“For us, spiritual fractility is the utmost facility.”
This is the projected cost of replacing the 45 ft wide thatch over our heads, and an outline of the scope of the project:
total leaf cost = $10 000 usd
total leaf transport = 10 loads at average of $500/ load = 5000 bz = $2500 usd
leaf transport permits = $1000 usd
total cost of leaves = $13 500 usd
5 men on site and poles:
taking down thatch 2 days
assessment of structure 1 day
remove rotten poles 2 days
source and harvest and transport of up to 50 poles, 8 days
harvesting lathe 2 days
rebuilding structure with new poles, skinned 7 days
total days= 22 days x 5 men x $55/day = approximately $6000
total labour $3000 usd
contractor/foreman on site x 22 days x $150= 3300 bz =
total project cost $18 150 usd
remainder $1850 usd re: unforseen expenses
which are generally inimical to construction and renovation projects
Our objective is to be adequately funded in this project to ensure it’s completion at the highest standard possible. To secure the thatch is to ensure the continued survival of other elements of the building which it overshelters.
Existing are 56 roof poles, 28 supporting poles, and 14 poles supporting the circumference, there being 98 poles in total in the roof structure.
about the poles:
14 roof poles are about 40 feet long continuous length
14 roof poles are about 32 ft long continuous length
28 roof poles are about 20 ft continuous length
14 supporting poles are supporting the upper circumference at about 6 ft length
14 supporting poles on the lower circumference at about 12 ft length
Each pole must be sourced out of the jungle, and only certain types of wood are suitable. The very long poles are difficult and time consuming to procure. The right tree species, the right length and the optimal straightness that it must have to be suitable for the structure are all traits which must be adhered to. The tree must be of a specific width at top and bottom as well. At this time we have no idea how many poles must be replaced. At a guess, according to the proximity to bad leaks, and judging by the growth of fungus and lichen, and the visible presence of insect damage, (indicated by holes in the poles drilled by boring wasps) it seems reasonable to estimate that up to half of the poles will need replacement.
The poles, as well as the leaves and the lathe material, which comprises 21 concentric circles graduating in size from the center pole down, must all be collected within 5 days before and 5 days after the full moon. If this is done without fault, these materials will last up to 20 years, and the poles may last 30 or more years, according to the old timers and thatch contractors I have consulted in my research. The specific reason for this is not folklore, but plant knowledge. It is at the full moon that the sap rises in the trees, and out to the tips of the leaves. It is the resin loaded leaves and poles which are resistant to insects, mildew, and rot. As well, when the leaves are good, the poles stay dry, and the whole structure should last a very long time.
Leaves, you say, why not just rake them up from the lawn?
The most durable leaves available in Belize which are suitable for a round conical structure, being themselves a roundish fan shape, are leaves of the Bay Leaf Palm. The leaves must be graduated in size from the top of the center post down, starting with leaves about 2 1/2 feet long and 3 feet wide, to the leaves which finish the outside edge and are 5 to 6 feet long and about 4 to 5 feet wide.
Once again, these leaves come from a specific palm, are harvested from the jungle at a specific time of the month as outlined above, and are cut by hand and hauled out of the jungle in bundles of 50 by foot and on the backs of the men who harvest them. The leaves must be in prime condition. This means they must be sourced from dense jungle where the growth is most healthy. These leaves cannot be found by the side of the road.
In light of this, we will have to source leaves from diverse locations in different districts of Belize, adding the cost of transport to our total budget. A one ton truckload of leaf can cost up to $700 to transport from one district to another. The reason for the high cost of transport within Belize is the generally terrible condition of the roads. Even though the country of Belize is only 170 miles long, and at it’s widest, 68 miles wide, it takes 5 hours to drive just half the length over bad narrow highways, and mountainous twists and turns.
I hope this “brukdown” (as they say in Belize) of costs helps give you a rough idea of the scope of the project, the skilled labour involved, and the associated costs like transports and permits. Truly, a thatch roof is definitely not the cheapest way to go, but it does demonstrate and preserve traditional knowledge, employ local skilled tradesmen, provides the best shade and insulation from the intensity of sun and heat in the dry season, and when well done, is watertight and lasts for many years.
According to the teachings of Vastu, sacred architecture, the aura is unlimited when a person is surrounded by natural materials. For us, spiritual fractility is the utmost facility. Hope you can come to Chaya Garden Ashram and experience it for yourself.