For a Hand-Made Education: Build your own Sustainable Shelter, & More

Make a sustainable, yurt-style shelter, by hand, with materials your can find and harvest yourself. Come June, Kiko Denzer will lead a week-long intensive natural building project to perfect a design for a simple, affordable, efficient and beautiful yurt made of sticks, string, and mud (6/9-15, Aprovecho Inst., Cottage Grove, OR; information and registration here. For design description and photos, click here.)

If you’re interested in a full year learning opportunity in natural building, home heat (ovens, rocket-stoves, and masonry heaters), traditional green woodwork, basic blacksmithing, tool-making, gardening, compost toilets, livestock (maybe) and more. Directed by Kiko Denzer (affiliated with the North American School of Natural Building, Aprovecho Institute, Primitives Skills communities, etc.) Labor for rent trade includes possibilities for long-term collaboration.…

New translations! in Spanish and German: Hornos de Barro; Lehm Backofens

Thanks to muddy friends Ian Miller, Christo Markham, and Xavier Rodriguez, there are now German and Spanish editions of Build Your Own Earth Oven. The German edition is published by Stocker Verlag, (click here). The Spanish edition is published by EcoHabitar (click here).

A few words of thanks are in order: Ian’s first oven inspired him to start a bread business and build his own natural house; when his (Austrian) wife Andrea got accepted for an educational program in her homeland, he wrote me out of the blue, proposing an oven book for a German speaking audience. He took on the project, found a publisher, did the translation, and made it happen.…

Bottle insulation for a yurt floor

Rusty Orner, of Quiet Creek Farm, in PA, took the idea of insulating an oven floor with recycled beer bottles and applied it to a yurt he was building as a classroom and bunk space for students and interns.

On leveled ground, they made a rubble trench, covered with gravel bags and capped with mortar and slate, to support the lattice walls of the yurt. They filled the thirty foot diameter donut with packed shale, a thin layer of sand, and then 5,000 beer bottles. The empty bottles provide four inches of insulation and a thermal break to keep cold from migrating into the floor.…

Wood-fired oven recipes: Hameen Eggs

I don’t normally get excited about hard-boiled eggs, but these aren’t your normal fare. The color alone gives them a quality like deeply polished mahogany; the flavor is nutty and sweet; the texture of the white is firmer, while the yolk is softer. The trick is simply to boil them gently with onion skins, overnight, in the declining heat of your oven. Red onion skins give a deeper color — these were cooked with white onion skins.

I forget who got us started with these, but when I went looking on the web I found many references to “hameen” dishes — so-called simply because they were slow-cooked overnight to provide warm food on the Sabbath, when traditional Jews weren’t allowed to do any work at all — even adding water to a pot of soup, much less lighting a fire to warm a pot of stew — or eggs.…

Wood-fired earth ovens: experiments in DIY firebrick (aka “castable refractory”)

I’ve been experimenting with cheap ways to improve lo-cost wood-fired earthen ovens. How can I make mud denser, harder, and more durable? Without going to bricks and/or spending a lotta dough? Adding sand to mud reduces shrink and increases density. But clay and sand are generally still less dense (hold less heat) than a good, hi-fired dense firebrick. Hmmm…

Experimental Goals:

1. to increase the density and toughness of a clay/sand thermal mix appropriate for building wood-fired ovens (and other wood-fired appliances?), 2. to fabricate a higher quality cast dome (“earth-oven”) style oven. Strategies: 1. adjust the mix of particle sizes to maximize density, and 2.…

How to Make a Rocket Powered Kiln of Clay and Sawdust

Jon and Flip Anderson have been working with stoves and ovens for some years now (HPP regulars may remember their rocket powered oven design.) Last February, they helped teach at the Winter Stove Workshop put on by Aprovecho and InStove. Aprovecho Research Center (ARC) was consulting for Mercy Corps in East Timor, who had sent their Program Manager for Renewable Energy, Will Baron, who has responsibility for all programming related to energy, poverty, lighting, electricity, appropriate cooking technology and sustainable cooking fuels.

Mercy Corps’ East Timorese stove program imports stove components from China and trains locals to make and sell completed stoves as a business opportunity, and as a way to improve health and air quality and reduce deforestation.…

Some wooden bowls & spoons

So about a year and a half ago, I built a foot-powered lathe for turning bowls. It’s a very rough structure that works really really well. Power comes from your leg, pushing on a stick, which is tied to a string, which wraps around a mandrel, which spins a chunk of wood. Sticks, string, and two fixed points create the axis of rotation. Apply curved blades (on stix) to roughly round chunk, dig out a void until it’s smooth and beautifully hollow, remove a bowl. I still love carving wooden spoons, but there is something about the lathe. The design goes back thousands of years, originating with the spindle that gives us fire, and the spindle that gives us thread for weaving.…

Cardboard dulcimers at summer Camp

Thanks to the folks at Farm and Wilderness camps, here’s a lovely video of one of the campers and his new “axe,” and more pix of music-making campers on FB, here.

To make your own, download a pdf of the book, Make a Ray Jacobs Rocky Mountain Dulcimer, here. The paper version is on sale through the HP bookstore.

My brother went to the Farm & Wilderness Camps in Vermont when he was a kid. Now his daughter is the camper, he helps out teaching woodwork. I sent him the dulcimer book, and he helped about a dozen musicians make their own instruments, not just campers, but counselors as well.…