Spring is for sprucing up

José walks atop glass. The dark area is covered with shade cloth.

I wait till April and May each year to do repairs. It’s the height of the dry season, and outside renovations don’t run the risk of getting soaked. Quite a few have been done already, mostly at the Downtown Casita where painting, plumbing and electrical occurred.

Yesterday, one of my guys, José, did some minor exterior painting here at the Hacienda, and then he climbed atop the roof of the upstairs terraza with a pressure washer to remove a year’s accumulation of gunk. The interesting aspect is that the roof is glass. He treads lightly and tries to stay atop the steel beams.

Old faithful.

My focus now turns to the water heater, which is about 16 years old. We started out with an identical heater 18 years ago, but it failed after two years and was replaced for free because it was still under warranty. It’s a big sucker, and has always worked great.

It has a nonstop pilot light, however, and it sits quite near the propane tank, which concerns me a bit. Plus, I would like to spend less on gas. I tried to reduce gas costs years ago by installing first one solar water heater, then another. Neither were worth warm spit, so I’m turning to another solution, one of those on-demand heaters.

But I’ve had bad luck with those too. We installed one in the Mexico City condo, and it’s been quite temperamental. We installed another in the Downtown Casita some years back because the little cheap traditional heater the home came with worked poorly. The new on-demand heater was no better, so I installed a large, traditional heater, which works great.


We also have an on-demand heater in my child bride’s pastry kitchen. It’s never failed us in seven years.

I’m going to buy an Avera instantaneous heater, probably the model that costs 3,199 pesos. It has great reviews on the Avera website, and I’ll also keep the old heater online. I can switch from one to the other. Another option is a modulating model. Anyone have experience with those?

Homeownership, never an idle moment.

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.

Sheer convenience

THERE ARE MANY happy reasons to  live in Mexico. One is sheer convenience. It’s usually easy to live here.

Here is a typical example: I had to leave the Honda today at the repair shop, which is about halfway between our hardscrabble neighborhood and downtown.

I drove to the repair shop, explained the problem, and the mechanic got to work immediately. I stepped outside to the street and waved down a minibus, which costs seven pesos, about 40 cents in American money.

New ImageFifteen minutes later, I was deposited directly outside the Hacienda’s front gate. The car will be ready in the afternoon, one imagines.

Another example: The water heater in our downtown casita must be changed. The current heater is too small. We drove to Home Depot in the capital city and purchased a hefty heater, which just fit into the back of the Honda.

On returning home, I called my plumber-electrician, an independent operator. That was Saturday. He said he’ll do it tomorrow. He’ll come on time, and he won’t charge much.

A third example: We’re doing renovations here at the Hacienda. When I decided to do that, I phoned “a guy” in the neighborhood. He came over immediately on his bicycle.

He started the work two days later. His work is incredible. He’s an artist with stone and cement, plus he installed a new toilet. The work is over half done. More on that later.

And the price is quite right.

Example No. 4: Need a doctor appointment? Call and make it for the next day. And the waiting room will not be full of folks. It will be full of just you. You won’t wait long.

Mexico, in most respects, is a far easier place to live than in the United States. And when the problem with the Honda is resolved, I’ll get a call. Then I’ll step out the front gate, hail a minibus and retrace my route of this morning.

Another 40 cents, and I’ll be at the garage’s door.

You can breathe easy down here.