Last week we took a road trip along with our builder, Aurelio, in search of tiles and bricks for our Nicaraguan kitchen and oven. Although they can be bought locally at the builders merchants we wanted to go directly to the manufacturers which we knew to be on the road to Leon.
The day proved to be both interesting and productive. It took us a couple of hours to reach the area where there are many makers of clay construction materials and we took our time choosing the one where the quality was good and fine.
A clay tiled roof is built at a steeper angle than a zinc roof, to get the rain water off more quickly, but clay tiles can still be inclined to let the water through, especially if the quality isn’t very fine. We learned this to our cost with the workshop roof.
We were able to have a good look around the businesses and watch tiles and bricks being made. The one above is where we bought the majority of our needs – here we watched a big burly bloke making the roof tiles, by hand would you believe, at a rate of 1300 per day. He was ably aided by a man with one eye and a very happy and obliging little chap (both of whom you can see below, busy at work.)
They put the tiles out in the sun to dry before they are then transferred to the kiln to bake. I never knew before that the clay starts off as good as black and turns the familiar terracotta colour once baked, did you?
After buying the tiles and bricks and negotiating transport we drove half a mile up the road to buy 10 gallons of molasses. We found this on the roadside being sold from 40 gallon drums by a man with one leg. First you buy the buckets and then he somehow balances himself and tips the sugary goo out without spilling a drop, or getting down the side of anything.
Next stop was something to eat since we had all worked up an appetite. On our way home we had to go through a very pleasant town and on the side of the road a lady was selling enchiladas, they were more Nicaraguan than Mexican, but nevertheless excellent at filling the gap.
By the time we rolled back into Santa Clara the lorry carrying our roof tiles, bricks and bags of clay was also arriving and the builders were clearly excited to get going on the next stage of the project.
Now, you might be wondering, like I did, what would we be doing with 10 gallons of molasses?
Not long after us getting back home a rough wooden trough had been knocked together and the gofer, Ramon, was set to trampling the dry clay with water to soften it and then they tipped in the molasses, which was also trampled underfoot. The whole back garden smelled like an old fashioned sweet shop and the dogs were sorely tempted to eat it, but this gooey mess was destined for the oven – not for eating but to make the clay bricks stick together and then to cover the whole dome with a layer.
After that it was all trussed up like a turkey, in foil – this to prevent the rains soaking into the oven, after which it was covered in a layer of concrete.
Our oven design has been a challenge for the builders since an Nicaraguan bread oven doesn’t have a chimney, but we wanted to have one, following the more European idea of a pizza oven and the chimney encouraging a flow of air around it.
The great big hole I mentioned to you once before, that had been dug as water storage is all finished and sealed over with brick coping stones around the bucket entrance and today when it started to rain we all stood and listened as it fell to the bottom, big smiles on our faces. Bit by bit our Nicaraguan kitchen is taking shape.