Sunday, January 29, 2012

More changes

doors, before
This is how you keep spending when you thought you were done for now. I thought we could make do with some of the old doors for a couple more years. But they looked so terrible once the other work was done, and neither one closes properly anyway, so now we have two new ones. Meanwhile the work on the patio walls is also finished. When Victor sent the photos, I sat mesmerized, toggling through the pictures again and again. I must have needed a psychological break from the relentless weather around Victoria the past couple of weeks: snow, ice, and windstorm after windstorm. This is my favourite hammock spot, so I am daydreaming about leaving those patio doors open to the breeze on lazy afternoons.

It was nice of the builder to provide a sense of scale

Monday, January 23, 2012

Settling in

Seven a.m. The sky has been brightening for almost an hour and now early sunlight is splashing on the wall across the street and over the tiles on the garage floor. Birds are calling. I don't know their names, but their sounds are distinct to this place. The nights have been cool lately, which is both welcome and not.

Each time I come here the house feels more homey. I'm not sure if this is because it's gradually accruing furniture and other conveniences, or whether it's just becoming familiar. Little details are getting done. A ceiling fan, already destroyed by ants, is replaced. The patio is cleared again of leaves and weeds, some crushed limestone is spread around and new plants are heeled in. Even the unrenovated old addition at the back of the house looks more charming with a new fringe of spiky snake plants along its footings. One night I stood out there, admiring the changes and the glow of the patio lights. For the first time it felt like a pleasant place to hang out, not just a fairly unattractive space with "potential". I shared the early evening stillness with with a small bat that swooped about the patio, hunting insects.

It has been busy, getting jobs finished, furnishing, arranging, overseeing. Cleaning. Lots of cleaning. I learned that white vinegar, undiluted, really does do a good job of removing the mineral deposits, or sarro, that build up everywhere that the hard tap water collects - there was a lot on the kitchen sink and the ceramic floors. I think some harsh chemicals, like muriatic acid,  had been used on it in the past without complete success in removing it. But I soaked a dry cloth in straight vinegar and left it on any particularly nasty spot for an hour or so, and the sarro dissolved and wiped away easily. No scrubbing!

Sarro bugs me a lot. I've whined before about what it does to hair - mine is already coarse, and within a few days of exposure to tap water it's stiff with buildup. Now that I have large garafons of water in the house, I'm indulging in washing and rinsing hair with bottled water. It seems like a guilty indulgence, but it seems to work.

Just because I love before-and-after pictures, here are a few. It's still a work in progress, so maybe they are really before-and-during pictures. Still, it's encouraging to see the difference.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reclaiming lost space

(photo by Victor Cruz, Estilo Arquitectura)

Sometimes you don't get to do things in the order you want. A pool has been high on the priority list. It was going to be the next thing. But then one of the high stone walls began to collapse at the back dogleg section of the property, so it had to be fixed.

I guess a few rocks and some mortar would have patched it up for the time being. But we're beginning to turn this neglected area into a garden, and the walls in that section appear to be built more haphazardly than at the front of the property. I hate to do the same job twice. So it made sense to rebuild the wall properly now, following the plans from our architects. Otherwise we'd have to redo the repair at a future date and also destroy any landscaping done in the interim. At the same time as the repair on one side, we decided to replace the  low, crooked wall that borders the other neighbor at the back.

I love the traditional limestone walls around here, but these ones won't be solid rock. They are being built with concrete blocks, and the sides along the path will be faced with rough limestone pieces. The face that will someday form one wall of a casita at the very back of the property will be smoothly plastered, and painted. I'm sure it will be a nice contrast to the adjoining solid stone walls.

Even though it wasn't at the top of our to-do list, I'm looking forward to seeing the transformation as this abandoned bit of land turns into a private, usable garden space.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The old man after the party

Remains of El Viejo, Jan 1, 2012, Merida
Scenes like the one above would have been very disturbing to visitors to Mérida this week if they weren't aware of the tradition of burning the "Old Man" on New Year's Eve.

It's a good thing I read about it on one of my favourite Merida blogs just a few days before I arrived, very late, on Dec. 31st. The tradition is, people stuff old clothes with paper and fireworks, then set it on fire right at midnight. There's symbolism that I won't pretend to know. I briefly saw a viejo propped up on on our street corner, from the taxi window, minutes before midnight. Once lit, it blazed and banged and shot out dangerous flares and shrapnel for a good long time, with neighbors viewing the spectacle a bit closer than seemed entirely safe.

Cycling around the quiet centre of the city the next morning (searching in vain for coffee and something to eat), there were remains of incompletely incinerated "viejos" all over the place. It was kind of creepy. I wonder if the unburned parts carry any special symbolism for 2012?