baking for a living

cloaking the oven beauty in weather-resistant lime

cloaking the oven beauty in weather-resistant lime

What do you do when your credit card decides that you are not worthy of its services any more?

Well, in my case I started baking! At first it was a matter of convenience and a bit of an emergency. My credit card stopped working in Costa Rica, the most expensive country in Central America, and I was already late for my volunteering position with the Return to the Forest Natural Building School in Guatemala. You never know how long it might take to receive a package in Central America, or even how many times you might have to try before you actually receive anything, and I didn’t want to be stuck in money-guzzling Costa Rica, so I quickly made my way to a safe haven of friends in Nicaragua, and from there started cooking to raise the funds to make it to Guatemala without getting stuck in Nicaragua either.

And so I made it to Guatemala, with Q15 to spare (about $2), but I had to find a way to make some kind of income without becoming a burden on anybody else, and since I had already built a cob floor and bench in Costa Rica and was here to do natural building anyway, I decided to build myself a cob oven to bake in.

So, about four weeks later and after a lot of hard work moving rocks for the base and lugging sand and clay from the riverbed and mixing it all up to build the oven itself, there it was! A beautiful, fresh and shiny clay oven. Now it was just a matter of letting it dry enough to be able to empty out the dome and start helping it dry with candles and small fires, which all happened within three days (it is usually recommended to wait much more than that…). 🙂

And with the oven dry or on its way to becoming so, I started baking banana bread and cinnamon rolls that I’ve been selling in the hostels around town, and I’ve even been using the low heat after baking to cure soap overnight! [You can get more information on soap making here]

It was a hard lesson to learn, though, because although the oven only cost me Q30 for the bricks that make up the floor, I still didn’t have any money for the ingredients that I needed for the baked goods themselves or for some food and drinks to provide for the different volunteers that showed up to help. I managed to borrow some money from the banks in the end with my old card and then the new one arrived within three weeks, but I still found it very hard in the meantime and learnt how difficult it can be to escape poverty, when you don’t even have the means to invest in something that you believe might bring you profit, and also how when you’re strapped for cash and you start something at a small scale, such as my little oven, it is difficult to grow from there, and I later found that I couldn’t really make big enough batches of goods to make it worth my time, and I’m therefore baking much less now.

But still, I keep on learning and enjoy having these opportunities to do so, despite getting stressed at times in the process! 🙂

Here are some photos for you to enjoy about how the oven went up.

the building crew

my best two helpers, Aidan and Nate, who had the patience to help build two different bases and were then lucky to be there to actually build the oven up. Thanks guys!

show of hands

a show of muddy hands

going for the second layer

building up the second, insulating, layer of cob with the door in place for a perfect fit later on

my true love

the finished beauty and a very happy me!

protecting the clay with lime plaster

Vicente, an experienced builder from the neighbouring town of San Pablo also came to help with the lime plaster. You can also see one of the first batches of cinnamon rolls that came out of the oven 🙂

the oven in context, at the back of the house

the oven in context, at the back of the house

baked goodies! cinnamon rolls and banana bread with cacao nibblets

baked goodies! cinnamon rolls and banana bread with cacao nibblets



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  1. #1 by alfarro on 23/08/2014 - 07:44

    that oven seems perfect to cook your world famous bricks

    • #2 by chihuatepec on 23/08/2014 - 08:59

      yes, I think I’m going to try that next time 🙂

      Oye, cabroncete, a ver si charloteamos un día de estos, que no hay manera! Que pases un buen finde, trooonnn!

  2. #3 by Márcia Luz on 24/08/2014 - 06:00

    Thank you for sharing your adventures with us. I guess the lessons you are learning in the school of life cannot be learned in the system… keep going!

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