Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunset in Futa

Above: View of Tres Monjas from home in Azul

Above: We ventured into town to check mail (it comes every Thursday and we missed last week) and this was the scene coming into town looking east towards Argentina.

The past five days have been freezing...water lines frozen, ground frost not thawing even though the sun has been shining. We are getting water from the river, warming it on the stove to wash. Cold and plumbing problems aside, we had some great home-made deep-dish pizza two nights ago, and chicken pot pie last night. Inclement weather and remoteness never dictates our culinary enjoyment!

In other exciting news, I gave Greg a haircut so he no longer looks like the Unibomber, while I continue to look like a cross between Calamity Jane and god knows who.

Somehow my blogger edit program switched to Spanish, so if I misspell, it's not my fault, I'm just lazy.

Nono brought fresh milk again yesterday so I made some more yogurt. The rennet I have doesn't seem to work for me...or I'm not being patient enough. I dragged in the 35-kilo bag of potatoes Greg bought and we must get to eating them...I'd asked him to get a sack of potatoes in town two weeks ago and he came wobbling down the path with a wheelbarrow loaded with a
"sacko"...35 kilos. Too bad when I ask him to buy beer he doesn't think big, huh?!?!?!!

So, we are off now...back to the homestead, watch our podcasts tonight, draw more water from the river tomorrow, paint a little in the house, Greg will chop wood, I'll bake some bread, chop and dry peppers and garlic to smoke and re-dry, and then find some useless things to take up time....write letters back home.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pink Snowy Mountains and Cookie Monster

[These posts are not necessarily posted on the days they are written...I write offline out at our place where we have no internet or cell phone service, then when we do come in town, I post them. I am also horribly bad at knowing what day it is - not only when I post them - but when I write them. And then, it doesn't really matter.]

I am having my morning coffee in bed, gazing out over the tops of the trees that hug the Azul and Desague gorge. Above them, a sun-pink, snow-covered mountain ridge stretches and a morning half-moon hangs overhead. Had it been raining, as it had for over two weeks prior, we could have kept the heavy curtains drawn and slept till noon if we desired. But when I cracked open an eyelid, I spied a sliver of blue and that flash of pink and through open the curtains.

I grabbed Greg's big, warm robe and slipped down the stairs to stoke the morning fire and set the kettle on. Out the window at the bottom of the stairs, in a morning mist on the eastern side of the house, the sun has not risen over yet, but fired the frozen air around the far sides of the Tres Monja spires, an other-worldly scene.

With only one robe between the two of us, and my chores done (fire-stoking and kettle heating), I climb back under the covers and toss the robe to Greg. He climbs down the stairs, checks the view, adjusts the flue on the wood stove and makes our morning coffee. We put a Tapestry of the Times podcast on my computer and talk about the day. We are excited that two days have passed with sunshine, and the fallen trees might take a chainsaw now. I will coax Greg into cutting some long, straight selected branches for my bathroom towel shelf project though it's entirely possible I might force myself to wash up the stack of dishes on the kitchen sink. It is the kind of day that looks as if we could throw open windows and doors and let a warm breeze blow through the house, but it is not yet 35 degrees outside.

The hydro popped off last night for no apparent reason and Greg is now well enough that he felt his way down with the flashlight and reset it. Twice. Speaking of last night...yes, last night I found I had a cookie monster in the house. Hydro reset, but candles going instead of electric lights, I was reading in bed while Greg watched an episode of Deadwood on his computer downstairs. I felt a craving for one of my raisin, crushed peanut shortbread cookies. I had made over three dozen just a week ago.

"Hey, Baby? When you come up would you bring me a cookie?" Silence from downstairs.

"There aren't any left," he says without shame. Three dozen shortbread cookies in a week? So much for eating healthy.

I finished my mother's room. It is actually the only room in the house finished. I took a bunch of pictures of the tiny, sweet room, but now can't find my camera cable so she'll have to either wait, or just come visit. Aside from a few books and the sheets and an inferior mattress, there isn't anything in the room which didn't come from very basic handicraft. The bed was made from saplings by Ismael. The pillows are stuffed, hand-pulled wool (by me), the basket that holds balls of Nono's home-spun wool...I made that from Sauce branches sitting down by the Rio Desague when the temperatures reached 80 degrees and I thought I'd faint from the heat. The clothes rack is rough wood with hand-whittled dowels, scrap from the wood pile. A quilt. Dried red and white roses from a walk around Futa. A punched-copper lamp shade, by yours truly. A couple pieces of odd driftwood from Rio Futaleufu and an old broken, weather-gray ladder Ismael left after some work here leaned against a wall to hold throws and an extra blanket, an old camposino doll my mother got at a junk sale and some hand-woven throws top it all off. I tossed a white sheep-skin rug on the floor and pronounced it finished.

I can't hardly bear the thought of going to town today. It's just too peaceful and lovely...and considering town is a place that shuts down for a four-hour lunch and has a population of about 2,500 now, that says alot about the level of serenity out here. I would be more enthusiastic if I could find the camera cord to email photos of Mom's room to here, but without that, I have no desire to go anywhere but into the kitchen to punch down a loaf of bread or make another batch of shortbread cookies...which I will hide.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Margaret's Calendar Trap!

