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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Building a tropical Hugelkultur-style bed: step by step

Thanks to our last WWOOF volunteer, Hannah, I am able to present a step-by-step photo tutorial of how we built our Hugelkultur-inspired garden beds! The initial one has been planted for about 6 weeks now, and is already bearing okra, several types of greens, and sorrel (a flower that is used to make tea or jam), with several more things on the way. Several other beds are coming along with beans, peas, radishes, turnips, more greens and okra, herbs, etc. The raised beds have several advantages: they are actively composting from within, providing nutrients to the plants, they are aerated from within by the large logs and compostable materials, and the open spaces within serve to hold moisture during dryer periods. So here we go!

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6″ deep trench, with the soil reserved to one side.

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Logs laid in the trench – avocado trimmings, not useful for the oven due to termite attraction as they dry if left above-ground.

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Leaves and other brown matter.

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Freshly-cut banana leaves.

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Coconut husks.

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Wood ash and compost.

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Soil added back on top, ready to plant!

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Tall plants up the center: okra, basil, peppers. 2-3 rows up the sides of lower plants: radish, daikon, lettuce, etc. This photo was about 3 days after planting.

In other news, the Nid loft floor is in! The roof edge is done! Except for under the eaves outside..Tomorrow (weather permitting) we’ll be waterproofing the roof, and then by the weekend I hope to move in! Still to do are doors, the kitchen counter (including the sink), the living-room bench, some cement touch-ups here and there, and lighting. It’s a really exciting stage to be at, and I can’t wait to be sleeping under my very own roof.

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Looking into the bathroom – temporary half-wall/concrete block storage.

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Sorrel flower.

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Marmalade shortbread cookies!

Hope you enjoyed the little how-to! We’re accepting orders for Wednesday baking for pick-up at Little La Grange or Cruzan Gardens, with a holiday special of Sourdough Sweetbread with Nidulari Marmalade at $13/loaf. Cheers!

Floored

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Laying the concrete floor.

photo 2It’s been a busy and fulfilling week, despite the ravenous swarms of mosquitoes and some rather soggy weather! Much progress has been made on both ceiling and floor, as we creep closer and closer to my move-in date. The ceiling just has a couple of little holes to patch in the upper part of the loft, and the floor only needs two more batches of concrete and then a few touch-ups with a grinder before it can be sealed. This week I’ll be patching the outermost edges of the roof so that it can be sealed and will no longer require a plastic sheet on top! Also on the list is building the box for the composting toilet, and measuring up for the permanent beams for the loft floor.

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Adding colourant to the floor.

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Floor detail: artistic drainage channel.

I’m getting a chance to brush up my British accent, as we have a new WWOOF arrival, hailing from the homeland. Doug will hopefully be working on some mechanical designs for Mandy’s projects in Haiti, along with our operations here, and also learning to sail! He’s sure to keep busy with all that we’ve got going on. Hannah leaves us tomorrow, after a productive stay with much work on the Nid and the garden, including implementing the Hugelkultur-style vegetable beds which are so far proving to be a great success!

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One of the thriving Hugelkulture vegetable beds.

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Looking into the “kitchen”.

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Delicious sourdough-sweetbread with homemade candied peel and marmalade, butter, and spices…sooo good. Ask nicely and I’ll let you order a loaf.

As you may have heard, our last Good Samaritan of Haiti coffee morning got rained out by island-wide flooding. However, we’re trying again, so mark your calendars for December 13th, 10am-noon! Same as last time: coffee, wood-fired cinnamon rolls, arts, crafts, and all kinds of Nidulari products. This is a great opportunity for holiday shopping whilst also supporting a very necessary charity providing a large range of educational programmes in Haiti. RSVP and share with your friends on Facebook, and don’t forget to order a loaf (or two!) of sourdough bread to pick up while you’re here!

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Big bad chickens!

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Inside the loft.

wpid-20141118_131942.jpgRemember, lots of Nidulari goodies are available at Cruzan Gardens Tue-Sat each week, with bread orders available for pick up Wed 4-5pm. Cheers, til next week!

