We Love Our Home

Hi there. I bet you thought you would never hear from me again. Well I’m back with an update and possibly a reboot of this blog. For those who want more shipping container house building info, my future posts may be disappointing. The container part of the house build is done and it has been done for more than three years now. `

For the past three-and-a-half years, this shipping container/art house has been for sale. As in much of the world, the housing market here is absolutely flat. Only a couple of properties have sold here and they were priced well below what the sellers wanted and way below what we were asking.

Meanwhile, Cynthia and I have been living here. Real living and not just the five-year all-consuming exertion of creating and building this house. We’ve had time to be creative with our arts. We’ve had time to just sit and relax in the master bedroom porch and watch the birds. We’ve had time to know each other more deeply. As time passed, we explored other places to live when the house would potentially sell. Medellin, Colombia (we’ve been there five times now). Guanajuato, Mexico (wow, but stairs, stairs, and more stairs make it not a place for Cynthia with her new knee). Greenville, South Carolina (fair weather, progressive culture, health care, etc.) and Austin, Texas (Cynthia’s family).

But through all this time, two factors have become important priorities.

One factor is that we love the rich nature and relative seclusion of where we are. Every morning we wake to something we’ve never had before. Recently it has been a family of Aracaris (Toucan like birds). And the flock of wild parrots absolutely prevents sleeping in and missing these wonderful mornings. To start over somewhere else and miss a significant amount of time (years?) without just sitting and being has become a less inviting idea.

The second factor is really a matter of time and energy. We have created something here and it took a lot of energy and a lot of years: this custom house that is a joy to live in, a workshop that I have organized for the first time in my life, a new glass studio for Cynthia, a watercolor painting studio for me, and more is in the works. We want these things in our life and to start over with the diminished energy of age is looking more and more unlikely and un-enjoyable.

As an example of what I am doing when not building a house, here is a cabinet I built for my art supplies:

The wood is a tropical cedar with Purple Heart drawer fronts.
Diamond plate aluminum drawer bottoms save space and so far the termites don’t like it.

So with a substantial and significant amount of pondering, realizing, and talking, we have come to the “ah-ha!” decision to remove the house from the market. Not that it is selling anyway, but we have come to settle on all the good points of staying put.

Over the next while I will post Part II of the reserve water tank project, our studios, an orchid wall that I built, and a major project that is underway.

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

23 thoughts on “We Love Our Home

  1. It has been awhile. I’m looking at the address line of this email and wondering if it is SPAM. Then the synapses click. I went from curiosity to pleasure in seeing that it was indeed you.
    Beautiful wood working as always.
    You should show some of your water colors.
    Welcome back.

  2. Thank you for the update. you know ” it is you and you are it ” comes to mind.
    God Bless and looking forward to your wonderful articles.

  3. Great job on the art supplies cabinet & of course the fabulous house. I have retired from the telecommunications engineering business, but finding it difficult to muster the energy to tackle building a house now. I am really happy that both you & Cynthia have decided to stay & enjoy your efforts. Been hot here in the Kerrville, TX. area this summer, but guess we don`t have anything on Panama. Good to hear from you & hope to check in once in a while. Take care. DonP

  4. It was such a pleasure meeting and working with you when you were up this way helping Rebecca with her tiny house. You are an amazingly talented man. I wish I had met you much sooner. I look forward to seeing more of your posts and handiwork

  5. What a nice surprise. Welcome back. I don’t think I ever commented on your blog in the past but I did follow it and enjoyed it. That cabinet looks amazing.

    Myself and my wife are moving to Pedasí from The UK in September. My plan once I get there is to start a new hobby for me, hand tool woodworking.

    I’ve bought some woodworking tools here in the UK and am having them shipped to panama. I wont have a clue what I’m doing so I might have some questions for you regarding material sourcing, dealing with humidity and wood movement etc. I hope you don’t mind.

    I’m looking forward to your future blog posts.

    • Hi Kevin, Thank you! Woodworking is an interesting beast here. Materials such as plywood, pressed chip board, pine, and other soft woods are nothing but mold and termite chow here, as is the paper layer on drywall (gypsum), and of course Masonite is just bad on all accounts here in this climate. Dense hardwoods are the best here. Allow a tad extra space for drawers and doors to swell in the rainy season. Nails and screws will rust and stain the wood — I use stainless steel screws, but even some tropical hardwoods will eat the stainless. If you build with Teac, wash the joints with acetone (if you can find it here) to strip off some of the oil before gluing. Welcome to the adventure. Thanks for your comment! Saludos, Fred

  6. Your posts are always so enjoyable to read and I’ve missed them. I hope your decision serves you both perfectly for as long as you want it to.

  7. Fred, great to see a blog post from u. Congratulations on ur decision. I wonder if there’s one or two things u learned living in ur container house that u might be able to pass along as wisdom. Thx again for the update. Btw ur new bin is a werk of art!
    Cheers d

    • Hi Dee, Thanks for the good wishes. About living in a container house — good question.

      Like living in any house, maintenance is a thing. Throughout the year, I make notes in Evernote on my phone or computer of non-emergency things that we notice that need attention. Armed with this list, I start every January (at the start of the dry season) and work my way through the list. The hinges on the window security bars come in handy when painting the bars and washing the windows.

      The north side of the house is the coolest and most humid area. The cool shipping container walls can gather a bit of condensation which then fosters the collection of dirt and mold. A couple times a year I make a weak bleach solution with a drop of detergent and wash down the interior walls. The high quality oil based paint is holding up very well. The good news in this is that the walls are metal and the mold isn’t interested in eating the metal as it does with drywall or plywood/chip board.

      We love the amount of light in the house. Just be engineering minded when cutting all the holes in the structure of a shipping container. We’ve had no problems at all.

      Since building the house, I have purchased one of the circular saws that cut metal (Milwaukee). It would have been much easier to cut holes using this saw instead of the angle grinder.

      There are occasional earthquakes here including some pretty good shakers. So far there has been no structural damage. A grout line in the front steps did open a bit but fresh grout took care of it. Many concrete block houses here can easily have structural damage especially if they are made from the old (less cement in the mix) concrete blocks. We love the sturdy-ness of the structure.

      Security from Sneaky Pedro. I’ve heard numerous Panamanian workers comment that we live in a “caja fuerte” (strong box or safe). I think most thieves size the place up and move to an easier target.

      Even though there is a lot of design detail that makes us happy living here, the house just plain feels sturdy and solid.

      These are the insights that I can think of off the top of my head. Thanks again for your comment. Fred

  8. What a treat to hear from you! We’ve kind of come to the same conclusion. I want a house that Bob has built, and I’m doubtful that he will be able to do that again now that he is in his 80’s. We have a lovely home here in Mexico that he designed and built with fabulous views of the sea and mountains. We’d like something smaller, but for now, this is fine. I’d rather be here than in something someone else did.
    Your cabinet is gorgeous, and there’s just a bit of jealousy! Can’t wait to see your other projects…your painting, how the bead room has maybe changed and am most curious about your orchid wall.
    The best to both of you…Enjoy your piece of paradise, as we are ours. There’s no place like home.

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