Day of Fire

Building temperature by side stoking

Today we finished the 86th firing of our original wood kiln. Thankfully it went very well.

After about four days, that amounts to six cords of wood, a crew of about ten wood-fire diehards (it took six to finish it off today) and 1500+ pieces of pottery – fired to over 2400 degrees F.

Firing the cob oven


Next door, just a quick walk back down the dirt lane to our ‘other house,’ Danny and his friend Josh, were firing the cob bread oven.

A small stack of wood, two guys, about twenty loaves bread, and some matzo crackers.  It smelled delicious.

Creating an over door

They had spent the morning creating a door for the  oven and it worked perfectly.

The oven got hot, stayed hot, and their half whole wheat, sour-dough bread came out with a dark, mahogany colored crust, but a soft and spongy perfect inside.

And it was delicious!

The Hewitt Pottery motley firing crew

About 3pm the pottery firing crew had finally reached top temperature as well, and stopped for a beer and a bit of a rest, before closing up the kiln.

Those 1500+ pots will now stay in the kiln, cooling down, ever so gradually, for about a week before we can open the kiln and see the results.

It is a long week, but everyone is ready for a bit of a rest before the unpacking and the made dash to get ready for the Kiln Opening Sale on April 13th and 14th.

About the same time as the pottery firing was winding down in the late afternoon, the bakers were pulling loaves out of their bread oven as well.

Even better than it looks!

So I walked down to check on their progress and was able to return with fresh-baked, warm sourdough bread.

The reaction was all good all around. A fresh loaf of bread quickly disappeared.

Which is to say politely – they scoffed it down.

As the sun began to set Danny and Jake closed up shop at the bread oven, and stopped by with a couple more loaves.

two tired, but happy, firing crews break bread together

The firing crews swapped firing stories, and happily ate more freshly-baked bread.

What means the most to Mark, in reaching for excellence in making his pots, are the materials – locally sourced clay bodies – and then of course the craft, the highest standard possible that each crafts person can reach for.

Baker meet potter

What means the most to Danny the baker in creating great bread, are the very same criteria.

Great locally sourced flour, hundreds of hours of practice, and a fanatical discipline/commitment to making the best-ever artisan breads.

It is a neighborhood match made in heaven.

Danny and I schemed about a pop-up restaurant serving wood-fired bread [and more] served on wood-fired pots, and we even found a Sunday evening in May to try that out.

There might be pizza in the mix, or forccachia – but for today it was just pure joy to be firing these two fabulous wood ovens within a few hundred yards

of one another. One full of fabulous baked goods edible on the spot, and the other with some great plates, bowls, pitchers, jars, and more – some to eat off of and some to enjoy as an inspiring art object.

A final dangerous climb to put on the chimney cover…

But it’s unavoidable.

We sent a fair bit of carbon into the atmosphere today, down here at the end of the Johnny Burke Road.

On this stunning spring day, at one of the prettiest places on earth, at least we can say we burned a renewable fuel. Soon our customers will take home hundreds of lovely, useful pots, and even sooner, many full stomachs will enjoy fabulous bread – and, for what it’s worth – we will have that to show for our carbon burning extravagance.

We have fired this pottery kiln 86 times in the last 30 years.

Tonight I can see also see the promise of dozens of lively locally made breads/pizzas/foccachias/English muffins/crackers – the list is endless, coming forth from that cob oven.

Rosemary butter – experimenting for the pop-up restaurant!

Which could mean that Danny can make bread and make a living, and we can build an even tighter, stronger local food community.

As the oven cools down I am envisioning the next firing  –  and conversing, laughing, cooking, eating – while making the best of the last few hours of a lovely, warm and inviting cob oven.