The “sea snail” oven takes shape!

Sunday was another long cobbing session – over 6 hours. David came by again to help and, of course, Ray who brought along more clay and a metal pipe (for the smoke stack).  What was the surprise that Ray mentioned in his email?   Clay!   Beautifully colored clay from a mountaintop in Malibu near Zuma beach – this clay was the “real deal.”  One of the neat parts about this oven (beside it being made of recyclable and recycled materials)  is that each layer has come from a different city – Silverlake, Hollywood and now Malibu.

Later in the afternoon, Ray’s two young nephews came by with their mother to help and check out all the excitement.   After a few hours of forming the snail, it was time for the fun part — which we’ve all be waiting weeks for.  Plastering!  To make the plaster, we used the lovely colored and silky clay from Malibu, straw that we shifted into into small pieces and water.   The snail was being “born” before our very eyes.  Thanks to everyone’s help. 

We could have plastered the whole oven (we all were in a plastering mood), but it was decided that the bottom part of the oven would be a different color – darker. So, sometime this week, Ray is bringing a darker clay and we’ll use that to plaster the bottom.   One more session of plastering the bottom and the oven is basically done !  Well, there are a few touch ups here and there (and coating it for protection), but it will be at least 95% completed!  Also, like to cover the shiny metal smoke stack.  Why such a high smoke stack?  Ray thought it best to have the smoke drift high above the plants.

It was amazing to see the oven being transformed! Just few hours before it was an abstract blob.  The colored plaster gave it a whole different look, bringing life, character and a touch of whimsy.   The garden was transformed too.  The whole look and feel changed as it we were in another world.  It was commented that we expected Dr Seuss, Bilbo Baggins or Frodo to enter this little garden paradise.  I think they’d feel right at home if they did?  🙂

The oven does look striking against the backdrop of the forest of tomatoes! It’s the first thing “that hits you” when you come into the backyard from the driveway.  Certainly, can’t wait to clean up the area and “decorate” it with edible plants.

Thanks to all who helped yesterday: Ray, David, Eli, Zachary & Alexia. (More cob pictures coming soon to the photo gallery )


Check out this fellow Pasadenian’s garden and the amazing before and after photos. He’s a newbie to gardening (states so unashamedly) and growing food.  His path started on “a whim,” and this remarkable progress story goes to prove that just about anyone can transform themselves and their lives by taking a small (giant) step in growing food.  

Thanks, Dermot for emailing and sharing your gardening journey with us.

No Comments

  1. Nicol says:

    Just wanted to comment on the beauty of the cob oven! It looks like it is really coming along. You should be proud of having built it.

  2. Liz says:

    Oh its beautiful! I get it now. I couldn’t quite see the shape before. Congrats!

  3. Mairi says:

    Oh WOW! the oven looks sooo cool! I have been researching cob since you started this project and hope to get to building later this year. Though I have in mind a combination greenhouse / chicken / rabbit house. Part cob and part wood frame. But first I have to clean out the area where it will go and kill some weed trees. [those stinking Trees of Heaven, if you have any ideas how to kill them, please let me know! They are even growing through my concrete patio!] hugs mairi

  4. jenn says:


  5. gerry medland says:

    Hi Folks,
    the snail oven is sheer brilliance!Dermot’s plot is an inspiration!Love the intro!
    Thanx so much for your continued hard work in bringing the ‘path’into our hearts and minds!

  6. Anais says:

    Thanks everyone for their encouraging comments. We are grateful to Ray for being our cob mentor.

    It’s amazing what can be built using these simple, inexpensive materials.

    I have asked Ray to write something about building with cob and making this oven. Look for it when we launch the new PTF website.

    BTW, Gerry – Dermot is an Irishman (hence the humor I suppose!) 😉

  7. Anais says:

    Hi Mairi

    Thanks for your comments. Sounds like a wonderful cob project that you have in mind.

    Yes those darn stinking pesky Tree of Heavens. Heavens knows how you get rid of the buggers, they spread underground sending up shoots up all over the place.

    We use to have a Tree of Heaven behind the garage. When the school built around us it was it the way of their fence, so out it came!

    I’d recommend mulching heavily – using layer and layers of newspaper and heavy tree trimmings. Deprive them of any thought of poking through to the sun!

  8. kathreen says:

    wow – looks fantastic, what a great shape and how much fun is everyone having building it.