Monday, March 26, 2007

And the construction begins

Tom was off to San Ignacio first thing in the morning to order lumber so he and Selwyn can finish the first cabin. He also had to take our stamp tax duty payment for the property to the real estate agent, so the government now knows we bought this property and it’s officially ours. While he was there, he picked up groceries and ran a few other errands, and planned to be home by lunchtime. Noon rolled around; no Tom. One o’clock; no Tom, so Selwyn and I ate lunch without him. Two o’clock; I had cleaned up lunch and was working on cleaning the camper, and Tom pulled up the driveway. He’d made one last stop in San Ignacio, trying to find my favorite yogurt, and when he got back in the truck it wouldn’t start. The owner of the store, who just happens to also be the owner of one of the properties we looked at before we bought this place, helped him try to jump start it, but it wouldn’t start, so the store owner called a taxi and had it take Tom to a reputable mechanic. The mechanic got some parts and drove Tom back to the truck, where they discovered that it wouldn’t start because the starter had become unbolted and had fallen off the truck. It was fine; it had just wiggled loose, so all the mechanic had to do was reattach it. He had Tom follow him back to the shop so he could get the bolts a little tighter, and Tinkerbell was back on the road. At this point we’re trying to limit our driving both because fuel is so expensive, and because every mile we drive on the roads around here is a mile of beating up poor Tinkerbell. We’re just waiting to see what part falls off next.

Fortunately Tom had arranged for all the lumber he bought to be delivered, so he wasn’t carting that around while they worked on the truck. But, he wasn’t home for more than about 20 minutes when we heard a truck pulling in the driveway. The lumber delivery truck was a truck very much like Tinkerbell, but without the auxiliary fuel tank in the bed, so there’s more room for loads. The truck was packed, with hardwood lumber stacked all the way up to the rail and sticking way out the back, and if it were night and the truck were using its headlights, they would have been pointing at the sky. As I’ve mentioned before, hardwood is heavy. Tom and Selwyn soon discovered that the other benefit to having the lumber delivered is that they get an extra man or two to help unload it, and even with four of them working it took almost an hour to unload the truck. Stacks of lumber are piled up both inside and outside the cabin, and Tom is pretty sure they have all the lumber they need for everything except some outside boards for the bathrooms, the walls and roof for the deck, and the inside wall and ceiling – although they do have what they need for inside framing. He’ll probably get some of that in Spanish Lookout on Friday, and then we should see a lot of progress pretty quickly with Tom and Selwyn just working on construction.

Since Tom was gone for the morning, I decided to take a long ride on Esmerelda. With Tom gone, he wouldn’t worry about me being out on the horse by myself, and I wouldn’t feel guilty that he was working on the property while I was out having fun. We did a loop, up past the vista, out to the Pine Ridge Road, then, after a short walk on the road, back on a trail that runs into the back of our property. On the way up to the vista, I heard crashing and a big racket in the jungle as a peccary ran across the trail and into the underbrush. Peccaries are wild jungle pigs, black and about the same size as a pot-bellied pig. This one wanted nothing but to get away from Esmerelda and me as quickly as possible, and Esmerelda watched his pig butt receding through the trees with pricked ears and no fear whatsoever. On the way down, I saw what I thought was a pair of turkeys. They’d been roosting in a tree, and as we approached they jumped down and ran off through the underbrush, just like wild turkeys in New York. When I returned, I asked Selwyn if they were turkeys, and he pulled out the trusty bird book and showed me that they weren’t turkeys, but a very similar bird called the crested guan.

As I got back to our property, I had the chance to use our newly cleared property line. Most people we’ve talked to here tell us that we need to keep the property line clear for two reasons. First, it’s a clear definition of the land belonging to any given lot so squatters can’t come in and build on or otherwise use a piece of land, and then claim it through squatters’ rights. Second, in the dry season, a ten-foot boundary serves as a fire break in the case of a forest fire. Because Tom and Selwyn are focusing on construction, we contracted with Bol to clear our property line. He has his other sons and some other guys working every day to clear the line, and they’re fighting their way through the jungle, up and down the hills, and leaving a ten foot swatch of nothing but dirt and a few large trees. The last little bit of my ride was on the part they’ve already cleared, and they’ve done an amazing job of beating back the jungle and creating what will be a very nice riding and walking trail when it’s done.

It was a good thing I was relaxed when I returned from my ride, because the dogs had ripped open the garbage bag and feasted on the remains of a chicken carcass that I’d cooked for Sunday’s dinner. It was mostly my fault because I knew the carcass was in the garbage and I hadn’t taken the garbage out of the camper, but I’d triple bagged it so I thought it was safe. But, chicken spoils quickly in the heat, so the dogs must have smelled it through all three bags. When I went in the camper, I certainly smelled it, and all that was left was shreds of bags and some aluminum foil that I’d used to line the pan. I worried a little about the dogs eating cooked chicken bones, but they seem none the worse from wear, and I’ve relaxed a bit about that anyway here since it seems like everybody feeds their dogs cooked chicken bones, and I haven’t heard of a dog having any problems. Anyway, the stench motivated me to give the camper a good cleaning, so I pulled out the rugs, swept, scrubbed, and mopped. The camper still stunk. I thought maybe it was Mellow’s breath from eating the garbage, but even when I threw him outside, the smell was still inside. So, I started sniff testing everything, and found that he apparently opened the bag of chicken carcass and dined on the bed, and spoiled chicken grease has soaked through all the bedding to the mattress. So, I stripped the bed and took everything over to the first cabin so I can gradually run it through the washer. I guess it’s a good thing we’re still sleeping on an air mattress, since it was pretty simple to deflate it and get it out of the camper, and since it’s rubber, it wasn’t too hard to wash. But, it was a way more thorough cleaning than I’d anticipated. I think part of the reason I don’t mind living in the camper is that housework is virtually nonexistent, so I guess I can’t complain too much about having to do a big cleaning, but I was still a little annoyed that a 20-minute sweeping out turned into a three hour scrubbing session.

Tom and I were laughing when we showered because we were comparing our hides. My poisonwood is better and I’ve managed to not get any more, but Tom now has very itchy feet and lower legs from the white poisonwood rash. I was checking myself for ticks since they crawl on me if they can when I tick spray Esmerelda, and found a few small ones that had bitten my leg. Overall, the bugs really aren’t bad right now, and it’s been a while since we’ve even seen a mosquito. These ticks aren’t a big deal because they don’t carry Lyme or any other disease that affects humans, and they’re small and seem to just bite, hang on for a few hours, and then fall off, and if you find them they’re always easy to detach. Nonetheless, if they bite they leave a mark, and the poisonwood leaves marks. We decided that if we were cows who were butchered so their hides could be used for leather products, our skins would definitely need to be sold with that disclaimer about how imperfections in the leather are signs of naturally distressed hide, not flaws in workmanship!

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