Benjamin Yong photo Sunriver gardeners and Sooke Region Food CHI Society members gather around the finished cob oven built last Saturday. The construction took about four hours. From clockwise back left: Tomoko Votour and baby Aki

Brick by brick an oven is built

New cob oven at Sunriver Allotment Garden

members of the Sunriver Allotment Gardens and Food CHI got together at the garden property for a good old fashioned mud stomping.

The group spent the day building a cob oven on site that will allow Sooke Region Food CHI Society members to bake things from bread to desserts in the oven that can reach up to 800 C and last for over six hours.

“It’s all wood fired, so it’s totally sustainable,” said volunteer Emily Moreland, who was the former garden mentor. “You can make a pizzas in a minute and a half.”

Moreland and the others combined dirt, sand and water and then took off their shoes and stomped up and down on the mixture until it turned into a liquidy substance.

“It turned out like (concrete) then we just made these little (cob) bricks with our hands,” she said.

The entire process was led by volunteer Patrick Wass who had previous experience in cob making.

Not to be confused with corncob,  a cob brick is the name of the finished material known for its heat-retaining and environmentally-friendly qualities.

The oven features a unique metal door that was built by Maywell Wickheim, owner of Sooke Marine Industries. Inside, there is a firebrick floor. Everything was built on top of a stone foundation that was completed in August, she said.

“It was really neat because it brought people together that had never lifted a rock before in their lives. We gathered the rock locally, well Jordan River, and then we had people who had never done it before getting their hands together and coming together building this thing.”

The foundation was built two months ago, but the idea for the oven started two years ago by a few of the gardeners. The idea was in response to the slow food movement of taking time to appreciate local food and gathering together as a community, said Moreland.

Volunteer Phoebe Dunbar said a bonus is that a lot of the ingredients for whatever people are baking can come right from the garden. There are also plans to build a roof over the oven so it can be enjoyed 12 months of the year. Only members of Food CHI are able to use it for insurance reasons, but membership is only a dollar.

Because of the damp fall conditions, the oven will undergo its first mini-fire this weekend to help with drying, and then have its first official cooking fire the following weekend.

The Sunriver Allotment Garden is located on Phillips Road. To contact Sooke Region Food CHI, go to: www.sookefoodchi.ca