Too Much Brown ~ And ~ Good Bye Jabo

Too Much Brown

Oh-six-hundred hours, Wednesday. January 1st, 2020. “The guest bedroom is too brown,” Cynthia said to me as I woke to her words. “Oh, good morning. Happy New Year to you, too,” I said in return. She had been semi-awake for some time slumber-daydreaming about the guest bedroom and the words just kind of slipped out of her mouth.

We talked about the room during breakfast, then did a tour of the room. It was clear that we never really liked the browns/reds/tans/yellow-ishy-green color scheme and that it didn’t fit with the rest of the house. Besides, she said, “There is no good place to practice your guitar. This could be your music room when we don’t have guests.” We decided on a theme and new colors. I told her I would put it on the Honey Do list and get around to it, someday, when I could.

Cynthia headed to take a shower and I called our housekeeper, Angela, and asked if she would like the bed frame, mattress, chair, lamps, and some other wrong-color stuff in the room.

Angela was excited as she said she had asked her husband/our construction helper guy, Ramiro, to build a bed frame so their mattress would be off the floor for the first time in their lives. While Cynthia showered, unbeknownst to her, I loaded the truck and delivered the items right then and there. It was a party as we unloaded the truck. When Cynthia got out of the shower and looked in the room, she thought we had been robbed!

Here is a picture of the original color:

Tan/yellow-green walls, copper-tone mirrors, brown lamps, brown table brown chair. Note the container door on the right side. Are these doors part of the plan?

We decided to go with the grays that are throughout the rest of the house, and I had some on hand.

In doing some prep work for painting, I patched a couple screw holes in a wall with auto body filler. After sanding the filler, I quickly brushed a primer over the area. Cynthia thought I was painting a bird in flight:

I tried to remove the watermark for just this picture but it appears to be all or none… Sorry.

I had the room repainted in three days then attacked the smaller items. I repainted the two glass-topped tables that I made (originally brown), the same teal as in the master bedroom. I bought a few spray cans of matte chrome color paint and painted the three mirrors and the hooks and towel bars in the bathroom. I was surprised and pleased how nice the mirrors transformed. Here is a sneak peek:

The table is really more teal than blue represented in this photo. The cat on the table is made of one piece of steel. Cynthia has had it for many years. It was very rusty and she said it was time for it to go. So go it did — to my shop where I sanded and painted it a yellow that goes well with the teal. Some day I am going to make a lamp out of it.

I’ve been wanting to use some EL (pronounced E.L.) Wire for a few years now. From Wikipedia: “Electroluminescent wire (often abbreviated as EL wire) is a thin copper wire coated in a phosphor that produces light through electroluminescence when an alternating current is applied to it.”

EL wire comes in many colors, is very affordable, and is available on Amazon. It has a neon look and has unlimited uses. Have you ever seen an America’s Got Talent when the dancers’ costumes light up? This is EL Wire. I bought some teal color and super glued it to the perimeter of the cat:

Looks quite nice at night.

I had a few feet of LED light strip left over from the ceiling light (keep reading) so I thought I would use some to complete the cat lamp. Here is the lamp all finished:

I bent the curve by hammering the metal flat stock over the curve of the wooden base.The wooden base was a bit challenging to make. The wood is extremely dense and hard, making accuracy with the band saw or jig saw doubtful. I decided to use the table saw because, well, I’d never made a circle on the table saw before.

In the next photo you can see the setup. I clamped a piece of plywood to the table. A screw comes up from the bottom of the plywood and is screwed into the center of the wooden block. Then, with the saw running, I raised the blade a sixteenth of an inch at a time, rotating the wooden block for each raise of the blade. The circle turned out perfectly and just needed rounding off the edges and a bit of sanding:

We needed a ceiling light. I spent a long time looking on Amazon and YouTubed “DIY LED ceiling light,” not finding anything I liked. Finally, after at least two weeks of pondering and driving myself creatively crazy, I landed on an idea.

I bought three, 20-foot lengths of 1/8″ by 1″ steel flat stock. I thought I could make a light fixture that looks like a wave on an oscilloscope. Haven’t seen one of those before! I drilled a hole in one end of the pieces of flat stock and screwed them to the container on one side of the room. One piece I curved up-and-then-down and the other two I curved down-and-then up, cutting to length and screwing the other ends to the container twelve feet away on the other side of the room. I primed then painted the metal the same teal to match the tables.

