The Big Roof ~ Part Two

Monday I moved the welder back onto the top of container #1. Although the welder is really heavy, I pretty much lifted it with just one finger:

Once the welder was on the roof, I wanted to move it to the other side of the wall. How? Cut the doorway between the roof deck and the loft, of course. I felt my anxiety level rise because if I spent time cutting the doorway, I wasn’t working on the big roof. And if I wasn’t working on the roof, I was losing the race against the rain.

But as I have said elsewhere in this blog, I don’t run the job, the job runs the job. It takes the time it takes; you have to do things in the order that makes sense. Otherwise, you will work a lot harder to accomplish the same results.

Here is the doorway opening completed:


I made a video of me cutting part of the doorway. Notice how I let the heavy angle grinder and gravity do the work. You may also notice that I take breaks to gasp for air; I hold my breath as I cut. I would wear a mask, but I am allergic to latex:

Ever wonder what a latex respirator allergy looks like? Check this awkward mug shot of me taken about six years ago:


Yes, it is painful and burns like a bad sunburn. Itches like crazy too. My eyes are watering. It took a good three or four days to go away.

Now back to the roof… Um, not yet. First I needed to weld more of the big wall to the containers below; when I raised the wall I had only tacked it at the floor in a few places. That took about a day of welding on my hands and knees. This was a hot job with the sun beating down and the heat from the metal roof reflecting up at me.

Finally it was on to the roof. Armando and I lifted the three beams that I had previously welded together, onto the roof. Armando went back to cleaning the drainage ditches, and one by one I nudged two of the beams into place, each ten-feet from the previous one. I temporarily affixed them with clamps and ratchet-straps. But before I welded the beam to the 2×2 frames under the beams, I had to make the wall plumb. I used a tow strap and a come-along to ratchet the wall to be perfectly vertical. The next photo is a panorama composite; the beams really aren’t curved. But you can see the first of the three up in the air, as well as the come-along and the yellow tow strap connected all the way over to container #3:

Panorama -- Roof Rafters

When I was happy with the plumb of the wall, I spent an hour or two welding the ends of the beams to the supports below. I paid quite a bit of attention to this task. I would look darn silly if a strong wind sent the roof flying; this is a big roof and the lift on it will be substantial. Here is how it looks with the front wall done and the two new beams in place:


I find it hard to believe, but plumbing the wall and affixing the two beams took an entire day. Much of the time was eaten up playing the Up-The-Ladder-Down-The-Ladder game. There went Wednesday!

Thursday was taken up with other business. Friday morning I noticed that the two new beams were bouncing and swaying in the wind. Here is a video of how much a 40-foot, unsupported double carriola bounces. The birds in the nearby trees are my constant companions:

I decided that this was the appropriate time to install a previously-planned-for column, at the edge of the loft, for each of the two beams. Again I paid a lot of attention to detail making good thick welds, difficult to do without burning holes in the thin metal carriolas. For each weld, I welded for a while, then ground the weld with the angle grinder to make sure the weld was sound, then welded and ground some more. I’m not a stress engineer, but I am sure that thin, wimpy welds wouldn’t stand the test of time; metal fatigue, generated by any roof flexing in the wind, would tear inferior joints apart. These welds took a lot of time. Here are the two columns in place:


That’s where the roof stands as of Saturday afternoon. Next week I’ll be welding the roof rafters in place.

In other news, Armando is nearly done cleaning the drainage ditches (cunetas [coo-net-ahs])We are adding one new ditch; when it rains, all the water has to drain from the hills behind us, past our lot, flow under the road, and work its way to the main road where it goes under the road and starts a new river.

One of the several bottlenecks is where the water crosses the dirt road in front of our house; the water backs up into our yard. Our neighbor to the east and I replaced the twelve-inch under-the-road drainage pipes at our adjoining lot line with eighteen-inch pipes; better, but the water still backs up. Much of the water comes through the lot to the west of us, so Armando and I decided it would be a good idea to put another under-the-road drainage pipe at our west lot line. Here’s Armando hard at it:


Photo taken from the roof deck on container #1. By the way, that square of concrete is the top of our well.

