Do-it-yourself projects and plans for anyone who can swing a hammer.

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Handbag Upcycled To Hanging Planter

When trying to leave as little impact on the Earth as possible, discarding one’s belongings becomes a creative conundrum. We know that simply tossing a handbag into the landfill, for example, will cause problems down the road — so what are our other options?

If the condition of the bag is still good enough to be used for its original function, donating it to Goodwill or giving it to someone else to use are great options.

What about a purse, though, that has an irreparable hole or an unsightly permanent stain? Try upcycling it instead! Here are some ideas for giving new life to your old handbags.

Hanging Planter

Houseplants improve the quality of your air by filtering toxins and turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. A frequent problem for parents and pet owners, though, is keeping plants out of reach of little hands or paws. Rather than seeing potted plants spilled across the floor or having toxic leaves ingested, hanging them up high allows a dwelling to benefit from the advantages of greenery without posing a risk.

Any shoulder or cross-body bag will work wonderfully for this purpose. Simply settle an already potted plant into a bag of the same size and hang it where kids and pets can’t reach.

Using a bag instead of a flimsy plastic planter brings added texture and longevity to your arrangement — plus, you don’t have to go out and buy a new hanging planter!


For any small, strapped handbag, draping it on your front door handle will create the perfect space for an outbox. Slip in anything you need to remember to bring with you the next time you leave the house.

Bills paid on a Sunday that will go out Monday morning — check! Things you’ve borrowed that need to go back to their owner — check! Even daily necessities like your keys and wallet can find a new home here, and since it’s right on the doorknob, you won’t forget to peek in when you leave.

Large clutches can work for this purpose, too, if you add your own strap. Grab an old belt, sturdy ribbon, or anything else you can turn into a strap and affix it securely inside the bag. Now you’ve saved your clutch from the trash, and you’ve rescued another timeworn item, too.

Purse Upcycling Outbox Bag 

Pillow Cover

Do you have a soft purse with a broken strap? Remove the strap altogether and turn the bag into a pillow cover instead.

Leather sofas are coming back in vogue, so one easy way to get that look without contributing to the industry would be to turn a faux leather handbag like this one into a pillow.

Any frumpy-style purse will do. Just search for a pillow insert to fit or, better yet, create your own pillow stuffing from fabric scraps of discarded clothing, towels, sheets, etc. Not only are you improving your space, but you’re extending the use of your belongings and keeping them out of the landfill, too. Just settle your pillow onto the couch with the zipper/closure side down and no one will know about its secret double life.

Leather Purse Pillow Case 

Since the functionality of bags is so versatile, they can really be used for a bevy of purposes even after they’ve been retired from their lives as a fashion accessory. Try one of these three ideas or come up with your own.

Do you need a kindling caddy? A dingy old purse will be perfect. A garden tool carrier? Use a bag with lots of big pockets. The possibilities are endless when you put your imagination to work.

Julia Marchand loves inspiring others to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle, especially when it involves sharing upcycling tips. She writes about sustainable habits for, where you can find second-hand handbags to repurpose.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Building A Garden Path 

Why pay for someone to come and install an outdoor patio when you could do it yourself? Outdoor patios are perfect for people who love to entertain. They don’t require a lot of maintenance and they can be completed within a single weekend.

So, if you’re thinking about building your own concrete patio, check out this list of things you need to consider before you start. What’s stopping you?

Location and Design

Location is everything! Draw up a rough blueprint of your patio plans on graph paper so you can get an accurate idea of placement. Be sure you include important structures in your yard like your house or shed, and don’t forget about trees and gardens.

Also keep in mind what’s underground. You don’t want to affect wells and you don’t want to run into large tree roots. The roots could ruin your plans, or your patio could ruin the tree.

What you use the patio for will determine where you want to place it. If you want to use it for entertaining and barbequing, you may want to keep the patio close to your house for easy cleanup and serving.

A patio surrounding a pool would need to be properly placed and planned out. Walkways and garden patios are great additions to your backyard, as well!

Also, consider the design of your patio. The shape of your patio, along with the paver style and color, is up to you. Make sure whatever you choose matches or complements the aesthetics of your house.

You can color a concrete patio through several different methods: stains, integral pigments, color hardeners and dyes. However, not every option is available for old concrete and dyes tend to fade in the sunlight. Keep this in mind as you consider coloring your patio.

Sizing a Patio

As you begin the planning stages of a DIY patio, size is an important aspect to consider. Of course, the function of the patio will help determine the size.

