31 October 2009

Expansion




I've been talking a bit of late about the increase in sales, but it warrants an explanation.

Alfonso, the chief baker has started to find me customers in the local town, starting with 5 here, 10 there etc. Then he came to me and said there's a fair sized demand for bread in the area he lives. "Cool" I said, take 20 breads home, sell them and bring me the cash tomorrow. Which he duly did - he's good like that. Then we went up to 50 breads a day and yesterday was 100! Now he doesn't sell these alone but has his wife in charge of it, and of course I can't let her do this out of the goodness of her heart, she must be paid.

As with all things involving money here, a sit down meeting was called, which also warrants the services of a translator. Luckily I have my friend and colleague Pedro who not only speaks Portuguese as a first language but also knows a thing or two about local labour etiquette so looked after my side of negotiations. I am of course exaggerating, and wasn't fighting for cheapest labour but needed a gauge on the going market rate. With that sorted I now have a third employee, albeit a casual and not on the books, but a daily rate.

Dropping off Alfonso one night with the consignment of breads I noticed he was carrying something else. In the car headlights I saw it said "Vende se Pao" ("Bread for Sale"). He had made his own sign with some left over paint and a piece of roof sheet off-cut I had at the bakery. Who said Africa can't do entrepreneurship! I'm really happy he has done this under his own steam, so much so that I went to Bela Vista - where he lives - to see where he had put the sign up. That's obviously what the photo above is of, although please note it isn't me standing there but my friend Mike.

30 October 2009

Rain on me

Summer is here and the rains have arrived, great for our rice paddies but not so cool for everyday life on the farm. My flip flops (sandals) have worn down to racing slicks so walking on any flat surface has me doing an Olympic ice skating impersonation.

The rain has also been creating problems with our oven. If it gets wet, which it was, then it takes longer to come up to temperature and the clay outer insulation has shown an increase in cracking. Something had to be done so off we went into the bush to get some 'straight' poles to create a temporary roof. As you can see from the photo on the right they weren't exactly straight but hey if it works it works. Our motto here has long been "make a plan!" and thats what we try and do as materials aren't always readily available, if at all. 

The roof is now up and it actually works, now I just have to worry about a strong gust of wind blowing the whole thing away! If anything though I now have more determination to get the side insulating walls completed.

28 October 2009

Rocky outcrop...



There I was innocently minding my own business, logged in to blogger about to post an entry on the roof we built over the bakery oven today when in comes one of the girls screaming. "Ugh Agh! there's a huge lizard in my bedroom!" there goes my peaceful lunch break. It was only quite a small (30cm) rock monitor in the end, I say small as they can grow up to 90cm.

I ended up just removing it from the girls sight, letting it go a few metres behind their house. Out of sight, out of mind, just as well as the lizard just hissed and ran back into the woodwork of their walls. Don't tell anyone!

27 October 2009

blogs, bugs and mosquitoes


Mozambique is apparently the only country in the world to have an AK-47 on its national flag. A symbol of the civil and colonial wars that devastated the country but brought independence. The other symbol, crossed with the AK-47 is the humble 'Hoe' a sign of the people, work and agriculture. Quite an encompassing flag when you consider most nations' don't have any symbols on theirs, but there is something missing. The national emblem of Mozambique is nothing without the country's mascot - the mosquito. Never is a relaxing night to be had when there is always the sound of formula one engines being tested (buzzing...). Last night was especially bad, we've had some rains the last few days allowing the mosquitoes to breed and now you can only get about 3 hours sleep before waking to find yourself already scratching all over from bites.


The rains also bring with them all manner of other strange creatures, such as the one pictured to the right. Looks like a pretty big beetle but its not even the largest they get, its just one I happened to photograph the night before last (yes, I know my foot is dirty, I live on a farm!).

This week has also seen the arrival of five new horses so the boys are very busy maintaining everything and I'm busy trying to work out how much its all costing us and who's going to pay, an expensive business.

