Front Entrance Tile DONE ~ Plus ~ Master Bath Window Underway

After a grueling ten-day marathon, one of the last big jobs, the steps at the front entry, are DONE! I know I’ve posted a bunch — probably too many — photos of the job, but here are a few more of the steps all done. I think it adds a gracious, welcoming formality to the front of the house:

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View from the front door.

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View from coming out of the garage walkway.

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View from the driveway.

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View from the point of the triangle-ish landing.

And here is a photo of the front of the house at dusk:

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Our next task is to pour a black concrete bench in the master bathroom shower area and then to lay glass blocks above the bench. We’ve made good progress in just two days. The bench is poured and five of the eight rows of glass blocks are laid.

Using a combination of the big angle grinder and the reciprocating saw, I started cutting the hole for the glass blocks:

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Here is my progress from inside the house:

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For nighttime security reasons, I only cut a small part of the opening the first day. I welded rebar in place for the concrete pour:

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And finished building the form work:

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Next, Hanibal, Francisco, and I poured the tinted-concrete bench. We mixed the concrete very dry so that the colorant wouldn’t wash out as water raised to the surface of the concrete. Also, a drier concrete mix is stronger than a wet mix when it cures.

Hanibal and I worked the concrete into all the corners and under the rebar. The top of the concrete is pitched in two directions — outside the house it tilts down to form a window sill. Inside the house it tilts to drain shower water off of the bench. To make uniform slants, we used small blocks to set the level of the concrete. You can see two of the blocks between Hanibal’s and my trowels. As we struck a level, we pulled the blocks and reset them as we worked along the bench:

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Here I find and remove a block:

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Hanibal removes one of the blocks toward the end of the bench:

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After a block is pulled, we fill the hole with concrete.

After a ten-minute wait, we floated and troweled the slab, working extra concrete into the voids left by the really-dry mix:

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We closed the window hole with a sheet of plywood and walked away for the day. The next day, we laid five courses of glass blocks:

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After spacing and leveling the critical first row, I left the guys to their work and I found something else to do.

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The guys fill the spaces between the blocks. By the way, for added strength of each row of blocks, we put a piece of quarter-inch rebar in the mortar bed.

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I photo-ambush Francisco from the roof.

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Francisco cleans the grout lines and polishes the glass.

I’d like to show you the window all done, but there are three more rows to lay. We left it like this over the weekend:

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While the guys laid the blocks, I tackled another project. At the end of the last dry season, I sealed the concrete roof with numerous coats of a penetrating polymer sealer. The rain was on us and I didn’t have time to apply the elastomeric top coating, mainly because I wanted to do a test patch over time to assure compatibility of the two products.

Here is the roof before the top coating. Note the small white test patch that has held up well over the rainy season:

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There was a small shrinkage crack between the main roof and the newer overhang that was letting water slowly drip down the side of the container. I filled it well with the polymer and applied an extra coat of top coat here.

With a roller and a paint brush, here is the roof two-and-a-half gallons of top coat later:

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I wish that I had more to show you, but 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.

 

 

Furniture! ~ Kitchen Lights ~ Plus, Of Course, More Tile

Okay. So not even one area of the house is completely done. But several areas are done enough to entertain some furniture, and we wanted some! For what is left to do, painting for example, I can simply move the furniture aside as I need to work in an area.

After almost five years, wouldn’t it be nice to have furniture?

Timing was good. Black Friday was upon us and we wanted to take advantage of at least 20% off on a bunch of items. So for the two Sundays before Black Friday, we went to the Conway store at Westland Mall, about an hour away. It fits our budget and spending a ton of money on excellent furniture is kind of goofey in this tough tropical environment. Good enough is good enough.

We found a helpful clerk, Briseida, who patiently worked with us for hours each Sunday. We would return home exhausted, having looked at each and every piece of furniture on the sales floor at least 42 times, trying to put the house together in our minds.

Then on Black Friday we made the final attack and placed our order. Somewhere along the way we discovered that although Briseida worked on commission, she wouldn’t receive her commission for sales on Black Friday. So we took a bit of cash, and I made a bow out of a piece of scrap wrapping paper that was on the floor. At the end of the transaction we presented the gift to Briseida; she was so happy that she was wiping away tears.

