Search This Blog

Friday, November 28, 2008

Things Are Shaping Up

The electrician finished up this week. His work tended to be a little expensive (we took his bid, and he ended up working 2 6-hour days at a little over $100/day), but he did a great job. He replaced the old fuses in the original electric box with new breakers (would it have killed him to make the mounting strip level?) and installed a GFCI switch, as well. I probably will use him to install a new main cable from the meter to the house, despite the cost, since he did the job right and I learned by watching.

Then he wired in lighting options for the front patio and hooked them up to a convenient set of switches inside the house (shown in the inset of the photo at right). There will be on circuit for the two entry post lights, another for some colored mood lighting against the walls and a third for a small fountain.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Tale of Two Mixers

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. We we are on our 2nd cement mixer. The first mixer went through 3 motors (each one lasting no more than a day) before we returned that one and got the one you see pictured. Most of the equipment sold here is Chinese (and cheap Chinese, at that). The first mixer we bought had the height to mix a batch of concrete and pour directly into a wheelbarrow (we are on our 3rd wheelbarrow). In Uruguay, if they use a mixer, they mix the concrete then pour it on the ground and shovel into buckets to move the load.

We had hoped the first mixer would work out, but it didn't. So, we bought a common mixer (it has lasted for weeks, now) and Tony our helper, built this little platform to allow us to pour directly into the wheelbarrow, thus saving one step.

We finally received the gate for our back yard. It was delivered yesterday. From the look of it, we are going to be locked up like Fort Knox. It is very, very solid.

The electrician is here, he is upgrading the old fuse box with new breakers. I am impressed that the work is being done very professionally. He has already found several splices in the middle of some of the old wires that he has pulled out. They will be replaced with unbroken runs directly through conduit to the breaker box.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Today was quiet!

Today, was kind of a laid back day. Here is a picture to show you why we love our houses'  location and how we can chill out when needed!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rock and Roll in Uruguay

This is not about music of any sort, actually. In fact it is about rocks and plants, but I thought "Rock and Roll" was a more eye-catching title, so I went with it (got your attention, didn't it?).

Today I visited Carmine Russo, providers of natural stone products in Montevideo. I went to order 3 large treads to make them safer to step on, for the entry steps to our upper patio. We could have used marble, granite or slate. We chose slate for safety and also because we have a lot of stone in the walls of the house. The picture at the right is a sample of their showroom.

I needed 3 pieces of stone: 45 cm x 194 cm and 3 cm thick (18" x 76" x 1 1/8"). I am having them made with a large bullnose finish on the front and they will be in 2 pieces for each step. The total cost came to $336. That was about $100 cheaper than granite and I think it will be a more durable and suitable material for steps. I don't know if this is less or much, much more than I would pay in the U.S., since I have never bought that type of stone before. I would be curious if anyone has a comparison price.

Anyway, the showroom was fantastic and I could go with stone for just about any use, after seeing the variety of colors and texture.

On the way home Denise wanted me to pick up some mint plants, because ants don't like mint. So I stopped at PachaMama's Vivero (nursery). I couldn't buy the mint because they had 7 different varieties, and I am not authorized to make executive level decisions such as that. In fact, he had any plant you could want: 17 colors of cherry tomatoes, about 25-50 varieties of peppers, all the fruit trees you could ask for and much, much more. I will have to take Denise back (with a trailer and lots of money). Just to give you an idea of prices- the fruit trees (all grafted and about 4-5' in height) were about 200 pesos (under $7). He also had an extensive collection of cactus and succulents. Denise will have a field day. We plan to plant our fruit trees espalier style. We will set up posts and run wire between them and train the tree branches onto the wires, no more than 5' high. That way the fruit is easily harvested and we can run irrigation lines along the guide wires. This is a very civilized way to grow fruit. Don't worry, we will also build a "cage" to keep birds from gathering the harvest.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Almost Monday

Well this is Sunday- a beautiful sunny, warm day with light cooling breezes and blue skies. Enough gloating- on to the details.

Denise's back steps are all but finished (a few grout joints and we are ready to move on). She has found some lavender plants and if she can find mint- will plant those terra cotta pots with that. Mint and lavender tend to ward off flies and ants.

      We are on our 4th concrete mixer. The first three (actually one mixer and three new motors) never did last for more than a day. China is a wonderful country, but they make lousy tools. Finally the owner of the ferreteria (hardware) gave us another model and that has been working great. Still Chinese-made, but a little better quality.

We lay out on lounges today, working on a tan. I have never had the inclination, time or patience to "work on a tan", but I do now. And far fewer flies and mosquitoes than I had expected; in fact almost none. It may be the hot weather, nearness to the salt water or just the general lay of the land- but I am not complaining. I remember in Seattle- you couldn't sit out for more than a few minutes without wasps or flies attacking the food, and in the evening the mosquitoes would kill you. I had expected worse here, but not so. Of course, this is just a month or so into the season when the outdoors is becoming attractive, so it may get worse later on- but for now we are enjoying it.

