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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Rainbows of incongruity

Wondering what it’s like to be a builder, baker, farmer, WWOOF host, and part-time employee all at once? Well here’s just a small section of my to-do list including everything from fixing tools and my car, to plastering a ceiling and finding our next WWOOF volunteers for the winter season. Never a dull moment, and certainly never a restful moment! My eyes resent being forced to focus this dull Saturday morning…

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To my great relief, the heat of summer is passing at last, and the nights are rapidly cooling to the mid 70’s. The days are still hot and sticky though, with frequent rain storms turning everything into a huge sea of mud and threatening to wash the fresh plaster from the walls of the Nid! Nonetheless, we’re very nearly finished with the outside plaster, and will soon be struggling with plastering the ceiling and the inside of the loft dome. On which note, any cement/stucco spraying equipment available for rent/borrow on St Croix? Any leads would be most helpful.

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Just a tiny corner left on the interior front wall.

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Inside the loft.

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Outside the loft and bathroom.

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Reaching far on rickety scaffolding. Haven’t fallen off yet!

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First layer.

Wednesday was an unpleasantly wet bake day, so after dropping my week’s goodies off at the Locally Grown market, Julie and I headed out for a shopping trip and to wander around a little – something that I rarely take the time to do. Through fresh eyes I saw how bizarre some of our local stores are–glass swans and china angels among the brightly coloured plasticware and cleaning products–and how incongruous the chain stores such as Kmart and Home Depot are with our small-island lives; churning endless plastic nonsense and products entirely incompatible with our climate and environment into the hands of our island’s inhabitants. It’s easy to become used to these presences on the island, and indeed, I cannot say that I don’t take advantage of their (sometimes) lower prices and (occasionally) greater range of products than I could otherwise obtain on-island. However, I’m glad to be reminded of the fact that they don’t really fit here–perhaps not into the island, and certainly not into my vision of a sustainable future, on an individual or island-wide scale. Our next stop, the cruise ship pier, is similarly incongruous with our sleepy little town of F’sted. Hosting all of about 1 ship in every 10 days, on average, it takes up a large part of the waterfront and is mainly used as a promenade and fishing/swimming platform. It had been some time since I’d walked out the pier in daylight, but the walk proved well worth the soaking afforded by a rainstorm, in order to catch sight of a gorgeous double-rainbow arching above the entirety of F’sted; the fort, the promenade along Strand Street, the old Customs House, the Frederiksted Hotel, all the way down to the old fish market.

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A tiny glimpse of rainbow from the picturesque courtyard behind Polly’s in F’sted – complete with “gingerbread” trim on the porch roofs.

Well, it’s an overcast and uninspiring afternoon, so I shall now leave you for the week. With a little recovery time this weekend, I hope to jump into next week running full-tilt so as to report much progress on the building and everything else by next weekend! Meanwhile I’m looking forward to cooking a scrumptious dinner of Indian food tomorrow evening, and sending the last of the spare chicks home to Cruzan Gardens, where they will live in great style in a coop nearly as large as my house!

Don’t forget to place your orders for Wednesday baking, and the next Saturday baking on October 11th. All Nidulari products apart from the sourdough bread are also available at the new Cruzan Gardens Farmstore, come check it out! If you’re interested in being able to pick up bread orders at Cruzan Gardens on Wednesday afternoons, please contact me, as I am happy to make that happen as a permanent arrangement – it could be a convenient mid-island pickup location for some of you East-enders.

Cheers!

Buns, birds, and beauty

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On Sunday Julie, Zozo, and I had a crazy adventure out to Annaly Bay, but that’s a story for another time.

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The bay was gorgeous…

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The tide pools were inaccessible due to waves breaking against the shore.

Call me crazy, but I’m writing this in my should-be nap time. 7am saw the wood burning oven already lit, dough rising for some 80 (giant!) cinnamon buns plus the usual dozen loaves of sourdough, tables being set up out front, and a grand collection of coffee pots taking up the kitchen. Why, you may ask? All for Good Samaritan of Haiti, inc–the charity that Mandy runs in Ille A Vache, Haiti–as a fundraising effort for the school, adult literacy programs, and more. Well, we have a good many cinnamon buns left over, but overall it was quite a success, with a table of Haitian art and knicknacks…

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The chicks have tails now!

