29 December 2009

Rice Project


Flooded water channel - Rice on both sides





Banana trees on banks of water channels                                     Flooded rice paddies





                                    






Water pump - view from river                                                         Maputo River



I often mention that I'm very pre-occupied with other activities, and don't always get the time to devote to the bakery, so I thought I'd show what some of the other things we do here are!

The pictures above are all from our rice project, located about 2km away from the main centre of the farm. This year we have 15 hectares (37 Acres) planted, and so far its looking pretty healthy. We have to pump water to flood the rice paddies from the Maputo river that forms the eastern border of our property. Fortunately it is a large river, but it is tidal so can only be pumped from at high tide times. These always seem to have a habit of being around 4/5am which means an early start for us, getting the equipment ready and down to begin pumping.
Recently we haven't had much rain so are having to pump more often than usual, not a train smash but it does hurt our bottom line. Once the rice is harvested in about 3 months time we sell it off a a discounted price to feed our surrounding community, and unfortuantely we usually take a financial loss each year. Making the project self sustainable is our goal but as an NGO we are committed to improving the lives of those in the surrounding areas. This includes employing more workers than is strictly necessary (providing extra employment) which drives up our costs.

26 December 2009

xmas


 
A Truck full of toys 


Some Happy Kids - Mozambique's future tennis stars?


"Me next please Santa!"


Christmas meal for the local prisoners

A merry Xmas to all readers of this blog! I hope you got everything you wished for. My xmas was busy but rewarding. I was sad not to be at home with members of my family but was well rewarded with a day helping others and putting smiles on a few faces in our surrounding community.

Work started earlier than usual as we cooked a meal for 30 prisoners in the local jail. Here in Mozambique the state does not feed its prisoners so if you don't have family or friends to bring you food you have to go without. I made sure we had some extra breads baked so each person could get one bread and a bowl of chicken curry with rice - which was very well received.

Following the community Christmas party last week we still had toys which were yet to find a home. There seemed only one option for it, to play santa and drive around giving the toys out to kids we drove past. This went down well and as you can see from the above photos we made a few kids smile which was a nice way to round off the day.

24 December 2009

Mango update



I just happened to be putting some photos on facebook when I saw one of my 'friends' had uploaded a picture of none other than... Mango! he's looking adorable as ever, but where have they got him? in a cage!? I'm going to phone them now and make sure he's being well looked after, otherwise i'll have to rescue him when I go through there on saturday!

Is it almost xmas?



Coming as I do from a cold and wet island in the northern hemisphere, I'm finding it pretty difficult to relate the weather here right now to Christmas... Its mid-day and easily about 38/40 degrees C (about 100 / 105 fahrenheit) the temperature alone isn't the killer but the humidity, I've given up on wearing a t-shirt today as it was soaking wet by 9am... surely its going to be too warm for Santa to visit tonight in his big red fur suit? Lets see... fortunately my folks very kindly posted up some goodies for me the other week, so I have some good reading to get stuck into and nice colombian coffee beans!

Yesterday I went for a quick blast around on the quad bike to sell some breads, as one does when you're a quad-baker. Sales didn't go too great but on the way home I saw a car stranded on the side of the road. Pulling over to see if they needed help I saw their brand new off road trailer had lost an axle, poor luck... anyway with 6 young children between 2 families I took them back with me and we helped them get the trailer off the road and it's now stored here. The funny thing was seeing the young children, I took them into our TV room to watch some TV and they immediately saw all of the left over toys from the xmas party, they thought they had died and gone to heaven! needless to say my early morning doze was pierced by the shrill cries of children running around playing, not such a bad thing though, we were happy to help.

22 December 2009

Get on your bike





Having lacked the transport of late to go and make bread deliveries, I have just come into some luck. I've been lent a quad-bike (a 700cc Suzuki King-quad) to be precise. Its nice and powerful and even subtly camouflaged, handy should I come across any bread bandits... Not sure there's too many of them around, but you never know!

This afternoon will be the test run, I'll take 20 breads with me on my lap to the local 'shop' and see if I can make any sales. Wish me luck!

21 December 2009

P A R T Y



Party time!



"This beats bingo at the old age home anyday!"





"I'll keep a safe distance, thank you!"

