We have become very used to waking with the sun and collapsing after sunset. At first light we were loading pallets from a corral onto our pick up truck to create composting areas. Our large screen windows at home means that outside and inside are pretty much the same place less a few hundred bugs. This makes us sensitive to the subtle changes in moonlight, humidity and temperature. We wear welly boots far more often than is fashionably acceptable, our finger nails refuse to remain unfilled with muck and we moan to anyone who will listen how skint we are . Have never felt more like farmers.
Our visitor diary is filing up. Soon we will have no time to ourselves till at least March. This is not a bad thing, as we need help and did make this move to share our space. Jayne’s entire family will have come and gone by February and then a load of lovely Irish and Jake. In the meantime we will have friends from many places arriving for a few weeks and some welcome randoms who have contacted us through the website/blog . So many people arriving from afar bearing gifts. All this gives me faith that I will not run out of the essentials to life, the holy trinity of Yorkshire Tea/HP Sauce and Marmite.
With the prospect of paying guests in the near future we will have our work cut out. We appreciate the help from everyone who comes here and warn in advance that due to paying guests taking all the best spots you may end up in a hammock under a mosquito net but that’s not a bad thing here.
All the equipment for the magic sun power is threatened to manifest soon so our “ to do now list “ is expanding. We have to create a secure house for our lovely expensive much desired batteries and a 6m x 4M by at least 3M high rack at precisely 17 degrees to the sun to house our photon catchers. No mean feat. There is much talking to over enthusiastic welders, builders and other keen sorts. As gringos our quotes are usually with the addition of a zero or two. We have had quotes for the racking that differ by a factor of ten (no kidding ). We arrange to meet an iron guy from Bucerias who we know (and more importantly is considerably cheaper than everyone else) at an Oxxo carpark. We do the deal over the truck hood and arrange delivery next week.
So along with everything else we are preparing to power up the near 200M of electrical cable that Jayne’s Dad has managed to wrap our house in . Not bad going considering the house itself is only 6m x 6m . There is an extraordinary little box of tricks that plugs into the truck that powers the entire house from the 12V battery ! Feels like cheating but gives us a taste of what is to come.
We have noted that our “ with nature” farmers life is being eroded with the introduction of such major developments as hot water and power , USBs on the wall and more than anything else light bulbs. When there is light around body and mind stays with it for a lot longer. When it’s dark you shut down pretty fast. Part of me already misses the candle light and an excuse for an embarrassingly early night.
Water remains an issue. 2500L Tinacos and gravity are the answer. Great big wide heavy Tinacos. We have 5 of then now. Tinaco 1 is nearest to the wellhead followed by Tinaco 2 at the start of the new path across the land. The idea is to pump water from well to Tinaco 1 or directly to Tinaco 2 . We then use a bigger pump to get water from there across the land 130M to the top of the hill to Tinacos 3 & 4. These use gravity to feed the brick-shit house and Tinaco 5 above our house that can also feed the pool. A very simple plan except there are no Tinacos at the top of the hill.
We collect the most recently found one (Tinaco 3 ) and decide to add some gravity and drag the thing from its current very low resting place to the top of the hill. We collect it in the truck and deliver it to the tree house and survey the path up the hill. There isn’t one. At least half is at a cliff like angle and the rest completely overgrown. If we scramble from tree to tree it is possible to get up the top. The Tinaco however is a different tale. Blunt force and humour are our only weapons but somehow it works. I am on the ground with feet wedged in the most grippy bits of root I can find heaving on the rope while our man pushes and steers and his son takes the rope behind me and wraps it around a tree so we don’t have the thing disappear down the hill with me attached to it. It is a very dirty, sweaty and grunty affair. Somehow we make it.
Tinaco 4 is above our house. Timing is perfect as it is all but empty. The tree house is switched to Tinaco 5. It’s currently the last of the water on the North side. We attach rope to Tinaco 4 and a tree and launch the thing down the hill to be manhandled slowly across the side of the cliff and then upward ever upwards. Maustrappe has got herself curious and followed us up. She suddenly and hilariously reconsiders her position as the Tinaco swings downwards towards her. She takes off at a speed that suggests she has been shot from a cannon. My eyes can hardly keep up with the blur of cat that has flown past the house and is still going. We may never see her again. How we laughed.
Much more sweat, tick collecting , boy noises and close shaves later Tinaco 4 meets Tinaco 3 up the hill. Now if we can get these buggers filled we are all good for water North side. I retreat to shower myself and remove the first dozen ticks. I meet Maustrappe in the house with wide eyes and half her body weight in jungle stuck to her. I spend some time giggling and removing trees and shrubs from her tail.
