Wednesday, January 15, 2014

el pozo ( The Well)

Having a well was a big concern and major project for us.  On the positive side we knew from digging the hole for the septic that ground water was only 2 metres below the surface.  On the uncertain side, we did not know if the water was going to be brackish (containing salt from the ocean) or sweet (containing water from the river).

JD reviewed all the typical methods of building a well and decided upon a simple and cost effective approach.    His idea was to line the well with plastic barrel drums and allow the ground water to natural seep in through the spaces between each barrels.
Sounded simple.  We had the boys start digging.

We needed the well to be 4 meters deep but as the water was to be found at 2 meters deep we encountered a problem.  So, we went in search of a guy with a pump.  Once that was rigged up, with duct tape and a whole lot of ingenuity, we were back at work.  The pump would pull the water out of the well to allow us enough time to remove some more dirt and drive the barrels deeper to line the well.

Here is Ramon in the well.  After using the pump to remove the water Ramon or Mardon would shimmy down into the well.  They would fill a bucket up with dirt from the bottom and we would haul it up to discard it.  Then we would be able to push the barrels farther into the earth.

Eventually, we managed to get the well four barrels deep.  Here is JD having the first shower on our lot.  The water was sweet and extremely clean.  What a thrill!
Next year we will install a permanent pump, some plumbing and we will have running water and a flushing toilet.

Next order of business...a structure to house all of this potential infrastructure.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Here marks the beginning of our construction.  Actually, we started soon after we arrived, but due to all our travels we are just finishing up our endeavors.
We found the local Ferrateria (hardwarde/construction store) in Masachapa and without too much effort or hardship I was able to buy the first of our supplies and get them delivered. 

C-A and the girls settled in while I bought materials.                                                                                                                                              
Fully loaded with a septic tank, gravel, rebar, bags of cement, and pvc tubing we followed the truck to our lot.

Mardon, and his brother in law Ramon, already started to dig the hole for the septic tank. 

Note, the bare feet and the steel rod for breaking through the top layer of dirt. 
Mission accomplished, the septic tank is settled into its new home.

Because you can't buy perforated PVC pipe here, we had to perforate our own.  We started a fire, and using a hot steel rod Mardon punctured holes into the tube.

We filled the excavation with gravel to use as the weeping bed.
Using the typical large stone bricks we finished up the installation.
And yet to be competed is the lid that sits on top.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

Sometimes you get a once in a lifetime your doorstep.
This morning was truly incredible.  An olive green sea turtle paddled herself out of the ocean before our very eyes.  Slowly but deliberately she crawled upon the beach and past the high tide mark,  obviously looking for a perfect spot to lay her eggs.  

She found the right spot and using her back flippers she began to dig out a hole.  It took a lot of effort and she rested many times.
We were all mesmerized by her grandeur.   Her eyes held all her history and our hearts went out to her beautiful existence.
At some point she deposited her eggs.  On average, the Olive Ridley (lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtles lay 50-100 eggs and they resemble ping pong balls.

After she laid her eggs, she used the same back flippers to cover the hole and then used her entire body in a back and forth motion to thump and pack the sand to secure her eggs.  Then she used her front flippers to distribute more sand and to cover the entire area.
Her she is creating a mini sand storm to conceal her efforts.
Mission accomplished, she then headed back to the ocean.  We cheered her on at this point and were truly excited by what we had just witnessed. 
Her eggs will hatch in 40-50 days.  Sadly, we will not be here to meet her offspring but I hope they find their way, unharmed, into the ocean. 
A fond farewell.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Averyl and Her Many Friends

Awww, that's so cute.   
the Nicaraguan Green Conure. 

A ghost crab, they burrow into the sand and hide out during the day.   Typically they come out at night to forage for food, or if needed during the day to repair their tunnel that has been squashed by foot traffic.
Now that is different...a walking stick.  She had to climb a tree to find this one.  It is almost 8 inches long and quite adorable.
So adorable she let it walk all over her.  Eww.
Umm, can't really explain this one.  She is holding a slingshot in one hand and the iguana in the other hand...and displays no issues or squirmish behaviour.
Her friends, local nicas, are taking it home for dinner.  We declined the offer. 

Perdito Paradiso

Lost Paradise....
Each time we come to Nicaragua, we find it is paradise all over again. 
Our main mission this year is to start construction on our property.  Not all at once, and not to be finished this year, but our aim this year was to make a start.  
First order of business is a well, next the septic,  maybe some plant material, and then a small structure to make it all possible to be at the property...with a small semblance of comfort.

This is our property, without any of the above mentioned options.  The trees provide a shade canopy from the sun, and most if not all of the ground vegetation has been removed.  If it was not, it just gets overgrown and becomes a jungle of a mess, and very hard to walk through. 