Mango season has started. Down at the lower elevations, the mangoes are already in. These are big mangoes and cost a dollar and a half to two dollars if you buy them at the market. Better prices can be had by buying from small roadside stands. Mangoes at our elevation of about 2,200 feet (670 meters) will be ready closer to June. Here is one of the super-sweet beauties I bought the other day. Made a great breakfast:


These mangoes are big. How big? So big that the mango can’t fit through the mango slicer!


One mango fills a soup bowl. Ripe, sweet, and juicy. Delicious!

That’s all for now, more next week.

Easy Stairs And A Splendid Walkway

On and off for about two months when it rained (did I mention that it rained?) and outside work was not fun, Armando and I have worked under the carport roof. We built a walkway in front of the containers and my shop; this walkway will eventually extend around, at the same level, to the front door. We also built a ramp and a few long steps up to my shop.

Now finally, it is all done. I’ve posted a few of the following photos earlier, but here is the project presented all in one post:

I like easy steps. Easy to walk up or down, that is. Most steps are six-and-a-half to eight inches high, but for this application I wanted the steps long and low. I divided the overall elevation gain by four-and-a-half inches and came up with an even four steps. Here we are digging a foundation for each step, pouring concrete, and then laying a row of blocks to hold the fill dirt in place:

Here is the walkway formed and the three steps roughed in place:

We put rebar and remesh in place:

And finally poured all the walkway concrete in one fell swoop:

Here is the slab all poured:

Next we poured a ramp. You never know, plus the ramp will be helpful when it comes time to move the welder or the wheelbarrow when we pour the concrete floors in the house (soon, I promise!):

The first step is also complete in this photo.

Then, one at a time starting at the top, we formed and poured each step. Here is the top step all poured and troweled:

Lastly we cleared all the construction debris away from the area and brought in some crushed gravel to keep us from walking in mud. We left room for future concrete mixing. Here are four photos of the finished project:

You can see the passageway to Cyn’s studio, and sharp eyes will see that I have most of the outside bathroom completed.

Even though it is just a carport, the space feels tranquil and gracious. We will spend a lot of time sitting here as we transition this once jungle lot to our new home.

In other news, Cynthia is all relocated into her new studio. Here she is making a glass bead at her torch:

Hot glass. C.O.N.C.E.N.T.R.A.T.I.O.N. Do not disturb!

Other projects are in the pipe, but that’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

It Was A Matter Of Aesthetics

Guest Blog Entry from Cynthia:

Funny how ideas come to fruition…they emerge and evolve, get discussed and evolve, get designed and evolve. And all because Fred and I disagreed on one little, simple idea about wanting to grow our own organic vegetables.

Growing our own vegetables is a really good idea. Panama is a wonderful place to live, but the biggest disappointment, our biggest disappointment really, is food related. The selection of quality produce in our area is limited, and if you don’t shop on the days that the stands obtain their deliveries, well, the selection is really quite limited. That’s because the smart shoppers shop on the delivery days, and because the range of produce that most growers grow is not vast or as varied as we’re accustomed to having. You can reliably get cabbage, and chayote squash and culantro and watercress. But our pallets crave, crave tasty, flavorful, colorful veggies. You know, stuff like assorted varieties of lettuce and nice sweet baby carrots, radishes, bell peppers, green onions, garlic and white onions. Fresh basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, cilantro. Mmmm. Fred (and my cat Harry) especially like butternut squash. And Swiss chard or spinach. I miss fresh strawberries more than life itself sometimes. I’m salivating as I write this, just thinking of these things.

But the thing is, having rows and rows of vegetables adorning or should I say cluttering our lot, was not what I had in mind for yard décor or landscape. And landscape ideas are supposed to be among my contributions to this new house project.

I should admit this here and now, right up front. I don’t like fighting insects or getting dirty slogging through soil to plant a garden. So an idea germinated, kind of like the seeds we want to sow. Why not a greenhouse? Why not a hydroponic greenhouse? It’s enclosed… It’s clean… Hmmm. Why not?