Who hasn't been arriving, on time, are the bakers which is getting a bit annoying, they cite transport problems and I have some sympathy but its throwing quite a spanner in the works.

25 October 2009

A good week

The end of another week. Quite an interesting one it was too. For starters yesterday we sent our car (yes, the Nissan again) on a re-supply trip to the beach camp. It was due back yesterday afternoon but is still stuck there after a "clutch pipe" broke. Not being so mechanically minded, despite liking cars, I have decided the only course of action I can take to avoid this in future is to get rid of the Nissan down at the nearby quarry and hope it never comes back... A bit extreme perhaps but this car really has been giving us problems of late!
To add to my mechanical know how we have just received a MAN truck engine from South Africa this evening to be re-fitted to our broken down truck (another story). That may sound well and good until you realise the engine alone weighs around 1.5 tons and we have no mechanics here, let alone cranes to lift the engine off the bakkie. One theory involves setting up a winch system with poles and then towing the engine off the car with a land cruiser, I don't actually want to think about it right now!

All is not lost though, to the left is another of my little graphs and it illustrates what a jump we've seen in sales this week. Due mainly to some active marketing and beginning to sell more breads in the local town as word is spreading.

23 October 2009

'Shocking' News

Excuse the pun but I did get a bit of a shock this morning, the local electricity department wants me to install a meter box for the Bakery. Now its not like I'm getting free electricity at the moment, currently I'm just getting from another meter box (on our farm) about 100 metres away. Despite this the local department reckon I need my own separate box at a price of 5,500 MT (200 USD / 1500 Rand). Money that I don't just keep lying around...
To be honest we did just receive an anonymous donation (thanks Dudley!) to complete the building works, but now it looks like I will have to use most of this to pay off the bill for the new meter box. I did have ideas of trying to stall them and stretch out the process but I think I better just get it over and done with. Mozambique, for such a poor country, has a lot of red tape to get anything done!

22 October 2009

Musks...

Musk - No, not the smell of someone who hasn't showered for 3 days, but one of the nicknames we came up with for the rusks I baked yesterday. The name of course comes from the cross between muffins and rusks which is how they taste. The other suggestion of "Ruffins" is actually the better sounding name...
My patience didn't quite hold to wait the full 12 hours between indulging myself so they were still a little soft in the middle and tasted somewhat like a cookie. Still very tasty though, although 2 (of the 4) batches were burnt on the bottom by someone leaving them in the oven too long... not me please note!

21 October 2009

Muesli Rusks


Despite the ever increasing (although at a slow rate) bread sales, today out of boredom and  a little hunger I decided to branch out and try my hands at baking some rusks.
Once again we don't have 'loaf' baking ins so have made a plan with cookie baking tins. First the rusks must be baked till they rise and become brown then they must dry for 12 hours at a low temperature before they are ready. Of course with the 'rusks' being baked in cookie tins and looking like tasty muffins I couldn't resist trying one out before it has dried. Delicious! Now all I need is some patience and tomorrow morning we should have rusks to dip in our coffee!
Here is The recipe and instructions I used:


Ingredients:
350g bought muesli
2 Eggs
350g butter/margarine
300g sugar
375ml buttermilk
750g self-raising flower
20g baking powder
3ml salt

Instructions:
Heat the butter/margarine and sugar until the shortening has melted. Remove from the stove. Beat together the buttermilk and eggs and stir the buttermilk mixture into the sugar mix.
Sift together the self-raising flour, the baking powder and salt. Add the muesli and mix. Add this to the sugar mixture and combine well.
Spoon the dough into four greased loaf tins, each with a volume of 1,5 litres. Bake the Rusk loaves for about 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius and then for about 40 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius until golden brown and done. Leave the loaves to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Cut each loaf into Rusk-sized portions. Dry out overnight in a cool oven with the oven door slightly ajar.



20 October 2009

where can I start?

