Front versus the rear

This is the front gate. Not bad.
This is the rear gate. Grubby.
This is the street out back. Muddy. The LP truck just departed.

Our propane tank was filled this morning. It cost about $110, or 2,200 pesos in real money, and the last fill-up was about seven weeks ago. I used to go three months or more between fill-ups, but I also used to have a much larger propane tank.

I should have snapped a photo of the truck while it was down there near the yellow sex motel, but I did not think of it till the guys had gone. Way down there is a pipe up high on my brick wall where the gas guy climbs a ladder and fills me up, so to speak.

I remember when my parents lived on our Georgia farm in the 1970s, after my grandmother died, they had a propane tank too, about the size of my previous one. I wonder how much they paid. Their gas came from that tank, and their water came from underground.

Their electricity came from far away, the only utility that was not on-site, as they say.* It was rural life. In the meantime, we’re waiting for the monsoon season to stop. Enough already with the mud.

My child bride’s pastry kitchen, just off to the left in the top photo, has its own propane tank, a small one. The kitchen also has its own electricity service and water heater.

Women can be costly to keep.


*Well, there was the telephone. It came from afar. It was a party line till it wasn’t. Party lines, as old folks will remember, enabled you to listen to conversations of other people. It at times led to trouble.

Getting gassed

The living room heater, one of three here at the Hacienda.

This morning the heat sputtered out.

Normally, after biscuits, honey and café Americano negro around 8 a.m. in the dining room, we adjourn to the living room for 15 or 20 minutes to sit atop the scarlet sofa and mellow out with soft music, something I do far better than my highly amped child bride.

While doing this, the gas heater is keeping us cozy. But today it ran out of gas, sputtering and then adiós. The good thing is that it was not very cold this morning, but I was faced with the chore of refilling the tank. I disconnect it with a wrench, toss it onto the front-seat floor of the Honda and drive two minutes down the highway to the propane place.

It got filled for 160 pesos, about eight bucks.

Does not look full now, but it is.

When I lived in Houston, we also used gas for heating and cooking, but it came into the house via underground pipes from God only knows where. I never knew. A monthly bill arrived, and I paid it. End of story.

Things are more in-your-face here, less automatic. There’s more thought and labor involved. For 10 months of the year, the three heaters with their tanks simply sit inside the house ignored. I sometimes wonder if that’s wise, if I should disconnect the tanks and store them outside, but then my characteristic shiftlessness erupts, and I do nothing.

It’s been 18 years now with no problem.

And then there’s this far bigger tank in the service patio. It sits about 12 feet from the old gas water heater and its perpetual pilot light. Hope the tank never leaks.

I’m planning to make some changes next month. I’m thinking of buying an “instantaneous” heater that does not keep a perpetual pilot light going. According to the instructions on the model I’m looking at, hot water might not reach all the way to the downstairs bathroom, but an added pump should resolve that.

When I lived in Houston, I never had to think about any of this. The gas arrived all by itself, heating water in the tank in the garage, and feeding the stove and oven in the kitchen. The bill arrived. I wrote a check and mailed it off into the ethers.

Living in Gringolandia feeds laziness, and that encourages nincompoopery.

It’s not unusual to see trucks on the streets and highways that are propelled by propane instead of gasoline. Most of them are small commercial vehicles, and their LP tanks are plainly visible atop the cab or in another spot out in the open. My initial response on seeing these are that I would not want to be driving such a thing were an accident to happen.

But then I think about my car’s gasoline tank, and I wonder if there’s much difference, risk-wise. I suspect propane is cheaper, which is why they do it.

Are there LP-powered vehicles on American roads? I have no idea.

Whole lotta shakin’ going on

The Jesus Patio. The tallest “bush” behind it is the cursed pear. It’s coming down!

WHOEVER SAID life in retirement is easygoing was only sometimes correct.

We have too much on our plates right now. First, my child bride broke her arm a month ago. The cast came off last Friday. She still has swelling in her wrist, however, so we phoned the traumatologist yesterday. We got an X-ray of her wrist in the afternoon, and this morning we go back to the doctor.

* * * *

Five guys arrived yesterday morning and lugged the old LP tank from the service patio through the dining room, through the living room, and outside, leaving it in what I call the garden patio. It’s out back.

This tank is extremely heavy and six feet long.

I said it was free for the taking, so one of them will return Thursday morning and haul it away. It is 15 years old, our first LP tank.

We were going to have this tank removed in January when other work is scheduled, but this weekend a blacksmith is coming to install circular stairs from the service patio to the roof of the dining room/kitchen, something we should have done ages ago because it’s necessary to go up there at times.

