Category Archives: rocket stove

As winter blows in

Even though the temperatures are starting to slip down towards the freezing mark, I’ve kept at it out in the barn. Why not? I’ve got the rocket stove out there now. For now, there isn’t a lot of heat retention as the walls are basically just a bunch of reeds bound up together. Around the edges, at the corners and the top, the wind can still come right in.  I’ve wrapped the outside of the addition with tarps and some old old greenhouse plastic. I’m not trying to seal the room up completely, that will come later. My efforts are simply in order to block out the worst of the wind and to keep the snow out of the room. In any case, every bit helps. The door to the outside has a removable window and a little sliding door at the bottom so that the birds will be able to get in and out without having to go through barn. More than that, I would very much like to get the birds to stop turning the yard in front of the barn into a mud pit. My intention is for them to go out this new door and turn the side yard into a mud pit. Hence the little door. Figuring out a door that is able to resist the intentions of a skunk or raccoon isn’t as simple as I first thought. But after about an hour of staring at the bottom of that door, I had a solution. The little sliding door actually nests inside the outer casing. Only time will tell if it will do the job. It feels like it should. I hope it does.

The walls, as I stated, are simply bundled reeds. So anything I do on the inside of the barn will have to be relatively removable. That and I want them off the floor. I don’t know if you can tell from the images, but the nest boxes are actually attached to the window cases with a brace at the bottom to hold them off the wall. When the time comes to finish the inside, the boxes will need to be removed. The way I attached them allows that. The red/white/green along the top of the boxes are small sections of metal roofing that was left over from cutting in the roof. This will allow the birds to use the upper boxes without getting pooped on. More importantly, the slope will make it so that the birds won’t be able  hang out on top. Anyone who knows chickens knows that they crap almost constantly. The slope will dissuade them from hanging out up there. It worked pretty well on the old boxes.


The perches are set. The way I’ve done them this time is to set boxes/braces on the wall that the perches can be set in. The perches aren’t actually attached to the boxes. This will allow their removal when I need to clean up under them. Instead, I ran wire through the wall and secured the boxes in place so that the cob/plaster layer will come right up to it. I think it was something I saw in one of the straw bale books that I have. The bottom 2 perches are most likely going to get replaced with straighter poles. If I have the energy to do so. In the current coop, the perches are actually secured in place. Until you have either been crapped on while mucking about under perched birds or simply felt the (literally) crappy perches rubbing along your head, neck and back as you try and work, you haven’t lived. It’s a not obvious in the image but there is also a window (same size/shape as the one in the door) set high in the wall. This will allow paper level ventilation in the summer and just a little more light year round. I’m just trying to make the space as light and airy as I can. Not that the chickens will let me know if they are content or satisfied with what I’ve made for them. If any of you can speak chicken, please please please come over and help me talk to these birds.


my Rubber Biscuit, the liar

As for the animals, Biscuit has apparently shown her true colors and a full on liar. I’ve been waiting on her to show signs of an imminent birthing and she as more than willingly taken the feed I’ve been giving her as if she is owed the sweetness. In fact, when I contacted the family that sold her to me (and assured that she was due “any day now”) they informed me that their other doe was also not showing signs of imminent birthing. What this leads me to believe is that their Pygmy buck simply isn’t up to the talk. In Biscuit’s case, I think that I mean it literally as well. I think he just couldn’t reach. She is a fairly big girl as far as it goes and he was just a little guy. The other nanny was his size though so who (besides the goats themselves) knows? As for the chickens, I now have 4 extra roosters and a young hen that is laying an egg a day. Another hen lays maybe 4 or 5 times a week. Everyone else seems to have stopped completely. 2 eggs in a day (at best) with 28 birds is pretty pathetic. There is a bit of electrical work to take care of and then I’ll hook in the timer and try and get a few more of them to start laying again. At least I hope they start back up. Time will tell.