So the community Xmas party went off with a bang, not literally you'll be glad to know! I spent most of the morning trying to make sure a large rock stayed in place over the connection of a power cable, otherwise the music cut off!
Presents were given out, pandemonium ensued, smiles alround, visits from old friends, tearful farewells, we had it all! Too much in fact as I managed to salvage a collection of remote controlled cars that didn't find a home. Some we'll give out on xmas day the others I'm going to try and fix up to race around the office when I'm bored!

18 December 2009

killing time...




Don't worry, there isn't a crazed killer on the loose, its just another hot day in the bush and there's an Cow to be killed for the community Christmas party. (that's not me in the above photo by the way!)


The community xmas party is tomorrow and mad preparations are under way. We received extra re-enforcements of 6 people to help us with the preparations, but now 5 of them are down sick for the last 2 days with a stomach bug! agghh! will we be ready in time!? watch this space...

16 December 2009

new day dawning



The birds are chirping, the sun is out, temperature in the low 30's (celcius), slight breeze blowing, who could ask for more?

Everywhere is looking very lush and green which, whilst improving the beauty of my surroundings here, also necessitates, lots of grass cutting, weed eating and pruning back of trees. Having lost the garden shears I have spent most of the morning so far trimming back a grape vine with scissors and hacking off dead banana tree leaves with a machete. Bonus of the week though was the chance to learn how to drive a tractor complete with grass cutting attachment on the back, basicly the worlds biggest lawnmower. I didn't get a chance for any photos with my camera but someone else did and when we find the right USB cable I'll try and upload them.

Sales are still pretty slim for the bakery and I have continued to wind down production in order that my stock of flour and yeast etc. will make it through to the other side of the christmas break.

Talking of which, due to staff shortages I've had to cancel my holiday home to Cape Town, South Africa to see the family, in order to stay here and keep an eye on things. At the moment it looks like there might be 2 or 3 of us here for the period so definitlely a quiet one this year. All is not lost though as I hope to go through to the beach for the day, see Mango as well as my other colleagues working out there.

14 December 2009

Sad Sales

It is with great regret that I have to let you know Mango is no longer with us. Having 6 real people to look after as well as 80 staff, 15 goats, 11 horses, 105 cows, 7 dogs and 1 cat I just couldn't provide Mango with the full time love and attention he deserves. Don't worry though I have found him a wonderful foster family at the beach about 30km from here where he is being well looked after and can spend every day with this glorious view!





Hopefully his new parents will allow me visitations when I get through to the beach camp...

The title of the post is sad sales as in a run of bad events thats how the sales figures are looking for this month. In order for me to really get the bakery profitable (rather than just covering costs) I've found that I have to get out there with a bag of breads on my back - or in the car - and sell the breads myself. As I have been distracted with various other happenings that required my attention I have had to step back and wind down production somewhat. All of which disappoints me greatly :(

During December the local population here increases, as a lot of people who have jobs working in neighbouring South Africa in mining or construction come home for the holidays complete with their festive pay packets. It could be a great time to get production up again and make some profit to drive us into the new year and complete all building works and look for expansion. Lets wait and see but I will remain as positive as ever! :)

11 December 2009

Mango pics

Poor Mango's caregiver left yesterday so I've tried to step in and help as best I can. As I write this he is hugging my hand for warmth, bobbing up and down with every key stoke! If he looks a bit damp, that's because he's just had a bath!
 



10 December 2009

Horse play

So we really are minimum people here right now, the one guy who was meant to take over looking after the horses just left abruptly this morning, and the current horse whisperer - who is going on holiday tomorrow - just fell off a horse and dislocated his shoulder. ouch! not for his arm...what am I going to do with these horses!?

I got a good question the other day about how and what we drink out here. Water is of course the major beverage of choice but although we have a borehole, pump and tank here, the water from the ground is not drinkable (you can drink it but it tastes foul). As a result we have to drive in drinking water in 20L plastic bottles every day. as seen in the pic below:




Of course my favourite drink is coffee, which has to be made with the fresh drinking water and despite living in the middle of no where we have between 4 people, 2 kettles, 2 bean grinders, 3 french presses and 1 espresso machine!


9 December 2009

killer kitchen

Today seems to have been full of various wild and not so wild-life.

Why am I writing about these things? because the bakers are yet to appear for work! oh well looks like they will be having a late night tonight!

This morning was spent mostly in the pantry of our kitchen stalking a snake (a boomslang or tree snake) that was hissing at everyone any time they tried to get out some plates or pots and pans. After about 2 hours a plan was made and my boss built a small catapult/slingshot - I thought it'd never work - which he proceeded to use to fire a pellet at the snakes head, stunning it so we could catch and remove it. Must be some kind of boy scout trick... but hats off to him he got it right eventually.

