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Summer 2017

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Historic “Codd Neck” soda bottles, c1870’s-1920’s(?). The necks were probably broken by children wanting the glass marble stoppers which were trapped in the bottle neck.

A few weeks ago, June 1st, marked the official first day of hurricane season.

This is how we mark the passage of seasons, in a place that’s warm all year round, where the days of summer aren’t so much longer than those of winter. The seasons are punctuated with dread and anticipation of the possibility of great destruction. We joke, tease, and seek to assure each other that this will be no worse than other years. We each quietly check the weather radar and the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predictions each day, waiting for the inevitable formations in the Atlantic. Those with houses that can be battened down check hurricane shutters, generators, and safety equipment. Those without seek invitations to such houses for “hurricane parties”; gatherings in buildings deemed well-built, accessible, and likely to suffer little damage in a storm.

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Then, life just goes on. In a good year, we watch, wait, huddle, and repeat. In a bad year, a hurricane hits our island and there’s a scurry to clear roads and driveways, to do repairs from wind and water damage, and to help neighbors in need. We get through the expected week or so without electricity, and then things goes back to relative normality. We all fervently hope to never again see the devastation wrought by hurricane Hugo back in ’89, still spoken of with apprehension at the development of every new weather system.

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Summertime is also mango season; windfalls from a friend’s tree.

Meanwhile, everyone who leaves the island to spend the warm summer months elsewhere has left, and those who remain convince ourselves that this is the best time of year here, while the water is warm and the beaches are empty. Perhaps we allow ourselves a moment of envy for those who have flown or drifted away to cool mountains, to fields of berries, to good cheese and better wine. Yet mangos falling on the roof soon remind one that St Croix has equally good things to offer; coconut water that has never been in a can, shade trees almost as good as air-conditioning and so much better for the health our planet, and, perhaps most of all, people who watch out for each other.

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Mango Jam! Summer special: pint jars for only $15!

Every few years St Croix has a spate of crime, perhaps shootings, burglary, car-jacking, or holdups; sometimes all of the above and more. People get scared, some leave, some get overly violent or paranoid, ready to snap at the tiniest provocation. Mostly, though, people are brought together by it. During and after such an episode, wherever one goes on the island people are checking in with each other. No-one leaves a gathering without someone making sure they feel safe, asking to know when they get home safely, or offering to accompany them to their destination. Numbers are exchanged, cautions doled out, and promises made to be there in a jiffy if there’s any problem at all. When someone’s house or business does get broken into, the community rallies to help, to fix what was broken, to replace what what lost. This is what community is for.

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Paper straws are the environmentally viable choice. Say “no” to plastic straws; they wreak havoc in our oceans. Nidulari got these colourful paper straws for our new frozen drinks.

Ultimately, there are those who are cowed by the trials and tribulations of St Croix, and then there are those who are determined to persevere and who throw themselves at making St Croix the best it can be. I’ve been told that I’m one of the latter; I try. There are many others here who are working hard to create places to gather, to diversify St Croix’s offerings, and particularly working to bring Frederiksted and the West end back to life. What makes me happiest of all? Many of our Frederiksted businesses are owned/operated by women! The newest addition is close to my heart; a relatively upscale waterfront bar offering delicious cocktails, beer on tap, and pool tables; opened by Emily Weston of Lyric Sails (another great F’sted-based business!): Tap Deck Bar & Billiards. Check them out when you’re in F’sted. Between Nidulari, Rhythms, Freedom City Surf (aka Teres Veho), Tap Deck, the Lost Dog, Polly’s, Sweet Bites, Hazel’s petting zoo and Country Smoothies (now on King St), multiple dive shops and a handful of other places, there’s no shortage of things to do and places to go in Frederiksted. If you’re one of those East Enders who never comes West, get out your passport and head on over! If you’re thinking about visiting St Croix, consider staying on the West end for a relaxed, low-key getaway.

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Opening night at Tap Deck! Brittany makes a great Mojito!

After a brief respite (had to go celebrate the opening of Tap Deck!) Nidulari will be open again on June 24th. We’ll be rolling out our newest frappés and milkshakes with cold brew coffee and frozen homegrown fruit, and we’ll also have the very first samples of Mandy’s Bean to Bar Chocolate, made from entirely Caribbean-grown ingredients right here in the rainforest. She’s also planting lots more cacao trees so that ultimately there will be chocolate grown and produced here on St Croix. So exciting!

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Cacao plants at around 2 months old, ready to be planted out. They’ll start producing in 3-6 years.

Spring 2017

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I am many moons behind in my writing…again. How to even recap all that has happened in three months? If I shared every experience, every challenge, every achievement, every setback, I’d be writing a book. Yet I find myself writing in a more contemplative manner; personal, political, and social notes that may never be read, yet beg to be written. I’ll not burn your eyes with those words here.

