Category Archives: Construction

Solar by Increments

Since all was lost in our community efforts to bring electricity to La Yacata, I turned my attention to solar a few years ago.  My husband was not as convinced that solar was a feasible alternative. So, I set out to show him that it would work, bit by bit.

He loved the motion detector solar lights I bought last year.  side-light

He thought the string of solar lights I bought for the stairs was nifty.  IMG_20180207_160012He was so-so about the string of twinkling solar Christmas lights I bought for the downstairs bathroom.  

He was finally won over by this little solar setup.  It had two lights and a charger and was powered by two little solar panels. The lights stayed on all night. The charger worked for our cell phones and Kindles.IMG_20180403_104923.jpgShortly after the mini-solar installation, we were driving around and I spied a corner shop with solar setups.  We circled back and my husband saw that there was a generator like the one he wanted to buy there in addition to some stacked solar panels.  Only no one was there. We spent the better part of a week trying to find someone at the store. We even called the number listed on the front door–no luck.

On the way to my 6-month doctor appointment, we swung past just one more time.  The door was open. Someone was there! We stopped and met with the Mexican version of Shaggy, green shirt and all. He drew some diagrams, asked some questions and showed us the setup that he did for El Tiro de Pichon (the shooting range) right up the road from us.  He had every confidence that we could install it ourselves. I didn’t have enough cash on me, so we said we’d be back the following day.

We went back and nobody was there. My husband said we were going to wait.  So we did. Right there on the front step. About 45 minutes later, Shaggy strolled out of the CFE (Mexican electric company) and over to his shop.  He had been trying to get a permit from CFE for another solar setup. As La Yacata doesn’t have any electricity, we wouldn’t need a permit.

We handed over cash for one solar panel ($3000 pesos) and one controller capable of regulating up to 4 solar panels ($1900 pesos).  He went over the installation instructions again and we were off. We had the motorcycle, and let me tell you, traveling across town with a solar panel on a moto isn’t an easy feat but we did it.  

We dropped it off and headed to Autozone where we bought a battery ($2600 pesos with $500 deposit when we return an empty shell).  We dropped that off as well. Then went to see the Herrerro (iron worker) and had him make a base for the solar panel ($400 pesos).  It was ready by 5:30 that afternoon.


So with all our pieces (we already had the AC/DC converter $2799 pesos) installation was scheduled for the following morning.  In under 2 hours, we had electricity.


Since we had the electrician come about a month ago, we only found minor issues with our system.  The light in my son’s room had a loose wire. The switch in the spare room was upside down. The plug in the back room should have been installed as a plug/switch combo. And the laundry room light was missing its connecting wire.  My husband spent the afternoon taking care of these little problems.


Of course, not having electricity in the 11 years we have lived in La Yacata meant we had no light bulbs.  So we went on our first light bulb buying trip. We opted for the low-energy use LED lights in 60w and 40w.  Soriana was running a sale. With the purchase of $100 pesos of light bulbs, there was a 30% discount. The universe was conspiring with us!


The idea is to purchase more batteries and solar panels as we can afford them to create a fully functioning system.  As it is now, we can run the lights and small appliances without an issue but should we wish to use the washer, for example, we need more oomph. That in no way has dampened our excitement though.

I was so thrilled with our new setup that I told the neighbors about Shaggy and they went and bought their own system the same day. Now there are 2 solar electricity setups in La Yacata.


Let there be light!




Filed under Construction, Electricity issues

A bit of remodeling–Sitting around the house

I think I may have gotten a bit carried away with chairs.  For so long, we haven’t had a decent chair or sofa to sit on.  Now we have plenty if anyone is thinking about coming for a visit.


First, from one of the carpenters that we didn’t get the bedside tables from, I bought this Adirondack chair for the back porch.  I adore it.  My son said I look like a little kid in it.  I guess because maybe my feet don’t touch the ground.


Then from the guy who sold the bedside tables before we could snatch them up, I bought this rocking chair.  I love it!  But yet again, my son says it is too big for me.  It’s supposedly for the front porch, whenever that gets done.


Then there are the 6 chairs from the indigenous tent guy with the wife, twin toddlers and 4 year old, plus a couple of puppies.  We weren’t as happy with these, mostly because of the poor stain job.  Plus, it took 3 trips to pick them up.  Each time a new finished time was given.  The chairs, however, are sturdy and should last a good while, although not too comfortable.



Then we had carpenter Harley redo the legs of the last 3 chairs that came with the table my mom gave me for our wedding.  The tops were still good.  The legs not so much.  Remember that spectacular fall? While he was at it, he restained the table.  Looks good, doesn’t it?  The chairs came back much shorter than they went, so it was a good thing we had already purchased those 6 other chairs for the table.  They’re still good though.  I use one for my sewing machine and two for my puzzle table.


I also had carpenter Harley make me a bench for my piano–another sitting place.  


And finally, we brought the cute little brown chairs from the Little House in Sunflower Valley for this little sitting area in front of the window. These are the only sitting spots that were not handcrafted, although the table was made by my son.

