Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I've done it again!

2/17/13 Domingo is a day of rest?

After last night’s great dinner and debate internacionale, had a nightcap (two tragos de Flor de Cana y dos cubos de hielo, por supuesto) and called it an early night. Slept again like a baby, except for a brief moment in the middle of the night when someone banged on my door. I decided to be quiet and resisted the temptation to open the door and ask the knocker “what the fuck?” Good thing I had the door shut and locked! I woke up raring to go at 5:30 this morning. The Pescadores were already out on the water by that time, so I figured I better get moving! Started working at the site by 6, kept going until 11:30, shoveling excavated dirt out of the middle of the bodega space, using Iziquel’s wheelbarrow and shovel. Five hours of that is enough on any day, and especially on el dia del dios! Okay, it’s not as much work as the guys put in excavating all that dirt, and probably not as much work as the Pescadores put in casting their nets today, but I moved alot of wheelbarrow loads, and it sure felt like a major chore. Unfortunately, I managed to slightly dis-align a vertebra in the middle of my spine, so I’ll be paying for it all day. No chiropractors in the campo!

I managed to get a bit more than half the dirt moved. We’ll still have some excavating to do to level the ground inside the bodega ( to account for the two foot change in grade) before we can pour the concrete slab floor and front porch next year, but getting the loose dirt out will make that job go faster. Used all that dirt to complete my berm, and it looks pretty darn good. Don’t know if it’ll actually redirect any of the runoff from the property to my north, but figured I had to try. My Canadian neighbors to the south (I know, sounds geographically challenged) came over the other day to inspect my work while Juan and I were in Rivas, and I noticed yesterday that they’re now using excavated dirt to make a berm around the casita they started building this week. Must’ve looked like a good idea to them. Not sure that’s much of an endorsement, guess we’ll all find out when the rains start in April or May!

If I can manage to get my spine re- aligned I may go for a fish-swim later this afternoon. Maybe after a little siesta . . . Last week I started at the north end of the beach and worked my way south; this week I think I’ll work south to north. I’m expecting the same results – no fish, but it will be a nice refreshing swim! Yesterday I went for a quick dip after work and a small ray swam by within a few feet of where I was standing! Looked like it had a barbed tail like the kind that killed the dude on Animal Planet, so I decided against trying to get a closer look!

It’s hard to believe that I have only one more week here before my scheduled departure. Unfortunately, no opportunities that might keep me here longer have presented themselves . . . so far. My plan is to leave here on Saturday afternoon, after we quit work for the day and I and settle accounts with Iziquel and Dona Margarita, then drive up to Granada to spend the night, maybe at a hostal owned and operated by friends of one of my stateside friends. Granada is a nice city, I’ll have a chance to get some Vigaron in el parque central, and it’s just a 20 minute drive to the aeropuerto in Managua on Sunday morning, plenty of time to make my 1 pm flight. Vigaron is an ensalada made with shredded cabbage, fried yucca and chicharrones (crispy chunks of fried pork belly), served on a plantain leaf, which I usually wash down with a tasty tea made from Jamaica (Hibiscus) flowers. Managua is to be avoided at all costs.

Later in the same episode . . .

My siesta turned into sipping a couple of Tonas while I crunched a few numbers for tomorrow’s trip to Rivas; after this afternoon’s visit to the homestead, I have some more numbers to discuss with Iziquel and Manuel.

I made a few calculations about the septic tank affecting where the waste in and leech out lines need to be, and need the guys to tell me if my math is off. Your septic tank has to be 10 feet from your foundation, and your waste line has to drop 1/8 inch per foot between the foundation and the tank (about 1 ½ inches for a 10 foot line to assure that your poo flows downhill). Because the foundation at the rear of the bodega is 2 feet below grade, the waste-in line needs to enter the tank at 2 feet 1 ½ inches below grade. The leech line must exit the tank about 6 – 12 inches below that, depending on how long a tail you put on the leech line. So to plumb this right, I’ll need a couple of black PVC elbows and some joint sealer, and tonight I hammered spikes into the walls of the septic dig to indicate where I think those lines should enter/exit. Tomorrow’s first math question for the guys.

