Sunday, October 30, 2011

Same old stuff for a while.

Barb is moving ahead with her plans to be done teaching online this winter - summer in the U.S.. Even though it gives me a break on the guest house schedule, she wants the brooder house done by then too. She has been asking a lot of questions about feed conversion and different breeds of chickens, space requirements and incubation - she is up to no good. I have mentioned this before, that I thought she would be doing research with chickens, now it is certain. She may be a stuffy old  retired professor but she is a research scientist first and foremost. It wouldn't do me any good to ask her what she is up to, I wouldn't comprehend whatever she said, I just hope I get some eggs for breakfast and a couple of birds a month for dinner.

Digger and I came into town this weekend to see if I can't get Direct TV straightened out and try and make arrangements to pay the electric bill from La Paz, some where. The regional office of the electric company in Nabon says to pay in La Paz, La Paz says to pay in Cuenca and Cuenca says to pay in La Paz. Of course this is the same government that sent us a disconnect notice for water at our apartment in Cuenca when it is automatically taken out of our bank account here. Sounds like the U.S. government doesn't it ? It's actually better here, they eventually get it straightened out here, in the U.S. they just keep making the same mistakes and somehow expect a different result.

Digger has been awful busy this week protecting a stack of used bricks and making sure no one moves that green string line.
Of course she has to sign off on all the work.

Maybe next week we will get the remainder of the footer poured and the brooder house site cleared out.

Snide remark for this week.    According to Barbara and the Federal Government I don't officially retire until next year, so I am still able to work and I better get to it. Maybe I should leave the dog with her this week, to help around the house.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Elemental dilemma.

Barb has decided she wants a fireplace in the Guesthouse, which brings up a new set of problems in the construction process.
I've put in a 38" X 32" opening in the south wall for the firebox and gotten ahold of a load of bricks that the brick maker in Sussidel said are baked at high temperature, the picture shows a few of them.
Different angle of the same thing.

My dilemma comes from my hard headedness, I cause my own problems. I could just build the firebox the way they do here and everything would probably be fine but this is not a deorative fire place, it will be burnt every night. Here they use a standard mortar mix and throw in some raw sugar to try and keep the mortar joints from cracking, which is fine if you only burn a fire once in a while and aren't concerned with an air tight firebox. Fire places are the most ineffecient ways to heat a space, so I would like to have a venting system that will draw some heat from the firebox using natural convection - which will require an air tight firebox.

There is no high temperature mortar here, which is fine with me because that stuff cracks anyway, you have to use a mortar that is softer than the material you are trying to bond together. One advantage of being old is knowing a thing or two. A lime mortar will do the trick, softer than brick and self healing. Calcium carbonate is the only lime available here, agricultural lime, I use it in my mortar mix for laying blocks and making stucco becuase it makes the mortar stickier and retains moisture better but for use in a firebox it is not refined enough - too much carbon and oxygen. Carbonation of hydrated lime is what makes a lime mortar self healing.

Here is my assumption - if I use agricultural lime for a lime mortar, 1:3 with sand, the temperature of the fire will burn off the excess carbon and leave me with hydrated lime in the mortar. Since 80% of the population is smarter than I am, I will throw this out there and see if someone will straighten me out but be forewarned, by the time you tell me I am full of crap the fire box will have already been built. How is that for hard headedness ?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's been 10 days since the last post.

Forgive me followers for I have sinned, it's been 10 days since my last post. I hope that doesn't offend anyone, just a dig at my Catholic upbringing I couldn't resist.

It really has been a while with no progress and I don't really have an excuse other than being lazy. Barb has decided to teach online for one more semester after this one, so that has given me an extension on the timeline for having the guesthouse done.

There are some things, construction related in Ecuador that are just too expensive. Surface planners, mig welders and chain saws are a couple of them - the one I am dealing with now is ladders. A fairly good 6 foot step ladder is about $200 and the price goes up from there. There is no getting around working up off the ground, so here is my solution.
I've taken a couple of 1X8X9' boards and stripped them out to 4" planks, sistered two together and notched out 1/2" for the rungs.
What I ended up with is a easy to build, stong, light weight 9' ladder for $7.50. It isn't really a ladder but it can be used as one, it's half of a scaffolding system to give me a working platform up to 8' high. The whole thing, which is two of these, planking and cross braces cost $27 - $7 more than a carton of cigarettes not the price of a motorcycle.

