Tag Archives: home construction

Endless construction

MEXICO’S IN a state of constant construction.

There are businesses all over the place that sell construction material. If you drive more than a few blocks, you’re almost guaranteed to see something being built.

It’s an incredible, ongoing phenomenon.

When we get back from Mexico City, where we’re headed shortly, we also will be building stuff, a yearly occurrence in springtime when there is no daily deluge of rain.

And we’ll be constructing in Mexico City too. Ceramic tile will be laid on the floor of the “service patio,” that space Mexican homes have out back where the water heater, clothesline and big cement sink sit.

Mexican homes have big cement sinks out back.

But the best news — for us at least — out of Mexico City recently is that we finally have the deed to the condo. All we have to do is pick it up at the lawyer’s office.

Signed, sealed and delivered!

Getting the deed has been an ongoing process and headache for years. But now it’s done, and we own three homes free and clear that we could sell if we wanted to.

But we don’t.

We prefer the fun of constant construction.

Agua! agua! agua!

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Pastry kitchen’s water supply, added last year.

SHORTLY AFTER purchasing the double lot where now stands the Hacienda, I mentioned our future location to an old Gringo of my acquaintance.

But there’s no water out there, he said, referring to the hardscrabble neighborhood on the edge of town.

Knowing there were hundreds of people in the neighborhood, I scratched my head and wondered, so how are so many people living there if there’s no water?

As in so many things, the truth sat in the middle.

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Big tank out back, badly painted.

We discovered on moving that there was water, it was simply nasty water. The municipal supply here had a brown cast to it. Good for flushing, not bathing, certainly not drinking, but that’s true most everywhere in Mexico.

So, in addition to the customary underground cistern and the roof tank, we installed an additional, large, above-ground tank out back and a smaller one out by the front gate.

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Tinaco on the roof.

Water was brought to us in tanker trucks. It cost about 20 bucks a month and was only slightly inconvenient. This went on for about eight years until a neighbor mentioned that the municipal water had improved.

He was correct. It was crystal clear spring water.

We had the small tank out front and the underground cistern out back connected to the municipal supply.

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Small tank out front.

No more tanker trucks.

And instead of paying 20 bucks a month, we now pay about three bucks a month for an unlimited supply.

Somewhere along the line we also installed another, larger tank out front about 20 feet from the smaller tank.

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Underground cistern.

I filled that big tank with a hose from the nearby smaller tank, and had a pump attached. We then had a way to water the yard and wash the two cars.

The large above-ground tank out back also was filled with a hose from the small tank out front, a block away. It was a very long hose indeed, a pain in the kazoo to do.

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Big tank out front.

The inspiration for this post came just this week when I finally had a plumber add pipes that fill the large, above-ground tank out front and the large, above-ground tank out back automatically from the municipal supply.

We are fully automated, water-wise. Our water supply rivals the Mediterranean Sea. Survivalists will envy us. We could float a fleet of Somalian pirates.

That old Gringo who said there was no water in our neighborhood might have been half right 14 years ago, but he’s not right now. In fact, he vanished years ago.

And I remain. With agua galore.

* * * *

(Note: The very top photo shows the tinaco above the new pastry workshop that was built last year. It was immediately hooked to the municipal supply.)

Time of crickets

New Image2
Rainy season makes plants go wild.

WHEN THE rains come, the crickets decide to move into the Hacienda uninvited. It’s an annual event.

They have a cat attitude toward water.

Their being inside wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t also love to croon, and they croon quite loudly.

The good thing is that the kitchen is their preferred location, and it’s a good distance from the bedroom. And they sing only when the lights are out at night.

But sometimes an adventurer will go exploring. He will hop into the living room, much closer to the bedroom. The adventurers are also singers, so something must be done.

When one heads out from the many hidey-holes available in the kitchen to the wide open spaces of the living room, he’s easier to spot and catch. I toss them back outdoors.

How do they get inside in the first place? you might wonder. Easy because Mexican home construction offers a plethora of pathways. One wonders why even more wildlife doesn’t live with us inside. So far, not one mouse.

That would send my wife over the brink.

