Here come the vigas

Construction continues at a surprising speed. The latest addition to the house are the vigas (or wood roof beams) over the Living/Dining Room. The vigas had been sitting outside, covered, for at least six weeks. Seemingly in a matter of days they were cut, trimmed, sanded and mounted on the roof.

Over the vigas will go styrofoam and wire panels that have already been coated with about an inch of cement. Once mounted, the panels will get an additional two or three inches of cement, and on top of that will go the tejas or Spanish-style clay shingles.

The tightness of the fit of the vigas is pretty amazing, considering their size (about 6 by 10 inches around by 15 to 20 feet long) and their unwieldiness. They now have to be secured to the concrete beams and rebar through some kind of process I haven’t figured out.

It’s remarkable how the addition of the vigas has changed the look and feel of the house.

Masons are also zipping through the inside of the house applying a smooth coat of cement over the bare brick and adobe. Another crew then covers the cement with a very thin and smooth finishing coat of plaster (check out the walls inside of the garage in the picture above, where Stew and Gladys are relaxing, collecting their thoughts).

I don’t recall seeing that type of finish in any house in San Miguel. The architect assures us that the plaster is very easily patched with Spackle.

Something the architect did on his own and which has turned out to be a great idea is to put in about six or seven fair-sized skylights throughout the house. The bathrooms, laundry room and main closet would have been dark holes without them.

Another curious feature taking shape is the main bathroom’s round shower room, which from the outside looks like a cross between a silo and a gun turret. The inside is about 8 feet in diameter, with a glass dome overhead. The wrap-around windows were sized and placed to maximize the view but also with, er, modesty in mind.

The modesty calculations of the windows work best if you’re about six feet tall and male, in which case the bottom sill hits you about mid-chest. You’ll get a nice view of the countryside while lathering up and singing a tune.

Things get more difficult if you’re Tom Cruise-size or shorter, for the windows will hit you about nose-high and you won’t see much unless you shower on the tip of toes.

In reality, the windows and shower are so far from the road below a Peeping Tom would need binoculars to see anything. And if someone is that interested or motivated to catch a glimpse, hey, have at it.

During the past two weeks Stew and I have started literally piecing back together parts of the landscape around the house. Vehicle traffic flattened some of the vegetation, including some fair-sized mesquites and prickly pear cacti, and careless workers have done at least as much damage. Trash abounds around the site.

We have cleaned up some of the debris, started planting some different varieties of cacti, and wrapped groups of plants with stakes and “Caution” yellow tape to offer some protection. They look like demilitarized zones for vegetation.

The previous maestro reassured me it would all grow back. I don’t doubt that. Mesquites have tap roots that go down four or five feet and guarantee survival of the plant even if most of the foliage is destroyed. Cacti have shallower roots but the plants seem to take hold wherever a broken piece hits the ground.

In the field back of house quite a large patch (about 25 by 25 feet) of prickly pears was knocked down and buried by the backhoe. Even before the rains started a couple of weeks ago, a series of bright-green baby cacti had already started defiantly poking their heads through the rubble. That’s another DMZ we need to fence off.

Problem with desert plants though, is that while almost indestructible they are also very slow growers. It’s easy to get a batch of baby cacti to grow back, but it takes several years before they grow into anything like the size plants destroyed in a few careless minutes.

Some of that construction damage is inevitable except that the destruction seemed to be radiating out from the house by the week, like an ongoing bomb blast. The collection of rocks to build parts of the house also has left holes everywhere, some quite large.

It’s raining quite regularly now, almost daily. Now we need to take advantage of the favorable growing conditions and start planting additional trees, something that’s turning out far more difficult than we figured.

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