Friday, March 26, 2010


Hi guys,

So sorry that I'm not great at this and haven't figured out how to respond directly to comments, so will do it this way.

One question was regarding the china closet. Did we have to get a permit. No. Not sure why we would have. I have read that some folks are under the impression that you can't bring in anything made of wood. We didn't find that to be the case. We bro't in a few pieces of old furniture, including bedframes, dressers and tables & chairs, all without problems. Also pictures in frames and some of my carved wood pictures. Our things came in via a container of household goods. No questions about the wooden items. I suspect that the only thing not allowed would be lumber itself. I do know of one carver who wanted to take mahogany out of Belize, but wasn't allowed to. He had to carve the doors in country and then ship them to the US as finished. That's really the only case I've heard of and that was export, not import.

The termites have been trying to invade the wooden structures, but aren't actually getting into that wood. Apparently, they will work up the treated wood looking for furniture to eat. We'll experiment with either treatments or possibly a metal pad under each leg to deter them.

Also had a question about our cabinets. The only thing we put on them was oil based verithane. I spoke to a wonderful lady who has a factory that builds incredibly beautiful furniture in San Ignacio. They spray lacquer on all their pieces.

I'm struggling with vastly different temperatures. I'm in Washington right now, where the temp is in the 60's, but windy. Our daughter in Oregon said that they had 6" of snow and it was still snowing this morning and I called Art in Belize and it was 105 yesterday. Wow! Was hoping the hot would hold off until May, but looks as tho' it's shooting up to HOT a little early.

Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate knowing that someone is reading my babblings and that some of this is helpful. Belize is wonderful, but there has definitely been a learning curve. Gale

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Finally, a bedroom wall

When we first moved into our little house, our only interior wall was around the bathroom. We only had studs defining where the wall would be. Our furniture was the only visual division. We were able to buy some rough Santa Maria lumber. It's beautiful, but the boards were of varying thicknesses and widths and many of them weren't straight. We struggled anyway and were able to build our wall. It is definitely not perfect, the boards are still shrinking, but we love it anyway. It has personality. You will note that we succeeded in bringing down a china closet which is a family piece. The fun drawing on the left was done by my very talented brother, done in colored pencil. The photo above the china cabinet is of my great grandfather and the woodcarvings were my efforts.

Rather than finish the back side of the wall, which is on the bedroom side, we added horizontal boards which became bookcases for our paperbacks. Great insulation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Making a small house work - kitchen

Our log home in Oregon has 2400 sq ft, so moving into a little house with 600 sq ft could be a challenge. Actually, it's wonderful. We had to skinny down our necessities and make the most of every inch. Actually, if we'd been in the States it would have been harder because of building restrictions. Here in Belize, the open walls have proven to be a blessing and a few problems. Also, we made a choice to not have glass windows, but double screens with shutters.

The openness allows for wonderful air flow and light. Of course, the problem end is that it's harder to keep out the little bugs. I have no idea how they get in, but I can't get dinner on the table we've made into an island, because the light overhead draws them in. Ich! It's a wonder I haven't gassed both of us with bug spray.

We finally finished our open kitchen cabinets & the pantry wall, all made of Santa Maria. For now they're open, but I may end up putting curtains over to cut down on bugs and dust. Yes folks, even with the humidity, the surprising thing is that there's lots of dust down here. I suspect that a portion of it is mildew. I have to keep moving things and dusting everything to cut down on mold and mildew & of course, bugs.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I'm back in our log home in Oregon. It's lonesome here without Art, but am enjoying our daughter & grandkids. Boy do they grow fast. Will head to Washington in a couple of days to see our son & family. Just running errands, visiting with my brother & family and trying to get the house in shape for the next few months. I also have to pick up coils for ours & Rene's chain saws so that we can continue clearing the little poky stumps that keep tripping us up.

I got my computer back, but not sure that it's totally fixed. Luckily, it was still under warranty. I just published a few photos of Art with his Kubota to a previous post. We still have a lot of hand work to do before it can take over care of all the cleared land.

The weather here is typical for this time of year. Freezing at night and in the 50's during the day. It looks as tho' it will be a tough summer because the northwest didn't get the usual snow, so will be a very dry summer. We're adjacent to national forest, so fire is always a huge concern.

Once I'm back in Belize, I'll try to keep updating on our progress and experiences. (I started to say failures too, but hopefully there won't be too many of them).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Traveling to Oregon

No, we're not moving. I'm just taking a trip back to collect some grandkid hugs and check on our house (which still hasn't sold). At least I'll have a place to stay. Art & I take turns as we don't want to leave our house untended and can't think of leaving Bailey with anyone else. He's so much a part of our family. At his size, it's prohibitive to travel with him. He'll only go back with us if we decide to drive.

Another good reason for this trip is to get my computer fixed. I've discovered a couple of places here in SI that might be able to fix it, but parts are hard to get here and expensive, and I'm hoping that it's still under warranty. I've been totally lost without it. Once it's fixed I'll try to post some photos to some of my previous posts.

The weather right now is really bouncing around. We had 2 days of 100+ degrees and now the wind has come up and it's cooled down a bit. I don't really look forward to the really hot weather. The ground is cracking and the leaves are dropping like crazy. Right now we're letting them lay there as a mulch, but may give in and rake some. The teak leaves are hysterical. They're big as platters and you can actually hear them fall. Art mowed the area around them and the old flail made them disappear. Of course, more keep falling, so it's a little futile. One project Art is contemplating tackling while I'm gone is to start cleaning and painting the outside of the Mennonite house. We did it once a couple of years ago, but the back side is weathering already. I'm hoping he'll enlist the help of Rene to take bleach to the back and have Rene do the high stuff. Glad I won't be here, as heights make me crazy.

