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Summer living – including how to make a cob oven

Posted on 1st July 2016

There is no better way to end the day than to be able to sit outside and enjoy a relaxing evening with friends or family or just by yourselves so why not make it extra special by adding some magic with candles and fairy lights to create a sparkling atmosphere and extend the evenings as the nights begin to draw in.

Fairy lights are widely available for garden use and can be solar powered which means that you do not need any outdoor sockets, they can be wound around structures like pergolas, and up into the branches of trees to create a fairy grotto effect. Cool white lights give a little more brightness but the warm white lights give a better atmosphere. Be sure to remove them after the summer is over and store them in a dry place without any twisted wires if you want them to last another season.

Candles create a lovely soft lighting and a romantic atmosphere, so, dig out all of those tea lights that you bought when you last visited IKEA and save your empty jam jars – you can attach wire and hang them from trees, stand them along the side of paths and in the centre of the table. Pick up some citronella candles too to keep the flies away.

For a stunning centrepiece for your table fill a large, shallow glass bowl with water and float cut flower heads on the surface, anything with a large, flat head is perfect such as roses, Scabious, Dahlias, or just scatter in some petals, add some floating scented candles to create pretty and aromatic but subtle lighting.

If you are lucky enough to have a stone wall in the garden, then take advantage of any little niches between the stones and place tea lights in them for a romantic effect.

Summer living is all about eating outdoors as much as you can! Picnic lunches on the lawn are relaxing and fun but cooking outdoors is tasty and rewarding and it does not need to be confined to the BBQ, why not consider building a Cob Oven?

How to make a cob oven

These outdoor wood fired ovens made using traditional techniques are easy to construct and great fun for a pizza party. You can also bake bread, puddings and roast all sorts of other meals outside with a bit of a rustic twist. All you need is a heat proof base such as a smooth stone paving slab, or recycled bricks from an old electric storage heater, set them in place as a base, next create the mould for the cavity using a pile of sand on the base which you should cover with damp newspaper, then build up layers of raw clay mixed well with sand and chopped straw (if you live in a clay soil area the red sub soil is perfect) let each layer dry for a few days before adding the next, two layers around 5-7cm each thick is sufficient. Then cut out a doorway, remove the sand – top tip is to vacuum it out to make sure that your first pizza is not gritty! – and off you go.

To use the oven, create a small fire in the centre and allow to burn for around 2 hours. Clear the ash from the stone and place the pizza or bread on the very hot stone. The residual heat will cook the pizza to perfection!