Is It A Carport Or A Bohio?

Again, we were at a decision point. Now that the carport concrete floor is poured, do I send Anibal and Francisco on their way, or do we get down to business with the tile?

I thought that the slab should cure for a while, at least a week. I went online and Googled DuckDuckGo‘d the question.

Knowledge and advice was all over the place. Two days. One week. One month. Many months. I chose to go with the person who said that by using modern mortar with polymer additives, the time shouldn’t matter much as long as the initial water was gone from the surface — the mortar will adhere well to the still-curing concrete and move with the drying floor slab and tiles won’t pop. Ask me in a year how it turned out.

So the next morning, we got to work tiling the new slab. Here are a couple photos of the completed floor:

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These are the same tile that we used in the living room and bedrooms.

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Note to self: I still need to paint the shop door!

Now the question is, is this area a carport or a bohio? A bohio (pronounced bo-E-o) (No Robin, it’s not B-OHIO) is an open-air structure, usually separate from the house, that is great for outdoor entertaining on a hot day in the tropics. Bohios often have facilities for barbecuing and/or cooking. Traditional bohio roofs are made of palm fronds and have a protected opening at the top to let hot air escape. You can see that my roof has this venting quality and it is actually very pleasant underneath on a hot day. The eastern exposure makes it even more pleasant on hot afternoons, not that it ever really gets that hot here in the mountains! So is it a carport or a bohio? I suppose that the answer could be, “Yes!”

We finished tiling the floor early on Thursday and I wanted the guys to finish the day or even one more day to make more of a week for them. A couple of other tile projects had been lingering on, including the half-bathroom off of the living room. That floor didn’t take long:

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This photo is before grouting the floor and baseboards. I’ll tile the pedestal and the counter top before I install the sink.

And lastly, the wall under the master bathroom sinks was still just stucco. Anibal and I tacked this project while Francisco finished grouting the carport floor:

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In the next photo, you can see that we didn’t tile around all the pipes. I’ll dress the area up with some aluminum covers. Stay tuned.

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The next day, Friday, while I still had the tile saw set up, I decided to install the tile baseboards in the living room, master bath, laundry, and the guest bedroom. I’ve always said that a room doesn’t look done until the baseboard is installed. It is still true. Here is a photo of a row of tiles that has been grouted but I still need to run a bead of caulk along the top of the tile and touch up the paint:

P1020833-001Here is a strip in the second bedroom that is all done:

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Bob watches the touch up paint dry.

One day, Anibal and Francisco were going great guns without me (no border tile to cut), so I decided to tackle a little unfinished project. I had never finished the top of the glass block window in the master bathroom, mainly because I didn’t know what to do with it. We did know, however, that we wanted some ventilation in the shower area next to the glass block window, and whatever I did had to keep rain out of the house. After some pondering, I figured it out.

I cut a line along the shipping container wall two-inches above the top of the glass blocks. Then I took a length of 2″x6″ steel cariola (a metal C chanel), welded ends on it, and placed it in the hole above the glass blocks. The 2″x6″ works well because it overhangs the glass blocks by about an inch on either side of the wall. I caulked it into place with urethane caulk.

The next day after the caulk had dried, I cut some window screening a foot wide and as long as the cariola. I rolled the screen into a tube and tucked it up into the space above the window. And viola! — the window now has an overhang that protects the opening from rain entering and also provides ventilation for the bathroom. The screening can be removed at any time for cleaning. I still need to prime and paint the new metal:

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Lastly for this week, I started building some picture frames. The long container wall in the living/dining room is desperately pleading for some art hanging on it.

Cynthia and I went through all the photos that we have taken on the property. We chose eight pictures of flowers and uploaded them to AllPosters.com. A couple weeks later (the shipping to Panama time), the enlargements arrived.

Yesterday I measured the prints and made most of the forms for some concrete picture frames. These will be thick and heavy, and I have in mind an idea for hanging them. Stay tuned. The next photo shows my progress on the concrete forms. What, you’ve never seen concrete picture frames? Neither have we. Should be fitting for our Natural-Industrial-Bling design style. Stay tuned:

P1020822-001That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

And Then, Just Like That, We Had Back Steps

For E.V.E.R. now, we’ve had a back door but no steps up to it (or down from it, depending on where you stand). And in the carport, we still had a small pile of mixed sand and gravel from the river. In order to pour a floor in the carport, this pile of material had to go.

So instead of moving the pile, we decided to use it up by making steps to the back door. Armando, with me helping on the technical layout and the concrete pours, spent about five days on the project. And now, just like that, we have back steps — one more item to cross off of the To Do list. Here are some photos:

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The concrete slab with all the embedded rocks is where the cascade of rainwater falls from the roof.

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Armando told me to make sure that I got the concrete placed right-side up.

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While Armando focused on the steps, I worked the list inside the house.

We had yet to finish the wall under the bench in the master bathroom shower, so one day I couldn’t put it off any longer. This was a nasty little area because the container wall was quite dented. I wanted to attach tile-backer to the wall, but the dents wouldn’t allow it. So with Armando outside with some screws, and me inside with a couple lengths of 2″x2″ square tubing, we attached the tubing to the wall. Now with straight lines, I glued and screwed tile-backer to the tubing.