If you plan on hosting large gatherings of friends and family, you will probably need a large patio. If you want to be able to set up a dining area on your patio, look into the dimensions of the table set you will buy.

For example, a five-foot by three-foot rectangular table will require a patio size of about 15 feet by 13 feet.

If you are planning on creating a walkway, you will need to think about how wide you want it made. A width of 2 feet can comfortably accommodate one person walking on a path. Add 2 more feet if you want two people to be able to walk together. If your walkway needs to accommodate a wheelchair or a walker, 3 feet is the minimum width.

Patio Building Materials

When you decide on the location, size, shape and design of your patio, you need to figure out the amount of material you need for your project. The tools and materials you need for this project will vary depending on the size of your patio, design and shape.

Some basic materials you’ll need are pavers, a shovel, paver sand, paver base, 2-by-4 wooden boards and gloves. However, you can find a comprehensive list of tools and materials, depending on the type of patio you want.

The first thing you need to do as you look into buying materials, is decide on the total number of square feet your patio will use in your yard. This number determines the amount of pavers, paver sand and paver base you will need.

Next, measure the square footage of the pavers you decide on. This will help you determine the number of pavers you actually need to complete your project.

Decide if you want a raised or level patio in your yard. For a raised patio, use your shovel to dig 4 inches into the earth. For a level patio, dig down 8 inches.

Pour the paver base. The paver base is a layer of gravel that should be 4 inches deep when compacted into the ground you dug up. This helps with draining and maintaining a solid base for your patio.

Next, calculate the amount of paver sand you need. Paver sand is what holds your pavers in place. This layer should be about 1 inch deep.

Determine the perimeter measurement of your patio. This will help you decide the number of paver restraints you need. Paver restraints allow you to stay within your designated work area and keep grass out of your project.

Put your work gloves on and lay down your pavers. Decide on the pattern you want to create and keep the pavers flush against each other. You can use a rubber mallet to move and adjust the pavers once you lay them down. When you finish laying down the pavers, frame your patio with the paver restraints.

After your patio surface is dry and ready, follow the instructions on your bag of joint sand and spread it over the surface to fill in holes between pavers and finish off your patio.

Pouring Cement Down A Chute 

Other Tips and Tricks

Remember to make safety a priority on your worksite. Keep the worksite visually clear to eliminate any unnecessary dangers like falling, tripping or slipping.

Also, consider checking with your homeowner’s association and local building codes before you start the process of building your patio. You don’t want to start a project that you won’t be able to complete.

To add a nice finish to your patio, think about the landscaping surrounding the area. Plant flowers and bushes or even add some lighting to the walkway you made.

You don’t need to spend a ton of money on hiring someone to build your patio. Keep these things in mind as you prepare to DIY your own outdoor patio!

Megan Wild improves homes by focusing on increasing their sustainability and finding new ways to repurpose old materials. When she’s not holding a hammer, you can find her writing up her ideas and thoughts for her blog, Your Wild Home.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


I think most people that own chickens have heard of chicken saddles. Chicken saddles are fabric "vests" you can put on hens that are suffering from overly, ummm, romantic roosters. The rooster’s constant attention causes chickens to end up losing feathers on their back, which leads to irritated and abraded skin, which leads to bleeding and then things really go south from there: the dreaded cannibal chickens. Putting the saddle on the chicken protects them from the rooster's claws AND the cannibals.

Here’s Jenny modeling her new saddle.

While I don't have roosters, I have needed chickens saddles in the past to protect injured chickens. The most memorable time was when a coyote, in broad daylight, attacked my hens. One of the hens was grabbed by the back, but the coyote dropped her when my son chased it away. She had a 3-4" gash across her back, wing to wing, another gash lower on one side—but for the most part seemed okay other than being in shock. I rushed her to my (horse!) vet, who cleaned and stitched up her wounds. I kept her indoors in a dog kennel for several days while she recovered and regained her strength. But I knew that the sooner I'd introduce her to the flock, the better. And if the other hens caught sight of her wounds and stitches, it would be all over.

Not having the time to look for and buy a chicken saddle on the internet, I threw a very crude one together in about 15 minutes, saw that it kept her wounds hidden and protected and eventually made myself a pattern so I could make more saddles.

So, whether your problem is roosters, wounded chickens or you just like to dress up your chickens, I'm sharing my pattern and basic instructions. I suppose you could do all the sewing by hand if you had to, it would just take less time using a sewing machine. You can download my pattern for free. You don't have to buy fabric, I suppose repurposing clothing, an old pillow case or even cotton towels would work. Depending on the weight/thickness of the fabric you use, you could do without the interfacing, which adds thickness and body to the saddle. 