Bats in the Belfry

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It’s been a scrumptious day of marmalade-making, with bubbling pots of citrus-bay-rum-leaf distillations and extractions in the background as I figure out just how to use some 5 gallons of bay leaf! The marmalade is simply delicious: our home-grown sour oranges sliced thin and boiled to a thick jam, with just a hint of wintry spices for warmth. I can’t wait to slather it on toast…though I promise to not keep it in my hat (sigh…I forget that probably none of you are familiar with the infamous Paddington Bear of English children’s literature). I have limited quantities available, so if you need a jar order it quick before I eat it all! Pints are $14, half pints are $8. I still have a couple of jars of mango chutney left, which will also soon be gone! I’m working on a lotion recipe with the citrus bay and shea butter, to get just the right “flavour” and consistency…more on that soon.

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We have some pretty darn cute visitors tonight, uninvited, yet welcome if they are eating mosquitoes! Right on schedule, the mosquitoes have hatched out in droves – some 6 days after the last rain. They are quite intolerable, a massive, stagnant swarm, impossible to escape from and only mildly fazed by repellant, clothing, fans, or even coils. Living in the tropics isn’t all fun and games, after all…but we do have the most adorable bats!

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I’ll keep it short and sweet today, but I do need to let you know that VI Locally Grown Market, under Ridge to Reef Farm, has changed location. The market location is now at the Lawaetz Museum in Little La Grange, from 3:30-6pm. Please note that I will not be taking extra items to the table due to the change of location and therefor limited traffic, so please be sure to contact me if you’d like to pick anything up there outside of your Locally Grown online order! Thank you, and apologies for any inconvenience. My full range of products is also available at Cruzan Gardens, Tue-Sat, with pre-ordered bread available for pick-up Wed 4-5pm.

wpid-20141112_121022.jpgCheck back next week for progress on the Nid and to meet our new WWOOF arrivals! Til then, cheers!

When we should have built an ark

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This Wednesday, Cruzan Garden presents “Warmth From The Hearth”, a sampling of artisan breads, chutneys, jams, jellies, juices, and more. We would love to share these delicious, locally crafted products with you. Please stop by between 4 and 5pm to sample and shop!

Let me tell you, chickungunya is no fun at all. The best I might describe it is as how I imagine it feels to be old and arthritic: everything aches. I went to do some writing the other evening, but my hand was aching too much to hold the pen…you know how much I love to write by hand. Much like years ago when I was sick with ciguatera (aka fish poisoning), the pains come and go, unexpectedly, inconveniently, suddenly rendering my extremities useless for any major function. Such affliction lends appreciation for the moments spent free of pain, as on Monday, when I put in a good ten hours between the Nid, the garden, and cutting firewood for the oven. I surprised even myself by mixing a batch of concrete in the mid afternoon to lay the first section of main floor…and mayhaps regretted that impulsive action when it came to troweling out a large area of floor, kneeling in sharp gravel, wrestling concrete into submission with an ungainly float, to a modicum of smoothness that will one day be graced and appreciated by bare feet against the cooling surface of the floor.

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Floor!

Was that a suitably verbose paragraph or what? Forgive me, for I sometimes lose my way, floating on clouds of obscure words and complicated grammatical structures…

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Last few sections of ceiling waiting for the finish coat of plaster.

Perhaps it is the weather that has led me to such wordliness. We are in our forth day of steady, heavy rain; quite out of the ordinary for this lovely tropical climate! It feels rather too closely akin to winter, what with the temperature down to the low 70’s, the constant drumming of rain upon the roofs, and the singular lack of daylight. The ground has been quite saturated for some time now, leading to some intense flooding situations around the island, car accidents, power outages, and other such storm related happenings – all without a breath of wind! This is apparently what happens when a weather system decides to develop right over your (fairly small) island. Due to this weather situation, we’ve had to call off the Good Samaritan of Haiti Coffee Morning, along with Nidulari’s own baking, which were supposed to take place tomorrow morning. The next baking Saturday will be November 22nd, with baking also taking place on both of the intervening Wednesdays. We hope to reschedule the GSH coffee morning for next month, please stay tuned for a date!

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Smoke rising from the bake-oven on a cool, rainy day.

Despite being a little waterlogged, the chicks and hens are all settling back into the confines of their tractors quite well. The big red hen, who’d suffered some injury last week (it is believed, at the jaws of a stray dog), has recovered well and is back in the coop, after spending all week in a large wash-tub on the kitchen floor. I learned a good bit about caring for injured chickens (thanks, Google), and now have one very calm, well-handled, and fully functional hen! Well…egg-laying would be nice, but no pressure.

