Slowly

The weather continues to deliver a lot of rain day and night, so we have been in slowdown mode. Last year at this time, the grass in our yard was dry and brown, but this year is making up for lost moisture in spades. But we have accomplished a few things.

First, we managed to get the burn piles burned. This was no easy task as everything was wet, wet, wet. The strategy that finally worked was this: start a small campfire with the driest material we had plus a splash of diesel. Then add, branch by branch, stick by stick, all the material from the 13 gigantic piles around the property until bonfires were blazing. One by one, we got 4 campfires burning and by the end of a long smoky day, all the debris was ash. At least we were not bothered by mosquitoes! Then over the next two days, Armando and a Man With Truck took away four loads of the too-big-and-too-wet-to-burn logs.

So now the road and the lot are clear and you can see side to side and front to back. We like the lot a lot, and think it will be a swell place to live. We were able to save the few nice trees, as they are all out of the way of the house. Many birds including toucans, a pair of beautiful hawks, and our local flock of wild parrots frolic in the nearby trees. What a racket! As a bonus, we are now well away from the main road and all its noise.

Next job was the driveway entrance. There is a drainage ditch that runs along the road in front of the lot, so this had to be crossed. Our neighbor recently replaced the old 12-inch concrete drainage pipes under the road with 18-inch pipes, so we bought the 12-inchers from him. Without smashing fingers, Armando and I rolled these heavy pipes into place in the ditch where our driveway entrance will be. Then we excavated a few inches down for about two feet on either side of the ditch. We made up a steel rebar mat to strengthen the new concrete slab. So far, this took a day.

The next day we had eight yards of river run sand and gravel delivered, two yards at a time by the Man With Truck, and I got 13 bags of cement. The river run sand and gravel is really good to make concrete with, as it has all sizes of aggregate from sand to rocks about 3-inches in diameter. Cement is actually just glue that holds the aggregate together, so the river run is ideal.

Most people purchase beach sand and one-inch-or-so stone and mix these with cement to make concrete. But I think the stuff shoveled from a local river is better because there is no salt in the sand. Salt in the beach sand significantly shortens the life of rebar embedded in the concrete. I also picked up a couple pickup truck loads of three-inch rock (from a pile stored at our current rental house) that we used to augment the concrete in the deeper areas of the pour. Free rocks fill a lot of space and save a lot of money; its a trick I learned from the local guys. I hired a second man for the next two days of concrete mixing and placing, and we completed the job with just a little bit of river run left. I continue to marvel at how these men can mix cement, water, and ten wheelbarrows of sand and gravel right there on the ground. They generally use way too much water in the mix, and this can make a less than ideal strength concrete, but it is the way it is done here, and so that is the way it is done here!

Actually, the river run sand/gravel mix is locally called “cascada” because it cascades down the river during the rainy season. Numerous people who live at the riverside make their livings from cascada. Some sell it as is as they pull it from the river. Others sift and sort it into sand and various sizes of rock. Still others take the sand and make handmade concrete blocks, some of which are the nicest blocks I have ever seen. Anyway, now there is a concrete slab over the drainage ditch, and we need to wait a few weeks before I can hire a backhoe to cross the concrete to pull the stumps.

All this delivery of sand, gravel, rocks, and cement made the two-block-long road by our lot nearly impassable with mud. So again, the Man With Truck brought us six yards of cascada, this time with less sand and more rock. We spread this on the road, filling the muddy ruts, and I compacted it by driving our pickup back and forth over the road. Armando was ready with the shovel to move more material into the deeper ruts. We still need a lot more, maybe another ten yards, and it will be on its way next week. But for now it is much more passable.

Today was a two task day. Armando and I noticed that there were three bowl-shaped depressions on the lot, and the dirt there was super saturated by water that couldn’t drain. If you ventured there, you were ankle deep in boot sucking mud and likely attacked by mosquitoes. So we strung guide strings and with shovels making sucking sounds and mud sticking to the shovels, we dug three drainage ditches. Water flowed freely from the land into the new ditches and out to the ditch at the front of the lot. Even though it will continue to rain, the land will firm up a lot over the next few days. Later, we will fill the ditches with stones to make French drains.

The other accomplishment today was that the surveyor showed up. We and our neighbor hired him to place corner markers on each of our lots. The surveyor and his helper made a short morning’s work of the measuring, and left just as the pre-rain fog rolled in. They will return next Wednesday to place the corner marker monuments (in Spanish (word of the day): mon-oo-MEN-tos) and deliver plot plans to us. At that point, we will be able to put up the fence around the lot, assured that it will be in the right place. That reminds me of the old New England saying, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Here are a few pictures (click a photo to view larger, use the back arrow to return here):

East side, front to back, burn piles gone.

West side. Burn piles gone.

Armando excavates as Cynthia and Jabo supervise. One of the pipes broke when it was removed from under the road, but hey, no need to stress or buy a new one...a little concrete and it will be as good as new.

Armando and I string up a tarp to protect the new concrete from the rain while Hernan readys to mix concrete.

The rebar is tied and ready for concrete.

The finished slab. Armando works on a new drainage ditch.

Looking down on a concrete culvert end, the surveyor has made a bench mark notation.

That’s all for now.

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