My good Catalonian friend has ruined me for Mexican Spanish. I had very few Spanish words in my vocabulary a few short months ago. One of them was Cerveza (beer) surprisingly enough. I have been somewhat discouraged to learn that my perfect Catalonian dialect is considered a speech impediment here. I have had many a sorry look on a number of occasions when boldly and confidently asking for a Th’erveth’a. Wiping spit from their eye they offer a “bless the poor boy smile “. Szervessa?? Is he actually trying to say Szervessa??
The Mexican food here is inevitably accompanied by three options of chili-based condiment. One green and tepid for the tourists, one red and tongue stripingly efficient and finally the local brew which is dark deep purple and is effectively napalm. The locals slosh the stuff down them fearlessly. This has lasting effects on a chaps taste buds and mouth nerve endings. Local oral hygiene products are , therefore, things to be respected I have learned. I made the mistake of taking a modest slug of the local mouthwash and it was an event. The fresh tingle one would expect from a mouthwash is replaced with a turpentine burn . Inhaling the fumes is not recommended. The resultant noise I produced was , I am told, not pretty. I found only a mix of straight tequila followed by a shot of Mescal got the taste out of my nose and allowed me to speak again. I ended up with an industrially cleansed mouth and slightly drunk.
There was a lunch. We are in the midst of crazy day of buying all the things for as little as possible in the searing heat of Bucerias. It’s a tourist town that is the overspill of Puerto Vallarta. The Mexican Government has encouraged and promoted the whole area as the Cancun of the Pacific for years . There is a great beach and lots of restaurants to service the high population of tourists. We come across a French one with a French waitress and a French menu. I am teased with six oysters and then felled by rare beef in exceptional bread with jus. Now jus is just posh gravy but what a gravy !! A 2003 Beaune or an icy Chablis would have made this a perfect moment but I am in Mexico so Dos Equis XX Larger will have to do. Gravy ….I clearly miss gravy.
Strangely my French has improved enormously now I’m trying get Spanish into spaces in my overfilled brain. I often break into French when I’m trying my best to speak confident Spanish. When I search my limited Spanish vocabulary for a word I inevitably remember the French version. Not entirely useful.
The doors are here. Our iron artist from Las Varas and his young son appear early and I help him carry the doors up to our house, as his truck won’t make it. Jayne’s Dad performs electrical field surgery on the generator to allow the welder to work without blowing the fuse. Very impressive skills. This allows a new lock system to be melted onto the Bodega so our stuff in there ( and there is a lot of stuff ) is safe. There are also two strong boxes that have been made for us to secrete our more valuable stuff inside. One for us and one for our apartment. These will be bolted somewhere not-obvious yet to be decided. We return to find the house fringe trimmed and the front door installed. It looks epic. The skull door knocker we were gifted our first week here is integrated into the design. The shower door is also installed with our logo at the centre and there is even a door for Mausetrappe. Previous grotty security curtain is removed and we now have natural light pouring into bathroom. Our house has transformed from open plan “help yourself” to effectively secure. Our first real unique art commissioned and installed.
There is a further delivery today. After some buggering about with officialdom and agreeing to further buggering about in a few days and promise of cash we have taken delivery of Jayne’s Dads Polaris. I’m sure his own blog will more than cover the many hours of drudgery with Mexican officialdom before anyone owns anything and his excitement of driving back and heading into town for lunch then off up the hills afterwards. There is no stopping him now. We have named our newly broken in & muddied machine Pauly. Pauly Polaris.
Another delivery today was all the way from Colorado. New best friend arrives back after thanksgiving in his restaurant and collecting mail for us ! Jayne gets two pairs of new shoes and I get a brand new 24V DC well pump. We both get a gift package from a friend and that is brilliant. We continue to have no mail service here. No Xmas cards in or out this year. Good news.
The last delivery of the day is attempted/ supervised under fading light from a huge tipper truck that skillfully reverses into our parking spot on the South side and dumps a small mountain of sand. It’s destined to be a brown concrete sexy floor next week. We have a “Maestro” booked for two weeks to do all the clever stuff that is beyond the skill set of the rest of us. Took some days of negotiation and the promise of a cement mixer to get him to sign on. I have lugged many 50kg chunks of cement in preparation for his arrival. A slightly larger mountain of gravel is predicted tomorrow. Keep this guy in materials and we should have a battery house , a sexy apartment floor and base groundings for our newly ordered solar frame and posts for a front gate that we intend to up-cycle from the white house floor boards. They need replacing anyway.
Found some bowls in the local market and bought them. First spontaneous art purchase. Couldn’t help it. They got me. Not sure how they will be useful but they make me happy.