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I last left you, my readers, halfway through building my new tiny home; a self designed and built wooden bow-top caravan, reminiscent of the horse-drawn Gypsy caravans of centuries past in Europe. While my carpentry and paintwork in no way live up to the incredible skills of those artisans of bygone days, the caravan did indeed get finished, and I was able to move into it after less than three months of (part-time) work. I continue to embellish the exterior paintwork between rain showers, but that may go on for years–in true historic form! It’s quite lovely to have a dry, mosquito and centipede-free dwelling, albeit a slight size adjustment, going from 210 square feet to a mere 72.

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Many people have come and gone over the past months, new faces and old, with never a dull moment between. Several friends lent a hand building a roof for the wood-fired oven, a huge help in both rainy weather and mango season! Others have visited, cheered on the progress, and sampled the ever-changing menu; enjoying everything from mofongo to falafel to rhum cake and cream puffs! And there are those who have insisted that I partake in social events, to whom I do owe a certain amount of gratitude for reminding me to kick back and enjoy life once in a while, between feeding everyone and building things.

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The excitement of this month was the Taste Of St Croix event, which is one of the island’s most…sophisticated…food events, bringing together restaurants, chefs, and food establishments of all varieties for an evening of food, fun, and good-natured culinary competitiveness. I’m pretty excited to have come away from the event with a 1st place award for my entry in the Vegetarian category! Frederiksted (our small town on the Western end of St Croix) in general placed impressively, with five out of the seven 1st place awards! This is particularly impressive as a number of us are newer businesses, and most are not what I’d call “high end” restaurants. It’s encouraging and invigorating to see the smaller, newer, and quirkier establishments receiving recognition on the culinary front. We can do this!

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I’m most of the way through my hard-earned week-long “staycation”, and am by now throughly bored with not working and quite ready to start back up next week! Meanwhile, over the weekend I’ll be doing a little demolition work, deconstructing the Nid – my original tiny house. It had its day, and whilst letting go of something that no longer serves you feels great…smashing it into a million pieces with a sledge hammer feels even better!

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Homegrown Cacao! Exciting chocolate news coming soon.

There will be an Indian take-out night in the next couple of weeks, so hit me up if you want to be on the list for that! It will most likely be on a Thursday night. Meanwhile, have a great weekend, and happy Easter to those who celebrate!

 

January 2017

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Insulated though we are here in the Virgin Islands, as a US territory, the political turmoil of the mainland has taken a toll on each and every one of us, on our friendships, on our trust in one another, and on our beliefs that the future will be better than the past; that we will all move forward, that we can all work together to help each other move forward and upward. It has been challenging to remain positive. It has been challenging to have empathy for those with whom I fundamentally disagree, with those who hold views that show no empathy for others. It has been challenging to be the “better person” and abstain from name-calling, labeling, generalizing, sensationalizing, dehumanizing, and other demeaning thoughts and actions. Sometimes, for me, this has meant holding silence.

I am so very proud of the millions of women, and men, who turned out around the country and made their voices heard through the Women’s March; who marched with love, strength, compassion, and self-control. Who proved that we are united, that we have a voice, and that we aren’t afraid to use it. Who demonstrated that we can come together to fight all injustice, be it towards women, children, people of color, LGTB people, those with disabilities, or the environment. Who demonstrated that there is not only strength in numbers, but there can also be peace.

Meanwhile, back in my quiet section of the rainforest, I’ve been keeping my peace as best I can, along with some of my sanity. Between days of cooking, feeding people, and generally keeping the business on-track, I’ve been building my tinier house. The as-yet-unnamed bow top caravan is now complete but for the final paintwork, plumbing, electrical, hanging the doors and windows, and making the screens. I know, I know, that sounds like a lot still. However, that means the carpentry is done! Check out the building stages in the photos below.

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Come check it out in person if you’re on St Croix, and remember to stop by Nidulari for freshly baked bread on Wednesdays, Saturday lunch or Sunday brunch!

If you’re pining for some curries, drop us a note – the next take-out night is scheduled for Thursday, February 2nd.

November

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There’s a difference between ending and finishing. What in our lives is ever truly finished? Chocolate and wine; not much else. Knowing when it is time to end something, however, requires a certain amount of wisdom, foresight, and decisiveness.

You’ve seen people stuck in a job, relationship, or project for much longer than they ought, waiting to cross some invisible finish line. You’ve seen the perfectionist, polishing their work yet never completely happy with it, never letting it go. There is no virtue in holding onto something beyond its time.

With the Nidulari kitchen finished, the oven re-build complete, and the weeks spinning by into “season”…it’s a time to let things go. For me, that means a purge of “unnecessary” possessions, and the plans to construct an even smaller living space over the coming months.

