Saturday, February 23, 2008

Woah now, this is reeeeeeally interesting. It might save my mood completely...

¨¨Melina wood was traditionally used to make wood pulp because it grows easily and quickly, and because its fire resistance makes it a safe product. Melina is also virtually insect proof, making it a wood that may increase significantly in demand owing to a 2001 ruling by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that calls for the phase out of pressure treated lumber . . .¨¨

I cannot verify this statement, but it gives me real hope that my project will not be eaten in just a few minutes and more importantly, that I dont need to insect proof the stuff.

Still, the locals call it bug candy. They recommended treating it with pentachlorophyll (sp), and diesel fuel. I think I side with the locals. B showed me where an entire house of Melina was destroyed by termites. Her new one is steel framed.

There are so many products, and I dont know which one to use SOme of the insecticides that are effective, stain the wood green. Others, I dont know how safe they are. A clear incsectide that the ferreteria sold me, turn out not to be an insecticide at all. This, I learned after applying it for 6 hours in the heat.
If I had this all to do over again, wat would I do differently? I would not do it. Lord almighty, I am weary. Every day for now 18 days I have been working on this project. Driving, talking to people, lugging wood, nailing, bleaching, draninig, mixing cement, carrying, paying, spraying...its all getting to be too much.

The budget for the project was 2500. Its going to be closer to 6000 even then, I will have to get lucky. I have no idea how this is going to get done, even with me working full time on it every day for a month. I wanted to visit nicaragua and that plan is gone. Now I just want one day to read, or study spanish.

after 18 days, this is all that is left...

teak the whole house. Put in the roof joists. Buy and build the metal roof at 11 feet of the surface and 20 feet off of the ground without electricity because my source is drying up. dig a septci field, create a sewage system, plan and build a kitchen, add sinks and drain, cement a shower, install a shower, install a toilet, bug spray the house, seal the house with sealant, build new footers, build doors, windows and seceruity screens, get building permits, water permits, electricity permits, then get all those hooked up, build an electrical system with junction boxes, wiring, and oputlets, return faulty materials, buy new ones, and sort through all the advice I am getting in my bad spanish.

Thats it.

I am frustrated. Emensely. I was so in over my head. I am going to finish this thing. Too many people have worked hard to see it through, but I wish I had not begun right now. Maybe tomorrow will bring a sunnier disposition, but I am exhausted, bone weary.

Friday, February 22, 2008

By 4 today, we had a deck, a floor, and all the walls framed. I learn so much from walking the canadians work, that often I just watch. They fly over th wood, and striaght lines and walls emerge from piles of warped melina wood. We have two walls teaked, and the rest to do tomorrow.

I spent several house today spraying incesticide on the wood,and then applying teak seal to the wood to prevent more of the buggers from entering. My hand sticks together even after a late 2 hour surf with Cory.

we have burnt out two extension cords. Many of the costa rican tools are faulty and shoddy. This slows us down. So did the 2 hour electricity outage today.

But we have a house. The high ceiling is perfect for a fan, and makes it feel spacious inside. I am exhausted and crash each night into a deep deep sleep. Neither the howler monkeys, nor the brothers in the bueno, can wake me. I sleep each day tll 8, then surf until about 9 30, but still, the Canadians beat me up the hills and have massive progress made. This is like the elves and the shoemaker. They eat all the mangoes I can feed them, and I try to get them all the mangoes in Nosara gladly. They listen to metallica, and joke, and laugh, and fly over the wood. I cannot express my gratitude enough. They are doing this for a couple of sandwiches and 5 bucks each for their rooms in the enchanted forrest. Thats it. Like a miracle.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I am 32 years old, an intellectual preoprty attorney, and today, I wired a bang box from an illegally tapped power line. This is what Costa Rica will do to you.

J, a local, helped explain to me last night in the dark, how to steal electricity. I took his 200 feet of 6 guage cable and wired it into my neghbor's pole. Problem is that non eof the 20 amp slots would turn over the saw. A

At first, I suspected the saw. J told me that power tools sold in central amareica are not manufactured in the US like the ones we buy. This one was made in Brazil. Aparently they do not last long, and need to be replaced often. I went and raised hell about this with Daniel at the ferreteria, but he just plugged it in and showed me that it worked.