On the appointed day the day after the appointed day, the furniture arrived… at eight-o-clock at night, in the rain! There was only one driver, but luckily, Ramiro (our welder and night watchman while we were on vacation) stopped by to give us some bananas and oranges. He didn’t even wait to be asked but jumped right in to help unload the truck. An hour later we were up to the rafters in cardboard boxes full of furniture. Cynthia and I stayed up until midnight unpacking and assembling. Christmas came early.

We chose either leather or pleather (plastic-look-like-leather) because of the damp climate that we live in. Fabric would become musty-smelling in short order. In a closet, leather shoes, handbags, and belts will mold in a heartbeat. But out in the open, you at least stand a chance with the leather/pleather; we will regularly wipe it down with cheap vodka. Here are some photos of the furniture:

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We are still lacking spots of color which we plan to provide with pillows, decorator touches and plants. In about two weeks, the clay pots will be topped with glass rounds, thereby making end tables to put lamps on. The sofas were flat-packed with some assembly required.

Same area, straight on:

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For the back corner behind the left brown chair, we are considering a tall, red-trunked palm tree.

Remember the Mother-In-Law Tongues that we bought at the nursery? They make a good safety indicator at the landing; don’t step off here…

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We put a small fountain on the landing to the master bedroom. It has a few LED lights on top that make a good night light:

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Fifteen-year-old Bob Bob likes the new sofas:

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The dining room now has eight comfortable chairs. Now all we need is the glass table top, which will arrive in about two weeks:

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The green cast of the glass top will provide color balance for the red-ish table.

Here is an early-morning photo from the top of the stairs:

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Same shot, different exposure and populated by Cynthia and Bob Bob:

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The big, long, gray, container wall begs for a piece of art. I have an idea, stay tuned.

The bump-out in the kitchen created by opening the two container doors got two chairs and a carpet. The glass block window wall lets in a lot of light and is a nice place for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate on a cool tropical morning. We plan to paint the walls gray and still need to get a small table for between the chairs:

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At the other end of the kitchen we picked up a new chair, a carpet, and a thing to hang on the wall. We bought the reclining love seat at Conway a year ago.

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A ninth-time rerun of CSI Miami plays on the TV. I prefer reruns of Law And Order with Lennie — “Should-a-took the train.” is my favorite Lennie line.

Now, I have to address the parrot piece hanging on the wall. But is it art? If you consider the velvet Elvis style art, then at one-step-up from that, we certainly have a piece of art hanging on our wall. The wall space was begging for some color, and now it has it.

At closer inspection, one can see how the piece of “art” was created; paint-by-number. Oops!

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The painting is colorful, it fit our budget, and is entertaining. To ponder over it as art, well… no. We consider it a poster at best.

After all that unpacking, plus including floor tile packaging and old cement bags, I took a trip to the recycling center in town:

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I finally figured out how I was going to hang Cynthia’s glass lamp shades. I bought some parts and spent the better part of a day assembling, wiring, and hanging the lamps. I think that they look great! Here are the three lamps over the kitchen sink/eating counter; there are eight of these in the kitchen:

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Galvanized pipe nipples and fittings go with our Natural – Industrial – Bling decorating scheme.

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Downward-facing LED bulbs throw just the right amount of light downward and red glow upward. Very warm when lighted.

In other news, we have finished the tile on the roof deck over the kitchen. In the next photo, Francisco still has a bit more grout to put in plus move the plants into place:

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Meanwhile, at the other end of the floor, Hanibal jokingly declares his half “Listo (done).”

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Here is the completed roof deck:

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Inside the house, we completed the steps to the second bedroom:

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The grout is still damp — the color will lighten and blend in better when it dries.

Our next large tile job is the front entrance steps. First, because the concrete was quite smooth, Armando used the twenty-five-pound chisel-bar to pick divots in the concrete so that the mortar will more thoroughly bond to the concrete. This is hard work. He also washed the concrete with bleach to kill the mold that was growing on the steps:

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We started laying tiles after lunch and got this far the first day:

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These are the same tiles that we used on the wall in the living room. It is difficult to see what is going on here, but be patient…

As we continued working, it was time to turn the 22.5-degree corner:

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After we laid all the tile at the top landing, it was time to install the border stripe at the edge of the step. Hanibal set the tiles and I cut boards to support the front edge of the border strip. This strip will mark the edge of the step for a safety indicator at night or when the steps are wet. By the way, I had to cut all the border strips from large, square tiles:

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Here the border is mortared into place:

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The next day, we removed the sticks and filled the underside with mortar. I cut riser tiles and Hanibal mortared them into place:

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You can see the little spacers that support the riser tile in the correct position. Grout on an angle will finish the edge of the step.

