Thursday, February 26, 2015

Arches Here, Arches There, We Have Arches Everywhere!

I have been writing a lot about forms.  At this point, the last forms on the outside of the corridors are up, filled with concrete and ready to be removed.  Although this step of the construction is close to being completed, the process continues.

The back side was finished first and is already free of forms and showing the arches that will be surrounding the house on the outside of the corridors.

For those of you who have been following our blog, you will notice the bananas are ending up quite close to the edge of the house.  Easy picking!

This view of the finished beams and arches is from the back of the house.  Once the forms are removed, the beams are wet down frequently to create a very hard, strong concrete.  You can see the supports are still in place as well as the forms that create the arches

The road side of the house is also coming along.  The forms have  been removed and the concrete being hardened with morning and evening water showers.

The arches will require more cement and troweling to be actually "finished".  When complete, the form board marks, ridges and holes will be trued and smoothed and with a more gradual curve where the arch meets the column.

The area around the house, the work site, is constantly changing with the different products needed for the job. However, the concrete mixer is somewhat permanent, as the wheels seem to be sitting in concrete.  Not sure if that is something that was planned or has just happened.

For now, the Guest Bedroom is storage for the forms that are not being used.

Now that the beams forming the outside perimeter of the corridors are completed, the same process of  re-bar, forms and then concrete will repeat on the inside to create support beams above the walls tying the whole house together.  Here, you are looking at the arch that is between the Dining Room and Kitchen while standing at the Kitchen Island. These particular supports will be the base for our second floor Bedroom.

Another Kitchen shot.  The large window will be the view we have while doing dishes!  Looking to the right a bit more we can see the beautiful hills, valleys and the ocean in the distance.

More beams being created, however, this window will have a wood lintel instead of an arch.  Most of the doors and a few of the windows will have wood lintels rather than arches.  We are hoping this feature adds to the rustic feel we are trying to create.

The smaller window arches are formed with a solid block of rounded wood.  To give you an idea of their size, this particular window is 80 cm. by 165 cm.  Both types of wood frame arches create a starting point for the shape of the arch.  At a later date, the arches are formed to the exact shape and made smooth ready for the windows to be inserted.  Currently we are waiting to hear from the window company that we hope to use if their bid isn't out of our range.

These two arch forms were added after the concrete was formed because of the earlier error of a10 cm shortage in their height mentioned in an earlier post. 

In this photo you can see the thick concrete beam to the far left, the door where there will be a wood lintel and the arched windows that have had extra concrete added and smoothed.

 Bright blue sky and the work goes on!  This view is of the Kitchen and shows both types of wood forms used in creating the arches.

Once the re-bar and arch forms are complete, work will begin on our second story Bedroom.  Until then, the Art Room is storing the foam blocks that are used as a form and sound barrier for this next step.

While others are busy working on our house, we are off doing other things.  Recently, we went to see some puppies that belong to a friend, Roberto, but decided we weren't quite ready to replace Skeeter.  Maybe once we are in the new house and not so close to the sad memories.  Still, they are very cute and if anyone is interested in a new puppy just let us know.  There are 6 adorable fur balls and all will need homes!  "Auntie" sits watch in the background!

Roberto, Don and Jeffry have been busy working on the finca cutting back old coffee plants and pruning new ones.  Coming up our driveway now is quite different with all the plants cut back.  

Many of our plants are old and either need cutting back or replacing.  Each year we have cut some and planted some trying to improve our coffee production.  This year we will do the same, probably cutting more than previous years.  The old plants are very tall and difficult to spray, walk through and pick.  We are hoping to make spraying easier and less expensive and coffee picking easier in the years to come.  Once we cut back a coffee plant, it will take two years to start producing coffee and three to start producing well.

These photos only show one section of our coffee finca, however, we have been cutting down coffee in many of the others as well.  We have 12 different sections of varying sizes.  A total of 6.5 Manzanas or about 10 acres.  Everything here grows so rapidly there is always work to do controlling the growth of the unwanted plants as well as maintaining good coffee plants.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

$600.00 Costa Rican Driver's License!