Digger the dog is still growing and has started to protect what is important to her.

Nobody is moving this wheelbarrow without her knowing about it.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Start of the rainy season.

Even though we have had quite a bit of rain in the dry season this year, the start of the rainy season has left no doubt about what season it is. This week we got 3 solid days and nights of rain in La Paz. By Thursday there had been enough rain that the bottom fell out of the driveway, it took 2 days and a broken jack to dig the car out of the mud. Kind of reminds me of mud season in New Hampshire.

Laying blocks in the rain is one thing but when the rain is so hard it washes out your mortar joints before you can get it covered, that's another thing - at least it's not freezing cold or burning hot. After trying to get some blocks in between hard rains for three days and playing in the mud another two days I had had enough for this week and came back to Cuenca late this afternoon. This morning the sun broke through and for the first time in a week the wheelbarrow was almost dry.
Well that ought to tell you something, the only dry spot on the place and look who owns it, the dog who plays in the creek and has mud all over the interior of the car.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Some Progress to Report

There has been a little progress this past week other than playing with the blocks. I am to the point where I need to decide where and how to install electrical outlets in the addition. I've decided to run the power horizonally through the blocks instead of vertically through the cells.
It will be a lot easier to pull wires through conduit than try to fish wire through open cells in the blocks.

It;s a little hard to see but the first recepticle box is in along the north wall.

Maybe this is a little better perspective. At any rate the box looks a little high but the floor isn't poured yet, the recepticles will be at 16" above the floor, about 2" higher than NEC code. The large opening on the right will be an archway to a small porch in the front of the addition.

The south wall footer is finally in so the block work can get started on that. There is still a lot of digging to do. Barb has ordered that the excavated material be moved to the area she wants as raised beds in the garden, just another distraction.
Digger the dog.

Digger is getting more aggressive every day, I guess it would really be called possessive, I have to hunt for my shoes everyday now and she has learned to jump the creek. I suppose the next trick will be putting my tools and shoes in the creek. She really has a lot of fun running all over the place, she has started the growl and deep bark at unfamiliar sounds.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Another good week.

It's been another good week in La Paz, the weather is warming up at night, the pup is getting to know the lay of the land and I got a little work done between distractions.

I poured the first key and it's okay but I think I will need to adjust the cement mixture for a better overall appearance.

The local block maker started a new run of blocks last week.They are still too green to stack and truck, so he is letting me take 12 at a time when I come into town every morning. He is making the blocks himself this time so they are a much more uniform than the batch his helper made last time.

This is the last of the old blocks and as you can see there is a bit of slag on the bottom and the density of the block clearly goes from top to bottom. I have had to cull 10% of the blocks from this run and I have to dress every block before I use it. I use my good $2 trowel to chip the slag and it only takes a few seconds. The trowels here are of exceptional quality in materials and workmanship, I have several trowels in reserve because I just knew, as cheap as the trowels are, I would bend or break them at the frog within minutes. I am one of those guys who uses what I have in my hand for whatever task I confront and I can assure you I am not timid about using it either. I am still using the first trowel - a much higher success rate than other hand tools here - hammers are the worst.

Weekly Snide Remarks.
I don't get a lot of guff from my wife for leaving town for a week at a time, it's her quiet time when she is the most productive but I would swear she has a suppressed desire to get even. She has an uncanny ability to relate to animals - cats in particular. This ability is so pronounced that when I first met her years ago I thought she was some kind of witch with her familiar. I had never seen a cat act the way her cat did, as if they understood each other, not as master and pet but as equals. I mention this because she is doing the same thing with her Ecuadorian cat. When the dog and I left town last week the dog was clearly the master of the pet part of the family. When we returned today the cat was waiting for the dog and she laid her out, like she had been coached on how to take control of an unruly pup. I find it hard to believe the cat came up with this plan by herself but the dog now gives her free run, after half a dozen confrontations that the dog lost.