Georgetown Days 2010

Cemetery Tour, Fire Station Open House, Camp Denison Open House, Library Book Sale — it was a busy weekend here in sleepy Georgetown, MA.  Here are some highlights:

The old 1940s “85” Ford V8 Fire Engine

Leo making a practice “911” call in the fire safety trailer.  “The oven has just exploded” was what he said.

Finger knitting boy scouts

Boy scouts working on their finger knitting at the Camp Denison open house.  Finger knitting was taught by past campers at Workshop in the Woods.

Turns out, Leo is a shuffleboard fiend!

Cool bee guy talking about his hives

1938 Aerial photo of our neighborhood found at Camp Denison

Moonrise over Baldpate Pond

Is this a Punishment? Or Payback?

About a hundred years ago, it was quite the thing to write and publish a family genealogy, beginning with the first Smith or Adams or Peabody to land here in the colonies.  In this case, it the first Tyler, Job Tyler, born around 1641.  Rather than doing great deeds, the first records about Job have to do with his legal problems in Andover with a Thomas Chandler.

By the time a judge ruled against him for the last time, he was penniless and no fine could be levied.  So this “apology” was posted instead.  To me, it looks like Job Tyler had the last word.

Cloam Ovens

It seems like the clay oven I built is a lot like the cloam (or clome) ovens from Devon and Cornwall that were brought here (or made here?) by early American colonists.  They were probably used at Plymouth and they have found one at Jamestown.

Here is a neat video of baking in one  in Jamestown– this is very much what my oven is like.

Cloam oven baking

Also, this article describes how they were made (with coils of clay, not spun on a wheel) and describe the attractive crows’ foot marking seen on the Jamestown oven.

And here’s a new word — that wet rag on the end of a stick I’ve been using to clean the oven floor?  It’s called a malkin (also slang for an untidy woman!)

Does anyone have instructions on how cloam ovens were built??  Anyone building this design today?

Building a Semi-Portable Clay Oven for under $150

Inspired by the class I took with Stu Silverstein at the Kneading Conference, I built a clay (or cob) oven!  Built on Labor Day Weekend (with the foundation platform made ahead of time), the sand dome was made on Sunday, the oven was made on Monday, it was hollowed out on  Thursday, and we baked our first pitas & pizzas on Friday.  And on Sunday we baked our first loaves of bread.

I had bought the book by Kiko Denzer, “Build Your Own Earth Oven”,  two or three years ago, but it took some hands-on experience and Stu (a great teacher) to make me feel like I could really do it.

This oven was built on a wooden platform and stands on sawhorses.  So no need to dig a deep foundation and site it permanently in your yard.  Also, I used dry clay (from a pottery supply store) — great for those who don’t have a lot of clay in their soil or who don’t want to do a lot of digging.

Total cost of the oven: $128.50

Leo builds the 36″ square base that will hold the perlite-cement mixture.

Leo measures out the perlite.

Paul smooths out the cement-perlite mix.

Laying out the fire bricks.

Jesse spraying the sand dome to keep it damp.

The oven in action!

Leo brings in a pizza.

Finn’s turn

Ian shows off his delicious sourdough bread!

Project details:

Items I already had
2 sawhorses for holding the oven
tarp for mixing and covering the oven
Items I had to buy
Wood Georgetown Lumber $    18.00 for a 36″ square foundation platform and peel
Portland cement Georgetown Building Supply $       5.00 I got a discount on an open bag.
12.5 pounds (a half bag) of perlite Nunan’s Nursery $    20.00 This was the hardest item to find.  Greenhouses can order for you — this one was called “Whittemore Horticultural Grade Perlite”).
concrete mixing tub Georgetown Building Supply $    12.00
19 fire bricks Georgetown Building Supply $    28.50
1.5 bags of clay Portland Pottery Supply $    20.00 40 mesh Hawthorn Bond fireclay from Christy Minerals
10 bags of all-purpose sand a big chain store $    25.00 4 for the sand form, 6 for the oven mud
Grand Total $  128.50

The oven interior is 25″ in diameter and can hold four standard bread loaf pans.  More info on how an oven like this can be built can be found here:

And a note to Jamie Oliver: Why are you suggesting people spend $5000-$10,000 on a pizza oven when they can build their own for under $150???  You should take this up with your school kids — a great learning project.

Special thanks go to: Leo Godley (for endless enthusiasm), Sophie Godley (for being amazed and for allowing it in the yard), Vera and Nigel Godley (for helping me attend the Kneading Conference), Freddy and Sammy Kniker (for sand dome inspection), Paul Snyder (for cement-perlite base mixing), Ian, Jesse and Aida DeWeese-Boyd (for sand dome construction), Finn Murphy (mud delivery), and Peter Rudd (for impromptu construction of a beautiful oven door).