3-29 How to Build a Kitchen, Part 2

Our roof, in pre-roof form

With the walls finished, it is once again time for a trip into the bush. This time, you are getting natangura. You know that tropical house plant that grows in long stalks with a plethora of long, narrow leaves that looks vaguely like a very small palm tree? Now imagine if that grew to be about twenty feet tall. That’s natangura. You chop down a stalk then strip all the leaves off. The leaves go into a bundle which is attached to your horse or your friend’s back. Then you carry it back to the nakamal where more friends are working on de-boning it.

To de-bone a natangura leaf, you hold it upside down and in the middle. You break the central “bone” or stem in the leaf. Then without tearing the leaf, you peel the top layer of that stem down to the base of the leaf. The last four to five inches of the leaf you tear out completely. Then you add it to the pile to dry for a few days.

The bamboo acts like a pin, or a stitch in hand sewing

Once the leaves are dry, it is time to pin them. Pinning will take you all day. You take two wild cane stems of roughly equal length and fold one of the leaves over them. The next leaf covers half of the first leaf. The third leaf covers the middle. Once you’ve tightened the leaves up against the cane as much as you can, you use a strip of bamboo about as wide as your middle finger to stab the all three leaves. It should go in about an inch to the right of the bone on the last leaf. Holding the knife like you are about to stab something, you cut a slit just to the right of the bone. Now, you use all of the strength in your hand to shove the piece of bamboo back through the slit you just made. It looks like a single stitch in hand sewing.

Two shingles

Leaving the rest of the bamboo to hold that piece, you add the next three or four leaves, covering the exit wound of the bamboo and working to the left. You snap the bamboo with your right hand while holding tightly to the leaves with your left. Stab, slit, rinse and repeat until you have a section about 5 feet long.

Because that will take all day and you have to go to the garden sometime, you get a break for a day before you put the roof on.

Before attaching the roof, you have to get the “trusses” in place. Once again, out in to the bush you go. You get the longest pieces of bamboo you can find and carry them back to the kitchen. Then you cut a notch in the middle and whack it against the center beam until it breaks. Trim the ends to suit.

Bucket o’ nails

To attach the roof, you use the other kind of nail. That kind that looks suspiciously like a vine and has less to do with a hammer and more to do with tying knots. Each “shingle” of natangura attaches to every post. There is a post about every ten inches. That makes for a lot of nails. Before being used the nails are dried for a few weeks, then soaked in water and lightly roasted to be made soft again. They are inserted by punching a hole through the natangura with a sharpened piece of bamboo then tied tightly around the truss.

Placing the final layer of shingles on the peak

The final layer of natangura made to help seal the peak. To get the wire to hold it on tightly, you untwist some handy chicken wire. Then you layer to shingles and wire the cane together. After you’ve tossed it up the roof to your friend, he opens it like a giant book and flops it down on the peak then wires it in place. When he’s done, he runs down a single piece of bamboo laid over the natangura. You don’t want to damage the natangura you’ve worked so hard to put in place.

Final touches like the last layer of grass along the roof and a door can wait until next week. (We don’t have them yet.)

My grandpa on the roof of my bush kitchen giving a thumbs up.  Want to guess how he got up there?  See that piece of bamboo sticking up?  Yeah, he walked up that, onto my bush kitchen, at the ripe age of old.

EDIT 4-2: We do have grass on the roof. We still don’t have a door.

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