Nutscaves is saved!
My fortuitous decision to train the designated cook in cooking before embark (because there seemed to be nothing else worthwhile to buy with the points) resulted in many fine roasts. The dwarves consumed the roasts through the year until the caravan arrived. Things got a little tense because six more migrants showed up before the caravan, but it turned out all right. Just as alcohol was looking desperately low and we were completely out of wood (and never had any other building materials)--the traders pulled into the depot.
"Hooray, STONE!" cried Armok. Some kind of mistake on embark meant that we hadn't even brought stone for mechanisms to build a well or any cage traps. Our defenses were woefully inadequate. Surely the caravan would have brought a few stones of any type at all to resolve this oversight!
Armok opened the trade dialog and cried tears of blood. The merchants had not brought a single stone or log. They had brought exactly three rock blocks, which would help a little when the aquifer froze and we could complete our work there--but we were looking truly hosed for building materials until we got through the aquifer.
So we resigned ourselves to trading our high quality roasts for all the empty barrels we could get, a couple barrels of booze, all the cheese, the costliest meat the caravan had to offer, a single bucket for a well, and an anvil. (Just in case a smith got into a mood.)
I sent the cook to the kitchen immediately to make even more high quality roasts than we ever had before. We will dine on all variety of cheese, fish, and jaguar sweetbread roasts for the next year, even though we would probably have to drink water soon, if we ran out of barrels before we finished freezing the way through the aquifer.
My miner and mason worked around the clock to freeze aquifer layers, smooth the ice, and build stairs. It was tense work. If Armok designated something wrong, we could lose our only pick, and of course the traders hadn't brought any picks. (I'd almost like to flog them for not bringing much of anything we could actually use...) Also, if anything decided to thaw, it could all be over quite instantly, and we'd possibly have to start over next year.
So we worked and worked, and sweated with fear that winter would end too soon--and then the soil on the way down not only wasn't wet anymore, but it was fire clay (very valuable building material, for making stoneware)! It was still early winter and everything was safely frozen solid. We were saved! We made it. We kept digging down and soon there was limestone and claystone everywhere! The Stern Handles (my dwarven group) have never had a happier moment.
The mechanic is now busy building mechanisms, and the stonecrafter is busy building rock pots for booze, and we're saved! We deconstructed nearly everything made of wood, replaced it with stone buildings, and turned the wood into beds. The expedition leader also stopped threatening to tantrum, even though he has four ghosts following him around everywhere he goes. It's practically party time at Nutscaves!
So quite strangely, as soon as we hit the stone layers, we also hit the first cavern (which is good, because the release of spores will cause mushroom trees to start growing in the cave). We quickly floored things up to avoid inviting Titans and other fell beasts into the tiny bolthole that is currently Nutscaves, and we carefully tunneled around the cavern. Our miner's single goal is to get down to the magma so we can piston it up to the top promptly and start building everything we can out of high-value stoneware. If a caravan brings more picks at any point, the extra miner(s) can build us a proper dining hall. Everyone's pretty happy living in the dirt for now, thanks to the high-quality lavish roasts.
And so an excellent and lucky recovery has started an age of prosperity at Nutscaves. I just hope we don't get attacked before the mechanic erects suitable defenses.
Rock blocks: It's a big block of rock, like a brick, only larger. This shape is nice for paving roads and building walls. Rock blocks are fairly quick to shape from a rock boulder, and are not considered to have a quality level. Making rock blocks is a popular way for a dwarf to learn masonry.
Barrels (or appropriate large pots): Required for holding booze. If you don't have a barrel (or appropriate large pot), you cannot brew alcohol, even if you're sober and really want to. Barrels for alcohol (usually? or always?) cannot be reused. So, having a steady supply of wood for barrels, or stone/clay for large pots, is critically important for sobriety prevention in any fortress.
Magma: Red hot. Has potentially infinite uses, including to power forges and kilns. A nice alternative to charcoal, if you can harness it.
Magma sea: A deep sea of magma very far underground. If you dig deep enough, you will always find it.
Mushroom trees: They grow in subterranean areas with spores. Can be chopped down for wood. Very colorful. A dwarven alternative to normal trees.
Cavern: Between the earth's surface and the magma sea are three great caverns. These are mostly hollowed-out areas with stone pillars or formations. Caverns are usually full of mushroom trees, interesting gems and ores, underground plants, and truly strange and dangerous creatures of all varieties. Sometimes a cavern has, or is, an underground lake.
Megaconstruction: A massive machine or artwork of usually limited use, that requires a huge amount of planning, time, effort, materials, and sometimes danger, for a fortress to build.
Magma piston: A megaconstruction designed to slam a massive pillar of rock, often over a hundred stories high, into a chamber full of magma, usually located just above the magma sea. By dwarven physics, the magma in the chamber is displaced to the top of the pillar. This allows the player to conveniently access magma near the earth's surface.