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I resume, later. The cinnamon buns have all gone away, along with much bread, many cookies, etc. A mysterious chicken adventure happened in the meantime; a visiting small dog, Ms Mocha of Cruzan Gardens, decided to chase my slow, plumpy red hen across the garden towards the house, thereupon entirely disappearing said hen for some time, leaving poor Mocha running in circles, quite as confused as I was myself. I’m glad to report that the hen showed up unscathed in good time to be tucked in for the night. The chicks, also, have new adventures, thanks to a donation of window screens to let daylight into their brood box. This was deemed necessary after one of the chicks “flew the coop”, quite literally, several days ago, and then got stuck between the coop, the wall, and an overly interested Zozo! Quite the week in Nidulari’s chicken world.

 

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Nice scaffolding…until that moment when we were taking it down and it fell on my ankle…

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Julie with her hoist system!

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1st quarter done!

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The upper story of the Nid is progressing much more quickly than I had anticipated, with a most efficient system of mixing, hoisting, arranging scaffolding, and of course plastering. The upper front walls are 3/4 finished, so by mid morning on Monday we’ll be working around to the back walls and the loft roof! Weather permitting. The “day of rest” has been abolished until at least the end of the year, so tomorrow holds in store for me a lengthy struggle with a masonry drill, pvc pipe, and accompanying goos and fittings. Having running water may be worth it in the end?

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Passionfruit flowers are perhaps my favourite.

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Pretty beetles under a wild sage leaf in the rain.

I had a breakthrough on the sourdough bread this week. Due to time constraints I messed around with the recipe for my white sourdough, combining my usual recipe with an old no-knead method that I had previously used for single-loaf batches. The result is rather pleasing (to me, at least), with a chewy, open texture and crust, and a stronger sourdough tang; somewhat reminiscent of a San Francisco sourdough. So, if you’d thought that the white sourdough was boring (I did!), try it again and you may well be pleasantly surprised. Nidulari shortbread cookies are quickly becoming a new favourite, so keep an eye out for them at the Locally Grown market in F’sted on Wednesdays, and at Cruzan Garden’s new FarmStore corner throughout the week!

My mind refuses to stay focused any longer, so that is all, my friends. ‘Til next week!

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A magnificent sunset from F’sted beach after the Wednesday market.

Level 2

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Orchids in a sour orange tree outside the window.

Hello, my readers far and near! Firstly, I do hope that you enjoyed Julie’s insights to life and work here on the homestead – if you didn’t catch her midweek post, scroll down and check it out. Julie continues to be a wonderful addition to our family and community, and is getting so much done!

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View on the West end of the Nid, with the reed matting on the loft roof at the back.

wpid-20140908_120920.jpg      wpid-20140909_133349.jpg wpid-20140909_165346.jpg   wpid-20140908_100855.jpg    wpid-20140906_175557.jpg wpid-20140906_175537.jpg wpid-20140906_175528.jpg wpid-20140906_175454.jpgWe hit a huge milestone with the Nid this week: the walls are plastered up to about 6 feet all the way around! We’ve already built a scaffold and put reed matting up on one of the upper front sections, so come tomorrow we’ll be plastering the first upper section of wall. I’ve also started to work on the plumbing (2″ drain pipes, 3/4″ supply pipes), utilizing the trenches that Landen worked so hard on digging a month or so back. Alas, my geometry was a little off, so I’m having to do a little extra digging before the pipes can actually be installed. Best way to learn, huh?

wpid-20140913_135956.jpgThe chicks are growing before our eyes, with more feathers every day and somewhat startling powers of flight already. I dare not turn my back on their open brood box lest they all take flight and are never seen again…
They are adorable though, and fairly little trouble now that I have a well-setup brood box.

wpid-20140913_081552.jpgwpid-20140911_073347.jpgwpid-20140907_090929.jpgwpid-20140907_090917.jpgwpid-20140907_090905.jpgI write this post on the last dregs of my computer battery, as the power has been out since daybreak–making my list of things to do on my “day off” mostly irrelevant. This is the second major power cut of the week, rather a part of daily life down here yet frustrating nonetheless. Resorting to my gardening list, I planted about 20 avocado seeds–in a motley array of pots–which in a few months I will torture, as I learn the art of grafting trees. A grafted avocado tree can bear as soon as the following season, whereas one grown from seed will take around 8 years to reach maturity. I also planted some root ginger out in the agroforestry area, in the hopes that it will not only take off, but also prove less tasty to the deer who are currently chowing down on my pidgin peas, hibiscus, and sweet potato!