I ordered some LED light strips, a power supply and a remote control from Amazon and then put the project on hold for two weeks while the parts were delivered. Once my order arrived, it didn’t take long to complete the project. I stuck the LED strip lights to the flat stock and connected the plug-and-play electronic parts. I attached one strip pointing down and two strips pointing up. Here is the finished light at night:

The light really lights up the room. It is dimmable and works via a remote control. Those two yellow-green/tan container doors make a dark corner in the room. Hmmm.

This room has two container doors and this corner of the room is a bit dark and dead. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a glass block window in place of the doors? Does anyone know how to remove shipping container doors? Does anyone have any idea of how heavy they are?

Let’s find out!

I slung a rope over one of the ceiling joists in the carport and tied it to the door hardware on one of the doors. Here I am cutting through the hinge pins with an angle grinder:

I’m on the ladder, Ramiro is holding it steady, Armando is on the rope, and Ramiro’s son, Alejandro, is taking pictures of his dad. One hundred fifty glass blocks ($1.99 each) are staged and ready to go.

After cutting through the hinge pins, the door was easily freed. We lowered the door to the floor. Best estimate? Somewhat less than two-hundred pounds:

After snapping a picture, I jumped in to help lower the door. No injuries. Very good!

Here is a short video of us lowering one of the doors:

We had to pour a small concrete “beam” to get up to floor level and then started laying the glass blocks. At the end of day one, we were up three rows:

This is the first time that Ramiro has laid glass blocks. He thought it would go as fast as concrete blocks but I kept having to slow him down to check the level and alignment of every block. He got the hang of it in about an hour.

Just as in all the other glass block windows in the house, at the top of every row of blocks, we laid in two, 1/4″ pieces of rebar. We welded the ends of the rebar to the container. The rebar gets embedded in the mortar joints. Here is Ramiro welding the bars in place:

Here is the rebar:

There are several fancy glass block “systems” that use plastic or metal runners or silicone caulk or the like, but they just aren’t available here. We can get glass block mortar, but we used plain old regular mortar that we mixed on the ground. The guys are used to it. I did use a polymer additive to prevent cracking of the mortar.

At the end of day two, we were three rows from the top:

The next morning, day three, I noticed that the top two blocks  on the left were not well aligned. A rubber mallet and a hammer and small chisel removed the error in about ten minutes.

This is the glass block we had been looking for:

I’ll cut pieces of cement board/tile backer to close the open spaces at the sides and top of the blocks. I chose this because it won’t rot or get termite eaten as would wood or rust as metal would. There is nothing to nail or screw to, but urethane caulk and some temporary wedges, braces, and some number 7 sky hooks will hold it in place just fine.

Here is the exterior of the wall all done. If you are doing the math, you have calculated that there are some blocks left over. We’ll be making a small window to bring some light into this bedroom’s dark hallway. Some day. Here is the exterior:

I’m working on another project to reroute the wires that come down the side of the window.

After the urethane caulk has cured, I will paint the tile backer strips the house color. And yes, just as they do in the high budget movies, I hosed it down…

Here is the room all repainted, ceiling light complete, and the glass block wall bringing in light to a previously dark corner:

The cat lamp wasn’t finished when I took this photo.

And what are we going to do with the doors you ask? With some amount of grunting and laughing, the three of us moved them to the other side of the house. I think we’ll build a 4′ by 8′ closet  and use these doors as the two end walls — I need a place to store paint and ladders and such so I can have more space in my shop. The new closet will be located at the back end of the kitchen, accessed from outside. The window and bars on the second floor are difficult to access to clean and paint. With the closet in place, we can stand on the roof of the closet to do required maintenance.

The doors will wait here for a while. I don’t think they are at risk of walking away.

This project of “Too much brown,” ended up being about six weeks long. Walls and ceiling repainted, new ceiling light, glass block wall, transformed cat, and accessories painted. As to the paint, we’ve all seen the marketing: “One coat covers.” Perhaps. But my rule is, “Two coats make it look good.”

Now other than detailing, all I have to do is build a Murphy bed, two chairs, a love seat, and a small table. Perhaps I should have pretended to still be asleep. But about six weeks later, now that it is all but done, Cynthia was absolutely right. Brown be gone. It looks so much better now!

