Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mission accomplished!

It was quiet a trip to Mexico! Upon arriving I found a dusty old RV that looked worse for wear, and appeared to be lost in a jungle of weeds and overgrown grass. “Punchita” looked sad, and I started to second guess whether buying property in Mexico was the right choice.  To make matters worse, I found a few dead scorpions, and a live one inside the bathroom. A year of being covered and left for dead had taken its toll on ol' Punchita.

Time to get to work. With Punchita uncovered and sprayed clean of bugs and critters, I started to clean. As the dust and grime gave way to clean and shiny, I again filled with optimism. It’s quiet here, and beautiful. Flocks of parrots visit the large Mango tree each morning, surrounded by jungle and the warm Pacific just a few blocks away.

In order to get to the real work, I needed to move Punchita over a few feet and then slightly angle her for a better view. Battery still charged but no start. Later figured out it was a failed fuel pump. I "MacGyvered" the fuel pump from the generator with a new wire straight from the battery and boom! She started right up. I pulled her over slightly and laid down some thick black plastic to keep the moisture down and the bugs at bay.

Water: My original plan was to shop at Home Depot shortly after arriving in Mexico.  However, the Home depot was a crowded mess and didn’t have what I needed. I ditched Home Depot and decided to buy my supplies locally, which I feel better about anyway. With the help of the guy we purchased the land from, a few hours later I had a large cistern sitting on top of a block platform, filled with clean water and gravity fed into the RV. A solar powered 12volt pump provides pressure inside the RV. Water! This is HUGE!

Septic: I wasn't sure what I was going to do here. Buy a tank and have it pumped out now and then? Install a Biodigester? Great idea, but available by special order only. Then I got a crazy idea to build micro version of a real septic field.

With two 55-gallon Rubbermaid trashcans, some PVC pipe, some yeast to start the breakdown process and a few hours of digging our septic was complete. The idea here is exactly like a real septic. First tank traps solids and start the breakdown process. Any solids that make it into the second tank breakdown here. Remaining liquids disperse out the PVC leach field. I may decide to lenghten the pipes here eventually. We'll see how it works first.

Black water feeds directly into the septic system while the gray water can either stay in the tank until use, or go directly into the garden. This should be fine for occasional use. We'll be using only natural soaps and cleaners. Disclaimer: This septic system not legal anywhere! Use at your own risk.

Deck: I was hoping to source local wood but sadly, the lumberyard in Sayulita was out of the boards I needed. I trip to Home Depot in Puerto Vallarta and an hour of work and I have a nice deck. Something about a deck just feels better… and it helps keep the interior of the RV clean. PS, not sure this is what Thrifty had in mind when they rented me the car...

Love it when a plan comes together. With the help of a local gardener we cleared the land tall dead grass. The grass will grow back quickly and bugs will stay away if we keep it cut. Fridge and stove are both running smoothly on propane and I even have hot water. Cold beer and a hot shower, who can ask for more? Taco and cerveza time!

Monday, November 5, 2012

And now for some good news

I’ve been spending most of my energy getting ready for the trip to Mexico. However, while I've been busy gearing up, my step dad was here for a visit and offered to help out on the Tiny Casita. So while I was at work, and too busy making alternative plans for Mexico, he jumped in and coated the entire interior with two coats of Thompson’s water seal. It looks great! The sealer really popped the wood grain. So in addition to be all sealed up and water proof, it looks great!

Here's a photo of the carpeted loft. I used the carpet squares so they can easily be taken out to clean, or changed.

Just a few things left to do.

• Install doors and shelving in cabinets

• Sliding doors in bathroom

• Install shelving in kitchen and bathroom

• Electrical switch covers

• Install bamboo floors

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I go about things the wrong way...

We've certainly had our ups and down lately in regards to the Tiny Casita project. We’ve had to rethink and re-plan but I think now, we’re in a good place.

In regards to taking our Astro Van and leaving it in Mexico. No can do. The MX government has been cracking down on illegal cars and has been known to take your car if you don’t have a proper permit. We can cross in our vehicle and get a legal permit for up to 6 months. After that it’s illegal unless you nationalize the vehicle. Well, we love our Astro Van but economically, it didn’t make sense to nationalize ($1900).

With that in mind, we reluctantly sold the Mighty Astro. Our hope now is that we can either buy a bigger tow vehicle here or our second, and more likely option would be buy a vehicle already in Mexico.

We also learned a few things about water and septic’s in Mexico. Seems we were going about things the hard way. We’re still interested in getting our well finished, but until then I can buy a tank, along with everything else we need, from Home Depot in Puerto Vallarta and for an extra $40, they’ll deliver everything to our lot. We’ll then have a water truck come and fill the tank. Simple!

As far as septic goes I have two choices. Buy a tank, burry it and arrange to have it pumped out now and then. Or the second and more likely choice, buy a small bio digester. 

Up until a few days ago I had now idea what a bio digester was. Our neighbor in Mexico suggested it as he is using one at his place. So for around $500 I can buy a bio digester tank, and the needed PVC tubing and with the help of a couple guys, we should have a self maintain septic that is also good for the environment buy reducing the amount of methane gas release into the environment. Price below is in MX pecos.