Swam today. Forgotten how good it feels to float in the Pacific. San Pancho has some serious shore break waves that have dumped me a number of times. There is an undertow and a drifting current so you have to have your head on when you swim. OK for strong swimmers but not for kids on the main beach. There are good kid friendly spots not far away behind the surf break we are told. Further investigation required. Floating on your back and watching the fish jumping around you and being overflown by pelicans just a few feet from your nose is a great way to relax.
Pressure is on to get an apartment ready to rent. We have put great faith in the Maestro . Too much perhaps. Bugger is that Maestros earn fairly good money and are (in our experience of ours ) a bit precious. We have furnished him with a concrete mixer he refuses to use, two helpers, a lift at 8 am every morning, a lift home and all the time in the world. To be fair in the Polaris we have the trip into town down to a nifty 6 minutes without racing. However, our “two day” job is looking more like 10 days … we are biting our lips as we have an apartment with heaps of concrete in a small amount of places of a brownish colour and nothing in most. We are starting to regret this process more and more as it eats into our funds. The result should be stunning so we are holding back our frustration with the pace of things. We are looking elsewhere for another maestro for the other jobs. Life is too short.
Small changes make a big difference here. The large river rocks that did for my thumb nail and my dignity have been distributed skilfully around the garden. This has created borders and allowed the fruit trees to stand out magnificently. It’s starting to look proper.
Our photon catcher frame arrived today. We take the Polaris to the beginning of our road and lead the unsuspecting iron guys through streams and bush to the path that our man has created at the very back border of our land . With a machete, a 4×4 and mucky bravado we dump 6m x 4m of steel frame with legs and bolts onto our sun trap. If we can get a battery house under way all will be good.
Now I do check pretty much daily the Bodega for mice. There is a humane trap loaded with peanut butter under the workspace. I am distracted for a few days by life and check on the trap that is now obscured by sheets and paint pots. The cage has a dead mouse in it. I missed it, I am responsible and feel terrible.
The pool has a dodgy valve and in order to examine the even dodgier filter pump it needs replacing. This required someone (me) to saw through a fully loaded pipe that will shoot swimming pol at high pressure into my face. While drowning standing up in a small concrete box full of ants and unfeasibly large spiders I am required to attach new pipe and connections with a bolt screw and my glasses pressed onto my eyes with the force of water. I manage this eventually in time to avoid drowning. Meanwhile Jayne’s Dad helpfully takes photos.
I clean out the pool of the worst floating flotsam in anticipation of the filter pump working. I am stunned most days by having to fish out the pool at least one ex-frog. I thought frogs could happily swim for many hours and if not have the sense to hop onto the pool steps. Apparently not. Despite attempts to deploy floating rest areas our ex-frog count is pretty high. There is also the occasional ex-mouse. I see a mouse attached to a plastic outlet on the side of the pool. It’s alive! I reach down with a net to save the thing and it dives in. I follow him as he swims the entire length of the pool under water. I did not know mice could do that. He surfaces into my net and I flick him to the relative safety of the jungle. Makes me feel a touch less guilty about the Bodega ex-mouse.
Jayne’s Dad has returned home. He has left us with extra tools, better knowledge, a fully wired house, guest blogs, a rewired super hero generator, the first ever geocache in San Pancho and a rather lovely Polaris to care for. We are very grateful.
The filter pump is shot. The motor has been living with humidity spiders and ants for too long and is no longer useful. We are told it must be replaced at great cost. By some universal twist of fortune we randomly meet our solar guy with his pump man who directs us to his motor guy who rewinds the motor for a fraction of the cost. We like saving money we haven’t got. We rebuild the pump and connect it up to all the plumbing (eventually without leaks) and set it off with our super hero generator We lose a bunch of water somewhere mysterious and I get a good bolt of hair raising electricity through me when I touch the motor . Our pool is being cleansed at last. The cleaner pool water is , however, noticeably less than when we started. More attention is required to prevent further water loss and electrocution.
Mausetrappe has taken to sleeping on my feet. Not terrible except for the occasional teeth in the toes cry for attention at 3am. My attention was full on when the crazy beggar decides to have a 4 am dikkie fit and flip about the bed until I am awake. My torch uncovers a cat torturing a mouse at my feet. That’s Mausetrappe 3 : Beave 5 . Sometime later I recover the nearly ex-mouse. I dispatched him junglewards and returned to kick the cat. She cleverly avoids me and retires to the balcony.
