Earth Oven Project #2

The earth oven built by us - the EBI team and the children - in Autumn 2021 was a complete success, and we were able to cook and bake many different dishes in it over the subsequent year.  We even created 2 cookbooks with our favourite earth oven recipes, all written and drawn by the kids! So why would we destroy our oven when it was such a great tool?

Quite simply, so that we could relive the processes and construction of an earth oven for the benefit of everyone -  the children, their families, and our employees.

Firstly, we had to dismantle the old oven and clean the bricks processed in the oven - these, of course, should be used again. The groups got to work immediately after the kindergarten started in September. They worked methodically, making their way to the foundation of the furnace.  The outer layer of the clay-straw mix was removed first, which proved to be much trickier to remove than any of us had anticipated.  Small shovels were used to scrape and knock until the clay slowly crumbled away. To make the work easier, we provided the children with water.  Within a day the outer layer was removed and the bricks, burned by the fire, became visible. Now it was time to remove the bricks. Under the watchful eyes of the teachers, the stones were carefully excavated one by one and set aside. Building something together is very exciting, but dismantling an existing stove is also very appealing!  At the end of the demolition phase, all that remained was to clean up the construction site and then the construction of the new earth oven could begin.

The bricks used in the previous oven were stacked up again with fireclay.  After the second row of bricks, the children filled a layer of sand, followed by salt, and then finally bricks again on the oven surface. Then the oven dome could be built up until it was finally sealed with a closable oven pipe. After 2 days of drying, the oven dome was ready for the last layer.  The children mixed clay, soil, straw, and water and applied this to the oven dome. The second clay oven was ready!

Our first oven only had one door and both the firewood and the dishes that we prepared were put into the oven through this door. This was often very difficult and we struggled to operate the oven. Therefore, it was decided that this new version of the oven would be equipped with two doors and a closable chimney. The benefit was already evident during our first oven test.   Dishes could be pushed to the back of the oven without any problems, and we could put new wood in the fire area with ease.

During the dismantling and assembly of the earth oven, much documentation was made, in the form of photos and videos.  The photos will of course be featured in our 2022-23 earth oven cookbook.

The videos have already been edited into a documentary for our EBI families, and the film premiered successfully on Thanksgiving Day.

Sometimes it is worth tearing down something that has already been built so that we can relive the experience - and crucially, improve on it.

By Regina Kruse-Özcelik
Early Birds Istanbul

With the hope that many families and institutions will build their own earth oven soon!