Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Water Saga

Two weeks ago, we had plenty of water in our house, and in our water storage tank. Because we weren't getting any rain, we were watering our garden and lawn multiple times every day, as that was the only way to keep everything alive.

Then the river went dry, and we went to severe water restrictions. We continued to water the garden, but the lawn had to go dry, and inside the house we instituted all sorts of extra steps to ration water usage, as mentioned in a previous post.

Just one week ago we got our first downpour, followed by additional torrents on three succeeding days. The garden and lawn were well watered, but we still didn't have water in our tank. While I worried about erosion and drowned vegetables in the garden, I still had to use my household water two or three times before dumping it out. We no longer had to dump it onto the yard, though, as the yard had become a swamp.

Finally, FINALLY, we got water into our tank, and life is back to normal again, in regard to water usage. I am relieved. Apparently, the double use of wash water was resulting in clothing that didn't smell all the way clean. We're all thrilled to be using the dishwasher and taking showers again. Probably the prettiest sound in the world, to our family right now, is the sound of the toilet flushing!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Water Restriction Update

Just so you know, the fact that we have received a wonderful gullywasher of a rainstorm here at our property hasn't released us from our water restriction situation. Although the garden and the yard are thrilled with the rain they received last night, inside the house it's the rain over on Celaque mountain that really counts. That rain comes down the river in which resides the open end of our PVC pipe. The pipe carries water to the first water tank (which we share with a community of other water users), and then another pipe brings the water from that tank to the tank on our property.

Allen drove past the river this morning, and said that the water level in the river is higher, but it's not all that high. Later today we'll check on the water level in the first tank, and see how much water has gotten to that point. If that tank is full, then we might be receiving water from there tonight (our water agreement sends us water from that tank certain nights of each week).

So, that's the situation right now. It's waaaaay better than before, but we're not all the way into water-happy territory yet. Gotta go . . . I've got buckets of water to schlep from the laundry room to the bathroom . . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Wow! Gullywasher! We had an hour of hard, tropical-style downpour this evening - it just ended!

I do believe the end of the dry season is in sight now! Thanks for praying!

(Every sentence in this post ended with an exclamation point!)

A Rain Update and a Bridge Update

It's coming! It's coming! The rain, that is. We've not yet had any real rain, only a couple of teensy drizzles - the kind you wouldn't even mention normally, but in our dry situation we're excited about anything that could be taken as a sign that the weather is changing for the rainier! Yesterday we had enough drops that we could see polka dots in the dust - about one raindrop per square centimeter. Not exactly a thorough wetting, but hopefully it's just the beginning.

This morning is cool, hazy, and breezy, with the feel of impending rain in the air.

The family has done an amazing job (if I do say so myself) of restricting our water usage. We still have about 4 feet of water in our big tank, and we've been using water at a rate of about 2 inches per day. With that rate of usage, and the weather looking and feeling so much like rain, we think we'll probably start getting rain from the river again before our tank runs out. Several areas around us, including the city of Gracias, have received nice rains already. Of course, we're still praying, and still conserving, until we actually see water running into our tank!

Meanwhile, Allen and Russell have been working steadily on the bridge in El Mongual. Here are some pictures from about 2 weeks ago, of the crew preparing to pour the deck of the bridge. The deck, for those of you (like me) without a lot of knowledge of construction terms, is the part of the bridge you actually drive on.

In the past two weeks, the concrete deck has been poured, as well as the safety walls on each side of the bridge, to keep people and cars from going over the sides and falling into the river. I'd better make sure and send the camera out for some more recent pictures. This morning Allen told me that they only have about 6 more days of work on the bridge! Of course, once this project is done, there's another bridge project waiting to start!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dry, dry, dry

Rachel and I were about a third of a mile from our property when we took this picture, of the smoke from a fairly large fire. Allen estimates that the fire was about a half mile from the spot where we took the picture . . . which means that the fire was slightly less than a mile from our home.

This is the closest fire to us that we've seen. It was put out that same night, so it was probably someone burning off a field, and not a "wild fire." Still, we know how easily a fire can get out of control, and things are soooooooo dry right now.

Speaking of things being dry, we get our water supply from a river which flows down from Celaque mountain. During the dry season (January through mid-May, more or less) the water levels in the local rivers lower significantly . . . and this year, our river has gone completely dry. At the time we found out that we weren't getting any more water, our big water tank was half full (see, I'm an optimist . . . I might have said it was half empty).

The rainy season officially starts in mid-May, and we usually start getting some sporadic rains before that date, so we're hopeful that, with some very stringent water usage restrictions at our house, we can hold out until the water rises in the river again.

We are doing two loads of laundry each day. That's only a bit below normal, and family members have been advised to not deign an item of laundry "too dirty to wear again" until it's really too dirty! When the water from the wash cycle is draining out, we catch the water in a large laundry tub, and we use that water for flushing the toilet and watering the plants. After the rinse cycle, we again catch the water, and we use that rinse water for the wash cycle of the next load.

We aren't using the dishwasher for now. Instead, we're washing dishes in the sink, and again saving the dirty water for flushing and for plants.

We're purchasing drinking water in the city. A five gallon jug of water costs about $1, if we reuse the jug. Normally we filter the river water for our drinking water, so this is another way to stretch our water supply.

When we can, people are taking showers at Russell's house in town. Otherwise we are trying to limit ourselves to sponge baths. That's by far the hardest part of the restrictions - we're all starting to feel a bit grungy.

As I'm typing this, we got a sudden cold wind . . . and we looked out to see dark clouds heading out way. We're praying . . . !!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

TEN Puppies!!!!!

