Monday, January 25, 2016

Building on the fly....

When one normally builds a home there is an architect involved and plans are drawn up and worked and reworked, but we are anything but normal! We were looking to build a tiny house for the least amount of money possible so this does entail a bit more creativity, so to speak. Pilar took my pencil drawings to an engineer in La Paz, the capital of Baja Sur, and we got a set of engineer's drawings with which to obtain a permit, also done in La Paz. This can also be done in Los Barriles, but it’s cheaper to go right to the source. Pilar requested permits for the casita, the palapa and the wall that will go around the house on the street sides. Wayne recommended we go with Benjamin to build our palapa, he is the brother of Cheppie, one of the primo palapa builders in town. He made us a great deal with the Polynesian weave that is wrapped – Bill’s choice! Before the permits were received they started working on the rebar, which forms the foundation of the casita and Benjamin started bringing supplies over for the palapa.

Rebar for the foundation

Laying the foundation - everything dug by hand

Wayne and Bill with the palapa support poles

It was about this time that I left for 3 weeks to go to L.A. to await the arrival of my first grandchild. Bill was left in charge and because we had no real formal plans there were many decisions to be made on a daily basis. Where the electrical outlets would be, the actual design of the bathroom, the closet, if we wanted 1 or 2 tv’s and 1 or 2 split a/c units. We enlarged the bathroom window and added another window to the front of the house for air flow. And because of the language barrier there were many times when he wasn’t quite sure that everyone really understood each other, which is kind of important when building a house.

Building a cement roof in Mexico takes on the same significance as a barn raising, I guess, and Wayne let Bill know that the next day he should come with a cooler of beer (soda and snacks for the crew) and a chair to experience it. Unfortunately by the time Bill got organized and got over there the roof had been poured! This crew we have is amazing! They are there early, they stay late, and they work weekends! Several people mentioned to me that although everything looked like it was moving fast I should prepare myself for the 2-4 weeks of holiday time that all Mexican’s take in December. Well, not our crew, they were working December 24th until it was dark! They did take that weekend off, but were right back to work on the following Monday.

The palapa was complete before I came home and from the pics I thought it looked great, although a bit smaller than I expected. Bill wasn’t thrilled with the workmanship – but everyone who has seen it likes it. The stain on the support poles is a little darker than we thought it would be, but it looks really good.

Already providing some nice shade for one of the worker's cars.

By the time I got home on December 23rd the roof had been poured and the palapa was done!

Friday, January 15, 2016

It's been awhile........

I’m baaaack! Summer did NOT go as planned, but we did spend it in Tahoe. And thanks to our good friend Daniel, we had a roof over our heads in quite a nice little spot. The workamping gig did not pan out as they could not give us our regular days to work…we just weren’t up for working weekend nights. But we did get to spend some time with my son and his cute dog, Piper, and with our friends, hashing, making music and getting to some concerts too. We went to Florida in August for Bill’s mom, Doano’s 90th. His daughter, Madeleine, came in from London, and his son Will made the trek up from Key West. All three of Doano’s sons were there and a few cousins joined in the festivities. A super chill afternoon was just what the matriarch wanted and what she got!
The "brothers" in order of birth, Kurt, Bill and Scott 

Quite the family!

The birthday girl!

The first week in October found us back in Los Barriles. We were happy to be home again as we were gypsies for about 5 weeks – luckily we have great friends who hosted us along our way. October was pretty darn hot down here but the water temps were fabulous and I spent a lot of time in it. Bill got an early start on his garden and anxiously awaited the return of his volleyball buddies. I started playing a little pickleball, which is a super fun game, kind of like tennis, played on a smaller court, with paddles and a whiffle ball. Our new yoga teacher, Tehroma, had been teaching all summer so I was happy to get back to the beautiful Healing Winds Studio and onto my mat, which I had neglected for far too long.

Last spring while out on the water paddling with friends, June and Don, of Baja SUP, Don mentioned that Gustavo, owner of his “RV park,” was going to expand on some land he owned a block in from the sea. I loved the little Buenos Aires Park where Don lived and was most interested. RV parks are very popular down here – and not only for the RVers, which there are many. I have written about them before, but for the uninitiated, many of them have little casitas and palapas built onto them with outdoor kitchens and entertaining areas. The owners have to maintain a certain percentage of the park for RVs in order to get a preferred tax status. In our little town alone there are about 7 that I know of – Martin Verdugo’s (where we spent our first couple of months), Costa Brava (the original place we were looking to buy in spring 2014), East Cape RV (the place that took our deposit money and at the last minute reneged on a spot for us), Juanita’s Garden, Playa Norte, Buenos Aires and the newest one, Baja Sunrise. There are a lot of advantages to RV park living, and disadvantages, as well. The biggest disadvantage is the lack of privacy. In most of these parks you are living right on top of each other and because most have an outdoor living area this can be quite an issue….especially if you are us, we like to play our music loudly and have been known to run around in less than “proper” attire. The advantages are that there is a greater sense of security – there is always someone around and, especially in the summer months, with hurricanes it can be really nice knowing someone is there looking out for your place. Also, one doesn’t have to deal with all of the ownership laws and the FideiComiso issues. It’s a bit like a condo arrangement, where you pay a monthly fee and your water and trash is included. Usually there are community bathrooms, showers and a laundry room. And you have community – this is big for me, not so much for Bill, who is more social and finds that everywhere. I have admired the Buenos Aires RV park because I LOVE the location – just about a mile out of town and all of the noise, it’s an easy walk to the beach, it’s small and the sites seem a bit more private than the other parks. I’ve also heard really great things about the owner, Gustavo. After our paddle Don took me over and showed me the area where Gustavo was going to build.  
Once we were settled back into Casita Namaste, in October, I emailed Don and asked if Gustavo had made any progress on his new rv park and he said that I should come over and look as he had started subdividing the lots. He had 4 lots that were 60’x45’ and one corner lot which they thought was 60’x50’ and all 5 would rent for $400/month. I was very interested in the corner lot and came to find out that so were 2 people over at the old park. We quickly signed a lease to begin January 1st and the lot was officially measured at 60’x58’!! Now what do we do?! I had never built a house, Bill had, many years ago, but we were not familiar with Mexican building, nor were we very fluent in the language.

Gustavo mentioned that his friend, Pilar Flores, who had built the bathrooms and laundry room for his other rv park, and was the main electrician in town, was also building homes and he thought we should speak to him. Around this same time our friends Mike and Cathy were in the middle of getting plans approved for their new casa they were building in town. Mike has built many homes and loves the planning and designing process and encouraged us to use some of his designs to work from. I am old and wise enough to know what I don’t know, and follow the old adage of not reinventing the wheel, so I was totally hip to using whatever anyone was throwing my way – be that plans, or contractors or whatever. And that’s just what happened – people here, Mexican and gringo, have been incredibly kind, helping us with everything. The last 6 weeks have been exciting, to say the least, and I will bring you up to date with our very untraditional build next.

From pencil sketch to chalk...