The idea started with a photo I found on Facebook (source):

I thought it would be perfect for an herb garden in the kitchen container #1 (more on this area in a future post). From there, the idea evolved to a greenhouse on the East side of Fred’s shop, and from that idea, evolved the next for a larger, hydroponic greenhouse in the same area. So Fred being Fred, was off to the computer to research the “how to” of hydroponic gardening on YouTube and Google. 

Fresh peas made it to the selection of vegetables we want to grow, and the security bars that we’ll build on the interior of the greenhouse will be perfect for training the runners for easy harvesting. We plan to have a gravel floor and translucent roofing panels for the siding and roof, with a knee height block wall to support everything. And the nice parts about this whole plan? All anyone else will see is a nice neat structure that’s incorporated into the landscape, no clutter of growing crops to obscure my flowers, and no getting my hands dirty in the planting/harvesting process. I’m already planning menus around the organic foods we crave and hope to grow.

It really was just a matter of aesthetics…

Fred adds his two cents worth:

I think that Cynthia found a great solution to an issue that has been dogging us since the get go of this project. I was ready to use the Square Foot Gardening method, but even I saw the problems with traditional in-the-soil gardening here in Panama. Here are some of the hurdles:

  • Our soil is clay-heavy and would need a lot of money for black dirt, rice hulls, and compost thrown at it to make it vege-ready.
  • Our soil is soggy or downright wet nearly all year round. Add a few hundred more dollars for raised beds.
  • Gardening in the rainy season, which is more than half the year, is nearly impossible without some sort of removable cover over the plants, so crops are significantly reduced.
  • Bugs galore! Armando and I picked a bunch of root-munching grubs out of the black dirt that we put in the flower garden. Very hungry caterpillars will gnaw the best leaves, then a battalion of a bazillion leaf cutter ants will pop up when you aren’t looking and decimate the garden over night. Armando planted some yucca on the shoulder of the road across the street from us. The poor plants have been stripped to the stalk in a day at least three times. He isn’t very hopeful for a bumper crop this year.
  • Cynthia thinks that I wouldn’t mind gardening on my hands and knees in the dirt. It might somehow be of benefit to my arthritis. But noooooooo, I would mind. But the fresh veges are a must do, must have.
  • Yes, the aesthetics thing. We have been struggling, looking for a place for the garden but there just wasn’t a good location. The hydroponic greenhouse solves our problem. We will put it on this side of my shop:

At first I thought that hydroponics would be too expensive, what with the necessary chemicals and nutrients. And I have this thing for organic, trying not to give my money to the Mon$anto$ of the world. So as Cynthia said, I checked with my friend Sr. Google. It seems that you can garden hydroponically with nutrients made from compost tea and fish emulsion. I’m continuing to surf the web to see what others are doing, what works and what doesn’t.

This whole development has me smiling. Fresh veges, if not yet on the vine are at least on the horizon. Plus, like retiring to a foreign country or building a house from shipping containers, hydroponic gardening is a non-entrenched idea. I’m not much of a follow-the-crowd type of guy, and hydroponic gardening is still somewhat of an obscure idea.

I’m excited, and like Cynthia, my saliva glands are presently overproducing thinking about picking sugar snap peas just minutes before tossing them into a nice fresh salad.

That’s all for now.


Tile On Columns, Plant Pots, And A Garden Upgrade

All the tile on the three front columns and on the two flying buttress columns at the carport are done! It took a lot of time and energy away from working on the habitability of the house, but we love the look and think it was worth the sidetrack. One of my goals in this project has been to not move into our new house when the nonessential exterior details are still an unfinished mess. Now one big item can get checked off the list. It has raised our spirits and the place is feeling a lot more like a home.