Stink mouthed Dragon no more

The previous story was just sitting here waiting for me to publish and the world had already moved on. Yesterday afforded me time to sit with the stove and see what I could make happen. It had been suggested to point a small fan into the feed box in order to increase the draft. If it did increase it, I couldn’t really tell. All that seemed to happen was that the smoke just got pushed into the room faster. Another suggestion I had seen in the Rocket Stove book was to choke down the feed box by adding a brick at the back of the box. Well hot Diggity ding dong dang if it didn’t work. I’ve lost a bit of space for fuel but it works. In fact, after running the rocket most of the day in an attempt to dry it and the mass in the thermal battery, I did an experiment and removed the brick I had added. And, yeah, instant smoke fest. So there ya go. I put the brick back and it went smoke free. Just the cutest little roar. If you want to hear it purr, come on by.

If you want to direct message me, I’m at


Here’s smoke in your eye

I pray that the season finds you all hale and hearty.

The rocket stove in the barn has come to a sputtering sort of life. The experiment felt a functional failure with my first attempt. The chimney stands over the peak of the barn and yet the draft barely  invited more than an oozing flow of smoke flavored steam. Insufficient draft causes the wood in the feed box to back burn up the length of the material. This, of course, then fills the room with a lovely choking cloud of smoke. The irony is that I set the large bank of windows before I set the chimney. Baaaaaah! I’m going to have to dig this monster back out of the ground!!! The only think I can think of, at the time, is that the barrel head is too close to the top of the riser. We are talking about HOURS of work with the possibility of fracturing the soft brick. uggggg

But as I’m sitting there, casting my mind inside the guts of the thing, I remember the coating of moisture in the duct around the clean-out. I know this thing is practically soggy inside. Even months after putting it together. If the system had been set up through the roof all those months, then maybe it would be a bit drier. I can almost feel the steam cloud in the riser. Because think about it. This thing depends on fluid dynamics. The hot hot flame makes the air increase in volume and go up. New hot air leaps up from the flame just below the slowly cooling air that left the flame just a moment ago and already new hot hot air comes off of the hot hot flames and expands and goes up, pushing the cooling mass of air above it up the riser. As the air begins to lose it’s  heat load into the thermal mass of the riser, the firebrick in the riser begin to displace the moisture embedded in every crack and fissure in it’s surface. Water cools things super fast. This is why fire fighting is done most often with water rather than sand or mashed potatoes. The explosive boiling process eats up the heat in the air very quickly. What all this means is that the energy that should be going in to shoving the air along the system is suddenly tied up in that evaporation. Then too, hot water, in the form of steam, expands into a vastly larger volume than air heated the same amount.  This confuses the “normal” flow.

Confusion was how all this left me. Crestfallen, disheartened if you will. But, remember, the room I was sitting in was filled with smoke. Which means carbon monoxide and all that unburned fuel. Not the healthiest of environments. I fled the scene once I was sure that the stove was out.

I went to words of the legends. I looked into the TROUBLESHOOTING section of rocket mass heaters by Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson
Here is the direct quote from the end of the bit on ” Stove smokes into the house”

“The first time you light your new stove, don’t expect immediate success. Don’t be downhearted if it smokes like crazy and it’s hard to get a draw. With any new masonry stove which is still cold and wet when you first fire it, there will be an adjustment period. Use the primer, light it up with the driest, thinnest wood you have and be patient. It may take several hours for it to start burring really well.” 

And this was followed up this morning by this reply on a rocket stove forum at

Charles; When I have a wet core & mass I expect trouble. My first core and mass took 4-5 weeks of hard burning before it was truly dry and heated up. Be patient keep burning .. it will get better.  I keep a small electric fan on hand and when it starts to smoke back I blow down the feed tube…. works great as long as you are in the room, the fire will quickly start roaring . Take away the fan and in a few minutes or an hour it may try back smoking again.  Just keep giving it extra air sort of a turbo effect,  make that dragon roar, get it hot  before too long you will start to see an improvement.

