Thursday, September 3, 2009

Building, Jungle Style

We all decided that before Chuck and Marjie can move into the back cage field – which Marjie now refers to as “The Hollow” – we need to put up a palapa so they’re not running to close their camper windows every time it threatens to rain, and so when they go out they can leave the dogs in there and leave the windows open for ventilation without worrying that everything will get soaked if it rains. Tom talked to Julio, who said he could find a group of guys from 7 Miles to build it, then talked to Aaron from down the road who came and leveled the spot with his tractor.

Julio put together a team, and they started work on Monday. This turned out to be good timing, because today is the full moon, and the sticks and the leaf for the palapa need to be cut a week before and a week after the full moon. Many people think this is an old wives’ tale that doesn’t really need to be followed, but Tom and I have researched it both by looking at palapas around here where the sticks and leaf have been harvested at different times of the month, and by doing a little bit of internet research. From what we’ve seen and read, the phases of the moon seem to affect the sap levels in trees – think tides –and the wood and the leaf is likely to last longer when the sap levels are where they are a week before and a week after the full moon.

This building project is a little different than what Tom and Chuck are used to. There’s no running to the lumberyard or Lowe’s to get wood, and the sheet metal place to get roofing. Everything except the cement for the post footers is coming right out of the jungle, and so far the biggest power tool they’ve used is a chainsaw, with lots of the work being done by machete.

After Aaron leveled the spot, they started by going to 7 Miles and filling bags with sand to mix for the cement. They then dug the footer holes and made the forms, and mixed the cement with hand shovels before filling the forms.

The next step was to find suitable trees for the posts. They had to be hardwoods of the right diameter so that they were sturdy enough to support the structure but not too big for the six men to pull out of the jungle, and long enough to make the roof high enough for the Winnebago’s clearance.

The trees then have to be stripped of their bark, which the men do with machetes, axes, and hammers. Tom said this was almost as hard as carrying the logs out of the jungle, but stripping the bark is so much easier on your muscles, especially when you are at least 10 years older then the oldest local guy working with you.

At the end of yesterday, they had cut and stripped enough logs for all of the supports, and most of the roof structure. They may have to get some small logs when they start building the roof, but they won’t have to get too many, and smaller logs will be suitable.

They started setting the posts today, and one of us will update the blog as the building progresses. Tom and I are pretty excited about this because it’s giving us a jump start on what we eventually want to turn into a camping area. It’s also practice building a palapa so when we’re ready to build our outdoor kitchen and dining area, we’ll know how to time it and what to expect.

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