Our gardener Armando, at our current rental house, said he had a few extra days and he could start clearing our building lot if we wanted to start. Sure thing! So about 8:00 this morning he and I loaded up a wheel barrow and walked it over to our lot. It will be such a pleasure to be so close to our current house; home for lunch, and no commute with a loaded pickup truck.

First, we put up a tarp canopy between a few trees in case a heavy rain passed through. We had two 5-gallon buckets to sit on. Light rain or even moderate rain is no problem, and can even be better to swing a machete in than full sun. I keep my wallet and cell phone in zipper plastic bags because if the sweat doesn’t get them, the rain will!

Then on to the section of road in front of our lot. We are in an area that was originally developed in 1964. All the roads and drainage ditches, as well as electric poles were installed then. And although all the lots beyond us were sold, no one has built in the area, so the road has grown over with tall grasses and even a few small trees.

Armando applied some mosquito repellent, ran a file over his machete a few times, and had at it. I participated a bit, too, but in my 60s, I am more than twice Armando’s age. My main task was to move dead tree branches out of Armando’s way so he could hack away more efficiently.

About two hours in I realized that I didn’t have the camera, so I called Cynthia on the walkie talkie and she and watchdog Jabo brought it to me. Armando and I came across a bees’ nest, but no humans were injured in the fracas.

At 10:30 the sun was really bearing down so I suggested that we adjourn the road clearing until early tomorrow morning and move to the more shaded building lot. Armando didn’t argue the point and it was voted so. We continued to hack away and move dead branches to the side of the road for a bonfire in a week or two. Burning organic debris is a fact of life here in Panama, and at the end of the dry season the whole country appears to be burning. Bad news for Cynthia, as she developed a sensitivity to the smoke and really suffered for some time. She may have to wear a mask next year, and indeed I spent some time this year wearing a bandanna over my nose.

We broke for lunch at the house, then walked back for the final sprint until about 3:00 when we looked at each other and voted to end the day. There is always manana. I am really happy with how much we cleared today. Armando is a great guy; honest, very hard working, always shows up as scheduled, never complaining. He has been with us for a bit more than two years now and Cynthia and I couldn’t ask for a better man to help us. I suspect that he and I will do the lion’s share of the construction except when we have concrete to pour. That will take a crew of about five guys. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Armando will be back tomorrow to go at it again. I agreed to let him bring some of his chickens to the back 40 at our house, as a large mountain cat has been hunting in his neighborhood and has been picking off some of his plumpest specimens; they will never make it into the traditional Panamanian dish, sancocho soup, which usually has big hunks of chicken, bones and skin and all. Yum.

Here are some photos from the day:

Our neighbor, who is also building a new house, is replacing the 12-inch drainage pipes under the road with 18-inch pipes. I'm going to buy the smaller pipes to run under our driveway entrance.

Armando walks his machete up the road.

Any way you slice it, this is hard work. Notice the big rubber boots? They take some getting used to because of the lack of foot support. Also, you have to keep your pants tucked into the boots so snakes and critters don't crawl up your legs, and you sweat like crazy in them. But once you are used to them, these $8 boots outperform my $100 Army Jungle Boots by a mile. I'm a convert.

Starting to make a dent in the lot. After the grasses dry out, we will clear them off the lot and into the burn pile.

Armando works his way around a large termite nest. We'll deal with this later...

Thankfully they were more industrious than aggressive. They will self-relocate because we have cleared all the grass that shaded the nest.

I'm not really a Jeff Corwin wannabe, but this was too good to pass up.

That’s all for today!

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