I know not all my readers like the snake info so I've shrunk the pictures nice and small....look away now!












Managed to at least get some better pics this time as I was holding the camera!

Mango the monkey is still doing ok, I just gave him a bath and a bottle of milk so he's happily fast asleep. I'll check if he's feeling more photogenic later and try and get some more pictures of him.

8 December 2009

About

I am a serial procrastinator and seem to have been putting off the writing of a description on here for ages. So here are a few basics:

  • My name is Andrew - although I get called Andy a lot and don't mind either one.
  • I'm 26 years old - feeling pretty young at the moment, with the average age of my colleagues about 38, at least my mom listened to cool 80's music when I was growing up so I can fit right in!
  • Currently living in southern Mozambique -which is where the Mozbak bakery is located.
I always wanted to be interviewed one day... So now that I'm writing a blog I can interview myself and in doing so answer a few of the question's I get asked most frequently (FAQ's).

Are you a baker by trade?
Definitely not, although I've learnt a thing or two and did once have a job delivering pizzas - is that a qualification? probably not... I don't even do most of the baking as I wanted to provide employment to the local community here, and currently have 2 bakers working full time

Why a bakery?
I was always keen to start my own business and the opportunity was made available to me here to do something. Bread was popular and our previous supplier was unreliable. A business plan was hatched and 18 months later we're up and running.

Are you originally from Mozambique?
No, I was born in Cape Town, South Africa but moved to the UK when I was 3, lived there for 16 years, then back to Cape Town in late 2002 and on to Mozambique for the first time in December 2005.

Where does the name MozBak come from?
Mozambique Bakery - It was a name for the project when I was communicating with my chief financial adviser... go Dad!

Do you just look after the bakery all day?
Unfortunately it actually gets too little of my time. I live on a farm and help look after various projects, generally getting involved in everyday issues, be they maintenance, kitchen, stock purchasing, labour, finances etc etc.

What's the weather like?
Is that a real question?!
but since you ask... its mostly very hot, with winters being warm and dry, summers bloody hot and wet!

any more questions feel free to comment!

rusks...



Another day and I decided to try my hand at another batch of rusks, same recipe as last time, except this time no muesli. Just as well as Muesli is the most expensive ingredient anyway!

This time round I actually had the patience to leave the rusks to dry out properly for the full 12 hours and have been rewarded with the most delicious batch yet!

6 December 2009

a lick of paint



Amazing sometimes what a lick of paint can do, you probably haven't noticed from the photo above but the once ugly cement grey oven on the left hand side now has a beautiful coat of white paint. OK so I'm exaggerating just a bit, but it does look better, from the front at least. In fact I'm convinced its worth biting the bullet and splashing out (excuse the pun) on more paint to finish the rear wall as well.

Sales have been slowing up of late as I've been too busy to be on top of things pushing it, I do now have an extra sales person. She works at another of the local community projects and is also the 'bread for wood' coordinator. Which is handy as any unsold breads are split in groups of 5 and one load of wood for each 5 breads. That is after I have taken out for the soup kitchen and local prisoners. So... less sales but I'm still managing to donate breads, just not generating as much income.

Poor Alfonso is working on his own for the second time this week as Alberto has severe tooth ache. He's going to the dentist tomorrow so lets hope he's back on form as soon as possible!

1 December 2009

promised pictures

 

Just a few pictures to show you more or less how the new oven looks with encapsulating walls. To see how it looked before, the photo below is from about 3 weeks ago:




Also posted a pic of a Puff adder I just caught about 10 mins ago, not too large so could be a young female? who knows, beautiful colouring on it though except the photographer was scared and wouldn't come close enough for a decent photo!





30 November 2009

oven building finished!




Just when I thought the day would never arrive, the oven has its insulating outer wall and now a proper roof that doesn't actually look like a shack. Actually... it might still look like a shack to some of you but around here its a proper solid roof! I'll try and get some pics of it up tomorrow.

More good news arrived in the form of the local electricity authority to install my now long delayed meter box. I keep thinking I need to buy credit to top it up (it works on a pay as you go system) but as I only have 2 lights in the whole place and no appliances my electrical usage is incredibly low. I guess that makes up for the fact that I burn wood all day in the oven - not the most environmentally friendly operation some of you might think!