Here I am just about to attach the tile-backer:

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The special screws for tile-backer are an engineering marvel. The “point” drills through the tile-backer, then into the metal stud behind the tile-backer. The two “wings” enlarge the hole in the tile-backer that the “point” made. As the wings contact the metal stud wall, they are sheared off and the screw part advances into the metal stud. Finally, when the screw head hits the tile-backer, “teeth” on the underside of the head grind away the tile-backer so that the head sits flush. Ingenious and not cheap per each:

P1020574-001After the tile-backer was in place, I tiled the wall and grouted it.

Next on my list was some trim work on the wall between the master bedroom and the master bath. This entire area looked was unfinished. I cut, fit, and painted some wooden boards, and now the area is transformed. Here is the bedroom side:

P1020633-001And the bathroom side:

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I like the hand-finished texture on the wall. I still need to install towel bars, and of course, the electrical.

Beyond the bed in the bedroom is a cozy sitting area. I trimmed the top of this wall, too, and hung a fun lamp. We still need a round mirror for the wall:

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In the master bath, I got to check a tiny item off of the list — I drilled a hole through the concrete shelf, passed the lamp cord through the hole, and attached a new plug. The toilet area is a pleasant place to sit a spell:

P1020614-001Here is a photo of the space from above:

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The bedrooms were still a bit macho, so we found some nice curtains (on sale!) at Novey. Here is the master bedroom with the curtains hanging:

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The vertical white stripe in the corner with all the wires will get a metal cover. The lovely antique secretary with the curved glass doors belonged to Cyn’s grandmother.

The second bedroom:

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In the kitchen, morning light was just too bright coming through the glass block windows. Curtains here make the space much more pleasant:

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I did a few smaller projects as well, including repainting the bottom few inches of the container wall in the kitchen. The white paint was dirtied when we grouted the floor. If you are going to build a shipping container house, realize the extra work involved here:

P1020636-001In the Bug-Of-The-Week Department, Cyn spotted this tropical, leaf-like camouflage take on the Praying Mantis:

P1020627-001That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

It’s A Good Thing That I Take Pictures

It’s a good thing that I take pictures. Otherwise I would have no idea what I did in the past two weeks!

Let’s start with the glass block window in the master bathroom. Except for a piece of metal trim at the top, the window is done. It adds a lot to the north elevation and pumps a lot of light into the bathroom:

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From the inside, once it is painted and the rest of the finishing details are completed, the bathroom will be an inviting space:

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Looking through all three glass block walls shows a striking pattern of contorted grout lines:

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Hanibal and Francisco finished the glass block window about 10:30 in the morning. As this was the very last project for them here (except to do the carport floor in a few months), we celebrated the completion of several month’s work with a glass of sparkling apple juice. I paid them and sent them on their way with most of the day off:

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Official photos seem to be a solemn affair…

Now on my own, I was free to tackle a slew of smaller projects. One thing that had been bugging us was the open space above the glass block wall in the kitchen. The kitchen lights at night were a magnet for mosquitoes and other insects.

To make a bug-proof vent, I cut a piece of expanded metal and painted it black. I folded it in half with my bending brake, then slipped a piece of window screen between the two layers of expanded metal. I screwed the assembly to the outside of the container; it can be removed to replace or clean the window screen:

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Here is a close up:

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Keeping on with the bug-proofing projects — I bent some L-shaped pieces of scrap aluminum and screwed them to the wall above the big security doors at the living room west wall. This closed a big gap and also redirects water away from the glass doors. I had installed window screens some time ago:

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Next, it was almost impossible to work in my shop, so I dedicated two days to a good mucking out. Much better now. Here is what I had to deal with. Shameful:

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Next, Cynthia and I tackled the electrical work in the living room/dining room. We pulled a couple hundred feet of wire, Cynthia feeding wire to me from above while I did the worm walk in the crawl space, threading the wires under the house. Now we can plug lamps and the fountain into the wall, just like regular people, and the extension cords are all gone!

I installed a receptacle in the roof support column in the living room. We will plug a table lamp in here; it can be switched on or off from each of the two bedroom step landings as well as at the kitchen door. In 1977 I learned to create a “path of light” from an electrician who called himself Sparky, and it has served me well for many years. He said that you shouldn’t have to walk anywhere in the dark. Cynthia and I pulled wires to create this mess:

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With the help of a wiring diagram book, I was able to connect the receptacle and the four-way switch arrangement:

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Instead of using the supplied screws, I simply pop riveted the receptacle into place.

Another place that was a lot of fun to wire was at the three switches at the front door; two switches for the chandelier and one switch for the outside flood lights that I installed high over the front door:

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Above the three switches is a stack of rare earth magnets. I had to use them to retrieve a drill bit that I dropped into the column.

What made this challenging is that I messed up on my spacing when I cut the top hole for the switches in the 4″x4″ steel column; using the saber saw with a metal cutting blade, I cut on the wrong marks, making the opening too tall. But with some flat stock metal, pop rivets, and a few choice words for myself, I fixed the hole. I patched my boo boo with some Bondo. Here is my ugly fix before the Bondo:

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So now the dining room chandelier is working; here is a nighttime photo with the bottom light on:

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We hadn’t originally planned to tile the big triangular wall at the staircase in the living room, so the already roughed-in electrical boxes ended up too deep in the wall. First, I cleaned the tile mortar from the screw holes with a threading tool:

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With the threaded holes set back so far in the wall, it was good to have a small kit of different length screws on hand:

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How many tools does it take to install an electrical receptacle in a tile wall?