On the 11th of February we met with Martin Rojas, a Tico who helps Expats through the maize of Costa Rican bureaucracy, and proceeded to get our medical exam for our C.R. driver's license.  $72.00 for the two of us!

I should mention that this is our second attempt to get a license here.  The first time was over a year ago. At that time, and on our own, we procured the required medical exam, $60.00, and headed to Cosevi on the bus.   We arrived before the 11:00 a.m. deadline but were told we could not go through the process without our Residency card!!  Much to our dismay, the law had changed the day before and we were out of luck.  It is also possible we might not have had all the required copies with us at the time but never quite got that far.

To continue with our current attempt, this time we had all the required copies:  front and back of our U.S. drivers license-2 copies, front and back of our Residency card-2 copies, and 2 copies of our passport face page and the visa stamp proving we had been in the country for 90 days.  The 90 day requirement is a bit of a quandary because you are required to be here for that length of time before applying for a license but at day 91 you are driving illegally!  Welcome to Costa Rica!  There was one slight problem with our copies however. We had put the copies of our Residency card and U.S. driver's license on one page and had to stop at a copy shop to correct the problem before heading to San Jose.  It is necessary that they be on separate pages!  If you  arrive with the improper sequence of copies, you are sent out to make changes and lose your place in line at Cosevi. This blip may cause you to have to return the next day! See why you need a guide here!

With all our paperwork in hand, and Martin to navigate, we headed for San Jose in the Galloper.  The Pista is a challenge no matter where your destination or what time of day.  It is mostly two rapidly moving, or barely moving lanes laced with potholes and other unexpected circumstances.  All was going well, except for the traffic being heavy and then stop and go, and then our transmission/clutch started acting up.  UGH!  It was quite clear Don was having a very difficult time getting the car in gear every time he had to stop or go with the traffic.  Soon it was obvious we needed to get off the road and out of the traffic.  Fortunately, we were able to cross a curb and island with the car to a grassy spot where we took our valuables and locked the car to be dealt with on our return.  Running a bit behind schedule because of all the slow traffic,  it was imperative that we get to the Cosevi quickly.  First, we hopped on a bus ($4.00) and next a taxi ($10.00).  While riding the bus, we chatted with a couple from Germany doing some site seeing in San Jose.  Feeling pretty good about arriving a good hour before the deadline, we walked along a covered sidewalk back to the entrance.  Surprise!  Today they are not taking any more applicants!!  Thankfully, we had Martin along and he took the situation in hand and asked to speak to the person in charge.  The guards granted his request and Martin proceeded to tell the powers that be our sob story and we were reluctantly allowed to proceed.

There are a number of steps once you get past the guards!  First, you sit and wait until you are invited in to a cubbie where your copies are stamped, signed and you answer some simple questions.  Like, what is your address--actually not such a simple question in Costa Rica.  Fortunately, Don pulled something out of his hat which fit the bill.  Second, you go upstairs and "talk"  (Martin is not allowed to go with us once we start the process) once again with our limited Spanish.  We answer a few questions, talking to 3 different people, and all of our copies get signed and stamped once more.  We are next sent downstairs to Booth #2 where there are about 10 or 12 people also waiting for Booth #2.  It was our lucky day because a number of the other applicants spoke English and we chatted to pass the time.  About 11:45 a lady spoke to us in Spanish which translated into:  "We are closing at 12:00 and you will have to come back at 1:00 p.m."  At this point we left, collected Martin and purchased a snack and worried about losing our place!  $12.00  We returned and only a couple of individuals had snuck in ahead of us!  Finally it is our turn.  We get into Booth #2, get our papers inspected and stamped again, sign the "book", and are told that we need to leave the building and go the the bank around the corner to pay for our licenses.  Once we have proof of payment we are to bring the receipt and sit, once again, at the end of the line.  Fee, approximately, $24.00 for both of us.

