11 February 2012

214: Making Charcoal & Construction Update

When we were packing up our sea container back in Houston, we found we had a couple of bags of Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes. Rather than throw them out, we loaded them into the container and shipped them to Costa Rica with the rest of our stuff. Since we have now been here for more than 6 months, we have been doing a lot of outdoor grilling, and our U.S. charcoal supply is now gone. So John, who never ceases to amaze me with the things he knows how to do, has now started making his own charcoal.

Recently, ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) came through various neighborhoods trimming and removing trees so they could replace all the old creosote electrical poles with new concrete poles and new power lines. All of the debris from the trees has been stacked along side the roadways and lots of folks have been gathering it for firewood. Many families in Costa Rica still have wood burning stoves. We've been helping ourselves to some of this firewood for our new stone oven. Every time we finish using the oven for something, John would load it up with a batch of logs to be dried out by the residual heat after we've made bread or cooked pizza.

Now, instead of just drying out wood for the next batch of bread or pizza, John is now making the charcoal you see in the bin on the right. He will stoke the stone oven up to about 800°F or 900°F. and place wood inside this large kettle. There is a small hole in the kettle to let the gases escape. Then, he puts a weight on the lid to lock everything place and closes up the oven. Several hours later, when the wood in the kettle has had all of the volatiles burned out of it, we have charcoal. Our charcoal bin is now full again thanks to this clever man of mine. Pretty cool!

Meanwhile the construction is coming along nicely. Yesterday, they poured the concrete steps to the mirador (observation deck) John will use for his star gazing with his telescope.

The galvanized steel roof is now on and we are just about ready for the colonial clay barrel tiles to be laid on top. This week the crew also finished all the water lines and tested the connections under pressure at about 120 psi to make sure we have no leaks. This coming week we should see a roof over the carport that doubles as the floor to the mirador.

Tomorrow, we have a house sitter/guard coming over, so we can get away for a few hours and attend the 5th Annual Atenas Charity Chili Cook-off. This is a benefit for the local orphanage. This year they have more than 25 teams and expect more than 1,000 attendees. It should be lots of fun and we are looking forward to some good old Texas Chili.

Well family and friends, that's about all the news for today.

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