Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Progress to Share

I’m back from my trip to NC, and as the pictures below will testify I’ve made some real progress on my Georgia Brick Oven in the last two days.  Oh, need to mention that during my road trip I stopped by the Lodge cast iron outlet store in Commerce, GA and bought a large cast iron dish (picture another time) to bake “whatever” in. The “Whatever” could be bread, a roast, a small turkey, two chickens etc. etc.  And, it will fit through my oven door – something I can’t say for some of my other cookware.

First, I want to thank my Dad and sister Linda for giving me some fine hardwood fuel for the oven. When I got to the house in NC no one seemed to be home. Finally I noticed the sound of a chain saw, and when you can hear a chain saw in the middle of a 300 acre farm, it’s hopefully someone you know. Sure enough, there they were cutting up a black walnut tree that had fallen at the edge of a field. Linda cranks the chain saw and then hands it over to my 89 year old dad to do the cutting. AMAZING! As for the pecan wood, that had been cut previously and was stacked in the barn. It was in pieces that were too chunky for my oven, so they cranked up the log splitter to make kindling size pieces.  That pecan wood is extremely tough, and when the splitter finally did its thing you wouldn’t believe the POW noise as the split pieces of wood went flying! I’m so glad I was standing far far away.

After I got home, the wood was stacked to dry out. I meant to cover it with a tarp but procrastinated. Therefore, it immediately rained all the next day.  When I got started with the oven again, the first thing to do was continue with the side and back walls and cut bricks for and around the archway over the oven’s wood storage area. That went so well (using my recently purchased Black & Decker Storm Force hand-held cutter/grinder with diamond blade) that I decided to go ahead and mortar those bricks in place.

I had previously made an arch form out of foam core board with foam blocks glued between. I would normally have made the form from plywood and lumber, but I read a post where someone had used cardboard to make an arch form and I decided to give the slightly sturdier foam core a try. Just for the record, this lightweight and seemingly flimsy form worked extremely well. It was easy to cut out and was definitely rigid enough to support the six bricks in my arch. This form is the white half circle seen in the photo.

This is as far as the outer brickwork will go until the actual oven chamber is complete. Any higher and the walls would just get in my way as I’m placing the oven chamber brick.

Last thing I did today was mortar the hearth brick to the top of the hearth slab. The hearth brick turned out pretty well. Not as smooth and seamless as perfection but with that front arch in place the oven really starting to look like something! Click on the pics to embiggen.

Raincoat for the oven

Raincoat for the oven

I’ve covered the oven with a blue tarp to keep it dry from now on. Previously, if the brick got rained on, it was just a good way to keep them clean. However, now I want the core of the oven to start drying out.

Last comment is a thank you to two Mormon missionaries who helped me pick up brick from the side of the road. I had seen some abandoned brick from a demolished mail box post and went back today to scavange it before some other oven builder got them. They don’t match perfectly but will be OK to use for the back of the chimney or accent brick around the next arch which will be the oven door. I was loading them into the back of my truck when these two guys jumped out of their car (no, they weren’t on bikes) and asked if I had “lost my load”. At first I thought they might be cops come to arrest me for stealing bricks (ask my husband sometime about a previous bad day). However they were just nice young guys, helpful, interested in my project and even knew a place where I could get more free brick if needed.  I took their phone info just in case and then we went our separate ways with the day made a little more interesting for all of us. They are a long way from home and I wish them well.

The Mormon Brick

The Mormon Brick

Progress before NC trip

Progress before NC trip

Advertisements

Movin’ on Up

It’s been raining steadily all day today, so it’s a good thing that I finished using the mortar on hand yesterday. The outside brick work is getting very close to the level of the hearth slab especially around the back and left side.

I’m taking a few days off (yes, I know I just got back from vacation) to visit my dad in Yadkinville, NC. Friday is his 89th birthday and I don’t get to see him often enough. I’m taking a slide show of pictures of the oven to share with him and other family that will be at the Birthday Party.  Most everyone in the family is pretty handy with tools so it will be fun to show them how the oven is coming.

Tried to add some pics for the record. However, something isn’t cooperating, so I’ll edit them in later. The rectangular slab of stone is pink granite salvaged from the Atlanta UAW meeting hall that was demolished. My father-in-law had been saving that for “something” and when I expressed an interest in it he was glad to pass it down as his Union Legacy.

Pink Granite slab for oven entry

Back from a nice trip to the beach – St. Simons Island to be exact. If you’ll remember from my last post, my back was giving me some trouble, so it was a good thing to have a week long forced layoff from mixing mortar and laying brick. Rest, Tylenol and Bloody Marys did the trick but it was disconcerting how long it actually took until my back wasn’t giving any sharp twinges.

We stayed at a condo complex right in the Village, so had lots of time to browse the shops. One of my very favorite shops is a hardware store – I think the name is Strothers. We browsed the aisles and found several brick laying tools, among which is my souvenir from the trip – a mortar hoe!

Souvenir Hoe from the Island

Souvenir Hoe from the Island

As you can see from the picture, a mortar hoe is different from a regular garden hoe in that it has two holes in the blade. These help mix the mortar efficiently and more easily than a solid blade hoe. This blade also has a slick coating on it that doesn’t let the mortar stick to it. That coating may come off with continued use but by that time I won’t be using it any more. I justified the $23 for this hoe by the pain in my back. If it will make the job easier, it will be worth every penny!

Also thought I’d share a picture of Vaughn relaxing on the condo porch and one of his pelican buddy on the pier with our condo in the background. We had some fabulous food, took some leisurely bike rides, I did some knitting, and we both read and enjoyed the aforementioned Bloody Marys. 