I've been quite active of late on a number of on-line blog related forums, mostly to try and get some feedback on how this blog is looking. One of the most common comments I get is to put up some more background information on myself, and the project, how it got started, how did I get involved etc.
Despite writing a blog about my adventures I'm actually not a big one for writing too much about myself. The newsletter article I wrote for our community's newsletter is about as close as I've come and that was only because I was told to!
I also am yet to figure out on blogger (the host of this blog) how to permanently link to an article so any new readers can always see the introductory information. I hope as soon as I can get this sorted I'll have something on here to cure the curious minds!

19 October 2009

weekend update


My one colleague Manuel has a young daughter and has been asking me for a while to borrow my camera to take some pics for his extended family. Sure I thought, no worries there, no photos to take this weekend. Then of course we decided to have a pizza night last night and after hours slaving away creating bases and cooking the pizzas I couldn't take any photos for the blog! apologies there! Instead I've dug around on my flash disk and posted a pic of myself standing in the gaping hole where the oven now lies. How little I knew at the time at what lay ahead!
The 'Bread for wood' scheme is still going great with a steady stream of ladies queueing up (not literally) to collect wood in their lunch breaks in exchange for 5 breads. In fact though sales have gone so well this morning that I don't actually have enough breads on hand to pay them now and will have to bake more later.
On the snake front this week I spotted something interesting, well scary actually. A large snake skin is now hanging from the roof of the thatched Gazebo where the previously photographed juvenile boomslang lives. I wonder if this means he now has the bright green and yellow colouring of the adult male, I'll have to investigate...

17 October 2009

Sales team

Last night I opted to drive the bakers home rather than have them take a taxi, along for the ride was also about twelve of our younger members of staff wanting a ride into town.

Wanting to capitalise on the number of locals I had with me I took 10 breads to sell on the way. Two stops later the breads were all sold to some happy customers. One who said she would take 7 breads every day, nice score for us.
One of our employees Emilio (on left of picture with Solomoau on right) definitely has the entrepreneurial touch and has pointed out some prime places and times where I can go and sell bread. One of which is at the local secondary school. A lot of hungry kids there apparently and Emilio is keen to come along and help me sell. Whether this is a completely altruistic act or because he wants to be seen driving up to school in a car I'm not sure yet, but i'm grateful for the help!

14 October 2009

Bread for... Wood

Those who've been reading about my escapades for a while now will know that I 've been suffering from a chronic shortage of wood. Cries to our Colleagues in South Africa to borrow the Chainsaw were met with a blunt "use the handsaw!", Fine I thought, I can do that. But its just too time consuming. I needed to outsource the wood collecting and cutting but in an affordable way. The solution! Bread for wood of course!

As my catchy name aptly describes, this scheme involves trading bread for wood, one 'load' for 5 breads. A load is hard to define size-wise but in this area its well acknowledged to be the most wood one lady can carry on her head and still walk easily (think of all the variables...)

After some heated negotiations I have found some very willing participants in this scheme right next door in my neighbours from the Mamana Mudada Arts and Crafts community project. They are all active customers as it is, I just hope the lure of too many 'free' breads doesn't stop them buying from us completely.

Cast of thousands


Following on from yesterdays revelations as to the current living conditions, I've decided to include a few pictures of the people that make it all happen around here, or not happen as is often the case...


Mad Mike: - often to be found lounging in bed citing one ailment or another. Currently he's down with an 'ear infection', amazingly it got better after this morning's work allocation finished and he had gotten out of doing anything! I thought some time with the horses might be therapeutic but even they look scared...



Dangerous Dave - Proprietor of the "Salon de Thatch Patch" and knows a thing or two about plumbing. I won't write anything libellous about Dave as he trimmed my hair this afternoon and saved me from what was rapidly becoming an 80's Mullet.




Just plain Shane - Don't let the 70's porn star moustache fool you Shane is a vital member of the team, always there when you need him and still there long after you don't. Fortunately Shane found time in his busy schedule today to help clear up for Dave's hairdressing antics.




13 October 2009

My Current Abode



Due to popular demand, well one or two people, I've posted a few more pictures. Today just showing my current living arrangements, the "thatch patch" - still not convinced with name... but I'm getting used to it.
The first picture shows the view looking to the front from outside, one inside shot, and one looking out from my front door.
Try as I might I can't make it look too great as we've got another grey, overcast and humid day today. Good old Mozambican weather.

