Greg and I loaded a small crate with food and some clean clothes and headed out to the house to cut wood, varnish, paint and sleep in our lovely Hobbit Bed with the chilly Patagonia wind blowing in the bedroom window, and a singing river down below lulling us to sleep.
It was a blue, warm weekend with evenings and nights chilly with a new sliver moon rising from the west (it seems) and the sky never really getting dark. Ismael and Nono have begun the new roof on the back of the house. It will protect the back of the house and give us storage room and an area to use as a mud room. Saturday morning, Greg begins hauling up downed trees and cutting them up in a pile to split later. I sweep, organize, and start taping off windows to varnish. We work throughout the day, stopping to have some good, cold arroyo water from the tap, and watch the Rio Azul roll low and crystalline down below. Nono and Ismael, along with nieto Francisco come down to visit and check on our progress with ordering the micro-hydro electric materials.
I explain that I cannot transfer the funds for the hydro materials from Banco Estado to the ferrateria account at Banco Chile without a special tarjeta (bank card) but that we can deposit the funds in the account of our attorney who will in turn withdraw it and deposit it in the appropriate account. But not until Monday. Nono and Ismael are still cutting and bringing in “pasto” (alfalfa, in this case) and should finish in the next day or so. They will, however, be down to do some more work in the morning on the back roof.
Greg and I are hesitant to be hopeful, but hopeful nonetheless....the fact that Nono and Ismael have been a continuous source of efficiency...finding someoneto do the micro-hydro, offering to get materials lists which are far below the quotes we have gotten for materials we need, and just plugging along...as if they really want us to be neighbors. Ismael has made us a tall, but small “Chicha Shed” as a gift. It is a two-meter high, naturally hollowed-out tree trunk. Ismael cuts out a door in it, cleans it all out, hinges the trunk and it is a Hobbit-like hutch for dishes, or storage. I'll put a copper top on it, and varnish it to match the furniture.
Sunday morning Ismael makes two steep trips down with tools, and begins to work on the roof frame. Nono and Francisco trek down and Francisco wants to know if he can play with the magnet. I have a little tub of things that he likes to play with. A ball of string, a magnet, some thin nails, washers, bolts, an old fork, a pencil and paper, a pair of scissors, and tape, a marble and some interesting rocks. He goes straight to the kitchen shelf where I keep it, ans stands with his little hands behind his back, “Tia Vicki?” he asks. I pull out the tub of “toys”, his box of juice and a small tin cup that is his and put them on the table. Then we adults all go out to do our tasks.
Throughout the morning, Greg cuts wood, Nono and Ismael measure and affix cross-beams and climb up and down the ladder with nails and tape measure. I sweep, cook, straighten the house before going out to carry rocks, rake and toss cut wood to a wood pile. Francisco creates various magnetic creatures, and a prince hat, a couple of paper airplanes and pouts when his Grandmother tells him to help stack wood, but he does. Midday comes and Nono and Ismael pick up tools and head up the hill to go have lunch before cutting alfalfa (pasto) with Francisco not to happy to leave his magnet. Later in the afternoon, Francisco appears at the door, and joins Greg at the table for something to eat. He does not want the hamburger green pepper onion gravy but is interested in a bowl of mash potatoes and requests his roll be cut and smeared with mustard. He devours both and he and I head up the path, down the road and further up another wagon path to the field where his grandparents have loaded a hay wagon behind two incredibly majestic oxen.
It continues to be one of those wonderfully surreal Patagonia days; warm, blue skies ringed with glacier-capped mountains. Francisco lunges in the tall alfalfa for grasshoppers which he promptly amputates, leg by leg before dropping them. Field moths and other insect are victims of Francisco's typical boy curiosities. Ismael waves me away from the oxen's field of vision (they don't like me) and with a long cane pole and quiet clicks and soft words, turns the beast around with the fluffy load on the unseen wagon following behind. Ismael leads the procession, Cocho, Nono, me and Francisco following. Francisco decides he doesn't want to push his bike through the soft, freshly cut field, his face grows red and he lets out a wail. Nono responds with a long blade of alfalfa to the back of his legs, takes the bike and we leave him behind us pouting. Four seconds later he catches up sniffling beside us. By the time we reach Nono's farm, he's forgotten his snit, and joins Nono and me in the loft where she takes the heaps of pasto with a pitchfork and tosses them up towards the back of the barn. Francisco and I are to tamp down the pasto and make more room. We do this by making running leaps on the mounds, dodging Cocho and Nono's pitchforks.
The barn is a relic in itself. How it stands, I have no clue. In one corner stands the apple smashing machine, patched and ancient, but used every season, even now, and probably forever if anyone generations on decides to oil it and repair worn parts. The loft itself, patched with wishful boards and pieces of tin, is an OSHA nightmare and personal injury attorney's dream. Thankfully one of those categories don't exist in Patagonia.
This next-to-last wagon load of pasto thrown up and packed down, we sit outside on various pieces of old farm equipment and logs, light cigarettes and pass around a two-liter bottle of Nono's chicha. Not too sweet, not too bitter, just enough fizz and buzz. No one wipes the rim of the crinkled plastic cola bottle before drinking. I decline Cocho's cigarettes in favor of my own, not because I'm picky but because I don't want to use up his...and then realize as I pull out a Marlboro that I may have offended him. Just a little. The brief rest is over and we all hop on the wagon behind the oxen and slowly creak back up the road for another load with hilarious Mitch, one of the family dogs beating his little legs to keep up behind us. If Mitch were a person, he'd be Mickey Rooney.
I beg off where the oxen enter the northern part of Nono's farm, on the left side of the road, to go paint and varnish more. It is almost eight o'clock in the evening and there is no sign the sun has given up yet. Back home, I finish part of a wall with paint, and Greg watches the river. We still can't imagine what it will be like when this is all done, but we are willing to give it a go.