Public Bakeovens



Cooking with Fire in Public Parks


Fairmount oven correspondence January 2020

Jan.16, 2020, from Lottie to the bakers

A big thank you to Heidrun at Dufferin Grove for sharing her bake oven and bread baking expertise with Joseph and me yesterday. A day-long process that went by in a flash and was capped with a slice of heavenly potatoe and rosemary sourdough.

Jan.16, 2020, from Jutta to Peter White, manager of Toronto/East York Parks

I'm glad we ran into each other tonight. You suggested that I pass your email on to the Fairmount park bakers so that they can contact you about permission to use the oven. I've cc'd some of them, here.

You said you gave the go-ahead to have the oven moved from Christie to Fairmount -- I'm not surprised, but I'm glad you took the chance. The bakers had their first baking day on Dec.21, and the oven worked like a damn. So did the bakers! I wrote a little report here (on our website) -- you can see how good it was.

What the bakers need now is permission to practice. Lottie and Joseph already spent the day with Heidrun, the main Dufferin Grove baker, at Dufferin Grove yesterday while Heidrun was bakng for the farmers' market. Gail invited Dale from Montgomery Inn oven and me to work with them on Tuesday Jan.21, and then every two weeks after, until they feel they really know what they're doing. We're glad to oblige.

Practice is the best way, but for that they need a key and no fee! Is there a way for you to make that happen?

I hope a direct contact between them and you will remove the blocks, so that soon enough this great group of neighbourhood bakers can use the oven to make good times happen for the neighbourhood.

Jan.17, 2020, from Gail Ferguson to Peter White

Good Morning Peter

I belong to the Friends of Fairmount Park (FOFP). As I am sure you are aware, we have recently had a bake oven installed in Fairmount Park.

As we are new to outdoor bake oven use and want to use it with confidence, we invited Jutta to attend a Solstice Night lighting of the oven where we baked pizzas for the community.

Jutta suggested that she could arrange to train us in the use of our oven. My husband, Joseph, and another neighbourhood baker, Lottie, attended the firing and use of the Dufferin Grove ovens on Wednesday of this week to learn about how they use their oven. We have scheduled a training session with Jutta, and with Dale Howey in Fairmount Park on Tuesday January 21, 2020.

We don't have a key to the oven, nor do we have a permit for regular training sessions to improve our knowledge of best practices. Could we arrange to use the oven on Tuesday and each 2nd Tuesday? I can send you a list of dates if you would like.

We would be happy to safeguard the key, or if you prefer, it could be left at the nearby Fairmount Community Centre.

Could you advise the best way to move forward with the training? We want to gain the confidence, the experience, and the expertise to make the bake oven a success at Fairmount and to extend that knowledge to the community.

Jan.20, 2020, between Gail and Dale Howey from Montgomery Inn oven

From Dale, 9.51 a.m.: Hi Gail, How goes the search for key access? If you do have the key what time are you planning on holding the training?

Fingers crossed.

From Gail, 1.40 p.m. No, we have not heard anything back from Peter White or from our Councillor's office. I am still hopeful that Peter White will return my call this morning and will have good news for us.

Could I ask you to stay tuned?

If I don't hear by 6 p.m., I will notify everyone that the training has to be rescheduled.

If we do get access to the oven, what time would you recommend that we do the fire up in order to be baking by noon?

From Dale, 2.37 p.m.: Hi Gail, If you are heating the oven for pizza a 10am start should be fine. If you are baking bread you would probably want a 9am start as you need the time for the heat to penetrate deeper into the brick. Timing depends a bit on the dryness of the wood as well. If the wood is exposed to the weather then you might want to add 20 minutes or so.

Jan.21, 2020, between Gail and Peter White

Gail, 10.31 a.m.: Good Morning Peter
We have a group of enthusiastic bakers who want to learn how to use our oven. We had a training session scheduled for this morning with Jutta Mason and Dale Howey, both very experienced outdoor bakers.

We were very disappointed that we had to cancel the training because we were unable to get the key to unlock the oven.

We have scheduled the next training for Tuesday, Feb 4th. Could you arrange for us to have a key?

I could meet with you to discuss, or you could call me if you need more information.

From Peter, 11.04: My apologies for this error. I had been told that the training was scheduled for tonight. I will ensure that you have access for February the 4th.

From Jutta, 11.15 a.m.: Good, the Feb.4 (by daylight!) date is in my book. But I call it "practice." The bakers have already shown that they are competent at firing the oven. What's needed now is practice in the actual baking of bread and pizza etc. The more practice, the less of a cliffhanger at future neighbourhood events.

From Gail, 4 p.m., to the bakers: It seems that Peter White will provide access to the oven for our next scheduled practice session on February 4th. This is a considerable achievement for our group. Yeah!

We are hoping that Jutta and Dale are available on that date. Dale had suggested that we fire up the oven at 9 a.m. Hopefully, we can obtain a good supply of dry wood, Barry?

We may well have some issues with the single door and flue. Dale perhaps you can advise when you've experienced our oven?