Building the Nid tiny house was a huge (if inexpensive) experiment…and its days are numbered. It was interesting, fun, and educational to build; it has served its purpose as a living space (2 years this month!), but it’s time to move on. The cement roof simply is not a success, and the resulting dampness  has nurtured a very… umm…”natural”… “environment.” Mushrooms on the walls seemed cute at first, but the weekly trimming of tree roots growing through the walls and floor gets a little tiresome. Likewise, nightly visits from ever-growing centipedes had a certain thrill at first; less so, by now.

My life has changed since I planned and built the “Nid.” Moving down here, I wasn’t sure how I’d be spending my days, and certainly I didn’t expect to have my own full-size kitchen (doubling as my office) on-site. I had no way to know that I’d go “home” only to shower and sleep, perhaps write a letter or read a book. That my schedule would follow the rise of the bread and the hungry honking of a gaggle of ducks. That 210 square feet would feel huge. Unnecessary. All that cleaning! The Nid will make a great barn, for as long as it stands.

The Nidulari “Gypsy” Vardo, built early this year as my sales venue, was so much fun to design and construct. Built on a tiny single-axle trailer, with only a 5′ by 7′ floor, it serves its purpose well, but would be crazy as accommodation of any variety. Scaled up, it would be absolutely perfect. A plan is in the works to build a slightly larger version, also on a single-axle trailer, but with a 6′ by 12′ floor that can accommodate a standard size bed (crossways) plus storage space, a table, counter, and sink. As so many of my visitors have remarked, it’s crazy not to have an outdoor shower here in the rainforest…

Should the stars so align, I’ll be assembling the basic structure of the new vardo between Winter Solstice and New Year. The details and paintwork can be done gradually, as time allows. Any “tiny house” enthusiasts want to help? It should be an enjoyable project, and you could learn the basics of building your very own Gypsy Vardo! Comment below or send an email if you’re interested!

On this note, Nidulari will potentially be closed for Winter Solstice (December 21st) through December 28th: reopening for Saturday lunch on New Year’s Eve.

October

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The world never rests. The US is going insane over election month, reducing the media to a circus of slander and tall tales, blotting out all real news. People seem to be losing all sense of decency and moral integrity as they hurl insults at one another, publicly and privately. We are reminded daily what a selfish, navel-gazing people Americans are at risk of becoming. We are reminded, nay, pounded by, the fact that this is a country that permits racism and sexism to run rampant in our communities and our government, with no accountability for those who insight violence. We are reminded that the public seems interested only in reality-TVesque “news;” entertainment, really. Look: only weeks after Hurricane Matthew cut a path of devastation through Haiti, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless and facing a season of famine, we see little or nothing of it on the national news.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve not only been avoiding politics, breaking in the new oven, preparing for high season, planning new winter hours, and processing the last of the mangoes…but also acting as a communication point of sorts for Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti, the charity that Mandy (my mother) runs, while she was on the ground in Haiti weathering Hurricane Matthew and assisting with relief efforts in the aftermath. It’s been hectic! Mandy returned home last week, so she’s now in contact should you still have any questions as to how to help with the relief programs. Haiti faces not only a huge amount of rebuilding work, but also a season of famine due to crop loss from the hurricane, and water contamination which will result in major epidemics. To give you a brief picture, I’ll share a post I wrote in the days after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, seeing the devastation of Southern Haiti, we are all at a loss for words.

To many, this is just another tragic story in the news, of an impoverished country dealing with yet another natural disaster. I think it’s very important that we remember that these are people – hundreds of thousands of individuals – who have struggled and worked hard with what little they’ve been given to rebuild their lives after the devastating earthquake of 2010. They were nowhere near done rebuilding when Hurricane Matthew swept their lives away once again.

Hearing some people’s comments about Haiti, I feel that I need to stress that these were natural disasters. These were not any fault of the people or their country. No one could have been prepared for these events, and certainly not a nation already suffering such intense poverty. These people are not lazy, they are not weak, they are not hopeless. They would like to build stable lives and a functional economy, things that we often take for granted. They deserve our full and whole-hearted empathy, and they need our help.

Rebuilding will be a long process, starting with securing emergency food, medical, and building supplies. Communities are gathering together, helping each other, but when everyones’ losses are so great there is little to go around. There will be no crops from Southern Haiti this season, and it will take many years for the fruit trees to grow back, for lands flooded by storm surge to be viable again, and for livestock to be replenished.

Once again, it is time to rally for the people of Haiti. Not just today, but for the coming weeks, months, and years as they work to overcome this devastation.

Many non-profits are working on the ground in Haiti. If you’re in a position to help, please do. Donate to whichever organization is closest to your heart, but keep in mind that the smaller “grassroots” organizations generally have far lower overheads and are able to work more quickly in their communities due to less bureaucracy than some of the larger aid organizations.

