Friday, May 9, 2008

Making Stoves Part 2

A few weeks after working at Teri's site, we headed south to our pal Adam's town to build a stove behind an Evangelical church. This project went fast because we had lots of helpers and better luck. The pastor also had a chainsaw, so cutting boards for the form was really easy. The photo above shows the huge pots the church uses for cooking communal meals. We did have to enlarge the form because we made the mistake of building it without making sure the stove would fit the pots. Anyway, it was another good experience, working with new friends and talking about cooking. These stoves, as we've said before, use less wood, concentrate the heat where it needs to be, and help the cooks breathe cleaner air. After this stove cures for 30 days, the church will put on the chimney we made from a rolled up piece of roofing zinc. The top photo shows some of our new pals.

Here's Lisa with one of our best friends, Andrew, who also lives near us and came to work on the stove. Andrew is from California.

This is Adam. He's from Texas. The hat was a good idea because the church we worked at was an hour's walk from his house. And it was hot out!

Here's the church. Inside they just built a stage. Out back there's a rancho with a zinc roof where they do the cooking. Hopefully, the many church members will want to build a mud stove at their homes. And hopefully the Catholic residents of town will stop by to see the model stove at this church.

Here we are taking off the form after we packed in the mix of mud, sand and cow manure. At this point, the stove is ready to carve (fire box and holes for the pots and chimney).

One of the spectators. The hat he's wearing is very common in the countryside, but most men turn up the front brim. This guy looks cooler with his hat his way.

This bird also watched the proceedings. He belongs to one of the half-dozen families that live around the church. He gritars, which means he can howl at you like a Panamanian man when he greets you.

Lisa and Andrew are seen here with a neighbor sifting ingredients of the mix. It's important to have a smooth mix, without rocks, so everything sticks together perfectly. Sifting is a lot of work. But like we said, we had a bunch of helpers (who now know how to build these things) and we were able to finish the job in a day. At snack time, by the way, they brought us a classic Panama treat: ice cold Pepsi from the store and fresh baked dinner rolls. Yum!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Making Stoves

Howdy all. Sorry it's been over a month since our last post. We've been busy! Matt helped make 3 lorena stoves in the month of April (I helped make two of them)! Two of them were in our province and one was in a nearby province (more photos will follow in another post). The first stove we made was way up in the mountains, at Teri's site. Teri is a sustainable agriculture volunteer, and as it turns out she used to work at a school near us in the States. She works with a women's group in her site, so we helped build the stove for one of the women in the group. The family had a beautiful rancho kitchen (see below) with mud walls.

The night before we started the project we went to the woman's house to look at the base (always an important step). It was a table made of clay and wood. Unfortunately it was very high and she was very short. We mentioned that she was going to have to use a stool in order to cook on the stove, but she assured us that was fine. We also asked about the sturdiness of the table, but she told us it was a year old and when we pressed down on it, it seemed pretty sturdy. We were also a bit concerned about the lack of ceiling space in the rancho, which is important because one needs to be able to really pack down the dirt in the stove with a big t-shaped weight.

So we arrived that first morning ready to work, only to realize that our friend Vidal, who we built a stove with previously in nearby Ashley's site, didn't send up the formuleta, the wooden box used to make the frame of the stove. Because I'm a business volunteer and had the least amount of stove experience in our trio of volunteers, I said I'd walk down the mountain 1 hour to Ashley's site to get the boards for the form. I had heard about a short cut, so I asked some people in town about it and these two men, Jesus and Juan, agreed to take me to the crossing where I could find my way.

10 minutes into the walk (Jesus was in front of me, Juan behind me) Jesus jumped what seemed at the time 5 feet into the air. He put his arm back to stop me from walking any further and thank God because when I looked down a coral, aka deadly, snake was passing right next to my open toe Chaco sandals! If I walked 1 mm further the thing would have bitten me! The men then proceeded to kill the snake, which ran off into the bushes. I was a bit shaken up, but we continued walking. They left me at the crossing and I said I would be fine (even though I was lying and really wanted them to walk the rest of the way with me)!

So, 10 minutes later, I walked down this cleared mountain, on a dirt path, admiring the lake in the distance and the mountains surrounding me, and I was happy because it's so much cooler up there than at my site. Then to my right, about 2 yards away, I see the largest black snack I've ever seen in my life. Within seconds of seeing it, it starts slinking its way up the trail toward me! No joke, the thing started chasing me. Not having a lot of experience with poisonous snakes, I decide to do what Jesus and Juan did, which was pick up large stones and chuck them at the snake. So I picked up the first stone I saw and bam! I got the snake and it and the stone fell down the hillside. The only problem was that I too had to go down the hill! I stopped and stared down the hill for a few minutes and then just decided to run as fast as I could down the hill.

About 15 minutes later, completely and utterly freaked out, I picked up a stick and a large stone and decided I would walk the rest of the way with my weapons. I then ran into Ashley's host dad, who was like, "What the heck is this Gringa doing walking down the mountain with this rock and stick?" Yeah, I felt ridiculous, but I didn't care!
Anyway, the stove took a few days, and we had some headaches, but it turned out really cool. And it was great to be up high in coffee country. The top photo shows the Catholic church in Teri's town. The mountains are full of pine trees planted during the first Torrijos administration to stop erosion and whatnot. Now the land is protected by the state.

The completed stove, on day 3! The homeowners watch as Teri and Vidal finish coating the exterior of the stove with some wet clay.

Matt at the end of day 2! Dirty and exhausted but still smiling! It was hard not to smile because the landscape is so beautiful.

Lisa pounding down the dirt in between the rocks for base number 2! Teri, Matt, Lisa and the homeowner worked very hard to find the perfect rocks to make the base. We built the base all morning during day 2, only to realize that the formuleta (wooden box, which rests on top of the base to make the stove) was too big for the new base, so we spent the afternoon searching for and cutting new wood to make a new formuleta!

Teri's rancho. She has a gorgeous view from her house. Everyone in the country cooks outside in a rancho.

Teri and Lisa at the start of day 1! Notice it was cool enough to wear a sweatshirt first thing in the morning. What a nice change of pace after so much heat down in the lowlands. We look forward to more work in the mountains!