Also, does anyone know how we can obtain the necessary equipment that Joseph, Heidrun, and Lottie suggested?

From Jutta, 4.44 p.m.: Flue? Where?

Yes, ovens need a plug for bread baking, to keep the heat in. The oven plug we made for the bigger oven at Dufferin Grove is wood, and lasted for a long while before it had to be redone. We had a gangster guy doing his court-ordered community hours with us and he built us a good new one. Heidrun, is it a different material now?

Some people put a layer of cow manure on the fire side of the plug but I never tried that :)

A friend has a wooden plug but dips his in water before he puts it into the opening.

There's a friendly blog here that tells about the "heat plug" on the oven they built on Pender Island B.C. He mentions two inspiring books, and I happen to have both so I'll bring them on Feb.4 for show and tell.

From Lottie, 5.01 p.m.: Great news! We can fire up and bake! But it seems pretty clear that the flue is on the inside of the metal door on the Fairmount bake oven, which means retaining the heat and keeping the temperature stable for bread baking would be problematic.

Just wondering, Jutta, do you know if the oven was used for baking bread at Christie Pits park? If so, they would have needed an inner door or plug, and it might well still be hanging around there somewhere...

From Jutta, 5.18 p.m.: Responding to Lottie --
I think your oven was never yet used to bake bread. although its twin at Dufferin grove has baked many hundreds of loaves. The Dufferin Grove version has only a single metal door, set inside instead of in front of the chimney opening.
Dufferin Grove baker Yo Utano used your oven while it was still at Christie Pits, for making foccacia with a fire in, during out guest baker project -- her report is here. I don't think they ever had a plug there. Lottie, see my earlier response re the heat plug.

Jan21, 2020, from Karen Randle, the city councillor's assistant, to the bakers, 5.32 p.m.

Brad reached out to Peter to see if he could get the group access for tonight.

Happy to see access won't be a problem for the 4th!

I have another meeting on the 4th, but hope it goes well.

Jan.22, 2020, 10.32 a.m. from Peter Woodcock, assistant to the councillor, to the bakers

Laura, our Park Supervisor has connected with REC Staff, who have agreed to come out and do a training, showing how to light the fire in that the Fairmount Park Oven. Can you please give me a couple of dates that work for the group and let me know who will be attending. It would be during the day.

Jan.22, 2020, among the bakers

From Gail, 12.24 p.m.: Are we confident with lighting the oven?
If so, I am inclined to respond that we know how to light it, we need access to it for practice.

From Deborah, 12.32 p.m.: Iím confident about lighting a fire given we have kindling, small and medium sized wood.

From Dale, 1.15: I've got 7 years experience lighting ours at Montgomerys Inn. Probably 300 times.

From Jutta, 1.24 p.m.: add to that my experience at Dufferin Grove for the first 15 years, so maybe between Dale and me we have a total of 800 times. Plus Lottie and Joseph hung out with Heidrun (who's been baking for 10 years or more) on Jan. 15. Plus add Deborah's time at Black Creek (?)

From Lottie, 1.27 p.m.: I'm confident lighting and building the fire.

An issue as I see it is getting some of the tools we still need, especially the ones for cleaning out the oven (metal wheelbarrow and fire resistant apron/gloves, possibly a leather apron), and most importantly the inner door/plug for bread baking. If the Parks/Rec people can help with that, that would be great. Or we could sort it ourselves?

Not sure we'll be able to bake bread without the inner door/plug, but it would still be interesting to fire up the oven, bake whatever with the fire in it, clean it out, and test the temperature over time. Just to start getting an idea of how the oven works...

From Joseph Romain, 2.58 p.m.: I was thinking the same thing...

But. If the city wants to be involved in the training, I think that is a good thing. We can meet and engage with whomsoever they send over to do the training... it's never a bad thing to have more contacts with the city staff... Plus, once the city staff shows up, they will note that we are missing a bunch of safety equipment, a metal wheelbarrow, an inside door, etc., and they might offer to try to source these essentials for us. Which would be good. The counselor's office appears to want to be involved, so, let's keep them involved. Budget for a wheelbarrow, maybe?

So, I think we should press ahead with the 'training' provided by the city.

I wonder who trains the Icemasters on how to freeze water...

Dale: making a tool in the oven ash

From Dale, 3.03 p.m.: If the oven brick is heated thoroughly enough you should be able to do at least one bread bake before it cools too much, even with a leaky door. I tried experimenting to see if I could heat metal hot enough to make a rake handle today using the ash from our oven and did get it red hot with the help of a blow pipe we have for getting hesitant fires going (photo attached). I'll try with a hammer and some spare rod I have next week to see if it is hot enough to work.

From Tina, 8.05 p.m.: I have set up a Doodle poll for the next few weeks. If you are interested in joining in for this session with city staff, please fill it out by tomorrow (Thursday) evening so I can get back to Peter (Woodcock) with the dates that would suit the group best. Link to poll here:

I will let you know what dates get offered once I've got the results. I'm assuming that it would be during the day, so have not included any specific times. If you think you can be there for part of the oven firing, you can click the selected box again, and it will indicate "If need be" which I will interpret as part of the day. Clear as mud? Let me know if you have any questions.

