Back At It

Well, hello again. This blog has been dark since October 12th while we took care of some family business. That largely behind us, now we can resume work on the house construction.

The fence project is first on the docket. As I mentioned in an earlier post, chain link fences here in Panama generally have a footing of concrete below ground. Sitting on the footing is a row of concrete blocks stacked two high.  The blocks act as barrier to water, weed, and slither-critter entry, and it keeps the chain link high and dry and slower to rust. The fencing sits above this row.

I calculated that I would need to buy 800 concrete blocks, costing out at about $600. Ouch. We do, however, have stored away some more of the M2 panels that I built the electric meter wall out of, so time to get creative. The panels are 6-inch-thick Styrofoam with a galvanized metal mesh on each of the two faces. M2 panels are usually about 2-inches thick, but this was a special order. The front mesh is connected to the back mesh with wires that are spot welded to the mesh. The panels I have are 4-feet by 10-feet, perfect as the fence posts are spaced just a few inches shy of 10-feet. This panel makes an ideal substrate for a layer of mortar plastered onto the wires.

Armando and I spent a day cutting 10 of the panels into 12-inch wide strips. This involved a massive amount of cutting the wire mesh, then I easily sliced through the Styrofoam with a reciprocating saw. About three-quarters of the way through the project, he and I were complaining to each other that we couldn’t make another cut with the wire cutters because our muscles were cramping. So we switched to an angle grinder with a cutoff wheel. It wasn’t much faster, certainly noisier, but it gave our hands a rest. This cutting yielded 400-feet of M2 strips, and we need just a few feet shy of that.

The next day, Armando and I took some of the M2 strips, a few bags of cement and our tools to the lot. We also moved a pickup truck load of 3- to 4-inch rocks (thank you C&C) from the pile in front of our rental house to the lot to use in the concrete footing. Armando and I worked out a plan of attack, and by the end of the day we had 30-feet completed. I figured that this was a good amount for a man-and-a-half (I’m the half), and it went much easier as I could lift the Styrofoam panels with one hand, each the equivalent of 16 concrete blocks, so much easier than lugging concrete blocks through the mud.

As we worked, I could see the need for another man or two, and Armando and I talked about who would do what. The next day, yesterday, Armando tried for two, but could only round up one man, his cousin Pancho. This is, after all, the independence holiday season here. We got right to work early, 6:30 exactly, to get a jump on the afternoon rain. Before noon we had moved another two truckloads of rocks, and had accomplished the better part of one of the three legs of the fence. My little red wagon came in handy, as Pancho could load it with four 5-gallon buckets of rocks and not have to carry the buckets on his shoulder one at a time. Armando was the concrete guy, and I was relegated to the lightweight work of staying ahead of them with the M2 panels. I easily notched the panels with a handsaw so they would fit around the fence posts, and chocked them up with rocks and scraps of Styrofoam, to be even with a string line that we had stretched.

The hills were beginning to fill with fog, a sure sign that a warm-front of rain was on its way. Over the past few weeks Armando had supplied the driveway with another 12 yards of big rocks, and Abdiel had supplied another 12-yards of tosca. We still had some time before the heavy rain, and instead of mixing another batch of concrete, we decided to spread the tosca over the rocks. As they spread the dirt, a light rain arrived. As Armando and Pancho finished, I rolled the pickup back and forth to compact the tosca, but it became wet and stuck to the tires and made a mess of the truck. Done for the day, and I considered it a success. I sent the guys home, and after lunch I washed the truck.

It was interesting to note how much muscle tone I had lost over the past weeks of decreased physical activity. It used to take a week to make a muscle and three weeks to lose it. But now it seems to take three weeks to make a muscle and a week to lose it! I guess that is the way with getting older, but I am enjoying the wisdom that I have gained along the way.

Tomorrow, Monday, Armando, Pancho, and I will continue with the fence. And if I can get the M2 strips far enough ahead of them, I may start wiring the meter and the main panel so we can have power at the property soon. Here are some photos of our progress:

Snip, snippin' away

The first twenty feet

Armando and Pancho spread the tosca. Fence line foundation in the background, the big top tent and the little red wagon in the foreground.

That’s all for now.

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