Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Friend, Luis

When I was in the Air Force one of their sayings was, "Follow the chain of command and resolve the problem at the lowest level." The last part of that I have found to be very true regarding the building process here in Mexico. The first place I go whenever I encounter a problem is to go down the street to see my friend, Luis. He runs a junk yard about a half mile from our place. Luis is always happy and willing to help. He delivers water to the site whenever I call him and only every 4 or 5 trips will he ask me to give him a small payment for gas for his truck. Right now I am storing my small wooden beams to finish the roof at his place. I don't know what if anything I would have been able to accomplish without my friend, Luis.

Mil Gracias mi Amigo!

Built By Hand

Here are some facts on our new construction.

If you have been paying attention then you know that we have no services (water, electric, gas ) nothing. Everything we have built we have built by hand. All of the rocks for the walls of our home and 2 of the 3 retaining walls are rocks that were on site. We had to purchase 5 dump truck loads of "new" rocks for the great wall and 1 dump truck full of sand for everything. We have used about 30 50 kilo bags of cement and about 50 20 kilo bags of Cal. For tools we haven't used anything very exotic. Shovels, picks, hammers, and those sorts of things. The most sophisticated tool we have used so far is what I call a hand drill. We used it yesterday to drill 2 wholes in 1 of our large (6 meter) roof supports. We got the big beams of the roof up yesterday and now I have to wait for the cement to dry around the beams before I put the smaller boards that will support the Teja tile. It was very cool to see that what I had thought up actually worked.

Headed to Texas tonight for a few gigs and I'm already ready to return home.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

King Of The Jungle

I was down in San Miguel Allende this morning rehearsing with the lovely Ann Riley. We have an organ and trumpet recital at St. Paul's in a few weeks. It's great fun making music with such a wonderful person. I'm excited about the music we have chosen and I know it will be a very nice concert.

When I was returning I saw this truck, which is the common way that the circus lets you know they are in town. Yep, part of some guys job is to get up in the morning and slowly drive around town on the main streets, stopping in front of schools, parks, anywhere kids and families might be to promote the circus. The trucks I have seen have had monkeys, tigers, camels, and like this one the King of the Jungle, the lion. Even when taken so far away from their natural environment, taking a nap in the back of a truck driving around a town in Mexico, these are truly magnificent animals.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nowhere To Run

Today when I finally got out to the land. I heard the sounds of heavy machinery working in the distance. When I stood on top of our "great wall" I could see a tractor working on a road on another hillside. I walked down the road and saw what I had somewhat expected, the road project had once again gotten out of hand.

A little background on the ground. In late November a few guys showed up to extend the road that goes past our land. No big deal, right? Well the "road engineers" used their heavy equipment to make a road and also dump tons of dirt into a very small river that runs very close to us. When the rains came in February the little river had nowhere to run and the water made a small pond.

Just a few weeks ago I noticed that there were many, many bug larvae waiting to get there start on life. So, with my trusty pick and shovel, I started to try to open the river back up. I was very slow going. My back paid the biggest price. Then just this last Wednesday I hired my own heavy machinery to finally finish the job. My back was very happy watching every load of dirt that they were able to extract.

That brings us back to today. So, when I go down the hill to see what they had done, I saw that they had basically made a giant parking lot over the area I had been trying to restore. After a few heated words I was able to convince the workers to come back and try to undo some of what they had done.

It is amazing how fast man with all of his fancy equipment can mess things up. It took many years for nature to make this little river work and now that they have messed it up and there is no way to replace what was lost.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Walk Into Work

I had a little extra time for my walk into work on Friday so I took a few fotos of a couple of the sites along the way. I walk down and up Tecolote (the foto with the steps winding up) everyday. In 1 of the fotos you can see Pipila high above the city and the headlights of a car in one of Guanajuato's many tunnels. Guanajuto is a very beautiful city for walking. The foto from above town is taken from Tecolote.

More 3 Wheelers

I went back to Irapuato on Friday to place our order for the wood for our roof. Just like always more 3 wheelers everywhere. It was very, very windy so the preferred way of moving these giants is pushing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Safety Last

I have a friend who has lived in Mexico for the last 18 years or so and one of his favorite sayings is, "Mexico, safety last." On my way back from Irapuato last Friday I had to pull over to the side of the interstate to get a foto of these guys changing this billboard sign. CRAZY!