While I was in wiring mode, Cynthia asked if I would install a light in the kitchen exhaust hood over the stove. We bought a sealed LED light strip — it can easily be removed for cleaning. Here is a shot looking up into the hood. I still need to install a grease filter on the big round exhaust hole:

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The light switches for the kitchen ceiling lights, as well as for the exhaust fan and the light in the exhaust hood will all be by the kitchen door. I chose to not put the switches for the hood on the hood itself to keep the switches from getting greasy. So far I have some temporary wiring for some of the switches. I think it is quite entertaining:

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But, is it to Code?

At this point I ran out of wire, so I moved on to other projects. We have family coming to visit in about two months, so the guest bedroom and bath became the current priority. I painted the two container-end doors with an oil-based primer and two coats of latex; they had been a gnarly, rusty mess:

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I assembled the bed, Cynthia bought bedding for the room, and we hung the mirror. There is still some minor painting to do in the room:

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Speaking of the mirror, the one that we bought came with a Masonite backing. In this humid climate, within a month the Masonite was a moldy mess. I removed it and tossed it into the trash:

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In the guest bathroom, I made a form to pour a black concrete counter top (like the kitchen counters). It is still lacking rebar:

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The blocks of plywood will make a space on the underside of the concrete counter so I can install the nuts that affix the sink and faucet. This bathroom is still lacking paint, mirror, and lights, but the tile is all done.

While I had the tools out to make the form for the counter, I moved to the master bathroom to do the same:

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How many tools does it take to make a counter top concrete form?

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After I made the form, I placed the sinks and determined spacing. BobBob helped:

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And still while I was at it, we needed a shelf near the toilet to put a lamp on, so I made yet another form for that shelf:

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As soon as I can get some black concrete colorant, Armando and I can pour these counter tops. Right now, the only hardware store in town that has colorant has it at three-times the price at other stores. I refuse to patronize the scoundrel.

In the kitchen, we have been enjoying having breakfast in the little bump out area with the glass block wall. But the white walls (the container doors that form the walls) were a bit too bright and glaring in the morning sun. So I painted the area two coats of the same gray paint that we used by the concrete bench in the living room. It made the space much more cozy. It was difficult to get a good photo with all the morning light coming through the glass blocks:

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One big bonus of painting the walls gray is the shimmering pattern from the glass blocks:

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Cynthia has been working on some projects of her own. The next photo is of a ten-inch diameter glass bowl that she made. As her first bowl, she made it relatively unadorned to make sure that her slumping and fusing times in the kiln were correct before she spent the big bucks on colored glass. With this success, she can now make more with colors and textures:

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The bubbles in this bowl were intentionally made for decorative purposes.

Cyn is also making some light sconces for either side of the mirror in the dining room. After several failed attempts (the glass kept cracking when it came out of the kiln), she determined that window glass is not window glass is not window glass. She had mixed regular, clear window glass with some of the frosted glass from the slatted-louver windows that we had left over. Apparently, the COE (coefficient of expansion) is different for the two window glasses, creating cracks when the glass cools. Who’d a thought.

So now she can go on to use just one of the glass types and I am sure that she will be successful. Here is one of the failed attempts. This was pieced with broken pieces of frosted slatted-vent window glass over regular window glass with dichroic leaf embedded in the spaces. The cracks appeared at non-conjoined areas:

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With the dry season upon us, our hundreds of plants now need to be watered. With a hose, the job takes at least three-hours. Maybe four. We hired a local girl for the job. We explained the time needed to water to sufficient depth for the roots, but at only fourteen-years-old, she was constantly texting her friends. On the first day at the two hour mark, she declared the plants sufficiently watered. On the second day Cynthia and I reiterated the need for more time on the job, but again at the two-hour mark and after a lot of texting, she was again done. I told her that I thought that she should be spending more time with her friends and that she didn’t need to come back to our grueling job. She seemed relieved. Here she is, cute as a button but not ready for the world of work:

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I have since purchased a good sprinkler and can do the job myself, moving the sprinkler around the yard now and then.

Speaking of plants, one of the orchids in the carport is at it again:

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And the tree that we call the Ballerina Tree is in full bloom again:

P1020156And last but not least, Cynthia is rich! She closed a checking account that was gouging her for outrageous monthly fees. Here is her final check for closing the account. Try not to be envious:

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After taking the photo, the check promptly went in the trash. It would have cost more to cash it.

For a blog entry about small jobs, I think that this is the longest post I have ever written! That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Step By Step We Are Getting There ~ Front Entrance Steps

When last I wrote, Hanibal, Francisco, and I had the top landing done and were working on the first step down on the steps to the front door. We’ve made great advances this past week, but step by step, about one a day, it is rewarding and tedious. Here are some progress photos:

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This work is a bustle of activity. While Francisco keeps us supplied with tile and mortar, Hanibal sets full tiles plus the ones that I cut and pass off to him.

