Five Years In The Making, My 200th Post

This blog entry marks my 200th post on PanamaShippingContainerHouse.com. Cynthia and I began this house-building project on June 6th, 2010, just two-weeks away from five-years ago. And now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Tackling much of this Big-Person’s Erector Set myself, I’ve had to push pretty hard, and keep on pushing pretty hard, if I ever want to see the project completed. As such, there has been a never-ending stream of items-become-reality.

I have become conditioned to frequently having something new to enjoy, appreciate, be frustrated by, and be proud of. As an artist, I like the creative process. It feeds me. It stimulates my brain.

This is not to say that it hasn’t been exhausting and that I haven’t wanted to walk away. Many times. The size of the project, the learning curve of creating a unique, owner-designed and owner-built shipping container house, the new skills that I have had to learn, plus the general decrapitude of my age (I can see 70 from my house), have been daunting.

But artists wouldn’t have it any other way, would they?

I know that the house isn’t done yet, however several readers have asked me if I would do it again — If I knew then what I know now, would I do it again. It’s a hard question to answer (indeed even some of our political elite have fallen into the trap and bungled the answer). And like a politician, I’d like to dodge the question and ask a different one.

Are we glad that we built this shipping container house? The answer, from both Cynthia and myself, is a resounding, “Yes!”

Would we do it again? (Ah, you still want me to answer that question…) “NO!” But not for the reason that you think. We think that building anything from shipping containers is a cool idea. We think that this has been a worthwhile exercise. We have learned a lot. We can’t identify any major mistakes along the way that have made this a stupid idea. We love the way that it is turning out.

But we wouldn’t do it again because we are more artists than builders. A builder can replicate the same house a thousand times, maybe flipping the floor plan every other time. But an artist — an artist is in it for the creation of new ideas, new expressions, new processes, new enlightening. So no, we wouldn’t do it again.

The house “works” for us in its design and materials. The containers provide a modular design grid that allows for a very fluid and usable living space. The large spaces, such as the 16’x40′ kitchen/family area, work well here in the tropics where airflow and ventilation is everything.

The still-somewhat-uniqueness of using shipping containers has enlivened the project, even more so than if we had built a good design from the standard concrete block method. We’ve enjoyed knowing that we’ve taken four containers out of the junk pile and up-purposed them into a home that has a lot of living potential.

Lastly, Cynthia and I have created this design from the ground up. We didn’t buy plans on the Internet, and we didn’t hire out any of the creativity. We’ve worked well together to solve really-difficult issues. Often Cynthia won’t like my ideas or I won’t like her’s.

But our philosophy around this is that if one of us doesn’t like the other’s idea, we look for a third option. We’ve discovered that the third option is never a compromise. Neither of us has had to give up anything along the way. The Third (or Fourth — or Seventh) Option that we find is always better than what either of us has thought of individually.

To everyone who has followed along, subscribed, or commented, thanks very much. I haven’t “monetized” this site because I like it the way it is. I’m not even selling the idea. This blog is my diary, and I’ve enjoyed making it public. I hope that you have enjoyed reading it.

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

23 thoughts on “Five Years In The Making, My 200th Post

  1. Much love to you and Cynthia, creative, determined, inspiring! We, your readers, are better for your “diary”. xo – Rebecca

  2. I’ve been here that long? It must have been entertaining to keep my attention for over 4 years 🙂 Thanks for inviting me along for the ride.

  3. Hey Fred and Cynthia!

    AWESOME!! …nothing more to say!

    HOWEVER:
    Now let’s ask “the question” differently:

    If you KNEW at start of this project, what you know today about it – would you STILL do it?
    [NOT again, but at all – obviously you did this one, and it is enough, so you wouldn’t do it AGAIN, but …..if you knew what’s comin’, would you still do it?]

    Btw, did you ever start to plant out the Lemongrass around the perimeter? 🙂

    I wonder, if I could come by again, some day, and pick your brain about all your experiences of the construction – especially materials you sourced – where, how much, etc…. – and even more so about technics you applied – concrete, tiles, floors, walls, etc….

