Thursday, 5 August 2010

New Project 1: The Clay Oven

When does a job become a project? From my experience so far I would guess that the determining factors include complexity, duration, quantity and sophistication of required equipment and materials, and perhaps most important of all, potential for the end product to enhance daily life for the person asked to complete the task. Based on such factors, putting new shelves in the cabinet in the kitchen to increase display space for favourite items of crockery and glassware was classified as a “job”, whereas constructing an outside clay oven was accepted as a “project”. Dave likes projects not jobs. My job is to find jobs, persuade Dave that those jobs are really projects, in the hope of ultimately starting work on the one project he doesn’t want to do, namely decorating our house.

Flicking through the pages of a River Cottage Handbook always sends me off on flights of fancy as I lose myself in the idyll of sustainable country living where every field yields a bounty of delectable mushrooms just waiting to be tossed in butter, hedgerows are full of juicy berries dying to be pressed, pureed or preserved, and every batch of dough rises without effort and bakes like a dream. After one such flight of fancy, I decided that my world would not be complete without a clay oven within which to bake the perfect loaf and crisp the perfect pizza. This was clearly a project, not a job, so Dave was happy to take on this new challenge. Soon I would have my very own one of these……


Step 1 – The base. The book suggested bricks. Dave opted for logs and planks. As the clay oven has been deemed a “non-essential” item, the project must be completed with minimum investment. Fair enough. Afterall, we must always be thinking “reduce, re-use, recycle”, and logs and planks we had, bricks we didn’t, so rustic clay oven we will have.  So far so good.

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Then the weather turned bad and interest in the clay oven project waned. Guests were puzzled by the curious log cage outside the house. Could it be a chicken isolation pen? Or for naughty young guests? Or maybe a low budget hot tub?

It turns out that not only does a job have to be a project, but it also has to be a project with a deadline. As soon as I announced that I’d promised pizzas from our clay oven for our dinner guests on 21st August than Dave leapt into action. Within 2 days the entire base was complete and the sand mould for the clay dome was patted into shape.

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Phase 3 is the really messy stage involving lots of clay dredged from the neighbour’s mudfest of a site, all of which has to be de-stoned first. I’ve heard talk of “we” and “us” for phase 3, so I fear that I may be expected to get my hands dirty. I never liked hand painting as a child and my school pottery efforts were never going to win any awards, so I hope Dave’s not expecting too much input from me. In the mean time, as far as Charlie’s concerned Dave has just built a handy viewing platform (with en-suite toilet) from where he can watch the world go by.


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