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When Francisco gets caught up with Hanibal, he spreads grout. Cynthia took this picture from the loft front window.

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For this space, I need to cut four small tile pieces.

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The new tile saw isn’t so new any more. It is getting quite a workout.

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A good picture of Francisco cleaning the grout line.

I have already shown you the jig that I made to keep the height and slant-to-drain of each step the same. I made another jig to keep the slant of the front of each riser the same. Here Hanibal uses the jig to strike a uniform mortar face on the riser:

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Here is a closeup of the jig:

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I made a small notch at the point where the jig touches the front edge of the dark-gray tile strip. This notch allows the jig to indent the mortar face, thereby allowing enough room for a layer of thinset mortar when Hanibal installs the riser tile.

From the roof deck:

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Tarps are at the ready, but so far it seems that the dry season started right on schedule a few days ago.

Another day, another step:

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Shadows are strong before 7:00 a.m. Hanibal is setting the riser tiles on this step.

And another:

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As they do in the big Hollywood movies, I hosed it down…

And yet another:

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Here we have the first row of tiles set on the bottom step. We’ll pick up here on Monday.

Remember, before we can lay the tiles, each step needs a leveling bed of mortar plus the surface of the riser needs to be mortared. This is a labor-intensive project on our hands and knees. After the large tiles are laid, we set the dark-gray tile strips on the edge of the step. I think that the next photo was taken at day eight of the job.

On Monday, we should finish the bottom step and move down to the triangular landing:

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In those times when I manage to catch up to Hanibal, I sneak away to prepare the master bathroom for the glass block window install; it will be our next project after the front steps are complete.

The plan is to make a black concrete bench (like the kitchen counters and the bench in the living room) in the shower, then start the first row of glass blocks on top of the bench.

Using scrap plywood from the kitchen counter top form work, I have the form well under way. I scribed the contour of the container wall onto the plywood, then used the saber saw to cut the wavy line. I drilled holes in the wall of the container, then had Hanibal and Francisco hold the form while I went outside and screwed through the holes to hold the form in place:

 

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I’ll cut out the red wall area when we are ready to pour the bench and lay the glass blocks. The burn marks at the top of the wall are from welding the roof overhang brackets into place.

Outside, at a point an inch lower than the inside form, I made and attached another piece of plywood that will form the concrete window sill. I am hoping that the forms will keep the container wall from contorting out of shape when I cut and remove the metal:

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You can see the form board screwed to the wall where the glass block window will go.

One afternoon I had a little extra energy so I installed the master bath shower valve:

P1020047-001And this morning the Funcionario Público plants along the front fence were in full bloom (named the Government Employee flower because it opens at nine and closes at three). Here is a photo:

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The coconut palms are doing well, too.

That’s all for now, thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Four Counters And A Long Bench

And the flu dragged on and on for several more weeks. Then I got a sty and the area around my right eye swelled mightily. So I haven’t done much work since my last post. But now it is time to rebuild all that muscle that I lost in the past weeks! Getting back to work was physically difficult, but I did it and I have accomplished a few things.

One day I sprayed the long wall in the living/dining room. I sprayed it a primer white, so now it is ready for the finish color.

Cynthia said that she would like a long bench seat along this same wall, so one day Armando and I formed it and readied it for concrete.

I didn’t want to weld the rebar directly to the container wall because on the other side of the wall is the walk-in closet. Welding would burn the paint and make an awful amount of smoke and I didn’t want to remove all our clothes from the closet. But I did want to connect the bench to the wall so that it wouldn’t pull away. So I drilled half-inch holes where I wanted the short pieces of rebar. I inserted two-inch bolts from the closet side and put a nut on the living room side. Then I could weld the rebar to the bolts and not burn the paint in the closet. We are going to use the same black-tinted concrete as we did in the kitchen. Here is the wall primed white and the bench form work ready for concrete:

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Later I’ll put LED lighting under the length of the bench.

While we were at it, we formed four counter tops. One is upstairs in the loft where we will put a small sink. This sink is close to the roof deck and will be useful for doing art projects in the loft. The bottom of a five-gallon bucket was the perfect size to make the hole for the sink; I cut the bucket on the table saw. The other wooden disks to the right of the sink will make the hole for the faucet:

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Back down stairs, we formed another counter in the kitchen. We’ll put the microwave on this counter. I used a bunch of scrap rebar here. Later I’ll build an aluminum cabinet below the counter:

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At the far end of the kitchen we’ll mount the TV on the dark gray wall. I want to build a cabinet below the TV for components and such, so we built the form work for a counter. As standard practice in forming all these counters, I drilled half-inch holes in the concrete walls and inserted the rebar into the holes. At the metal container wall, I did the bolt/rebar thing as I did on the long bench. The counter will be self-supporting with the cabinet built below:

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And finally, this morning I formed the counter for the sink in the half-bath under the stairs. The sink will be a round glass vessel type that will fit the contour of the counter. A long time ago I saw a sink mounted in a corner with a mirror on either wall. It makes an unique effect so I’ll do the same here:

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Armando and I plan to pour the concrete later this week or early next week.

