We are going through a planetary moment in which indiscriminate consumerism, environmental pollution and the chemical contamination of food cause us to rethink our way of living, of interacting with nature, and to reflect upon how to cooperate in the balancing of the planet.
The change always begins in us, in the small things, in the decisions we make, in the actions we perform daily.
In attunement with this impulse, the Brotherhood Light-Community (Cordoba –Argentina) began an initiative which adds a small grain of sand to self-sustainability and the use of renewable energy: the building of an wood-fed Chilean oven.
About the oven
Also known as an ecologic, drum, economical or high performance oven, this kind of oven consist in a cast iron large drum or container where the food is cooked, supported on a structure of brick and clay.
The great advantage is that it’s built in a particular way to cook with little fuel but with great efficiency.
This type of construction is included in bioconstruction, because for the most part, natural materials are used in its production.
It is fed by small amounts of wood because thanks to its design, it holds heat for quite a long time. The wood is collected from the woods, deadwood, pruned branches, fruit boxes, making self-sustainability possible.
In the case of the Light-Community, the drum or container was donated, as was the labor for its construction.
Friar Jeremías, a monk of the Grace Mercy Order, followed the whole process of putting the over together, and he tells us:
“For its construction, we had the help of a neighbor of the community, who we met not long ago. As it happens, he had already visited the Figueira Light-Community and has bio-building as a profession. To find him was a God-given grace, because he added all the experience and devotion we needed to complete the work.”
And he continues: “The making of the oven is very special. On dealing with the clay, sand and horse manure, and getting our hands in the matter, is like entering into a pure and direct contact with Mother Earth.”
Besides these elements, which are called the “binding” mix, bricks and blacksmithing elements were used, such as the drum itself, the grill over which the wood is burned, and the door to the burner.
Let’s get to work
Just like a house, the oven needs a foundation and walls. While the walls are being built, which make up the body of the structure, the “inner voids” are created, where the operation will be carried out: the ash collector, the burning chamber, and finally, the structure where the oven (the drum) will be placed so as to be able to receive the heat and radiate it.
Friar Jeremías tells us: “Its construction is very quick, with all the elements ready and available. We could say that the building period is 7 days, if the weather is dry the whole time. It’s necessary to let the clay structure dry in this way so it will bear the weight of the oven.”
Using the oven
The oven has a burning chamber where the wood is lit, freeing the energy it has condensed and holds, in the form of heat, and this heat doesn’t enter into direct contact with the food. The fire rises and the heat generated envelopes the cast iron container, gradually heating it, and also allowing the temperature to go down slowly, because it stays hot for quite a long time, with the advantage of finishing the cooking without the need for burning more wood or generating more heat.
“At this time, the oven has proved to be very efficient in relationship to the needs of the Community. Not only is it possible to bake bread, but also vegetables, cakes, pizzas, and even drying seeds and herbs, because it has a thermostat, so we can regulate the temperature we need for each specific use. We are baking approximately 30 bread loaves every week,” comments Friar Jeremías.
Other alternatives with bio-construction
“We would like to continue manifesting works related to bio-construction. We plan to move forward with the manufacture of clay bricks that will help in the work we have planned for developing: a paper-burning container, a “Russian” kitchen stove (an economical clay stove) and a seed building, which would be our pure seeds bank, and would be set up in our crops area,” concludes Friar Jeremías.
With this example of simplicity, we leave the reader with the impulse of carrying out small actions which collaborate in the renewal of our way of living and of connecting with daily activities, taking small steps toward change and the balance we aspire to live in this humanity.