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Scaffolding up for the upper section of wall.

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Reed matting on the upper wall.

Speaking of food, this Saturday, September 20th, we are having a bake sale coffee hour in aid of Good Samaritan of Haiti, from 10am-12noon. A minimum donation of $10 will get you a delicious cup of Haitian coffee and a cinnamon roll, with proceeds going directly into the great work of the foundation. There will be a table of Haitian art, jewelry, and other goodies for sale, as well as a table of Nidulari comestibles. If you’d like to order sourdough bread to go, please use the order form as usual, bread will be ready by 12noon.

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Banana ketchup, on its way to your own dinner table!

We’re also kicking off a small produce and value-added “market” at Cruzan Gardens–I will be starting it off with some Nidulari products along with gorgeous avocados on Thursday–which will provide a great mid-island shopping spot for those of you who aren’t able to get all the way out West. Cruzan Gardens is open Mon-Fri 9-5, Sat 9-1, and I am there Thursdays and Fridays all day!

That’s all for this week, cheers!

Welcome to the WWOOFing World!

For this exciting mid-week blog post, I would like to introduce our lovely WWOOF volunteer, Julie! She has generously written a guest post for Nidulari, to share with you her first experiences here on our homestead! I’d also like to remind all of my St Croix followers that this Saturday is a bake day, with orders accepted until noon on Friday.

Now I put you in Julie’s capable, hardworking hands:

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My view of the Bahamas out the airplane window on my voyage to St. Croix!

6:00 in the morning, my alarm goes off. In my past life, this very same alarm signified the beginning of another mundane day full of stale, inconsequential routine. Coming from an admittedly high maintenance, fast-paced lifestyle in the restaurant industry, I would typically be crawling into bed only a few hours before this time. These days, however, I find myself waking up even before my alarm sounds, eager to commence a workday full of outdoor learning, labor, and my new-found love for St. Croix!

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The avocado tree in front of the main house was quick to become my favorite.

Rain or shine, the lush green canopy of coconut, avocado, and papaya leaves prolifically scattered around Little LaGrange Village greets me every morning on my way to the main house for coffee with Merryn. Heavy with fruit and competing for sunlight, the trees bend over my path and make me feel as though I’m being embraced by the very nature I’ve sought so long to become closer to–and boy, am I getting exactly that in this WWOOFing experience!

Having already become well acquainted with the congeniality of Caribbean culture, imagine my surprise to discover that the animals of LLGV rival the sociability of the STX natives! Chinah, the friendly orange cat, I’ve dubbed “The Mighty Huntress”, for her weekly offerings of slain rats and mongoose, which we like to interpret as her way of protecting our new batch of chicks. ZoZo is the sweetest dog you’ll every meet, and always amicably agrees to go on overly ambitious three mile walks with me to explore the magical rainforest surrounding LLGV…despite wearing a full fur coat. Then there’s Oonagh, the “Guardian of the Cottage”, who watches over our showers and dutifully keeps bed intruders of the cockroach variety at bay. And although these are technically the only “domesticated” animals on the property, one may beg to differ upon meeting Merryn’s three adventurous hens (“The Golden Girls”) who are always en masse roaming the land, inspecting progress on the Nid and in the garden. Beyond them, you have Henry–the friendliest of egrets–overseeing my wood gathering, an assemblage of red-footed tortoises who are slowly building their version of the Taj Mahal atop some old Danish ruins, and of course a plethora of wildly fascinating and active  lizards and geckos who hunt the mosquitoes and quite literally “hang out” with us at any given point in the day!

WP_20140909 1Ever-adventurous baby tortoise Bertha comes out to play on a rainy day.

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“The Golden Girls” are always trying to be incognito, but are never far behind us!