Later, I tried to splice the 200 feet cable into an extention cord. The ends were too wide and would not hold. I threw it down in frustration. Yik.

Team Canada moved more wood in 2 hours than I did in 3 days. They made a chute from 14 foot planks,and just chucked the teak down. Impressive. I found them testing out the tensile strength of the local vines on one of my trips up and down the hill trying to get us power. All in all, it was a frustrating day. 8 hours of looking, no power, no generator

I moved from Lucy's back to the bueno tonight. Good to be amoungst the borthers again, thick in fogs of cigarettes and other things, and in the kitchen learning from college age kids how to really make masa work for you.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I am so many days bhind, I am just going to blow thorugh this.

We got the footers in and then had to fight elecricity issues. You cannot, for reasons unknown to me, rent generators in Costa Rica. You cannot, for that matter, rent anything really. So it was the option to buy one, for 1100 dollars, to to figure another way out. The first day, we hijacked power from an outdoor outlet of a neighbor. We used the foot stool and the back of the car to sut the heavy 2 x 8 x 14s into footers. Then I dragged them down the hill. It was a lot of dragging, and soon everyone was exhausted. Lynn was holding boards for dad to but, Paul was taking measurements, and Mike and I were hauling lumber up and down hills. We ended exhausted.

The next day, we used another neighbors electricity with his permission. this sped everything up, as we were working closer to the pile of lumber. Dad cut like a maniac, and I chucked wood down the hill then dragged it to the building site. Paual and Mike adn Rebecca managed to reect the posts, and lter the joists one by done.

The neghbor cut off our electricity the next day, so I drive over to inquire of the loca restaurant if they had one. Debbie and her mom could not have been warmer or more charitable toward a neighbor, and they lent me thier generator. It turns out, by coincidence, that they hail from my father´s home town´s neghbor. There was a lot of catching up done, and we ate at the vista Paraiso overlooking gioness. Everyone felt more civilized. With the generator, we moved more quickly, and had the deck framed out and teaked by the end of the day. We stood on it, and imagined the house, and looked at the view and felt accomplished.

Dad and Lynn went with Mike and Rebecca to Liberia the next morning, and Paul and I struggled that day to get the 10 footers into place. We got all the joists in but the last one before dark fell and we could nto see anymore to work.

That night, I met with B, who runs a hotel here, and she reminded me that some of her guests were open to helping me finish the project. They were 4 canadians on vacation from novia scotia. I dont know if it was the idea of building in the jungle, or bordeom, or heavy drug use, but they agreed to build the surf cabin.

O Canada!Our home and native land!True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Canada has recued us. Not all of canada, but four surfers from Novia Scotia.

I met them a few nights ago in the Casa Tucan. They listened to my unfortunate tale of building int he jungle, but were interested. In fact, they told me that they did construction in Canada, were here on vacation and a bit bored.

Well, I found them a few nights later, and they again offered to build the house with me. This saved my ass so completely, I could have wept.

I postoned my trip to nicaragua, and took them up tot he site today after we surfed this morning. They are true professionals. They looked at the site, estimated 2 days without a compresser and a hammer tool, and 1 with. I am looking for another generator for them, and a triangle.

Did I mention I love canadians?
The wood was late. Man was it late. TO arrive on Monday afternoon, it was still missing as the sun set on Tuesday night. I kept checking my email for messages from Jin Lan. They mainly consited of asking for a phone number.

We were living in the jungle, there was no phone and if there were, we would never have on up in the mountains. When we turned in that night, I checked the email again, to learn that the wood had aarrived, but that the drivers could nto find the site. They wre driving around the hills lost. I met them at the cafe de paris while the team ate dinner. There was another problem. They had run out of diesel fuel. This required me to drive 45 minutes to nicoya, one way, to fill a drum of deisel, and then back tot he site where I had lead the wood truck. They had just finished makeng a staggering pile of wood, and it was midnight. They watned payment, but I only gave them 300 until we checked the wood order. I slept at one. It was a long day.
The next day, paul and rebecca tied 3, 4, and 5 foot strings to make right angles. Using this and a line level, we laid out the remaining outline for the footers. We were forced to cut one small tree that was in the middle of the house. We used the machete to do this. THis was my first logging experience with a machete. Everyone took a swing. Mike especially had a vigor for the machete.

