Monday, September 26, 2011

I've spent the whole week in Cuenca but I got a little prep work done for La Paz.

Since there will be 11 arches in the addition and it would be a real pain to have to install a lintel over every one of them, I will be making the arches load bearing. I've made a form for pouring the key for the arches (above) and it should work on all the arches.
I was lucky to find some real nice eucaliptos just down the street, the perfect wood for my arch jig. A few months ago I free-handed an arch while closing in a window, it was pretty much a disaster, that's why I am making a jig for the rest of the arches. The jig will be sized for the smallest arch, for the bigger arches I will just overlay the jig with the proper diameter lumber.

Ofcourse I needed a few new tools for these little projects.
A new jigsaw and a Jack plane, both cost the same, about $23 a piece. You can get a much nicer hand plane in the U.S. than this Stanley for $23 but it has the depth and angle adjustments on the iron and you can adjust the chip breaker, that's all I need.

 After Barb has had her way with Digger all week she is going to be a hand full back in La Paz. Barbara keeps food in my dish all the time, I have my own rug, a piece of sweater with a knot in it and a rawhide bone, plus my friend the cat and I can tear though the house chasing each other and dig all the dirt out of the indoor garden. Yeah buddy, Barb has done her work this week.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Advice from the better half.

Tying in the new with the old.
I mentioned in the last post that I would ask my wife to help prioritize my projects in La Paz, figuring she might allude to her preference. Here is what I got – "Quit playing around and get some work done." This is what I get for trying to bait a woman with two PhD's in Psychology.

I did get some work done last week, mostly digging out the inside of the perimeter walls for the floor slab. It is slow going and easy to get distracted away from. Now that I have a new helper it takes twice as long as it normally would.

She helps me dig – putting the stuff I just dug back in the hole, and she protects my tools by taking them to an undisclosed location so no one can find them. She came upon one of these little Ecuadorian deer the other day and they both took off running in opposite directions. She hasn't quite figured out the creek yet, it's deeper than she is tall, so by the time she finds a way out she is 25 yards from where she went in.

I did lay some blocks, building up the north and south corners and some course blocks in between.

 I just can't remember but I think the lap on rebar is 14 times the diameter, looks right anyway.
Tying in the new and the old.


The local block maker has just started a new run just in the nick of time, I am down to my last 30 blocks.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Retired ???

I have been pontificating lately about how nicely life has work out. I had way different plans for old age than Ecuador. Retirement was never part of it. Yet here I sit on a Friday night in a half completed guest house in the Andes Mountains with my faithful dog waiting for the morning sun. I may do some work tomorrow or not. The weather will be the same as yesterday and the day before, the same as tomorrow and the day after – pleasant. I don't have a potful of money or some gold lined pension plan but I have enough for Ecuador. I guess I am retired.
There is only one person responsible for this state of affairs, my wife. She is the one with the open mindedness to consider alternatives and do the research, the one to take an early retirement when she wasn't really ready to retire. She stays in Cuenca while I go out to play, still tethered to her computer and the internet, teaching online courses at Missouri State University. At least she doesn't have to go on campus and lecture every day and maybe this will be her last semester. You see she really had no retirement plans either, unless you consider teaching until you can't anymore a plan.
Ecuador has been good for both of us; we could have never retired in the U.S... We would have tried about 5 years from now but I don't think it is possible to survive on a fixed income in an environment of high inflation, rapidly increasing regulation and higher taxes; somebody is going to have to work until the day they die.

Well so much for that - I got back to Cuenca today (Monday) it's a rain day and without a shop I really don't have much to do when it rains. I really do need to get started on a shop space but I really need to get started on a lot of things. I think I will run this by my wife and see if she would like to priorities things for me.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Gravity feed water from the mountain top.

What a mess. I have been planning to pipe the water coming across the driveway for quite some time now. On my recent trip to La Paz the trench across the driveway to carry the water coming out of the side of the mountain ( near the top ) has gotten deep enough to start making problems for the car. So I reckon it's time to get this project done.

