Mexican life

Nearing the end

gas
Our very large propane tank.
heater
The solar heater is dicey, but it can work. It’s our second. The first was useless.

OUR PROPANE tank is almost empty.

Normally, the response is to phone the gas company, and they send a tanker truck, usually the same day, and refill it.

But we have a problem. There’s a gizmo that sits inside our tank, and it tells us, via a gauge outside, the level of the propane. That gizmo has gone on vacation!

This happened almost two years ago.

Since then, the gizmo decided to start working again, so it’s been filled a time or two. A fill-up lasts almost six months. But now it’s not working again. Our plumber says the gizmo cannot be changed unless the tank is empty.

If you knock on it with your knuckles, you get an empty sound, but there remains some gas in there because the stove and water heater are still functioning fine.

When the gas runs out, we’ll call the plumber pronto. Whether he comes pronto is another matter.

You know how we Mexicans are.

Both our stove and water heater rely on gas.

We have a second water heater — solar-powered — on the roof. However, it’s temperamental. Sometimes the water is blazing hot, sometimes not, sometimes tepid.

The kitchen stove is considerably less of a problem because we have another stove out in the pastry workshop, and it’s on a different gas tank.

And if the solar water heater totally fails, we can always drive the 15 minutes to our Downtown Casita, which is currently unoccupied, to take showers.

A few months ago, our plumber told us that the measuring gizmo inside the tank almost never malfunctions. He’d never known of it to happen. Lucky us.

* * * *

(Note: We have more gas tanks, water tanks and pumps than you can shake a stick at. I could be a survivalist kook.)

The Odd Pot

Sheer convenience

THERE ARE MANY happy reasons to  live in Mexico. One is sheer convenience. It’s usually easy to live here.

Here is a typical example: I had to leave the Honda today at the repair shop, which is about halfway between our hardscrabble neighborhood and downtown.

I drove to the repair shop, explained the problem, and the mechanic got to work immediately. I stepped outside to the street and waved down a minibus, which costs seven pesos, about 40 cents in American money.

New ImageFifteen minutes later, I was deposited directly outside the Hacienda’s front gate. The car will be ready in the afternoon, one imagines.

Another example: The water heater in our downtown casita must be changed. The current heater is too small. We drove to Home Depot in the capital city and purchased a hefty heater, which just fit into the back of the Honda.

On returning home, I called my plumber-electrician, an independent operator. That was Saturday. He said he’ll do it tomorrow. He’ll come on time, and he won’t charge much.

A third example: We’re doing renovations here at the Hacienda. When I decided to do that, I phoned “a guy” in the neighborhood. He came over immediately on his bicycle.

He started the work two days later. His work is incredible. He’s an artist with stone and cement, plus he installed a new toilet. The work is over half done. More on that later.

And the price is quite right.

Example No. 4: Need a doctor appointment? Call and make it for the next day. And the waiting room will not be full of folks. It will be full of just you. You won’t wait long.

Mexico, in most respects, is a far easier place to live than in the United States. And when the problem with the Honda is resolved, I’ll get a call. Then I’ll step out the front gate, hail a minibus and retrace my route of this morning.

Another 40 cents, and I’ll be at the garage’s door.

You can breathe easy down here.

The Odd Pot

Felipe goes green!

green

HAVING LOST ITS raison d’être, the gas-fueled water heater sits silent out back.

Even its pilot light has gone dark.

After four-plus years of wanting to go green (well, save cash, actually), we have a solar water heater that really works. Our first solar heater, some readers may recall, sat on the roof for about four years doing pretty much squat, occasionally squirting some tepid H2O.

But since that first set of panels was only connected to the gas heater — the theory being that it reduces the gas used to heat water — it did not have any practical effect on us personally.

We still enjoyed hot showers.

But I knew the solar panels were doing little because I’d climb the circular stairway to the roof now and then to open a valve to find tepid water coming out most every time.

That first heater, manufactured by Rotoplas, one of the biggest names in Mexican plumbing, had a 10-year warranty. Finally, I got off my lazy keister and returned to the hardware store where the Rotoplas had been purchased. I expected one of two responses:

1. Warranty? Ha!

2. Okay, but the warranty will be pro-rated. You’ll get 60 percent of your cash back.

Option No. 1 is common down here.

Imagine my shock when Rotoplas picked up the old heater and returned 100 percent of the purchase price, 10,000 pesos, about 665 American dollars these days. I used that money to buy another solar heater, a different brand, Solemex. Never heard of it. The Solemex cost 6,000 pesos, about 400 dollars, but I paid about 1,000 pesos to have it installed.

The Solemex did not work either.

The water it produced was blazing hot. It just did not deliver the water to the faucets in the Hacienda. Oh, it sputtered out some hot water now and then. On rare occasion, it even worked well. Sometimes no water at all came out of the showerhead. Nada.

You might imagine my irritation.

We even installed an inline pressure pump. The poor pressure remained the same.

But, to make a short story even shorter, the problem was not the solar heater. It was that the plumber who installed it was clueless. After returning twice, he finally figured it out, and now it works like gangbusters. We are hot and green!

The Solemex is connected directly into the house, not to the gas water heater.

A friend down the highway has installed a massive array of solar panels on his roof to generate electricity. He does not do solar water, but his electricity bill has mostly disappeared.

Maybe one day I’ll go green with electricity too. I feel like a hippie tree-hugger.

Heater
The new Solemex!

 

The Odd Pot

Geppetto’s magic

kitchen
Waiting for Geppetto.
work
Geppetto at work this week.
done
The finished product.

THE PASTRY workshop is finished. The final step, the installation of counters and a worktable, was done by an old carpenter we called Geppetto because his appearance reminded my child bride of Pinocchio’s pal.

Geppetto did much of the groundwork downtown at his shop. Then he and his son brought the bases here in a taxi pickup truck. The final work was done in two days, and we’re quite happy with it.

We had purchased about 15 feet of Formica at a building-supply store here in town.

Now we must move all related cooking gear from the house’s kitchen to this new space.

Before, last November.
Before, last November.
After, how it now looks.
After, how it now looks.

* * * *

You might recall that the solar water heater on the Hacienda roof was removed at about the same time the unrelated work on the pastry workshop got under way in November.

We purchased the heater four years ago, and it was never worth warm spit. This was surprising since it was manufactured by Rotoplas, one of the big names in Mexican plumbing gear. It had a 10-year guarantee and, to Rotoplas’ credit, they removed it and returned the full purchase price of 10,600 pesos.

solar

So we bought a new one, slightly larger, made by another company, Solemex:

newone

The hardware store manager told us they had sold just six of the Rotoplas heaters, and four were lemons. They’ve sold more than 25 of the Solemex and, he says, the owners are all contented customers.

Let us pray that we will be contented too. And it cost only 6,000 pesos.

* * * *

(For a blow-by-blow photo gallery of the workshop construction, go here.)

(For a taste of pastry production, go here.)