Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Day Eight:The Coop Rises Again

Day Eight: Wednesday, January 18, 2017

It was opposite day weatherwise today, as it appeared to be mostly dry in the night and then while we were having breakfast, a cloudburst started that never quite ended completely.  We knew all along that we would work even if it rained, so we suited up in our raingear and headed out for the day. 

Vicente, Neusa, Madalena and a new partner, Junior, were there ahead of us.  We knew we had to get things ready to mix concrete, so we learned what the ratios were and then started moving buckets of sand, clay, cement and water, this time in a literal bucket line.  This concrete was destined for the trench we dug yesterday, which we also filled with the broken up rocks we’ve been dealing with for a couple of days now.  We could have filled the whole trench with our concrete mixture, but the way of the world here is to conserve and stretch resources so using the free rocks from the waterfront as fill is a great way to participate in that “way.”

We took turns stirring up the mixture and pouring it into the trench, with Jake emerging as a top concrete technician.  He brought some boards into the system in ways that look familiar to anyone who has seen concrete poured in the U.S.  Junior was so impressed with Jake’s grasp of the process that he put Jake in charge of continuing around the coop while Junior got started on other jobs. 

We worked up to lunchtime (about 1:00) and agreed to return at 3:00 to begin laying bricks.   We arrived at the worksite to find it locked, but our stonemason, Junior, came out from somewhere saying that he was ready to work.  He didn’t have the key, though, and the rain was still falling.   So we made the most of our dilemma and cranked up some music and danced in the rain.  One of our best was “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, though for whatever reason Nate was consistently doing the dance from “Thriller.” 

We eventually took cover in the local “bar,” which really means a place that sells stuff where you can stand at a counter.  This place is a very mini minimart that sells things like soap and rope and cleaning supplies.  It also has a pool table out front (under a small roof but not surrounded by walls), so it seems a bit more like what we would see as a bar because of that feature.  And the local young men come there to hang out and occasionally drink beer, so that, too, gives it a feel like a bar in the U.S.  All of us under that one roof took up the entire space of the bar; we’re surprised they didn’t take a picture to show their place full of U.S. Americans. 

Eventually our friend Zé emerged with a key and we were ready to roll.  It was too wet to mix up concrete, so we started some structural work that will help us support heavy chicken wire as a ceiling of sorts to keep that pesky jungle cat away from our chickens. 

Speaking of chickens, Annie got a preview of the kind that we are likely to acquire.  She went with Jesse to the infirmary today to get some help with a swollen bite.  They gave her something that is essentially strong Benadryl, which helped pretty quickly (but also made her quite drowsy).  Along the way, they visited the place where the chickens are for sale and found that some of the hens lay light blue eggs.  We’re in. 

We laid one wall of brick (just a short support wall, four bricks high) and almost all of us got a chance to put in some bricks.  Before the job is done, everyone in our group should be able to point to the exact spots that they built with their own hands.  We also put in three new supports across the top, with three more to place tomorrow. 

Additionally, we talked to a “solar technician,” who is going to help us figure out a way to put solar-powered LED lights outside and inside the chicken coop (on different switches) so that the keepers of the chicken coop would have lighting in there in the dark evenings but also so they could turn on lights outside the coop to scare the maracajá (cat) away.  It’s a pretty complex system that would be required (especially when we know that at home we could go to the dollar store and buy solar powered driveway lights and stick them in the ground to serve this same purpose).  Still, we think it might be worth it.  We are pricing out components and trying to see if we can make it happen. 

We had an excellent dinner and then a reflection session about getting comfortable being uncomfortable.  One of our main principles is that we believe in “productive discomfort,” meaning that there is much to be gained from situations that are uncomfortable.  Waking up at 6:30, dealing with pouring rain, lifting heavy loads all day, facing language barriers, being locked out of our worksite (temporarily), having trouble getting laundry done (or dry even if it is washed), and numerous other factors could easily be seen as sources of discomfort.  Somehow, though, we remain happy.  We think we can stay that way.  We hope so. 

Our Purple Biker tonight is Eddie.  He has been a BEAST on the worksite(s), as he never quits, always volunteers, does one more load than everyone else, and helps other people learn techniques that will help them learn how to maintain a great workflow.  Today he walked an unfathomable number of buckets of water from the garden back to the coop, sometimes as the only one who was keeping track of our need for water to continue to keep mixing concrete.  He really knocked himself out for us and our projects today, as he has done every day that we’ve been here.  Congratulations, Eddie!

Zummo and Kim mix eight buckets of sand, three buckets of concrete, and two buckets of clay with hoes in order to make a concrete mixture for the base of the chicken coop.

Jake and Junior stir the concrete mixture with water and a wooden stick until the perfect consistency was created. Junior is the mason master in the community that showed the dirties how to create a strong base for the chicken coop.

Junior pours the concrete mixture over the rocks in the base of the chicken coop. The concrete mixture will hopefully keep predators from digging their way into the coop.


Claudia and Cristian (a local teenager) take cover from the tropical rain under some large fronds.

Matt cut notches into a truss, which will be used to create a roof for the chicken coop. Matt received the nickname strong like Ox from last year's trip from the locals for his hard work.

Kim and Jules take silly photos with several local children during our lunch break. It is always fun to spend time with the very energetic children of the community.

Our newest DIRTie, Calebe, helping us out in the chicken coop. 

Part of the group lining up barriers to keep the cement in place once we pour it!

Matt cutting notches in the beams we will use for trusses in the chicken coop. 


Using nails to align the bricks…YAY(: 

Rachel mixing cement that we used to fill trenches for the base of the chicken coop. 

Alessandra, Cristian and Nataniel taking in the rain while we make cement and build brick walls for the chicken coop

Jacob paving the path for bricks to be laid

Jules mixing cement: This is the second step of executing the walls for the chicken coop. It was pretty  difficult for us to get the consistency of the cement correct but Jules had the perfect touch.

Julius found his Brazilian brother, Cristian. He’s been working with us for the past few days on the projects.

 The dynamic duo, Matt and Zé notching boards to reinforce the wire roofing for the coop.

Rachel and Calebe taking a break from work for some snacks and giggles.  


  1. Loving all these videos!! MTV Dirt Cribz was amazing... give us more! Feature Ze's crib on next weeks episode?? Also... note to Nat, appreciating the pink and blue <3. Miss all my DIRTies and am enjoying every minute watching you all have such a blast and seeing all the great work you are doing. Keep it up my friends :) xoxo Jenny

    P.S. Are you all remembering the 32?!

  2. Yay for Eddie! His family misses him & hopes he is making the best out of this amazing opportunity! Have lots of fun & enjoy yourself.
    - Danette

  3. Joe, You know Festivus is the time to air our grievances, but I suppose I'll overlook it considering your circumstances. XOXO
    Love, Mom

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