Browsing Posts published by Alfie

Yay! Puddling Up and Slapping On!

Quite a few ‘Leafers’ have taken time off work over the next few days to accomplish a major, major job that just needed to be done before the end of summer.  Yes, I’m talking about the renovation of the LEAF clay pizza oven.Sad & Forlorn

Unused, overgrown, unloved, our poor oven was looking very tired and sad, sat amongst the weeds, rotting logs and other detritus.

BUT, over the next few days, we’re doing it up, giving it some much-needed TLC, then hopefully firing it up ‘in rage’ this coming Saturday afternoon/evening.

So what needed to be done to it?

Well, it needed another outer layer whacking on (technical term, that), then we plan to extend the concrete area around it so more people can get closer to it whilst it’s running.  -It’s always great to watch, and as the nights draw in and the evenings start to get cooler, it’ll be a great place to keep warm whilst your stomach rumbles.

Unfortunately, I had a job to do this morning, but there were loads of volunteers who started early with the clay puddling.

For those not ‘in the know’, this is the process where you have to thoroughly mix the sand with the clay such that the clay completely gets between the sand particles to make a very basic ‘glue’ to stick the sand together.

Luckily, here in Sunny Southey, all you have to do is dig down a couple of feet to find all the clay you could possibly ever want, and that is exactly what we have done.

Diane has bought a load of builder’s sand, so volunteers then mix the two together -puddling.  This involves getting your shoes and socks off, rolling up your jeans, and literally ‘dancing’ on the mixture to mix it all together.

Puddling Fun!And what fun it is to do!

All we needed was a decent sound system, and we’d have rocked!

These photos are of us after lunch as volunteers took their shoes and socks off again, and got stuck in.

Meanwhile, another group worked on the oven itself.

As well as the new outer layer, we needed to make a new stone entrance for the oven.  This is pretty critical as it tends to keep the oven hotter internally, and there’s a hole in the top for the inevitable smoke to come out of when the fire is first lit.

Matt volunteered to do the archway using regular ‘gobbo’ to stick it together -‘gobbo’ being a standard sand and cement mix used by brickies the world over.  There may be some issues with this tomorrow when we first fire it up.  Cement doesn’t tend to crack with heat, but the clay/sand mix certainly will, so it will be, er, a ‘challenge’ to see what happens when the two are so close together.  Will the entrance completely come away from the main structure?  It’ll be fun finding out!

While Matt did the entranceway, myself and Marcus slapped the clay on around the back -so as not to get in his way.  Oh, what FUN we had!Entrance and clay going on.

Here you can see Matt on the left putting the finishing touches to the archway, while myself and Marcus put the extra layer on from the back.

The technique for this is to first thoroughly wet the existing clay to get a better bond with the new stuff, then you have to fashion your clay ‘lumps’ into fat sausages which you then slap onto the outer surface as ‘bricks’.

Around and around you go, adding more ‘bricks’ of the soft, wet sand/clay mix, then you move up a layer, making sure that the ‘joins’ where the bricks meet don’t line up.  It’s said that this improves the strength of the layer, but, well, I’m not convinced.

Anyway, Marcus and I continued slapping the new clay on while Owen helped making the sausages and handing them over.

New Layer Goes On.As you can see here on the left, the new layer is starting to take shape as we gradually worked upwards.

Don’t be put off by the previous layer that we’re covering up.

If you recall from when we first built the oven, this second, ‘middle’ layer had straw mixed in with it to provide extra heat insulation.  This helps prevent the oven cooling down too much, and certainly saves you continually stoking it with more fuel once it is up to its working temperature.

I filled the really deep cracks you can see by hand with smaller pieces of clay, working them in gently with my fingers before the outer ‘sausage’ was placed over the top.

This really is great fun to do, and I think everyone doing it was taken back to their pre-school days, playing in the sandpit or making ‘cakes’ to ‘bake’ in a pretend oven.P1020103

When Marcus, Owen and myself had done this, Matt came back, armed with a plasterer’s float to give the surface the ultimate ‘shiny’ finish.

As you can see from this photo to the right here, he really is a master at this!

The darker area to the left of this photo is the cement mix that Matt used for the stones at the front, and he has ‘keyed’ it into the rest of the oven.

