Rocket Stove & Earth Oven Workshop at The Strawbale Studio with Deanne Bednar!

This last weekend I had the honor of attending the 2 day Rocket Stove and Earth Oven Workshop at the Strawbale Studio in Oxford, Michigan! I’ll share my experience here!

My YouTube Video of the Workshop!

The Strawbale Studio

I drove from my home in Dearborn, 1 hour and 1 minute north to Oxford, Michigan Saturday morning. The last few miles were all rural dirt roads with big horse farms everywhere! I love country roads like this! It reminds me of where I grew up in northern lower Michigan 🙂

I saw the mailbox with big sunflowers and double checked the numbers. I immediately realized I was at the top of a hill, the driveway felt like when you are about to go down after the highest point on a roller coaster! A beautiful mostly frozen pond was down the hillside on my left, and another hill dropping down to my right, so I slowed down extra and enjoyed the roller coaster ride down the driveway!

I found the parking area and walked the driveway up to the house. I knocked and was delighted to hear the well known “shave and a haircut” rhythm knocking back at me 🙂 so I knocked back the final two knocks “to-day” lol and the door opened and I got to meet Deanne Bednar in-person for the first time! (After watching all the videos of her and the strawbale studio online I could find, I felt like I was meeting a celebrity!)

She gave me a hug and I instantly felt welcomed and at ease in her beautiful home! She showed me the design around the light switch by the door and commented on how the oils from everyone’s hands are there making it shine, it was very pretty!

Sculpture inside the main house.

All the walls were covered in beautiful sculptures, even the side of the fridge! There were delightful little artistic hidden nooks and cranny’s everywhere!

I was offered tea and coffee in the kitchen, and soon we were having our opening circle in the living room. We went over the agenda for the weekend and then went outside to start learning about the evolution of fire!!

Painting by Deanne Bednar in her kitchen in the main house.

Deanne skillfully showed us how to start a fire on the wet ground, and then she took us to a cool outdoor fireplace, outdoor rocket stove, and the wood stove inside the strawbale studio, as we toured the property and together learned about how we got to where we are today with fire!

We finally got to the big rocket stove bench in the workshop, I was so excited to see it in person after seeing it online! It was better than I imagined! The bench was so warm and soft to the touch, the back was warm too! I enjoyed sitting on the bench while Deanne taught us the details of how the rocket stove worked, standing in front of a very detailed drawing on a white board. (I forgot to get a full pic of the whole bench, but here’s a bunch of close ups!)

We had lunch inside the house, then we bundled up and returned outside to fully dismantle and then rebuild our rocket stove as a team. It was super fun and now I’m confident I can build one, because well I technically have!!

The last activity was making the cob mix to hold the bricks together like mortar. It took me back to my childhood making mud pies in my yard! We mixed the screened clay and sand and water until we had a delightful soft medium we could sculpt into cool shapes, I made a leaf! I set it by the fire to dry and we all went inside and said goodnight!

I went home and baked a loaf of sourdough bread I had been fermenting since Wednesday night for the class, and I made homemade sourdough pizza dough for the pizza party in the outdoor cob oven the next day!

Sunday I loaded up the car and drove back to the Strawbale studio enjoying the roller coaster driveway as I arrived once again 🙂

We had opening circle and shared our highs and lows from yesterday. Then we went outside and lit the cob pizza oven! We would all take turns feeding the fire every 30 minutes for 4 hours in preparation for lunch.

We started building our own mini earth ovens and then it was pizza party time! We all made our personal pizzas on sheet pans lined with freshly milled corn meal Deanne made right there fresh with her mill! (How cool! One of my goals is to mill my own flours soon!)

We cooked our pizzas, waiting next to the hot oven while the cold winter wind rushed around us.

After a few minutes we took them out and cut them into slices with kitchen scissors right there outside on the benches, and took our first bites…. The pizza was delicious! What they say about wood fired pizza is so true!

I can’t wait to build my earth oven this spring!

After lunch we got to meet another natural building celebrity via zoom, Uncle Mud! I had also been watching his YouTube and website for a while and was excited I’d get to meet two really important people in the natural building world in one weekend at my first natural building class I’ve ever taken! What a great introduction to natural building!

Uncle Mud showed us his rocket stove and various ideas to make them safer and more efficient. He also gave us a link to watch a video about making a rocket stove kiln for firing ceramics!

After the call we went back to the workshop and finished our mini earth oven! It was really helpful to practice making the cob bricks the right thickness and get the hands on experience putting them together! We made a lovely little oven I think 🙂

I left with some cob balls to take home and show Chuck, and a happy heart!! And lots of ideas for my future earth oven where I plan to host sourdough pizza parties and make sourdough bread! And someday I’ll be using these skills to build my very own passive solar strawbale and cob house with a huge earth oven for my bakery❤️

Spending time with Deanne (and my classmates!) in the beautiful home and property she has cultivated was a positive and soul enriching experience! She creates a place where I felt comfortable, and safe to learn and ask questions and share ideas and experiences!!

I also learned many things not on the agenda, including a different way of Bokashi composting indoors (can’t wait to try this!) and how to sprout seeds (Deanne even gave me some to try!), and how to make homemade yogurt! Just being there was a lesson in many sustainable practices and ways of living!

I can’t wait to go back again!!

Check out https://strawbalestudio.org for more information and upcoming events at the strawbale studio and at the Michigan Folk School!

Thank you Deanne at The Strawbale Studio for the amazing work you are doing!

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