Question 2 concerns the center divider wall that creates two chambers within the tank. The first chamber is the waste in chamber, and the idea is that the solids gravitate to the bottom of the first chamber, so that the fluids flowing into the second chamber and eventually into your leech field have little effluent remaining. Apparently it helps to seed the first chamber with some horseshit; the system processes the solids more effectively because of some magic ingredient in the horseshit. Plenty of that stuff around for the taking, but I can’t help wondering what Jean Boner D’Orange is doing next February. He’s just chock full of the stuff! At this point, Manuel hasn’t put in any of the blocks for the center wall, and there’s a bit of math involved in how high that wall should be – usually somewhere between the height of the waste in and leech out lines – just to make things interesting. Okay, so maybe septic math isn’t all that interesting . . .

The third question has to do with Iziquel’s order for more cement. Based on what needs doing, concrete-wise, I wonder if we should buy three bags instead of two.

I also need to discuss the list of possible jobs for next year – how much he can get done on my annual budget, and how much time he needs to do it.

When I walked into the dining area tonight, Nancy had a new puppy running about. She had him in a full face harness, and I encouraged her to take that thing off the poor boy. Nancy is one of Margarita’s daughters. Apparently, mi amigo Dandy is also her dog. Before Dandy she had another dog named Sandy. This little boy she named Randy. About 8 – 10 weeks old, looks like a pit bull mix, and we hit it right off. He’s really looking for stuff to chew on, and I told Nancy to get him a Vaca (beef) bone. I let him chew on m hand for a few minutes and he calmed right down. Dandy first and Randy later both came over to my table to get some. Smile makers both.

I’ve figured out that next year I’m going to get new SIM cards for both my phone and internet stick modem; the internet café is a bit inconvenient because most days I don’t get over there un til after closing time, which means I can’t get a password to use when I could use it, it’s like not having the inner tubes at all. I also figured out I need to buy a new battery for my little netbook. I can get the skpe here at Margaritas, but only in the dining room, where there’s no plug in, and my battery ‘s so old it only lasts an hour (at best) on a charge, so unless somebody’s on the skype chat ready to play when I sit down there’s not much time for conversating. Must say, though, it’s a treat when I’m able to IM chat with someone stateside while I’m sitting 30 feet from the surf, waves pounding in the background, here in the middle of no place anyone else needs to come.


Rivas day again, this time principally to pick up Juan when he arrived from Masaya. Gave me a chance to walk around the parque central while I waited for his bus, which I’d never done in all my stops in Rivas, probably because generally the only reason to go to Rivas is to get building supplies or Flor de Cana. Sure love their bright colors – and monumentos to heroes of the revolution overthrowing Samoza! Also stopped at Casa Perlin to pick up a few last items Iziquel needs to complete the septic build. Hola, Ana!

Iziquel says his crew will be done with this year’s work on Thursday. Manuel finished all the block and mortar work for the septic tank, including stubs in for the line from the casita and out to the leech field. It looks amazing, and Manuel tells me my design is not usual for the area – usual is a hole in the ground, no concrete foundation and no block walls, with one line in and no line out. And a hole for the honey wagon to clean the hole out periodically. He was impressed with my entirely stolen two-chamber design and he was rightfully proud of his work building something he’d never seen before. They’re going to put the lid on tomorrow, and it will basically be a sealed box until I get the plumbing all hooked into the system! They’li also pull the forms off of columnos five and six, and pour number seven. I think he’s planning on taking Wednesday off, then pulling the formas off of the tank lid and columno 7 on Thursday.

All the lumber used for the foundation pour, for columno forms, setting level lines and for Manuel’s work bench, where he created the jigs he used to bend 1/8 inch steel into the squares and rectangles for the columnos and vigas? Five pieces of 1” by 10” by 5 meter board, and five pieces of 1” by 3” by 8’ board. Ten pieces of dimensional lumber for the whole job. Each of the formas for each of the columnos was a different combination of boards, but each of the finished columnos measures exactly 114 inches tall! I’ve been watching every step along the way, and I can’t figure out how they do it!