We put the other 4 footers in the ground, after tamping the soil by heavy up 100 pound buckets of concrete, then poured water around them and shoveled in dirt. We had a foundation. I stood and looked at the footings for this future casita. It looked good.

I think it was this night that the building crew drove to Olga's and we ate on the beach, mariscos, and fish and imperial beer.

Where was I? Mixing concrete? oh yes.

So, dad and I turned over 5 5 gallon buckets filled with quickcrete when we realized we hadn't enough. No problem, I would got to the ferreteria (Hardware store...or where you buy ferrets, the dictionary was unclear). I drove down the hill, only to discover that the hardware store was closed. It was sunday after all.

On a recommendation, I drove to the the chicken wire supermarket, and outside there was a concstruction crew working. I talked a worker into selling me a back of cement, then drove tot he internet cafe to find out how much aggregate you need. I stole some sand and we had our footers after mixing the last of them in a borrowed wheelbarrow.

The next day, we had a hard time finding paul and mike and rebecca. They were finally all located around 2, and paul and dad and I headed to the plot to find the location for the house. They all presented problems, this one was too steep, this one in front of K House, this one in a tree. We finally agreed and dad cleared the area with a machete while paul and I measured out the house with a tape measure.

The next day, Dad and Paul and I went to the hardware store. THis is where I started to make small whining noises. I brought down as many tools as I could cary, but they were not many and we needed everything. Add to that that I cannot take the stuff home and that I was already 1000 over budget, adn we had a serious case of being cheap. We bought a bosc circular saw instead of a stanley, because it was half the price. cable was a dollar a foot, so we bought two extension cords. 3 hammers, nails, a sqaure, a hand saw, some string, a shovel, and a step ladder amounst others. They have an odd system where you cannot look at the tools, but our spanish was poor enough, we irritated them into letting us. Dad and Paul were aghast at the lack of junction boxes and crimps for electrical systems. I was feverishly trying to use beginer spanish to translate, circuit breaker, and grounding wire, and other things not covered in Espanol 1.

That afternoon, all 6 of us went up the hill. Using string, and a tape measure, we measured the back line. Dad sharpened stakes with the machete. we dug 4 holes and buried the cnocrete footers which I had dragged literally, down the hill. Paul checked them with a level, and they looked, pretty damn good. I was amazed at the high of seeing those footers in the ground, rder from choas, the footings of a house in the jungle.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

we have a floor. 10 foot joists, and a deck made of teak. Paul and I slammed it together today after dad and Lynn and Paul and I spent yesterday cutting boards with a borrowed generator. But it looks good. You can stand where the house is, even if you have to stradle the joists. It seems like little until you know what we went through. too tired to type, more later.

One of the great things about this project is learning about my land. I am really really excited about K house now. THe land is just, well, rich.

Pura Vida.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I need two hours to tell it all.

I have 5 minutes.

I built a deck. A real deck. Not alone, lord not alone. Paul and Dad and Lynn and I built ont he work of Mike and Rebecca and we have a deck today. A teak deck.

Mess after mess. Dad arrived and we had to find a way to make 8 footers for the house. Truth is taht I had started working ont hat a day before. I went to the ferreteria, where I was helped by a nice tico, who speaks greeat english and has a great sense of humour. After an hour explaining what i was trying to do, I left with 250 ounds quick crete and 8 buckets.

I mixed one with a shovel and a machete as a tester. I was not set the next day. Dad and I mixed them more slowly, pouring the concrete, turning it iver, adding water, rins lather repeat. We did this in the back of the surf dorm, Solo Bueno. The guys inside kept creeping out with encouragement.

We ran out of cement, and went to the hardware store. It was, of course, sunday. I asked someone there who might have concrete and he advised me to try the super market. I did, and they didn´t but at a nearby construction siute I talked a guy into selling me a single bag of portland cerement. Dad and I drove to the internet cafe to learn how much aggregate we needed. 66 percent. I went to another construciton site and borrowed some sand. We mixed the final two in Mateo´s wheelbarrow's.

More later.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


There is so muich to write, but right now, I have changed from putting out fires, to wondering if I should just stop work, eat the 2100 dollar loss and abandon the project. What a d*mn mess. The wood arrived, or at least someone´s wood. We cannot build a house with this. The wood is all the wrong size. And too short, not too long.