Next, using a jig that I made (like the one for the landings to the bedrooms), Hanibal, Francisco, and I laid a bed of mortar to support the tiles on that step.

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Another view of the jig:

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This jig assures that each step will be the same height and will slope slightly downward to shed water. The blue glue is a bonding agent.

Here is what the turn on the landing looks like; we really love it, quite formal:

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At the end of the landing by the driveway is another angle turn. Sweet:

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This area still needs to be grouted.

Here is where we are at the end of day four (actually we have the whole step mortared, but we had to cover up quick with tarps for a surprise two-hour downpour):

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Meanwhile, Cynthia has some strange Cheshire Cat shoe thing going on:

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And finally, you may have noticed the naked (fake) Christmas tree in some of the above photos. We decided to decorate it. But for a week now, Cynthia has had a lot of angst about it all. Family baggage if you will. She said decorating and de-decorating the tree was always a tense and stressful event in her life. We talked about it several times during the week. So, what to do with a fake Christmas tree and a large box of musty-smelling decorations? Donate the whole mess!

With a final goodbye, I loaded the stuff into the pickup and drove down to town. I went to the police station and asked if they had a tree (many of the officers originate from other areas of Panama and probably won’t be home for Christmas) for the station. “No señor,” was the response. “Would you like one,” I asked? “¡Si señor!” So I unloaded the tree and watched as three officers looked through the box of goodies. I said that I would return tomorrow for a photo of them in front of the tree. They thanked me all around and took down our name for the log book. Funny, they didn’t ask our “address” because they all knew where we live. (“Address” is in quotes because there aren’t any in Panama.) Cynthia and I returned to the station today to take a photo:

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Protecting and serving, here is part of our local police force posing in front of their new tree. The men referred to the woman as La Jefa (the boss) and accorded her respect.

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

BIG TILE FLOOR DONE!

With the exception of a couple finishing details, the living room floor is DONE! We are just so wildly excited; this place is now a house for sure!

In the last week-and-a-half, tile by tile, Hanibal worked his way across the entry/living/dining room floor. My job as usual was to cut all the perimeter tiles. Here we work around the steps to the master bedroom:

P1010907While we were in the neighborhood, we decided to set the tiles for this set of steps, too. In the next photo Hanibal places mortar and I stand squat ready with a jig that I made to determine the height of the mortar on the steps:

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The next photo is a closer look at the jig — I measured the total height of the staircase and then divided by three (the number of risers), equaling even steps of four-and-three-quarters-inches. To that number, I added the thickness of the tile (five-sixteenths-of-an-inch) to yield a jig height of five-and-one-sixteenth-inch. In the shop, I cobbled together a few boards, making this:

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The jig rides on the tiles already in place on the step above the one being worked on, thereby setting the height of the mortar to set the tiles on.

We decided to tile the steps with some left over tile from the bathroom floors. The different style of tile sends a safety warning to a person walking nearby that says, “pay attention, something is different here.” Here is the end of one of the steps where I cut the tiles to fit against the rock wall:

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We still need to install tile on the risers and grout the staircase.

Finally, with the exception of a few finishing touches, the floor was done. Here it is looking from the living room toward the front door. The little set of stairs at the far end goes to the second bedroom:

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We planted some Mother-In-Law Tongues in concrete pots on the landing.

And looking from the front door into the living room:

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The next photo looks from the master bedroom landing into the living room:

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We went shopping on Black Friday and got some good sales on some big pots for the living room.

You may have noticed in the above pictures that the long container wall, the one with the long bench, is no longer white. Hanibal didn’t need me for a day, so I painted the wall two coats of a warm-grey satin latex. I’ve found that a brush works just fine to paint the container walls:

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Once I got two coats of paint on the wall, both Cynthia and I commented on how tranquil the room had become. We think that this tranquility will make a great backdrop for a few vibrant punches of color:

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One of those punches of color will be the dining room table. One day I had a chance to roll five coats of “Red Hot Mama” polyurethane (fifteen-minute drying time) paint onto the table that Ramiro and I made some months ago. The name of the color is written on the can in English — I translated it for the guys and they couldn’t stop laughing:

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A thick slab of glass will top the table. After painting the inside corners with a brush, I found that a small foam roller applies a nice smooth finish. When you look at the front windows you’ll notice some squiggly lines. Cynthia put those up with a yellow highlighter so the birds wouldn’t try to fly into the windows. Apparently the birds see the lines”fluoresce” and we’ve avoided many head-on collisions.