We have ordered a sliding metal gate to close off the back yard. Denise came up the the design and if it looks anything like we want- it will be spectacular. Then a new replacement door off of the patio by the parrilla (BBQ area) because the old one had rusted, we needed to replace it. Soon we will be completely secure and private in our back yard. Then I won't have to worry about tan lines (if you get my drift). So we are looking forward to this next week, hoping to see footers and block started.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Real Estate Taxes

Well I paid the remainder of the real estate taxes yesterday. There are 2 taxes you pay on property: 1) Contribucion Inmobelieria (Real Estate Tax) and 2) Impuesta Primaria (School Tax). The Contribucion can be paid in any number of payment plans. Ours seems to be 6 payments per year (1 every other month). The payment amounts to about $42 per month. Of course you must remember that this pays for twice a week trash pickup. And they pick up everything. Any trash that you can bag (or even set out next to the trash area) is picked up (green, trash, concrete debris- whatever). I also covers street lighting (and there is a nice light right on our corner) and road improvements. Every year the main roads are re-graded and topped off with fresh rock. The roads being unpaved will look good for the tourist season, and the first big rain causes the ruts and holes to reappear (such is life in the slow lane).

The Impuesta is even more reasonable (less than $3 per month). And of course the school system if very good here and most Uruguayans are very well educated and have access to free education up through college (should they choose to use it).

So the taxes on a seaside house, with unobstructed beach views in a nice neighborhood ends up being about $44/month or a little over $500 per year. I think this is a tax burden we can live with.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

These Photos Just In

Well, I broke down and bought a camera, today. Nice little Vivitar, priced well below the Canon camera that we had been using.

These are the back steps that Tony installed (he is grouting, today). He took some of the slate we pulled out of the front yard and did "crazy paving" as the Brits call it.

                                                  Slate, tile and a little
rock planter make a very interesting corner. With the trashy trees and bushes removed from the back yard near the Denise's vegetable garden, she hopes to start eating fresh produce soon. I am sure it will rival the garden she had in Seattle. She already has some tomatoes, lettuce and squash plants growing in the black plastic bags full of soil. It will probably be too late for a regular crop by the time we get our raised planters built.
So work continues and by Friday we hope to be making progress rather than backtracking...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Frog Turds

Today's post will be without photos (partly due to the nature of the post and partly due to the fact that I have not visited Tienda Inglesa to buy a new camera).

For several days we have noticed tiny little turds near the back door and near the laundry. I have never seen a little dog in the area that would produce such leavings. However, today Tony told me that those are frog turds. Man! I would never believe, nor have ever seen, any before. In fact, until I was told that, I never actually put any thought to how frogs and toad do their "business". Mystery solved.

Yesterday was a disaster. A tractor came in to remove about 3-4 stumps and when he left, the place looked like the aftermath of WWII. We had had some tall trees removed because everybody told us "pine trees have a very shallow root system". The guy who cut the trees told is it was a good idea. The guy who came in to take the roots out told us that it was necessary to remove all three, because he probably would have disturbed the roots on the 2 smaller trees when he removed the large tree stump.  We chose to "make things simple" by having them all removed. So much for "making things simple".

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Wierd Day

This is truly a wierd day. Tony's car was not repaired yesterday, so we canceled work and we've had a day off on Wednesday. It was a hot day (mid 80's) and lots of sun, with the occasional cooling breeze.

Had a nice breakfast and coffee and while sitting here, I thought about our Seattle house, compared to our Marindia house. You may remember that Denise really did a nice landscaping job on the back yard in Seattle. And the year before we left, I built a very nice deck, against the commercial building that backed up our lot. To hide the stark metal building, somewhat, Denise found a hand painted backdrop of a south sea destination. When we put that up, you could look out the kitchen window and see the deck and that painted picture.

Our Marindia house has this type of view from the kitchen window. Now I don't know about you, but the hand painted backdrop is not as nice as the real thing.

Another thing that made this a wierd day was the weather. Remember hot and mid 80's? But at around 3:00pm, it got a little cloudy and soon began to rain. Then thunder and then lots of rain and finally (and you are going to have to take my word on this)- HAIL! Yes, hail. And not small little hail, but pretty good size balls of ice. Now it didn't hail long and the hail didn't stay around long at all, and now at 4:30- it is crystal clear and sunny and warm, again. I guess weather in Uruguay is like weather in Seattle. If you don't like the weather, wait a little and it will change.

The picture at the left is from today (Thursday), since I decided to add one more photo of the view (at 8:00 am in the morning). Now those of you who know me may be amazed at my reduced waist size. Do not be fooled- there was major "gut suckage" going on while Denise took the picture. I have lost some weight, and I obviously have a tan- but I've got a long way to go before I actually look like this picture.