Instructions for Making a Chicken Saddle


• Printout of the pattern
• fabric
• lightweight interfacing (iron-on preferable) or an extra layer of fabric
• scissors
• sewing machine
• straight pins
• 12 inches of 1/2-inch elastic
• 2  1-inch pieces of Velcro.


1. Download, print and cut out the pattern.

2. Using the pattern, cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of interfacing (iron-on is nice) or make three layers of fabric if you don’t have interfacing.

Pin the pattern to the fabric & cut.

3. Pin all three pieces together (right sides facing out, you can iron in interfacing if that's what you're using)

4. Pin elastic through neck edge of fabric.

5. Pin 1-inch of loop Velcro to each side of saddle where marked on pattern.

6. Pin 5/8-inch piece of hook Velcro to ends of elastic.

All pinned together, ready to sew!

Sew all pieces together (using a zigzag stitch is preferable around the raw edges, sewing twice around is even better)

    Done! I used red thread here so you could see it better. 

    That's it, you’re done! Now just grab a chicken, place the saddle on her back, run the elastic under her wings, front to back, and attach elastic ends to the saddle with velcro. You now have a safe and very fashionable chicken!

    Deb Tejada is an urban farmer, foodie, do-it-yourselfer, graphic designer, illustrator and web developer living in sunny Colorado. When she’s not in the kitchen or garden, you can find her at The Herban FarmerRead all of Deb's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

    All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



We’ve kept chickens on our Manitoulin Island homestead since 2002, and experience has taught me something that no one made clear to me beforehand. When it comes to chicken coops, a handful of smaller, semi-portable coops are better than one large, permanently anchored house. I call this approach “modularity”, and I’ve worked this ideas into some free plans you can download. 

The big problem with permanent chicken houses is that they’re always troublesome and expensive to build. Lack of flexibility means they offer no chance to reduce or expand flock size, either. You’ve got what you’ve got when it comes to coop size. Keeping chickens in one place in a permanent coop turns that area of your yard into a dusty, vegetation-free wasteland. Permanent coops are also difficult to heat with winter sun – an issue that really matters where I live in Canada.

All this is why I’ve come to prefer one or more smaller, semi-portable backyard chicken barns that can be mixed and matched in different ways. We use one to raise day-old chicks, others as production houses for adult birds.  Add another house if you want to separate some birds because of disease of bullying.

The modular coop I designed is solid and exceptionally warm in winter because of the clear, solar roof, yet also easily ventilated in summer by hinging open the roof. Simple to build, this design can be moved to new locations when needed. Individual modules can be pulled out of production for a time  to break pest cycles, and they're easy to clean without standing in poop.

Although my solar-heated design looks fancy, it’s really only a  box made of 5/8-inch plywood with trim. Nothing this substantial could be easier to build.

My design sits on legs that raise the structure off the ground, and there are two reasons for this. First, it keeps the wood of the coop high, dry and away from rot-promoting soil. Raising the height of a chicken house like this also makes it perfect for winter use in areas that get snow.  I used 1” diameter galvanized steel pipes for my chicken house legs, but you could also put it on some replaceable 4x4s.

The opportunity to collect eggs without opening the chicken door is one advantage of the clear, hinged solar roof. Simply swivel the top upwards, reach down into whatever nesting box you’re using, then retrieve the eggs. You can also replenish feed and water this way, too.

Although hens can get in an out of a very small door, having a large door makes it easier to move feed and water in from the side if you want, and move out manure when it’s time to clean the houses. In my design nearly one whole side swings outwards, with no lip above the floor level. Manure and bedding is easy to scrape out. There are more details here than I have space for, but you can download free plans for my chicken barn at

As practical as it is to keep backyard chickens, the real attraction for me is also because these birds are great fun to watch. In a world with too many screens in front of us, it’s refreshing to be entertained by something non-digital for a change. Try it and you’ll understand what they mean by “chicken TV."

Steve Maxwell, “Canada’s Handiest Man”, is an award-winning home improvement authority and woodworking expert. For more than two decades he’s been helping people renovate, repair, build and maintain their homes. Find him online at Maxwell's House blog and read all of Steve's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


DIY water filter kits allow just about anyone to create potable water from natural, fresh water sources such as ponds and streams. Simple, off-grid water systems using these kits can negate the expense and effort of packing in water and having lots of plastic bottles to recycle or dispose of.

