Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Model Building

Back in Canada, on this cold winter weekend, JD and I decided to build a scaled model. We have designed and redesigned the structure with endless changes and modifications but are now confident our architectural plans are sufficient.  However, we wanted to see what it will truly look like, how the beams will go together, how much of an overhang we want, and whether we like what we have designed.  These are the details that we enjoy playing with.
Armed with foamcore, an exacto knife, and a glue gun we began our craft project with gusto.  Even though we were working together it was like a race; neither of us wanted the other to do more or get ahead.

When I had to go out to do some errands, I made JD promise not to cut or glue anything while I was away. True to his promise he did not touch the model but went instead to the shop and cut scaled wood beams to build a realistic roof.

Our effort was justly rewarding.
How cool is that model!

Most of the windows are high so as to be in the shade of the roof.  The pop top roof will be half a loft and half an open space to allow hot air to rise up and out the windows.  The area at the front, set back under the roof, is the kitchen window.  It will have stools to sit up to the countertop when the windows are open.

January, 2015

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Crew

Having the site work being done I must say I am thrilled.   While watching and admiring the progress being made I am daydreaming of the house we will build.   Standing not to far away from me, and also watching the work was a young man in clean clothes with a clip board in his hand.   I struck up a conversation with him and learned that he was the supervisor.  He had recently graduated from college for engineering - or something similar as best I could make out.   I shared with him my ideas of our future structure and he asked me who was going to build it.   Hmm, I paused....we had not yet got that far in our planning.  In fact, we didn't even know what we wanted.  Up until this point Carol-Ann and I have been sketching and playing with different shapes, and ideas.  

This young man introduced himself as Axell Diaz Sandino, and he said his family were builders. I remember taking this with a grain of salt because everyone says this sort of thing in a place where work is scarce. I thanked him and took his number. 

Fast forward a couple of months:   I returned with our finalized building plans and a determination to start the foundations.   I started the work by myself and was assisted by a couple of local kids.  I did not get far and realized that this was not going to get me the quality I was looking for.

I called Axell and we spoke at length.  His step father, cousin, brother in law, and nephews were all builders and are available for hire.

Here is Reynaldo, my favourite of the crew.  He is a master carpenter.  Essentially, he is my equivalent in terms of skills and knowledge in the building trade.  
January, 2015

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Site Preparation

It seems we have been doing a lot of site prep already... a well, the septic, our awesome hut of functionality...but now the big stuff has begun. 
It sort of makes us nervous.  Everything else up to this point has been manageable and relatively small.  
Oscar was the man we hired to help with the site prep.  I was fully impressed with the equipment that arrived. Tandem axle trucks and a full size backhoe but my personal favourite was the Wiley coyote style steam roller.  These guys are used to building roads.  Close enough I thought. 
Since our property is low lying, and in very close proximity to the river and the ocean, we either need to build our structure on elevated piers, or raise the grade.   We chose the latter.  
What we found when we started digging was that the rich delta top soil was super deep. After pulling out all the stumps and roots I still had not found the subsoil that I was looking for.   

Finally we came to a layer of what might be called black sand but we also hit the water table. At this point I decided to start filling the huge hole back in. 

It took 34 truck loads of local clay to get a level site that was 18"above the surrounding grade .

December, 2014 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Picture Perfect

Our riverside view of Mira Flores.  The ocean is within hearing distance and if you look very carefully you can see a wave crashing.  Very picturesque.
The Rio Citalapa, as viewed from the ocean.  The river carves a new path to the ocean each year.
And every evening there is a spectacular sunset.  

December 2014

La Choza - The Shack

It is soo exciting.  We are breaking ground!  Literally.
Construction has officially begun.
This is our 10 foot by 10 foot building to house all of the utilities.   And ultimately it will be our most useful structure in the years to come.  I liken this shed to a provincial park camping kiosk.  We will have a shower and toilet accessible on one side, a solid wall down the middle and then a kitchenette accessible on the other side.

Here is the plumbing all laid out.  The black pipe is for the toilet, the grey pipe for the sink.  I am so lucky that all this is common knowledge for JD.  He can install just about anything.   He has so many talents.

As this is Nicaragua where freezing temperatures and frost are not a concern we don't have to install a 4' foundation.  We just pulled away all of the organic soft soil and will pour a concrete floor on the hardpacked earth.  How easy.

Here's JD and El Fumador back in Managua picking up construction materials.  The police stopped us at one point in our travels and told us we did not have the necessary papers to have out metal racks installed on our truck.  Having bought El Fumador with the metal racks already on, we had no idea that we needed a separate permit.  Solution: the racks came off.  The police were hoping we would pay for the permit and the fine but we just removed the entire structure.  Sadly, the kids no longer have their hideaway haven in the back.  But, just as well, because we need the space for construction materials now. 

The foundation floor has been poured, the walls have been built using the typical concrete Nica blocks and the final finish is parged cement or a stucco look.  We did not do anything funky.  The colour banding is simple the drying effect from the previous rainfall.  The water has dried in the middle but the top and bottom of the structure are still wet.  

And here it is.  Our ever so useful choza.  This is the view of the kitchenette and the overhanging roof so we can sit underneath and keep dry when it is raining.  This of course does nothing to protect us from the mosquitoes, but you can't have everything.  
September 2014

Friday, November 11, 2016

Motorcycle Mama

Instead of heading to the ocean, JD and I made a solo trip into the mountains. When I say solo, I mean without our kids.  First stop:  NicaMoto to rent motorcycles.  A fabulous setup, this company rents out motorbikes for day, week, or month long journeys.  You can find their website at www.nicamotoadv.com
First leg of the journey was from Managua to Boaca.  It was long, we got lost, but eventually we made it.  Such a beautiful town.  Here is just a snipped of the pristine beauty of the hilly terrain. This was a small school nestled into the hillside for the surrounding community.  School was out, so no kids to interact with.  

Next day we travelled to Muy,Muy using the backroads through the mountains.  Yes, we got lost again.  Being a novice on a motorbike, but eager to try anything, my skills were definitely tested.  JD found it extremely entertaining to document my trials and errors.  I was proud of my developing talents and accomplishments.  Here's me crossing a river washout.  

And then, here's me on the other side, thankful I made it.  No worries that I ploughed into the hill on the other side.  I was grateful really.   It stopped me from falling over and gave me a moment to rest.  I was breathing pretty hard at this moment and needed time to regroup my thoughts and slow my heartrate down.  JD was enjoying the entertainment.  

Funny, I met the best teacher one could find.  An expert on going slow, living day by day, and always resting to soak up the surroundings.  We all have lots to learn.  How cute is this sloth.    
April, 2014

Sunday, November 6, 2016

One Long Siesta

We are back!  It has been a long break.  Sort of lost track of time and space with work and family life.