Here are a few photos of the carport columns. The first one shows the simple scaffolding I assembled so I could walk all around the column to install the tile and apply the grout. Also note in these photos that the bamboo shoots are planted in the now completely assembled pots that we built:

I like the view in the next photo; its finished elements are a teaser of what is to come for the rest of the house:

Cynthia and I would like a “water feature” somewhere near the front door. While I was hosing the grout film off the tiles, we noticed how pretty the water looked cascading down the tiles. We stored this tidbit away for planning the water feature in the future.

We plan to build a low planter between the columns in the next photo. It will be a great place to plant some mani (yellow flowering ornamental peanut). Mani is a low ground cover that requires very little care, is hardy, and will spill over the wall and add a nice splash of yellow when the plants are in bloom:

Oops. I just spotted a bit more red primer paint that has to be painted gray.

While I’ve been working on the tile, I’ve had Armando building a small stone wall around the garden. This will provide definition, keep the grass from invading the garden, and keep rain runoff water from eroding the garden:

Armando dug a small ditch about a foot wide, laid down a couple of inches of mortar, then placed rocks in the mortar. He lapped more mortar up and over the rocks then cleaned the rock faces with a wet sponge.

We also got a couple yards of black dirt and about ten big sacks of rice hulls. We mixed the rice hulls and the dirt together. This added a three inch layer of real dirt to our clay/sand topsoil. The plants are happier already:

Armando has about three more days of work on the rock border.

One area between container 1 and the garden was particularly low, and the water would wash over the garden taking all our new topsoil down the mountain to the Pacific Ocean. A four-inch tube running under the garden and out a drainage hole in the fence took care of the problem:

Bonus photo: With the sun still shining, a thunder storm rises up the mountainside and over our ridge; the storm was upon us a few minutes later:

That’s all for now.


Two Years ~ A Quick Retrospective

It is hard to believe, but we have been working on our shipping container house project for two years. Sometimes I think I’m not making progress because I am so focused on the task of the moment. But I just looked through the 1,324 photos we have taken so far and surprise of surprises, there is a lot of progress! I thought I would (re)post some of the milestone photos. Here is a short slideshow. Enjoy:

That’s all for now.

100,000 ~ My Hit Counter Adds A Zero

I noticed that the hit counter on this blog recently turned 100,000.

When I started blogging, I just wanted to keep a chronological record and share what we are doing with a few folks. But the Internet is an ever expanding, ever amazing extension of our connection with each other, and somehow the hit counter just keeps spinning.

I know that some of you are family and friends and by reading my blog it is easier for you to keep track of us here in Panama. It’s not quite a personal phone call, but just think of my blog as a really frequent Christmas form letter to you.

I also know that most of you are complete strangers and are located in far flung corners of the world, finding me by Googling “shipping container houses” or “front gate designs” or building with concrete blocks in Panama” or “living in Panama” or “DIY oxy-acetelene cart.” You have from dozens of countries around the world.

And some of you found my blog and have physically stopped by to visit with us and see our project. We always enjoy meeting people and giving the 25-cent tour, so if you are in the area please feel free to visit.

Our most recent physical visit from a total stranger (MRPVFTS) was from Ric.
Rik left New Hampshire in the States about six months ago on his 650 Kawasaki motorcycle. With no end date in mind, he is now off to Bolivia. While traveling, Rik is sharing his unique perspective on life; “Why not prepare for the best case scenerio? What do you have to lose if you go about your life not believing in enemies? What if you go about living your life as if there is pleanty for all, it’s just a matter of distribution?” Rik carries a sack of marbles with him. He gave us one, saying, “I’m not losing my marbles, I’m just redistributing them. There are plenty of marbles to go around!” We spent a few hours together then he rode off into threatening rain clouds. I’ll bet it didn’t rain on him. Thanks for visiting us, Rik, all the best case scenerios to you!

One-hundred-thousand. No bells, no whistles sounded. No awards were handed out, and no speeches were made. Just a one and a bunch of zeros. So now what? More of the same, of course!

So thanks to all for stopping by, either physically or via the Internet. I’ll try to keep posting stuff good enough to make your visit worth your time.