I have posted a pic of the new adopted monkey on my shoulder. He still doesn't have a name although "Mango" has been suggested but doesn't seem to have caught on. For now he's just known as "Monkey!"

25 November 2009

Roof Views


















I've been up painting on the roof recently, what a view! If you look carefully on the photo (above left) you can see the bakery in the back ground behind the horse paddocks, and the bungalow I stay in is behind the trees to the left.

J9YZAMGXACJG

24 November 2009

Strangers in the night



There I was on Sunday night, just climbed into bed with a book when this strange sound came around our bungalow.

Chug chug chug bang! chug chug chug bang!

Now I know our vehicles have their problems but this wasn't the sound of one of them, Oh great! I thought, I'll have to get up and see who it is. But then I decided against it, the noise stopped, my phone didn't ring so I presumed all was well.

Upon waking up in the morning my house mate said "there's a surprise for you by the office", "yay, did you find me a wife?" I asked. "No" was the unfortunate answer but from my vantage point of our front step I could see someone moving in the bushes. A bit odd, then I realised they were relieving themselves! Having now to investigate I found the source of the strange noises the previous night.

Is it a bird? is it a plane? no, its a Volkswagen combi with a caravan on the back and two antennae s with lights on top, painted as a purple snail! could things get any more strange? Turns out they were friends and family of some people we know and needed a place to stay for the night. The more the merrier :)

22 November 2009

Medical Aid



The small number of us on the farm right now has seen me take over the duties of "medicine boy", doling out paracetamols and antibiotics after meals etc. as well as a plaster here and there. This afternoon had me tending to a black eye and split cheek of someone who came out on the losing side of a small 'disagreement'. A little more serious than the usual headaches and thorn scratches but not as bad as last weeks almost severed arm - lesson there being don't play with meat clevers!

Even the animals have been going through the wars, we've had one dog almost strangled in a snare (it was so close to dying it burst blood vessels in its eye!). One baby cow abandoned by its mother and nursed by the girls (unfortunately didn't make it through the night). Two goats dead from snake bites and this evening someone brought in a baby monkey to be looked after. Baby monkeys will drink formula baby milk powder so last I heard the guys were looking for a baby's bottle they can use for feeding. Of course the monkey is very cute now but give it a few months and it will be stealing everything in our room, this isn't the first one to be looked after here so I can speak from experience!

20 November 2009

Things to do...



...When its been raining for the last 4 days solid... well make a swimming pool out of a puddle of course, complete with a little ladder to dive off.
Yes we are suffering from a touch of cabin fever!
The rain is however great for the rice we planted two weeks ago. Not having to use the diesel pump to pump water has saved us big bucks in diesel expenses.

Fortunately for the Bakery the work on the oven now has the temporary roof covering and insulation so we're not losing too much heat in the oven. I even made some rusks  (see recipe here) yesterday which turned out great and didn't actually look like burnt muffins this time, that's because A) they didn't get burnt... and B) I found a small baking tray on which to cook them.
Not a great week for sales so far though as we're down to one car again and its not always available for me to borrow and transport breads to Bela Vista for Alfonso's wife to sell. Anyone have a spare bakkie/truck lying around they don't need!?

18 November 2009

A Better Place


Don't we all wish we lived in a better place?! well the aptly named betterplace.org website aims to match up worthy causes with sponsors. Of course I think the bakery is a worthy cause so if you're interested please check out: MozBak @ Betterplace.org

16 November 2009

Night life...


Unfortunately the night life here in this neck of the bush isn't quite up to the standards of a London, New York, or Cape Town so we have to make our own plan. Usually consisting of coffee drinking, chatting and/or watching movies. Not the greatest I know but I do have a thing for movies so can be quite easily entertained if a good one is on the box. Saturday saw one of my favourite moves on TV, a bit late for this place, only starting at 10:30pm. With my luck being what it has been of late I only got to see 45mins before duty called and I had to take a friend to hospital for some emergency stitches. I say hospital but it is actually much more like a clinic. 3 hours later after the use of one very blunt needle and a bit of screaming all was finished but I only ended up getting 3 hours of sleep... Bring on December 22nd and my first full day off in 6 months!

Have posted a couple of pictures of our puppies, which are unfortunately being given new homes this week...

13 November 2009

wet and wild...