With the big floor done, it was time to move upstairs to tile the roof deck floor. We laid one long row first; Hanibal calls this row El Maestro (the teacher):

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Cynthia inspects the first row. As we near the outside edge, we’ll move the plants inboard so that we can finish tiling the floor. A tarp protects the recently-laid end tiles from an imminent afternoon rain.

On the second day, Hanibal continued laying tile and I spent most of the day marking and cutting the border tiles. I am happy to announce that I have officially cut THE VERY LAST TILE that abuts the intricate innies and outies of the container walls. Glad to have that done!

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With so much mortar and tile to carry up to the roof, Hanibal brought his son-in-law, Francisco, to be his helper. Francisco had to do double duty with the edge tiles — after bringing them up to the roof, I marked them, he carried them back down to the saw, I cut them, and he carried them back upstairs. You really don’t want to carry more than five of these tiles at a time as they are thick and heavy. Here is Francisco ready to hand a tile to Hanibal:

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When a new guy comes to work for us, I take his picture and send him home with a copy. The next day they always come back smiling, saying that their family responded, “Guapo!” (pronounced wappo), or “handsome.” This was the photo I gave him.

As of today, the roof deck looks like this:

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The roof deck pitches about a quarter-inch-per-foot toward the outside to shed rain. Armando’s job this Saturday was to grout the floor, making a space ready to move the plants to.

The rainy season is going out with a bang — we’ve had some pretty good downpours in the afternoons and also in the hours just before dawn. Here is one at two in the afternoon — we are really happy with the water management on the property:

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As wet as it looks, we’ve also had some lovely sunny days. The rainy season will end around December 15th.

Once the roof deck is done, the last big tile job is the front steps. We’ll probably get started on that project sometime this week. Can’t wait.

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

 

Flush With Pride & Lofty Ambitions

It has only been a week since my last post, so don’t expect much. But to the women out there who have been rooting for an in-house toilet, you know who you are, root no more. REJOICE!

I am very excited to announce that I was able to find a couple of hours and have installed the toilet in the half-bath off the kitchen/under the stairs. It flushes and everything! I also installed a grab bar for Cynthia, although she is needing it less and less; today she climbed the stairs to the loft, without me and without her cane (she is more- and more-frequently forgetting where she left it). Here is a photo of the dual-stage flusher:

Not very colorful at this point. Maybe we will have to dye the TP pink or something.

Hanibal, his brother Bolivar, and I put in a full five-day week working tile. We got most of the master bedroom floor tiled. Today I cut perimeter tile for the outside porch area; Hanibal will install them next week:

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We are working our way out of the bedroom and into the hallway and the landing in the living room. Lots and lots of complex cuts to make on the tile:

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The little pieces of blue tape mean, “Don’t step on this freshly-set tile.”

But wait, there’s more. While I cut the perimeter tiles, the guys moved upstairs into the loft. They laid two of the six rows of tile there, and I joined them to begin cutting the forty-feet of complex-cut edge tile. We have a lot of stuff stored in the loft, so we will complete one side, then I’ll move the junk to work the other side:

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Jabo always thinks that it is his picture that I am taking. I don’t have the heart to tell him that it isn’t always the case. You can see the cut edge tiles standing against the wall. I put yet another one-hundred-dollar blade on the saw before starting these tiles. 

On our next work day, I’ll stay in the loft cutting tiles and the guys will pour the concrete floor in the master bath shower area, sloping the concrete toward the drain.

On most Saturday mornings there are two or three people in front of Central Comercial (the first supermarket as you drive into town), selling home grown veges and plants. A very, very mini farmers’ market if you will. I like to buy from them if they have anything we can use, although sometimes they are kind of pushy, chasing me down inside the store or coming to the car window, not giving up even if I am on the phone. Determined entrepreneurs. Today I picked up some fresh spinach and a pretty bromeliad for eight-bucks.