The kits discussed below were designed for, and perfected in, developing-world refugee and missionary situations but are also available here at home. Camping, off-grid living, or simple emergency water back-up for just-in-case situations are excellent applications for these DIY kits.

In 2012, a previous article ran on the MOTHER EARTH NEWS website discussing these filters and a few changes have been made since then that will be addressed here.

A Quick Recap on Ceramic Water Filters

It is pretty easy to create a water-filter system using a “two-bucket” or “gravity-drip” configuration. The buckets are stacked one on top of the other with the filter connecting them. The upper bucket contains the contaminated source water and the lower bucket collects the filtered water.

The lower bucket also contains a spigot for dispensing the clean water. The basic setup is shown below. Because buckets are cheap but bulky and expensive to ship, DIY kits usually just contain the filter and spigot components and leave it to the end user to procure buckets locally.

Besides buckets, the components can also be mounted into other types of containers at the user’s preference. The spigot and filter come with washers and wingnuts that create a watertight seal with simple hand tightening. The only tool required to make this assembly is a drill and a couple of drill bits.

Now made in the USA! and Other Improvements

One of the big improvements since the first article in 2012 is that we now have U.S. manufacturing for the ceramic filter cartridges, which form the heart of the DIY kit. This has a porous ceramic shell coated with colloidal silver that is used to remove micro-organisms. The pore size ratings on these are on the order of 0.2 to 0.5 microns. We have also improved the media inside the shell by adding resins to the activated carbon so that it will remove a wider array of chemicals.

How long the filters last is a common question. While the biological filter can last for as long as the ceramic shell is intact, the chemical filtration only lasts until the media becomes saturated with contaminants. In typical applications is 8 to 12 months with regular use, and usually they are changed out after a fixed amount of time.

The above diagram shows three stages of filtration that includes a pre-filter sock (included in the DIY kit).  There is also a picture of the actual device in action and a picture of the components that make up a US made DIY kit. Another improvement that has been made since 2012 is that U.S.-made filter cartridges that remove fluoride in addition to the other chemicals are also available.

Water Filtration Flow Rates and Daily Quantities

A major parameter of water-filter systems is the flow rate. The amount of water you need per day is variable depending on the group size and what you plan to use the water for (drinking only, drinking and cooking, drinking and cooking and washing up, etc.).

Single-filter-element DIY kits are usually able to provide 12 to 15 gallons per day, but these can be sped up by using a siphon tube, which supplies an additional vacuum pressure on the outlet of the filter that is in addition to the water pressure provided by the upper bucket.

Each DIY kit comes with a 2-foot siphon tube. Using siphon tubes, one can easily double the flow rates of these systems. There are ways to configure systems if even more water is needed, such as larger containers (to increase water pressure), putting filters in parallel (up to 3 ceramic, 4-by-4 dome filters can fit in a 5-gallon bucket), or pressurizing the upper bucket. In short, the DIY kits can be configured to match a wide variety of water needs.

Water Filter Maintenance

All filters will eventually clog up. Many filter types use a back-flush method to clear them. Instead of back flushing, ceramic filters are cleared by removing the outer surface of clogged pores by lightly scouring them. The shell is thick enough that it can be cleared dozens of times. Using pre-filters can increase the length of time needed between cleanings.

The storage life of the filters before they are put into use is indefinite, and it is also noteworthy that the filters can be used intermittently (for example, on annual camping trips) as long as they are thoroughly dried out between uses.

Hanging Water-Filtration Bags

Another system that was not discussed in our earlier article but is very popular with campers and hikers is the hanging bag. This filter type has ceramic cartridges in it but uses a collapsible bag and long siphon instead of buckets.

The bag filter is filled with water and hung from a tree or other object and the water is directed to other containers as needed by the siphon hose. To stop the water flow, the siphon tube is simply turned up so that the end is higher than the water level in the bag. This bag can be rolled up and is a lot more compact for traveling. Because the sides collapse as the water in the bag drains, they have very good flow rates.  It is also very nice, because unlike straws or drinking bottles, the water can be dispensed easily for other needs like cooking and washing.

DIY ceramic water filter kits are an easy way to create potable water from natural water sources. They are a proven technology that has been used in many areas of the world for disaster relief and refugee situations. Ceramic filters are now available from a U.S. manufacturer with improved chemical-removal media. Additional filter kit styles are available as are fluoride-removal filters.