More later.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I now own 250 pounds of concrete. QuickKrete, quick dry stuff. I have 8 5 gallon buckets. All of this I was able to obtain in my bad spanish. Now, I am going to try to mix them. I will, no doubt, screw something up.

THe hardware store in NOsara is impressively well appointed. THere was a kid there, Daniel, who spoke as much english as I do SPanish and he was most helpful in pricing out options.

Jin Lan, of EcoTimber, is on the case. 2000 board feet of teak arriving on Monday. Plus we have Gmelia, a semi hard wood, for the skeleton. We hope to be ready to start pounding nails on MOnday afternoon. My big thanks though to Jin Lan, who has been incredibly felexible, gave us a great deal on sustianbly harvested teak and was a great resource in our project. I would recommend EcoTimber to anyone looking to build in CR.

OK, I have to pick up Dad and Lynn in Liberia, mix 400 pounds of footers, and find everyone lodging. in 3 hours.

Friday, February 08, 2008

There is a trick to sharpening machetes. It involves a file and a bit of time. I learned this last night. Actually, I arrived at my land only to find out the machete was not yet sharpened. SO I walked the land adn looked for a location to situate the cabin. There were monkeys in the trees watching me the whole time. I told them they would not have to move, that I wasn´t going to cut down their trees. Then I realized I was talking to monkeys and I wondered if I had been drinking enough water.

Ok, off to make footings now. There is, apparently, a big hardware store downtown nosara. We will see. I need 8 buckets, a lot of concrete and a lot of water. This is going to get ugggggly.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I just got into town. Nosara that it. I am downtown right now, thinking of where I will stay tonight. I am so tired, I cannot even think of it. I might sleep in the car. Maybe something will make more sense after dinner.

There is much to tell, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Away we go.

And what an away it will be.

I am leaving for CR tomorrow morning. To arrive tomorrow afternoon. For everything I did, something was left undone. I dislike the feeling, but its...well, its going to have to work.

Paul finalized the plans, and we have made a contract for delivery of teak and hardwood to the property. Jin Wah, and again, I think thats his name, felt sympathy, perhaps, for the project, and deducted 50 dollars a sqM from the price for us to help us meet our budget. The project is still going to be ove the budget, but that budget was largely decided by available moneys, and not any realistic idea of how much this is going to cost. Paul has done an admirable job of keeping this project within reach without comprimising the scheme. We decided not to clad the interior of the building to save money. Paul rearranged the studs and bracing to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

I am deciding right now, whether I will check bags and bring tools down with me. I have few applicable tools, but every savings counts.

In other news, its February 5, and there is still no bid. I am not suprised or dissapointed, just reporting the news for those of you who follow this.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

As anyone who shops at whole foods can tell you, going green ain't cheap.

Teak, sustainably and locally grown, is about 650 a square meter. There is a 13% tax to the sale. I dont know what this tax is. A wood tax? Government really starts to look a lot like a protection racket after a while. Without the protection. The guy we spoke to Jin Wah, or something like that, seems straightforward and responsive. four days to cut and process the wood. Delivery to the site for 300 dollars.

There is a semi hardwood that is locally used to build frames. its called....shot, I cannot recall. Paul told me. Its about the same as teak per foot. There is a low quality teak for 400 a square meter. There is another wood for covering the inside. It can be manufactured at 1/2 inch thickness, for around 600 a sqM. Not cheap this stuff. The total price tag for all the wood is about 3000, plus tax. Thats too much right now. This is holding us up. Paul is doing all the negotiations, and for that, I am endlessly thankful.

I dont know where we will find tools. I suspect we need at least a generator, a circular saw or a table saw, shovels, hammers, drills, rules etc. Dont know if we need a compressor. Since it is out of my pocket, and I dont have any access to electricity locally, I have to buy the generator.

I heard there is a hardware store in Samara. I dont know how much they have, but that is a good site better than Liberia. I am sure we can get some materials from Nicoya, but again, I dont know what.

The other problem is the footings. We need 8, but the original plan was 4 foot sono tubes of concrete with metal braces on top. Well, I have seen someone building one room hunting shacks in trapezoidal concrete footers. It would be great if that were sufficient.
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