This year we had the opportunity to help build cob ovens in two locations. The first one was at the Mill Courtland Community Centre in Kitchener. The Highland-Stirling Community Group steered the project with financial support from the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union.
Members from our group and the Highland-Stirling Community Group gathered with volunteers to complete the project in stages over a period of three months.
The first stage involved digging the ground, pouring concrete in it to create a platform, and constructing a wooden shelter on it. A shelter is important for the sustainability of a cob oven. Exposure to water can cause damage over time.
The second stage involved forming a base for the cob oven. This unfolded in a sequence of steps:
1. We stacked bricks in an interlocking pattern and then leveled them.
2. We filled the base with a sand and gravel mixture and we packed it with wooden sticks to reduce the air in it.
3. We positioned a layer of empty glass bottles near the top and then covered them with sand. The bottles will serve to insulate the oven by blocking any moisture that surfaces from the ground.
4. We laid down fire brick and then leveled it. This will be the bottom of the oven.
The third stage involved building the cob oven. This also occurred in a sequence of steps:
1. We created a dome out of sand on top of the fire brick. The Record was on site on this day and wrote this article.
We had a following building a small model around us!
2. We covered this dome with newspaper strips that were dipped in water.
3. We covered this layer with cob, a mixture of sand, clay, and water.
When more cob was needed, we resorted to using our feet. This was fun!
4. We added straw to this mixture. This is another form of cob.
5. A piece of Styrofoam in the shape of an oven door was then placed along the edge of the dome and cob was packed around it. A wooden version will be made later.
6. The sand at the core of the dome was removed.
7. We lit a fire with newspaper to begin drying out the layers of cob from inside the oven.
It was nice to rest by the fire.
More fires will be needed for this purpose before the oven can be used for baking. Stay tuned for the opening celebration in the spring!
Thank you to the Highland-Stirling Community Group for inviting us to participate in this project and also to the volunteers who offered us their time and effort.