It has simply been too long since my days as a kiln builder. And it’s all too easy to get caught in the moment and think, I FAILED. But alas, no. I just need to jamb a bunch of wood through this thing. It’s a living thing, fire. Well, it’s sort of alive. Look into an Anagama or Noborigama when they are at temperature. In that rarified heated plasmatic environment, fire gets weird. As I see it, the kiln is a temple to flame. Far beyond what most people see in your standard wood stove. Most of them rarely achieve 1300 F. That fire sin’t allowed it full potential. In order for the flame to achieve it’s potential, that fire house has to be built right.  Sometimes this can happen inside of a burning building. I remember a documentary of the Branch Davidian Compound Massacre in Waco Texas back in 1993. The long and short is that one of the 7 survivors was inside of the complex as it was burning. He described the flame as a snake, moving through the rooms, hissing as it went. Seeking food and oxygen. Roaring at times. Having seen it move like a river, I believe him. It’s these little “fire rivers” that the rocket stove harnesses. This is what kilns (and this is a tiny kiln) are made to do. Create a space for flame/heat/fire.


I give thanks to all my relations.


Lake Effected

Well dang if that didn’t just take an extra long while for me to actually write again. It’s not that I’ve been just sitting around, watching the leaves turn pretty colors and fall to the ground, because I have been doing a bit of that. No, it is said that a rolling stone grows no moss. Some times, though, occasionally, the rate of roll slows to the point that moss can just barely start to get a toehold. This summer presented me with one of those periods. The challenges and complications of existence can, at times, obscure the path ahead. At times like those, it can be wise to simply stop staring at the scenery and all the gee gaws there-in and focus on the spot where my foot will next meet the earth. One step. One step. One

Great picture isn’t it? You can almost tell what happened back there

The Rocket has been buried. I added the small can so that I could keep litter from catching sparks. That and it allows me to stop the airflow altogether. I ran long screws through the metal can from the inside towards the outside and they are held in the  compressed soil around the can. This will keep the can set.

Finally finally finally got the metal roof over the new addition installed. Part of that includes the chimney flashing having been set in the roof. This means that all I need to do is connect the long pipe from the floor to the ceiling. This is only hampered by the issue that sweet little Viann appears to have caught her reflection in 2 of the 4-foot sections of pipe that I had left in the room. Being the hell-spawned monster that she is, she must have recognized that her reflection actually revealed her true form. As everyone knows, duh, demons hide their form from humanity. Rather that allowing me to catch a glimpse of her form, she proceeded to SMASH SMASH SMASH the pipe. And once she had satisfied her head butting, she then proceeded to do the tap-dance-o-death on the smashed pipe. Luckily she only weighed 45# when she did this. This means that the creases aren’t hard folded and that I can get them hammered out without a lot of deformity. Maybe today.

In addition to setting the rocket in the floor, I went and cut some more Phrag. Before you tut tut tut me for cutting it 3 months early, let me just say, Yes, it’s not dry yet. The inner parts of the bottom end of this year’s reeds are still green. Even some of the leaves are green. Just a little. As I’m not using this stuff in any way that resembles thatching, or exterior exposure, I decided to just go for the lesson and find out what happens with a far less than perfect set of reeds. I’m facing an issue this year that I hope to resolve in a definitive way. The patch of Phragmites you drove by yesterday (if you have or were in a car and near any amount of standing water) is filled with all the previous years dead reeds. That one is no different from the one in the Andes mountains or Sri Lanka or here at my place. This plant tends to mono-crop itself. Come to find out, it actually releases antialgel allelochemicals.  Pretty neat. Allelopathy is far more common than I at first realized. Certain plants, basically, “salts the earth” or lay down it’s own herbicide specifically crafted to ward off it’s primary contenders. Because of this, the dead reeds mostly get hung up in the 3-6″ between the next closest batch of reeds. They are just forced to stay standing. Heavy winds will snap them off, or someone walking through. These dead reeds further block sunlight from the ground with inhibits evaporation and germination of anything else. The bottom 4′ of the reeds tend to be packed in with all this dead stuff, tighter and tighter as you get closer to the surface.  This year though, all the best and tallest patches will get sliced off at the dirt which will allow everything to lay over and get pushed to the soil where it can rot. I think that is carbon sequestration. Something like it happens in mob-grazing ecologies. Here is the thing though. NEXT YEAR will mean a cleaner harvest, cleaner and far easier. The footing is remarkably treacherous. Oh yeah, and there are 2 common lengths of dead reed, eyeball level when I have my hands on my knees while I’m gasping for breath from all this work, and eyeball level when bent 90* at the waist when I drop the Kama, again. Pokey stabby slicy stuff. If you’ve ever played hide and seek in an endless ocean of field corn in shorts and short sleeves, you begin to understand. Of course sweating immediately describes the exact dimension of each and everyone of those minor lacerations. They itch and burn. Time well spent. And I need to take a final moment here and recommend that each and every person who reads this go out into or at least next to a patch of Phrag. A day with a light breeze is best. The sound of the long dry leaves whisk swish whisking against each other is pure auditory heaven. It’s hypnotic. I highly recommend it. It might change your life.

