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Monthly Archives: February 2014

Goodbye Baltimore, Hello, St Croix

It’s just a couple of days until I hit the ground on St Croix! This is an incredibly exciting time, after several months of plotting, planning, and (most of all) waiting. In between expelling the last unwanted items from my Baltimore apartment, I’ve been drawing out more detailed plans for the house, and continuing research on a variety of things. Some great ideas have come from the various wonderful friends who have been wishing me well over the past weeks while also hearing the details of my project, often for the first time. So frequently a fresh mind and different perspective is valuable in seeing the wood in the trees, as it were.

I’m now the proud owner of one cotton-seed, and expect (come spring time) cuttings of mint to arrive in the mail…who doesn’t need an unlimited number of mojitos? The list of things to grow is getting ever longer, and I’m still entertaining the idea of a couple of ducks for eggs…any words of wisdom out there in regards to keeping ducks? No water, so they would have to be of a Muscovy variety. I can’t wait for fresh salad greens, arugula, basil, and fresh fruit, after several months of winter fare up here!

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Mandy’s bread oven! Photo courtesy of Mandy Thody, 2014.

It was confirmed, by a number of people at my farewell party, that both my Rye Sourdough bread and my soft farmer’s cheese are incredible and of marketable quality, so St Croix people, better start getting your orders in! The outdoor wood-fired bread oven that Mandy (my mother) has been building on the property is just about ready for its test run, so soon I should be producing completely authentic artisan sourdough. It’s going to be amazing, if I say so myself!

My next post will be written from St Croix, where I shall be busily basking in some 75-85 degrees, figuring out the finer points of using a chainsaw, and marking out my tiny house foundation on real, solid ground!

Cheers!

Painting the picture

So here’s the end product of that recycled-grain bread. It was amazingly delicious with a tangy sourdough taste and a soft gentle texture.

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Recycled-grain bread with a poached egg.

Meanwhile, I realized that I’ve yet to really talk about the property where my upcoming build and related projects will be happening. Oops, huh? Well my apologies, and I hope to clear up some confusions with this post; I do tend to get ahead of myself.

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Zada and Zozo, circa 2007 at the West End Beach, St Croix.

Back in 2006 or so, my mother fell in love with a piece of property on the west end of St Croix, in the gorgeous “rainforest”, complete with a 200-year-old mango tree and a number of [small] ruined buildings from the plantation era. She bought the property, and we moved there, restored two of the buildings, and struggled to gain some kind of control over the several acres of heavily treed land, in a place where kudzu vines grow several feet a week, mongooses sneak into the house, and mangoes form a carpet over much of the land in season, bringing swarms of fruit flies for months at a time. I, being an overachieving teenager with no idea what I wanted to do in life, first secured a deal on an adjacent piece of land, and then threw it all in to run off to college…where I thought I was going to learn something more useful. Well, I did; I learned that college was not for me, certain relationships were not for me, and ultimately that the city and a “normal” life were not for me. Back to the land.

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The first “house” on the property to be renovated, 2007.

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A “Whip Scorpion” terrifying looking but entirely harmless; just another of our friendly cohabitants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So for those of you who are convinced that I’m going off to tame the jungle, pile together a home of twigs and branches, and have a domestic partnership with an antelope…well, not quite. The property already has two “habitable” dwellings, both on mains electricity, with “real plumbing” and water supplied by a reliable well (with an electric pump, can you believe?!). That’s not to say that the power doesn’t go out several times a week, and that centipedes don’t fall from the ceiling, and that sometimes the roof leaks and the floor turns to a sea of mud…but they have all the basic amenities of a “house”. There are many well established fruit trees on the land, from avocados to breadfruit and oranges, and a vegetable garden, kept somewhat in check by whoever happens to be occupying the buildings. There are land tortoises, completely useless but cute, free range chickens for eggs when they can be found, pest control the rest of the time, and one very fluffy chow-chow who keeps everybody toeing the line.

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One of several Red Footed Tortoises.

Much of the combined property is overgrown with “trash trees”, namely genip and tan-tan trees, which grow up in just a few years forming dense woods which shade out any more useful plants. Some of these will gradually be cleared out in order to make room for garden expansions, and will provide firewood for the bread oven, as well as some basic supporting timbers for the tiny house framework – encased in cement even relatively weak “trash” wood is quite useable, as the cement ultimately does most of the work, once fully cured. Clearing without heavy machinery is going to be quite a process, so I’m currently looking into different methods, preferably avoiding digging many stumps out by hand, which is an arduous process. I dislike the idea of burning out stumps, so more likely I’ll try to plant around them instead – since all the vegetable gardens are tended entirely by hand the stumps and roots may not prove to be that much of a setback.

The other matter being pondered currently is the possible use of woven coconut palm leaves as a supporting system for the cement,  a likely substitute for the reed mats traditionally used in many places…some experimentation is in order! Meanwhile, it’s time to drive to DC to ship the last few boxes to St Croix, as it’s only 12 days until I fly down to begin this great adventure!

What would you like to hear about next? Let me know, and don’t forget to follow Nidulari. Cheers!

Snow day!

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Zada thinks snow days are great too!

Baltimore is snowed in today; she doesn’t want me to leave. Or for anyone to leave. It provides a  great chance to catch up on packing, paperwork, and cooking for the week.

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I had to share this amazing loaf from last week, such a great rise and crust.

Left-over-grain bread is well on its way. That’s bread made with left over cooked whole grains, in this case cooked barely, which is added to the sourdough in the first stage. It takes an extra day to rise, as does anything with whole grain, but it’s well worth the wait!

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Barley soaking in the “sponge” – day one of the sourdough process. Can’t continue until I brave the weather to buy more flour!

It’s just two weeks until I leave Baltimore and all this snow far far behind! There is a whirlwind of clutter, documents, boxes and suitcases all around, but soon there shall be some order in this madness. A good drink in hand, a daily dose of freshly made kefir, and visions of mangos and fresh homegrown veggies keep me going…

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Kefir “creatures” – the beasties that sit in the milk and turn it into kefir, then get strained out to make a new batch. Yummy.

Cheers, and a big thank you to those of you who have followed Nidulari! I promise it shall get far more interesting once I (finally) arrive on St Croix!

Of Living, and Leaving

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DSC_7197I shall ever remember Baltimore,
the city where wigs lie in the gutter,
disheveled as a small animal, discarded, forgotten.
This thing,
of momentary fashion, fad, beauty,
torn away; what does it reveal beneath?

Three weeks, and I shall be leaving. This new life, this different life, this very old life. Is the payment for hard, honest work perhaps peace of mind, dare I say happiness? Can I rip off the pretenses and facades, as these Baltimore women fling the wigs from their heads, perhaps in passion, perhaps in flight, late at night? Perhaps, perhaps. Time shall tell, really, how different a life it may be. Those who believe tell me it can be anything I make it, they have such faith in my craziness. Perhaps they are right.

Now it just remains to get there, to see, to start. The apartment that I’ve called “home” for the past two years is slowly emptying. The rain still beats upon the window, but it has a hollow sound now. Gone, gone, almost gone. There are many goodbyes to say; more than I expected, but that’s always how it goes, you are noticed when you leave, not when you arrive.

St Croix beckons, and I am there already, in mind, if not in body. There is much to do now.

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