Armando only worked a couple days this week because he had two really sick kids at home. But he did grout some of the tile and planted the bromeliad in the dead tree in our front garden:

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We’re not sure what next week will bring work-wise as it is November, the wettest month of the year and a month chock-a-block filled with holidays, including two or three independence days.

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

 

More Tile

We wrap up the month of August with more tile done and yet more to go. But we are very pleased with the progress. The master bathroom is our current focus; there is progress but it is still a mess. Here is a photo of the master bathroom — on the left, Armando is working on a rock wall. He can run about four rows a day before the wall becomes unstable from the weight and the wet mortar. On the right, Hanibal has just finished a glass block wall between the shower and the toilet. We all joked that Armando got paid ten-cents per rock (not true). P1010564-001Hanibal and I tiled the shower valve wall in the shower. He and I worked together to plan where the tiles would go and then strategically located the shower valve so that all cuts in the tiles would happen at the edge of the tiles — no tiles were damaged in the making of this wall: P1010562-001The tile floor and wall in the laundry room are done and I repainted the walls a putty gray. All that is left in this room is baseboard and connecting the sink and some wiring:

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The paint around the window shows lavender on my monitor but it is truly putty gray.

Cynthia and I spent the better part of a day cleaning and organizing. It is always difficult to live in a construction zone. Here is the living room pretty much cleaned out; even the living room floor got vacuumed: P1010542 One big mess still exists — the pallets of tile in the carport. This area has become the dumping ground of everything that we didn’t know what to do with. Eventually though, the tile piles will dwindle to nothing: P1010553With the second bedroom tiled and mostly painted, it was time to paint the desk (one of the five white tables that Aramis and I built) and bring it into the bedroom. We had a piece of glass on hand. Here I have just completed the third coat of oil-based enamel: P1010540-001Here is the table/desk in the second bedroom, painted a deep chocolate brown: P1010569-001In the latest in our frog-in-a-bathroom photo series, Cynthia spotted this one on our toilet this morning: P1010550-001 P1010547

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Not a very clear photo — it was on the move — but I was intrigued by how the frog could keep its foot flat on the floor as it sped forward.

Lastly, my lunch one day:

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Egg salad in a tomato rose.

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.

Five Tables And A Waiting Game

A few weeks ago Ramiro and I fabricated five metal tables. All are a simple modified-Parsons table design. We used 2″x4″x1/8″ steel tubing, the same tubing that we used to fabricate the front door.

The largest table, 4’x9′, will be the dining room table, large enough to seat eight comfortably. It fits nicely in the dining room area. We also made a desk, plus three tables for behind a sofa and under two mirrors. All will be glass topped. I guess that it took us about four days to do all the cutting, welding, and grinding. We burned through ten-pounds of welding rods and used a lot of clamps to keep the angles right at 90 degrees:

Ramiro grinds the welds smooth.

Ramiro grinds the welds smooth.

To provide a place to mount leveling screws and to keep spiders out of the table legs, we welded a piece of one-quarter-inch flat stock onto the bottom of each leg.

But before welding the flat stock onto the legs, we drilled a one-half-inch hole in the center of each of the twenty flat stock pieces. Then we welded a seven-sixteenth-inch nut at each hole. When the tables are all painted, I can screw a bolt through each hole and into each nut to level the tables. Here Ramiro grinds another weld smooth:

P1010311Yesterday, I finally sprayed several coats of primer onto the tables. After the primer dries for a few weeks, I can sand the primer smooth and apply the final color. Here are the tables all primed:

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I took this dizzying photo from the loft.

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First I painted the tables upside down. Friend Jim came by at just the right time to help me turn the heavy tables right-side up for the rest of the painting. Jabo was of no use what-so-ever, but the paint fumes did make him somewhat goofy.

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I like this late afternoon composition.

For now, this project is in suspended animation, waiting for the final color and the slabs of one-half-inch thick glass.

In other news, Armando has nearly completed the rock work around the house. The back of the house looks much better now. In the next photo, Armando is working on the last column; this column is new — I plan to cut an eight-foot-square out of the wall where Armando is working and put in a window of glass blocks. The container needs support here. The glass block window will be in the shower in the master bathroom and will really light up the space and help bring the outside in:

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Really, I don’t pose Jabo in these photos. He is just my little shadow…

In the next photo, at the end of the clerestory wall, that blank triangle still needs paint and some trim to make that area look finished. But all in all, it is looking really good.

