It’s been a challenging week here at Nidulari and Little La Grange Village. The premature and somewhat acrimonious departure of our first two WWOOF volunteers left a bad taste lingering for days, and has made us think deeply about the implications of being WWOOF hosts, and of how to end up with the right kind of people, who are coming here to learn with genuine interest and respect for what we are doing, rather than treating a stay here as a cheap vacation opportunity, doing as few hours of work as possible and then disappearing to party it up all other hours of day and night. We are trying to hold strong, view our experience as bad luck and lack of experience in screening potential volunteers, and to look forward to our next volunteers who will be arriving in a couple of weeks! We are hoping that the next ones will be able to settle in peacefully and enjoy all the many experiences we have to offer; sustainable building projects, many forms of agriculture, exciting cooking projects, art, etc, both in and out of work hours, as well as our glorious West End white sand beach, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and so on.
Meanwhile, it turns out that stress, frustration, and perhaps a little anger thrown in makes for a most productive week! On Monday we got the tin up on the oven roof, except for a very small section along the eave on one side which requires an extra row of off-cut tin in order to be long enough. Once that has been added we’ll be able to patch the tin (there are quite a lot of holes in the tin as it was all reclaimed material) and paint it – we’re thinking a nice traditional dark-red colour on the outside.
On Tuesday I put up the last three sets of posts and rafters on the West end of the Nid, with a little help from Mandy. That completed the posts, apart from the two that sit on the door frame, and the beam across the loft which support the center two rafters. These I will hopefully get done next week, bringing the Nid to the next stage, bamboo lathes!
Wednesday was bake day…I’m kicking myself for having been talked into a second bake day each week, it’s exhausting! However, I continue to be well received at the Locally Grown market, and am glad to reach a wider audience, including those who are unable to make it all the way out West on Saturday afternoons. It’s also great to see what other people are growing and making each week – this week I had the opportunity to sample fellow farmer Violet’s home made Sorrel Wine, which is absolutely delicious! To those of you who are able to come directly to me, however, nothing beats getting to see the oven in action, and being able to tour all our projects while you are here! Wednesday also marked my first time shipping an order off-island, to a very special customer who wished to be the test-case for Nidulari + USPS. So, if you really must try our newest Hot Mango Chutney, Mango Pepper Sauce, Banana Ketchup, or even toasties, it can be arranged. Of course, in the interest of keeping local, I’d much prefer that you all come visit instead!
Thursday marked the end of the Nid stonework phase! You’ve no idea how exciting that is to me, despite the fact that I’d finally become really good at laying and cementing seemingly random-shaped rocks into a cohesive wall. I’m thrilled with how that part of the wall came out, and only hope that the next stage works out equally well! I think the little cement mixer deserves the title of Demigod – I am quite willing to proffer sacrifices in order to keep it running smoothly. For a little background on that statement: a) I mixed most of the cement and plaster for our previous building projects here by hand, on a board with a shovel b) I’ve always read too much Terry Pratchett. Anyway, that mixer saves hours each batch, and leaves me with energy left to throw at actually using the cement that is being mixed.
It’s been somewhere around 90ºF all week, with only a little breeze on and off. The dogs lie, inert, on the concrete floor for about 10 hours each day, and even the chickens were suffering until I moved their tractor into the deep shade of a large genip tree. Nonetheless, Mandy and I have both spent hours not only baking, but also stirring hot, bubbling pots of chutneys on the stove. Delicious, but we are mad! I would love to wait for a rainy, cold week in which to do the large batches of mango-season cooking and canning, but down here you never know when or if those might come, and it’s easy to miss out on the height of mango season and be left with mushy, over-ripe buckets and boxes of mangoes catching fruit-flies everywhere and turning to vinegar in front of your eyes. Mango wine is my answer, involving no heat! One demijohn down, one to go.
Now just to get through tomorrow’s bake day in the heat, and then go on to more building next week! One day will be a “field trip” to harvest large bamboo from a roadside, who wants to come help? I’ll then be splitting those bamboo into the thin lathes to form the basic shape of the Nid walls and roof. Speaking of baking, I have a couple of new items! I’m now offering rye bread, instead of the whole wheat. Rye is even more delicious and a little lighter than the wheat. I’m also offering white and wheat pita breads for the first time! They make really great “quick pizza”, as well as sandwiches, snacks, and many other things. Some of you will be sad to hear that I’m taking a short break from granola production, but I promise to soon come up with something else to cater to your sweet tooth as well as your carb habits!
Just one more note: you can now follow Nidulari on Facebook, which is a great way to share my projects with all your friends. Until next week, cheers!