Homespun Environmental is a small business specializing in affordable DIY water filter kits, such as the ones discussed in this article. They also offer individual components for maximum creativity. If you are interested in finding out more about them or how to purchase kits please visit the Homespun Environmental website.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


Repurposing home décor is a great way to add character to your space. Do-it-yourself projects are good for the soul, and when incorporating recycled materials, it can be good for the earth too! As I walk through the miss-matched shelves of the home goods section in thrift stores, I see some pretty quality items that desperately need a facelift. With some paint and decoupage glue, you can transform almost anything. As a gal in need of some surface storage, I transformed an off-white 99 cent wooden tray into a chic jewelry or perfume tray.

diy decorative decoupage tray

When I work on these types of projects I like to figure out how many things I already own before I start the project—as in, can I create this DIY without buying anything?

Luckily you’ll just need a few key tools, most which I guarantee either you or your neighbor already own. Need a bit of sandpaper? Ask the retired handy-man down the road if he can spare any. Don't have a sponge brush? Perhaps ask your sister if she minds if you borrow hers. Sharing and borrowing is such a selfless, sustainable way to live, financially and environmentally. This craft is a fun sustainable way to make something new and valuable by upcycling something old.

How to Upcycle a Decorative Tray


• An old tray (try thrift stores or garage sales)
• Magazines or scrap paper
• Nontoxic paint
• Mod Podge
• Paintbrush
• Spongebrush
• Gold oro (optional)

diy decorative decoupage tray


1. First, thumb though magazine, scrap paper, or anything you have to find images you’d like decoupage onto your tray. I used magazines which were left behind from an old roommate and cut out butterflies from an advertisement.

diy decorative decoupage tray

2. Sand the tray down. In this case, to help remove the sticky part of the adhesive, wet the bottom with a damp cloth to loosen the glued bind. I used a spray bottle to occasionally mist the tray during the process. Continue sanding until you have a smooth surface to paint.

diy decorative decoupage tray

3. Next, use a nontoxic paint to paint the tray to a color of your choice. I’m using a wood-friendly acrylic paint.

diy decorative decoupage tray

4. Place your recycled cut-outs in the design you wish on your tray. Glue the pieces down using Mod Podge.

diy decorative decoupage tray

5. Feel free to add any additional gold detailing. I used gold oro and my paintbrush to add detailing around the rim and to enhance the handles.

diy decorative decoupage tray

6. Next, using your sponge brush, cover the tray with Mod Podge to adhere everything together and give it a final smooth polish. 

diy decorative decoupage tray

6. Enjoy your decorative masterpiece!

diy decorative decoupage tray

Until next time, you can find more eco-friendly DIYs and sustainable fashion tips on Sustainable Daisy.

Karen Housel is a fashion designer and DIY enthusiast. If you create this DIy and share on social media, use #sustainabledaisy so she can take a look. Follow Karen on Instagram, or subscribe to her blog at Sustainable Daisy for more eco-friendly lifestyle tips! Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



Everyone has a list, either secret or public, of things that they would like. Obviously these things will change and vary depending on who you are dealing with. Sometimes these wished-for items will forever remain outside of our grasp for a myriad of reasons.

But, sometimes, you have a few awesome sons who decide that it’s time to give you something that you have been wanting for a very long time — a wood-fired pizza oven.

The person that wanted this magical creation so very, very badly was my dear mother, and one of the sons that swooped in out of the clouds to grant her this wish was…well…me. My brothers also did their fair share of swooping, and shall receive their fair share of credit.

So here we are, it’s a couple weeks before Christmas and I have yet to buy something for my mother. What does she want? The list is simple and I could easily fill a box with a pot, pan, pair of knitting needles, or a handmade knick-knack and she would be very pleased. But something that she wanted seemingly forever was a wood fired pizza oven. Now, I’m not quite clear when this obsession first started, but it’s been years and the stars have never fully aligned to make this dream a reality.

So, I thought it was time.

Now, to be fair, this wasn’t just “step out in the dark” when it came to the construction of this beast. My brothers and I often work for a distributor for Forno Bravo (a company that builds wood-fired pizza ovens), and we assemble his prefabbed pizza oven on trailers for him which he then sells. This has helped my brothers and I become somewhat familiar with the layout and general construction of these delightful ovens.

My brother and sister have also, at one time or another, managed the wood-fired pizza restaurant that this distributor owns and operates. In doing this, they have become very much familiar with a classical way of creating and cooking these delicious pizzas.

