Tuesday, November 14, 2017

First Home Progress Report

The first home in our off grid organic farm community has moved to the final stages, and will be completely finished within the next few months.



What's amazing about this area is even though we are out in the boondocks, so to speak, you can still obtain the things you need for day to day life, as well as any and all materials needed for grand projects like the one our first resident has undertaken.

If you remember previous posts, the home is situated on an organic farm just over 1.6 acres in size, on terrain that is heavily wooded and gently sloped. On this farm, there are coffee, cacao, platano, avocado and citrus trees, as well as a large number of old growth and newly planted trees of many varieties.

The home was built tambo style (or tumbo if you're a gringo), meaning it is off the ground, rather than excavated into the hill. This was done for several reasons:

1) it allows for air movement
2) it does not interfere as much with the local vegetation, and
3) it does not require retaining walls in order to keep water from intruding into the home.

Our first post showed the road being created to access the property, and the beginning phases of construction.

In our second post, the walls were up, windows were installed and the floor and roof were completely done. Actually, as you can see in the photo above, the roof went up first in order to provide shelter from the rains that always come during the months of September and October.


Another benefit of building tambo style, is you get to utilize the space below the floor, which in this case was considerable.


This homeowner decided to fully utilize the entire front-facing 8 foot wide section that runs the full length of the patio. He plans to use it for storage and a shop. The space also was large enough to locate a water tank which will be used to store gray water from the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the shower, for use later on ornamental plants.


Also added was a rain water tank to store potentially potable water that is gathered from the roof and transported via standard, but large, roof gutters.

The rain water tank fills up pretty quick so the overflow goes into the gray water tank to help keep it clean by circulating the water. The valve controls the water flow to the tank, and allows an opportunity to have unclean (first rain) water bypass the tank.


Footers were poured by hand which will support short retaining walls to tie in the wrought iron security that will be installed later. These retaining walls also provide additional protection in the event of earth movement.


A larger wall was built to fully contain what would eventually be a spacious workshop and storage area.


An area was excavated to make room for a laundry and enclosed storage facility, also underneath the main level floor.


This photo shows the location of the laundry/storage room in relation to the rest of the house and the patio above.


Security screens were constructed and fitted into the openings created by the floor, posts and retaining walls. They are designed to fully open from the bottom for easy access to the shop area, and to achieve a more wide open feeling.


Finally, a floor was poured to tie it all together and make it a single unit.


Meanwhile, above on the main level, tile was being installed length-wise on top of the 3" concrete floor. The tiles were purchased in David, about an hour and a half away by car, and were made in Spain. They feature a weathered wood look and are gray in color.



The septic system was installed and the leach line was dug and filled in with a few feet of gravel.


Since all this construction was being done during the rainy season, a decision was made to construct a concrete stairway leading from the parking area below to the house. That way, workers could more easily climb up the hill to work, and the owner could get to the parking area below without sliding down on his arse, which did happen a time or two.


Later, a hand rail was added to provide some additional safety for the climb (which is sometimes a bit wet), and a gate was built to add to the beauty of the front entry.



A concrete path was built to take visitors from the front gate to the house easily, even if it is wet out. It was hand poured, of course, and the rocks were sourced in the local area by hand, and transported to the site in the owner's pick up truck.



I don't agree with what many people say about the Panamanian work ethic. These guys worked tirelessly on the project, often under adverse conditions. And of course everything was done without the help of any heavy equipment or machinery of any kind. These Panamanians rock!!


Not wanted to have electrical poles to spoil the view, the homeowner decided to have a trench hand dug to bring up the electrical service from the road underground. The trench is 18" deep and the 1 1/4" plastic pipe the wires are encased in was covered in a few inches of concrete. It was a short run...only 375 feet! The hardest part was filling the trench back in after the rains had come and left the ground somewhat unruly.


What's that you say? That's the bottom of the homeowner's shoe as he was trying to shovel the muddy clay-like dirt back into the trench. The shovel and his shoes kept getting caked with mud, so the job took a little longer than anticipated. Of course, attempting this when the soil had just received a good soaking was probably not the best choice of tasks to be taken on that day.



Back to the house construction...to save water and energy, the homeowner opted for a on demand water heater, which was located in the now-finished laundry room. A manifold was built and boarded so the homeowner could change out the propane tanks and use both available vendors for supply.


A patio roof was added to the front door and the stoop was extended. Security was also beefed up with the addition of a wrought iron decorative exterior door and roll-down security shutters for when the homeowner travels.






All the construction was accomplished under the watchful eyes of the two varieties of toucans prevalent in all of Finca Cazador.



The biodiversity brings birds of all kinds, and the many fruit trees planted by the homeowner (in his spare time), will only increase their numbers in the future.


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And, if you want to secure your own little piece of paradise in the mountains of western Panama, where the air and water are both really really clean and fresh, take a moment to reach out and get some of our information.



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