12 October 2009

Who needs professionals anyway

There's a common myth, admittedly also once believed by me, that if something doesn't work or needs to be installed you need to call the relevant expert. Well this weekend has seen myself and my colleagues putting our hands to all sorts of odd jobs one might usually pay serious bucks for someone else to do for you!

Satellite TV - Now I always thought you had to call someone in to fix up your satellite. The myth being that it has to be at exactly the right angle. It does but this doesn't mean it can't be your friend 20ft up a wobbly ladder with you inside shouting "left, left, left, up...NO! too much" etc. Oh well it worked for us.

Gas water Geysers - need a plumber? just screw in the right pipes to the right inlet / outlets, and if it explodes? well it hasn't happened yet... I'm sure these modern things have safety features, at least they ought to!

Last but not least we took apart an espresso machine this morning to unblock all the various pipes, tubes, heaters, filters. I thought the thing was a write off but its working great now and the coffee is fantastic!

10 October 2009

Another week another move


I can't actually believe it but circumstances have again dictated that I change sleeping arrangements. I have now gone from the main house to one of the little cottages - nicknamed the 'thatch patch' by the girls. Despite having a very effeminate name and walls that can't support the weight of the roof (cracks everywhere, scary stuff!) its actually quite a comfortable arrangement. We managed to connect the water supply so now have a toilet and shower and only 2 people to a room that used to sleep 6, so I guess I should be counting my blessings. The photo I have posted is not the best but today is overcast and grey, so the 'thatch patch' is not looking terribly photogenic.

Yesterday was a successful day in a few regards, we received another 200kg of flour and 10kg yeast from Maputo which means we now can operate with a bit of a surplus. This is as opposed to just getting in supplies at the last minute before or sometimes after we have already run out!
Sales wise, we're sitting on 230 breads today and counting, i'm still really hoping we'll turn a profit this month but its looking good so far.

7 October 2009

off my feet


Despite not bowing to the pressure of selling on credit, today was a bumper sales day. The graph shown above is just a bit of a laugh really as the numbers are so low but hopefully you can see the upward trend currently being experienced this month. If it carries on at this rate there should actually be a healthy profit this month that I can plough back into completing the construction work on the oven.

I actually was scared today that my bakers had abandoned me! No - I'm not paranoid, things didn't end on such a good note between them and me last night. Perhaps I should explain...

As we are situated a few kilometres away from the local town where the bakers live they have to get a shuttle bus / taxi to work everyday for which MozBak pays for. In order to get the bus home in the evening they must finish work by around 6 pm, and in order to do that they must be here at work by 11am. Of course last night they wanted a lift home but as they had arrived at work late (2pm) I put my foot down (on the floor not the accelerator) gave them taxi money and told them I couldn't give them a lift. This they did not like at all. Leaving me with feelings of guilt and wondering if they were ever going to show up again. Checking my conscience I debated if I was being too harsh, this is supposed to be a social enterprise. people focused. No! I realised, things can't always be like they have been. Petrol costs money and money we don't have right now, getting a lift is nice but eventually they are going to have to realise they can't get a lift everyday. Yes its harsh but that's reality. I hate being the bad guy but if this venture is going to work then I need to be bale to make business - read: bottom line - focused decisions.