I didn’t want to go to the work and expense of rocking the wall at the right of the sliding doors in the living room, but Cynthia insisted that it would look great. I’m glad that she did as it gives the house a nice uniform texture. Armando did a wonderful job of keeping the courses of rocks level even though there is a pitch to the land. This morning is really overcast and I predict rain before the morning is over (we erected a tarp where Armando is working; seconds later the sky opened) :

P1010326-001I’ve also prime-painted the underside of the stairs to the loft and roof deck. I’m happy to have this little PITA job done as it was unpleasant with the spray gun in the confined spaces (the half-bath and the closet behind the pantry wall in the kitchen).

If you have noticed that I really haven’t done that much since my last post several weeks ago, you are right. All the hard work of putting up the living room ceiling and other large jobs has me plumb tuckered out. I’m taking a bit of a break.

Also, Cynthia has been in the States for a week now, seeing her cardiologist. Something is going on with her health so she is going through a bunch of tests. We’ll know more after her next appointment in about three weeks, but for now I can’t help but be concerned (to say the least), and all this concern diverts the steam out of my energy for work. While we play a waiting game, she is having a good time staying with her three cousins and an aunt and uncle.

So please understand if my blog is a bit thin for the next weeks. I’ll post as I can. After a bit more rest and relaxation I plan to return to the kitchen floor tile job.

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

I Thought The Day Would Never Come

I thought the day would never come when we had the house painted all the way around. But it did! With the exception of a couple small spaces and a bit of trim paint, the outside house painting is DONE. Even the trim paint around the roof line makes a huge difference as you can see in the next two panorama photos:

Before:

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Of course the outside of the house isn’t totally done. I still need to tile the front steps.

After:

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I spray the body of the house and Ramiro brush paints the green trim. We painted the wall under the carport:

We still need to paint the door hardware the dark green trim color.

Ramiro still needs to paint the door hardware the dark green trim color and I need to paint the triangle above the window. The chair is for the night watchman (Jabo). He feels just that much more human when he sits in it.

Container #4 is all painted:

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When I took this picture this morning the sky was gray gray gray and ready to rain. It didn’t rain, but it will soon…

Here is a panorama photo of the back of the house.

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Armando still needs to rock the foundation under the screened bump out on the master bedroom.

Some time ago we purchased an electric opener for the front gate. I decided to take a day and install it so that Cynthia and I wouldn’t have to flip a coin to see who would open the gate during a downpour. Poncho helped me dig the two-foot-deep hole and pour the concrete. The gate works great:

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Now that I have electricity to the front gate, Cynthia and I can decide on light fixtures for outside on the columns.

Armando and Poncho are still rocking the house. In the next photo they are up to the bottom of the living room doors. They still have to rock the small area to the left of the doors and the large wall area to the right of the doors. Next week Ramiro will tackle the window trim paint and the roof rake trim as well:

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I have to remember to punch a hole in the wall (to the right of the living room doors) for a vent for the half bathroom under the stairs. Please remind me before Armando gets all the way to the top of the wall…

One day I went to Armando’s house early in the morning. He had some ground cover plants and a couple hundred cintia plants that we could use to border the new path around the house. We drove back with the truck loaded:

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We planted the ground cover plants (foreground) in the area over the septic drainage field. The roots won’t go too deep.

Armando and Poncho spread some new black soil and divided and planted the cintias at one side of the path. Later we’ll get a bunch of purple flowers similar to the cintias and plant them between the rows of cintias. And so begins the disappearance of the grass in the back yard:

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Even though the weather is still dry, we had to move the plants from Armando’s house because he doesn’t have enough water to keep the plants alive. Who knew that the tropics could be so dry? But so far in this El Nino year our well is producing very well and we have plenty of water to keep the plants moist.

I gave the young Ballerina (Ramiro’s local, unofficial name for the tree) tree a good drink of water a few days ago and the flowers popped:

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And this Roble (Oak) tree next door is all in bloom against a threatening sky to the east:

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A few more of our exotic hibiscus (papos) collection have flowered:

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Cynthia wants me to let you know that not everything is inexpensive here in Panama. Here are $5.50 worth of tomatillos. She makes a killer green salsa to pour over black bean enchiladas:

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That’s all for now. 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.