Tomorrow morning, we plan to cover most of this up with a final layer of clay right up to the beautiful stones making up the archway.

How much they will crack, we don’t quite know, but as I said, -it’ll be fun finding out!

P1020108Time really flew today, and all too soon, it was time to go, so Matt popped the cover into the entranceway to support the arch as it set.

We took the gazebo down that we’d put up earlier during a freak rainstorm, then carefully covered our creation up in case it rains tonight.

Actually, I’ve just checked on the BBC weather site, this is a distinct possibility, and we’d rather be safe than sorry!

It also helps prevent any creative vandals seeing the new layer and adding their initials -or something worse!- to the new oven ‘skin’.

Tomorrow, we plan to finish off the clay around the entranceway, right up to the archway.

We’ll also properly clean the area around the oven of weeds growing through the concrete, and also the the clay that had run off over last winter in the rain.P1020112

This final picture to the right here shows the oven with a temporary cover, and it also shows the string I put down to mark out where the new concrete ‘apron’ will hopefully be added tomorrow.

This area had been ‘Weed City’ a few hours earlier, but Ricky and Graham had expertly cleared it, along with a very dodgy line of bricks that were on that long edge.

Graham hacked them off with a well-aimed crow bar while Ricky moved them out of the way ready for cleaning tomorrow.

Matt’s skillls in bricklaying will be brought in tomorrow as he builds a wall around this new area, ready for us to fill in with hardcore, ready for a top layer of concrete to make the new ‘apron’.

We’ll allow this to set overnight tomorrow, ready for the Big Test on Saturday afternoon as we fire the oven up for the first time.

Saturday morning, however, will be when we decide where we’re going to whack the 6 uprights in, ready for the new roof to properly cover the oven to protect it from the elements.

Getting all six uprights fully upright -not tilted in any direction- and at the same overall height will be, er, ‘challenging‘.

(This is shorthand for ‘We Haven’t Actually Got A Clue, But It’ll Be Fun Finding Out’.)

Much more fun and frolicks to be had tomorrow, I feel!



We love creepy-crawlies here at LEAF!

In fact, we love them so much, we’re having a whole day devoted to these amazing little creatures!

Sunday June 29th from 11.00am til 4.00pm, we’ll be throwing open the gates to welcome people to come and learn all about the lives of bugs.

We’ll also be having our beekeepers available, and if the weather’s nice, you’ll be able to see some of our bees and learn more about these amazing little creatures, about beekeeping and learn why it is so threatened.

You can download the poster from HERE.


Buzzin’! 22/03/12

Today our new Head Beekeeper, Charles, is due down to The Plots for about 10.30am.

He’ll be here to meet and greet us, but also to join us in making the frames for the five new bee hives we’ll be having delivered in just a couple of weeks time.

All exciting stuff!

I’ll Blog later with photos to tell you how it all went.

The Environment Week Bash Poster.

Simply click once on the image above and select ‘Print’ to your printer, and you have your own poster to put up to display.

We hope to see you then!

A few days sick-leave.

I’m sorry, but I’m getting over a mild case of ‘Cat ‘Flu’, so I’m not currently up to my best.

Alfie's poorly.

Alfie's poorly.

Don’t worry, though.

Just a couple of days after this shot of me on my dad’s bed was taken, I was up and ready for action again.

Of course, it helped that I’d really ‘played it up’ with him; so much so that he fed me loads of good stuff like tinned tuna and salmon.

Hee hee.  I really must remember to sneeze more.  It always gets him going!

“Aaaaaallllfffiiiieeeeeee!!!!!” cried Nick as he unlocked the door, expecting his cat to hurl himself in love and adoration on him.  …But a strange hush filled the flat.

“Aaaalllfffiiieeeeee!!!” he tried again.

Nothing.  Zero.  Zilch.  Squat.

“Alfie, you great, big fat, idle animal!  Where are you?” he said, looking around.  Under the chairs, behind the sofa, in the kitchen.  No cat.  …No sign of cat.  Where on earth was the big lazy lump?

A slight rustle from under the duvet.  Then a larger, cat shaped thing appeared, head poking from under the soft, warm covers.

“Wzzpfggll?” it said, still mostly asleep. “Grgghhtyr? <cough>” then clearer; “Dinner?..”