In the meantime, I’m getting back to work on the house, but I find that I need a lot of extra sleep to make up for all we lost while in the hospital in Texas. In the past week I did manage to put up about a hundred tiles on the front gate columns and the electric service wall. More and photos in a week or so. Please stay tuned.

That’s all for now. Happy Googling to all, and happy cycling Ric!


Odds ‘N Ends

I know, I know. A lot of you read my blog to see how we are working with the shipping containers, and there hasn’t been a lot of that lately. There will be, but not just yet.

Cynthia and I were remarking last week that other than the inside of my shop, nothing else is completely done. At two years into this project, and although we have accomplished a tremendous amount given our small crew, six-hour work days, long rainy seasons, and time out for health issues, everything has raw edges. We decided to focus for a few weeks on getting a few items DONE.

Columns: We thought it would be nice to drive up to the project and see the front entrance columns  done, so I started there. About a year ago, we built these two columns for the front gate:

May, 2011. Note how much has been done since then.

The columns still needed a concrete roof cap like the one on the electric service wall, so I set about making some forms. Here is one ready to be installed on a column:

It was somewhat strange working with wood again. I almost tried to weld it! For the nice tight corner joints I used my Kreg Pocket Hole Jig. You clamp your board in the jig, then insert the special drill bit into the appropriate hole in the jig and drill away:

Then you use special screws to screw the corners together:

Here are the forms in place and the concrete poured:

To prevent rainwater from flowing over the edges of the roof and staining the edges with dirt and mold, I pitched the concrete down toward the center line of the roof (to create an interior gutter) and toward the drain pipe.

Here is one of the roof-itos after I stripped the forms:

Of course, the columns are still too stark, so we went down the mountain and picked out a porcelain tile, to be delivered next week. We chose porcelain because the color goes all the way through the tile; regular ceramic tile has a thin layer of color that would be sure to chip when Armando cuts the grass and the weed whacker throws a stone at the tile. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but here is a peak anyway:

This tile will go on the two front gate columns, the electric service wall, and the two buttress columns at the carport.

Driveway: With the rainy season upon  us, the driveway has been muddy nearly every day. We had a big pile of crushed gravel, so Armando and I spread it on much of the driveway. I rolled it with the Honda Steamroller. Quite a difference from the first photo in this post:

Carport Wall: The carport columns and roof are in place, but we wanted a short wall in line with the columns. Because the carport roof is done, Armando was able to work even when it rained:

When the wall block work was done, Armando and I built a form and poured concrete for a shelf on top of the wall:

Here’s the wall and shelf with one side of the forms removed. It was raining cats and dogs all day so I couldn’t get to the outside forms:

Next week Armando will repello (stucco) the wall inside and out (weather permitting).

Plant Pots: I’ve had this little wall in my head for some time. I thought that the shelf would be a great place for plants that don’t need a lot of sun. One of us said, “How about bamboo?” Pots of a nice thin, leafy bamboo would look great on the shelf. It would create a natural curtain for the carport and create some mystery when viewed from the side road. That brings us to pots. We could spend a bunch of money on nice pots, so I said, “I could build them.” In the next photo I put some plastic on the floor of one of the containers and nailed forms to the floor. Armando and I will pour plant pot parts (say that three times fast) next week, then let them sit for a few weeks to cure. I plan to screw the concrete pieces together with plastic anchors and stainless steel screws unless any of you have a better idea:

I'll reinforce the concrete with 1/4" rebar. I'd like to mix in some strengthening fiber, but I haven't seen any in Panama.

Paint: Now that the shop is done and the repello has cured, its exterior walls can be painted, as can the container wall under the carport roof. This will do a lot to unify disparate parts of the project. Cynthia and I have had a Dickens of a time deciding on a color for the exterior of the house. Most Panamanian houses are white or cream or yellow or shocking pink or shocking green or, you get the point, and we would like something different. Any shade of gray was blah and reminded me of my military Navy days so that was out. A light yellow would be pleasant but it is overdone in our neighborhood. So after choosing the porcelain tile (but before we bought it), we went to a paint store to look at colors. Surprise of surprises, we chose a gray teal I guess you could call it. We think the house painted this color will blend nicely with the surrounding greenery. But as always with paint, we could hate it. So we bought a test quart and will withhold our decision until we see what it looks like on the exterior walls. 

