Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Saga Part 4 - Tragedy Strikes!

There are two ways to move giant, heavy rocks:

The hard way.
The really, really, really hard way.

I haven't figured out the hard way yet so that leaves me the other option.

This may shock and surprise many of my closest friends and family members, but I am not a stone mason. I have no idea what I am doing as I build this oven. You can watch all the Youtube tutorials you want, but ultimately, you are faced with a sea of rocks strewn across your backyard that you have to muscle into place.

I am considering just leaving these as an environmental art installation. It will make mowing the back yard super exciting.

After spending a couple days placing the rocks for the base of the oven, I had a terrible realization.

The base layer is, as the name clearly implies, the base of the entire structure.

The front.

The back. Please note that Chicken is the job site supervisor.

Chicken does not approve.

Because, as noted earlier, I am not a stone mason, I realized that I had some aesthetic and structural flaws in my first attempt. The stones had been placed and the interior had been filled with crushed tiles, bricks, and cinderblocks as fill.

And it just wasn't working for me.

So, very reluctantly, with an aching heart and back, I pulled the entire thing apart.

This made me quite sad.

As a side note, that rock in the center weighs about as much as a dozen elephants. In tanks. Made of lead.

I shoveled out all the Urbanite that I had used as fill and began the slow, laborious process of replacing the rocks.

Did I mention that I am not a stone mason?

The New! Improved! Base 2.0.

 The base looks much better and seems more structurally sound, but I haven't shown it to Chicken yet, so I don't know if she approves.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Saga - Part 3 - Digging Holes and Filling Them Up Again

This pizza had better be delicious.

After raising the roof, the next step is to prepare a spot for the actual oven.

Wood-fired oven are, not surprisingly, rather heavy. Especially so if the pizza has a lot of toppings on it. And mine will.

I've been gathering locally sourced, free-range, organic rocks from our property to use for the base of the oven.

My neighbors have enjoyed the sight of me, staggering up the street, pushing a wheelbarrow with a  rock the size and weight of a '56 Buick in it.

They have taken to sitting on their porches, sipping cool drinks, and calling out encouraging words to me as I pass by.

"Wow. that looks heavy," they will say.
"Sure is hot today, isn't it?" they will ask.
"You look tired," they will observe.
"This cool, refreshing lemonade sure is cool and refreshing, isn't it?" they will inquire rhetorically of each other.

Rocks are really, really, REALLY heavy.

I have discovered that simply carting rocks around in a wheelbarrow and dumping them on our lawn isn't enough. These rocks need to be assembled, much like cheap, Scandinavian furniture. But much, much heavier.

In order to keep the oven base solid and happy, I dug a hole about 2 feet deep and then - wait for it - I filled it back in with gravel!

It reminded me of that old nursery rhyme:

Dig a hole
Then fill it up.
You'll sweat a lot.
A lot, a lot, a lot,
And all night long,
Your back will ache.
A lot, a lot, a lot.

On the plus side, thanks to my new roof, I'm not working in the sun. On the less-plus side, it's still really hot here. 

Kerri wanted a picture of what I looked like before I sweated myself into a piece of Marty-Jerky™.
Too late.

I know you're all jealous of my wheelbarrow. 
Is it deep enough?
Not yet.
Keep digging! 
Fun, fun, fun.

My shirt is incredibly absorbent.

After about a bajilliondy hours of digging*, my hole was deep enough to get filled back in.

*Kerri claims it was an hour. She lies.

And after all that digging, it's like the hole was never there.

It only took 7 wheelbarrow loads of gravel that I dug up on the far side of our property to fill that hole back in. I tamped it down and now, I'm ready for that pizza.

Which will be ready in a few months.

Kerri wanted to highlight the extreme moisture-wicking properties of my shirt.


Can someone please get me a drink of water?


Next up:

Moving big rocks from their happy homes in the ground into a huge, round pile.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Great Wood-Fired Oven Saga - Part 2

In our last episode, our intrepid heroes risked hernias and bug bites to clear a spot for the new wood-fired oven that Marty foolishly wished for in his life.

The spot has been cleared.

The lumber has been delivered.

The roof is about to be raised.

After a calm, cool discussion about the size of the roof - a discussion where NOBODY got upset in any way, Kerri and I decided how big the covering for the oven should be. Kerri wanted it to cover the entire town of New Boston, I opted for a 6 square inch lid that can be held over my head in the event of inclement weather.

We compromised on a roof about 10' by 15'.