It was quite a mess but pretty straight foward. I dug the sump on the south side of the driveway, nice and wet, easy digging. I had to cut the pipe in half to carry it from town, then weld it back together once I had it home. Dig the trench straighter and deeper, install the pipe and a precipitation tank ( 5 gallon bucket ), run 300 feet of 3/4" water line, all gravity feed, done and done.
That little trickle of water represents 720 gallons of water a day. So what is the big deal, I've got over 100 gallons a minute coming across the property already. The difference is this water is really clean and there is no one between the source and me. For right now I am running the water into my gravel pile so I don't rut the ground, it ends up in the same place it did before I re-routed it, with several loops before it gets there.

Ofcourse this brings another project onto the planning table - a slow sand filter to run the water through, because when it rains real hard the water gets a little turbid, and a pump and back wash plumbing for the filter.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A couple of people it wouldn't hurt to know.

There are some new laws in Ecuador, passed a few months ago, and just now going into effect. The one I know about is the pirating of videos and music. You know of course you can get just about any video in Ecuador for a buck or two - these are American videos. I went to my favorite video store today and the owner was telling me the story, it doesn't sound good for the 2800 video and CD vendors in Ecuador. The reason I am writing about this is because I am about to tell a story about the owner of this video store.

I have been here about 10 months now and my wife and I have been through all the things gringos go through when they move here. The most frustrating things are the things that should be easy but somehow get messed up by gringos, like us trying to circumvent the system or misunderstanding the culture or the translation. We spent a lot of money and wasted a lot of time using the wrong people. So in the interest of maybe keeping some folks from some of the problems we had, I'd like to mention a couple of folks. Lawyers are pretty much the same as the U.S., I wouldn't recommend any of them. For translation services there is none better than Cathy Vicente, born and raised bi-lingual, a member of the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ecuador and married to an Ecuadorian higher up. Whatever she charges you is well worth it. She doesn't know I am recommending her so I could be in trouble but if you can get on her customer list, you'll be in good hands. I can't tell you how many times she has saved our bacon ( She even brought me back jelly beans from the U.S., twice ). You can contact her via the internet at

There is one more fella you might want to know, Fabian Robles - he owns my favorite video store. He's the guy I talked about when I was having so much trouble getting the power hooked up in La Paz. I was using a lawyer to get this done and mentioned it to him one day. He went out to the road, flagged down a power company truck, gave them a bunch of stuff ( as in a hard time ) and the next day they were contacting my lawyer to install the power. He worked in the U.S. for 9 years and came back to Ecuador to start his video store and be close to his family. His English is good. I think he has a relative in every business in Cuenca. He has a pretty new SUV and will hire out if you don't have transportation. You can contact Fabian by phone at 099542887 or 074040172.

These are not some lame recommendations. I thought they might help. As with anything I do, I stand behind what I say so you can contact me directly on either of these people at

Sunday, September 4, 2011

More of the same.

For the last month I have been seeing lots of hikers and bikers headed south through La Paz from points north, headed to Loja on a pilgrimage to the Virgin of the Swan. They are mostly young adults walking in groups of three or more, stopping in town to change socks, adjust their gear and get something to eat. The main celebration is on September the 8th in Loja, then on the first of November the sculpture of the Virgin Mary will travel back to El Cisne. These folks are walking or biking pretty near 100 miles for this event, I have seen hundreds of these hikers just from my travels back and forth from Cuenca to La Paz. Pretty serious stuff.

The new pup and I went out to La Paz this past week for 4 days and got a little work done.

She is a digger dog.

With the vertical rebar set at 4 foot intervals, I can finally set the the first corner which will set up placement for the rest of the addition.

First corner in. A couple of notes - there are no end blocks here, it will all be stuccoed anyway. The vertical rebar should be placed in the footer or drilled in, minding where the open cells are in the block. Now the string lines can be replaced with those string blocks I made way back when I was putting in the front gate. No need for story poles, the corners will go in first then course blocks to fill in.
With the north corner in I have laid out the south corner and started the excavation, with the help of the digger dog. It's too small for a piece of equipment and almost too big for an old man with a pick and shovel. I sure remember the horses I have broken ( or should I say, that broke me ) after a day of digging.