Even though I am aching to get back to the windows in the containers, it felt good to work toward completing a few projects. I think seeing more pieces and parts finished will keep us jazzed and moving forward. Even Cynthia looks happier:

That’s all for now.


Carport Roof ~ Part 2 ~ Dry Underneath

The carport roof is done, and it is such a pleasure to have all that dry space beneath it. Now we can mix concrete, only having to get wet when we get sand and gravel from out in the driveway. Here’s how we did part two of this project:

First, we built a second column the same as the first, except with slight adjustments for the slope of the land and the overall height. You can see all the column construction details at Part 1 so I’ll just show a couple photos here:

When the column was done, Armando and I installed the shop roofing out to the first column that we had built. In the next photo, notice that the temporary center support is still in place under the roof.

Next I welded 2″x6″ steel carriolas together to make strong main beams to support the new roof. In the next photo you can see that I welded one of these beams above the termination point of the roof over the shop, in effect making a truss. This made the roof strong enough to remove the temporary center post. It’s funny, but even after more than four years living in Panama, I’m still concerned about snow load on roofs! You can also see that I am in the process of raising the second beam between container 3 and the new column. By the way, the laser level came in very handy in setting the top of the new column level with the roof of the container.

I welded the front main beam to the pieces of rebar that extend the full length of the column and down into the footing a meter deep in the ground. The electrode cord on my welder wasn’t long enough to reach where I needed to weld, so I used the winch to raise the welder a few feet. This worked, but was time consuming and I had a lot more welding to do on the roof. Before I welded any more, I went to town and purchased wire to extend the electrode so I wouldn’t need the winch:

I like how the roof aligns with the front gate:

Then I fabricated three more beams for headers for the joists; one 4″x4″ (4×4) and two 4″x6″ (4×6), all 22-feet long. Here are the two 4x6s:

In the next photo you can see that the 4×4 went up against the house where I bolted it through the wall. You can also see that one of the 4×6 headers went in the center. I put the other 4×6 at the edge of the roof. I’ll weld the joists between these header beams, just as I did for the other part of the roof.

Of course, for the header beams to sit at the same height on the main beams, the larger 4x6s had to be notched two inches. These headers then sit on the main beams like Lincoln Logs:

Here I am cutting a notch in the beam.

Cynthia made sure that I wore my new safety harness and tied myself to the ladder in case the angle grinder kicked and threw me off balance. Ever the risk manager, I appreciate her attention to my safety. The harness was made in China and is brand named Savior. I knicknamed it Savior Ass:

From this point it was pretty straight forward to weld the joists in place. Then Armando and I hoisted the 22-foot sheetmetal panels onto the roof and screwed them into place. I’m glad it took only one day because I couldn’t raise my arms above my head the next!

You may have noticed that the two sections of the roof don’t meet at a ridge, but instead, the shop side of the roof is lower than the carport side, leaving a big horizontal clerestory opening. One big benefit of this is that when the sun hits the roof and heats the air below, all that hot air can escape through the clerestory opening, leaving the carport pleasantly cool below. Here are some photos of the completed roof.

The center beam doesn't look straight, but it is just an optical camera delusion.

This is a (somewhat nauseating because of the software-induced curvature) composite panorama.

I was concerned that the roof would look massive from the driveway, but the angle is just right and the roof doesn't draw attention to itself. Notice the mist in the air in the background; the rainy season is certainly upon us.

This is a telephoto view from the road. We CAN'T WAIT to paint a unifying color on the house and shop so that it doesn't look like Shantyville!

Now that all that is left to this big project is a front gutter and a small piece of roofing near the outside bathroom, the big question on our minds is, “What’s next?” I’ll let you know soon.

