Last week's project was pottery! Mom found a site on wilderness survival, where one article described fire pit pottery firing. We went for it!
We started by sculpting some rough things out of clay (abundant around here) and water to experiment firing. Here's what we came up with: A plate and cup, a pot/cup, some rosary beads and some 'Johnny creations'.
We dug a pit about a foot deep and a foot and half wide square. We lit a hot fire and let it die out. When the embers had cooled, we scooped them out and tossed them in the burn barrel. Then we laid about 2-3in. of fine sawdust in the bottom of the pit. On top of that we placed our pottery and filled the pit the rest of the way up with sawdust. Then we lit a large hot fire over it for three hours. (Yes, the pottery turns an unchangeable black, it's expected.)
At the sight of the fire, the kids immediately gathered some green apples and cooked them in the flames. There were varied opinions on the outcome of those.
We did have some burn...
When it got late, Mom went into the garden and gathered a basket of veggies. She brought them in the house and prepared them (somehow)... then came out and handed me a pot, called it dinner, and told me to cook it.
I told Stephen I needed a cook rack over my fire pit. Within minutes, he'd rigged one that worked perfectly. Four cement bricks on end, one in every corner. Two metal T-posts laying on those with a oven rack across them. It was very sturdy, just the right hight and worked great! I was so proud of him. He's starting to take after his dad with his quick thinking and confident problem-solving tendencies.
Dinner was great!
We left the pottery buried in the ash overnight to let it cool. In the morning everyone was excited to see what we had.
It was immediately evident that the coals were still too hot, so uncovering was a slow process that went all day. We wanted everything to cool down at a slow rate so we had to leave them in the ash to cool.
I spy a plate and a cup.
We did have some cracking on the very top of this pot because it was too close to the fire.
It took the girls quite a while to locate all their beads in the sawdust/ash. They used a slotted spoon and shifted through the ash until they'd found all 61 of them.
Over 24 hours after they were fired, my plate broke as I was washing the soot off of it. Bummer! I think it was still too hot on the inside (though cool to the touch) so it broke when the cold hose water touched it. The other things look good. They still smell 'ashy'. I haven't washed them real well yet, however, and they are supposed to wash clean. We haven't created the rosary out of the beads yet either. I'll let you all know how that turns out.
So, it was a very interesting process and we learned a lot. Even though we didn't come away with stunning results, it was usable results so I'm happy! All in all, it was a very fun family experience.