Last night saw us getting 40mm of rain during the night, the most we've had so far this summer. I can now say summer as it is bloody hot! You know its hot when you wake up perspiring. One of course wouldn't be perspiring if the fan stayed on all night but the thunder storm caused our electrical transformer to malfunction and cut the power. No power also equals no water as the pump cannot pump from the borehole. So my day started hot, sweaty, no power and no water.


During the rains one of my female (why is it always the girls?) colleagues encountered a baby puff adder (poisonous snake) blocking the path to her house. Fortunately I didn't have to catch it but I did come along with the camera."This is something for the blog!" I called as I raced to the scene behind the tails of our resident snake expert. It was indeed only a baby but apparently they are more deadly as have yet to learn how to properly control the release of their venom when they bite something/someone... not sure if that's just an old wives tale though... Still its a beautiful creature.

12 November 2009

oven update


Just a quick pic to show you how things are progressing on the oven. Its been likened to entombing the structure. heat loss prevention looking good so far. Hope to have more details later today...

9 November 2009

glorious monday's

The beginning of another enthralling week here in the bush. We've punched through the 10 thousand sales mark (10944 and counting) and still waiting for the electricity box to be installed. With regards to the electricity meter, I thought we might actually be getting somewhere when a van from the local electricity authority arrived, complete with six uniformed workers, wires, new boxes, a tall ladder etc. Anyway they took a good look then said they'd be back 'later'. This is Mozambique so I don't have my hopes too high but its now 4 days later and no sign of them... Perhaps a polite phone call would do the trick... If only I spoke Portuguese...

Luck doesn't seem to be on my side of late, as I had two flat tyres on the same vehicle on Friday. The first time the wheel with the flat tyre wouldn't come off the car, some fancy 'security' feature I thought. So we tried everything, handbrake off, ignition on, ignition off, twist this way, twist the other way. Still no luck.... eventually with my pride in my pocket I phoned my friend, the cars owner, and asked if there was any 'special way' to remove the tyre. "Climb under the car - which is jacked up - and kick the tyre off from the inside" wasn't the answer I was expecting, dangerous is the word that springs to mind. Luckily I had the bakers helping me although they insisted on telling me "see! it does have anti-theft"...

6 November 2009

milestones

A good feeling today, we have passed the 10,000 breads sale mark! Woohoo! Currently sitting on sales of 10,364. Well actually someone just came in wanting another 4 but I have to find change somewhere....

The oven outer walls are progressing. Ready now for the concrete support ring beam then we can carry on taking the walls upwards.


Photos to the left show the master builder Rungu and his apprentice Jaime

4 November 2009

'Shocking' update

Those that follow my updates will have heard the previous news about the installation of an electricity meter box. Simple enough, pay your money (quite a lot) and they come and install it. So I happened to be discussing it with the bakers and they told me they only paid 1600 Mt to have a box installed at their houses, they are charging me 5915 Mt!. "Must be because you're white" they said, this wouldn't surprise me but I did have a bit more faith in people. Off to the electricity department i went this morning to collect my papers for the box and of course the question came to mind;

Andy -"how come I'm being charged more than 3 times what everyone else is?"
Electricity Guy (E.G.) - "you're box is more than 40 metres from the transformer"
Andy - "so I need to pay for the extra wire?"
EG - "Yes"
Andy - "But I already have the wire installed, the electricity works fine now, I just need the box"
EG - "but where did you get the wire from?"
Andy - " you guys sold it to me 8 months ago"
EG - "ah but we have no record, it must have been an illegal sale, so we must charge you for it..."

I left it at that, no point fighting a lost cause, but its pretty upsetting when you're trying to do something for the community and people just take advantage...


Just to show all is not depressing out here in the bush, I have posted a picture of one of the new horses that we are stabling on the farm, a young foal called Abby. I'm not much of a horsey person but she does look cute.

3 November 2009

Good Intentions

This was the week that I was to make good on a lot of the maintenance work I still had outstanding, and just generally commit more time to the Bakery. So far things are going well. The electricity meter box is being sorted out as we speak, although I mean paid for, who knows when they'll actually get around to installing it!

The photo's show (from top to bottom): tiling in the kitchen, the outer oven wall going up - and the dodgy temporary roof! and the last one is my 'construction work force' taking yet another break. No one can quite work out how many breaks they are supposed to have, but every time I see them it appears they're not working. Something not right there, but I don't think this a problem unique to Mozambique!

Tomorrow I'm looking to surpass the 10,000 bread sales mark. Will be quite an achievement. Perhaps we should have a little party or something!?