21 December 2011

162: Fire in the hole!

Our wood fired pizza/bread is done! John did an amazing job on it. The core is refractory stone mounted on a two-inch refractory fiber board set on top of a four-inch concrete block base. The core was then wrapped in a three-inch ceramic fiber blanket with a wire mesh casing to hold it in place. John then encased everything with a one-inch layer of refractory concrete. The idea behind this is to get the oven to hold extreme temperatures inside, yet be cool to the touch on the outside. Success!

Yesterday morning we fired the oven up and let it go all day while we went to the beach. When we got back, some 6½ hours later, the inside temperature was over 350°F. and the outside wall was cool to the touch.

John stoked the fire up again in the evening and bought it all the way up to 510°Celsius, or 950°Farenheit!!! The outside temperature was 100°F or less. You can definitely lay you hand on the side of the oven and not worry about getting burned.

Today, just in time for my birthday, we are going to give it the real test and actually bake pizza. This will require a wood fire be brought up to temperature in the oven to heat it up. Then the coals will be pushed to one side, or removed for baking.

Time to go make the pizza dough and sauce. Yum!!

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08 December 2011

149: We've got fire!!

John finished the brickwork on the pizza/bread oven and it was time to light a fire. The oven has to have time to cure so we will keep a fire going in it for few days to drive out any moisture in the ceramic. The next step will be the installation of a ceramic fiber blanket over the igloo, which will then be encased in refractory cement.

If all goes well, we'll be baking our first pizza in the oven this time next week.
We covered all the metal support poles in the Rancho this week with bamboo and hemp rope to give it a more rustic look. John is in the process of putting several layers of marine grade varnish on them in the hopes they will hold up for years to come.

When John was in Houston this past September, he picked up a faucet for the Rancho's kitchen sink. Wouldn't you know it, it arrived with a broken aerator.

We've been working with the vendor in the U.S. and the part was finally shipped to us from China in November. There was a notice at the Post Office yesterday that a package had arrived, but it had to be picked up at the Postal Customs office in the capitol, about an hour from where we live. I just love a road trip!

So, off to San Jose we go this morning, to find a likely government building with the official address given only as "200 meters south of the church of Zapote." (You may recall from a previous blog entry that Costa Rica does not use standardized addresses like the rest of the world.) Trusting in our GPS, we punched in the church in Zapote and we found it! It took about an hour to pick up a small package and pay about $2 USD in duty and storage for what amounted to a 50¢ part.

While we were off in San Jose, the construction crew made significant progress on the house. They went through about 100 sacks of cement pouring the concrete footings. It looks like a re-bar jungle in the yard.

¡Pura Vida!

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01 December 2011

142: Dirt and Ditches

The construction crew has been busy all week digging ditches. Each one of the ditches represents the location of one of the walls of the house. We had been a little worried about how they were going to level the lot and had envisioned truckloads of dirt being hauled in to fill the slope at the edge of the property. Obviously, with the amount of dirt you see here, that will not be an issue.

The base for our Pizza/Bread Oven is finished and John started assembling the actual oven yesterday. It's a slow process with lots of components that have to cure properly before he can move on to the next step. He has promised the oven will be finished and ready for baking before Christmas, in fact it should be ready by my birthday.

We found a local cabinet maker and from the photos of some of his work, he might be the solution to all the cabinetry we're going to need in the new casa. We went ahead and contracted with him to make us some cedar cabinets to go under the counters in the rancho. If we like his workmanship, then we can get him to bid on the cabinets for the house.

We've been enjoying our days outside in the rancho. Today we had a rare treat when this White Hawk perched in this tree for awhile hunting prey. Hopefully, he caught that neighborhood rooster that wakes us up crowing every morning around 2:30 AM.

This week we hung bamboo curtains around the perimeter of the rancho to give us some flexibility for sun shade as needed. The weather has been spectacular this week, mid 60's at night and low 80's during the day. I think it's safe to say the rainy season is behind us. We should have dry weather for the next 5 months, or so.

Time for a nap in the swing...

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