Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Monday to Wednesday

The future garden site. We will probably put sides on the chicken coop and use it as a shaded shelter for water tanks since the chickens are going to live in cat cages.

Two walls and two roofs framed on the bathroom/kitchen addition

Proper riding attire for the jungle dame montedora: Hiking boots with half chaps since rubber boots, the really proper attire, are too hot; chinos since breeches or jeans are too hot and lumpy; as little shirt as possible; no helmet because helmets guarantee that you will feel ticks in your hair; leather gloves for moving stickery vines on the trail; a machete for clearing the trail, chopping vines, or killing snakes; saddle bags to carry water; draw reins for a stubborn little mare who would rather run out of control down the mountain than walk down on her butt (and the draw reins fixed the problem - she discovered that she can use her hind legs going down the hill!).

Tom and Selwyn unloading siding for the tool shed


We’re told that the hot dry season has begun, and judging from the weather over the past few days, we believe the locals who have told us that this is the case. They say we might get another shower or two to help the cicadas hatch, but other than that we’re in for hot and dry from now until June. So far so good, as far as I’m concerned, but Tom isn’t quite so sure. Of course, Tom doesn’t want to let the weather dictate what his job list is each day, and we’ve found over the past few days that trying to do things like clear brush or install a zinc roof in the sun when the temperature in the shade is 100F+ can be very uncomfortable. I’m willing to do things that require cooler weather – like riding – early in the morning before the sun gets too high, and then do things that the heat helps, like making bread and leaving it to rise or making yogurt without the yogurt maker in the afternoon when it’s hot. Tom is starting to plan his day based on the knowledge that it will be too hot to do some things by lunchtime. Of course, our attitudes about the heat are a little different. Tom likes the cold and the snow, so this is difficult for him. I hate the cold and snow, so all I have to do is read an email from a friend in NY or check the weather page to see that it’s in the 30s and raining and snowing and I’m perfectly happy to sit and soak up the heat. The dogs seem to be adjusting, although Mel has been uncomfortable and has an upset stomach. The Jack Russells love the heat. They’ll be lying on the floor of the camper panting – and they’ve learned to stay on the floor because it’s a little cooler – and when I let them outside they find a spot where the sun has heated up the stones, and they flop down there and continue to pant like mad as they roast themselves. When I decide they’re too hot, I have to physically capture them and throw them back in the camper, and if they can get away from me in order to continue their sunbathing, they do. We’ve taken to calling Nock the Sun Goddess because she’d spend the whole day frying herself like a lizard.

Monday was a holiday, and while Selwyn had chosen to work on the holidays on Thursday and Friday, he came by Monday morning to ask if it was okay if he took the day off. We had already told him that we didn’t care if he took the holiday, but the deal with holidays here is that if you work you get paid time and a half, and if you don’t work you don’t get paid. So, Selwyn said he’d really rather work, but he had some stuff to take care of, with his first job being to go to the place where he’d left Burrito, his horse, to collect his tack. He was a little bothered because he knew that the barn owners had told him that it was okay to leave his tack there when he took the horse not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because they wanted to use it, and when he got there he had to look all over the place to find everything – which had been well used and not cleaned – and there were still a few items that he couldn’t find – and which he suspects were out on a horse being used while he was looking. This really annoyed Selwyn, but it made us feel a little better to see that our difficulties with the mechanic weren’t necessarily because we’re gringos – Belizeans do the same thing to Belizeans.

When Selwyn went to get his stuff, he took Esmerelda because she’s a quicker walker than Burrito and he wanted to get his stuff and then take Burrito home to pull some logs out of a woodlot. Like Tom, I then had to replan my day, because the first thing on my Monday agenda had been to ride Esmerelda before it got too hot. I had to laugh to myself because I realized that when I’m planning my rides a few days out, I not only have to consider what I want to do and what I think the horse needs to work on, I have to consider whether or not the horse is needed to do a real job that day. Horses are definitely not just recreational here. When I went out this morning (Wednesday), I had to pull into the bushes on one of the government feeder roads because there wasn’t room for Esmerelda and me to pass a wagon pulled by a pair of horses that was coming at us, having just picked up three pigs. The whole family was out on the pig buying expedition, so I smiled and waved to the mother, father and three kids, who all looked pretty happy to be out for a morning getting hogs.

We’ve all continued Tom’s land clearing rampage over the past couple of days. Since Selwyn wasn’t working on Monday and Tom didn’t have some nails he needed, he took the day off from working on the cabin and we finished clearing the front fence line, and then started to clear in the pasture. The three royal palms are now clear, and stand majestically near our northern property line in the pasture. Tom had to go to Spanish Lookout to pick up windows and lumber on Tuesday, so Selwyn and I piled up all the brush and started a fire. As we had been clearing, we found a pile of brush that had never been burned and we wondered why. Well, we found out, and did a big oops. We very conscientiously piled the brush up away from the ridge that runs down the edge of the road, thinking that the ridge covered the water pipe. Nope. The water pipe was directly under the piles we created, which were on top of the old brush pile we found. Selwyn and I started the fires and came up for lunch. After lunch, while I cleaned up, Selwyn went to check on the fires and came back pretty quickly, telling me that we had a little problem. The little problem is two brand new ornamental fountains on our fence line where the heat melted the pipe.

The holes aren’t too big, and while some water is leaking out, it’s not enough to compromise the water supply for anybody else on the pipe. The San Antonio hardware store doesn’t have that size PVC, so the repair is going to have to wait until tomorrow when Tom goes into Spanish Lookout and gets the parts he needs. This is another funny comparison with how life differs here from life in the US. If somebody in the US broke the water pipe in front of their house, the Water Authority would have to be called and it would be a big deal with lots of men and trucks and flashing lights in the street. Here, the person who broke the pipe just gets the parts and fixes it. The Water Authority guy rode by on a horse this morning and told Tom and Selwyn that he’s supposed to charge them $500BZ to fix it, but when they told him they were fixing it themselves that was the end of the story. Of course, they could still slap us with a bill after it’s fixed, but at that point it will all be negotiable.

Selwyn and I also cleared a big area for a garden. It’s a yard outside of what we think was the chicken coop, and we suspect it may have been a garden when this place was the cat farm. It has most of a fence already around it, so all we have to do is replace a few poles, turn the soil up, and start planting. I’m told my timing is actually good because I can get things started while it’s dry, and then the rainy season will come along when the plants begin bearing so we should have a good harvest. I guess we’ll see. I also chose two old cat cages to use as chicken coops. We’ll probably get a couple of batches of chicks in the next few weeks, keep them in the old rabbit hutches until they’re big enough that they can’t get out of the cages, and then put them in the cat cages where the only thing that we’ll have to worry about getting them is a boa. The cages need some clearing, and we’ll have to put chicken roosts in both of them and egg boxes in the cage with the layers, but it’s work that can be done in a day.

Tom and Selwyn got another bathroom wall up, and Tom got wood for siding for both the bathroom/kitchen additions and for the tool shed. Tom is heading back to Spanish Lookout tomorrow to get more siding and interior boards for the wall and ceilings in the first cabin. He might have been able to get more on Tuesday, except he spent most of the day waiting for the truck to get new front brakes, which wasn’t a planned stop. Fortunately the mechanic in Spanish Lookout had the time and the equipment to do the job, although they were held up by about an hour and a half because the electricity was out and they needed the electric lathe to grind the rotors. But, that’s why there’s always manana! We should be lots of pictures of progress over the next couple of weeks!

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