Sunday, May 13, 2007

Dos semanas mas

Sorry for the delay in blogging. It’s been an uneventful but productive week for us since we’ve been able to focus on getting what needs to be done in the first cabin done so we can move in, probably within two weeks – really!

As of this morning (Friday), both sides of the ceiling in the front room of the first cabin are done. The boards that run parallel to the floor across the peak aren’t in yet because electrical wiring needs to be run; we’ll probably do that this weekend so the ceiling can be finished early next week.

Every morning, Tom and Selwyn have been getting an early start so they can go out and dig the soak away before it gets too hot. We obviously don’t have public sewers here any more than we had them in either Honeoye or Canadice, and it seems to be our destiny that every place we buy needs work done on the septic systems – although we’re suffering here because this is the first system Tom has had to do without Chuck and Stanley!. Septic systems here are completely unregulated – the joys of no building codes – and because things break down very quickly the jungle, they don’t need to be too complex. Each cabin already had a small septic tank, and Tom is re-running the PVC pipe from each of the 2 toilets in each cabin to that cabin’s tank. Other water is being run through pipes directly into a soakaway for each cabin to prevent too much water from going into the septic tanks. This is more than the cabins had before, and more than many people do with either the black or gray waste water, so we feel pretty comfortable that this is a safe and environmentally sound solution. When we build a house, we’re going to investigate a composting toilet instead of installing another septic tank. Besides saving us money and labor on a new tank, it will also help with our water shortage since water isn’t required for flushing. However, we’re glad the two cabins already had septic tanks so we didn’t have to make that decision for the cabins, since we think guests will probably prefer “normal” flush toilets.

As far as other building progress goes, we have the boards ready to put on the cabinet under the bathroom sink, and Tom and Selwyn have been working on framing in the shower. We’re going to get tile for the shower on Saturday in San Ignacio and boards to finish the wall and the ceilings in the first cabin on Monday. The only thing we’re waiting for that could delay our move into the cabin is a cook stove for the kitchen, which has been due to arrive “in two weeks” for as long as we’ve been saying it will be two weeks until we can move into the cabin. However, our two weeks are looking pretty real at this point, but we’re not sure how real the two week projection on the stove is. If it doesn’t come in by the time we’re ready to move, I may just have to settle for a slightly less nice stove which will, undoubtedly, do the job, although I’d rather have the nice Maytag with five burners and a convection oven.

While Tom was in Spanish Lookout on Tuesday, I took my machete and cleaned up another cat cage for use as a chicken coop. We had been planning to rebuild what was the chicken coop when this place was a cat farm, until Iris, one of the girls next door, asked why we didn’t just put chickens in a cat cage since it would be a great place to keep the chickens in while keeping the predators – including our chicken-killing Jack Russells – out. So, I cleaned out all the stuff that had grown up in the cage, raked out all the leaves, repaired the door, and put chicken wire around the bottom of the cage to keep chicks in and snakes out. One day Tom and Selwyn were working in the cabin and I dragged in boards and sticks to make a nest box. I must be a female Tom Sawyer, because within about 10 minutes I was just telling Tom and Selwyn what I wanted and THEY designed and built the nest box. Selwyn has had the homework every night this week of finding out who has chickens for sale in San Antonio, so we’re taking a field trip this afternoon to pick up three or four hens and a rooster to populate the cage. Oddly enough, after all the years of threatening all sorts of dire consequences if I got chickens, Tom is more excited than I am about getting them. Part of that may be that they’re going in an existing cat cage rather than a discarded schoolbus, which was a plan Don Melville and I had hatched at one point when we were neighbors, but which we eventually discarded in favor of keeping our marriages intact. The other part of it is that we have neither the Hersheys and their hens as neighbors, nor a nearby Wegman’s with “guaranteed fresh” eggs, so some of the eggs we get are good, and some are really bad. Eggs aren’t sold in date stamped cartons; many of the produce vendors and most of the small grocers just display flats of eggs, and you pay per egg and take them home either in a carton you provide or in a bag. They’re not refrigerated, and there’s no telling how long they’ve been sitting out in the heat. So, while we occasionally get beautiful fresh eggs, we also occasionally get eggs that may not be spoiled, but that are long past the point where they can be used for a couple of nice easy-over eggs with intact yolks. Selwyn says one of the hens we’re getting is already laying, so we’ll probably eat her eggs until one of the others starts, and then let one of them sit on a clutch of eggs to get more chicks, and then we should have plenty of eggs. Selwyn also says we’ll be eating the hens when they stop producing eggs, but I’m not sure about that yet.

