had in abundance where we were.

It still needs a door, so that I can bake in it.
Now the test is...will it still be in one piece when we get to back up to try it out?

Linking up today with my friends at:
Keep Calm Craft On over at Frontier Dreams - though I'm not 100% sure this qualifies as a "craft".
Wildcrafting Wednesday


  1. Wow!!! You are amazing!!! I an in awe. This is my fav striper http://www.biscuitsandjam.com/stripe_maker.php

  2. that is so awesome!!! wow! i have wanted to build one for so long. yours looks so great!

  3. This is so AWESOME! We set out to build an earth oven, but then my engineer husband got involved and now we have a brick oven. We love it! There is nothing like pizza baked in a wood-fired oven! Here is our oven and some pizza recipes! http://www.livingwithgotlands.com/2015/06/three-pizza-recipes-from-our-wood-fired-oven/

  4. This is amazing! Such good details to share too. Oh I think this is very crafty indeed.

  5. That is most definitely a craft! I bought my husband a book on how to build a wood oven in the garden for Christmas several years ago - I had high hopes but I am still waiting : (