New Plant Bonanza Plus Yet More Tile

With just a month or so of the rainy season remaining, Cynthia and I decided that we should get some more plants in the ground so that they can get a good start before everything goes dry.

So Friday morning, after I got Hanibal and Bolivar started on another tile floor, Cyn and I went to a nursery in town. There are other places that we like to buy plants too, but for quality and sheer volume, Sr. Chico at Plantas del Valle was our choice this time.

It sure is nice to have enough Spanish under our belts to be able to easily describe what we were looking for — we talked about sun vs. shade, drought tolerance, colors, the heights of the plants, and how many of each. A worker took us into the yard to confirm our choices. Cynthia and her new hip navigated the muddy paths really well.

The nursery really is quite large. Here are some photos:

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We purchased 80 of these. The women are removing any dead leaves for us.

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Here the workers are choosing and cleaning 16 nice ferns.

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An hour later their truck was loaded for delivery.

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Here is our bounty, unloaded in our driveway turnaround:

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Eighty of the variegated plants in the foreground, sixteen ferns, three tall red-trunked palms, six grasses, and five mother-in-law tongues.

Armando arrived Saturday, saw the plants, and said, “I guess I know what I am going to be doing today!” He made great progress, not finishing only because a pounding rain that arrived at noon:

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Armando is planting the new variegated plants between the two rows of green plants. In time, they will all fill out and provide a colorful border along the garden path.

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View from the window at the top of the stairs to the loft and roof deck.

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Two of the three new red-trunked palms are placed at the end of the container. They still need to be moved around to find the right spot.

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The new grasses will hide the concertina wire.

The north side of container #4 is a good place for the sixteen new ferns:

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In tile news, in the loft, I cut the edge tiles, ready for Hanibal to mud them into place:P1010885-001

Here is the loft, now all done except for the grout on half the floor:

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I am in the process of installing a sink at the far end of the loft, by the door to the roof deck.

This is the landing at the top of the stairs, with the roof deck through the door:

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Earlier I mentioned that I got Hanibal and Bolivar started on the next floor — and it is a big one! It seems surreal that we are FINALLY getting to this floor — the entry, dining room, and living room. We’ll be a week or two on this monster:

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When Cyn and I returned with the plants, Hanibal and Bolivar had laid out a T-shape of tiles, using only the tiles and a framing square to determine a right angle. Personally, I wouldn’t have done it this way because if you are even a little bit out of square, the effect of compounding errors is greatly magnified when you get to the other end of the line of tiles. I find it better to lay row after row.

I didn’t want to second guess Hanibal, but the mortar was still wet, the tiles not yet set firmly in place. So I risked insulting him and interjected myself into the process to make sure the layout was square.

The best way to determine square in a large area is to use a 3-4-5 right-angle triangle. Units of measure for the 3-4-5 can be inches, feet, meters, etc. I used feet.

To use the triangle, go three-feet in one direction, then four-feet in the other direction, then the hypotenuse must be five-feet.

For an even larger area, you can multiply each number by two or three or more to be even more accurate. In this case, I multiplied each number by three. So my measurements looked like this on the floor:  P1010882-001

I’m glad I checked because the layout was about three-eights of an inch out of square in nine-feet. Using a rubber mallet, we tapped the tiles to their new location where they met up with the correct points of reference. Now we won’t have to trim tiles to get them to fit or, conversely, have overly-wide grout lines; it could have been ugly.

One day after the guys left, I installed an LED strip of lights under the long bench in the living room. The lights come on a spool; you just unroll them, peel back the paper to expose the sticky-tape, stick ’em up, plug ’em in, and you are done. These lights came with a dimmer that I mounted under the bench. Here is a night-time photo:

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In the pretty picture department, I took this photo at the nursery:

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And lastly, here is lunch that Cyn made for me one day:

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Egg salad, real chemical-free salami, peas, tomato, and grated carrot. Thanks Cyn.

We’ll be working on the big floor for a while. See you next time. Thanks for stopping by.

Turnaround

First, I want to post a couple progress photos. The first one is the last banner photo that I had at the top of this site that I took on April 13th:

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And here is the photo that I took today, July 20th:

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Some difference with everything greened up and that eyesore sand and gravel pile gone!