In closing, I will reiterate what I wrote as Hurricane Matthew first landed in Haiti when asked how people could best help:

Monetary donations are always the most useful in situations like this. It takes too long (weeks if not months) and costs too much to transport physical items in a time of crisis, when roads, airports, etc are damaged. There will be building materials, food, etc available in Haiti, the main challenge is being able to acquire them in a timely manner. Monetary donations allow for immediate purchase of locally sourced materials for repairs, along with bulk quantities of basic food items for distribution through emergency shelters (schools, churches, etc). This also helps to stabilize the economy, by purchasing locally rather than flooding the market with donated imports.

If you feel moved to donate to Mandy’s non-profit, Good Samaritan Foundation of Haiti, Inc., please follow the link below – the yellow donate button is on the left as you scroll down. All donated funds will go directly into emergency food and medicine to be distributed through the school and building materials to begin repairs on homes in the area. Most homes on the island lost roofs and sustained other damages.

http://www.goodsamaritanofhaiti.com/

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In support of Good Samaritan of Haiti’s post-hurricane efforts (check out their facebook page for real-time updates and details) Nidulari’s first Sunday Brunch will benefit the organization, with 25% of proceeds going directly into their famine relief fund. Please come out to the rainforest on Sunday, October 30th 10am-1pm to eat great food and support GSF’s important work! Mandy will be here to answer all your Haiti questions, and will have Haitian arts and crafts and her self-published Creole children’s books for sale. Queen CariBEE will be here with preserves, soaps, and honey! You’ll also get to meet our newest farmers, Amelia and Wes, who’ll soon have organically-grown greens, herbs, and more available for purchase through Nidulari!

It’s going to be an exciting season here at Nidulari! More soon!

Oven Rebuild

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I’ve been most remiss in my writing lately, having partway composed a post only to get caught up in another project entirely.

September was Oven Building Month here in the rainforest – in the final moments before Mandy’s departure on what appears to be a somewhat-too-exciting trip to Haiti amid hurricane Matthew. After over 15 years of dodging hurricanes, it appears that she’s in for quite a blow over the next few days. Though communications will certainly be down, she should be ok, in the safety of the concrete school-house.

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The demolition and reconstruction of the wood-fired oven has been quite a process! I dare not contemplate how many hundreds of pounds of brick we carried down the slick, muddy hill after cautiously removing the bricks, one by one, with assiduous use of a sledgehammer. There were certainly some moments of wondering “is this a good idea?” during demolition…

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Reconstructing the oven had a few hair-raising moments too…like when the oven grew several inches longer…

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…but overall, it was a relatively simple process.

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Until the former needed to come out. My elbows still feel like they need some grease, a week after all that pulling, pushing, and hammering at odd angles. It did finally come out, with no damage to the brickwork.

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Next, putting the barrel in. It fit a little differently this time, but if anything it’s more level than it was before, and possibly better insulated around the front.

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The final brickwork up the front was a harrowing race against dusk, on Mandy’s last day here. Plastering, fortunately, is my forté…and can be a gradual process.

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A little longer to fully cure, and wood-fired breads will be back on the menu!

A future

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Nidulari is a fun place to be these days! I’ve never been happier, holed up in my shiny new kitchen, playing with all kinds of recipes–both new and old–at all hours of day and night. Did I mention night? Fluorescent lighting is amazing, after years of living in the dark. There’s been a lot of rain this week, and though challenging in the outside department, it’s been a fabulous excuse cook up a storm, figure out new menu options, and continue shaping the future of Nidulari–my future–and how that reflects upon our community, in serving its hunger both for wholesome food and for gathering places; quiet places, places to escape for a little while. Where better than under an ancient mango tree, to the songs of the birds?

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In a society where people try to bandaid the world’s problems with feel-good memes, “prayers” and “inspirational quotes”, the myriad greens of the leaves, greys of the tree trunks, and browns and blacks of the soil; so rich, so full of life; are more important than ever. They are a grounding. They are aspects of a whole, melding together, one eventually becoming the other. There is no judgement. The leaf does not judge the soil, nor the soil the leaf. It is a welcoming place. The trees welcome the rain, then the sun. They do not complain, though sometimes they do drop mangoes on our heads. I’ll not read any deeper into that, for who am I to question the motives of a centuries-old mango tree?

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With all that Zen comes such tasty food. Tomorrow is our first Monday of Indian take-out, available 5-7pm. Head over to our “Food” page for the menu – it will be delicious! Wednesday continues to be bread day, rain or shine, with Thursday delivery to Christiansted. Saturday lunches are taking off! We did not wash away in the rain yesterday, despite the apparent wrath of the storm gods-perhaps next time I must sacrifice sheep, rather than falafel? Who’s to suggest that the gods would be vegetarian, after all.

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With that, my dear people, I leave you for the week. The rain is clearing and I’m told that the beach is lonely, for want of a dog (and maybe a person).

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