The lower section of the wall is 3 garage door insulation panels thick. The inner layer is part of the wall holding back the infill. I figured that since I’ve got these things laying around, they won’t speed up heat loss through the floor. So why not? The outer panel is about 4″ taller than the inner floor.

west wall exterior
coop north wall with window Phrag bundles

The rest of the wall is made up of the bundles of Phrag. The bundles average around 4″ in diameter. Leah and I tied them up. One on each side, hold the bundle in place, weave the baling twine over around under through over tight, pick up all the reeds that fell, repeat 4x per bundle. It got a lot more straightforward after a bit. This will get covered with the same sort of earthen plaster that is inside the Seedhouse. I haven’t figured the outside yet. The eaves are pretty deep so I might try straight earthen plaster outside too. Or maybe a mix with just a little lime to tighten things up. I can’t grow or mine plaster lime here. Ever. And the trick is as small a footprint as possible. The insulation panels are/were garbage.


Coop interior Phrag bundle detail
coop interior west wall Phrag bundles

I doubt I can pull off plastering this thing before the freeze is here to stay. Maybe the inside only as I have the capacity to heat that room. The exterior walls will remain covered with a membrane for the winter. Something to cut the wind. I would like to get birds in here fairly soon so, I’ve still got a bit of work to do to pull that off.

Oh, and I redid the kitchen some.


Rockety Coop ready to roll

coop rocket ready for final layer

I’ve been keeping going back in the barn lately, in amongst all the doings with getting ready for the Farm Tour. With the excuse of having people walking though the barn and not breaking their legs, I figured that I needed to fill the thermal battery as it sits in the doorway connecting the new coop with the rest of the barn. This is, after all, the whole point of where it is sitting. Yesterday before breakfast, it just seemed like the thing to do. It’s funny how hunger comes and goes and the sketchy shaky feeling passes, eventually. coop thermal battery

The pipe in the battery comes out and back with a clean out just after the bend. I don’t think I’ll put the final layer on top of the box until everything gets a whole lot drier. The mix I used to fill the box was 50% unscreened bank sand and 50% unscreened yellow clay. They were both on the moist side from the recent rains so I didn’t add any water. It was only dry mixed and then tamped in around the pipe as the box was filled. Just after the returned pipe rises from the ground, another clean out is added. This will allow a place to get the draft started if their is a problem. coop door stop & chimney

Once the box was filled and tamped, there was still a bit of material left over, so I used it to fill in around the firebox on the other side of the barrel. In order to keep the unmortared bricks from collapsing while I tamed the soil in around them, I simply filled the opening with bricks and a few slivers of wood as a brace. rocket no can filled

It’s pretty neat that there was just exactly enough material to get the box to where it is. In the first image, there is a galvanized can with a lid sitting over the firebox. This will be secured into the floor with it’s bottom removed in order to control the air flow. I don’t have anything like that on the rocket in the Seedhouse and I know that without it the mass will continue to draft and cool. Pretty much defeats the purpose. This way, the lid can be used to either slow or stop the flow completely. The mix that I will use around the large, riser barrel and the smaller can won’t have any lime in it. This way I can get back into it if I need to without it being any harder than it needs to be. This looks to me like a potential drawback to adding the lime into any of the floor, but especially around the stove. Going back into the hardened lime could mean hammer and chisel, instead of just a hose. I’ve got to burry these things far enough into the ground that they can withstand having a goat  (or 3) jump up onto them. I don’t intend to have goats jumping on them. Not at all. But they already do. Viann does anyway. Ann prefers the work deck.