So while we do not have a couch, there certainly are plenty of places to just sit around the house these days!



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Filed under Construction

A bit of remodeling–The Laundry Room

laundry area

The former second-floor laundry area, complete with hand pump connected to the ajibe (dry well).

Even though I now have a washer at the little house in Sunflower Valley, we opted to keep our laundry room in La Yacata with some improvements, that is.  I never minded hand washing and having a wash area is a good thing in the event of a variety of end of the world scenarios.  I wouldn’t want my family to be dirty and ragged now, would I?

We picked up a larger lavadera (washboard) when we picked up the toilet and sink.  I wanted one where the water from the hand pump would be on one side instead of the barrica (barrel) so that’s what we got.  

It was heavy and cumbersome to take upstairs.  The base that held the former washboard had to be altered to accommodate the new one.  My husband wanted to have it flush against the wall which required removing part of the washboard.  As we no longer had our power inverter to run the power tools, he tried using a hammer and chisel on it.  Well, it cracked.  After looking at it for about 10 minutes, he decided the only thing to do was to take it to the little house in Sunflower Valley, which has electricity and finish the job.

That meant carting it back downstairs, loading it onto the truck, driving to Sunflower Valley and using the power tool to cut that stubborn piece off.  Then we had to bring it back, haul it up the stairs again and reposition the monster.  A little bit of jiggling and a little more hammer and chiseling and it fell perfectly into position.

I also wanted a backsplash because I do tend to throw the suds around when I wash.  So using the leftover of tile, that’s what my husband did. He also painted a stripe.  He really likes painting stripes.  One time, I remember coming home from work in Virginia and found he had painted a green stripe all around the living room.  When I asked him why he had done that, he said he was bored.  This time I at least got to pick the color of the stripe.

The last bit was installing the double-sided mirror in the space that used to be a window.  The whole concept just seemed confusing to my son, but the end result is more light reflected back into both the laundry room and the main room.



Other room reflection

The laundry room isn’t quite finished.  The handpump will be moved downstairs to get water directly from the dry well. We still need to get a faucet and tinaco (water storage container) and then figure out how to get water to the second-floor roof.  But that’s a project for another day.


Filed under Construction

A bit of remodeling–The stairs and backroom

Pictured above you can see the stairs and back room when they were just the stairs and back porch.  This was our son’s fifth birthday party.  A number of the attendees are no longer with us, sadly.

In the remodel, the stairs were more time consuming than the huge expanse of floor that made up the upstairs living area because of all the angles and cuts.  There was also a limit that could be done each day which was the reach of my husband’s arm.  But little, by little, he tiled the stairs.

We had decided on the wooden handrail, but we had to wait a bit for that.  Carpenter Harley’s business was booming and he couldn’t get to it right away. When it was finally ready, my husband changed his mind on where he wanted the first post to be.  I had to work so I let them duke it out on their own.  My husband won the battle but the railing is one post short.

The stairs after we made a room out of the back porch.

The railing was sturdier than I imaged it would be for the price Carpenter Harley charged us.  Of course, installation took all day.  It didn’t help that the carpenter left all his tools at home and had to go and get them before he and his son could even get started. Despite all that, I am so pleased with the finished result!

No, these are not Christmas lights.  The steps are very dark at night and in lieu of actual electricity, I ordered a string of solar lights.  My husband installed the recharging panel outside and ran these little lights through a hole in the wall.  Now, there are twinkling (or not) lights at the top of our stairs to aid in ascent and descent.

The backroom

We mostly used the backroom for a lot of junk storage.  We don’t have any closets and some things (like my school supplies) are just too costly to replace.  So the room was piled high with boxes of stuff.




My husband and son made some awesome bookshelves a few years ago for me.  Before that, my books were in piles around the house.  (No closets remember?)  He added some doors to the top shelves for a new storage space. My husband left a gap between the bottom of the bookshelves and the floor for that tile we were going to put down someday.


Well, that someday finally arrived. As you can see, the tile on the lower floor is not the same.  I think they complement one another.  I have hopes of having French doors installed right here at the intersection of flooring, but that will have to wait.  Maybe a throw rug at the junction of the two floors?  


The back room needed some additional work before we could call it done.  This is the area where the boila (hot water heater) is located.  Remember, this had been a porch before.  Now that the upstairs was closed in, the gas fumes gathered on the second floor when we lit it to heat water for a shower.  Not good.  So my husband installed an air outtake tube. I also ordered a carbon dioxide sensor to install upstairs, just to be on the safe side.  The boila still wasn’t pretty, so we asked carpenter Harvey to make a cancel (screen) to hide it from view.

The door also had to be altered to allow for the tile to fit underneath.  This entailed getting another power inverter since the previous one had fried.  With the power inverter and his handy-dandy tools, my husband fixed it right up.

Of course, the room was repainted too.  It really has a nice homey feel to it now!




Filed under Construction