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Chinah stalking Henry the egret- to no avail.

Being 2,500 miles away from my home, I feel I’ve made a wonderful new family at  LLGV among these comforting creatures, most notably Merryn, Mandy, and Jan who have so graciously let me into their beautiful, pastoral house, and have shown me great kindness and patience while I acclimate to this new way of life and learn the many, many different names of plants and animals of the land. Their common day-to-day practices are steadily becoming less and less foreign to me….why, within the first few days of being here, I tried fifteen types of new and magnificent fruit, snorkeled with squid and barracudas, and learned how to properly mix, tint, and apply plaster to the walls of the Nid! The latter, not very well–I might add–but Merryn’s eternal optimism is leading me to believe that I’ll perfect the method soon! Still…not bad for a foreigner!

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Our batch of chicks which seem to be growing at an alarming rate before our eyes!

Being exposed to such a variety of tasks at LLGV has truly been life changing. This WWOOfing experience is allowing me to slowly relinquish my old and rather unsustainable lifeways and to adopt new habits which allow me to better harmonize with the delicate ecosystem we live in. While my pace of life has slowed, my work ethic has strengthened, and every day I spend working and living at LLGV imparts new knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for this beautiful world we are so very lucky to be a part of :) I’m so grateful to be here!

 

Zooming along

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Cement all around!

It’s been a great week in the land of Nidulari. With the help of our lovely new WWOOF volunteer, Julie, I’ve been able to plaster at twice my previous speed, resulting in the East wall and the rear wall being complete up to about 6′ high, and the outer layer on the West wall being nearly complete. Tomorrow we’ll work on the inner West wall, and soon we’ll be plastering the upper sections! It’s all coming together so fast now, as each process becomes more and more efficient. I can’t wait to start on the floor, interior details, and waterproofing the roof so that I’ll be able to move in!

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Moringa seedling behind the Nid in a creative “cage”.

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Plastering the West wall.

 

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Lower East wall and window complete!

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Rear (bathroom) wall complete! Window mold still in as I finish the eyebrow on the outside.

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Julie mixing cement for the inner wall. She has been providing a great alternate view (with fresh new eyes) on all of our projects here at Nidulari, which I hope that she will soon share with you all in a guest post right here – keep an eye out!

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Last panel of the bathroom wall – I’m loving how the exposed over-sized posts look!

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Ready to plaster the inside of the West wall.

 

While I was off working at Cruzan Gardens, learning to propagate all kinds of interesting plants and trying to get my head around different kinds of fertilizers and soil amendments – plus the names of some dozen types of palm tree – Julie was starting to rein in the garden: weed whacking, clearing paths, and so on. One day everything will be under control and we’ll all know what we’re doing! Speaking of learning, my 25 Ameraucana chicks arrived on Thursday, a day early. Despite their premature arrival, we were all set up with a beautiful wooden brooder, heat lamp, water, feed, bedding…

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Chick brooder at night.

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Chicks on their 2nd day.

25 out of 26 survived shipping, and seemed healthy and energetic. The 6′ long, 2′ wide, and 2′ deep brooder box is ample room for them to run around, yet small enough to keep track of them in! Yesterday 5 of them went to their new family, where a delighted child will be learning about raising chicks. Hey, I’m no less excited about it, really. They are cute. It is, however, a lesson in letting go, doing what you can but letting nature take its course – one chick appears to have a leg issue, and possibly “failure to thrive”, so she’s separated from the rest to see if she recovers, but will most likely fade away rather than reviving. Such is life. The remaining chicks I’ll probably raise through to 3-5 weeks old, at which point they will no longer need a heat lamp – then if anyone is interested in having some small layer pullets to finish raising, please contact me! I am trying to end up with an even dozen, so there should be at least 5 available, if all goes well. Ameraucanas are small hens, about 4lbs fully grown, who are prolific layers of large blue and green eggs, and have a friendly demeanor.

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5 days old!

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What else, you ask? Well, it’s a rainy Sunday, killing my motivation to go hiking, swimming, or anything else “fun”. Instead, I write this, battle hordes of mosquitoes, plot out next week’s schedule, and await Mandy’s return from Haiti, a day late due to delayed flights.

‘Til next week, cheers!