Friday, July 24, 2009

Pootzy's Progress

Or, "What We Did on our Summer Vacation". Since the last Pootzy post, the oven has acquired three more layers. First, I built out the door a bit, so it wasn't just a hole in the side of the oven, and I added another layer of mud around the whole oven when I did so. Then we put on the crucial insulation layer. That's the rough-looking stuff under the wet mud in the photos above and below. It's sawdust mixed with a liquid clay-sand-water blend called "slip" in potters' lingo.

Then we put a finish layer of clay-sand mix over that. And that cracked quite badly in drying, but we patched it up, and it looked pretty good after the final drying. It took days and days of passive drying, then hours and hours of firing before the oven finally looked dry. Without further ado, here's what Pootzy can now do:

That's a Bide-A-Wee version of tarte flambée--bacon lardons, onions, thyme, reduced cream with a little dry vermouth. And here's a chorizo-kale-garlic-gruyère 'za:

We also made a cassoulet à la Bide-A-Wee, beans baked with maple syrup, onions, bacon rind, etc. The oven works great for things cooked long and low.

The whole process of making this first earth oven has been for the fun of it, the hell of it, and to learn how it's done. We've learned a lot about the qualities of our soil for oven building, and we've learned the number one lesson of creating any kind of wood-fired oven: Don't scrimp on the insulation. Because: A well insulated oven oven. And a poorly insulated oven is...a great big wood-fired radiator, heating the great outdoors.

We could have put a thicker layer of insulation on the outside, and should have build a better-insulated base. We sort of took an attitude of, It's just a little oven, it doesn't need all that stuff.... When, in fact, because it is small, it needs that stuff all the more, lacking the sheer heat-holding mass of a larger oven.

But we are very pleased with our Pootzy, overall, and looking forward to our next Bide-A-Wee visit to fire it up again. I'm going to smoke-roast, Pootzy-bake, and grill-finish a slab of pork belly.

Yes, we're willing to go to a lot of trouble for a really good meal.

The other major project of the vacation was the creation of the Bide-A-Wee Zen Gravel Garden and Art Park (ZiGGAP). It took a long, grueling day to construct this little patio, but it was worth
it, for we now have a level spot to place our lawn chairs, something the land conspicuously lacked.

To make sawdust for the insulation I went at a couple of box elder logs with the chainsaw. This left the accidental sculptural pieces that adorn the
gravel garden (and double as end tables...).

Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw


Anonymous said...

Love that little oven door you added!

I-ming said...

I'd like to order a chorizo-kale-garlic-gruyère 'za to-go, please.

Trout Caviar said...

Sorry, I-ming, we don't deliver. You'll have to come out to Bide-A-Wee to pick up your order. We didn't see a single woodtick last time out!

Thanks, Anon. We think our Pootzy is kind of cute and rustic. You could imagine a troll of Hobbit or something living in there (though they'd better be able to take the heat!). Thanks for writing~ Brett