April and Kevin in Kuna Yala, the northeast coast of Panamá

Thursday, August 7, 2008

House Update

We have now been living in our island community for a year, and in our own house for 9 months. We are finally getting close to having the house "done".

If you don´t remember what it looked like before you can see some older pictures of the early kitchen, fully outdoors, at our post from January on cooking: http://ak-panama.blogspot.com/2008/01/what-and-how-do-we-cook.html, and some pictures from when we first moved in at http://ak-panama.blogspot.com/2007/11/some-house-udpates.html or even before we moved in, http://ak-panama.blogspot.com/2007/10/our-housethe-first-step-of-many.html

For those of you who don't remember (it was a very long time ago), the house was just two rooms with doors that opened onto a BIG porch of about 28' x 30'. Well, we used one of those rooms for storage/toilet room, and the other one for a bedroom. This left our kitchen and main living areas out in full public view. My neighbors are great people...but I was getting tired of being in full view 95% of my awake time in my own home. People could walk by and see us anytime.

So we added bamboo walls to divide the space, provide a bit of privacy, provide an indication to neighbors of what was outside and what was our space, and provide a way to open our bedroom door without being right next to the path and fully outside. We also did not want to make permanent changes to the community's building, and these should be fairly easy to remove.

We cut the first batch of bamboo, about 60 twelve-foot pieces and a few longer, at January's full moon (supposedly the bamboo does better with insects / lasts longer if cut at full moon, but frankly, there is a lot of powder coming out of the slats on a daily basis) and a second batch of 10 pieces in April.

A view from the outside looking at hammock area. We have 4 hammocks hanging...so we can welcome guests easily.As you can see below, the walls are only about 5 feet high...high enough to be taller than most people in the nieghborhood when you add in the step down off the cement pad. You can still peak through some spots, but those areas that look into private areas were built with closer or overlapping bamboo.
Kevin made the three walls for the four-foot square shower first and we put those up. Then he made a 13 and a 14 foot section for dividing the house, a 7 foot section to angle off the "bathroom" area, and a ten foot section to go from the wall by our door to the first post. We put all those up and were missing just the wall by the kitchen, on the back side, but we were loath to lose the light and the ability to toss stuff out. So we finally built a half wall with a two foot stretch that is full height, for blocking wind from the stove.

In the photo above the shower is just behind the curtain and the kitchen is to the right. The sink is multi-purpose: dishes, teeth brushing, clothes washing. Anything too yucky for the normal sink is done on the outside faucet in the lower left corner of the house. The big silver can on the counter is a water filter. We do fine healthwise without it, but water without floaty bits just is more fun to drink.

I have also made things more interesting by hanging 4 hummingbird feeders up with great success. (Thanks for the feeders Mom!) Most moments I can look out and see between 1-9 hummers hanging out nearby the house. If you were to add in the major hummingbird flight paths (red lines) into the house diagram you get something like this: (no joke...they really do fly right through all the time!)

The only path missing is the occasional circular loop into the bedroom and back out.
We also have started gardens to grow vegetables. Growing food here is easy and hard at the same time. Easy with temperature, sun and water (except sweet corn, which apparently needs longer daylight hours; OH we miss sweet corn!). Hard with too much water, and plenty of pests and fungus and other plant problems to deal with. In addition to the beetles that most USA gardeners are used to battling, here we get to fight leaf cutter ants for our food....great fun to watch them when the leaves that they are carrying are not from your garden. Our garden is protected from scratching chickens, munching horses, horsing around dogs, and running kids by a "fence" made from a retired fishing net. The garden looks tiny and sad so far, but all that can change in just weeks around here.

This is an experiment to grow tomatoes next to the house under the eave where they are protected from too much rain. The rain increases fungal and mold problems in tomatoes. We will see...and so will all of our nieghbors who are watching our strange ways with great interest.

So that is our home-sweet-home. I am still looking forward to coming back to the style of houses that I am used to in the USA, but for now we are very happy and reasonably comfortable.


Mom C. said...

For folks who have limited computer access you have done a fantastic job of diagramming your house. And you have done a great job of making it a home in the first place! Hope the garden is a success.
Love, Mom C.

Todd said...

Hey April and Kevin,

Saw that Panama had a team in the Olympic games. I was wondering if you all will be able to see some of the games or how the people in Panama are liking/into the games?