Long story short: We’ll be flying down in a couple weeks, renting a car, going to Home Depot, buying what we need, having it delivered and then spend a couple weeks working and enjoying. We’re still not sure what we’ll end up doing with the Tiny Casita. Mexico hopefully, maybe we’ll look for a small rustic lot here in Colorado, maybe we’ll decide to sell it. For now, it’s all about getting the land in Mexico to a place that we can start comfortably using it. Whew! Feeling better!

Monday, October 22, 2012

I'm bobin' and I'm weavin'

We found out yesterday that the guy we hired to finish the well and fence hasn’t completed the job. What was supposed to take just two more weeks to finish isn’t finished at all, and it’s been almost a year. Lucky for us, we only paid him for the work that he completed. Still, we’re stuck with no source for water, which we learned the last time we were down there, is not fun.

Another thing that’s becoming clear, is that I won’t have time to finish the Tiny Casita until I return. Not a big deal really, the only deadline I have is self-imposed and purely for the satisfaction of a completed job. For now, it’s best I concentrate on getting the land, with the RV that’s already there, ready so that when we're there it will be comfortable and enjoyable for the whole family.

So... with just a couple weeks until I’m set to drive our Astro Van, filled with supplies, down to Mexico, we find ourselves scrambling for a new way to get water. We can arrange to have a water truck come to our lot and fill the large 275 tank which I'm bring down in the van. But how to get the water from the large tank into the small tank inside the RV? I started to build a tower when I realized that water weighs 8.34 lbs. per gallon. That's 2,293.5 pounds! It will likely take more than a hastily built tower to support the 275 gal tank. My thought now is to use another 12-volt pump, to pump water from the tank, sitting firmly on the ground, to the holding tank in the RV. I bought a pump from Harbor Freight with a 25' lift. Theoretically, getting the water just 4' up and into the RV should be a piece of cake. I’ll be experimenting with this plan later this week. Stay tuned.

We’re also learning (the hard way) that managing construction on our land in Mexico, from our house in Colorado just isn’t working. With that in mind, we decided that we'll hold off on any thing else, that I can’t handle myself, until we’re down there for an extended stay.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The good, the bad and the gnarly!

With just a few hours of work left to do, we've come to the sad conclusion that we may have to sell the Tiny Casita.

Before I started this project I made sure I had a way to get the Tiny Casita from our house here in Colorado, to our land in Sayulita Mexico. I found a guy on that agreed to tow the Tiny Casita down to our land for a reasonable fee ($2,000). Well, I found out a few weeks ago that he backed out of the deal. Over the last few weeks I wasn't able to find an economical solution. The next offer to ship was way out of a sensible range. For more than $5k we can make a solid dent in a real house made of block.

We considered towing it down with our Astro Van but, as the mighty Astro is fine for local trips, it's not powerful enough to tow for 2000 miles journey. Trip scheduled for Nov. 10th. Yikes! Running out of time.

If anyone has suggestions on how to get her down there, please let me know.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Mad dash to the finish line!

I made some serious progress on the interior last week. Still need to finish the ceiling in living room and finish the bathroom. The whole thing will get coated with Thompsons waterproof sealer. My goal is to have the interior finished by next week.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I’ll be heading down to Mexico possibly as soon as next month so I'll need to move my attention toward getting things ready for the trip.

Now that our well is finished, I need to set up an electric pump, which I can run off the generator on the RV currently parked on our lot. The pump will fill a 275 gl. cistern that I’ll raise on a 6’ to 8’ tower. The water will then gravity feed into the holding tank in the RV where a 12-volt pump will run the plumbing.

I wonder if I can get a filter to make the well water drinkable?

This is when they were still digging the well. 

Found these food grade 275 gallon tanks for $80. I would like to get two but unfortunately, I can only fit one in the van. 

 This pump at Harbor Freight for $65.

Pipe Dreams

Our long term goal is to have some sort of rental property set up at our place in Mexico. I've been thinking about building 4 tiny houses with a community area with an outdoor kitchen and a pool in the center.

But maybe this is the right idea? Its a "pay as you wish" hotel in Austria made of concrete pipe.

Monday, August 27, 2012

What a gas!

Well, it’s been a year. And what a year its been!

We have a child. I built a tiny house. We have a well for water at our land in MX. We’ll be heading down twice in the next 4 months. Colorado is beautiful and we’re lucky enough to live here. We’re healthy and happy. We have great family and friends. Life is good!

I got a lot done this weekend. Sadly, the pictures don’t do it justice. I ran all new black gas/propane pipe and copper tubing for he fridge, stove, hot water heater and an extra connection for the outside gill. 

Tankless water heaters are coming way down in price. I found a brand new Marey 5L for $135.00 including shipping! 

Also spent a lot of time going back over the wiring, double-checking the connections and assuring that all is safe.

Lastly, made a new access panel for the transformer and the vent area for the fridge. 

Next weekend I’ll install the paneling in the kitchen area and start the Pex plumbing.