All in all, I thought going into this project that it would be an all-around great gift, and that we would be able to use it for much more than cooking a few pizzas now and then for our family. This could prove to be a wonderful avenue of bringing a diversity of what we can offer at our farm. Images of utilizing a pizza oven as a way to culminate a farm tour filled my mind.

Then, I pictured the sauce being made from the tomatoes from our garden and topping it with some of the sausage made from the pigs that I’m raising and selling.

Then I got really, really excited. It’s a beautiful picture. So it was decided. A pizza oven for Mom. Merry Christmas (and happy birthday, anniversary and Mother’s Day…).

Now, there are many different forums, chatrooms, and instruction manuals that can be easily found online describing the step-by-step procedures of how to build an oven. I’m not going to go into crazy detail about the different nuances of the different styles of ovens, or try to lecture you on what size it should be or what materials you should use. I’m just going to let you see what we did, and if you are inspired, than awesome! Use this as a stepping stone to begin your pizza oven dreams.

Construction started with the base. There are many different designs and thoughts on how a base should be sized and what a base should consist of. We just decided what would work best for us, and in our situation we wanted something that was semi-permanent and could (once in a blue moon) be moved if the need arise.

We chose to mount the base on skids. Even though it would be extremely heavy once finished, we could potentially drag it to another location by hooking it up to a tractor. We followed (roughly) the building steps outlined on Forno Bravo’s website designated for building a pizza oven at home. Our dad is a mechanical engineer, so we had him go over our plans to make sure that the base would be strong enough to hold up the massive weight of the oven.

This was our first time building a pizza oven from scratch. As I said before, the ovens that we normally build were pre-fabricated and shipped to us in pieces to assemble. The hard work that goes into building a domed shape was already done for us! But this time around we needed to do all of that ourselves. Easier said than done.

I sourced the materials from local businesses when possible, and Home Depot for items that I couldn’t find other places. So once the base was done, we laid out the floor, and started building up the walls. I didn’t realize how long it was going to take to cut all of the fire bricks in half (a step that’s needed to give the right size bricks to form the dome). It took a while.

We laid them out, created a wedge that would give us the right spacing to attain the shape we wanted, and then started mortaring away! The mortar also proved to be a little tricky, as it needs to be able to withstand very high heats (up to a thousand degrees). In the end I did some research and calling around and borrowed a recipe that I had found online that mixed different parts lime, sand, Portland cement, and fire clay. It worked great!

The majority of the dome we were able to do just by free stacking it, but towards the top of the dome we found it necessary to build a mold on the interior using thin lattice slats that could support the bricks until the mortar firmed up.

The next step was to wrap the whole oven in three inches of a ceramic insulation blanket from Alpha Bravo, then cover it with chicken wire. Normally we would then put stucco over the whole sucker and call it good, but since this was our baby (and we don’t intend to make another for ourselves) we decided to make it extra fancy and do some custom stonework on the outside. This meant that we used some standard mortar on the chicken wire and then placed on it native rock that we gathered from our farm. We used a mortar dye when mortaring the rocks in place, and we were supper jazzed with the results.


All in all, construction took several weeks due to the added complexity of this specific oven as well as some inclement weather. One of the main draws to building it ourselves was the ability to save some money. Building it ourselves took much longer (we can build a prefabricated oven in a day) but we saved a lot of money. Purchasing an oven can run thousands of dollars, while ours ended up costing right around $1200.

So now it is finished.  It’s a good size (42 inches interior diameter) and has a footprint of 6x6.5 feet. I have no idea how much it weighs, but it is constructed of over 200 bricks, close to 20 bags of stucco, plenty of 4x4 beams, and Hardie Plank siding….let’s just say I hope we don’t need to move it anytime soon.

But now that we have it, we have big plans for it. We have already enjoyed several pizza parties, and as I said before we plan on utilizing it with agritourism. It’s hard not to enjoy yourself when you are sitting by a campfire eating a fresh cooked pizza right out of the oven. The stars are above and the sparks from the fire seem to want to dance up and join them to create new constellations. Food brings people together, and we are happy to help further that tradition here at our farm.

If you would like to see a short video created while our oven was under construction, click here and enjoy a glimpse of the joy that this creation has already brought to us.

Happy pizza eating and oven building to all. And Merry Christmas, Mom!

Interested in seeing more of what Tim Rohrer does? Follow along through the lens of his camera on Instagram, username FullBarnFarms, or on Facebook at Full Barn Farms. And read all of Tim's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

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