What goes into hosting a pizza party?! Well, first of all, you need (absolutely need) something to cook pizzas! What do you do should you not have something to cook the pizzas? Build it! And build it fast if your already scheduled pizza party is only two weeks away :). Fortunately, there is a local earthen oven expert in the Chelsea area who was ready and willing to take on the challenge set before him. Thank you, kindly, Brendan. With his consent and working knowledge of the craft, we quickly scheduled a day for the clay oven build, sourced the materials, and readied the troops (which consisted of Brendan and Robin Hills Farm staff). Robin Hills would supply the sand and a giant limestone slab for the base, and Brendan would bring the clay and the know-how.
We were set. Saturday, October 3rd, arrived and with it one of the dreariest, miserable days of the fall. Since the pizza party was scheduled for October 16th, we didn’t have any time to waste; rain or shine, we needed to get down to business. So Brendan, Ben, Austin, Chris, and Aubrie got to work on the earthen oven. Weather aside, this project was amazing! Not only were we learning about an ancient craft, but it was fun. The process went 1. build the mold out of sand, 2. mix clay with warm water, 3. mix clay with sand, 4. dance on the mixture until the correct consistency is reached (the best part!), but be careful of sharp stones within, 5. mold the clay mixture into bricks, and 6. build the oven in beehive fashion!
It didn’t take long for us to realize that dreary, miserable days are not particular good days for earthen oven building. Austin had frozen toes and the rest of us couldn’t move our fingers, so we postponed the build until later in the week, when hopefully sun and a nice breeze would grace us and help to dry the clay art.
The following week was accommodating, and we had another build session that took up the greater part of Tuesday afternoon. The pizza party was still (only!!) ten days away, and it was a now or never decision that had to be made. Brendan, once again, walked us through the process of earthen oven building, and as we worked, he shared story after story about his experience with the sacred art of earthen oven building. The staff at Robin Hills formed a sort of factory line of mix, stomp, mold bricks, lay bricks, and we completed the oven by late afternoon. It was a project to be proud of. The next step: wait for it to dry!
Brendan returned throughout the week to reshape the oven and begin the accelerated drying process (consisting of incrementally bigger burns within the oven). Austin lent his artistic talents with Robin Hills Farm carvings into the drying structure. Truly amazing artwork.
When October 16th arrived, it arrived with a most incredible earthen oven, tempered and cured and ready for the nutritious and delicious pizza party in appreciation of our CSA members and a successful growing season!