Ramblings I

Ramblings is the title that I am going to give this and other blog entries that don’t have a lot to do with the actual construction of the shipping container house. Call it a slow news day if you will. You can skip these entertaining and amazingly cleaver stories if all you want is technical talk.

This morning I was going to go down the mountain to do a few errands and come home with materials to prefabricate the forms for the concrete columns (piers) that will hold the house up. But by the time I ate my pan of atomic oatmeal, showered and dressed, skinned a dozen ripe bananas and put them in the freezer for future lunchtime blender drinks, did the same with some maracuya (passion fruit) from our neighbor’s vine, changed the cat box, took the garbage out to the compost pile, talked to the gigantic volunteer squash plant and the several young volunteer papaya trees growing out of the compost pile, and assembled bags of sorted trash for recycling day tomorrow, I noticed that the lovely sunny morning was rapidly getting cloudier.

Given that I was going to buy some melamine sheets to line the pier forms (makes a nice smooth finish on the concrete), and given that I didn’t want to get the sheets wet in the back of the pickup, I postponed the trip. Sure enough, less than a half hour later the sky opened and it poured for two hours. We had one dramatic FLASH/BOOM directly overhead at the height of the downpour. Needless to say, cats Bob and Harry, thinking that the sky actually was falling, dove for cover under the bed. Even normally unshakable dog Jabo came to attention from a dead sleep on the floor next to me and gave me a “What the blazes was that?” look. Right about the time of the strongest downpour, Jabo noticed a neighbor from a few doors down standing (with an umbrella) in the road in front of our living room window. Seems that the surveyor had come to take a few more measurements and had gotten his pickup truck stuck in the muddy shoulder where he had parked. Under cover of our carport, I attached my tow strap to my trailer hitch and put the loose end in the pickup bed. Off we went, and I made short work of pulling the other pickup out of the mud. He PROMISED  he would be back tomorrow, Saturday, to place our corner markers. We’ll see…

Just to cover my butt in this land of no AAA road service, I recently bought a second tow strap. And Cynthia bought a plastic box to fit under the back seat, and filled it with every imaginable first aid item. It almost came in handy yesterday (no pun intended, you will see what I mean shortly). There was a large farm truck stopped in the road across the field from us, and the driver was fixing something at the back bumper (the bumper is made out of heavy angle iron). There are numerous passenger vans that serve as buses between two local towns. One of them came around the curve, the driver distracted for a second or two, and plowed into the back of the farm truck, crushing the front end and windshield of the bus. Luckily, but not luckily enough, the man working on the truck jumped nearly clear, but his hand was caught between the bus and the truck bumper, severing tendons and breaking three fingers. He also got a head injury but the fingers were the worst of it as far as I can tell from those already on the scene. Before I could grab the first aid box and get to the scene, another bus came along and whisked the injured man down into town to the Central Salud (health clinic). A first aid kit in your vehicle is a requirement here in Panama, although seldom adhered to as best as I can tell. We still need to get a fire extinguisher, some reflector triangles and a flashlight. I also bought a twenty-something dollar come-along (ratchet with a cable) and it is in the trunk with the tow straps and jumper cables. I’d like to encourage our friends to get emergency supplies, too.

While it rained, I sketched in my notebook, and figured out a materials list for the batter boards. Batter boards are temporary stakes driven into the ground just outside of the footprint of the house, with boards nailed to the stakes. These boards are used to hold string lines to accurately lay out the location of the 16 piers.

Then, remembering a blog that I recently stumbled upon written by a man in Texas who is living off grid and is using shipping containers, I thought I would write about tropical rain for him. So this is for you, John, enjoy the photos below. You can see his blog, The Field Lab.

Back to the maracuya (passion fruit), this is a new fruit for us and it is absolutely delightful. It has a very high fragrance, very high in vitamin-C, and Cynthia says it smells like a whole bouquet of flowers. It does wonderful things for my lunchtime smoothie. Also along the fruit train of thought, due to the heavy rains and saturated soils here in Panama, there was recently a lot of damage done to some many thousands of papaya trees. It was a catastrophic loss for some farmers as the trees were about to enter a three year period of production. Mangos are out of season and papayas may now be in short supply or superpriced, so I may need to find another in-season fruit to bulk up my smoothies. Local oranges and mandarin oranges are coming in now. Just switching from peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch to fruit smoothies, I am able to keep about 10 pounds off my belt-line. Along with the fruit in the blender, I like to throw in a scoop of hemp protein powder to dampen hunger until supper time.

It is 1:30 in the afternoon and the rain has ended for now. The sun is out, the birds are chirping with the prospect of fresh worms and bugs, and the chickens are clucking in the puddles searching for tasty morsels. I just noticed that Armando passed by with another four yards of river run sand and gravel for our stockpile. Life is good.

Below are some rainstorm photos. They are from a previous storm, but today’s storm was similar. Enjoy.

Looking out our front window. The car is parked on the road shoulder. Notice the wheel rims in the next photo.

High tide.

Rainwater covers the grass and the raised sidewalk.

This is the front gate where we bring the boat, I mean the car, into the yard.

Jabo wakes and discovers that he is boat people. He was napping, recovering from messing with some wasps. So, this skinny dog walks into the bar and the bartender says, "So, why the fat face?" Sorry.

That’s all for now.

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