Another phenomenon of the rainy season is teeny-tiny bugs the size of pinheads that appear on the ceiling of the downstairs bathroom. They  fall to the counter where we pick them up and toss them down the sink drain. That’s it.

Those guys haven’t appeared this year, and some years they do not appear at all. It’s a mystery.

New ImageNever a dull moment.

A hot-air balloon festival arrives this weekend, and since our local airport — a grassy strip — is quite near the Hacienda,  they’ll be floating over us, which is lovely.

I took a hot-air balloon ride early one morning in Houston years ago, and I did it with a beautiful woman, which is the best way to be in a big straw basket, floating, as the sun rises.

The other anniversary

2003
Just after moving in, 2003. Sidewalks were added a year later.
2016
Photo taken yesterday, 2016.

I RECENTLY WROTE of our 14th wedding anniversary in a post titled The Age of Dust. But another annual milestone passed about the same time, the Hacienda’s 13th birthday.

cakeThese events touch on two things I am very proud of: my wife and my home.

Call me old-fashioned.

We got married in April of 2002. Within four months, we had purchased the double lot in an outlying, hardscrabble neighborhood of our mountaintop town, and begun construction based on plans we drew on graph paper.

The work, done by three craftsmen and a helper, lasted nine months. I shot scads of photos, all of which were lost when my computer hard drive committed suicide. Dang!

Thirteen years now, and the place has developed a patina.

And so have I. And that reminds me of another thing I’m proud of, in addition to my wife and home:

I haven’t dropped dead yet.

The blueprints

casa

HERE IS THE “blueprint” for the construction of the Hacienda. It was drawn by me back in 2002. I’m no architect, obviously.

It’s on standard graph paper. It’s the ground floor. For some reason, I did not save the plan for the second floor, but I do have one for the window designs, which I did, and another for the electrical schematic.

I used to be an electrician. Did you know that?

The only changes to the downstairs plan are that the stairwell to the left of the sala (living room) could not go directly up. It had to hang a right up top and continue, a question of physics, and we extended the recamara (bedroom) about a yard farther to the right to make it roomier.

The second floor is one huge space, a fireplace, a walk-in closet and a bathroom with shower stall. The upstairs terraza covers the downstairs bedroom, closet, hall and bathroom, the same fat L-shape.

The second floor extends from the stairwell all the way to the right. The downstairs terraza and the kitchen/dining room (cocina/comedor) have no second floor above.

The “patio de servicio” at the top left is open to sun and rain. That’s where you’ll find the propane tank, the washing machine and the clothesline. At the very top left you’ll see a bathroom. It only has a toilet, and it was there when we bought the property, a brick outhouse. We just left it in place. It’s now a storeroom with a never-used johnny.

The living room is slightly sunken, my wife’s idea. There is one step up to the dining room/kitchen and a step up to the pasillo (hallway) at the right. Both of these have a stone archway above, which is snazzy.

The design below is the downstairs terraza, side view, drawn by my wife who used to be a civil engineer. Did you know that?

Click on either drawing for a closer look.

Before the three albañiles (bricklayers but far more) and the helper began work in August of 2002, we got a permit from City Hall, and that was the end of that. No one ever came to check the work. Construction lasted nine months and cost just under $100,000.

We moved here in May of 2003.

The photo at the very bottom was taken around 2006, I’m guessing. You would be looking at the top diagram from the right. See that baby palm at the bottom left? It’s now about 18- to 20-feet tall.

The only drawback to being our own architects is that the living room could use more light. The windows facing the downstairs terraza are huge, but the downstairs terraza is wide and roofed, so little light enters through those windows. An architect would have seen that coming.

No matter. It’s why Edison invented light bulbs.

And, as always, tons of photos can be found here.

terraza

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The big cat

THIS BIG CAT will live on our driveway, starting next year.

The feline is a stone mosaic that we bought yesterday from a new business just up the highway. They have lots of great designs. We chose this cat which cost the peso equivalent of about 100 American dollars. It easily would have cost $1,000 above the Rio Bravo, I think.

Living in Mexico is financially prudent.

