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The kids were super excited at the prospect of having some extra time off of school even before their spring break started in late March but less than twenty-four hours later, I heard it: I’m bored. 😂

If there’s one thing Indiana has a lot of, it’s clay.

My solution is always to offer them a long list of chores to choose from–I mean, I’m never bored–but lucky for them, Jack got them on board with a different project. He’d been researching how to build an adobe oven which is basically a clay brick oven that’s great for breads and pizzas.


So, basically Jack started a hole in our backyard, to where we’re going to be relocating our beach, and turned over the shovel to the kids. Their first design was to use actual bricks and I have to say, I was pretty impressed how organized they were. They got an assembly line going once everyone’s job was assigned. By the end of the afternoon, they had quite the pile accumulated.


When the bricks had dried, they built them into a small oven and fired them to make them harden. It was a valiant effort but in the end, the design was flawed and the oven failed. Back to the drawing board.


A simpler design of an adobe oven is called an earthen oven. Basically, it’s a framework of sticks, covered with paper, then slathered with mud over the top. That meant the hole had to be BIGGER. And muddier. If that’s even possible. Which turns out, it is.


I did a lot of loads of laundry over the week that they were working on their project. It’s kind of hard to be mad when they’re so proud of what they’ve accomplished, and that they’re working so well together.

Halfway done!

Other than the mud, there’s a good chance in Indiana that a digger will run into crawdads, frogs, salamanders, moles, snakes, and gob and gobs of worms.

Claire’s new friend.

Along with the sticky, mushy clay, Jack had them mix in some hay to give it a little more structural integrity. At first, they were mixing it with the shovel, but eventually, they dumped the hay in their hole and were running and jumping into it. Everything’s a game and it worked just as well as their initial method. Might as well have fun while working.


Once Jack burned all the insides out and the clay was hardened, we did a test run of the oven by making rolls. Part of the trick was getting the rolls far enough in without singeing off hair. Hands didn’t work, a long wooden spatula didn’t work…solution? One of the ores from the canoes ended up doing the job.


There was some trial and error in the cooking process, too. As you might imagine, it gets HOT inside an oven with a fire burning and without any way to regulate the heat other than venting it, it was kind of a guessing game as to how far to put the rolls in and for how long. Some ended up a bit charred, others were burned on the outside and still sticky dough on the inside. Others were magically just right.


When we felt comfortable with the mechanics of the crude oven, we took it to the next step: wood-fired pizzas. We rolled out dough for everyone to make their own, and they personalized them, then baked them in the oven of their own making. They turned out wonderfully delicious!

Claire’s kitty pizza.

We would have probably continued to use the earthen oven as long as it stood but it wasn’t meant to be. It withstood several blowing rainstorms, the heat, the freezing cold…but not a curious cow. When the cows escaped from a tree falling on their fenceline, Winston couldn’t help himself and walked all over it. It was obliterated. Sad.


Ah, well. It was a fun and useful experiment, and will return back to the earth sooner or later when it’ll be little more than a lump in the lawn. The kids were extremely proud of themselves for finishing a project but accept farm life for what it is, disasters and all. On to the next project, hopefully without another hole in the yard or quite so much laundry. 😉


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True stories of raising children, remodeling, braving the elements and plotting out life, all while living on a humble acreage in central Indiana.

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