Dry Season Maintenance

Every January/February/March is the heart of the dry season and is a perfect time to do annual maintenance. We spend about 80 hours a year keeping everything in tip top shape inside and out. Here the edge of the roof deck and the support brackets are getting some rust abatement and repainting:

The wire running overhead is delivering 150 megs of Internet. Some neighbors and I worked on the provider for about a year. They got tired of hearing from us and they finally installed a fiber optic cable service in our area. It is a massive improvement from our original 1 (one!) meg. Nice.

Good Bye Jabo 

Jabo with his “ball.”

Long time readers will remember our twelve-year-old, truly-excellent, one-of-a-kind dog, Jabo. He was sick one Sunday a few weeks ago, shaking a lot and couldn’t stand or walk well. He had no signs of injury, and we thought perhaps he had eaten a lizard or something. He was a bit better when I put him outside for the night (he never liked to be in the house all night. He considered himself to be the night watchman and was hyper vigilant). Being a Sunday, no vets were available.

I found him in the morning, lifeless under the house.

Cynthia and I sent WhatsApp messages to some of our friends. Angela and Ramiro (mentioned above) dropped everything for the morning and came to support us. Ramiro helped me dig a grave in the back yard and they cried along with us. Everyone loved Jabo.

Less than a week later, Cynthia yelled for me to come to the kitchen. There was a huge spider on the floor, just a few inches from our new-ish cat, Winston. I dispatched it quickly with one stomp. It looked like a wolf spider to us. I showed it to Armando and Ramiro, who called it a Mata Caballo (horse killer). Armando said that a friend of his was bitten by one and had the same shaking and difficulty standing that Jabo had. A neuro-toxin I guess. Now we are constantly on the lookout for the second one. No nightly bathroom runs trips without a flashlight!

Jabo had a great life. He had a great sense of humor and loved to play take-away and fetch with his favorite ball, a gnarled and abused empty agave syrup bottle. It made a lot of noise when he crushed it with his teeth. He and I would play “Fight To The Death” to get it away from each other.

At twelve, he still played but was slowing down a bit. We noticed that he was losing his vision and had difficulty seeing who was at the front gate and didn’t switch from Intruder Bark to Friend Bark until he could get their scent. But he was still so much more lively than when he was nine.

At nine years old, he was nearly dead. He had mange, and scratched constantly even in his sleep. I would pull 50 ticks a day off of him and he was loaded with fleas. He was miserable. After lots of useless money spending and useless professional doctoring, I got on the Internet and read and read. I came across a website called After reading the site, we decided to switch his food from premium kibbles, a brand that is highly recommended by vets, to a homemade diet of raw hamburger, hard boiled eggs, fish oil, and Dinovite, a green supplement for dogs. The Dinovite website has several raw and cooked homemade meal recipes. Over time, all his symptoms went away and he regained his youth. He never had ticks or fleas after a couple months eating his new diet.

It was a lot of work to prepare his food — I would buy twenty-pounds of hamburger and three dozen eggs every month. We hard boiled the eggs and processed them in the Cuisinart, including the shells. It all went into the kitchen sink, mixed together by hand. We would make one-cup-sized hamburgers that we would put in the freezer. He got two (thawed) every day with some Dinovite and fish oil squirted over it. I will never feed another dog commercial dog food again.

And the same goes for cats. Our new cat, Winston, gets pretty much the same diet and is doing great. His fur is so much better looking than when we got him. In my opinion, kibbles are not healthy food.

Winston reportedly is twelve years old. He has a ton of personality and loves to play. Cynthia thinks he is a large percentage Singapura breed:

Is it true that cats can see watermarks in the air everywhere? Winston is compact and dense. We almost named him Tank.

Jabo’s mother and father were El Valle street dogs. His mother delivered ten puppies and couldn’t care for them because she had a prolapsed uterus and was wandering the streets looking for help. Two expat women took on the situation. They took the mother to the vet and got her patched up, but the ten puppies were at risk. One of the women took them in and cared for them night and day and day and night. It was a Herculean task.

When they were three weeks old, we adopted two of them. Jabo and one of his sisters. The sister was a miserable dog. She had bad manners and a bad attitude and just couldn’t get the hang of being nice. We relocated her to a farm that needed a dog. We never missed her.

Cynthia loved Jabo and that is saying a lot because, haven been bitten several times, she dislikes all dogs. He was a good one for sure.

He could run like the wind. I clocked him at 28 mph once.

We think he understood the irony of this photo.

I was explaining to him why it is important not to jump over a five-foot barbed wire fence if you can only jump four-feet-nine inches. Thirty stitches later..