Revised plans, looks like Iziquel will be working Wednesday after all, but will get everything done a day early. Iziquel sealed the walls of the septic tank today, Manuel fitted the forms for the lid, and we poured the concrete top. Best looking septic tank in town! Saba came out and cut down the trees, and tomorrow he’s coming back to cut down one of my Madronos that I’m going to use for the center roof beam for the bodega. The Madrono is the national tree of Nicaragua, and I have at least four of them on my lot, one big enough to give me a 36 foot long beam that will run the length of the house, including over the front porch. The other three are younger trees, and by taking the big one out the youngsters have more room to grow. I have to figure out a way to dget down here in Deciembre; Juan tells me that the Madronos are in bloom, and that they’re muy bonita! Madronos are cousins of the Madrones we have in the Pacific Northwest, except that the Madronos have a blonde colored wood, versus the dark red wood of our Madrones. Like our Madrones, the wood of the Madrono is EXTREMELY dense. Like petrified wood dense. After Saba cuts and trims the tree tomorrow. Don Tino’s oxen will pull the log out of the arroyo, and I’ll set it on some of the logs we cut today to keep it off the ground, and cover it with a big tarp so it’ll cure nicely and be ready for use next year.

I made a great trade with Iziquel today. Financially it’s a much better deal for him, but I get one more project completed out of the deal, and I get rid of some stuff I have no way to secure. We ended up with a bunch of extra rebar, which Iziquel wanted to buy from me to use on his own building project. Initially I told him I’d sell it for half price; then I asked him how much he’d charge me to excavate and level the floor of the bodega. His price for that was less than the price he’d have to pay for the rebar, but I told him I’d make an even trade. He thought that was a great idea, and told me he’ll do that work tomorrow. The only other tasks for tomorrow are removing the forms from columno #7 and the septic tank lid, so he’ll have plenty of time to get the floor ready for next year’s slab pour. We even have enough left over gravel from the concrete work to make a nice base for the slab!

Iziquel also told me that next year when I come down he wants me to stay at his house! This is AWESOME!

ALSO AWESOME: I have some additional potential projects I might try to get done this week, like maybe hiring Leonardo to build a better-reinforced driveway and to have a couple of meters of rock delivered to provide a more stable ramp, but even if we can do all this I’m going to be way under budget on this trip. It’s been a great experience using the local guys and getting to know their skill sets, and we’ve made way more progress that I thought possible this trip! If I can get the roof and cisterns built next year, I’ll be just one year from having a livable space!

2/20/13 - Finishing touches   Iziquel and Chele leveled the bodega floor and filled in the empty spaces around the edges of the septic tank, and Saba cut down the Madrono for my center roof post.  Tomorrow Don Tino will bring his ox team to pull the beam out of the arroyo so we can set it up for curing, amnd Leonardo is coming to rebuild the driveway.  Don Tino will bring a coupe of wagon loads of rubble to create a firmer driveway surface, so next year we won't have to worry about whether the delivery driver has sufficient testicular fortitude to make the trip down to the building site!   Last year when I left town, I cried all the way to Tola, 20 kilometers on rough dirt roads.  I cried because I was leaving my place of peace, and because I was leaving without my constant companion, sweet Calala.  After we finished work today we loaded Don Iziquel's tools into the car and I drove him home - he lives up on a hill with a beautiful view of Playa Amarillo.  It's going to be a great place to stay next year!  When we were unloading Iziquel's tools, I broke down and wept, couldn't get out even a word of broken espanol, except to say "no tengo palabras suficiente."  Iziquel gave me a big hug, called me his great friend, and promised that we would see each other very soon.  God is good!   I managed to pull myself together (I thought) by the time I got to Margaritas, but Margarita was sitting on the porch feeding one of her grandbabies, and when she asked me about work on the bodega, I teared up again, completely unable to tell her anything except the names of the guys who worked for me this year, and that they did great work.     

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