Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Back in the Saddle


After a hiatus of two weeks during which all I had to do was fight a virus, not mine, but my computer’s (and it would be 3 or 4 of the beastly critters) it feels good to get down to essentials. The rainy season is REALLY here. Last year it was a most considerate season in which it rained at night and was sunny during the day. Not so this year. It even hailed in Tequis last night!

Just a little aside about seasons here. The summer as we conceive it up North occurs here from March to May. I call them the mmm…. months. Enjoyable, sunny, and warm with cooler nights to enjoy a restful sleep. The rainy season feels more like the autumn up North with decidedly cooler nights (down into the 50’s) and precipitation. But how everything turns bright green! This morning I had to go to Tequis and was with my friend Yvonne. I remarked how we were literally right IN the clouds. Everything had an other-worldly quality of suffused light with mountains appearing like the Christmas cards for children when, as you open them up, one row of the scenery after another attempts to create a three-dimensional image. No harsh edges, just curvy delicious contours. It had an almost dreamlike quality. Yvonne said that it reminded her of Switzerland.

My timing in taking photos is abysmal. However, take it for granted that the mamposteo (foundation) is FINISHED! I’ll get ready tomorrow as soon as a ray of sunshine shows its trembling face and snap as many photos as I can. However, a small glitch. Whenever is there a situation in life when there are no glitches???? Excavating down to the tepetate level was much deeper than foreseen. Now I had to face attempting to raise the corners of the foundation between 50 cm. to 1 m. so as to reduce the need for castillos so high up that the costs would be prohibitive.

As a picture is worth a thousand words, the photos will show what I’m attempting to explain. I’ll also have the costs involved.

I count myself very lucky that I can have Marcelino and Jorge two weeks per month, as there is no way that I could afford two workers full time.

This is a post just to say, “It’s good to be back!”

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Telcel (again…) and a Video


I went to Telcel yesterday determined to get the question of broadband resolved to my satisfaction. After a few minutes explaining that I KNEW that my broadband connection had been tampered with now for the past 5 to 6 months, the engineer was called.

I impressed upon him that I was aware that Telcel was intentionally blocking users of Vonage and Skype from using their VoIP services. I mentioned that a Speed Test had revealed that my download was a meagre 0.11 Mbps, same for uploading. Consistently. It’s as if I was back to using dial-up!

Thanks to a reader from Guaymas, I had also come to understand that my region had not been the only one targeted but that it was most likely an “epidemic” Mexico-wide dating back to 2005, if not longer. And that I was also aware that instead of a fast broadband connection with few interferences, downloading and uploading was effected in packets with a pause in between, rendering watching a video the worst exercise in frustration and patience. I had once calculated that for a video of 2.11 minutes, I had to wait on Pause for 35 minutes. Quite maddening!

The engineer whispered that Telcel was indeed putting restrictions on their broadband users for those who were also using Skype and Vonage, and probably any other VoIP service.

Since my contract was renewable in August, I insisted that I was NOT receiving the service for which I was paying and that since I had had to cancel my Skype account, they could indeed check that I was no longer using it. I INSISTED THAT I WANTED THE SERVICE FOR WHICH I WAS PAYING!

This morning, joy and jubilation! I was able to watch Mark Vincent’s audition singing Nessun Dorma. Amazing! And this video that I’m sharing with you just because it’s so much fun!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Mamposteo Foundation


The foundation is almost finished. The trenches are quite deep so building up the mamposteo takes a bit longer. In the next photo can be seen the foundation for the living room, the kitchen/dining room in the middle and part of the bathroom.

Mamposteo begun 004-1

The openings at various intervals will serve to anchor the castillos or supports made of 4 re-bars and steel rings (actually, they’re rectangular) around which concrete will be poured all the way up to the height of the walls, e.g. 2,50 metres in addition to the 1 metre depth of the mamposteo. The men will fashion the support and I’ll take photos of the process.

At the bottom of the photo above is where the bathroom will be. On the photo below is the mamposteo for the bathroom. Note that I had the mason install the PVC pipes that will take care of the grey water from the bathroom sink and the shower.