In other news, I’ve been working on converting have converted to the gluten-free, low-carb, high-fat, high-protein diet that Cynthia’s cardiologist wants her to eat (based on the two books, Wheat Belly and Grain Brain). I’m eating a massive amount of food and have lost all the sugar and carb cravings. I am surprised how quickly those cravings disappeared. Below is a photo of my breakfast one day — a large plate of veges and three eggs, all scrambled and sauteed in coconut oil. I seasoned this batch with Herbs de Provence, although other times I may use curry or Italian herbs. This meal is interchangeable for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Delicious and very filling and I haven’t gained back a single pound!

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For the past four-years, we’ve had a problem with a particular kind of fly, called the sagaño. The sagaño builds a giant mother ship nest, then sends away teams to build more nests. They’ve been trying to build many of these satellite nests high on the house, which Armando and I knock down with the pressure washer. But they won’t stop building! Besides defacing the house, this fly, if you pass within a few feet of their nest, will attack people and pets. They don’t sting like a bee, but instead bite. They quickly wiggle their way through your hair and bite your scalp. They like to climb under your shirt and bite your armpit.

The mother ship is just a few feet into the neighboring lot to the west of our fence, and the other day Armando and I decided that it was time for the big nest to go. I hated to do it because they seem to have the one redeeming quality of pollinating the bananas.

We quietly and stealthily placed a tall ladder in the tree about fifteen feet from the nest. Even that was provocative and the flies attacked. We had prepared ourselves with protective clothing which is a good thing because we were each covered with hundreds of the little biting creatures. Like chimps picking lice off of each other, I picked the flies off of Armando and he picked them off of me. Working in quick volleys, we cut the branch that the nest was attached to. Surprisingly heavy, the nest crashed to the ground with a loud thud. Armando had made a small, smokey fire to distract the flies.

Using a long pole, we placed on top of the nest a Ziploc bag full of diesel and a bit of gasoline. Next we used the pole with a nail taped to it to puncture the bag; the fuel saturated the nest. Finally, we used the pole to deliver a flaming torch to the nest. All this happened over several hours to give the flies time to calm down; most of the flies abandoned ship as they seem to like to be higher in the air. Here is the nest with Armando’s foot on it:

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Again, I hated to do it but their bite is annoying and their saliva, or whatever they use as a building material, is corrosive to the paint and galvanized metal on the house.

And one other thing, these are bar flies. Really. They love the smell of oil-based paint and lacquer thinner. They get quite drunk and propel themselves against the wet paint. Now if you notice blemishes in my paint, you know why.

Cynthia returns from the States next week, so in an attempt to impress her upon her return, in the rain-free mornings I’ve had Armando outside in the gardens. For the first time, the entire lot is pretty-much weed-free and everything looks good and healthy. He cleaned dead leaves from all the plants and fertilized everything. This should be a good welcome home for her.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Another Hangover And A Good Roughing Up

In our push to complete as many outside details as possible before the rainy season begins, this past week we focused on the north wall of container #4.

Ramiro and I fabricated and installed 21 support braces just like the ones on the hangover overhang at the front of the house. Here we are on the second day:

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Ramiro is welding the brackets onto the container. After we had a few brackets installed, we lifted the 2″x6″ carriola into place and welded it to the brackets. This made aligning the remaining brackets quite easy:

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When we had all the brackets in place, we ground the welds smooth with the angle grinder and prime painted them. While the paint dried, Ramiro sanded the side of the container. He used a wire brush on the angle grinder to remove the areas of heavier rust around dents and dings. Here is Ramiro hand sanding the container:

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Ramiro gives the paint a good roughing up.

While Ramiro sanded, I took the last three hours of the day and hand sanded, two-coat primed, and two-coat finish painted (latex) the outside east wall of my shop. We still need to paint the window blocks the teal/green trim:

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This is the same color as the rest of the house. In full sun the color looks blue-ish. In actuality it is a soft gray green, almost the color of sea foam.

The next morning we slipped pieces of roofing metal, that I had previously cut, into place on top of the brackets:

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Armando and Pancho joined Ramero and me to mix and place the concrete slab above the roofing metal:

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I used the 2″x6″ metal carriola instead of a 2″x3″ so that we could have more thickness and build in a drainage channel on the top of the slab. Here is the finished slab:

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It is hard to see the channel. The next photos show it more clearly.

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I cut a six-inch hole in the roofing metal and inserted a PVC pipe as a downspout to carry off rainwater.

We finished the slab at 11:00.

The back garden was filled with weeds so I asked the guys to weed for an hour and then they could take the rest of the day off.

At noon, Armando took a shower (now at the end of the dry season there is very little water at his house) and he and Pancho left right at noon. But Ramiro said that because he arrived a bit late that he wanted to work a bit more. I told him it was okay if he wanted to leave, too, but he insisted on working for another hour.

The garden now looks like this:

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Cousin Christine — this is the palm that you gave us (in a small pot) a couple years ago.

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And Christine T. — even though the dirt is dry, dry, dry, your plants are growing by leaps and bounds. One of our neighbors told us last night that this plant is in the taro family and that the young leaves, stalks, and roots are edible. The grasshoppers sure love to eat it!