Thank you Jabo. Good bye. We miss you.

Grief And Tupperware Containers

I have been experiencing and thinking about grief. Most of us can say that we feel a sense of loss when someone dies. I remember the first time that I felt this kind of  loss. Years ago when I was in my early twenties. I had just built my first house. I wanted to send pictures of my creation to my deceased father who’s career was as an architect. It was difficult for me to process that this was something that I could not do.

I recently came up with the idea that we live our lives in moments. And each moment is like a Tupperware box. For example, at 7:00 every morning, I open the Get Ready For The Day Tupperware box. In the box are Get Up, Shower, Get Dressed. This box seems to have all the elements in it and all is well.

At 7:20 I open the next box, the Open Up Outside box. Normally in this box is Go To The Front Door And Greet Jabo. Open The Outside Storeroom And Get A Bone Out Of The Freezer For Jabo. Open The Shop And A Few Other Doors And Play With Jabo A Bit. But now, except for opening doors, this box is mostly empty.

And so it goes throughout the day. So many of the boxes are empty. The 3:00 Feed Jabo Tupperware box is empty, as is the 6:30 Bring Jabo Into The House For The Evening box.

I think that this is what grief is. Boxes that have been full with events and feelings are now largely empty. We feel the loss.

I guess our job is to feel that loss for a certain time and then get to work putting different items in the Tupperware boxes. It takes time.

Thanks for stopping by. Fred

12 thoughts on “Too Much Brown ~ And ~ Good Bye Jabo

  1. Fred, your Tupperware Grief entry, was poetry.
    I cared for my Mother for the past 8 years. She died, last November, at 95.
    I still, occasionally, open the Tupperware boxes and find them empty.
    Thanks for your report. I’ve missed your regular entries.
    Sorry about A. Yang. Just not his time, I guess/,.

    • Thank you Scott. May your Tupperware boxes be filled with good memories of your mother. We are still hopeful for Andrew Yang’s influence on the world. He is still working through his new non-profit, Humanity Forward, and his soon to be released podcast, Yang Speaks. We’ve not heard the last of him.

  2. Cynthia and Fred, I had the joy and pleasure of meeting you and Jabo a few years ago when Lorna Culnane brought me to your home. She had your home listed and was planning to visit you for an update. I was (still am) dreaming of relocating to Panama and having a container home. Since then, again thanks to Lorna, I have all my residency and assorted paperwork completed, a bank account secured, and two wonderful abogadas. Why haven’t I moved? Because two years ago my vet advised me that my oldest dog, Laird, would not survive the plane trips involved in relocating. God willing, Laird will be 16 on April 5 and he is definitely slowing down, but I absolutely refuse to “put him down” or rehome him. I have a photo of him at eight weeks old, held in my late husband’s hands.
    Your gracious hospitality and the joy and interest Cynthia and I shared in glasswork remain in my heart and mind. Although your hearts may be sad, I pray the special photographs and memories you have of Jabo are of some comfort to you.

      • All is well in Nuevo Mexico, but I am blessed to live out in the country and generally keep as much of everything as I need for a month on hand. My biggest concern was having enough for the five goats, five cats, and two dogs. So far, we are coping quite nicely.

        • Goats. Now you’ve gone and awakened Cynthia’s interest in goats. Thanks. (insert smiley face here) Glad you are bearing up under this virus. Have you heard of the new Goat Herder’s Virus? Just kidding. Do your cats herd the goats or do the goats herd the cats? I once babysat for a friend’s Nubian goats. The goats drove my then German Shepard to frustration and exhaustion.

          • The goats are dwarf Nigerian dairy goats. For pregnant does and a buck. Very cute and very sweet. They do not belong to me, they belong to a dear friend who loans them to me so that I don’t have weeds in the pasture. It helps with her feed bill, too. When they are ready to kid, she will take them home and bring me some other ones. She breeds and sells them and also sells the milk, cheese, kefir, and cottage cheese which she makes. I thoroughly enjoy them! They are all hand raised so they are very gentle, which is important since I have to be careful, living alone.

  3. Since I posted above, my beloved Laird is gone, three months short of his 16th birthday. I sold my house in New Mexico and, due to the current administration, was forced to live stateside because I refused to take the jab. I relocated to Tennessee where I am content but not thrilled. It is still quite red and wonderful here. Couldn’t take the cold in South Dakota…
    Blessings to you and Cynthia and Winston.

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