July is Cynthia and my favorite month here in Panama. Technically it is the rainy season, but there is usually a dry period in July. And there aren’t many tourists and there isn’t a lot of smoke in the air. To take advantage of the lack of rain, Armando and I have been concentrating on the driveway turnaround. This area hasn’t been seen for several years as we have staged piles of sand and gravel here. But now, there aren’t many more jobs requiring big concrete, so we were able to scrape away and find the driveway below.

After clearing the area, we laid a six-inch drainage pipe across the turnaround area. Left as is, the car would crush the pipe in short order. To support the pipe, on either side of the pipe we poured a foundation and then laid a row of concrete blocks. Finally, we poured a slab above the pipe and blocks. Like this:

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Soon we’ll buy some more four-inch rocks so that Armando can rock the edging as he did on the other side of the driveway.

Armando spent a day leveling the area. We had been using the area as a dumping ground for extra concrete and mortar, so there was a bit of pickaxe and sledge hammer work to do.

Soon I’ll buy some crushed gravel to give the driveway a top coat. But we have to wait at least a month before driving over the concrete that protects the pipe. Here are other views of the turnaround:

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In other news, I spent a day installing another section of the kitchen ceiling. This section is a couple of inches lower than the other sections due to the pipes that come down from the sink in the loft. The lower ceiling creates a cozy nook for the TV that will be mounted on the wall:

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I still need to trim an edge or two and install a pop-rivet or two.

I also painted the beams white  (I used a four-inch foam roller to get a smooth finish) and installed four LED mini can lights in the four beams. These lights will light the aisle in front of the sliding pantry doors:

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One rainy day Armando and I poured the black concrete that we formed and described in my previous post. Here are two of the five pours:

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This is the eighteen-foot-long bench in the living/dining room, useful for overflow seating for parties. Colorful cushions will make for warmer seating; even in the tropics the concrete feels cold on one’s backside!

This is the sink counter for the half-bath off the kitchen and under the stairs:

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The back garden looks good:

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For a year now, Armando has been promising that the hydrangeas will bloom…

There are a couple localized riots of purple:

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And last but not least, lunch:

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My tasty salad (Cyn wouldn’t be caught dead with the cheese) of avocado, carrot, zucchini, celery, and red bell pepper, dressed with herbs, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, complimented by an aged, hard goat cheese.

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

Another Garden

Today, Cynthia, Armando, and I went to visit friends who needed to thin some of the plants from their large gardens. Like being at a nice plant nursery, there was a lot of variety, and the selection included plants other than those that we put in the front garden. We lumbered out of there with a pickup truck full of greenery. Thank you very much C&C for your generosity!

Here are some photos of the new garden. At this point the plants look a bit dazed and confused, but with some good hose watering and the rainy afternoons, they should rebound and fill the space in no time. The garden hose on the ground marks the boundary of the new garden. Here, Armando works fast and furious (shouldn’t it be fastly and furiously?) against the rapidly advancing thunderstorm. As soon as the rain started, I pulled Armando inside for lunch; seven people have been killed by lightening in the recent past:

In the foreground, Cynthia is preparing three new hanging pots of asparagus ferns. Thin and spindly now, they should fill out in a few months.

A brief downpour halts work on the garden, but almost everything is planted:

The once lonely palm in the middle of the garden now has a lot of new neighbors. Most of the new plants are green or variegated without a lot of flowers, but one new plant is the “torch”; it has a large red flower that you can see at the right side of the next photo:

We will get a few yards of rock and Armando will make a border around the garden just as he did for the garden at the front of the property.

We also managed to get some nice ferns planted in the new planter at the east side of the carport. A good addition we think; these ferns won’t grow much higher, leaving the bamboo-in-pots to fill the upper space:

The ferns will spill over the wall:

Armando has taken a lot of time off in the last week or two for family business; this is the time of the year for Semana del Campesinos, a week-long event where schoolchildren learn about Panamanian Folkloric culture. The week ends with a parade with ox-drawn carts loaded with flowers and youngsters wearing traditional Panamanian dress. Here is a photo of a young brother and sister:

The Interior of Panama is accordion country. If you can’t stand accordion, don’t turn on the radio here!

Patiently waiting:

In addition to time off, Armando also has had to cut the grass at our rental house and at our new house, burning up at least a week of time. But here and there, he has been able to chip away at laying blocks for our hydroponic greenhouse:

That’s all for now. I’m bending under pressure to write my next post, so more soon…