Between global warming, super-storms, extended power outages, trees falling and gas prices rising, building an outdoor wood-fired oven seems less like a paranoid survivalist project and more like a common-sensible use of locally available energy resources. With this in mind, we’ve launched into our wood-fired oven project with purposefulness, and, thus far, the weather has cooperated with us. In our efforts to preserve a small measure of self-sufficiency in the face of increasingly frequent disruptions to our power source (our home is equipped with an electric cook stove), we’ve been lucky with the unseasonably mild weather, allowing us to mix refractory mortar for the oven chamber even in December.
A well insulated, wood-fired oven can maintain cooking temperatures on a single firing for two days or more. As the temperatures fall, (in the wood-fired cooking world this is referred to as a ‘falling oven’) an organized person can plan and prepare several pizzas, several loaves of bread, roasts, stews, even oatmeal for breakfast, and still have enough ambient heat within the oven chamber to brew some coffee or tea, dry herbs and seasonings from the garden or reheat leftovers. In a power emergency, this oven can provide a means of cooking to the entire neighborhood; in fact, the fuller the oven is the more efficient it is.
The community aspect of such a resource is a bonus. We got a sense of this during the recent storms that put our little community on the FEMA map. Consider our blessed water source. We have an artesian well, a spring that runs 27/7, year round. During the last three storms (Irene in 2011, then the October 2011 blizzard, then, more recently, Sandy, when neighbors were without water for eight days, (and many of our neighbors have horses, each magnificent creature requiring vast amounts of water) we were able to provide our neighbors with an unlimited supply of clean, fresh, potable water. Traffic was actually backed up into our driveway, and the Stonewell Farm well, ( in France it would be called ‘la source’) became a community hub at which to catch up on news, local political issues, gossip, and the exchange of ideas on everything from cooking to education to gardening. In the face of hardship, people are drawn together within a community like mercury, and it galvanizes ones sense of place.
What follows is a gallery of photos documenting the process of our Wood-Fired Oven Project:
The slab for the oven stand is poured.
Andrew Pighills leveling the slab for the oven stand.
the ‘stand’ ready for the next stage, the oven floor.
Hey! This is new and really interesting! Can we eat this? Anything shiny in there? Just curious.
Oven floor made with firebricks.
The important working parts of the oven completed, we move on to the insulating and then, finishing layers of masonry.
Chimney flue set. Now the finishing layer of concrete applied to the insulating layer of ‘perlcrete’, to waterproof the dome.
Andrew Pighills sealing the oven dome with concrete after the refractory insulating layer is in place.
Stay tuned for the development and evolution of this green project.