From Rishab, councillor's office, 8.26 p.m. Hi everyone,
Thanks for all of your enthusiasm and energy with the oven Ė and all of the great work you're doing in so many ways to keep Fairmount Park active and animated!
I'm following along on this email thread and have been getting updates from Peter in our office. I'm concerned that there could be some missing information. Iíd like to clarify a few things and hope our office can keep helping with the work you're doing.
Training: I understand that the training has been requested by some of the folks on this thread. We've been offering to help set that up to expedite the process. The training is not required to get a permit or go to operate the oven. Any individual or group who wants to book the oven can go online here, have a browse through the user guide, pay the permit fee and go ahead and use the oven. I have attached the booking instructions to this email for easy reference.
I suggest we go ahead and find a good time for a training session in any case. As Jos suggested, a training session would be a good opportunity coordinate other asks for equipment etc (more below). Thanks Tina for setting up the Doodle Poll.
Booking system: I know there are a lot of concerns about booking system for the oven including: 1) access to the key, 2) permit fees and, 3) maintenance and equipment. We are looking into solutions to all of these issues. The current booking system is the same system that applies to ovens across the city. If we're going to design a different way of booking the oven Ė something Brad's supporting and is actively asking staff to do Ė that will take some time. Our office is making the case for giving the community better access to the oven Ė that just makes sense. The one-week booking window for a permit isn't practical for the kind of programming you're hoping to bring to the park and we understand that.
We're asking for Parks staff to find all possible ways to remove the barriers to booking but the solution does need to ensure any member of the public can make a booking, and where there is long-term continuity. This would never be a problem with this group but there are other groups across the city that aren't as reliable and can't operate an oven like this group could. Itís unfortunate but as we see with issues like sidewalk snow clearing, permit parking, parking pads and dozens of other city issues, inconsistent rules generally end up being a problem. So it will take some time to come up with a system that can work for a range of community partners. It's a shame it has to be this way but there are reasons.
Latest status: Peter has already helped secure a discounted rate for community use of the oven. It will be around $14. Any user will still need insurance. Friends of Fairmount and/or Ice Masters could obtain their own insurance to help bring down the overall cost. We're also trying to get a standing permit in place. We're asking for updates on that as soon as possible.
I'm happy to set up a time for us to discuss this on the phone as a group. We can easily set up a conference line and time to address questions or find a meeting time. Brad's schedule is challenging but this is a priority. Again, our office is here in support of all the great work you're doing.
Brad and our team are all know and see the work you do as a service to the park and community. We'd like to stay involved so that we can help. We don't need any input other than whatís helpful for you and the community at large. Let me know if I missed anything and thanks for working through this with us.

Jan.23, 2020, back and forth between the bakers and park friends

From Barry, 7.20 a.m.: This shows some progressive steps.
Rishab is Brad Bradfordís chief of staff. Both he and Brad have telephoned me recently to let me know they are trying to now noodle this through PFR to streamline matters, and the catalyst has been all of our reaching out (put mildly about the needless complex processes that we have to navigate through.
Itís evidently escalated to Rishab to coordinate getting to solutions. This should be responded to, to keep matters going forward as positively as possible. So we donít have multiple responses possibly conflicting with each other, Iíd like to draft a Ďunitedí response which Iíll review with both Gail and Tina and then deliver it to Bradís office....will keep you all informed of course.

From Gail, 8.49 a.m.: Good idea Barry. I can be free this morning.

From Joseph, 9.39 a.m.: I can be available today to meet and discuss.

A couple of thoughts: It IS interesting that the office wants to be involved. One would think they were busy with important things... I note with interest that Peter White has been left out of the conversation... remember? The guy in charge?

REmember , There ARE NO RULES for bake ovens 'across the city'. Each one is different. (Note that his email states that there is no longer a mandatory training which was in place a month ago...) There is no reason for us to pay 14 dollars. How much is the tennis court? How much for an hour on the rink? We are asking them for nothing: no staff, no wood, no involvement other than keeping track of a calendar. I'm not sure why BB office is determined to extract money. We can give them money. But, why?

But we ARE getting somewhere.

Jan.29, 2020, from Dale

Hi Gail and co, I managed to produce this handle by creating a forge using the ashes from our bake oven today and a sort of blow pipe. I can make a blade out of metal available from Home Depot. Itís a bit over 4 feet long. Total materials cost would be around $20 and a lot of hot air. I also figure I could make an inner door out of materials available from Home Depot for around $50 as well. Let me know if you are interested in either of these.

Dale: #1

Dale: #2
Jan.29, 2020 from Gail

Great to have those traditional skills and to make iron works for such a reasonable price.
We are being trained tomorrow on lighting our oven, so will discuss with the Fairmount Team.
Are you still up for training on the 4th with Jutta? I will contact the Manager, Peter, to find out how we get access for training and practice. More on that soon....


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