Saturday, March 15, 2008


This woman is a doctor. She is on vacation. She is breaking dry horse manure - the hard, round "apples" - into loose manure fluff. And, she is loving it!

Meet Joy, Rosanna's daughter, once again donning gloves and adding her hands to the oven building effort. We were glad to have her!

Our oven has been drying for the past week. The one remaining task was to cover it with an insulating layer of cob, thin clay mixed throughly with dried, smashed horse manure. Since Joy was available to help and the weather seemed reasonably cooperative, I drove up to Rosanna's today so we could get started.

The cob was much easier - and more fun - to work with than the heavy oven clay. We had buckets of "slip", a very thin clay mixture, all ready to go, and had a trailer load of manure standing by. Using the wheelbarrow again (I can see that no ranch can function without one or more), we stirred the slip into a homogenous liquid the texture (and color) of a lovely, thick, chocolate sauce, then dumped in the manure and stirred - by hand.

Playtex Living Gloves... if you are close to my age, I am sure that is the brand you think of when someone says "rubber gloves". Hummmppppfff! Were we expecting too much? I see that their website doesn't mention anything about mixing gravelly clay mud with horse poop, but these didn't even make it through one oven build!

After the fingertips started disintegrating, both Rosanna and I switched to direct hand contact, tactilely rewarding but amazingly messy. I'm not certain my cuticles will ever recover. Get this woman a manicure!

Two wheelbarrow loads of cob provided several hours of mud play and fun. Our oven is now protected with a two-inch thick layer of cob, a highly sculptural medium. With what little remained after we were finished, we added a few southwestern embellishments, then stood back and admired our oven again and again.

It would be a stretch to call it "beautiful", yet it elicits interest and favorable exclamations from everyone who sees it. We are drawn to it over and over, to pat it, lay our hands on it, peer inside it. It is so incredibly organic, so "grounded", so functional - and so obviously a part of it's surroundings. What can I say? It has been a VERY rewarding project - and we haven't even cooked in it yet!


  1. It is beautiful, just wait till you pull out that first loaf of wonderful smelling bread. M-m-m-m-m-m

  2. Gorgeous!! I especially like the art work on the outside!! Congratulations!