How to Build a Cob Oven & other cool things going on in the Midlands this Month

Don’t you just love those days when you walk into something really unexpected & exciting, then just jump straight in & get your hands dirty.

Well, I just happened to pop into friends of mine in Howick where they run a small Waldorf based home school called ‘Littleseeds’. Here the founder, Candice Roberts & her partner Craig have created a lovely home environment using a curriculum called ‘Enki’. Children are immersed in different cultures through music, story, arts, dance & crafts.

On this particular day I happened to visit while the kids were learning about working with ‘Natural’ building materials. In this case, they were building a ‘Cob Oven’.

Cob is an earthen building material that is made of clay, sand, straw or hemp fibre and water. It has been used for thousands of years to construct homes and buildings.

Craig, the builder spoke to me about the Clay taking up about 25% of the mix, together with an Aggregate of Fine Silica Sand (Plastering sand) & Umngeni River Sand. Hemp fibre (obtained from local hardware) was also mixed in before the water was added.
What happened next was funny at first, then it became a full on sweat. We had to use our feet to combine the clay, fibre & sands. Nothing like a good solid stomping dance session early in the morning! Adding water to get the right consistency, we squeegee’d away until at last the mix was ready.

Craig & Candice had already built the ‘Plynth’ together with the first inner dome at this stage. Basically, they had dug into the ground to form a round foundation that was lined & stacked with stones, then filled with ‘rubble’. A pourable ‘slurry’ made of topsoil, clay & a little sand was used to fill & set the foundation.

Next, a layer of Umngeni river sand, then a layer of fine silica sand. Fire bricks fitted closely into the sand to create a level top. This is now the oven base, so a dome was created using wet builders sand, Umngeni river sand & plasterers sand. Using newspaper to help in shaping & moulding created a perfectly shaped dome which ultimately would be the oven chamber.

Next the kids began layering the ‘cob’ around the dome about 3 inches thick. This was the fun part as you could shape & mould the ‘cob’ mixture. I can see why this is such a great building material. You can literally create your own structures & designs. I like the idea of using glass bottles, perhaps nice stones, ceramics etc to decorate the structures. Such a creative medium to work with.
Well, needless to say we didn’t complete the oven on that occasion, but, as with all good, sustainable & earthy endeavours, the juice will be worth the squeeze!

Continuing progress day by day by all the kids at the ‘Littleseeds’ school will see the ‘Cob’ oven completed in no time at all. I thin k we need to do a cool recipe for you folks once the oven is ready. The joys of good, clean Natural living, gotta love it!
Littleseeds Home School – Candice Roberts 084 555 9590