2 Fotos

Here are 2 fotos from around Guanajuato.

I love the sport of baseball and Guanajuato has the most spectacular baseball stadium I have ever been inside of (yes I have been to Wrigley, Go Cubs!). I like to bring my trumpet to any game I attend. The games here are very quiet compared to those in the states, so the trumpet really stands out. The locals always get a kick when they see me come in with my horn. The game in the foto we lost 4-3, but it was still a blast.

The other foto is of the beautiful Templo de la Compania in the center of Guanajuato. This church has had scaffolding over the front part for all of the 4+ years we have been here. They just took it down a week or so ago. Nice to be able to see the front for the first time. The orchestra plays at least 1 concert a year in this magnificent structure. It is one of my favorite venues.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cool Bike Riders

When's the last time you took your family for a bike ride?

I went to Irapuato on Friday to get some prices on wood for the roof of our first room. Found a great place and saw too many cool bike riders to take fotos of. Here are just a few that I did manage to get. 3 wheeled bikes rock.


My workers. They show up early, stay late, and build the most beautiful stone walls you have ever seen. Don't know all of their names but the youngest member of our team is the guy on the left. He is 18. My main maestro Alberto is on the right.


Working again this week out at the land. Our workers were there from Tuesday until Friday again for the 3rd week. So cool to look back at the fotos and see all of the progress. I'm very proud of what we have accomplished.

On Tuesday I headed outside of Dolores Hidalgo to pick up the mesquite beams I ordered last week. When I arrived they still needed a little work and all of the workers were on lunch break. It took 7 guys to move the bigger (210 cm. by 40 cm. by 30 cm.)of the two beams up onto the giant table saw. Very fun watching these expert wood workers work with such a massive piece of wood. Once they were finished and had loaded them in the back of the suburban, I started to wonder how and if I would be able to get these bad boys out of the truck. My guys were waiting when I returned and were undaunted by the task. Have I mentioned how much I love my workers? Then I started wondering "How the hell are we going to get these beams in place above the doors?"

On Wednesday morning I got my answer. Under the direction of Alberto we slowly inched the smaller (160 cm. by 40 cm. by 30 cm.) of the 2 beams into place. I had tears in my eyes as I now could see for the 1st time a doorway. Until now we have only been constructing walls and it was very cool to see a little more of my idea coming to life. The beams have the perfect look for our rustic casita. After returning from rehearsal, we put the bigger of the beams in place. While moving the beams we sometimes used a steal bar under the beam for a little better grasp. For the last big push to get the beam on top of the lower wall one of the workers asked "Con la bara o huevos?" "With the bar or balls?" We opted for the more macho approach and got that big sucker up there.

Monday, March 8, 2010

3 Wheeled Bike Fetish

Anyone who knows me knows of my love of the bicycle. One of the greatest inventions ever. So naturally I love people who make their living with the bike. I am not talking about Lance. People who are less super human but who to me are even cooler. No blood doping here with my guys. I have a 3 wheeled bike fetish. Whenever I see one I try to get a shot.

A little history. The guy with the cowboy hat sells ice cream. When the girls Waldorf school moved outside of town this guy was always riding around in that area selling delicious ice cream. The guy with the gas powered rig sells tacos a vapor on the road to San Miguel. Steamed tacos for 4 pesos each. They are yummy and his salsas are excellent. The guy blowing up the balloon was selling cookies and kids toys outside a church in Silao.

WRC Fotos

My fotos don't really do this sport justice. Maybe they can give you some sort of idea how fast these guys and girls were going. Those are my girls up close and personal. Awesome seats.


This Saturday, Alberto (my main maestro of wall construction) and I traveled to just outside of Dolores Hidalgo to purchase 2 large wooden support beams. They will be made out of Mesquite and be used over both doorways in the kitchen. The big one is 210 centimeters long and the smaller one is 160 centimeters long. Both are 40 cent.(16") wide and tall. Big pieces of wood. The total cost for both was $3,800 pesos. Alberto said we got a good deal. I will take some fotos when I pick them up tomorrow. The drive to the wood store was a blast. Alberto took me on the more direct dirt road route out of his town of San Martin. We traveled through 2 rivers, I saw many farmers plowing their fields with horses, and one ranchero who had a burro so loaded down with dried corn stalks that all you could see was very little of the burros head sticking out from this giant walking stack of corn stalks.