Hoping this will be the last step in the process, we returned to the waiting chairs and our new friends!  Finally, it is our turn again and we go into Booth #2, one at a time, to get our photos taken.  Once this is completed, along with much paperwork and signing a second time in the "book", we are asked to sit outside and the next person is invited in.  In a short while, our name is called and we have in hand our Costa Rican driver's license, good for 3 years!  YEAH! Off to the bus stop ($4.00) and back to where we left the Galloper hoping it is still there!

While we were inside jumping through hoops, Martin received a phone call from the Germans we had met on the bus.  Fortunately, he had given them his card because they were lost!  He was glad to help and it gave us a chuckle in our somewhat difficult day!

Now that we have successfully completed our goal for the day, we need to figure out what to do with the Galloper and find a way to get ourselves back to Berlin.  We called our mechanic, Jorge, who called a tow service which would arrive in a little over an hour.  At this point we were hot, tired, thirsty, hungry and in need of some refreshment.  With a little walking we discovered a Country Inn with a very nice restaurant and we settled in for a late lunch/dinner.    By this time it was about 3:00 and guess who is sitting in the sun by the pool?  Yes, the German couple and Deeder came over and chatted while we waited for our meal.  Lunch: $40.00. 

Once returning to our car we had just a short wait before the platform truck arrived.  Here you can see the Galloper was loaded on the platform and we were ready to head to San Ramon.  There was only room for 2 extra passengers in the front of the truck so Martin rode in the Galloper! We were a little concerned but he didn't seem to mind.

I dosed most of the way back and it seems Martin did also, not the least bit concerned about his unusual location.  Once we arrived in San Ramon, Jorge was waiting for us and managed to get the Galloper into his shop to be checked out in the morning.  Tow:  $100.00

As the bus schedule for Berlin is quite scant, there was no bus available to take us from San Ramon to Berlin.  Once again Martin jumps in to save the day.  He called a friend with a transport service and we were driven home through some very thick fog.  We arrived about 7:30 p.m.  Car Service:  $14.00  Martin's fee for helping us get our driver's license:  $40.00--very reasonable all things considered!  Thanks, Martin, we can't wait for our next adventure!

Friday morning we went to Jorge's to check on the Galloper and was told it would be ready around noon.  It was the clutch that blew out and it seems that many of the parts were old and worn and needed replacing.  I guess in a car 20 years old we shouldn't be surprised!   Repairs: $460.00  And that is the story of our more than $600.00 Costa Rican driver's license experience.  We've been told that when we need to renew, it will be a "bit simpler and less expensive"!

Ending on a brighter note.  This was what we saw at 5:45 this morning from our front door!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

So Many Forms!

Although our house here is being constructed with concrete, it is amazing the amount of wood that is used in the process.  There have been many large truckloads of lumber deposited that are now being used for forms.  They have also brought wood that will later be used as ceiling beams.

When the wood arrives it is stacked along the driveway waiting to be put up on cement blocks and separated for drying.

All the wood was milled especially for our job and has been sitting in stacks to dry as shown below.  Our Engineer literally goes out into the forest, chooses and purchases the trees he wants and has them cut and milled to the exact sizes that he wants.  The lumber is beautiful, with very few knots and up to 18 or 20 inches wide.

The wood comes in many widths, lengths and thicknesses for all the various uses.

In this photo is an example of the wood being used to create the arches that go from column to column around the outside edge of the corridors.

The wood is also used to create the arches in the windows.  As we have mentioned before, we are very pleased with how well everything is moving along.  Having created and designed this house ourselves, mostly Don, we have definite ideas of how we want things to be.  One particular item which has been an ongoing process is the type of windows we wish.  Because the windows have individual panes, not common here, there is a formula used to create each window so that it lines up all around the house.  They are similar to French Industrial windows and have long narrow panes.   Juan Carlos has worked very hard to come up with the exact sizes of the windows, and we are grateful!  All this being said, Juan Carlos and his family went to Disneyworld for eleven days.  While he was gone they started pouring the arched windows. However, when he returned he discovered they were not the right size!  Sadly, the workers needed to remove some of the concrete and re pour the window openings they had poured.  Fortunately, they had not finished all of them as we have quite a few windows, around 34.

