…But we did cook in the new oven.

This last week, Diane has puddled a load more clay and sand, so today I really had to show willing and carry on with the oven.

Matt, Jon, Gary, David and Derek were off on another plot -clearing it for the council ready for a new tenant, so I was left up by the clay oven with Diane who was valiantly cleaning in the metal shed.  At this time of year, it tends to ‘perspire’ so everything needed a good scrub.

Today, I would make the clay ‘tunnel’ to connect the main oven to Matt’s stone archway.Before work begins.

Here you can see it after I’d cleared out the remains of the last firing before I started work, and though you can’t see from this photo, the archway at the front is free-standing.

Not for long!

Now, it had been suggested that I could just mold the clay between the dome and the arch, but being chicken, I decided to fill the entryway with sand -in a similar way to the how the dome itself was constructed.Filled with sand.

A side shot shows the kind of gap I had to bridge with the sand already packed in place.  I also put the door on the from (…you can just see it to the left of this shot…) to prevent sand spilling out of the front.

When the sand was in place and well packed down, I covered it with a layer of wet newspaper to stop the sand sticking to the clay.

Papered up.This shot here to the right shows what I mean.

You’ll also notice that I made sure there was no paper over the original dome -I needed the new clay to stick to that as best possible!

An hour or so later, nursing very cold fingers, the hatchway looked like this:-

Clay on.The eagle-eyed will notice that there’s a piece of green plastic pipe sticking out of the top of the new clay.

This didn’t stay in long!

It was simply a ‘former’ for the chimney.  I’ll confess I forgot it at first, but on remembering (…after giving myself a slap on the back of the head…), I very easily ‘screwed’ it into the wet clay and sand beneath, then left it there as I applied more clay.

When Matt and myself were putting the clay on for the dome, we used a technique of grabbing a handful of clay, then squashing it into a ‘sausage’, then laying it on top on the one beneath.

For making this archway, I simply started from the base upwards (…obviously!..), molding ‘blobs’ onto the wet newspaper, and it seemed to work pretty well.

Now, unlike a few weeks ago when we made the dome, the clay wasn’t going to set on its own -its too cold and damp.  I needed to get the sand out -very carefully- then light a fire in there as soon as possible -to prevent it collapsing.

Getting the sand out.Here on the right, you can see as I very gingerly pulled the sand out.

It all came out pretty easily, and with no major collapses, I then prepared and lit a gentle (…at first!..) fire to start to dry the clay.Fire in the hole!

Here you can see it just after it was lit, and the ‘smoke’ you can see coming off it is actually mainly steam!

Over recent weeks, we’ve had a little rain, so not only did I have to start to dry the new clay, but the old dome needed warming up as well.

Now, I wasn’t actually intending to cook anything today, but Kyle suggested that I do some potatoes because he wasn’t having any of Sara’s delicious soup.

No problem, but I warned him that I’d never done potatoes in a clay oven, so I didn’t know how they’d turn out.Spuds in tins.

In the end, I needn’t have worried.

We all agree that these potatoes, if anything, tasted better than the ones I normally do on the fire on the children’s plot.  Quite how this should be, I really don’t know, but I suspect it may be something to do with the heat being evenly applied to the tins rather than the majority being through the bottom as it is on our usual fire.  Further experimentation is definitely needed!

Also to note is that as I has the fire in there, I could only fit in one tin of potatoes at a time.  Maybe we need bigger tins to fit more potatoes?

Thats not smoke.  Its steam!

The baked potatoes were washed down with some superb parsnip soup made by Sara, and she’d brought a freshly-baked cake!  A marvellous end to a hard day’s work by all of us, I think.  I certainly won’t need any supper tonight!

Anyway, here a final ‘panoramic’ shot looking up to the oven after I’d lit it, and you can see all the steam rising from the dome.

Before I left tonight, it was agreed that Sara would make a load of pizza dough for next Saturday, then I’m going to show here how to fire this up and keep it going, and she’s going to be ‘FireStarter’ for the day.

So, make a date in your diaries.  26th November, early afternoon.

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