Thursday, January 29, 2009


Above Photos: Tres Monjas without snow, Rio Azul, and the unfinished house.

A cool, blue-sky morning before it warms, and breezes begin to stir the ash, I am sitting here with my mug of instant coffee, and a gut full of anticipation. At the socially acceptable hour of 9 a.m., I will head down to give the go-ahead to Patricio for the micro-hydro electric project for the house! The parts, materials (inverter, alternator, tubing, turbine, electric wires, etc.) and labor will be just a couple hundred bucks US more than the hook-up to grid quotes. And I might add, we've been waiting almost 11 months now for that to be accomplished. That little bit of news, just a faint whiff of promise has invigorated me. I'll leave Patricios house, and stop by a small fereteria to order the stuff for the addition awnings for the house, swing by Fernandos to load up the kitchen cabinet piece and tell him "forget life" on his increasingly expensive kitchen shelf ideas. Since I will have electric, Greg and I can use the lumber we have and pound up some nice, simple shelves our selves. The sealant and brushes are ready for Cocho and his son to treat the outside of the house. I've ordered a generator for those times when the water lines will freeze, which they will until the entire 1,000 meter line is completely buried. That will take time.

After almost a year of starts and fits, I have some vision that the house will be livable. A glint of hope. Greg and I would go out to the house and stare up at all the untreated wood. All of the raw windows, the wood floors, staircase, bare walls, untiled bathroom, and exposed slab kitchen sink. We'd drag out the sandpaper and start sanding one window at a time, the front door, the back door. All by hand. Sand, wipe, varnish. Each window pane only reaffirmed how much more there was to do. Split and stack some wood. Sand. Tape. Varnish. Ah, two windows out of twelve, all large with numerous panes. Sand and seal the deck. Replace warped boards. Drag down more varnish. Replace plumbing lines inside from the freeze, wait for the water spots to dry. Do sand and seal the front porch. By hand. Then take a hot shower using the best invention of all times for the pioneering weary, a gas, on-demand hot water heater. Light candles, fall into bed and get one page read before the river hypnotizes us to sleep.

Difficult things for me will be ripping out the kitchen counter...a monstrous slab of wood with a beat up old sink siliconed into a rough hole cut in it. The slab will be cut up and make bedside stands. Then installing and re-plumbing the real sink. I'm not intimidated by the tile work on the counter top. Just starting the whole mess. I'll tile the bathrooms next year. And what to do about the bare plywood ceilings? I've decided just not to look up until next year...I can think about it for a while.

I thought I was a "pioneer", a girl-scout innovator and survival specialist, until I had to do it all the time, and the novelty wore off (after a week). I felt terribly high and mighty when the house had running water and flush toilets. Then the on-demand hot water. Whoo Hoo! It was sweet and fun to snuggle up and read good books by candle light. For a while, and then only when I "wanted" to, not because I had to. Then cooking outside on a fire wasn't as fun as it used to be, so I got a little gas cook top and warmed bread on the wood stove. The raging river was wonderful, still is, but now I miss my music, and listening to radio. Finding myself one day completely overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done before winter, instead of sanding and varnishing another window, I sat on the floor and sorted nails into little containers, sorting tools and wrapping twine and burned through a six-pack of beer and a pack of cigarettes.

So now, disgraced pioneering girl scout that I am, I am hiring other people to do work that I should be doing (all except the climbing a two-story ladder to finish windows and seal the wood outside). Greg and I still have much to do, and the cutting and stacking of firewood is top 'o the list. Come winter I think we'll be ready. As ready as anyone can be here in Patagonia. I still need to buy tire chains, and am thinking the long steep walk up to the road might require snow shoes. Since winter only last 4-5 months here, I think I've loaded enough books and music on my computer to get me through. Not sure though. I might need someone to come check on us come the end of September and see if we are babbling incoherently, or poked each others eyes out.

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