With rising awareness of the expense and huge environmental impact associated with modern construction, people are making a big move toward natural, environmentally-friendly building practices. Cob construction is a great example of an ancient building technique that is making a huge comeback.
These earth and straw structures are hard to miss; they look as though they came straight out of a Tolkien novel. They are durable, practical, and beautiful, each one a handcrafted work of art.
If you’d like to try your hand at natural building but the idea of starting with a large structure is intimidating, why not jumpstart your skills with something small? An outdoor wood-fired oven makes an ideal starter project that can be done in just a few days.
These ovens are a simple technology and are easy to construct and use. Once the oven is built and has a few weeks to dry out, you use it for baking by lighting a wood fire inside the dome, which heats up the thick clay walls.
The oven will then remain warm and at a consistent temperature for hours after the fire is removed. Cob ovens bake amazing pizzas, bread, and other food without relying on fossil fuels, and one fire will cook an abundance of food before the oven cools down.
A cob oven can be constructed out of all natural and recycled materials. Here are some great examples of the types of cob ovens people are building – from very simple dome ovens to gorgeously detailed sculptures. Many of these pages provide excellent instructions if you want to tackle building one yourself.
This gorgeous turtle-shaped oven is built with local clays and grasses and beautifully embellished with a mosaic design on the shell. They show the fascinating process of building this beauty step-by-step at Mud for Everyone.
Here is another small, simple oven from The Cob Oven Project, a great resource for others looking to build a similar oven. Their site is full of detailed process pictures, a materials list, and plans.
This cob oven was seen at HighLand Garden Market Farm & CSA (and Mother Oak Permaculture School) in Newport, Nova Scotia.
Here’s a beautiful little oven by Traditional Oven, complete with local seashell embellishments. Who wouldn’t love to have this on their back patio?
This oven sits in Taos Pueblo, NM and is a great example of a real, ancient oven that is still in use. Via Shimer Summer Trip
Ideal for cooking wild food, this pretty little cob oven sat at the Wild Food Festival, St David’s, UK.
Cob ovens don’t get much more awesome than this one at Shamballa Permaculture. The gorgeously detailed, sculpted creature features mosaic eyes and appears to be breathing fire when the oven is in use.
The builder of this frog cob oven says the base took much longer to build than the oven itself, which was built and shaped in less than 4 hours. Very cool! From user Castlerock on permies.com
This gorgeous oven in Chiba, Japan is covered in unique, creative elements.
Our Ecovillage on Vancouver Island is home to this beautiful cob oven and seating area. Picture from user Paul Wheaton on permies.
This cute little oven shows that simple and minimal can still be beautiful.
And finally, you can see the building process of this stunning mosaic-covered oven in the video below. It was built by one man over 4 months of part time work. What a gorgeous result!