The gardens is…uh…wet. Too wet to do much of anything in, with all my propagation pots flooding out every five minutes, and everything else just a sea of mud. Again, the Hugelkultur bed in the garden saves the day, providing superior drainage due to its aerated interior layers: meaning that my seedlings have neither drowned nor washed away!

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A wonderfully green and refreshing view from the back door of Cruzan Gardens first thing this morning!

With that, I leave you, for tis a night for a blanket and a book, not for plotting and planning of work, nor for sitting at a cold, bright screen, diminishing any and all atmosphere in its all-engulfing conduit to the “outside” world. I shall focus on the real outside: the rain on the roof, the frogs, cicadas, and the water flowing all around. Be safe, be dry, my neighbors!

Life and death: tail of a farm

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Upgraded chick housing.

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The lovely ladies, on their final day of free-ranging.

So, it’s been a bad chicken week. Zozo caught and killed one of the chicks–the rooster–on the same day that I found the big red hen wandering around dragging one leg, after being missing overnight. Nothing could be done about the rooster, beyond Zozo being shunned by society for a while. The hen is now ensconced in a large galvanized washtub inside, where she can rest (and hopefully recover) in peace and quiet. The remaining chicks have ended their free-range days, and are now in the large chicken tractor, whilst the two healthy hens are in the smaller chicken tractor; until such a time as I am able to build a more permanent coop with chicken runs or smaller tractors. Such is life on a farm, as I am quickly beginning to learn. Upsetting though such incidents are, I feel quite accomplished to not have lost my calm despite a dead chick and an injured hen to deal with; instead rounding up the remaining chicks, settling the hen, and making arrangements for the re-housing aspect.

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Corn sprouts.

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Mandy’s kitchen is tiled at last!

My car wouldn’t start this week. Thursday morning, trying to leave for work, it would only make stupid clicking sounds. Turns out it’s probably just the battery or the alternator, but now it’s a holiday weekend so no joy until Tuesday…maybe Wednesday. Just as well to stay home, away from the craziness of the elections!

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I may or may not have had chikungunya–the nasty, mosquito bourne sickness that’s been spreading through the Caribbean–for the past week, with terrible joint and muscle pains, not making plastering and suchlike any easier. Nonetheless, I got a fair bit of progress made on the Nid, even plastering the 2nd-to-last section of the ceiling on Saturday morning with Mandy’s help. The West end is now ready to have the floor laid, whilst I have but one section of the first coat left on the roof, and another day’s worth of top-coat.

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West end of the ceiling, all finished!

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West floor base, ready to pour the concrete.

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Bathroom wall stonework pointed up.

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2 sections to go.

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1 section to go! Not even the hardest one…did that yesterday.

Turns out that corn grows insanely fast, who knew? In less than a week it is over 6″ tall, so I planted it out by the Nid, along with everything else that doesn’t need to be in proper rows in the fenced garden. The Hugelkultur bed in the garden is working out well–in fact we’re about to create another row the same–with all of the plants taking off nicely, and very little watering needed. It’s height allows for extra rows of small plants up each side, hopefully making a more efficient vegetable garden, overall.

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Hugelkultur-style mounded bed.

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Ground Cherries, a relation of tomatillos with a sweet flavour.

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Lots of seedlings.

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Chinese cabbage.

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Seed trays: okra.

Once more, let me remind you of our Coffee Morning, this Saturday, 10am-Noon. Cinnamon buns and Haitian coffee $10/person, also available will be Haitian arts and crafts, ceramics by Mandy Thody (and a few pieces of mine), and a full range of Nidulari products. Please RSVP on Facebook or by email, and please pre-order sourdough bread which will be ready by 11am. We look forward to seeing all of you who can make it, and will provide Tiny House construction tours if we have enough volunteers!

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Nidulari granola bars are so yummy, and you can even mail them to your friends for the holidays! Always vegan and gluten free.

Til’ next week, cheers!

 

 

***To those who may think that I “whine” too much about things…you should probably stop following me. I’m committed to rendering an accurate account of my experiences, with no glossing over of the fabulous, or terrible, moments that come to pass. If you aren’t interested in the sometimes-not-so-sunny picture, well, perhaps this isn’t the blog for you. Sincerely, Nidulari.***