In other non-house news ~ Our neighborhood watch has another victory. We were awakened early the other morning at 4:30 to two gunshots right in front of our house. Seems that there was a thief or two in the area and someone in our neighborhood watch called the police. The police arrived, saw the thieves, and fired two shots in the air to get them to stop. (If there had been three thieves would the police have fired three shots?) But warning shots were to no avail; the thieves dropped their booty, including a large screen television, a large parrot, and some sacks of rice and beans, and disappeared into the nearby jungle. The police, using only the lights from their cell phones, were searching in tall grass for a discarded walkie talkie, but they couldn’t find it. I got our two, big, LED Maglite flashlights and loaned them to the police. They were loathe to return them to me and we had fun pulling them back and forth in mock jousting for possession! The police didn’t know which house had been broken into or where the stuff had come from, but I made some phone calls and was able to reunite everything with its owner. Although we didn’t get the bad guys locked up, at least they now know that the signs with the big eyeballs in our neighborhood are there for a reason.

And in other non-house news, Cedelinda, the Panamanian high school student who lives with us during the week, got a call from her father out in their pueblo of Chichi Bali. Seems that a snake had bitten their dog, Connie, and everyone was very upset. The snake killed one of their chickens and Connie ran in to help, getting bitten in the fracas. (Or should I say that there was a fracus and the dog was bitten on the nose?) I drove the now very much more rain damaged road to their home, picked up their dog, and took her to the local zoo. The zoo vet looked her over, and even I could see although there was now a third hole in her nose and some flowing blood, there was no swelling and she was in very good spirits. We decided that I would take the dog home, observe her for the day, and give him a call later that afternoon. The snake, it turns out, was a boa; a big fat one, five or six inches in diameter and at least six feet long according to Cedelinda’s dad. Luckily, boas don’t inject venom, but bite, hold on, and constrict their prey to crush it to death. The next morning Cedelinda and I returned Connie to Chichi Bali, not much worse for the experience but with a heck of a tale to tell her dog friends.

That’s all for now.




My Shop ~ Part 10 ~ OCCUPY

I couldn’t stand it any longer. My new shop was finished and I wanted to start using it. But the workbench and a bunch of other tools were in my old shop at the house we are renting. I couldn’t wait to move from that old space. Although when we moved in I had poured a  concrete floor and patched the roof, it was still an old chicken coop with a very low ceiling and termites everywhere. Every time a mango fell from one of the overhanging trees, the paper-thin rusty roof got a new hole in it. The trees overhang the house, too, and when a mango hits the roof, one of us will exclaim, “Mango down!” Here’s the most flattering shot I could take of the space:

The inside was dismal and termites ruled:

Termite trails on the walls and holes in the roof

Armando, Sammy, and I got right to work. Everything was  a mess; I hadn’t used the shop much in the past two years and it was disorganized from moving necessities to the job site. I organized and they moved wheelbarrow full after wheelbarrow full of tools and supplies to to the truck. It took five trips in the Honda, including one trip just for the workbench and one trip just for the workbench top:

We unloaded everything into the new space. After two days of organizing it looks a lot better, but I still need another day or two to make it the way I want it. My plan now is to work on the carport roof, and one day soon it will rain early enough in the day that I can move back inside for the final touches. Here’s where it stands now:

The old Baldor bench grinder (go back up two photos) was looking a bit tattered so I gave it a couple coats of yellow paint:

The old Delta Homecraft drill press belonged to my grandfather. It is probably 60 years old.

I painted the big drawer in my workbench and waited a couple of days for it to dry. Next I cut some thin wooden strips and placed them in the drawer so that the tools and toolboxes wouldn’t scratch the fresh paint. Finally, I put a lot of my hand tools in the drawer. I’m really happy to have all this organized and in one place!

I have a wood turning lathe that I bought when I was sixteen. I remember it cost $310.87, all of it made at $0.90 per hour washing dishes after school in a restaurant! The lathe had been crated for some years now, and even though it was high in my shop it wasn’t dry. The termites had a field day with the crate, and it will take some work to clean all the rust off of it. Fortunately, the headstock bearings are still okay. The tailstock is rusted to the bed rails, so I sprayed it with some WD-40 and left it alone to think. I don’t know if I will get back to wood turning, but I have made some nice bowls over the years.

