Column Construction: Rebar, Footers and Concrete

Posted by Cassie

The guys are making some great progress on the cabin foundation. The concrete stuff is all new to us, so it has been quite the learning experience. Since we can’t actually drive to the cabin site, we opened up the fence in order to be able to drive the truck halfway there. This saved a lot of time, labor and heavy breathing going up and down and up and down with just buckets and a wheelbarrow. Though there was still some of that too.

Loading the rebar
Driving through the formerly fenced area

They worked a few days on the rebar for the columns, then they loaded them onto the truck as far as they could go and then carried them to the site.

Cutting rebar Stair work benchBending and cutting rebar for the column skeletons

Then they set and measured them to make sure everything was level again.

Rebar columns
Rebar columns

Truck down below
Unloading the truck and taking the sand two buckets at a time

Truck loaded up
Good thing we have a truck! It was super filled with sand, boards, and concrete

Finally, they had unloaded everything to the flattest part of the quebrada under the canopy and by a pretty mango tree. Here they built a mixing platform and began to hand mix the concrete. Luckily the three hoses reached because we had hooked up water to the turkey coop!

Mixing concrete
Mixing in the shade

Sounds like the start of a good joke: Four guys and four turkeys make concrete in the jungle…

And then they were able to load up the buckets once again and haul them up the hill to the site where they dumped them into the holes to make the footers.


We had a huge rainstorm that caused a bit of a delay, but they were able to finish all the footers in one day. Next in line will be the column molds and repeating the hauling and mixing process for them as well.

Construction Jargon and Batter Boards

Posted by Cassie

In addition to the Puerto Rican Spanish I am learning, I am also learning Construction Spanish AND English vocabulary! :-)  I am learning all about rebar (varilla) and these things called aros (not sure in English what these little squares of rebar are called) and all the varieties of sand (arena and arenon), concrete (concreto, hormigon, concrelisto), lumber (madera, palos), sizes and types of nails (clavos galvinizados o de acero), sweet wire? (alambre dulce) saws (sierras), hammers (martillos) and sledgehammers (marrón o majón depending on the person), pickaxes (picotas), cutting shovel and others (pala de corte y otras palas) hoses (manga o manguera) etc.

This is because we spend a lot of our time in hardware stores (ferreterías) and with the guys that work with us on our projects. Our most recent step in the cabin project has been batter boards (Spanglish: bater bors). I had never even heard this term in English, but apparently it is essential to assure a square and level structure. That would have been nice to know when we built the chicken/turkey coops, but instead we have very “custom” coops, haha (hey, they ARE level at least!).

The cleared site

Britton (and sometimes I) worked every day for a couple of weeks cutting and clearing the space. It was hard, hot work! The site was finally deemed ready and cleared of enough trees and brush that they could start building the batter boards. So the first step in the batter boards is to set about measuring.


The next step is to build a wooden frame around the actual footprint of the structure that is level and squared. And finally, it is to drop the plumb bob (plomada) to determine exactly where to place the columns.

Building on a slope, we knew we would need poles/columns for a foundation because excavation and a slab foundation wouldn’t be feasible in this remote location. We even figured that we wouldn’t probably be able to use the poles from the wood house because they would be too short. What we didn’t figure was just how steep the slope was. We have learned that anything with walkable land in Puerto Rico is not considered steep. People often remark at how “flat” our land is. Flat is relative. On the plains of Colorado, we know flat. Flat as a fricken pancake. Here, though flat just means you can walk it without slipping over a cliff. So even though this site was “flat” by Puerto Rico standards, the batter boards don’t lie. Our front columns will be 8-10 feet high and the deck even more.

Way above my head  

Batter boards
And Britton’s too!

Site with batter boards
Batter boards, complete!

Next up, diggin’ holes in rocky soil under a hot sun for the columns. I am sure the vocabulary for THAT will be quite enlightening! :-)

Fiesta del Acabe del Café en Maricao

Posted by Cassie

This weekend was the 37th Annual Fiesta del Acabe del Café or the Festival of the Coffee ’End’ (Harvest) in Maricao, PR and our friends Ben and Missy invited us to go with them there on Sunday.


Britton and I have been to quite a few festivals around the island, but this one was by far the biggest. There were lots of venders of all sorts, live music and nice people.

Coffee lady
One of the coffee vender displays

There was also lots and lot of Puerto Rican coffee. We love the coffee here. In the mountainous areas where it is slightly cooler like in Maricao, coffee grows extremely well and with a great flavor. You won’t see Starbucks any time soon here! This stuff is the real, local deal!

Coffee berries
Coffee berries in various states of ripeness

We walked around and checked out most of the booths and had a little of the carnival style food and drink.

With friends at coffee fest
Enjoying some chicken pinchos and fresh-squeezed Maricao orange juice with our friends

Coffee plants
An agricultural display showing various coffee varieties

As we were walking around we even stopped to enjoy an impromptu group of drummers, singing and swaying to the beats. It was pretty cool.

Puerto Rican Vocabulary Part 2

Posted by Cassie

I daily continue my education in the Boricua (Puerto Rican Spanish) language. (For my first post on Learning Puerto Rican, go here.) I have been trying to write down and keep track of some of the new words and phrases I often hear. Here are some of them along with the definition as I understand them to be. Puerto Rican friends, please add on to these/correct me as needed.

Chinchorreo- Barhopping (noun), Chinchorreando- barhopping (gerund verb). Going from little hole-in-the-wall bar on the side of the road to the next one, sometimes by horse

Chavo/Peso- Puerto Rico uses US dollars but that doesn’t mean that is what a dollar is called. One dollar is often un peso and money in general is often referred to as chavo. Sort of like “dough” “bread” or “bucks” as slang for money in English

Bregar- I had never heard this word before in Spanish, but perhaps it is used elsewhere. What I understand it to mean is “to deal with” something or “to be versatile in” something.

Coger -In Mexico this was a word meaning “to have a sexual encounter” (vulgarly) and so I was careful with this one. But here it simply means ”to pick up” or “take”

Parranda – Another word for party. Also Pari a Spanglish word for party.

Pana- Literally breadfruit but in typical use it means ”friend/pal”

Pelao -”Broke” as in low on money -literally pelado means “skinned” and of course in Puerto Rican pronunciation you take out the d in any word that ends with “ado”

Brutal -In English ”brutal” means very devastatingly violent but in Spanish it means “really awesome.” Sort of how bad meant good for a long time in the 80s and 90s.

Bruto -A brute, a beast, an idiot

Caco – Mostly I have just heard people who don’t like reggaeton call people who listen to it cacos. Basically the word means “sucky” I think.

Chévere – The coolest word for “Cool” I have heard.

More Spanglish: Parkin, Buildin, Ready, etc -Spanglish is everywhere. If you don’t know the word in Spanish, try the English word with a Spanish accent. You may be surprised how often it works!

Spanglish Puerto Rico
Spanglish -Spanish and English mixed in a formal advertisement