Progress Report On Our Construction Project….

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Scott and I are both in agreement that we don’t want to cut down any trees on our property if we can help it. The spot where we chose to build the casita on the property is perfectly situated between a bunch of trees and it fits just right without any need to disrupt the trees, who were there way before we showed up. The area up above where we plan to build our house and Scotts workshop was previously cleared and leveled by the person we bought the lot from. There are a few smallish trees up on the flat spot but no large trees, thankfully, that would be in the way of building. The pre-excavated area is surrounded by a horse shoe shaped grove of trees that act as nice protection from the winds that come from the North. It’s a lovely spot, surrounded by endless shades of green, which we just love! And the view of Boquete is just spectacular. This already excavated spot where we plan to build the main house for us is almost the exact same size as our lot in Los Altos. About Ten Thousand square feet. But it’s more roundish and our lot in Los Altos was long and narrow.

One of the things we were looking for in a piece of land was Trees, and we found just that in this lovely lot in Jaramillo Centro. We have had a few Panamanian friends up to see the lot and have been learning from them about what types of trees and plants we have up there. We have a lot to learn about the flora and fauna in this part of the world and we’re both really looking forward to becoming more acquainted with our land. We’ve learned so far that amongst many other things we have raspberries, blackberries, oranges , avocados, mango, and bananas whew! As we’ve cleared some of the tall weeds we’ve discovered a couple of gorgeous palm trees as well and lots of Banana trees. There are two streams that run along either side of our property , unfortunately they’ve dried up at this time of year. But when we were up there during the rainy season the constant sound of running water was delightful and I’m glad we’ll hear it again in just a few short months. Rainy season returns around mid April or early May. I’ve also seen lots of beautiful wildflowers growing all over the property. I’ve seen a beautiful Heliconia growing near the creek, I haven’t been able to get down to it yet but I’m thrilled to see it and will get a closer look as soon as a path is cleared to enable me to get near it. We have a large plant near the casita site that we are pretty sure is a Rhododendron, I’ll know for sure if and when it blooms. There’s a very mature tree up near the site of the main house that I’m told has beautiful bright yellow flowers during the rainy season. I’m really looking forward to becoming more acquainted with the land we’ll be living on and learning about what everything is. We haven’t gotten to walk around the entire perimeter of the property yet because it’s pretty wild and not quite walkable yet except with a machete. I must admit I’m a bit nervous about snakes, which Scott has seen many of while he’s been working. Although he hasn’t seen any deadly snakes, they do live in the area and we’re very cautious . Which is one reason Scott wears jeans to work and when he has to go in tall grassy areas he wears rubber boots that cover his ankles. We have one worker who is a farmer and he seems to have an unending knowledge of the plants and animals. He is a wealth of knowledge and I’m so glad he’s around. I feel so honored to be able to be the conservator of such a beautiful piece of land, I don’t feel as though I own all those trees and plants and flowers but that I get to care for them and appreciate the beauty that they are.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we will one day live up there. Everyday when I drive up to have lunch with Scott I just marvel at how wild and beautiful it is and I see something new each time I’m there. Maybe a plant or a tree or a little bug (remember, when they’re outside they are beautiful!) the sound of the wind whipping through the trees is sometimes ominous, there’s always some new treasure that I take in and just marvel at as we eat our lunch. The sight of the casita that Scott is currently working on is in a low spot from the main road . After it was excavated with the tractor and leveled out it turned out that it’s actually substantially lower than the road and nestled in quite tightly to the side of the dirt. So there will not be any front yard area at all for the casita. Scott described his plan to me just today…. they will need to do some serious terracing with the dirt and cut into the dirt to create steps up to the road where there will be a parking spot for the car. This may be hard to picture but as they begin to get the terracing in I’ll be sure to post photos. I must say, I do have a few concerns, one is the steps leading up to the carpark. Here in the tropics surfaces can get very slippery and when moss grows it can become quite dangerous. So the steps will need to be slightly slanted to prevent any standing water and the surface will need to be of some sort of very textured and not slick finish. And of course we’ll need to install handrails and good lighting will be a must. It’s a tricky spot to build but it will feel like your in a tree house when we are finished. The way the house is so perfectly nestled into the existing trees is very nice.