I spent a couple sleepless night wondering how I was supposed to fit all this lumber into my 2011 Toyota Corolla. And then I discovered that a local lumberyard will deliver anything you want for a flat fee of $15.

And, the work began.

In all seriousness, I need to give so much thanks to my son, Alex, who gave up several beautiful days of summer vacation to help me with some grueling physical work.

Thanks, buddy!

Alex, posing with the wood for some reason.

A random picture of the worksite, just to set the mood for you. You're welcome.

We dug 4 three-foot-deep holes for the posts and tossed them in. "Looks good to me," I said cheerily. "Let's get that oven built."

Kerri, however, had other thoughts.

Work continued, despite my feeble whining and protestations.

I leveled up the posts...

While Alex pursued a modeling career.

And, we're done, right, Kerri?
(Spoiler alert: No, we're not done.)

After the posts were plumb and secure, we continued working.

No. We're not done yet. Don't even ask.

Don't ask about the sunflowers on the wheelbarrow, either.

Me, demonstrating an OSHA approved safety technique on a 10' stepladder.

I am trying to get Alex's attention...

As he continues his modeling career.

I can be a model, too, smart guy!

We worked for a couple days. The only casualties were a hammer-smashed finger (me) and a small drill fire. No, I don't have pictures of either, you freak, although Alex tried to convince me to do an unboxing video of my new drill.

I refused.

You're welcome.

More of my modeling career.

Ready for afternoon cocktails!

Next up: Building the Oven. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Great Wood-Fired Oven Saga - Part 1

This, my friends, is the summer of great manual labor.
And by great, I mean awful.
Truly awful.

For years, I have wanted to build myself a wood-fired oven for making pizza.  Pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven is the best thing in the entire world.*

*This is fact; not opinion.

Naturally, when I expressed my wish to my darling wife, Kerri, she was enthusiastic and helpful. She immediately made the mental jump from "simple, rustic, wood-fired oven" to "majestic outdoor kitchen that will bankrupt us and destroy me physically".

What I had in mind was something like this:

Simple, doable.
(And, if you are interested, check out the plans from, where I got this photo.)

But Kerri started sending me pictures of what she had in mind:

What the? Where is the wood-fired oven?

Who puts a TV outside?!?

"All we have to do is airlift our house from the woods to the mountains!"

So, doing what all couples in strong, healthy relationships have done through the eons, we compromised.

We will build a wood-fired oven AND have a roof over it that will protect me from the elements as I bake pizza. We will not install a TV and we will not airlift our house to the mountains.


*Easy for Kerri, because I am actually building this thing; not her.

The first step, of course, is selecting the perfect site for the oven. The perfect site in this case happened to be already occupied by our shed*.

*As an aside, I feel compelled to add that I built this shed about 15 years ago. It is constructed 100% (except for nails and screws) from material that I scavenged at the local transfer station. THAT is recycling, people!)

When I mentioned to my neighbor, Mike, that I would be disassembling and moving my shed, he asked if I was familiar with Egyptian slaves and how they moved giant stone blocks to build the pyramids.

"Why, yes, I am, Mike," I answered, dubiously.
"I have a lot of 3" plastic conduit tubes," he said, bouncing his eyebrows suggestively.

And so began what I shall forevermore refer to as "The Ordeal of the Shed", wherein, with the invaluable help of Mike and my son, Alex, we jacked up the shed on car jacks, lowered it onto a bunch of plastic tubes, and pushed, pulled, and slid it from the back of the house to its new home next to our driveway.

"Hey, this is easy," says Mike as he watches me dig out the foundation and place the rollers.

"Hey, this is easy," says Alex as he supervises me giving myself a hernia.

"Hey, this is easy," says Kerri as she watches me pull the shed with my teeth in an awesome display of unbridled manliness.

After the shed was in motion, it proved difficult to keep it in motion. Thanks for nothing, Isaac Newton.

But, Mike's Second Law of Moving Things is: When the going gets tough, get a big truck.

So Mike got his farm truck, strapped our shed to it and dragged it around our house as Alex and I trotted alongside and moved the rollers from the back to the front.

"Hey, this is easy," said Mike from the diver's seat.

"Hey, can you throw some paint on that while you're just sitting around?" Kerri asked.

We maneuvered the tight squeeze past the screen porch.

"Hey, guys? Guys? Helloooo?"

And, just a little more muscling and Mike's block & tackle and the shed was in its new home.

Raul, the Guardian of the Shed Door is pleased with his new home.

Now that the site had been cleared using good ol' fashioned Egyptian Slave Methods, it was time for a good ol' fashioned Amish Roof Raising.

Stay tuned.