The Back Yard Part 3

Progress!

I finally figured out where to buy everything. And now that I’ve figured it out I realize what I was doing wrong this whole time. Again highlighting how the stupidest things can become obstacles when you’re a total foreigner.

So as it turns out there’s this hardware store in town that, in addition to tools, also sells building materials. I had actually spoken to the shop owner before, thinking I was asking him where I could buy wood and bricks.

It turns out I was simply asking “where is wood and bricks”, to which he pointed to a compound on the other side of the road. I had walked across the road and asked one of the workers if I could buy the wood there… something roughly translated along the lines of “buy wood here?” to which the worker shook his head no and directed me back across the street. I guess this really highlights why people don’t speak like cavemen today. It doesn’t get you far. Frustrated, I moved on, trying to solve the conundrum.

So anyway I eventually went back to the shop to buy something else and decided to try again. This time I asked “Where can I buy wood?”. To which the shop owner said “Right here!”. At that point he realized that I was trying to ask him that before and suddenly became extremely helpful. I started asking him about pricing on all sorts of things and writing everything down. Through a few rough sketches of different kinds of furniture he helped me write down the names of some local mountain woods that are good for different purposes.

I decided to splurge and bought 50 red clay bricks for $0.16 each, for a total of $8. The shop owner also helped me coordinate a delivery truck, which cost me and additional $3.

I also found out that 6 meters (~20′) of large bamboo (about 5″ diameter) costs $7/length, and I can also get thinner longer pieces (about 3-1/2″ diameter x  10 meters) for $10/length. I’d like to use the bamboo to line the edges of the area. I was thinking something along the lines of splitting the bamboo in half and driving pieces in the ground, although I’m not sure how deep I’d have to go with this softer soil. I’m guessing that maybe 8″-12″ would be reasonably stable but ultimately I think I’ll have to just cut a piece and try it to see how it goes. At the highest points the bamboo would only be sticking out of the ground about 10″ max so that would mean that the longest pieces would be about 2′ long. I’ll measure out the circumference to see how munch bamboo I’ll actually need to finish the job. I’d rather have a bit more than not enough since I have lots of plans for small projects that require short lengths of thick bamboo.

Here’s a pic of the bricks once delivered:

So as you can see, simple, rustic-looking clay bricks.

After I hauled them over I started to lay them out like this:

At this point I wasn’t sure how I wanted to work with the brick. Ideally I wanted to cut the bricks so that they’d fit tightly together. The clay is extremely soft – I can break off pieces with my hand – so I decided to buy a cheap hand saw for $5.50 and try to miter the bricks so they fit together nicely in a circular shape for the campfire walls. This didn’t go as planned. The outside of the bricks are soft and are cut easily with a saw, but the inside are much harder. Actually it’s only the outside that was red – the inside is still the natural grey color of the original clay. I suppose the technical term is medium rare? At any rate once I got that far in the cut the saw was instantly dull and cutting through was just not happening. So I gave up on the mitered brick idea.

Instead I changed it around so it’s a square firepit. In the end this was way more stable without using mortar. The nice thing about laying it out this way is it takes all of 4 minutes to rearrange.

I’d rather not use mortar if possible, but then again the soil isn’t very hard here because it’s mostly compost so the ground might have to much give. At which point I might just tack a little mortar here and there to get it to stick instead of making everything rock solid. If I could find it I’d like to try using clay as mortar but I doubt I’ll find anything around here without significant effort.

At some point once the fire pit is in I’d like to find/make/acquire a metal grate that fits over 2/3rds of the top of the pit so I can cook over it but still add wood as necessary.

So to date I’ve spent $12 on successes and $5.50 on failures. That’s 69% correct, which is still a passing grade. Ecuadorian Economics 101: Passed.

Anyway this as far as I got. Next I want to pick up some wood to make benches. I’m still perusing Pinterest on ideas that look easy to make without power tools. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.