Adding hammocks was a good thought.   Best to do it right away because when it gets so hot it is hard to do anything else. 
And before we could start on anything, JD wanted a swing to entertain himself.  Doesn't he look happy?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Years Day

While passing an idyllic day at our property on the first day of the new year we found ourselves in the middle of a beach party.  First one truck arrived carrying twelve passengers in the back, then a motorcycle with an entire family.  Next came two buses, more trucks, and then my chin dropped as a tractor trailer pulled in and backed into the brush.  Out came the people, the hammocks, the chairs, the food, the children, and it was an all day beach party.  For the entire day there was a continuous stream of people, and vehicles coming and going. 

Our lot is fenced, and we have a sign indicating it is private property, but there is a public access road to the beach upon which all these people were gathered in a manner not unlike a typical night in the volunteer camping area at the Hillside festival in Guelph ( was mayhem everywhere and people were tucked into any available vegetative space upon which to hang a hammock and settle in for the afternoon).
This phenomena answered a lot of questions for JD and I.  We constantly see a lot of garbage through out the property and along the beach access road and have often wondered where it comes from.  Since we are in a relatively remote location we assumed the garbage was being washed up on the shore from the ocean.  Little did we know that we have a coveted spot where all the folks from miles around come to enjoy the day at the beach and get away from it all.
But there is a price to pay.  Not many Nicaraguans have figured out that a clean place is a better place.  Garbage is an our lot, in town, on the sides of the road, basically they leave a trail of garbage everywhere they go.
So, being grossed out by it, we attempted to set an example.  We pulled out some garbage bags, and started picking it up.  We only made a small dent in the flotsam and detritus but it was a start.  Many Nica's giggled at our efforts and thought we were a wee tad strange and perhaps even laughed because they thought it was futile.
However, we continued and started two fires to burn the garbage.  Over the course of two hours we burned about twenty full bags.  Much has still been left behind, but we have devised a plan to hire the locals kids to help clean up and will eventually set up a couple of garbage bins with a sign "Welcome to MiraFlores, keep it clean"
I guess we will only be able to tell if it helps when we return in years to come. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

El Fumador - Part II

El Fumador has become a good old friend.  We have had our fair share of stories already, just by having bought the truck, so we thought we would share them with you.

The very first trip he took us on we were left at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.  I now think he was testing us, seeing how we would react, if we were worthy companions.  The situation was easy to figure out.  We ran out of diesel even though the gauge said 1/3 full.  We were back on the road within an hour after being rescued by a gringo named Mike, and then buying a windshield fluid jug of diesel from a guy with a tractor.

Next issue was the lack of get-up-and-go power and excess smoke coming through the floorboards.  It was a  sickly sweet mix of diesel smoke and burning brake linings.  When I stopped and determined the front wheels were hot enough to fry eggs it was time to get help.  In Masachapa, Pascal rebuilt our master brake cylinder and while at it noticed that we had a leak in the gas tank.   So we had him weld all the holes in the gas tank.

We then set off to Matagalpa.  We made it in one piece but this smoking thing was getting completely out of hand.  Carol-Ann, bless her soul, spends a lot of the time knitting while we are traveling.  It was made much more difficult while her head was out the window trying to get fresh air.

Also, by the time we had climbed our way into the mountains we had blown all the exhaust gaskets and it was too loud to even talk to each other.   The kids, by the way, were oblivious to all this and having the time of there lives in the back like it was a never ending hayride.  They are very aware that you cannot even think about doing this in Canada.

Upon arrival in Matagalpa, we went in search of the muffler shop (pretty easy actually if you saw CA's kitsch post) and Armando gave us a new pipe, front to back.  The old pipe (on the left) had been welded so many times that it was about the same size as a drinking straw.  Old smoky no longer suffers from emphysema as the new pipe (on the right) allows for enough air intake.

While up in Matagalpa installing bio-filters, Pedro's brother, Arnesto, specializes in rebuilding injector diesel pumps,  and El Fumador had open heart surgery.  He lost a lot of oil, but now we have a first class machine that should keep ticking for a while yet.  On the road again, heading back to our property, the drive took a whole lot less time, and we were proud parents when we could accelerate without puffs of smoke coming out the rear.

We thought all our troubles were over....until we stopped in Rivas.  We tried to put the key into the ignition but it just would not go in.  We poured a wee bit of oil into the ignition receptacle (leftover from the surgery in Matagalpa) and hoped for the best.  Not good enough.  So we rifled through the glove compartment, found a screwdriver and Carol-Ann's leatherman (thanks to her father's fortuitous gift 20 years ago when she embarked on her bicycle tour from Canada to Mexico) and a tire iron from behind the back seat (score!)  I took the steering wheel off thinking I could disable the steering lock, but found out I could assess the ignition tumblers and start the vehicle with a screwdriver. Elsie's paisley pink duct tape proved useful to put it all back together again.  I guess thirty years of dust and sand had rendered the key mechanism unoperable. 

Don't think that with all these stories that El Fumador is a pile of junk and without its many uses.
It has managed to keep us moving from destination to destination and along the way we are able to take many things. 
We bought eight blue barrels to line our soon-to-be-dug well, and since they were all empty we thought it might be a good idea to fill them with plants too. 

And, on one trip we picked up the ice-cream guy who needed a lift to the next town.  Bought some popsicles at the same time too.  How perfect is that!