My office is almost finished. Not bad, just a few weeks behind schedule. Now before you make comments about that, as I recently became aware of, the heat here really does slow people down. It is really difficult to work for a straight 8 hours a day in the heat. So I guess this isn’t too bad. And it hasn’t exactly been priority for the person doing the bulk of the work – he is doing it gratis for me.
But we are just about there now. Yesterday the thatch got installed. I ordered signs, got the furniture and I am expecting to be open and ready for business by Friday, just in time for Cacao Festival.
As the thatch was being installed, I, of course, watched and helped where I could. I even used a machete for the first time – albeit not very effectively.
First, Victor brought cohune leaves from somewhere out-of-town. These are the main types of leaves that are used in thatch roofs. The cohune is a large feather palm tree which bears fruit in the form of a nut (similar to coconut) and can grow up to 90 feet tall and the fronds get quite long as well, in some cases, up to 30 feet. The nut yields an oil similar to coconut oil. Cohune grows everywhere in Belize, and at all altitudes from sea level to 2000 feet above sea level. I have heard it said that it is becoming more and more scarce to find.
The first thing to be done was to build the structure which to attach the leaves. I am not sure what wood was used for the structure.
After the structure has been put together, it’s time to start adding leaves. But the leaves need to be prepared first. The leaves have an upside and a downside to them as they are folded. So it is important that the leaves be split and then set in place with the leaves all facing the same way. This is because as they are put into place they all have to be facing with the grooved edge facing up to catch the rain water and take it away from the structure.
It is actually quite easy to split the leaves. Starting at the narrowest end, find the middle and pull – the leaf splits easily. Where the stalk gets too thick use a machete to continue splitting.
The split thatch is organized with the fronds all facing the same direction.
Time to start putting the split palm leaves into place. As they were installed, wire was used to hold the fronts to the wooden support structure that was already in place.
As the process went on, Victor’s mother also showed up, as well as a local friend – mom to provide encouragement and support and friend to lend a helping hand.
Thatch Underside and Finished Product. Victor suggested I give it a haircut but I don’t think I am going to. I conducted a small poll and the responding public resoundingly (1 responder) said leave it – it’s more authentic. And since that agrees with my thought, that is what I will do. Over the next few days, the leaves should begin to dry out and turn the shade of grey that we are all used to seeing.