12 August, 2007

Afternoon Delights

Today, we took a break amid the rain squalls that blew through the area, and went to Darleen's Oasis for breakfast. There, we met a new (to us) expat, Ed.

Ed lives in the Mayan Seaside development in Consejo. He has a Mennonite house, so we naturally began comparing notes. It seemed he had some good ideas about things to do and invited us out to see his house.

Later in the afternoon, we took him up on it and drove out to his house. Normally, the road to Consejo is 7 miles of severe pot-holes, but it has recently been graded so was relatively smooth. We cruised right along.

We managed to find Ed's house without much trouble.

His place has cool screened in front and back porches - we may do something similar. He also has cool French doors at either end. We're thinking of doing that at one end only. Our kitchen will take up too much room to allow French doors at both ends.
Ed's Porches - Nicely Done
Ed's Porches - Nicely Done
French Doors - Sorry, I Only Shot One
One of the things Ed really did right was adding a lot of extra hurricane strapping. Here's some examples of that - everything nicely screwed together.
Example of Angled Strapping Screwed in Place
Ed told us one of the problems is the roof wants to "relax" after a time and if the below brace is just nailed in place, it really won't do the job. Ed added the wide strap to each location and feels it will fill the bill.
Wide Strapping for the Roof Bracket
Below is an example of some of the several different types of brackets that Ed is using. He's made many trips back and forth from the States to Belize, and has brought much of the material with him. I think a lot of this is available locally. If not, I'm pretty sure it can be ordered on-line. We'll see. I've been having pretty good luck getting stuff shipped down here - Heck, we even got the new Harry Potter book shipped here by Amazon!
Brackets Galore
Ed clued us in on another item - "burnt motor oil" as they call it here. Used motor oil to the uninitiated. Ed says you used it to help prevent termites from climbing up the poles that support your house, and for a foot or two around the area of the house that contacts the pole. They just can't stand the stuff.

So, where do you get five gallons of burnt oil? Easy. Up on College Road in Corozal is a bone-yard of sorts for buses. Chances are, they'll give it away. Ed said he got five free gallons of oil from a bus that hadn't had its oil changed in 2-1/2 years. Now that's burnt oil!
Ed Demonstrating How to Use Burnt Oil
Some of the other features of Ed's house are, for example, the shower. You'll notice there's two nozzles... What?! Ok, one is fed from the well, and uses somewhat salty water for the wetdown and initial soaping up (just like aboard a boat). The second nozzle is fresh water from the cistern and collected rain water, for a fresh water rinse.
Your Basic Two-Nozzle Shower
The bit that was the most exciting for us was the insulation Ed uses. It's quarter-inch thick bubble insulation covered by aluminum foil on both sides. It reflects about 90-95 % of heat back out. So, we're planning to use it on both our walls and ceiling. It's available from I'm pretty sure they'll ship down here to Belize. They ship exclusively using DHL, which delivers to Belize. We'll find out soon.

One thing Ed said had been pointed out to him by John the English Contractor at Four Mile Lagoon, that of the necessity of putting in soffit vents every 16-18 inches. Without that the wood will dry out too fast and become extremely brittle - which is what you don't want if it's to survive strong winds (read hurricane).
Rolls of Insulation
 and Soffit Vents
Ed showed us the setup he has for his cisterns. Three is enough for him to get through the dry season, based on Judy's experiences. He took us over to see Judy's house as well. More on that in a bit.
Ed's Cistern Setup
Not only do you have to guard against terrestrial termites here, but they attack from the air as well. The picture below shows a termite nest high up in a tree. Since the rainy season has struck, it's likely empty already, as that's when the little buggers take flight for new dwellings. Ed said they also seem to have a symbiotic relationship with ants that live in the tree too. The ants help build tunnels on the bark of the tree for the termites to travel through. That was all he knew about that relationship.
Airborne Termite Nest
Another product to use in combating termites is Solignum. This product is sprayed on the wood using a garden variety sprayer and only needs to be done every five years or so (we hope).

Now you know its got to be good when it bears the inscription "By appointment to Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II". Can't you just picture, the Queen, in an old pair of Levis, with a rag around her head, slopping on some of this on some exposed timbers at Buckingham Palace on the odd weekend when she's home and taking care of some needed maintenance? I thought so. Me too.
Solignum Instructions for Use on the Container
After looking at Ed's place, he took us over to Judy's so we could see some of the things she's done with her Mennonite house.
Judy's Front Door and Porch
Judy uses a small electric water heater. Ed swears it doesn't increase the electric bill too much. She only uses gas for cooking. She also has a large capacity pump to help feed water from the cisterns.
Judy's Water Heater, and Gas
Cistern Pump Setup
Something we thought was kind of novel and cool was Judy's use of a pulley for her laundry line. Sort of reminiscent of early days in New York City tenements.
Judy's Laundry Pulley
The last bit here is Judy's fence - a combination of concrete and chain link. I was really taken with the simplicity of it. We may consider having something like this done at our place.
Judy's fences
The Concrete Posts are Only On the Front
Judy's gate is nice and simple yet appears really functional. I like the idea that it moves on a track - much better than the two-parter we're dealing with at Tony's.
Judy's Vehicle Gate
So, there you have our adventure to see Ed's and Judy's houses. More food for thought, different ways of doing things. It never ends. Everyone thinks their idea is the best. We all try to draw the best from everyone else and much of it gets added into the mix.

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