Here is a panoramic view of the back garden from the roof. We need more plants!

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A couple hibiscus bushes have bloomed, including this dainty one:

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And this big yellow flower:P1010185-002

Armando and Pancho have been rocking the container support columns:

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And Cynthia, after placing an order on January eleventh, finally* received from the States two spray cans of mold release for use in slumping glass. She is going to make lamp shades for the lights over the kitchen counters. Stay tuned.

*The mold release took two-and-a half months to arrive because it had to be routed through the Panamanian Pharmacy and Drug agency (among others) because one of the many ingredients in the spray could possibly be used in the production of illegal drugs. Really? I mean really?

Tomorrow Ramiro and I plan to paint the north wall and its windows and then move on to other exterior walls.

I think that’s all for this week. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

Exterior Paint

We can see it. We can smell it. The rainy season is on its way. With virtually no rain since mid-December, now early mornings are overcast with light rain. Dark clouds gather in the northeast in the afternoons. It won’t be long now.

Even though we want to finish tiling the kitchen floor, the push is on to get as much done on the exterior as possible before the heavy rain arrives.

You can see the change in the past two weeks by comparing these two photos:

Panorama -- 23 Feb 2014

cropped-Panorama-23-March-20141.jpgAfter sanding and cleaning the siding, I loaded the HVLP spray gun with an oil-based polyurethane paint:

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And then sprayed the front of the house. In the next photo I am using an ancient hovering/floating technique that I learned as a young child from a mystic in India:

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Oh wait, sorry, that photo was sideways:

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While I was sanding the above wall, I came across a really beautiful (huge) spider:

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Ramiro followed behind me, painting the trim dark green/teal. In the next photo is a closeup of the house where you can see that Armando and Francisco, after working all of February and half of March, have finally completed the garden path around the house. The total count is five yards of stones, twenty-five sacks of cement, six yards of sand, sixteen yards of gravel, and fifty-feet of sixteen-foot-wide weed cloth to cover the path. Whew! We think that it adds a lot to the landscape:

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A sharp eye will notice that we just completed some concrete edging at the bamboo window box planter and at the top of the stonework on container #1. When the rains come, we will be planting a lot more plants and getting rid of most of the grass. 

Now the only painting remaining at the front of the house is the rake board (facia) at the roofline. It will be the dark green/teal.

With all the smoke in the air, there have been some beautiful sunrises:

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The early morning light illuminates the glass block wall in the kitchen:

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That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Stairs, Glorious Stairs

The big item on this past week’s to do list was to mount the handrail on the staircase wall. Sounds quick and easy, yes?

But first we had to make a dozen handrail brackets and weld them onto the handrail. In the next photo, we still need to cut the long ends to length. We bent the one-half-inch square steel with the oxy-acetylene torch. These brackets aren’t as beautiful as what blacksmith friend Smyth Boone would have made, but they look industrial and fit the bill:

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Here is a video showing how we bent the steel bar:

But before mounting the railing on the wall, it would be much, much easier to paint the wall first. We chose some paint, a rich, dark grey. To refresh your memory, here is the big wall:

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But wait. Before we paint the wall, it would be smart if we cleaned the dried mortar from the steel staircase. I bought a gallon of muriatic acid and a few boxes of baking soda (to neutralize the acid when we did the final wash). I also bought two pair of long, acid-resistant gloves.

I mixed a ten-percent acid/water solution and also a bucket of clean baking soda water in case we splashed any acid on us while we worked. I mounted a new wire brush on the small angle grinder.

Ramiro and I donned the rubber gloves and rubber boots. We started at the top of the stairs; I applied the acid solution, Ramiro operated the grinder, and I cleaned up behind him, washing the clean stairs several times with the baking soda solution. It was a long, hard day bending over the stairs:

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Here is a video of the process (sorry about the bad audio, must be a problem with the camera…:

With just one more wash to go, the cleaned stairs look like this:

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Now for the fun part — I sent Ramiro home and before a new coat of rust could form, I spent another hour applying a boiled linseed oil finish. I wiped the oil on with a rag, then wiped the stairs dry with another rag. The completed stairs are quite glorious if I do say so myself. Here are some photos:

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As I finished, the late afternoon sun started streaming in the window at the top of the stairs:

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And got even better a few minutes later, the stairs gleaming a rich, dark patina:

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Next it was time to paint the walls on either side of the stairs. With the high ceiling, this big room is very spacious. Cynthia and I thought that if we painted the walls white that people would feel lost in the room. The two, floor-to-ceiling window walls bring in a ton of light. So we decided to paint the walls a very deep dark grey to give the space a cozier feel. Spacious and cozy, if you will.

Finally, days of work after just wanting to hang the handrail, it was time. This morning, Sunday, Cynthia and I brought the long, intricate handrail back into the house (it was outside for painting) and screwed it to the wall. Ramiro and I had already drilled and installed plastic wall anchors at the appropriate locations for screws, so the install took only a few minutes. Here are the painted walls, the handrail, and the oiled steel staircase. A new mirror makes the look:

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The mirror frame has the same bronze-y brown tones as the oiled stairs.