6 October 2009

credit crises

The recent credit crisis / crunch / downturn / recession / depression - read it how you will - has come and if the press is to be believed, is going away. Too many people borrowed too much and the economy couldn't cope. If you ask me credit is a dangerous thing, but around here unfortunately its a way of life. Every pay day here almost every one of our employee's wages is gone that day paying off debts. In my position I get to sell subsided rice and potatoes to the local community and they just love to buy on credit, ask them if they're paying cash and they shake their heads and make a pen writing on notepad gesture with their hands. "Must write in book please" they say. not realising that they still are going to pay for it, just at the end of the month...
Seeing this month on month I have made an active decision with the bakery not to sell breads on credit. I always have people asking me to, and it feels like I'm turning down sales (which essentially I am) but I have to decline. I just can't see myself as debt collector, going around with a little black book demanding money from people at the end of each month.
So why sell rice / potatoes on credit? you may ask. Well I see these as more staples of their diet and essentials. Around here if people don't have rice then they actually don't have anything to eat. Bread is more of a luxury food item (can you believe it) so is more an addition to people's diet than a basis thereof.

bread bonus

I'm really impressed with the way sales are totting up so far for October. In the first 6 days alone I have sold more bread personally than we did in 26 days last month! (this doesn't include the farm my contracted customer). I can attribute this to the previously posted "Bazza bonus", as well as just getting the word out there that bread is for sale here! I have also tried to ensure that I always have breads on hand to sell, any of the days produce not sold is donated to the afternoon's soup kitchen that's run for children in the community, so is not in my view a huge loss anyway.

After much deliberation, and more than a little internet research I have come to the conclusion that yesterdays snake was in fact a female boomslang and not a vine snake. Apologies to all Herpetologists (I think that's what snake experts are called). A boomslang, male or female, is of course still a deadly snake and one worth avoiding!!

5 October 2009

never anything to write about?



Just as I was pondering through another quiet lunch break wondering if something interesting will happen so I can post about it, along comes a surprise in the kitchen. well a 1.1 metre vine snake to be precise. Normally best left alone (as there's no anti-venom available for this snake) It had to be removed on this occasion as was making a home for itself above our fridge!

Calling for a friend to get my camera whilst i caught the snake, I of course forgot the camera was in manual mode and the photos all came out looking like I was in some sun scorched desert. the only way to get some clarity on the picture with me in was to go black and white and up the contrast. It now looks like some 1920's vintage but I can assure you it was taken this afternoon!

4 October 2009

Sunday Eve


Been a nice quiet weekend, fortunately as I'm still trying to get over this flu. The weather is overcast with a light drizzle, and the grey skies just bring the mood down I feel. That's why I decided to post a picture of one of our monkey's - Mo - how can that cute face not cheer you up? unfortunately though the matriarch of the monkey troop Eva passed away recently, as she was born and raised here on the farm the others have take this opportunity to 'flee the nest' and haven't been spotted around for the past couple of weeks. That is all except for 'Moses' our tail-less (bitten off by an eagle when he was a baby) monkey who enjoys scavenging my freshly baked breads from the kitchen!

3 October 2009

Thanks to all


Wow, so I was wondering if anyone was actually reading my blog, ended up commenting on some forums, and now by magic, I have followers and a lot more hits. A big thank you to everyone who's visited and posted comments.

The last few days have been incredibly busy, both on the farm and at the bakery. A new month has started and I'm out to set myself some greater sales targets, I would really like to employ more people and finish the oven construction but can only do this with the extra income produced from sales. So If you're wandering the wilds of southern Mozambique please do pop by and buy some bread!!

Thursday afternoon saw me playing nurse / ambulance driver in the local community. One of our employees' father had fallen asleep next to the fire and burnt his whole back. I'm not sure what sort of detail i should go into (some people are squeamish i know...) but lets just say that they were serious burns that melted off the skin and the smell was something else... Luckily I could get him to the local clinic where he's now recuperating. Not that the medical care here is much to write home (or blog!) about. We waited for 2 and a half hours just for him to be seen by a doctor! try writing to your local MP / congressman about that one!

This morning I'm still suffering with the flu and a distinct lack of beauty sleep. Trying to brush my teeth at midnight last night I discovered that there was no water. The tank had run empty. Balancing precariously on a home made ladder 3 metres up on the roof in the middle of the night did not help my vertigo but it did show me that the problem was electrical. This was compounded by one of my colleagues getting the (electric) shock of his life this morning whilst investigating the pump wiring. Fortunately it was just a short and easily fixed so you'll be glad to know I did brush my teeth!