After finishing my grades, buying and baking for the holidays, I came up to 29 for a few days with my trusty dog to work and enjoy the quiet. There were two jobs to do: dig and lay the foundation for the earth oven that we will build in January, and turn the RV into a tropical Tahitian paradise from the uninviting 80s mess it currently is (see next post). Defining jobs is important when you're here because there is so much to do it's overwhelming, and you find yourself walking in circles, directionless in the desert.
One reason to build a traditional mud oven is to respect the land, using what's on hand rather than buying supplies. I'm following the advice of my clay mentor and friend, Terri H-O, and the book she recommended, Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer. I gathered all the concrete blocks that were spread out over our five acres, and all the broken bricks and "urbanite" (broken concrete trash). The wheel barrow is my friend and my arms are much stronger after three days of hauling heaving stuff.
Here are the steps I followed so far:
1. dig down about 6" for the foundation (this area is not low, not at risk of flooding), and fill with gravel and rocks
2. set the first layer of bricks and start to fill in the cavity with the trash
3. continue each layer, filling with sand
Our new handyguy, Solidfoto, helped out, although he's a perfectionist and is probably frustrated by my sloppy work (I actually like that we had to level one side with smaller bricks and it's multicolored and textured). The base is long to allow for a prep area beside the oven. I'm very proud of our foundation and can't wait to build the oven and get to baking pizza and bread!
Yes, I brought two buckets full of sand out to the Desert Dairy this weekend. Why, my young ones asked, incredulously? Because all sand is not equal--desert sand is too fine. This rough San Diego stuff will be used to make concrete for our... pizza oven! I am excited!!!
Up until now, the only people who have been on our property have been friends who have stopped by to see the mess. I haven't even offered them iced tea. Last weekend, between hot spells (meaning it only got to 109), we prepared for our first houseguests. Meaning, we needed another working bedroom, and for the toilet to flush. The bathroom was not working because the pipes were galvanized steel, and during our three months with no water, they rusted solid. Our local handyguy came to the rescue and soldered copper pipes in the basement while we ran to home depot for a new vanity. And a bathroom of sorts came together!
In celebration we had our first dinner party, Turkish mezes, kofte and imam beyildi. Success! I now understand the importance of people using the place, to see where they want to hang out and what needs to be more comfortable. Our friends had lots of ideas of how to use the property to full advantage.
We also tried a hike in Indian Cove with Toulie, but he quickly pooped out. Short legs and dark fur are not the best for the desert. Galant effort, though!
Anna does most of the writing. Ted does most of the photos. But sometimes we switch. We are repairing a distressed property in 29 Palms, California, and eventually hope to run an artist residency there.