This is all prototype. Every bit of it. Worst case scenario, I can knock the entire rocket riser apart and dig up the firebox and reuse the bricks. It won’t make the barn colder and the chance of it burning down the barn are extremely low already. coop unflat floor

With the floor in this condition, and not having a big new batch of chickens ready to move in, the floor can sit for a while. Or lay. Or whatever a floor does. The walls won’t be doable till fall, or a till the Phrag dies and dries out. Which ever comes first. This will give me a chance to put up the next boxes and such. Perches, exclusion/brooder cages, roof. There is a lot to do before there are chickens sleeping in there at night. There is no door and one of the walls is mostly the remains of a rubber drop tank. It would be nice to have this place livable for birds by winter. This will allow me to clear the main barn for the goats when they won’t want to go out anymore. It might cut down on how often they have chickens standing on them. And pooping on them. Maybe a little.

coop latest hen and chicks

Winter is very much in the air. I know that Montana is Montana, but come on, it’s not even September yet and they are closing roads due to snow?  The front that broke the long ugly heat thing that happened earlier this month smelled of winter. Geese are on the move. Only 1 flock of about 20, not headed south, exactly, but they were moving together. My broodiest hen refuses eggs now. They know that time is short. Fall is coming. As it always does.

Mud floor gets a leg up

coop floor surveyours mark

Tuesday was a big big day. There were 6 people, a dog, 2 goats and most every single chicken at some point helping out. The 4 leggers and the birds mostly just crapped on things and knocked stuff over. Like normal.

My hat in hand, I must thank Stephanie and John from Red Beet Row, Gretchen from Cherry Valley Ecological Farm and Patrick from Octagon Acres. This floor has been staring me in the face for months now. Not doing much of anything but drying out and getting burrowed into by the chickens in their eternal quest for the perfect dust bath. And what have the goats managed to hurl to the floor and smash now? With all these people coming to get the floor done, I no longer had any excuse to put it off, so we did it. Half of the floor the first day any how. It went down quite well. We could mix the cob a bit wetter than I would like to for walls. It didn’t really need to stand up to anything. And this is just the first goat anyways. coop goat prints

With having just finished the first layers on the Syrup Cooker and Mary’s Grotto (later), I’ve found some success with increased durability to the elements by adding a couple of scoops of hydrated mason’s lime, NOT farm lime. This is the same stuff that I used on the outside of the Seedhouse. Only there, the mix with only lime and clean white sand. Here the mix was 50% yellow clay 50% bank sand (both thru a 1/2″ screen) 2 scoops of lime, and a flake of last year’s moldy hay because I don’t have any straw at the moment. I found that not only does the lime harden the clay enough to shed water, the mycelium grows through the clay as it dries, binding everything together in one final explosive embrace. I haven’t actually read too much about what people use in their earthen floors, beyond using elephant dung which is polishable and antiseptic. Who knew? I have lime. So I’m throwing it in everything. I just imagine how the chicken poo will soak into the cob. The smell will be in the floor no matter what. The hope is that the lime will keep the floor together longer with all the shoveling and scraping that will happen in there. It’s not cement. I accept that. I also accept that I can’t grow more lime. The closest mine is in Genoa, Ohio. Closest supplier is in East Cleveland. What will happen in 5 years? Dunno. 50? Beats me. It’s a floor. It’s a dirt floor. In a chicken coop. Whatever happens to it will be WAY worse than anything that will happen to a floor made of the same recipe in my house. I want to see what it does with 50 chickens living on it. Just to see. Same with the Rocket stove. I just want to see what I can do with one in a building that I go into at least twice a day, every day. Or someone does. I got a warning about lighting the stove at -20 F. They apparently hammer out every bit of moisture in them at once and lock the system up after about 30 minutes. It makes sense. 2 different barns. 2 different builders. It’s only set in dirt at this point. coop rocket