Right now Scott and his crew are very focused on trying to get the roof of the casita up by the rainy season, which as I said usually begins somewhere around mid April to early May. Yikes! I’m very skeptical about the reality of that happening, but who knows. Today I may have stressed out my contractor (that would be Scott, of course) when I asked him if they need to get a move on starting to address the terracing before the rains start. He didn’t like that question because he realized it is pretty important to make sure that newly cut in dirt doesn’t slide down onto the house when the rains start. They can only do so much and with him running back and forth to pick up materials he really can’t hire more workers, he has 6 already. It sure would be nice if the material supply stores could get their delivery trucks up there. Unfortunately just the other day Scott went to a different materials store (the place he had been purchasing material already said they would not do it!) and this other place agreed to drive their truck all the way up and see how it went….well, it didn’t go well. They got stuck and Scott had to pull them with his truck, Uggg! So, we’re just stuck with Scott driving back and forth with small loads of rock and sand and bags of concrete while his crew works. Luckily he has three very experienced workers and three that are just laborers and they are very productive even when Scott isn’t there. I tell ya, developing a piece of land like this, is not for the faint of heart. It’s a good thing we love an adventure and that Scott is so calm and patient and determined to just slowly get this project done. The great thing is (aside from the rain) we don’t have any rush or tight schedule. There’s no one standing over us pressuring us to get it done. Which is a great thing.

I’m constantly impressed with Scott’s ability to strategically and systematically work out in his head what needs to be done and in what order he needs to do certain things in. Especially given the fact that the way they build here is not at all what he’s accustomed to and the materials as well are very different for him. So before he starts to pour all the concrete for the floor he first needs to make sure all the pipes are in for plumbing and electrical and gas and all that fun stuff. The guys have been chipping away at making spots for all the things that need to be there. In the evenings many times Scott is online researching different materials and procedures for how to do things. This reminds me exactly of when he built our house in Los Altos. He had never done any of it and was learning as he went along. He may be exhausted most of the time right now, but I think he’s also energized by the challenge of doing something he’s never done before. He’s learning about septic systems and leech fields as well as water filtration systems and I know he’s in his element.

So far we seem to be able to find most of the material that we need to build this casita. With the exception of something called Pex. I’m told that it is some sort of flexible tubing or pipe that’s used for plumbing. I think they mostly use PVC pipes here and Scott really doesn’t want to use that. So we searched everywhere here and just ran out of time because they really need it now. So we went ahead and ordered it from the states and it arrived at Mail Boxes Etc without any issues. Of course he didn’t order any of the fittings so I think he may have to still do that. As you know we already bought all the finishing materials, sinks, floor tile, faucets, the toilet , garbage disposal. All those things are sitting in the spare bedroom and the terrace of the house we are currently renting. We have yet to find light fixtures but have found plenty of good appliances in David. One thing we haven’t located anywhere in Panama is Gas insert fireplaces. We may need to put one in our container, actually two, one for the casita and one for our house. So, this is a detailed update on the progress with our project, as you can see it’s going pretty well so far. We seemed to have lucked out on finding a good group of workers and so far, aside from the occasional , what Scott calls “Monday Sickness” they are pretty reliable, and hard working. We’ve gotten into a pretty good groove with all the rules and laws for employees. Friday evenings we spend a bit of time doing payroll but it’s not too bad once you know how to do it. We have a very good book keeper who makes sure all the social security and tax requirements are taken care of which is one thing we don’t have to worry about ourselves. Yep, we’re movin’ along with our construction project and many people ask us what our goal for completion is….well, my contractor (Scott) doesn’t like to commit to any dates! Humph! He’s much smarter than he looks, let me tell you!! He knows how much trouble he would be in if he committed to a completion date and didn’t make it!! Whoohooo the ?!@# would surely hit the fan! LOL! Did I mention we’re having an Adventure? Well, we are! And It’s pretty fun and sometimes a little hard but mostly super exciting!!! Cheers!

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8 responses »

  1. I am really impressed with your (Scott’s) progress. It’s looking like something is happening, has happened and will be happening very soon!! Well done!

  2. Wow.. looks like great progress in a month! You can’t beat building in paradise!
    Keep the progress reports coming and hopefully you will have a late start to rainy season.
    Cheers,
    John & Susan

  3. I’m looking forward to following your progress and seeing the finished casita and house. Will you be hooking up to city water or will you have a well? I’m curious.

    • Thanks! The water will come from the Aquaduct in our area. We plan to install several large water tanks in Scotts workshop and also a very good water filtration system. And for sewer, we will have a septic system with a leech field , all very new things for us! Lots to learn!! 🙂

      • We have a septic system where I live, it’s not such a big deal. I had to learn what not to put down my garbage disposal though. I think you’re smart to put in a large water tank from everything I’ve been reading about the water supply. It sure is fun following along someone else’s building project. My ex-husband and I built a house together too, being the general contractors and doing a lot of the work (I installed 1200 sq ft of ceramic!). It was a great learning experience, but I doubt I would want to do it again. I would build for sure, but not be the general and all that. Keep the pics coming!

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