This past weekend the insulation layer went on. It involved 2 trips to the cemetery for buckets of clay and a trip to WallyWorld for a bale of hamster bedding. The hardest part was turning the clay from large chunks into slip. Lots of stomping and twisting left me with a sore knee. A small price to pay for having it behind me. It ended up taking about a bale and a half of bedding and roughly 6 buckets of clay chunks. Some of the clay was so pure I could have thrown pottery had I had access to a wheel. I kept some back to play with. I heard once that you could fire clay in a bbq. I was pondering the possibility of making a small oil lamp like days of old. Something to try at a later date.
By Saturday at about lunchtime I had about 1/3 of the insulation layer done. It was a little wetter than ideal so I had to use bricks to keep it from shifting and becoming an insulation skirt. I decided to light a fire to help with the drying and wait till Sunday to finish. I lit a roaring fire and was very pleased with the way it vented. My measurements must have been on the money because the fire burned bright deep inside the oven. I let it burn for about an hour and decided that it would be a waste to not take advantage of the heat. Once the fire started to die down a bit I used a hoe to move the coals back and to the sides. I covered the oven opening with a large piece of firebrick that I will use as a temporary door. I remembered the ham steaks in the freezer and I knew I had a bag of beans. Ten minutes later I was loading the oven with a dutch oven filled with ham and beans. I replaced the brick ‘door’ and waited. 3 1/2 hours later and the beans were PERFECT and just in time for dinner. I think I’m going to like this.
The summers here are notorious for being hot and dry. This is half true this year. We have had some pretty warm temps but have had rain regularly. Great for the lawn but not so great when the goal is to dry out a mound of wet clay. I finished the insulation layer on Sunday at about lunchtime. I started another large fire and let it burn for about an hour. Once it died down I again covered the opening. The outer layer was quite warm to the touch and given the amt of heat coming from the front I was unable to cover it with the plastic tarp. Instead I covered the top 2/3 with a couple of layers of newspaper and used small pieces of broken brick to hold them in place. I had to leave for a couple of hours and of course we got a small rain storm while I was gone. I wasn’t too worried though. As long as the news paper stayed in place I felt like the added water would pretty much just run off and take very little if any clay with it. This was in fact the case. It has take a couple of small showers since then with the same results. I did cover it last night as they were calling for some more severe rain. I was glad I did as it got pretty windy and wet for a while there. The heat index for the next couple of days is over 100 and it is supposed to be rain free. The oven is uncovered and I have high hopes that it will at some point actually dry. I expect to see some rather large cracks in the insulation layer once it does finally dry. Before cleanup I held back some clay/wood mix to patch those when the time comes.