Building Shelters


It’s been a busy few weeks on the pasture project. After months of planning, we’re ready to step into the fun part: the construction. We use local materials and methods whenever possible, as is the case here. Buildings in southern Belize are often built the traditional way: a simple log frame topped with a thatched roof. We see no reason to reinvent the wheel, so that’s the type of shelter we’re building here.

We’re building these shelters to protect our animals from the floods, so the first step is to build a mound for the animals to climb onto when the waters get too high. A dump truck brought in loads of quarry waste all week to build mounds for all nine of our shelters. This is the part we really need the weather to cooperate for: if the rainy season starts early the truck will get stuck in the mud.

It’s time to install the load-bearing posts once the gravel is in place. We use rosewood, which is a hardwood native to this area. It’s commonly used for construction since it’s hard and resistant to termites and rot. Plants, such as this tree, are strongest around the time of the full moon, so they can only be cut in a short time period once a month. Fortunately there was a full moon just a few days ago, so our posts arrived quickly.

We use our tractor to shape the rocks into a less hilly mound after the posts are in place, which has the added benefit of surrounding the bases of the posts with more rocks and mud. This extra support will keep our shelters standing for years to come, allowing them to survive even the toughest storms! This shelter is ready for its roof, while the rest are in different stages of construction. The next part in this series will discuss building the palm leaf roofs, and will be full of either joy at the continuing dry season or lamentations about the early rains.

Chef-in-Residence Zach Wielgosz

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