Sometime last night or this morning, our Rottweiler-mix, Pepper, gave birth to ten puppies under the back porch of the team house! Although we intended to breed her sometime in the future, her first heat snuck up on us, and in spite of our best efforts . . . well, you know the rest of the story.

The puppies may be from our male rottweiler, from our male lab-mix, or from some other unknown dog. Happily, Pepper seems to be a natural at mothering, and she's not had any difficulties dealing with her big batch of babies so far. Large black dogs are in good demand around here, so we don't expect to have any trouble finding homes for all of these pups.

Pictures will follow, although my past attempts to photograph black dogs have been disappointing. We'll see what I can do.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

El Mongual Bridge Project - lifting the beams, part 2

Here we are, looking at the far end of the beam we're working to lift. You'll recall from the previous bridge post that we've already started building a tower under the other end of the beam. The front end loader has been moved, and is being connected to this end of the beam.

Of course, the logs which were used for rollers have to be taken out from under the beam.

The base for the second tower is carefully created, once again making certain that it is level and secure. Having the beam fall is the biggest concern of this job, and building an unstable tower would make this much more likely.

This tower is built up until it is taller than the previous tower.

You might notice, in these pictures, that Russell is able to lift the beam several feet at a time, while the workers are building beneath it, and you might wonder why he could only lift the beam a few inches at a time when it was still up on the hill where it was poured. The answer is a fun fact of physics, which Allen wanted me to be sure you knew. Think of an old-fashioned see saw, which might be a heavy wooden plank balanced across a log. If you tried to pick up the plank when it was lying flat on the ground (before it became part of the see saw), you'd probably have to use both hands to lift one end, and you might just barely be able to lift it. However, when the plank is balanced on the log in the middle, then you can lift one end of the plank quite easily, perhaps even with just one hand. That's because you're only trying to lift part of the weight of the plank, and because the other end of the plank is being pulled downward by gravity, which also helps make it easier for you to lift. At our bridge construction site, the towers are acting as the center log of the see saw, making it possible for the front end loader to lift an end of the beam much higher than it could previously do. It sure is handy to know about physics!

Now the guys have moved back to the first tower, and will make that one a few feet taller than the one they just worked on.

These huge, squared off logs, by the way, are from those trees which were mentioned in a previous post, which we cut down to use for this project. Some of the wood was left round, to use for rollers, and some was squared off for use in the towers.

I think you've probably got the back-and-forth process figured out now.

We're getting close.

The front end loader yanks one end all the way up!

With the front end loader moved to the other side of the river one last time, pieces from the tower which is no longer in use are put into place to raise the remaining tower higher.

Now we're really close!

Success! Now both beams are in place, and we can all say a prayer of gratitude and breathe a sigh of relief!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

El Mongual Bridge Project - lifting the beams, part 1

So far, I've explained the movement of the beam to where it is sitting at the base of the supporting walls, waiting to be lifted up on top of them. This lifting was the most dangerous part of the job.

In the photo above, the workers are creating the base of what will become a tower of squared off logs and other materials. Russell is at the controls of the front end loader, keeping the beam up off the ground while the base is created below the beam. Eventually this tower will be 9 feet tall, and will hold up one end of the 20 ton beam - so having a solid, level base is extremely important. (Oh, and just for fun, check out the tiny goat in the top left corner of the photo. It just happens to be a goat grazing next to a house far in the background, but we think it's funny how it looks like a tiny toy goat atop the beam!)

With the base carefully made level and stable, it was time to add logs to the tower. Again, Russell lifts the beam, the men put down the squared off logs, and then the beam is lowered to rest upon the completed part of the tower.

The logs are quite heavy - something like 600 pounds each.

With a couple of feet of tower built at one end of the beam, Russell lowers the beam to rest on the tower. He and the crew (and the front end loader) will move to the other end of the beam, to get to work on building the second tower.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

My garden at the end of March

Yes, I do know that it's April now, but I took this picture a few days ago. The garden is still doing pretty well. We currently have Roma tomatoes about the size of small grapes, cucumbers (from a volunteer plant, so we'll see whether they turn out to be edible or not) about 2 inches long, teensy little ears of corn, cabbages about the size of softballs (from seeds I planted back in November!), and occasional yummy peas (I definitely need to plant more pea plants).

I've got lettuce plants going to seed, lots of garlic sitting around doing nothing special, some newly planted beets, radishes, and onions, and a second batch of corn just starting.

I let some of my green beans stay on their bushes until the seeds were big, and then I tried planting the seeds. So far, nothing has sprouted. Either I didn't let them mature enough, or something else went wrong . . . or maybe if I'm just patient a bit longer, something will come up.

This is the very worst of the dry season, so it's very hot, very sunny, and very dry. I'm watering the garden multiple times each day, especially when I have new seedlings coming up. So far I'm planting all my seeds directly in the garden, and that's been working out okay, except for the seeds I've saved from previous plants. Clearly saving and using my own seeds are skills I still need to work on.

I'm continuing to have to fight off grasshoppers and leaf cutter ants. If I were trying to garden without the use of pesticides I think I'd have to give up. I am trying to use the pesticides sparingly, however. Generally, if I can keep the bugs from eating the tiny newly sprouted plants, then when those plants get older they do okay even when they are somewhat nibbled. If the bugs attack the tiny new plants, though, those plants tend to just die. Oh, I had an attack of leaf cutter ants of a different variety than I'd seen before, and they were eating only the garlic plants. I specifically planted garlic because it supposedly repels most insects, so I thought this was kind of funny. Anyway, I won that battle, and at the moment things are under control in the garden . . . at least the last time I checked, a few hours ago. However, I never know what I'll find when I go out there!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Colorful bug

I thought this was a pretty bug. It might be a stink bug, though, so I didn't bother it - I just took the picture!