The artwork — the mosaic — is just the big circle. The other stuff is supporting material until it is laid to rest in the driveway incline you see in the photo below. I made a circle there so you’ll know just where and have an idea of the size, though I think the cat’s actually larger.

The Hacienda serves a dual purpose. One, it’s a roof over our heads. Two, it’s an art gallery, and this will be a grand addition to the ever-growing exhibition.

Why next year? Springtime is our usual season for major work because it’s not raining. From June through October it rains here every day, which is dicey for outdoor construction. We’ve already done this year’s work, plus it looks like the summer rains are getting a very early start.

This particular area, the driveway up from the street, has long been a problem. It has grass and weeds growing through cracks in cement and stone. It’s how it was when we bought the property in 2002. We will have the entire area removed, the cat installed, and the rest will be smooth concrete.

There is one problem to be dealt with. During the construction we won’t be able to enter or leave by car, so we will park the Honda in the downtown Casita’s garage at night and leave it on the street here during the day. The construction should take two-three days, and then another two days minimum for drying. During the drying phase, after the workmen have left, we’ll likely visit San Miguel de Allende, about 140 miles away, to see how the high-falootin’, artsy, rich Gringos live.

But this will happen next year. Until then, the mosaic cat will sit upright in my child bride’s pastry workshop, leaning against a far wall as an objet d’art. That’s her in the top photo, barefoot in her pajamas and a red jacket due to the morning nip.

The tower view

View

ATOP THE LAVATORY of the kitchen/storefront under construction out near the street is a space enclosed by brick that will house the water tank. We have dubbed that high spot la torre, the tower.

I ascended by ladder yesterday, camera in hand, and was pleased by perspectives I’d never seen before. Above, you see the Hacienda house. Long-time passersby know that I’m inordinately fond of bragging on this place that we designed ourselves on graph paper in 2002. We hired no architect.

We’ve had fun decorating it over the years (I am an artiste!) and I was amused when John Calypso once commented that the living room looks like the lobby of a Turkish hotel.

That ivy-covered wall is stone. Its top is formed in the shape of the Alamo, and it was my idea to build it there to block the view toward the house from Nosy Parkers in the street when the main gate is open.

The orange edifice at the far right is the third story of the sex motel next door, its laundry room. If you click on the photo, it should get larger. That smoke at the rear is from the kiln of a family business that makes clay roof tiles. It’s farther away than it appears here. They made the tiles of our house way back when.

The yellow paint around the upstairs terraza is fresh, part of the work the construction crew has already done unrelated to the kitchen/storefront. Our second story is basically one huge room though it also has a walk-in closet and a bathroom with shower. The left-most window is where my desk and computer sit.

Downstairs, the window nearest you, is the bedroom. It’s the only actual bedroom in the house. We also have a bed upstairs for emergencies, but that big space is more than a bedroom. It houses my “office” in the corner, a gym set, two recliners and a nice Samsung TV for watching Netflix. The room isn’t cramped, due to its size.

At the right side of the archway entrance downstairs, a sharp eye will detect a stalk growing out of a tequila maguey. That stalk ascends higher than the second story of the house. I see it directly outside the window above my computer screen, and it’s a favored sitting spot in the mornings for a couple of black-vented orioles.

Things grow like mad here at 7,200 feet ASL. That fan palm behind the ceramic swan atop the wall is huge, and I planted it years ago when it was a tyke in a plastic pot. Same goes for the nopal tree at the far right and the yellow-green maguey to the left and the monster aloe vera a bit more to the left.

I planted them all when they were about the size of my hand. Stuff never grew like this back in Houston even though the climate is not all that different if you don’t count that Houston summers are far hotter.

That red wall you see extending to the orange property wall at the left, rear, is just a barrier I had built a few years after we moved in. It simply hides what I now call the Garden Patio. It has a concrete floor beneath which is a 9,000-liter cistern, another large above-ground water tank, and it’s where I keep yard gear.

It appears to have a tile roof, but that’s actually a neighbor’s house across the street back there.

The tower also provides an interesting view of the street out front. I should have photographed that too. I was going to shoot it this morning, but there’s too much fog. Maybe mañana. I want to get this item into the mail.