Vaughn in relaxation mode

Vaughn in relaxation mode

If you want a super Bloody Mary recipe, first make your own flavored vodka by soaking a couple of split jalapenos, a habanero, and a poblano pepper in a jar with a fifth of vodka overnight. Strain the peppers and seeds out, replace the vodka in it’s original bottle and keep the vodka in the fridge. When you’re ready to make the BM, mix a jigger of the vodka with an 8th teaspoon of horseradish. Add tomato juice and maybe a half jigger of water (to dilute thick tomato juice) to a tall glass of ice. Finish off with a grind of black pepper and enjoy! This is a Guy Fierie recipe from the Food Network so I can’t take credit – I can only pass along a very good thing.

Moocher the Pelican on the St. Simon's pier

Moocher the Pelican on the St. Simon

I’ve been working steadily since the last post. That is, until today. My back had been giving me twinges, but a couple extra Tylenol and being able to sit on a little stool had allowed me to keep going. This morning, my back told me “you better pay attention to me or I’m going to cripple you!”, so I listened. Today is an off day, but I’m posting pictures of the progress so far.

Front of oven - almost time for first arch

Front of oven - almost time for first arch

The dog in the picture below isn’t ours. It’s a neighbor’s dog who is let out every morning to “be a dog”. That means coming to our house to poop and eat any cat food that he can scrounge. I don’t mind donating the leftover cat food, but I do hate having to watch where I step. I wouldn’t hurt this dog for the world but would like to give his owners a clue about how crappy (yes, that’s just the right word) it is to let him dump in our yard. I’ve thought about “care” packages on their doorstep, but don’t want to start a war. Thanks for letting me vent!

 

Back of the oven with Buddy the dog in background

Back of the oven with Buddy the dog in background

It won’t be very long at all till I need to cut some bricks to fit around the wood storage area arch. I had thought about doing that today instead of actually laying brick, but I’m listening to my back and working on lightweight things for my small business around the kitchen table instead.

Some inside bread baking will be done later this week. Vaughn actually wants me to bake bread to take on vacation so we’ll have something to snack on as we sit on our condo porch and watch the waves, pelicans, drunk tourists, dolphins, sharks, etc.

After a day off to work a shift at Ally’s Attic, I’m back to laying more brick. Ally’s Attic is a local (Snellville) antique / flea market where I’ve rented a display cabinet to sell some of the accumulations of this life. The Attic’s dealers are required to work one day a month besides paying booth rental. It’s a lot of fun to help the customers and look for stuff for yourself. The Attic isn’t off topic because during my last two visits, I’ve bought stuff for the oven!  First purchase was a nice work table that I’ll leave outside next to the oven to have a place to set the bread before and after it’s baked. The other purchase involves cast iron. I bought a 10″ skillet and a two quart pot with a lid. These will come in very handy when cooking things that can’t be placed directly on the hearth bricks. Since there was no telling where these pots had been, I scrubbed them thoroughly with hot water and soap. Then they had to be re-seasoned. A light film of Crisco and 30 minutes in a 350 degree regular oven did the trick. Right at the end, I opened up the oven door and Crisco smoke came whooshing out into the kitchen. Somewhat smelly! The house windows were opened and I turned on the ceiling fans until the next morning. The pots are now ready to use again.

Other side - smashed finger occured here!

Other side - smashed finger occured here!

More brick was laid today. That’s where the smashed finger comes from. I was tapping a brick into place and hit my finger instead. Cuss Word! Oh, forgot to mention that I also got a leg cramp. Laying brick is hard work. Here are photos of progress to date.

One side

One side

The “giving back” of the title comes from an encounter with a guy I found while looking for supplies on craigslist. He needed a cup of mortar in order to reapply a towel bar in his bathroom that his little girl used for gymnastics.  He simply didn’t need 60 pounds of mortar, but that’s the size bag it comes in.

 I gave him a cup full and he was on his way.

Laid 16 more bricks today. Wow, I’m zooming along.  Vaughn also ordered some neat oven-related gifts for me for Christmas. One is an ash bucket. I had been looking on eBay but we found this one at Plow and Hearth. It will fit nicely under the ash slot and it has a double bottom and a lid. He got the black one for me. The red one would have clashed with the brick color.

Ash bucket - I will receive the black one!

Ash bucket - I will receive the black one!

Other gift is a 25 lb. sack of what we in the South call fat lighter. It’s naturally sap inpregnated pine wood in thin splits. It catches fire very quickly and burns hot. One or two pieces will be all I’ll need to get my oven fire going.

Fat Lighter - flames in a bag

Fat Lighter - flames in a bag

3 Days, 35 Bricks

Can you believe it’s taken me 3 days to lay 35 bricks? I KNOW it’s slow, but the good news is I’m getting better each time I pick up the trowel.  Mortar is funny stuff. It needs to be just the right consistency and it’s sort of frustrating that a lot of it squishes out when you seat the brick. That’s what it’s supposed to do, but still!

First day I mixed up about a third of a bag of mortar, set up a mortar board and tried to sit on a little stool to get comfortable (HA!) at ground level. By the end of an hour or two (didn’t keep count), I was worn out and had laid about 10 bricks. I was trying to be too neat with the mortar itself for one thing. Also, using the level countless times is a slowdown.  However, I’m pretty pleased with how it looks so far and the bonus is that Vaughn also says it looks good. When I asked if he was surprised, he said “Yes”.  He never condescends and tells me my butt doesn’t look big when it obviously does, or my brickwork looks good when it obviously doesn’t 🙂

On the second and third day the brickwork powered right along. At 10 bricks a day it will only take me about 50 days to lay them all. Good Grief – I’m bound to get faster, right? I’ve learned to wet the bricks as I lay them and to keep my mortar a bit wetter. I’m now kneeling on a foam pad to save my knees and allow me to wear the same pair of filthy jeans at least two days in a row.