When I returned to Guanajuato I drove outside of town on the free road to Santa Terresa where the stone masons are. I ordered a couple of big green stone balls to use for supports. Then I headed back out to the land for more shoveling and wheelbarreling. Shoveling dirt, sifting out the good rocks and then taking the dirt up hill around 100 feet of walking. That will get your heart pumping. I am planning on using the dirt for several raised beds for vegetable gardens.

Returned to the land early Sunday morning with the intent to do some more work. My hands were still very tired from the previous days work so I decided to go for a short hike. I have been working so much at the land that I haven't seen any of my girls much. Called Michelle and see if she and the girls would be interested in going to the WRC event outside of Silao. Got back to the house and loaded up the girls and a few friends and off we went.

The last dirt stage of the World Rally Championships was just outside of Silao, GTO about a 45 min. drive from our house. We all had a blast watching the best rally drivers in the world. Very impressive. Perfect day for rallying. Nice and warm and lots' o' dust.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

LESS Than 20 Minutes

Busy week working out at our land and playing principal trumpet with the OSUG this week. We have a good conductor, Stefano Mazzoleni from Italy. He has been here before so at least he knows what to expect from us. It seems like every time he is here we have some sort of personel problems. Last time Nacho, our regular principal trumpet got punched in the mouth in some sort of bar brall. So I had to sight read Shostokovich 13 (a very hard part) the night of the concert. This week our pricipal horn played for the first 2 rehearsals and then became to ill to continue. So now Dan Norman, the famous tubist from Tuba Jam is playing pricipal horn. Even if we don't sound that great it is very fun playing Dvorak No.8. Really great music with some great trumpet licks.

The costruction out at our land is going well. The guys are working very hard and making some very beautiful walls. On Tuesday when I arrived they were almost out of cement so I called up my cement guys and they had it out to our land in LESS than 20 minutes. Pretty cool!

Still no interweb at the house and between that, not having much time, and being too lazy to carry the laptop in to town. No fotos for now. I will be posting some soon. I can't wait to show you guys what we are doing. It is too much fun building your own house. Everyone should give it a try.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Magical Concert

Last Sunday 21 Feb. at the Casa Museo Gene Byron I had the extreme pleasure of playing with Cuban pianist Gabriel Hernandez and Tyler Mitchell on bass. It was a magical concert. Those 2 sound so good together it is such a pleasure to sit back and listen. Gabriel played a few solo piano pieces that were to cool for school. Very cool to hear the shades of Cuba in his playing and compositions. I felt like I was really strugling to get my ideas out of the horn, but when you are playing with such great musicians they can make you sound good anyway.

After that gig, the Tuba Jam trio, Garrapatas Mexicanas (Mexican Ticks) had a date playing for a Casa Cultura event in front of the Teatro Cervantes. Just another beautiful setting here in Guanajuato. Busy fun weekend.


I haven't had much time for blogging this last week. The signal that we use in our place has not been working. Even if we did have internet I just haven't had much time to sit down. Now with the workers back at out land my routine is a little bit different. I sleep, in the Suburban, out at the land to watch over our building materials at night. I wake up in the morning usually around 6.30 work a little until the guys arrive a little before 8. Then around 8.15 I ride my bike (single speed 29" Karate Monkey) 45 minutes to our apartment, eat a bit, head down for rehearsal from 10-1.30, have a snack at home, and then back on the Monkey to return to our land in Carbonera and repeat the process.

The construction is really moving along. It is pretty impressive what you can build with so few materials. Since our land is somewhat remote, we currently have no services (electric, water, gas, etc..) We are building with stone and concrete. All of the stone for the walls of the house and a few other retaining walls is stone that was on the site when we bought it. Much of the work I have been doing is more like archeology than normal construction. Many of the old ruin walls existed in some form, but in many places the walls have fallen in after many many years. Many of the original stones are there, however they are buried under many feet of dirt. So I have been digging more than you can probably imagine.

Here are 2 fotos from the last 2 Tuesdays. I'll take another tomorrow so you can see all of the changes.