Well dear friends, I'm heading out now for the cold climes. I have to tell you that we really love Oregon and have always felt it's home, but Belize has really gotten under our skins and we don't want to leave our little place in Bullet Tree. Anyone want to buy a wonderful handbuilt house in Central Oregon????


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Treating Wood

When we started this project, much of what we did was hit & miss & just doing what we were told to do. We've made some mistakes & I'm hoping this sharing will help someone else.

We have so much to learn about wood in the tropics, but we're having to learn fast! We'd heard about termites & what they can do, but until you've seen them in action, it's hard to fathom. It seems that the minute you lay a soft wood board down, they start eating it. You'll see what looks like a mud trail on the board and the wood just starts to disintegrate.

When building you have a couple of options (when building a wooden structure). One is to build with hardwood. The Mennonite houses from Spanish Lookout are built of hardwoods. Frankly, I'm not sure of which ones each uses. Many have very funky names - Santa Maria, Billy Web, Bullet Tree & Cabbage Bark to mention a few. I don't mention Mahogany because it's much more expensive, even down here. Our little Mennonite house is Santa Maria, which is a fairly uniform color of red.

When we built our house & guest house, we were extremely aware of costs & chose to use mtn. pine. The appearance is somewhat similar to our northern pines. They tell you it's "pressure treated" but I understand that it's actually dipped in what looks like a Penta solution. The wood takes on a slight greenish tinge & when you get it it's usually still dripping wet. Ick! The surprise is that, once it's dry, it becomes really hard. We like the look of it as it has more character than the hardwoods.

Besides bugs, the sun is very intense & can turn a board into a "C" shape in the course of a day. You have to keep it out of the sun if possible and treat it once your structure is up. We've used two different products for the siding. CWF & Maxim's. (I'll get the exact name & edit this later). One hint I learned long ago, clear finish looks nice, but to get UV protection you're better off with some color. The more color, the more protection. We actually used a cedar color on the pine to counteract the greenish tinge & to make them coordinate with the Mennonite house.

OK, we're terrific, we've painted our brains out & can now relax - WRONG! The termites are making tracts up our concrete piers, heading towards the wood. We've sprayed, but that's pretty short term. According to Rene, they won't eat the treated wood, but will travel, looking for furniture or whatever isn't treated. He told us that they apply a band about one foot wide of grease at the base of every board or pier which traps the bugs. Sounds messy to me. We've seen trees painted white & wondered about that. Had this discussion with our British friend, Jane, & she told us that they use a "lime wash." Inquired & ended up buying a 50# bag to try. You can mix with water to paint the bottom of trees or spread the dry mixture on the ground. We'll probably do both under the house. Wow we have a lot to learn.

I also want to touch on my dilemma about our decks (verandas down here). I'm using Thompsons Water Seal, which I've never liked, but it's all they seem to sell down here, for all the decks around our house. As an alternative, on the guest house & little house I used linseed oil and diesel. I Googled this & found very mixed reviews. Some said it didn't do any good at all. I was also trying to find a % mixture, with no luck. I thought, what the heck, & used half & half. So far, we're really pleased with the results of this mix. It goes on very easily, the diesel helps the oil penetrate, it looks good and seems to be holding up well. The slight diesel smell disappeared in a day. We wanted this mostly as a wood dressing, but the diesel is also a good bug repellent.

Over time we'll be able to judge the two products & will share our observations. I'm hoping this helps someone. These two "old dogs" are sure learning new tricks & I love to share.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A man on a mission

While in Oregon we discovered that a neighbor had a 1981 Kubota, orchard tractor, 4WD, diesel tucked back in his garage. Art's eyes lit up. A TOY! Just what we needed in Belize. if we'd had any idea of the trouble we were inviting, we'd probably have let our little orange friend continue to languish under her tarp. A big attraction was that Dennis is a tinkerer and had gone thru her, fixing and improving. Irresistible.

My stupid contribution came from remembering my brother tell of owning a similar tractor with a flail, which he used to maintain their small acreage. Our quest began. It took a couple of months of searching to finally find a derelict 5' flail buried in a used machinery lot. It was rusty, the pulleys bent and it seemed to weigh a ton. With a huge struggle, we managed to get it home.

Next was getting it to Belize. We managed to get both onto the load with Roy. Now, we were on our way, almost. When it came time to load the container, we found that our detailed sales receipt wasn't sufficient. US Customs demanded a notarized bill of sale for the tractor. Not sure where we would have been if we hadn't bo't from a friend. We had a lot of mail dashing back & forth & in the end Roy had to remove the kubota from the container. We finally managed to get all the paperwork for customs. When the container arrived with our stuff, we got it sorted out and about 6 weeks later our tractor made it. This meant a special trip to Belize City, additional duty and luckily the tractor fit into the back of the truck. We finally got her home.

With so much to do, the tractor and flail languished under the house until recently. Art went thru the tractor and with difficulty, got it running again. All it's fluids had been drained. Once again, our friend, Robin, came to our aid with the flail. He bro't his welder and straightened and repaired the flail. With no instructions, it was a struggle, but Art finally figured it out. What a challenge.

In case you're like me, until I saw one, I wasn't sure what a flail was, or how it worked. It fits on the PTO & is a horizontal shaft with 96 knives hanging from chains. These rotate and cut grass or weeds. If it encounters rocks or stumps the knives bounce over and are unhurt. Another advantage to this is, that it doesn't throw debris to the sides like a rotary cutter, altho' it does throw things behind it. We've tried it on a portion of our newly chopped bush and it worked like a champ! We're crossing our fingers that it works as hoped to allow us to keep the bush at bay. Whatever, Art is having a ball.