I, the architect

The ground-floor layout, drawn on graph paper by me.*

This springtime will mark the 18th anniversary of the Hacienda. I’ve only owned two homes. The first, in Texas, was mine for just nine years, and I purchased it ready-made, a vintage from back in the 1950s. The second is the Hacienda, which I designed myself with some assist from my child bride.

The downstairs terraza from two directions, drawn by my wife.

Who needs actual blueprints when graph paper is available at the stationery store? The construction began in August of 2002 and ended in May of 2003, which is when we moved in from a two-story rental near downtown. I confess to being something of an architectural copycat. The Hacienda is a much larger version of that two-story rental, a design that I liked and stuck with to a great degree, but not entirely.

Electrical diagram, also done by me.

Among my many talents is that of electrician. Among my portfolio of four-year and two-year degrees and certificates is an Associate Degree in Electrical Construction Technology. I worked as a professional electrician for a spell in New Orleans. So I knew where plugs and lights were needed.

Three talented men and the occasional helper built the house. During the nine-month construction I took a ton of photos, and they all disappeared shortly after we moved in due to their being stored on a hard drive that committed suicide. I stupidly had not backed up any of them anywhere.

A real estate writer on the Houston newspaper where I once toiled wrote a column back then listing the pros and cons of homeownership as opposed to renting. One of his pros was simply that owning a home is fun, and it is most of the time. Renting is not fun.

Though I lost all photos of the construction process, I do have this one I took shortly after we moved in, and at the bottom is a shot from two years ago. It’s been lots of fun.

2003: Fresh paint and disheveled yard. The upstairs terraza is very different now.
That’s the second patio, built in 2019, replacing a grubby stone version.

* The stairwell goes straight up in the drawing. But it would not fit that way, so it actually goes straight up and then hangs a right to complete the turn to the second floor. The revised version is seen in the electrical diagram.

One-man show, update

The home construction directly across the street from the Hacienda — being done almost entirely by one man, the future homeowner — continues to be a source of fascination. I wish I could do that.

I should take a photo while he’s there working, but aiming a camera at him seems a bit tacky, so I’ve never done it except sneakily. He likely would not mind because he appears to be a very amiable sort, and so does his wife who’s there on occasion too.

But this is the progress as of today. I snapped the shots while walking to the little store in the next block to buy cabbage and carrots for the minestrone I’m making for lunch.

The two-story house to the left was completed three or four years ago, but no one has ever lived there. I spotted a couple, the presumed homeowners, standing on the roof once, and I waved, and they waved back. There is an automated light that snaps on every evening, and stays on most of the night to give the appearance of occupancy.

But I know better, and now so do you.

I’m guessing it’s a retirement home, and the couple has yet to retire. Maybe they live in the United States or in a big city elsewhere in Mexico. Lord knows.

I sure as shootin’ would not have knowingly built a retirement home directly abutting railroad tracks, which that house does. Trains rumble through most nights. Well, all nights except when the teacher union or troublesome teacher “students” are not blocking the tracks somewhere. That is not uncommon, alas.

Beans and buildings

How it looked just yesterday.

The fellow who’s building his home across the street almost single-handedly is making great progress. As mentioned in previous posts, aside from his wife who comes now and then to help him haul material and a younger fellow who appears about twice a month — probably a son — the one guy is doing this completely solo.

Very impressive. I’ll keep you posted.


I made a great discovery yesterday. L.L. Bean has an international website. They didn’t the last time I checked, which was years ago. Before I packed my two bags and flew over the Rio Bravo two decades ago, I was a L.L. Bean man. I was especially fond of those gumshoes.

The website even gives me prices in real money, i.e. Mexican pesos. They’re not cheap, but they’re not cheap in the United States either, though American buyers don’t have to pony up an import tax.

I suspect there are flannel-lined, rubber-soled boots in my future, and probably some of those shirts that make me look like a lumberjack. And can fleece pullovers be far behind?

The Hacienda marks its quinceañera

WHILE THE BIG adolescent birthday above the Rio Bravo is Sweet Sixteen, down here it’s the 15th, which we call quinceañera. Quince is 15 in español.

The Hacienda marks its 15th birthday this month, which is to say it was complete, more less, and we moved into the house in May of 2003. It looked like this:

5
Home done, but the yard still a mess in 2003.

We hired no architect, and we used no blueprints. We drew what we wanted on graph paper and handed it to “the guys.” This is how part of it looked:

print

My civil engineer child bride drew the top part, which is the downstairs terraza. I was not planning on arches. That was her good idea. The bottom part was drawn by me. It’s the downstairs floor plan.

Now you know where everything is. Downstairs, at least. We only planned on building the downstairs initially. We were going to wait to do the upstairs, but “the guys,” three of them, plus a helper, were so responsible and talented we didn’t want to lose them, so we continued nonstop with the upstairs.

I took photos of the entire construction process that lasted nine months. They were digital photos, and I stored them on my computer, a computer that suffered a hard-drive meltdown when all was done. I lost all the photos.

Moral: Always create backups.

Here’s a view from 2014. It’s not much different now:

hacienda
One of my favorite photos. I took it in 2014.

I often crow here about the place because I’m proud of it. While the two of us did it, I did the lion’s share, most of the design, almost all of the color, almost all of the interior artwork. Some folks find it overboard, especially inside.

I don’t care. I love it.

I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else in my life. Runner-up goes to a house in Jacksonville, Florida, where I lived with my family from age 7 to 17.

Second runner-up is the Houston home I shared with my second ex-wife from 1986 to 1995, just one year less than the spell in Florida. There is no third runner-up because I moved around too much.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself, a middle-class Georgia Cracker, living in a place like this, but here I am. Not only that, but with a lovely child bride. At times, life exceeds expectations greatly.

Sometimes I think I should pinch myself, but I might wake up.

I sure as shootin’ don’t want that.

Felíz quinceañera, Hacienda!

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(As always, a horde of Hacienda photos available here.)