“You fat, idle animal!” exclaimed Nick, “Have you been there all day?!”

“Well, I was really tired after last night with the lads, and well, you weren’t using it, so I thought I’d keep it warm for you…” he trailed off, a little embarassed that he’d been caught for the third evening on the trot in his dad’s bed.

“Listen, kiddo, we have a problem!

“Wassat, dad?”

“Well, your papers have been revised.  Says here you have to be a sergeant to be in ‘The Corps’, and you, well, you’re still only a Private!  What we gonna do, eh?”

“Pheeeewwweeee…  …Er.  Dunno.” said Alfie, all the while carefully licking a rather tender bit of bald patch that had until the early hours of this morning and his rather, er,  unfortunate meeting with ‘Big Tigger’ been quite reasonable fur.

“Is there a way round it?” he said, between licks.

“Says here, you can earn your stripes by having ‘Special Operational Abilities’.”

“Well, I have been known to fart quite spectacularly, especially when you’re in the bath!” he exclaimed.

“Don’t think that’s quite what they mean, son, but look here.  Says here that if you can prove you’ve taken out one of their ‘Airborne Division’, then you can get straight in.  You ever taken down a pigeon?  A wood pigeon, son?’ Nick asked hopefully.

“Wood pigeon?  No danger!  Listen, dad.  Gimme a couple of hours when I’ve got a full belly, know what I mean? and I’ll bring you back a freshly caught wood pigeon.  No danger!”

“Ah, son, there’s the problem.  Will you have caught it?!” said Nick, full-well knowing the answer, or avoidance of it.

“As if!” cried Alfie, now fully awake, confident that the bald patch would heal, but would leave a wonderful scar.  Something to proudly show off to Young Twinks if he met her tonight.

Of course I’ll er, ‘have a hand’ in catching it”, he said, confident that ‘Big Blue’ would be pretty easy to ‘tap up’ later on.  After dinner.  “C’mon, dad!  Feed me now, then Ill go out and get one and bring it back for you to show this uppity tart tomorrow.”

“Easy, Big Fella!  That’s no Bimbo we’ve got down The Plots!  She’s smart, she’s fast, she’s elegant, well, she’s everything you’re not!!” exclaimed Nick.

“No danger, dad.  Now feed me, and I’ll go out and sort it out.  The lads won’t let either of us down, just you wait and see!” said Alfie.  Dinner would be coming very shortly, he could tell.  Then out to source some medal-winning prey.

No danger!

Alfie’s thoughts…

I think you’ve seen a picture of me a few days ago, so you know what I look like.

My dad, Nick,  has been on at me for ages now, saying I’m just too idle and that I should really pull my finger out and make something of my life.  Me?  Well, I don’t really care!

Anyway, he keeps going on and on at me, and then just the other day, he comes back with a big grin on his face (…not as good as my grin, but not far off…), dumps his coat and bag for me to investigate further later, and proudly announces that he’s found something worthwhile for me to do with myself.  The cheek of it all!  As if I hadn’t got enough on my plate, what with all my ‘Homies’ that need looking after every night, and the ladies, well, let me tell you…

…Anyway, moving switftly on.

SO, he said he’d take me to ‘boot camp’ (…whatever that is…) that following Saturday to meet ‘Major Mitzi’.  Apparently she’s some good-looking, high-up chick in the territorial army who’s been tasked with sorting out the riff-raff in her local ‘Manor’.

Ha!  This is no problem for me!  I have to sort stuff out with ‘The Lads’ every night; in fact Dad takes one look at me in a morning when I come in for grub and nearly faints!  I have scratches, bites, cuts and grazes all over me!  Well, you have to, don’t you?  It’s a sign of ‘respect’, and if you ain’t got respect you don’t have nuffin’!

Anyway, he says it’s all taken care of, but I’m not so sure.  It all sounds a bit too ‘formal’ (…hate that word…) for me.  And what are the Lads going to say when they find out?  “Alfie Ward’s a Big Cissy joining up!” is what they’ll say!

I dunno.  Life’s just getting too complicated right now.  Me, I’m a simple lad.  Some food, a bit of a fight, a load of fuss, and a …, well, I’d see what happened next.

I’ll speak with you all soon.

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