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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.


Sheffield BeeBuddies are running a couple of taster courses over at The Green estate, Sheffield S2 on Thursday 19th September.beebuddies-posterSMALL

They run from 10.00 – 12.00 then 2.00 – 4.00pm.

These courses are funded by the National Lottery, so they’re entirely FREE OF CHARGE!

You can download a poster HERE

You can print it out and put it somewhere visible.

We hope to see you then!

(Oh, and we’d better just point out that places for these courses are strictly first-come, first-served, and they are extremely limited in numbers!)

AGM Update! Please Read!

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we’ve had to postpone the AGM.

We don’t know quite when it will be held yet, but we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s happening.

Thanks for your patience!

The 2013 AGM!

Sorry to have been a bit quiet of late, but don’t worry.  We’re not going anywhere!

So, I have to announce this year’s AGM!LEAF AGM

It will be held on the 29th of June.

“But that’s a Saturday!’ Someone with a diary shouts.

Yup.  A Saturday.

Okay, so where will the AGM be actually held?

Why, down on our Plots, of course!

But what if the weather is awful and it’s cold?

Ah-ha, Dear Reader.  Miles ahead of you there!

We will be holding our AGM down at the LEAF Plots on Herries Road in the ‘late afternoon*‘.

If it’s cold, then bring a jacket, but if it’s really cold, we now have the top shed with a gas heater in for you to warm your hands by.

We also have space for four of our gazebos to be put up in a square very close to that shed, so if by some miracle the sun is beating mercilessly down, you’ll be able to get some shade.  (Oh, we wish…)


Yes, there’ll be plenty to go round.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be fully refurbishing our clay pizza oven, so you’ll be able to add toppings to your own pizza, then watch it being cooked.

We’re also encouraging volunteers to bring food in from home, in much the same way as we all tend to do on a Saturday, and of course, if you can bring some food with you, then the more the merrier!

More news as things are finalised!

*Note: I said ‘late afternoon’.  Actually, this is a bit of a fib.  We’ll all be there from late morning onwards ‘doin’ our regular thang’, so if you fancy working up an appetite, then come down and join us a little early.  You can also maybe catch a glimpse of my frantic efforts to get a no-doubt wet pizza oven fired up in time!


Possibly a litte smoother.

‘What??!!’  I hear you shout.

Dear Reader, this site is now fully responsive, and the ‘smooth’ refers to just how easily it all changed over.

Now, it doesn’t matter what you read this site on, you’ll still be able to see it without zooming in and endless scrolling.

Those Good Folks over at WordPress have written a free plug-in that automatically senses what size screen you’re viewing this on, and adjusts accordingly.  Bless!

And there was me thinking I’d have to delve into the dark, dank and murky underworld that is JavaScript and other server-side nastiness.


More soon!

Big Changes Ahead… 06/01/13

Ah, don’t worry.

These are changes to this website, nothing else.

Over the coming days, but hopefully not weeks, I’ll be changing the way this website looks.


Well, I’ve realised that to keep up with The Web, and particularly the way people access our site, it needs to be ‘Responsive’.

By this, I mean that I want it to be readable on everything from a +80″ OLED (Organic LED) monitor, right down to a smartphone with a tiny screen.

This may not seem like a big deal, but trust me on this, it is!

At the moment, if you access these pages from a smartphone, then yes, they’ll come up, but you would need to zoom in and endlessly scroll to be able to read it.  This will very soon change!

There’ll be glitches along the way, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum.

Should be fun!

Stay tuned for details…

Sheffield Environment Weeks

If you’re a regular LEAF visitor, volunteer or just a ‘LEAF Website Reader’, you’ll remember that every year we host an event for The Sheffield Environment Weeks festival.

This year is no different!Sheffield Environment Weeks

See us in Sheffield Environment Weeks

Every year, Sheffield City Council and local environment groups hold Sheffield Environment Weeks.  Its a great way to show Sheffield’s ‘Green Credentials’, meet friends old and new and generally get an idea of the sheer range and breadth of some of the projects that Sheffield Environment Weeks showcases.

Our contribution to Sheffield Environment Weeks

So as you can see on the poster to the right, as part of Sheffield Environment Weeks we’ll be having an ‘Open Evening’ on Wednesday May 30th from 7.00 ’til about 9.00pm.

If you click on the image, you’ll see a full-sized version.

Print it out, put it somewhere visible!

Don’t worry if its raining that night -we have plenty of roomy gazebos to shelter under, and if you do get a little chilly, then you can always stand close to our pizza oven which will be in ‘full swing’!

And talking of pizzas; you can get the chance to make your own, then watch it cook.  You’d better not blink, though!  When the oven is up to temperature, we reckon it takes a little over 90 seconds to cook one -much hotter than a ‘standard’ oven!  And the taste of our totally organic vegetarian pizzas?  Simply ask a regular volunteer, or better yet, choose the toppings you want, arrange it all ‘artfully’, then 90 seconds later, tuck in!

Of course, there’ll be Plot Tea, Mitzi, our Plot Cat (…and Honorary Vice ChairCat…) may make an appearance, and we hope to have a few more surprises for you.  Keep checking this site for further details and maybe some ‘teasers’!

And talking of Plot Tea, you’ll be able to see (…and use!..) our unique ‘Pallet Privy’, so cunningly designed by students from Sheffield University last year.

So if you do nothing else for Sheffield Environment Weeks, then make sure you make a date in your diary for May 30th, and we’ll see you then!

The New LEAF Constitution.

The new constitution as adopted by a majority vote of LEAF members by an EGM on Friday 15th July 2011 is now posted here.

When The Charity Commission changed its rules a few weeks ago, we had to re-revise it, and those revisions are picked out in bold type.

LEAF and charity registration.

Last night, at another EGM (Extraordinary General Meeting), LEAF members voted overwhelmingly in favour of changing our Constitution to one acceptable to The Charity Commission then voted overwhelmingly in favour of us going forward and applying for Charity Registration.

What does this mean for LEAF?

In a nutshell, as our advisor from V.A.S. (Voluntary Action Sheffield), Keith said at the meeting, it will give us a much higher possibility of obtaining funding in these difficult times we now face.  Quite a number of funders will only entertain applications from organisations who are actually charities themselves, so this gives us a much greater chance of getting funding.

It also gives us ‘Street Credibility’.  It is so much easier when possible funders ask you who you are and what you do to reply that, well, we’re a charity set up to help the good people of North Sheffield and beyond improve their diet and health.

Now, don’t expect this ‘overnight’ as there’s a fair amount of form-filling to do, but now we have the consent of our members, we’ll get straight onto it -all with Keith’s expert help.

So, a big ‘Thank you!’ to all our members who made it up to the library last night, and rest assured, we”re pushing ahead with this, so watch this space for details!

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