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In my free time this week, I took a day and completed the kitchen stove exhaust fan. I had built the hood, but still needed to install the fan motor and duct work. I started by making a six-inch round outlet hole in the shipping container wall. I used a combination of one-quarter-inch drill holes and a saber saw with a metal-cutting blade. I left two tabs to bend in and secure the duct. Here is the hole almost all cut — I think that it looks like an evil smiley-face icon…:

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I tried to use some of that aluminum Slinky hose, but it was seven-inches and the motor was six-inches. I was also concerned about grease building up in all the crevices. This is the stuff:

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The more I worked the uglier the mess got, so I threw it aside and made my own ducting. Using pop rivets, I made a triangular aluminum diamond plate box. and cut two, six-inch holes in it. (Yet another use for my DIY homemade sheet metal bending brake.)

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Next, I couldn’t make a round duct, so I made another aluminum box to complete the ducting. In the next photo you can see the hood, the triangular aluminum transition box, the exhaust fan, the other aluminum box, and a sound muffler:

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Finally, I wired the fan. With no adjacent wall to install a switch on, I chose to use an X-10 wireless remote control unit. I plan to Velcro the wireless switch inside a drawer next to the stove so that it is easy to reach and won’t get lost.

This exhaust fan moves a lot of air. It isn’t as quiet as we would like, but we don’t smell any gas fumes regardless of how many burners are being used.

While I was working on the exhaust fan, Ramiro finished installing the angle iron trim on the inside of the windows:

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Armando and Francisco are moving into the home stretch with the garden path, nothing four more yards of gravel can’t cure:

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When the rainy season arrives, it is goodbye grass and hello gardens. We have a lot more plants to fill out the gardens.

That’s it for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Kitchen Counters

After Aramis and I completed fabricating the kitchen cabinet frames, it was time to make the concrete counter tops. But first, I sprayed three good coats of black paint on the frames. The paint fumes made Jabo a little goofy:

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We almost decided to use granite for the counter tops, but concrete fit the Natural Industrial Bling style of the house just fine and is a lot less expensive.

I wanted to use plywood or particle board with a melamine face for the forms. But I couldn’t find it without a trip to the city. So I bought three sheets of 3/4″ plywood and three sheets of plastic laminate. I bonded the laminate to the plywood with contact cement:

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Here I am waiting for the glue to dry.

After applying the laminate to the plywood, I cut the sheets to size and made forms. I planned to pour the counter tops upside down so that the laminate would make a nice smooth surface on the concrete. Here are the forms with rebar reinforcement:

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The boards sitting edgewise on the forms are supports — using baling wire, I hung the rebar mesh an inch off the surface of the laminate. The drop cloths will keep the painted cabinets from getting splashed with concrete.

We wanted black or at least dark grey concrete tops. The river-run sand and gravel that we have used for all the concrete in the house is quite brown. But some time ago, I bought a few yards of unsifted black sand that was left over from when the main road was resurfaced. I also bought a half-yard of #2 (1/2″) crushed gravel. It is dark grey in color. And lastly, I bought 20-pounds of black colorant for concrete.

Friday was pour day. Armando, Aramis, and I needed to calculate how many five-gallon buckets-full of concrete we would need. We had to mix enough from the start, because it would be difficult to match the color of the first batch if we needed to make a second batch.

We did our best to estimate how much area of the forms would be covered with one bucket-full of concrete. We moved our hands; this much? More? No. Less? We finally found consensus. We then moved our hands, spread to the estimated distance, over all the forms. One bucket, two buckets, three buckets…. twenty buckets total. We decided to mix the equivalent of twenty-two buckets of concrete.

At the mix pile, we got eleven buckets of sand, the fourteen bags of gravel (one bag equals about 3/4 of a bucket) and three-and-a-half sacks of cement and mixed them all together:

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Then Armando sprinkled the colorant onto the pile. We turned the pile two more times:

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I wanted a relatively dry mix. The local men find it easiest to put a ton of water into the mix. Very soupy concrete is very common. Not only does this make for weaker concrete, but the surface is soft and pasty. I wanted the surface good and hard, with more sand and gravel and very little cement paste, especially if I decide to grind it smooth with diamond pads on the wet grinder. So I told the guys to pretend that they were mixing mortar to spread on concrete block walls. I made a super-big deal about this and told them that if it was too wet, it was not usable and we would have to start from scratch. And they could buy the materials!

As they mixed, I made last minute preparations in the kitchen. Armando delivered the first bucket full…. ….. ….. (insert anticipation here) …. …. …. IT WAS PERFECT! They had done what all us gringos thought was impossible. The concrete was well mixed; everything was wet, but it was good and stiff. I packed it into the forms and around the rebar. The mix was like jelly and compacted well when I pounded and jiggled it with the wooden float. There was no excess water!

Aramis continued mixing, Armando continued delivering, and I continued spreading and compacting the concrete. Every once in a while Armando would stop and assist me with screeding the surface smooth. Here are the tops all poured:

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You can see that there is very, very little jobsite mess from excess water coming out of the concrete. This will make strong, dense, scratch- and ding-resistant counters.

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Foreground island: breakfast bar, kitchen sink. Next island: stove (remember, the concrete has to be flipped over). Last island: bread/pastry prep.

