I had my first day on the job yesterday and nobody got hurt. I was climbing ladders and overhead nailing with the big gun. I did mis-measure the first 5 or so pieces I needed to measure. I have to remember how to read a tape measure every year. It was a good workout, mentally and physically.
The building we are working on these days was formerly some kind of reptile laboratory. Snakes, I think, were the main thing. We are transforming it into an office and bedroom. Gutting the place to the studs was handled before our arrival. We lucked out and got to skip the really dirty work on this one.
Today Burt worked and I sorted 5 months worth of mail. Thanks, Sue, for collecting, forwarding and adding 3 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. Binge eating Thin Mints helps me get through the pile of paperwork. I also finished our 2014 taxes today. I am here to announce the Obama Care tax credit worked out perfectly. It was easy to figure out how to do the tax credit with TurboTax and we came out neither too taxed nor too subsidized. It’s a huge relief to have this behind me.
We’re here in Portal easing our way back into work mode. First up was a series of client meetings to work out scheduling and design. We have three largish projects in the area this year. One is a garage to guest studio and office. Another is a bathroom overhaul. The third is a guesthouse from a small outbuilding. The third project came our way with the help of kind words from former clients and the work we’ve left in our wake and the internet. These clients, pictured here, were completely unknown to us and they took us on to do their job by talking to us in email. They saw a guest house we built last year and liked what we did. This whole internet plus a good reputation is working so well they’re even letting us work while they spend the late spring and summer in cooler locales. This project epitomizes the whole ‘Gypsy Carpenter’ concept we envisioned 5 1/2 years ago.
As usual, we’ll be recording our work here and on Facebook so everyone can see what’s happening. First up will be a start on the garage to guest house and the bathroom remodel.
Aside from carpentry meetings and materials buying trips I’ve been busy manning the internet to manage Portal Irish Music Week 2015. Registration for this year’s traditional Irish music camp opened about a week ago and camp is already almost full. We hit the break even point yesterday. That’s a lot off my mind. Now I can focus on logistics instead of worrying about the money.
Our trip up Baja’s 1200 mile pennisula was completed in record time. For us, anyway. Normally we take three nights and this time we made it in two. The weather was perfect, the highway construction is minimal and the days are long. All of this added up to a mostly uneventful and easy trip. We had one snafu. While engrossed in a Stuff You Should Know podcast (Link HERE) we hit a tope too fast. A tope is a speed bump in Mexico. Rather than spend resources on traffic lights Mexico uses speed bumps to slow vehicles down in small towns. The topes of Mexico are legendary in size and number. This one was large and even though we were moving at a slow speed it was too fast. The aftermath inside the gNash rivaled any previous disaster. A nearly full bottle of olive oil departed its cabinet and made a small crater in our dining table. It did not break. A drawer came apart. Clothes hangers jumped off the rack. A canister of bread crumbs also flew from home and lost its lid but held its contents. Mimi’s drinking water splashed out. The igniter for the stove disengaged. But all of this was superficial stuff and just adds to the wabi-sabi nature of our well used trailer. The big problem was we bent an axle. Or so we think. One of the four trailer tires is wearing irregularly and at an alarming rate. The other three tires are fine. The price of being a wandering gypsy.
The podcasts of Stuff You Should Know are entertaining and informative. We may have been listening to the one about Gypsies (don’t call them that, it’s a racial slur, call them Roma), or the one about karate, or crowd sourcing, or x-rays….I don’t even remember. Burt thinks it was the one on animal domestication. Cats may not be domesticated. Rabbits are not. Sheep, cows, goats, camels and dogs are. Burt is not. I am. We listened to two days of 40 minute audio articles on all kinds of random subjects. Maybe that’s how we got here so fast. We will not be changing our name to the Roma Carpenters. My apologies to any Roma.
I have loyally and happily (mostly) attended Burt’s tournament tennis play for three years. I give pep talks and cheers. I analyze the opponents. I do a pretty good job of being wife and fan. This year’s tournament went pretty well for Burt but I lost my job as number one fan. This cutie pie on the left is Jasub, son of my Spanish teacher, and former music student of ours. One run of Go Burt, Go Burt, Go Burt! out of his five year old mouth and it was obvious I could not compete. Sadly despite the most vociferous cheering section Burt lost the game.
Tomorrow we hit the road. Sad to be going and happy that we are sad to be going is the mood around here. I’m glad we’re never feeling like it’s time to go. Mexico is our home and this year we made great progress towards a life of blended gringo and Mexican friends and activities. Plans are already brewing for next year’s projects.
The rumpus room and bodega are nearly sealed up. The gNash is cleaned and organized. This year we’ve hired some staff to keep watch on the place while we’re gone. It’s official, we have a gardener and family. For $50 a month he or his wife or father-in-law are going to water and check the property three time a month. That’s the plan anyway. You never know what will happen when the boss is away. Hurricanes and family disasters can ruin the most ambitious workers. I do know that our guy, German, is a nice young man with a nice family. We’ve helped them a lot and he and his wife, Vikki, are eager to help us if they can. Part of the plan is for them to weed and clear debris before our arrival next year to make settling in easier. I’m pretty optimistic we’ll be wondering why we hadn’t made arrangements like this in previous years.