    I followed all your posts and always made a mental note, that I need to ask about “it”….
    I have no problem to “trial and error”myself, but at the basic level, if I can avoid the “error” part – I’d like that a LOT!! 🙂

    Do you still want to start a hydroponic system??
    [If so – I’d urge you to look into AQUAPONICS – WAY better! I am on the way to built my first “trial, test and hopfully little error” system soon. Though at this point it is just theory, but I’d trade my Aquaponics brain library for your Container-building library!! …if you care for!]

    Cheers to both of you, have fun and enjoy!!

    Thomas

  4. A mighty congratulations to you Fred and Cynthia!
    Having built a home in Panama that took the better of 4 years, I can tell you that I fully understand the challenges of building in a foreign country. All the more credit to you for taking on a build that uses unconventional building materials that are not always compatible with each other. The creative side will need to be fed some other way. Hopefully smaller projects with shorter time frames 😉

  5. Alan,

    AMEN to that!

    Thankfully Fred does have some new creative avenues to explore. And maybe finally, he’ll have some time to play his “new” guitar for us.

  6. Well Fred n Cynthia I have read all 200 post and still enjoy them now as much as the first. Not sure what I’ll all do when your totally done.

    It was beautiful seeing it again.

    Cynthia

  7. My dear awesome friends Cynthia and Fred
    I was folloing your project quite regularly
    I admire not only what you have done but how you have done it
    When I have some small thing to fix about my place I always think of you and just do it, because nothing can compare to the challenge that you have come up to
    Congratulations
    Love
    Marina

  8. It has been so exciting to follow the/your progress over the years. I have to admit I have lived vicariously through each of you many times. And while I Love your account of the importance and value of the creative process for each of you, it was your statement about not compromising (Neither of us has had to give up anything along the way. The Third (or Fourth — or Seventh) Option that we find is always better than what either of us has thought of individually) that made me appreciate the true definition of the word partnership.

    When is the Housewarming celebration?

    • Hi Scout,

      Thanks very much Scout. Both Cynthia and I have strong creative personalities, and it was just no fun fighting about stuff. I hate to have to defend my creative ideas. I don’t know how it happened, but we did fall upon the idea to find a third option. It takes mindfulness in the moment to remember to go to that third place and to not dig in our heels regarding our original ideas. I like your comment about this being a partnership.

      The housewarming? It’s coming soon!

      Thanks again Scout, I appreciate your comment and compliments. Fred

  9. hey fred
    from what I’ve read of your blog, it’s been a great deal of work, but what really comes thru is all the care and personal touches you two have put into your place. be proud. d

    • Hi Dee,

      An old friend in Colorado, also in construction, had a saying, “There are a thousand ways to do it wrong, but only one way to do it right!” So I’ve tried to put this saying into action. Yes, it has been a lot of work and as an artist I hope that my work has separated our house from the crowd. Thanks for you comment, Dee. Fred

  10. Over the last several years that I have followed your blog, I have gotten a lot of ideas from your creativity. I have tremendously enjoyed each post and the progress that you have made with the limited amount of help has just blown me away. I hope that even after the house is “complete” that you will continue to post and help those of us who followed with eagerness to keep up with your lives. I appreciate the extra efforts that you and Cynthia have made to document all the efforts and progress…. Thanks

    • Hi Don,
      Thanks very much! I’m happy that you got some ideas from me and I enjoy sharing them. The amount of work — yes, it has been a marathon. Enter me in any Iron Man event now and I’ll at least finish! As to the future, who knows. But this probably won’t be the last that you hear from me. Thanks again Don, it has been a pleasure. Fred

  11. I came to your blog when I was looking info about container home footings and got hooked.

    There is still a lot of information to go through but I just wanted to thank you for the information you shared. You just saved me a ton of time and money.

    I’m starting my container home build, much smaller then yours (just 5 40′ containers) and I’m scared to death of failing this, but I got a lot of encouragement from you guys, that… I’m less scared now…lol.

    I have no idea how it will turn out, I just hope to be able to finish it and provide a good solid home for all my kids.

    • Hi Filipe,

      Wow, I’m happy that I was able to give you some help and also to moderate the fear level. Think things through, make a plan, then give it a go. At least we can’t burn our containers down if we make a mistake! Most of all, be creative and have fun. Good luck with your build. Fred

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