Mamposteo begun 003-1

The only trenches still to be filled are the north and east walls of the bedroom. The photo below shows how deep and wide the trench had to be. The excavation was difficult and the Bobcat could not position itself sideways so as to dig more in terms of an appropriate width.

Mamposteo begun 001

This particular trench is the deepest of the lot at 1,20 m.

There will not be any work performed for the next two weeks. I have the mason and his helper two weeks out of the month. Next, they will be working on some of Peter’s plans.


Here are my costs:-

I needed three and a half loads of stones for a total of $2750 pesos

8 bags of cement were $912 pesos

24 bags of cal were also $912 pesos

Labour for the second week – 44 hours a week came to $2600 pesos.

I’ll see if I can rig up some music for Marcelino and Jorge when they come next. Friday was the last day until July 25th. We celebrated with roast chicken. My treat.

With no progress to report until then, I will spend more time on my other blog.

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Yes… after 16 (yes sixteen) months living in the RV on the lot, construction has finally begun! As can be seen on this photo, the major part of the lot has been carved for the mamposteo or stone foundation for the house. The suggestion by Pleinguy, a reader, to get a Bobcat was a splendid one. Thanks. So, here is how it goes.
Building mamposteo 002
Although we live in a sunny climate, when the rain comes, it does so in style and abundance. This is why the excavation must be down to the rocky level of tepetate, also called caliche, on which to build the foundation. There is no basement. First the desired level is established with the simple but clever method of filling a tube with water, and holding it up to mark a post. (See A Solid Foundation – Part One) Then, strings are put into place that will help the mason see the height and width of the foundation top.

Building mamposteo 001-2

The trenches went from 1 metre deep to 1,20 m. The mamposteo  is wider at the bottom but will follow the same width and height at the top as indicated by the white string.  You might click on the previous photo to see the strings more clearly.

On the photo below, you can see how much wider the base is compared to the top, which must be flat. I’ll explain in a later post what is built on it.

Here are the duties ofBuilding mamposteo 004-1 each man. The mason is the technician and decides the type of cement, concrete, or mortar he will require for the job. He arranges the stones to form the base and must break them into shape or size, BY HAND, with a hammer.

His helper brings the stones close enough to the mason so that he can remain in the trench. After the helper has mixed the mescla  or mix required by the mason, he brings it to the mason in a bucket. He drops it in a plastic box. Check in the middle of the first photo for the box.

Here are some of the stones used and broken by hand.

Building mamposteo 005-1

On the second photo, you will notice that spaces are left open at certain intervals. They will be filled with armed concrete columns to support both the roof and keep the cement (or brick) wall stable. But that’ll be described in another post.

On the next two photos you can see parts of the plan that I have drawn by hand. Dimensions are indicated, also are the strategic places where either a castillo  or armex  will be placed. These placements I have learned from a terrific woman named Yvonne who is building a gigantic house and a large building in which will be housed her cooking school (she’s a Chef) and a greenhouse among other things. Her help has been invaluable and although I have thanked her in person, I feel that she is owed recognition here.

Building mamposteo 008-1Building mamposteo 009-1

Here’s where it ends. I hope I haven’t bored anyone but also that I have provided the necessary information to those who are interested in what some construction looks like in this part of Mexico. BTW it is probably how it’s done all over Mexico. Their ancestors built PYRAMIDS!
My costs for the excavation, carting of the dirt, materials and manpower are as follows.
Excavation:- 8 hours @ $250 pesos per hour              $2,000 pesos
Carting off of dirt: 6 truckloads @ $200 pesos each     $1,200 pesos
4 Bags of cement @ $107 pesos each                            $428 pesos
12 bags of cal (limestone)at $34 pesos each                   $408 pesos
Manpower 40 hours for both @ $520 pesos a day      $2,080 pesos
NB. They were short the full 44 hours a week each. They had to go to a fiesta Friday afternoon. How better to end a week of hard labour. I joke with them that I get double the workload from them: mason and helper, and mariachis-to-be…. they sing and joke all day long. My happiness level shoots up by at least 200% as I listen to them. Between the rasping of the shovel as Jorge mixes the cement, the blows of the hammer as Marcelino breaks the stones to his liking, and their singing and kibitzing, I wouldn’t wish to be any other place!
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