Out of the blue one day I got a phone call from a guy named Ian Miller. He said he had built a few ovens, baked a fair amount of bread, was married to an Austrian and (among other things) interested in translating Build Your Own Earth Oven into German. With that began an adventure that is now resulting in a new (German!) edition of the book, published by Stocker Verlag, out of Austria (they also publish Austrian permaculturist Sepp Holzer, which makes it even more of an honor). Very interesting to let go of the book and let someone else take it all apart and put it all back together again in a language I can’t read or speak. But in the process of doing it, I realize there are some good stories I haven’t yet shared — not about translation and books, but about ovens and their people. So, while it’s late (especially in terms of giving credit where it’s due for previous projects) I hope this will be a start.
HANDS stands for Housing and Neighborhood Development Services. They work out of Orange, New Jersey to try and reclaim dilapidated houses and other “eyesore properties,” and return them to the neighborhood as affordable homes and community assets. They also work with individual people and neighborhoods, and are creating an Arts District in a former industrial area called the Valley…. “It started as a dream idea of our Executive Director, Pat Morrissy: ‘Let’s build a community outdoor, wood fired oven where people can bring bread and pizza dough to bake together outside!’ The idea caught on and the Earth Oven was begun.”
Joe Kennedy, long-time natural builder, tells fascinating stories of the ovens he has built and the lessons he has learned from them. Joe addresses many useful design ideas that he has drawn from his experience. He also shares his drawings of a current oven he is buiding that synthesizes his experiences into a very efficient and useful oven.
Alan Scott’s Ovencrafters provides DIY masonry oven plans and hardware (doors and pyrometers) for bakers wanting to start their own small business, or just to bake large amounts of bread and other food for family and friends. It was set up on Gandhian principles of â€œPolicy with principles, commerce with morality, wealth through work, and science with humanity.” Many ovens and many small bakeries now feed good bread to their communities as a direct result, and the book Alan inspired and co-wrote, The Bread Builders, has become a bible for a growing circle of builder/bakers.
“Communal table: A 36 Hour Dinner Party”
The NY Times Magazine recently published this article by Michael Pollan about a 36 hour dinner party cooked in a mud oven. Best, for me, was how he explained the purpose of the oven:
The idea is to make the most efficient use of precious firewood and to keep the heat (and the danger) of the cook fire some distance from everybodyâ€™s homes. But what appeals to me about the tradition is how the communal oven also becomes a focus for social life (â€œfocusâ€ is Latin for â€œhearthâ€), a place to…