As you can see in the above image, I went back out to the barn the next day and finished off the rest of the floor. I had to go back across the street for another load of sand, but by the time I got to the doorway, I had used up all of the clay and sand that we had brought floor dust box

This is the SW rounded corner of the room. The Phragmites bundles are shown as the basis for future earthen plaster work. I left a corner of the floor exposed to the tamped dirt with a treated 2×4″ frame is set flush with the floor surface so that more dirt can be added as they throw it around all winter. If I hadn’t put this dust box in, I wouldn’t have had enough cob to get the floor as close to the opening as I eventually did. The floor is within 3 or 4 inches of the doorsill, whenever that gets figured out. In addition to filling in the thermal battery and around the firebox on the rocket, I’ll need to go over the entire floor with a finish layer. This will mean I need at least 1 more load of clay and 1 of sand, so I figure there will be enough to get the floor out as far as I need it to be. I figure to set bricks in the cob under the door. Between them and the lime in the clay, I hope to discourage diggers.

Another deterrent to diggers and chicken killers is the mesh that I put up over all 4 barn windows today. This has allowed me to remove the windows from their sashes and allow even more air to move through the barn. There is an actual breeze through the barn now. And I’m content knowing that the varmints can’t get to my birds. And the 6 chicks that hatched 3 days ago. It’s nice having broody hens. She seems to know what she’s doing. There is food and water just out of the frame, and the box has some extremely expensive chopped straw that I paid way too much for at the BIG BOX FARMY STORE. I can make myself feel better by saying that it’s a business expense and I can write it off.


Baby barb in Bubba's Shrine

Here is Mary’s Grotto as it appeared in my Mother’s parent’s front yard in the spring of 1967. The child is not me as I wasn’t born yet. My folks were dating, but weren’t married till later that year. The brown sticks to the left of the image are/were beautiful roses that surrounded the Grotto by the time I came along. I am currently wearing the belt of the man who is taking the picture. He passed away last year. This is my Uncle Mike taking picture of his first child. A little girl, Barb. It’s a good belt.

Mary's Grotto

The intervening 50 years were harder on the grotto than they were on Mary. It was the roses and the rose light filtering down on her all those decades. The bottom of the Grotto crumbled to pieces as I picked up, leaving 2 bent sections of rebar hooked out the bottom of the long cement curve. These I torched and bent straight. The cement chunks are left over from the patio/sidewalk/driveway job. I drilled a hole in each of the 2 front slabs of cement and filled in around the rest of it with lime cob. I made the small bowl out of what was left.

Once everything has a chance to cure a bit, I’ll go back and apply a final coat. Depending on how froggy I get to feeling that is. I just never know what I’ll be doing next. Oh yeah. Just so you don’t think Viann didn’t get in on the action. Here is her contribution.

coop floor no good deed

Never one to let a good turn go unpunished, she must have had a great time once she found the bag sitting there uncovered this morning. She beat that thing into submission. I don’t think all that much got wasted as there was a half a bag there when she found it. When Leah saw it this morning she just asked, “what did you think would happen?” No answer. I knew that she did it because of the white powder coating her horns and powdered down her neck, to her shoulders. Every error, every misstep. Goats, they find them.

Syrupocalypse be damned

While I am the one fully responsible for this spring’s volcanic eruption

I feel like I’m making up for it this week.


I ran the soil through the 1/4″ screen this time. Luckily I had Leah helping pound the stuff into smaller chunks. That took a minute, let me tell you. Hanging in Yaz’s timber framing shop is a quote that makes too much sense.  I’ll butcher it from memory. “Love of a craft is measured by one’s ability to revel in it’s tedium.” I see that and my back aches. I know it’s true. I am objective enough to know just how much I’m able to revel in that tedium on any given day. Luckily, the last 2 days have been one’s where the tedium is well worth it. Even shed a bit of blood.