That’s it for now. More soon, thanks for stopping by. By the way, I welcome comments.

Slow News Day ~ Being Tourist

I have some construction in the pipe, but it’s not yet ready to post. In the meantime, I was looking through some photos that our recent guest D and I took when she was visiting. A travel log of the area, this post is photos from her visit.

I’ve already posted about our visit to the pueblo of Chichi Bali.

Another road trip was to the annual celebration of Carnival in the town of Ocu’. Our guest really wanted to go, so I collected information from our Panamanian friends. Most had good memories of going to Ocu’ many years ago, so we headed out on Sunday morning for the two and a half hour drive. We made a pit stop at a gas station where D picked up a container of juice. She couldn’t stop laughing about the list of ingredients intended to be in both Spanish and in English. More prouf reading neded. Oops:

We had heard that Sunday was the day of Carnival that had the most traditional folk displays. But what we found was far from that. There was a mass of people gyrating in the street, with rock and heavy metal music blasting from closely-packed music venues. And between each venue was at least one boom truck (really, really big boom boxes on wheels), vibrating sheet metal bending to the thumping beats. Discerning one “song” from another was impossible, at least with our fingers firmly pushed into our ears.

The music was so loud that it vibrated internal organs, and with no folkloric events planned until later at night, we decided to leave. We just aren’t that young and that interested in sweaty dancing, drinking cheap beer all day, and being hosed down by fire trucks. Even 18-year-old Cedelinda thought it was all “tan mucho” (so much). The trip was worth the drive, though, and we had a good day when we weren’t around the boom business. On our way back to the car, I asked a jolly man if I could take a picture of him shucking yucca. He was delighted to oblige:

We also passed some floats. This one was asleep with eyes open, waiting for more nighttime revelry:

On the way home, we stopped at a beach-side restaurant for lunch. The road to the beach cuts through a wall of weather beaten sand or sandstone:

Two girls were enjoying the cool sand on a hot day:

Another day, I took D to the house of nearby friends. They have several watch dogs peacocks:

NBC peacock in the days of black and white TV?

And we went to the local frog sanctuary. Frogs are a big deal here, and they are in big trouble. Between losing habitat to human encroachment and a deadly fungal infection, the Golden Frog has been extinct in the wild since 2007. Because frogs are so important to the earth’s ecosystem, scientists say no frogs = no humans. Here are some frogs at the sanctuary:

Just hanging out on the front porch.

This is one of the few remaining golden frogs in the world.

If you take the main road into El Valle, then drive through town and out the other end, there is a recently improved back road going back up and out of the volcano and through the mountains to the city of Penonome’ about an hour away. Up on the rim there is a hill with two crosses that overlook the valley. One cross marks the spot where a young couple tragically took a wrong turn and careened off the mountain. I don’t know about the other cross. Here are two videos. The first one takes you through El Valle, and the second is the back road drive from El Valle to the crosses:

From our vantage we can see over the crater rim and down to the Pacific Ocean. Here is a panoramic photo looking down to El Valle in the crater:

Early one morning we went bird watching, or rather bird listening. The mountains were alive with the sound of birds, but their camouflage made them all but invisible. But it was a wonderful four hours in the wilderness, and luckily our guide knew where to take us to see a hummingbird feeding chicks in the nest:

An Oropendola sits on its nest, admiring the neighbor’s much better nest building skills:

And we went to the Canopy Adventure on the outskirts of town. This is an adventure where a guide hikes with you to the top of the mountain, pointing out flora and fauna along the way, then guides you on a zip line back down the mountain. It is a lot of fun. The highlight for me was crossing high over the big waterfall:

Here’s our guide zipping ahead to catch D when she arrived a few moments later:

And a nice walk back out to the road:

That’s all for now. More soon.