Monday, August 15, 2011

Torrential Rains Trash Pizza Oven

Well, while everyone else was welcoming the much-needed rain this weekend, there was a little bit of grieving going on at the Homesteaders' house.  Hubs had just finished building his clay pizza oven and it had taken him three months to complete the project.  He started off by creating a concrete base and then built a large mound of sand on top of the base.  He then spent months covering the mound of sand with a mixture of MD red clay and straw, patiently letting the layers dry before putting on more layers. 

This type of oven is called a Hob oven.  People have been creating and using these types of ovens for thousands of years and they are fairly easy and inexpensive to build. Hubs finished up with the final layer of clay on Saturday and when it was dry, he pulled out the sand from inside the oven.  His next step was to build small fires in different parts of the oven to dry out the clay completely or to "cure" the oven.  Once it was completely "cured," the oven would be as hard as masonry or bricks and would be able to withstand the elements.  Unfortunately, it literally rained cats and dogs starting Saturday night after we had gone to bed.  By the time Hubs went out to check on the oven, it was too late.  All that rain had caused the ceiling of the oven to collapse and the oven is ruined.

It really broke my heart to see Hubs so disappointed after all of that hard work and time spent.  I was not surprised, however, by his eternal optimism when he declared that he would just have to start over but, "Hey, at least I'll know how to do it."  Most people would be too upset after something like that and would just give up but being the hearty Homesteader that he is, my Hubs is going to build again.

In other news, it looks like our tomato crop is slowing down.  I don't know if all that heat we had in the past few weeks had something to do with it or not.  My only complaint about my tomatoes is that while the cherry tomatoes did very well and their vines are extremely prolific, my heirloom and plum tomatoes have not done as well.  Some of them have had bottom rot on the actual tomatoes and in speaking with some of our friends and neighbors, they've had the same issues.  I'm wondering if it's because we had such a rainy beginning to the summer and it led to more insect production.  I'll definitely be researching this one!

Hub's hot peppers have been affected by the same problem.  We have been able to harvest a few non-rotted ones and I'm going to use them tonight in a Mexican stew my friend gave me the recipe for.  Here's the recipe if you have tomatoes and peppers you want to use up:

Tex-Mex Stew or Carne Guisada


  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat or chuck roast (cubed)
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 6 oz. (1/2 can) tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. ground comino (cumin)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 3 seeded jalapeno or serrano peppers
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. water
  • salt to taste


  1. Saute onions in oil on medium heat until soft.
  2. Add meat and cook until outside is browned.
  3. Pour in broth along with tomato paste, comino, garlic, black pepper, chili powder and peppers.
  4. Reduce heat to low. Simmer until beef is tender and cooked through, up to two hours.
  5. In a cup, mix cornstarch and water, then add to beef and stir until thickened. Add salt if desired.
  6. For an extra hearty meal, you can add zucchini or even potatoes to the recipe.

Thanks to Lara for sharing this recipe!

In other news, our ducks flew the coop while we were on vacation in VT.  My poor sister was watching them for us and ended up spending several hours looking for them.  They finally came back at night and she locked them up in their pen.  They escaped again the next day when she let them out of their pen and they continued to flee the yard every day we were away!  Hubs was able to find out where they were getting out (there was a gap in our fence that we hadn't noticed) and blocked up the hole.  Now they are in the yard every day and we haven't had any further escape attempts. 

They are truly starting to look like "grown up" ducks!  Both males, or drakes, Delta and Chico, are starting to grow dark green feathers on their heads.  They also have teal green "tags" on each of their sides and their necks have really started to get large.  They still make the funny raspy non-"quacky" sound that males make.  Imagine doing a "raspberry" while running a finger up and down your lips and you've pretty much got what they sound like. 

Our girls, Daisy and Lily haven't changed much physically but they definitely are the bossy ones in the group.  They peck the boys when the boys aren't behaving like they should and quack loudly from time to time.  They all can fly now but it's mostly on a defensive level, ie. they walk everywhere rather than flying, but they will fly short distances if necessary.  The dog likes to "herd" them when he encounters them out in the yard and they will fly a little bit to get away from him.  From what I've read and seen, though, they really aren't big into flying.  Hubs thinks it's because they are fat and their wings can't hold up the weight.

We were supposed to start making beer this weekend but with the rainy weather, we decided to take advantage of being cooped up indoors and cleaned/reorganized our basement.  We've done so many PCS moves (permanent-change-of-station for you non-military folks) over the years and have accumulated so much stuff, it was seriously necessary.  I was able to buy some inexpensive shelves at Ikea and I spent all day yesterday going through boxes that hadn't been opened for YEARS.  It makes me wonder, why do we save "stuff?"  I'm talking about old greeting cards, matchbooks, pencil stubs, etc.  Why is it so hard to go through that stuff and get rid of it?  My intention is to never start collecting that stuff to begin with, but somehow, with a busy life, that stuff tends to get thrown into a drawer or a box to be sorted out "later."  Well, this was my "later" but it should have been sooner.  Anybody got any suggestions for decluttering?

On a final note, we've been enjoying a kid-free week as the boy stayed up in VT with his grandparents to spend some more time with him.  He's coming back on Thursday and then it's time to take advantage of MD's tax free week and take him shopping for back-to-school, which is right around the corner!  Boy, time really has flown this summer.

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