The mix is the same proportions as before with an addition. 50% local yellow clay/ 50%sand, 2 fat flakes of hay and 2 heaping scoops of lime plaster. The plaster is to start “tightening ” the cob. Or that’s what I’m telling myself. I forced the hay through the 1/2″ screen and discarded the vast majority of the longer and thicker stems. The cob went over the bumpy scratch coat pretty easily. I left the mix a bit on the dry side. The scratch coat was fairly rough so it had plenty to grab onto. Of course the first layer was only on there a day so it hasn’t really had enough time to start drying (read shrinking) Either way, it grabbed on and hasn’t let go yet. The ‘bowties’ seem to be doing their jobs.

The top is made of regular metal roofing that I backfilled under the ribs and secured to the brick with more masonry screws. Not only is it there to hold the pot away from the riser opening, it’s acting as a rain shield for the top of the thing. Not just that, this top is also a chest level razor blade. Or head level for kids. I’m looking for some way to address the sharp horizontal edges. Hopefully the final layer of plaster will be tight enough to serve and I will be able to trim this stationary horizontal guillotine back to a reasonable length.

All the irregularity is gone, replaced with long gently swooping curves. Not so terribly simple as I thought it was. OK, to be fair, I didn’t think curve would be easy. I’ve wrecked enough drywall trying to finish it to know that this stuff is not going to give me any breaks in terms of final surface. That, and gouging the tool into the already smoothed-out cob just past the transition. That’s pretty depressing actually. Feeling the tool turn just a little too much past effective and catching the curve. Digging in just far enough to expose the pebbles and fibers just below the nearly burnished surface. Leaving a hole that it takes 15 or 20 passes to refill with finer materials and leaving no scar. I must have gone around this thing 8x, re-surfaceing again and again. Needless to say, I was dripping with sweat by the end. With all that, the weather reports (and the not so distant booming of lots of thunder) calling for thunderstorms that never unleashed here. Plastic sheet on, plastic sheet off. More disruption of the smooth surface. More strokes.

cooker decoration

Leah graciously agreed to decorate the cooker. She complained that this was only the second time 2nd time she has sculpted like this. The first time being the spiral in the Seedhouse. The question arose as to whether she should build up or cut away. The only caution I saw with cutting in too much was exposing the longer, tougher stems in the scratch coat. She said that she did a little of both. I think it’s quite fabulous. And if this is her 2nd time, I can hardly wait to see what she can do after a few more projects.

cooker with pot

This isn’t the final layer. I still need to put a thin coat of very refined clay and not fiber and a lot more lime plaster and skim it one more time. None of this will be any time soon of course. This stuff dries really slowly here. 87% humidity right now and it never did rain here. The cob, that I used to seal around the bottom of the kiln, is only just now starting to dry out. I probably should have waited for the scratch layer to dry more. Let it crack and deal with the fact that the inner bricks are a single contiguous mass that isn’t going to be shrinking at all thank you very much. The cob is already cracking horizontally, above the firebox. I kind of figured that it would crack there. With the steep transition, I was unable to apply anywhere near as much pressure at that joint. Me thinks, ‘less compression at a really thick spot floating over a 90 deg corner, let’s see what happens.’ Like the adage I picked up the other day, ‘build your barn first!’ Chickens could care less if they are living in a prototype or a finished product. {That’s WAY too abstract for their tiny little brains.} I got the message though. Actually, what I heard, way back in the once ago, was to build the SAUNA first. Instead of last like most folks do. It was 2nd and it’s 3rd incarnation only burned the barn a little bit. Lessons learned. Failure breeds innovation? So yeah, make the worst and most obvious mistakes on things that aren’t quite as important as survival.

My entire life feels like a prototype. I don’t know at what point it will start feeling like I’ve got a handle on things. Leaving public safety constituted my mid-life crisis. I never did pick up my red convertible. Had one all picked out too. Not really.