Saturday, 11 July 2015

Mud love: earth oven and clay rocket stoves

 I've just finished building another oven at a friends photographic safari lodge here in hwange 'Sable Sands' and have loved every minute of it! A beautiful lodge overlooking the dete vlei where some of the best wildlife sightings can be had! 

Another mud lover! I used buffalo dung in the plaster for the oven to use materials that were available in that particular setting. 

The location is over looking a waterhole where wild animals would come to drink while I was busy building, pretty idiylic location!  So dance like an elephant was quite literally dancing with the elephants! Look in the background of many of the photos on this post to see all the wildlife. 

There was no lack of wine bottles for the sub-floor insulation

The foundation wall was made of concrete blocks, not my favorite material by any means, but there were plenty left over from other building projects so we use what is available!

Lots of people got involved of all different sizes! 

The dense oven mud ready for the fire bricks

Even the firebricks were reused 

making the sand form

Layering newspaper so the clay doesn't stick to the sandform 

Mud dancing

Smoothing and polishing after the first layer of dense oven mud.

I chose to let each layer dry throughly for this oven, so here I'm cutting the door after the first layer is partly dry

 emptying the oven so it dry's out evenly. Th location of the build was very hot, windy and in full sun, so drying was pretty fast.

The pallet of colours available on the sable sands concession, beautiful natural clay, alot of fun testing and selecting.

I chose black to go around the door as it's going to be black from the fire anyway! 

Getting some help to add some slices of rosewood on the side as a shelf.

surrounding the slices with clay so only the polished wood is left visible

The bottom of the foundation I used lime plaster the rest is all clay and sand.

The finished oven

African symbols carved in

Pizza eye view

First firing and pizza night!

Now for the rocket stoves I've been experimenting with, this is the first one a mix of clay and sawdust. I have made 5 different stoves so far testing different mixes. I found that it was hard for most people to access sawdust , so I experimented with alternatives. Donkey and cow dung sieved so that only small particles of straw are left, these burn out and leave small pockets of air that insulate the stove and make it more efficient. I am still testing and firing as much as possible to see if they crack, which shape and size works best etc and will let you know the results. It will mean less need for collecting large quantities of firewood for local women and healthier cooking environment as most people cook indoors with open fires and alot of smoke which is harmful to health.

small sticks sit on the metal shelf and only the ends burn,  cooking is fast and only very little wood and very little smoke.

This J shaped rocket stove was a bit trickier to make the shape is supposed to be even more effective. 

The hole at the front is the ash dump which I made a cover for, the hole allowed me to pull the form out.

Oly as made some mini rocket stoves

The tubes are used as the form and pulled out before the stove is dry to avoid cracking.

This larger stove has very thick walls

I cut and shaped the pot stand.

The first rocket stove works a charm!

With just one stick!

We even took one out for cooking on a picnic in the bush, no risk of fires!

Bucket shower is up!! makes a huge difference as for the last 8 months we have been throwing water over ourselves. Here you can just see the pulley system in the tree.

We fill the bucket with hot water and add enough cold to make it the right temperature.  Around 20 Litres of water showers the 3 of us. I added a hozelock head to the end of the hose pipe, the height of the bucket means there is good pressure and you can select the setting you want! It feels like such luxury, we each get more than 5 minutes shower. 

A very simple wormery to breed worms for my chickens and make great compost and worm tea( a natural fertiliser)! 

Whiskey's safari adventures continue, face to face with wild dogs!

bye for now

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Building an Earth oven/ pizza oven!

There has been a spot waiting to be filled on the verandah, it was waiting for an Earth oven to be built there. We had a new friend Carrie coming to stay for a week and it seemed the perfect time to build this as she has built 9 ovens now!! You can have a look at her work on  Facebook heArth eArth Art I wanted to share the knowledge with my neighbours so everyone was invited to come and take part in the process so that those who wanted could go away and build their own. Its a great project for anyone interested in natural building as a way to get to know the materials. I really loved the whole process, kiko Denzer's book 'Build your own earth oven' was our guide and Carries experience meant that she had lots of helpful tips throughout. The only cost in building this oven are the 15 fire bricks used only for the floor of the oven, the rest of the materials are from the earth!
Before Carrie arrived I prepared the base so that we would have enough time to concentrate on the oven. Here I filled the space on the verandah with rubble and gravel and rammed it in place to make a solid base. 

I tried my hand at a small dry stone wall for the foundation which is fun to play around fitting the rocks together until they don't move.

Filling up with rubble and gravel as I went up course by course.

The final stage before Carrie arrived, a containment ring to hold the sub-floor insulation, here I used bricks that a neighbour had left over from a building project.

Mixing Saw dust and clay for the subfloor insulation

Glass bottles laid in the sawdust and clay mix, they trap air and stop the heat being lost through the foundation

Dense oven mud, a mix of sand and clay form the base where the firebricks will go. The chicken wire was to help reinforce the wall.

building up as we go along

a thin layer of  fine sand forms the bed where the firebricks will go

each brick is carefully placed in position

making sure all the bricks are surrounded by the insulation mix to stop heat loss

Building the form up that will act like a mould on which the oven walls are built. pieces of wood and bricks help to fill out the shape, then damp sand is packed in. The size of this oven is 22.5 inches in diametre(57.15cm) and the best height for the dome is 16 inches (40.64 cm) the peice of wood in the centre is used to guide the right height.

Carrie smoothing the form with a small plank

Laying newspaper to stop the first layer sticking to the form. Carrie finds that 4 layers work best. 

The first layer is 4 fingers wide, a mix of sand and clay, the same mix I used for the sun-dried bricks for the house.  

Smoothed down and packed in nicely to make a solid form.

Next layer is the sawdust and clay insulation mix to keep the heat in.

once the first layer has started to dry out, the door can be cut.

pulling out all the sand form and newspaper, the dome holds it's shape.

The last layer is the decorative touch. I mixed clay and fine sand with cow manure. 

I made the door with insulation mix and dense oven mud supported by mesh inside. The handle is an old railway tie. 

The finished oven, tea-lights holders built into the side.

The door is used for baking, once a fire has burnt inside for a couple of hours the fire is removed and baking can begin. The book states it can bake for between 8-12 hours. I didn't have enough flour to bake for that time, but I used it for a few hours and it worked wonderfully. 

Granadilla cake cooked perfectly inside

The first loaf of bread yummy.

We have enjoyed a couple of pizza nights since finishing the oven, the fire burns again for a couple of hours , but then a small fire is kept to one side of the oven whilst cooking the pizzas.  

Cooking pizza sauce on the solar cooker

Pizza's in, they cook in a few minutes and come out delicious. Here it is placed on a peice of tin-foil to  help placing it in and taking it out without burning hands. It's sooo hot in there, we need to make a paddle with a long handle then the pizza will be placed directly on the oven floor. 

blue-cheese, pine nuts and avocado pizza, recreating a memory of great  pizza for Gogo.

The well known Hawaian, Oliver's favorite.
I have loved the whole building process of the oven, and now all the wonderful times we have  had and will have around this oven, sharing good food with friends and family. Thank you Carrie for all your help! I'm now building another oven for friends at a safari lodge close by, will post about this next time. 

The latest addition to our family 'Insaba' meaning sunbeam