If needed the wood is used for everything from "benches", ladders, tools, scaffolding, beam supports, and anything else they require.

Here is a larger arch in the Guest Bedroom.

These are the supports that hold up the forms that surround the re-bar beams where the concrete needs to be poured.  Each one is made to a specific length creating level beams of concrete.

Many supports are used under the beams with cross support pieces to make sure nothing moves.

This section is complete with the supports and the forms above.  The forms are strengthened on each side by a piece of vertical re-bar held in place with twisted wire which they are just starting to do at the far end in this photo.

And here is what it looks like down the outside of the corridor.

The next step in the process once all the forms are around the beams is to start mixing concrete!


Bucket by bucket the forms are filled with concrete to complete the process of making a beam!

 Walking home from the finca the other day I noticed the most incredible site.  Off in the distance I could see pinks, blues and yellows, similar to a rainbow but floating among the hills along the horizon.  It was so unexpected and so beautiful I just stood there and watched!

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Finished for Another Year!

Our second season of picking coffee has come to an end and once again, it's time for a pizza thank you party.  We loosely gathered for photos outside and ended up with a couple as people came and went.

 Here we have Susana and her brother, Antony, and their Mother, Olga.  Next in line is Faviola, her cousin, Yumary, Yoselin, sister to Susana and Antony, Me and Roberto.

 In this photo from the left is Olga, Don, Mairith, Yumary's aunt, Valaria, Yumary's little sister, Roberto, Yumary and Fabiola.  We seem to be missing Yuslania, Sebastian and Avelado!

The party was well equipped with cell phones and once everyone had our wifi password there was complete silence!  Roberto, not interested in social media, helped distribute the food and drinks.  Thanks Roberto!

A little pizza and a little Facebook!! :)

There's Yuslania and her youngest daughter, Valaria, Sebastian, Fabiola and Mairith.  Avelado showed up a little later after arriving home from working in San Jose all week.  

Olga's husband, Pedro, also joined us and it was fun getting to know him a little better.  Thanks everyone for a great job picking!  Hope to see you all next year!

Concrete Floors!

Ready to start another blog page!  This is where I sit for many hours creating the blog pages you see here.  The process starts with choosing and re-sizing the photos I want to use out of the many that both Don & I have taken. Once they have been downloaded to the new Post page I enlarge them, put them in the order I want and then proceed to narrate what is happening in each one. 

At this point the concrete floors have been completed along with the re-bar headers which the workers refer to as beams.

At this point the beams connect all the walls on the first floor, and the columns on the outside of the corridors.

The equipment the men use here for construction is basic and many times created on the job.  Here you can see ladders, and structures used for scaffolding.  A lower version of the scaffolding is used as a table.

Notice the ladder leaned against the banana tree?  The men who live in the bodega cook the green bananas and use them much like we use potatoes.  Personally, I prefer my yellow with a small amount of green!

The poured concrete floor is made of gravel, sand and cement. After it is secreted by hand with a board and paddle trowel, the cement is allowed to set up in a rough form.  Later that day or the next day, they further finish the floor with mortar which has no gravel and makes a smoother surface.  Whenever a new paddle trowel is needed to finish a surface they just make it.

All the tubing is now covered with concrete and we hope we've thought of everything that will be needed in the future.

Each re-bar beam is created on site from re-bar and strips of thick wire.  The men twist and bend until each beam is the correct size and shape before it is lifted into place, leveled and secured.

Here is an example of an electrical box which is set into the concrete wall.  This particular wire box is for phone and internet services. Of the many electrical boxes that we have dug out in our concrete walls, some are for electrical others are for switches, outlets, phone, cable and wall lights.  

More of the tubing ready to extend to the second floor.

Putting a beam in place and the supports also created by the workers.

Although the house at the moment is grey, the scenery that surrounds it is spectacular and constantly changing!

A meeting with Carlos Cruz our contractor and Jose one of the project managers.  Carlos is always our contractor but the men who work on the house vary from week to week.  We will stop by one day and the faces have changed.

Pura vida! :)