July 24, 2008

Paul, Sabrina and Paultje's Earthen Oven

In a quiet urban backyard something is growing out of the Earth.
A space is now being created for fire to blossom within.
Soon we will harvest pizza, soups, cakes and loaves of bread.

This oven's foundation is made from urbanite we recycled from a neighbor. The clay is dug up from a nearby elementary school where they are creating a playground.

Here are some images of the oven in process for you to enjoy!

July 17, 2008

Drake's Estero

Yesterday we went on a kayaking adventure. Soooooo fun! The photo below shows our fearless crew. From left to right: Mary Jane, Max, Mark, Alex, Brian, our guide Patrick and me. We explored Drake's Estero, a protected wilderness area near the Point Reyes Seashore which amazed and renewed us. We saw Blue Herons, Egrets, Black Cormorants, Nudebranchs, Osprey, Harbor Seals, Seaguls, Seaweed, Oysters, Leopard Sharks, Bat Rays and beauty.

You can see on the map that Drakes Estero resembles a human hand.
The last image is a video of a bat ray.

The image above is a video!

July 10, 2008

so many functions- a masonry stove story

It gets pretty cold in Trout Lake during the winter. Last winter was the worst in 20 years. Jack, Nina and Kya use wood heat and were hoping for a warmer and more efficient way to heat their home. They found out about Al Bauch and the wonderful Finnish masonry stoves he builds. We went to visit Al last summer on the coast, saw the great work he does, and Jack asked Al to build a beautiful one in their home.

Masonry stoves originated in Northern Europe and Asia about 400 years ago. These stoves are commonly referred to as Russian, Swedish or Finnish stoves. They all share the same concept: burn wood cleanly (more smoke and gases are combusted,) and capture its heat energy in a mass of masonry that will radiate heat for an extended period of time. It seems most woodstoves (iron stoves) and fireplaces in North America lose a large percentage of their heat out of the chimney and emit significant particulate emissions, which contribute to poor air quality. We have made improvements in reducing these emissions and heat loss through chimneys, but the results do not compare to a well-designed masonry heater. Check out this chart-

Stove Type



Conventional Woodstove



Phase II Pellet Woodstove
(most efficient)



Heat-Kit-22 Masonry Heater
w/bake oven



Above is Jack last February feeling cold and feeding the stove they had been using for years. They do have ventilation grates in the ceiling above his head to let the heat up but they found they were only really satisfying the experience of quick heat below and not the sustained, low-effort, low fuel heating they were after. You can see the cinder block foundation for the new masonry stove behind him.

In the photo below you can see Al working his magic up stairs, facing the new stove with rock. The door you see on the stove is an oven to bake in. And lots of rock.

So, ha ha ha. As if it weren't awesome enough to create a structure that uses way less wood and energy to heat their home, bakes yummy food and looks beautiful.... They decided to put a shower downstairs WITHIN the foundation for the stove. Yes, a shower.

This June, my rad friend Max and I tiled the inside of it. Below are some photos of the process. (Note that you can click on the images to see them larger.)

As we mosaic tiled the shower space the family would bring us treasures and momentos to put in the wall. If you go see it someday you will find obsidian, shells, marbles, a piece of Jack's favorite ceramic drum ever, glass that Kya found, and Grandma's old plate. There is even a slate chalkboard outside and there might even be a prayer or two behind the lava mountain. The tile we used for the mosaic was all purchased from recycled building supply stores and tile seconds sales.

The masonry stove is almost complete. It is fully functioning- creating beauty and warmth and pizzas and hearth and a place for renewing showers. We've had some great food and music sharing around it and there is so much life within each rock to slowly notice and appreciate. The last step of its creation is to plaster the outside of the foundation part that you see in the photo above.

And look at how gorgeous it turned out! And all with found rock! (I think the photo below is one to click on!) Oh yeah, and ha ha ha. There is yet ANOTHER wonderful function of this stove: Jack also insited that Al intentionally provide a space for a custom made stainless steel water jacket! The photo on the bottom left corner of the following collage shows where the copper tank will sit that holds the water which will be heated by the fire and used for bathing and dishes. Amazing.

Update! Here is the copper tank upstairs.

The last time we saw Jack he was having summer fun and cleaning out their pond with family.
Kya was connecting with fairies and Nina was learning the language of her wild Mustangs in the field. Awesome project y'all.