We were done before noon. I had the guys clean up and told them that I was so happy with their concrete mixing that they could take the rest of the day off. I stayed and troweled the surface (what would be the underside of the counter top) smooth.

By the way, we had about a gallon of concrete left over. I tallied the number of years of experience that it took to make a rule-of-six-thumbs estimate; Aramis’ ten years, Armando’s fifteen years, and my, um, fifty years (if you don’t count my tree house constructing years). Seventy-five years of experience. One gallon of extra concrete. Good deal.

I wanted to let the tops cure for at least a week. But given how dry the mix was to begin with, on Monday morning I couldn’t discern any water or moisture on the surface. I decided to flip the slabs and remove the forms.

Aramis and Armando arrived for work. I also recruited neighbor workers Ramiro and Samuel. Together, the five of us removed the forms and flipped the slabs over so that the smooth side would be up.

These two-and-a-quarter-inch thick beasts are hundreds-of-pounds heavy! And with the cutouts for the sink and the stove, we had to be very, very careful to lift the slabs evenly and not introduce hairline cracks at the weak inside corners. I also kept stressing to the men to count their fingers. We took our time. We had to because the weight worked every muscle that the five of us had. At the end, all the slabs were sitting face up and no fingers were mashed or muscles pulled.

Here are some photos of the counter tops:

Looking in the kitchen door to the left:

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Looking in the kitchen door straight ahead:

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Looking in the kitchen door to the right:

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Here is a closeup of the kitchen sink. We can’t wait to see the faucet in place:

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The Schock brand sink is a granite composite made in Germany. With headquarters in the Bavarian forest,  the company appears to be very environmentally aware.

I still need to fill the tiny holes and then run an angle grinder with a diamond polishing pad over the tops. But for today, we are considering the job a huge success. We couldn’t be happier!

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

Almost Ready To Move In

The Big Push To Move In continues, although surprisingly not everything we are doing will get us in sooner. I asked our landlady for another week; she said, take two or more and don’t pay. Seems that she wants a night watchman until they can find another renter or can get a contractor to fix the many woes of the place.

But a week will do it because some of our large glass window panes have arrived, and more will arrive next week:

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The glass was delivered by Moly and his family in a pickup truck that barely ran. One of the men rode in the back of the truck to steady the glass for the hour-long drive. I understand that they probably wouldn’t own glass-moving suction cups, but I was surprised to see that none of the men and boys were wearing gloves. This is a bare bones operation (no pun intended) but their prices are fair!

I installed one of the panes in one of the guest bedroom windows:

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With the heavy rains eroding the soil where all the water runs off the Big Roof, it was time for Armando and Alex to pour a concrete splash pad. Here it is almost done; Armando is pounding rocks into the wet concrete and Alex is finishing the job with a small paintbrush. Fortunately, the rain held off for the entire job:

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A day or two later it did rain. Not hard, just a gentle tropical drizzle:

While it rained, Armando and Alex moved indoors to repello (stucco) the master bathroom M2 (foam building panel) wall (not shown) and the wall over the master bedroom bump out:

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Aramis has been working nonstop. Here he is putting 3/4″ angle iron into a door that will go at the master bedroom bump out; there will be four, eight-foot-tall glass doors there:

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And here is Aramis welding a sink stand for the concrete sink that will go in the laundry. The sink sits on the lower part. The upper part will have a sheet of tile backer and will be tiled. The faucet will sit on the tiled part:

The next photo shows parts of three metal projects in process; a new four-posted canopy bed, the sink stand, and a pair of doors ready to be hung in the bump out. You can also see that in my free time I hung the two white doors. We will paint them a different color:

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My days are somewhat chaotic. I have to keep an eye on both Armando and Aramis; whether simply observing progress and watching for problems, making suggestions or giving the next marching orders, or jumping in and working with them when an extra hand is needed. I also run for materials in town. But sometimes I have a small block of time to accomplish something extra, as I did when I installed the doors (above) or this sink just outside of Cynthia’s studio:

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These sinks are ubiquitous here. Every one that I have seen is set on concrete blocks at each side of the sink. But this makes a nasty little area that collects spiders and leaves. I decided to weld an angle iron bracket and screw it to the wall. I used urethane caulk to stick the sink to the stand and to the wall. Some touch up of the repello is necessary where I cut the groove for the pipe and around the drain pipe.

Cynthia’s bailiwick is the gardens. She recently stole Armando and Alex from me for a day to clean the back garden, eradicate the ant colonies in the garden, and plant some new plants. While they worked, she divided some asparagus ferns and re-potted them. Another thank you to Christine and Clark who gave us cuttings of most of the plants from their garden:

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Christine, what is the name of this plant? I see that it is starting to flower:

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The flower heads are a good four or five inches tall.

And there is a dainty little orchid on the dead tree in the front garden:

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Even though we haven’t officially moved yet, we are spending more and more time at the new house. On Sundays, we spend most of the day here just hanging out. Here is a happy Cynthia:

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And if she is happy, I’m happy:

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Happy but tired. I’m working ten-hour days right now. Can’t wait to move!

Some of you have emailed me personally to say that they can’t leave comments. I’ll check it out as soon as I can.

That’s all for now, thanks for stopping by.