Rain Doubt

Since my last post, we have had a couple nice days, but mostly it has been the wrath and fury of the end of the Panamanian rainy season. Today we are rained out, hunkering down in the house with the windows closed for the first time in maybe six months, keenly aware that the cat box needs attention. Although it has been raining steadily for almost 24 hours, it’s the wind, mostly, that affects us, and it feels like a New England Nor’easter only without the cold. But the transition to the summer season is in the air; more days of sun with the accompanying breezes and wind that serve to send the mosquitoes and no-see-ums a-scurrying are on their way. Soon, we will be wishing for rain. Just a little rain.

In those couple of nice days, we have made progress on the fence. The foundation is all in, the M2 Styrofoam panels that serve as a short wall are in place, and we have fabricated about 80, four-foot u-shaped metal mesh pieces to go over the top of the M2 to form reinforcement for the repello (stucco). We are also about half way around the wall with the repello.

The metal mesh u-shapes deserve special mention. The nice folks at Hopsa where we purchased the M2 panels have quality preformed pieces, but our walls are thicker than normal, and the 6-inch pieces would be a special order and would approach $350. Our project is just a one-foot high wall, not a three-story building; I don’t think our application deserves the expenditure.

So I went into town and bought a 100-foot roll of galvanized 1-inch by 1-inch metal mesh/screening. $50. Just starting to unwrap the roll, I got that nagging, this is crap feeling in my stomach that an old guy gets who’s experience in construction materials goes back to the ’60s. Not much thicker than bread wrapper twist ties and already rusting, Armando and I decided that using this crap was a fools errand. We could double or triple it, but then we would only have numerous layers of crap. I’d like this fence to last thirty years, not one. I returned the roll. Returns are always difficult, and I waited as the clerk examined the ends of the wires to see if they had been recently cut. Aha — rusted ends not cut. Un-rusted ends cut. But maybe the ends rusted in the 15 minutes it took to drive back to town?

We had about 60-feet of the official Hopsa M2 u-shapes on hand so at the end of the day we put these in place as far as they would go. The next day Armando could apply the repello and do a few other odds and ends, and I would go to Panama City to shop for some real mesh, something that would last more than the time it would take to unload it from the truck.

The search, along with some other errands, was the usual Panama City experience, going back and forth across the city in search of the desired wire mesh. Hopsa? No hay (pronounced No eye — there isn’t any). DoIt? Cheap crap, yes, but quality; No hay. Novey? No hay. Cochez? No hay. Finally, at about 4:45 and well into the rush hour, I found one lonely roll at Comsa on Transistmica. This roll was in the way far back corner of the wire mesh storeroom and had an inch of dust on it. Under the dust it was still gleaming, much like the hood ornament of a 1951 Chrysler Windsor Deluxe. (I had two of them. The cars, that is, not just the hood ornaments. One was to drive, the other was for parts.) The roll of mesh ($120) was probably an orphan, been there, lonely in the corner, shedding a tear, from many years ago when quality products were made in the USA; the tears not even beginning to rust the thick galvanized coating. But now most metal products come from China, etc., their galvanized coating so thin that they might just not bother to apply it next year. I don’t usually like to rant on negatively, but my life of working with building materials has gone from joy to frustrated disgust over the the last 45 years or so. Maybe that is why I like the idea of building with shipping containers so much; they are built like Sherman tanks because they have to endure so much abuse both on and off the high seas.

Yesterday was a long day. Today is Mothers’ Day here in Panama, and the guys were hoping to get an extra dollar or two. We mixed and spread several big batches of repello, and as the rain got heavier toward 4:00 and we got colder and colder (a windy 68 is cold!), all hands were slinging mud as fast as they could. We got the last of the repello covered with the empty cement sacks, got the tools cleaned, and got home just as the sky opened for real.

The weather forecast calls for clearing in two days on Friday (I doubt it), so maybe we can spread the rest of the repello on Friday. You know what that means, don’t you? That means that maybe Saturday we can start hanging the chain link fencing on the posts. Then it is just a few odds and ends before we start digging the foundation holes for the twenty support columns for the house!!!

Here are some photos of recent progress:

M2 panels are all cut into place.

One of our neighborhood eagles. This is the female.

First coat of repello going on. The guys enjoy a soda at the far end of the wall. So, Fred, why the three tall posts? These are for the electric service cable going to the carport.

Here are some of the 80 u-caps that we bent from the wire mesh.

Armando afixes the u-caps, Aaron and Hernan follow with repello. Later, when the chain link is hung, we will apply another layer of repello; it will cement the fencing to the wall below.

See you later.

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