Now I creak up there on a ladder.

The circular stairs will partially obstruct the door from the kitchen to the service patio and likely would have made removing the LP tank next to impossible. I say “next to impossible” because Mexicans can do anything.

So we got the LP tank out of there while we still could.

* * * *

There is another circular stairway on the upstairs terraza that climbs to the roof of the second floor. That stairway will be moved next January to the roof of the dining room/kitchen, so we still have access to the highest roof.

One circular stairway from the ground to the roof of the dining room/kitchen, and then another from there all the way to the roof!

And why are we doing that? Because we’re going to remove the small, tile roof from the upstairs terraza and install another that will cover the entire terraza. This is how that terraza looked on a fine day many years ago.

This is going to have an entire roof overhead.

But nowadays, it’s never used at all. It was never used much in the first place because it’s under blazing sun in the dry season, and it’s got an almost perpetual lake in the five-month rainy season.


In the above shot, you can see the current tile roof, a small one, at the very top. It was installed almost exclusively to cover the hammock that was there for years, but the hammock is long gone. I just stopped using it.

The new roof will cover all of the upstairs terraza. It will be either more red-clay tile, or something more modern — glass and steel, which will not blend with the architectural style, but it will be more convenient.

For the entire space to be covered, the circular stairwell has to go.

That work will be done early next year.

* * * *

At the same time, we’ll tear up the Jesus Patio you see in the first photo, replacing it with a larger patio with a nicer ceramic floor. We’ll also remove the cursed peach tree, not shown, and the damnable pear. They both toss hundreds of fruits on the grass every summer, and I’m sick and tired of picking it all up.

Nopal: Thirty-plus feet high.

Also to be removed is the cursed nopal tree. It tosses its little “tuna” fruit onto the new rock-and-concrete yard surface below, more crap I have to pick up. It sheds hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those “tunas.”

This nopal tree is at least 30 feet tall, and it’s covered with spikes. I stupidly planted it years ago when it was knee-high to a petunia. If I had only known.

Originally, I had planned on removing the nopal along with the other work in January, but I asked the crew who moved the LP tank if they knew of someone who would remove it for a “good price.”

Someone’s coming Thursday morning to remove the nopal! They will charge me $1,500 pesos, about $80 U.S. today.

* * * *

Our washing machine has committed suicide, so we bought another yesterday afternoon. The original washer, like the LP tank, was new when we moved into the Hacienda 15 years. I found a repossessed washer at a store marked down from 12,000 pesos to 6,500, which is a steal. It looks like new. Whirlpool.

We’ll repair the old washer if it doesn’t cost a bunch, and we’ll take it to the Downtown Casita for the convenience of vacationers.

* * * *

So, lots going on. I hope it settles down soon, and I can return to my previous life of croissantitos, orange marmalade, bagels, cream cheese, cafés Americano negro, and Kindle books on the sprawling plaza downtown in the afternoons, a child bride and no more broken bones.

Let us pray so.



Nearing the end

Our very large propane tank.

The solar heater is dicey, but it can work. It’s our second. The first was useless.

OUR PROPANE tank is almost empty.

Normally, the response is to phone the gas company, and they send a tanker truck, usually the same day, and refill it.

But we have a problem. There’s a gizmo that sits inside our tank, and it tells us, via a gauge outside, the level of the propane. That gizmo has gone on vacation!

This happened almost two years ago.

Since then, the gizmo decided to start working again, so it’s been filled a time or two. A fill-up lasts almost six months. But now it’s not working again. Our plumber says the gizmo cannot be changed unless the tank is empty.

If you knock on it with your knuckles, you get an empty sound, but there remains some gas in there because the stove and water heater are still functioning fine.

When the gas runs out, we’ll call the plumber pronto. Whether he comes pronto is another matter.

You know how we Mexicans are.

Both our stove and water heater rely on gas.

We have a second water heater — solar-powered — on the roof. However, it’s temperamental. Sometimes the water is blazing hot, sometimes not, sometimes tepid.

The kitchen stove is considerably less of a problem because we have another stove out in the pastry workshop, and it’s on a different gas tank.

And if the solar water heater totally fails, we can always drive the 15 minutes to our Downtown Casita, which is currently unoccupied, to take showers.

A few months ago, our plumber told us that the measuring gizmo inside the tank almost never malfunctions. He’d never known of it to happen. Lucky us.

* * * *

(Note: We have more gas tanks, water tanks and pumps than you can shake a stick at. I could be a survivalist kook.)