Friday, March 23, 2007

Life doesn't get much better than this

Framing started for deck. This side of the cabin now has two windows and a door.

A 330 lb., 12 foot cabbage bark 6x6

A 7", 15 lb. chunk of cabbage bark

One of the guys who was working on the removal of the cage bases showed up at 7:00 am, ready for another day. The other guy was called back to his job driving a bulldozer, so the guy who came back brought his son. The two of them disappeared into the cage area of the property for the entire day, and when they were done two and a half cage rings had been removed over the course of the two work days. Twelve cages were removed by the zoo, so it looks like it will be a pretty big effort to get the other nine and a half cage bases out of the ground. It’s such hard work that we’re a little afraid that word will spread and nobody will want to come do it, but enough people need work that at least a few people should be willing to work like dogs for a few weeks.

Tom and Selwyn spent the entire day working on the deck and bathroom additions to the first cabin. They finished pouring the concrete bases for the poles, and started the frame for the deck. They need to let the cement dry over the weekend before they can put up the last support pole for the deck, and then they’ll be ready to finish the frame for that. Tom is planning to run into San Ignacio on Monday morning to order the rest of the lumber he needs for both additions. The lumber yard there offered to deliver the lumber – for a fee, of course – so we’re going to go that route. It will allow us to get all the lumber we need in one shot, rather than making multiple trips and then having to unload the truck.

Hardwood is heavy! In the US, we considered mahogany to be a hardwood. Here, mahogany is the soft wood used for interiors, and hardwoods are woods like sapodilla, cabbage bark, Santa Maria, and black poisonwood – which is very expensive because it is so hard and so beautiful. The true hardwoods don’t need to be treated for termites because they’re so hard the termites won’t even eat them, and hardwood lumber can last for literally thousands of years. In doing excavations of some of the Mayan ruins around here, archeologists have found sapodilla used as door lintels. It was built into the pyramids in the BC timeframe, and it’s still hard and supporting the structures. After a three-man effort to get the sapodilla twelve-foot 6x6 out of the back of the truck, Tom took a piece of waste and brought it into the camper to measure and weigh it. A 7” piece weighed about 15 pounds, so he figured that the twelve footer weighed about 330 pounds. That’s a lot of wood!

I finally found tack that suits both Esmerelda and me better than my dressage saddle with the barely-tight small girth. Although the feed and tack store in Spanish Lookout doesn’t have any English tack, a rear girth for a Western saddle has fairly small buckles, and is the proper length to work with our endurance saddle. My jumping saddle rides a little low on her withers since she’s so thin, but the endurance saddle fits nicely, and although I expected the Western girth to rub since it isn’t at all contoured, I rode her with it on Thursday and it didn’t bother her. So, I caught her, groomed her, and tacked her up with no trouble at all; in just three days of riding and grooming, she’s become much more tractable and willing to cooperate.

Friday afternoon was exceptionally nice weather-wise, so I saddled up Esmerelda and asked Selwyn for advice on where to ride. He told me to take the feeder road that separates our two property parcels, go through the gate that blocks a neighbor’s farm, go through the corn field, and then up a path through the jungle to an overlook. I started out going past our neighbors’ houses, which are on the corner of our road and the feeder road. I had a large audience, partly because they’re all waiting to see what silly thing Tom and I are going to do next, and partly because nobody around here rides just for fun, and women don’t ride hardly at all, so a woman out on a horse just to have fun for a couple of hours is a notable event – although I’m sure they’ll get used to it with me sooner or later. I was very glad that Esmerelda is as small as she is because I had to get off to open the gate. Gates around here are made by winding vertical sticks, about 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter, into three strands of barbed wire every two feet or so. This grid is then stretched from gate post to gate post and firmly secured at one end, with the opening end attached by loops at the top and bottom of the gate post to hold the last stick of the gate. For one woman holding a horse, getting the gate open and closed is a wrestling match. The barbed wire wants to roll up and tangle itself, the sticks get all mixed up, and getting the last stick in and out of the barbed wire loops at the top and bottom of the gate post is a task that might be easy with four hands, but it’s a little difficult with 1 ½ hands. And, I had to pay attention to keep both my parts and Esmerelda’s parts from getting tangled in the barbed wire. I was really glad I was wearing leather gloves!

We made it through the gate and set off through the jungle and up the hill to the overlook. I had one of those “I can’t believe this is my life” moments as I was riding through an especially thick and especially beautiful part of the jungle, with huge trees, cahoun palms of all different sizes, hanging vines, huge boulders and rock cliffs on one side, and singing birds. I walked along on Esmerelda with a goofy smile on my face thinking “This is my horse, and I rode from my house, and I’m in an incredibly beautiful environment only a mile from home. How much better can life get?” Of course the horse is a mountain pony and the house is a camper, but all in all life doesn’t get much better.

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