The house concert is over and now only the Spring Tennis Tournament stands between us and our journey north to work. I’m sad. I like living here. I’m also sad because a good friend is slipping away. I’ll never hear her voice again. We’ll never run together or play pinochle or go boating again. Breast cancer is taking another of my loved ones at a tender age. I’ll share more details of our friendship soon. All I can say now is Linda was a better friend to me than I deserved and I am grateful for every kindness she ever showed me.
The Gypsy Carpenters are playing their first house concert tomorrow night. It might be the first house concert in Pescadero of all time. A house concert is a public event hosted in a private home. Fans or curious people come and typically pay $10 to $15 to get an up close and intimate musical show. There’s rarely a need for sound systems and listeners can really hear the music. (I’m not sure if his is a good thing for our fans but at least we won’t have to shout.) Sometimes there are snacks and wine or beer for sale.
Janet came up with the idea of hosting us at her place early this winter. She didn’t even know there was a name for such a thing. In a way Janet invented house concerts all by herself. When she mentioned it to me I said, “That’s called a House Concert. Sounds like a great idea. I wonder if anyone will come?” If your interested the show is tomorrow (that’s Tuesday) under Janet’s palapa. We’re calling it The Gypsy Carpenters Un-Hinged. Doors open at 6:30. We suggest a donation of 75 pesos (that’s around $5) for this wonderful chance to see us drooling and spitting our way through an even more bewildering array of tunes than usual. We promise to try to keep the saliva on ourselves. Beer and wine will be available for purchase. I hope somebody shows up.
The call of the bees reached us again. I think they are communicating with us. Last year we told ourselves we were bringing bee veils back to Mexico so we could help neighbors with bees and maybe start our own bee factory. Did we get our act together and get the veils? No. Death, hospitals, cross-country trips and work got in the way. Dreams of bee keeping trickled away while we dealt with the daily grind.
Since we are only a week from departure I was thinking, “Well I guess we didn’t need the veils after all.” Not one swarm our misguided hive crossed our paths this winter. All previous seasons in Mexico we’ve had bees to manage and none had been found this year. Last week Burt heard a swarm fly by but he didn’t see it. I was sad about this and wondered if we should get bee gear for next year. Sunday I bumped into friends at a local farmer’s market. The first words out of their mouths were: There’s bees in our outhouse. Not a typical Sunday morning greeting but I was happy to hear the words. The bees must be directing our thoughts. Nora and Peter had no idea Burt was a bee keeper but I filled them in and said we’d try to help them save the bees and clean up their poop station. They camp on property near here as a retreat from their jobs in La Paz. While they were away working a swarm of bees found their quiet outhouse and started building. A nearby vender overheard the three of talking about the bees and my lamentations of why oh why didn’t we buy veils and offered to loan his bee veil. The bees were really in charge.
This hive turned out to be very amiable and had built its home on the lid of the latrine. The combs all hung off the crapper lid. All we needed was a new box to hold the old lid and a new lid for the old box. Burt used some scrap wood and built a tidy box with a front porch (the gap the bees use to go in and out of the hive) and we headed over at dusk to make the move.
Some smoke was applied to calm or confuse the bees but these bees were so mild mannered I stood in their midst and took photos freely. Burt gently lifted the old lid and put it on the new box. He then reached into the latrine and scooped out handfuls of bees and placed them on the box’s front porch. The bees went into their new home. You could see them crawl in. It was over in a few minutes. Happy faces all around. Woohoo. We made plans to pick up the hive in a few days and locate it in our yard. Pizza and beers were shared around the camp fire.
This morning the bees were gone. They swarmed away. They weren’t in the new box or the old latrine. We’re mildly sad and pretty happy. We guess the new hive decided didn’t like the new spot and set out as a group (a swarm) to find something better. We’re sad because we have no bees but we’re happy because these bees are alive living in the wild and there is not risk of stings on personal equipment when using the facilities. So we’re calling this a success. And the bees are in charge.
Our neighbor, Patricia Larsen, has a house famous in art and decor circles. It’s been featured in Architectural digest and other arty publications. Patrica is a well known painter and interior designer. Yesterday her place and our road were overrun with an army of fashionistas doing a photo shoot for Anthropologie clothing. Check out the company HERE. I love Anthropologie’s clothes but I can only afford it on clearance and when dad gives me access to his credit card to buy myself a birthday present. Now I know why the clothes are so expensive. This event looked like a small but very nice wedding.
My friend Rima catered the food. To mollify us for all the traffic and blocking the road we were offered leftover lunch. I skipped it even though I love Rima’s food. I should have asked for a handbag. The size 0 dresses wouldn’t fit.
One of my yoga teacher often ‘invites’ us to lie down and place our arms out like cactus arms. Its a deep and relaxing stretch for the chest and shoulders. I saw this cardon doing the same thing. It’s, perhaps, a bit too relaxed.
Today started off on the wrong foot. The upside was an expression of loyalty and support from my partner in life, Burt. That man is someone you want on your side. I could learn a thing or two from him. I am so lucky we found each other.
We’ve got a new dress on at www.gypsycarpenters.com and we want to know what you think. Early polls via Facebook are overwhelmingly in favor of the larger font and cleaner appearance. Our older demographic says it’s easier to read. I hear it also looks good from mobile devices. I think we need a perma-picture of the faces behind the name. Do you have other ideas? Chime in now before it’s too late.