When I finally get back to sleep and awake too early ( to pick up Maestro,) I find the usual amount of half chewed and totally pawed bug parts. A cat gift apparently, for which I am presumable expected to be grateful. I am not. Amongst the bits we recognise at least one scorpion. Wake up call. The cat is a good weapon but not as good as the spray muck that scared away the ants. We apply it to the bed legs and doorways. Now considering every beast we know dislikes this stuff it is a fair bet it is not good cat food/lick. We shut the cat onto the balcony with water and food and go to work and leave her safe.
We return and she had gone. No sign on the balcony and no sign of any bits of ex-cat on the ground or under the house. The mystery is short lived. There is a cat shaped hole in the mosquito net door. I continue to be sleep deprived and ungrateful for the cat while I set about mending it … again.
We head to town to collect laundry and ice. On the way we take the plastic recycling pile that has accrued over the months. It’s a foul mess of spiders and unspeakable fluids and muck. By the time we have it all sorted into the right piles at the local recycling yard we are covered from head to toe in horrors. I go to the local Pemex petrol station and wreck their bathroom washing myself. I am dirty, damp and tired. Time for tequila or two. We head to collect the block ice that has been in the freezer at our friend’s bar for days waiting for us. We bump into friends and more friends arrive and before we get a chance to eat we are a Canadian down. Tequila, fatigue and no food have done their worse. Somehow, with a little help from our friends, I manage to carry her home and drive the truck at the same time. She is going to be embarrassed and rather unwell tomorrow.
It’s an early start today. We have Mausetrappe booked into the free clinic they have a few days a year in San Pancho to remove breeding bits. One cat/kitten is enough. She is not happy and moans loudly while clinging to me on the journey into town. Reminds me of the journey home last night. We manage to get her into a box at the clinic and Jayne gets to be embarrassed as our friends who helped us last night are helping out there today. Mausetrappe is a grumpy No.41.
Jayne is unwell. There is most sympathy from our man whose birthday it is today. He is 33. Only 33. He used to be a National rodeo rider and fight bulls. He has given it up ( almost) as he has been trampled a few too many times and once spent 11 days in a coma after having a bulls horn thrust in his head. He is a small guy but as strong as two oxen. His Dad is another story. I have not been able to work out how he swings a machete so well or lift rocks like he does at his age. He must be late 60s or early 70s perhaps. He is on his 4th wife we think. Turns out he is 58. I am staggered. Only 6 six years older than me!! Jayne likes this news very much and reminds me often just in case I forget for a moment. How kind.
We drive down to the river where the remains of the Parota tree still stand. We meet the guy who owns the tree and he tells us to take what we want. What we want is large lumps of wood to make outside tables. Left to us we would have happily made do with the 8 foot x 3 feet lengths left over from a previous wood snatch. We take these, of course, but our man then shows us a whole slice, of tree, which he wants to get into our truck. Now Parota is as heavy as concrete and this looked all but impossible. But we did it. The truck survived and so did we. We rolled it on like a massive tier and rolled it off the other the end (outside the orange shower block). It’s going to be amazing when it’s cleaned up. It will become an outstanding table and the other bits will transform into bathroom and kitchen counters.
We return to town to collect the cat. She is a great deal quieter on the journey home . Anaesthetic still very much in effect. Tripping her little face off. She gets home and staggers around with back legs splayed like a frog and eyes spinning. Another reminder of the night before…
Splitting bamboo is an art form. Ninja like our man and I set about the task. I orientate the bamboo lengths and angle it exactly as our 10 minutes of YouTube training showed us. He takes a machete and smashes it closer and closer to my face with a hammer. When it gets too scary we both take a side and pull as hard as we can and the bamboo cracks in half (ish). We have this process down to about two splits a minute but it is exhausting. We split enough to line the bathroom and shower then I paint them with anti-termite goo.
It has rained all night. Hard. I wake up and employ clothes for the first time in many months. I have long pants and socks and a hoodie on! The Polaris is fun in the mud , the apartment roof has had it’s first test and works amazingly well. We have a dry floor for “ Juan Juan the slow concrete man” to work with. To be fair the concrete mixer has had a workout and there is now a few extra tons of floor. The angle at which the current floor is tilted is requiring huge quantities of leveling. Thankfully the existing roof is well made and fully re-barred (as we found when trying to drill holes through for the plumbing) so will cope.
Friend arrives in a few days from Reno. Big push to get something to rent by Xmas. San Pancho is effectively fully booked January and February. Must take advantage of high season. We are making savings where we can to divert cash to building materials. Jayne has given up tequila apparently so that will help.
There now follows our first ( and probably not our last ) blatant self-promotion bit. In order to encourage a little cash flow to pay for concrete and sweat we are offering a few alternative Xmas present options for sale. Buy your loved one a bat, a bee or a tree. Check out our shop.