My other job this week was to prepare the garden for planting my seedlings. I turned over the soil in part of the garden a couple of weeks ago, and this week Tom and Selwyn have been dumping the dirt they’ve dug out of the hole for the soakaway in the garden to use as topsoil, so I don’t have to do any more digging. They dumped the dirt in long piles, so I flattened out the tops, soaked the dirt down, and I’m planning to plant the zucchini tonight, after the sun goes down so the seedlings won’t be burned. None of the other seedlings are big enough to transplant yet, but the garden should be ready when they are. In the meantime, our neighbors gave us one of the first avocados from their tree, so while ours still aren’t anywhere near ripe enough to pick, we should be getting fresh avocados before too long.

Our only mini-crisis this week happened yesterday when I went to get breakfast stuff out of the fridge, and found that it wasn’t running and had warmed up to about 60 degrees overnight. Fortunately, Tom had purchased a new, full butane tank in Spanish Lookout on Tuesday so he could install it in the first cabin, so instead of refilling the existing tank or putting the new tank with the fridge in the second cabin, we just moved the fridge to where it will go in the first cabin. It took it most of the day to cool down, but this morning it was back to about 40 degrees, right where it should be.

One of the consequences of the empty butane tank was that we didn’t have any ice yesterday. I seem to have put myself in the middle of neighborly disagreement because I have been making ice for Olmi for a couple of weeks. We were talking one day and she asked if I use ice, and I told her rarely, since I usually drink hot tea, Tom usually drinks either orange juice or beer, and when either of us drinks water we prefer it cool, but not ice cold. So, she asked if she could have some ice once in a while, and I said sure. Her son, Wilton, stops by before dinner every three or four days, asks if we have ice, and I put it in a bag, make more, and Wilton takes the ice home to his mother. If, for some reason like an empty butane tank, I don’t have ice, Wilton smiles, says thank you, and goes home empty handed. Somewhere along the line Honduran Marta’s family realized that I was giving Olmi ice. With their “if there’s something to be had, we must have all of it” attitude, they’ve launched a campaign to try to get me to provide them with ice. First Cindy came and said her mother would like some ice. I said I didn’t have any to give her mother, because I save it for Olmi. Then Marta sent Thelma over to ask for ice, and I gave her the same answer. Then she tried sending pre-school age Giovanni over, with a few coins and the phrase “I buy ice” drilled into him since he doesn’t speak English. Tom, who knows the deal, just said “no tengo,” and Giovanni went home. So, Marta has tried almost all the kids at all different times of the day, even offering to pay so I’ll give the ice to her before Wilton can pick it up for Olmi after school.

You’re probably thinking, Marge, why are you such a bitch? Just give the poor woman the ice. That’s not the point. As I’ve written before, their “we must have” attitude really wears on me, and if I were to start giving them ice, I’d never have any for Olmi – or us – because I would be giving or selling them all I had every day. I know they figure that I could charge them and it shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s not the piddling amount of money I’d make on the ice, it’s the fact that I’d have to make the ice every day, and with my 2 cubic foot freezer, I’m not going into the ice business. When I told Olmi she could have some ice, Tom warned me that this would happen, and when it happened, he asked if I thought I was being fair, since he thought it would be better just to not give anybody ice. So, I have declared myself the Ice Queen, and I grant ice only to those whom I like and think are deserving of it. And it doesn’t matter if it’s fair, because I’m the Queen.

Just to tie up a few loose ends, the water seems to be working. We sometimes have it even in the middle of the day, and it’s been running almost every night.

According to Iris, Rafael and Rosa are “going out.” That was all we could get out of her – she suddenly forgets that she can speak English and doesn’t understand our Spanish when we ask questions she doesn’t want to answer! But, we don’t blame her for not wanting to fill in the nosy neighbors about her sister’s social life!

The weather continues hot and dry. The rain last week briefly slowed the fire in the Pine Ridge, but it’s picked back up and is supposedly burning as strong as ever. We’re told that 25,000 acres have burned, and it’s still spreading. We can smell smoke sometimes, which we thought was from the cahoun palm we’re burning, but someone pointed out that the smoke smells like pine, and you can smell it everywhere on the property, not just downwind from the cahoun tree. In the evening, we see a pinkish haze to the south, which we think is the smoke from the fire. Nobody is worrying yet about it getting as far north as we are, but everybody is keeping track of it.

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