Margaret's Cachando Chile blog is always excellent, and entertaining. Her latest post, the Calendar Trap is a MUST READ if you live or work in Chile. At first I felt a little dense that I did not know this subtle language trip-wire, but then I remembered that Margaret has been in Chile for 18 years. I secretly study-up on Chilean Culture via Margaret's blog any chance I get. Cachando Chile is one of ( if not The One) best blogs on living in Chile and navigating the culture.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Unfit for Civilization and a Rat Trap Idea

I have so little time now in the world you all know...with cell phones, and internet and TV, that when I do get to a connection place (Futa), I am manic to sign on, catch my mother online, read headlines, skim forums and blogs so that I am exhausted in two hours time. And I find my patience is thin, and thinner as the short time flies. I write snarky comments on a couple of forums where I find posters asinine and braggadocios. I punch at the keyboard until a couple of keys are fragile and one popped off. I think, I murmur, I start getting aggravated and start punching harder at the keyboard...I type..."Don't you KNOW that the world is not about YOU", or I shrill at someone on a forum.

I am not fit to be in civilization, actually. I don't fit in, and to be truthful, I'm not too traumatized by this realization. I am appalled by the fact that people think it's "crucial" to wash towels after every use, or to flush the toilet after tossing snot paper in it. Same goes for dropping a pan of boiled potatoes on the floor and throwing them away...Hey! Pick them up, run some water over them and eat them! I wonder sometimes how the hell people survive when they have to figure out how to squeeze out a mop. God life is tough.

Anyway, coming to town and having any significant time online just raises my blood pressure about 50 points, and that's not good. But I have no self control, so I will continue to come into town, fire up my computer once every ten days or so, and ... fume over things. Sarah Palin, the Patriot, QUIT? Good! That's a good thing! Ann Coulter gams about what a great gal and patriot Palin is because she QUIT? Good. The RW (The Grand Old Party...aint' they Grand) thinks it's great that Honduras used the military to overthrow an elected president because he allegedly violated their Constitution? Oh that's priceless. Where was his Justice Department and Memo Writers when he needed them... The fury over health care reform? Gold! Loved the thing about the SC Gov and his Argentinian mistress. And how blowing off the tops of mountains in Appalachia will continue? Man, I need a few doses of river watching and twig whittling to counteract that.

Meantime, a good friend stopped by and showed us how to make a Chilean mouse trap. You need a tall, deep bucket, two, slim (3-4 inch wide) piece of thin wood the width of the bucket, a sharp knife and some lard (or peanut butter, or slimy cheese). Whittle the wood slat back on each end about an inch or little less so that it sits on the edges of the bucket, the wide middle over the center of the bucket. Fill the bucket halfway with water. place the whittled piece of wood on the rim of the bucket...centered. Directly on the center of that plank, smear a nice lump of lard, or peanut butter on each edge of the plank. Place the second piece of wood like a ramp, so that it leads up to the whittled wood. The theory is this...the mice will come up the plank, delicately move onto the plank centered over the bucket, move to the edge to partake in the treat...the plank will tilt, and the mouse will fall into the water, and's a shame, but that's how it's gotta be. Photos of this experiment in "el campo" pest control will be posted later. For now the mice are drowning before they even get out of their nests!

In other's raining.

Rain Rain Rain

I walked out into the spongy yard outside the house to get some logs for the fire. Ten days now? Fifteen? Rain. And more rain. Then I walked up to the road to get a bottle of wine we left in the truck on Friday. On Friday, I thought it was June 28th, but then found out it was July 3rd? So that means yesterday was July 4th, but maybe I'm wrong and today it the 4th.

The house stays warm now, except for the spare bedroom...I finished painting the ceiling yesterday, and once again, the paint labeled latex is actually oil-based and stunk so badly I had to paint in five-minute intervals. We set up the rustic bed Ismael made for us, and I tried out the electric drill to make a coat/clothes rack for the wall, set a small table against the opposite wall, and threw a sheep skin on the floor. An old weather-gray ladder leaned against the wall holds the extra blankets for the bed. After I varnish the window panes and door, I'll have one room finished. That's all. One room. I like it so much that if the fumes weren't so bad, I'd be in there writing this, watching the rain out of the window into the forest.

A young sage of the Azul Valley stopped by yesterday to check on the hydro. He had ridden his horse into town the week before instead of driving his truck, and it was a great ride, he said. "The ride made me think...People are so busy these days, hurrying to get everywhere and do so much, they don't have time to think anymore." Yes. Even here. We rush to town, race around trying to catch stores open, pull our money out of an ATM machine, drive around to the post office, the internet. Race home. To be sure, things are slower here...the time it takes for bread to rise, or yogurt to set, or the fire to catch. Stacking wood, clothes drying above the wood stove. But still, we have now filled our lives with movies, music, electric tools. Definitely less time for the mind to contemplate the quietness and roaring sounds of here. With the glorious addition of electricity, I have music on CD's now, instead of the eerie river songs we used to hear.

The ships aren't running from Puerto Montt to Chaiten now. The only way to the north is through Argentina, and even then, the pass is threatened with closure due to snow and bad weather. The only way to get out of Chile from this area now is Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Chile and Argentina are in a usual tit-for-tat about Swine Flu...Futa now sporting a flu epidemic and one reported case of Infuenza Porcina. All epidemics and disasters go only one way across the border, depending on which country you ask. A bus coming from Chile to Argentina was attacked a month or so ago by Argentinians who were angry that the bus was carrying a man who reportedly had symptoms of Swine Flu. Argentina claims Chile has more cases than Argentina, and Chile claims that Argentina is under-reporting cases. A young English backpacker succumbed to Hanta Virus several months ago, and each country claims the other was the source.

So while health and natural disaster officials in both countries trade barbs, zingers go back and forth about who has better lifestyles, and countries, we sit happily in our rain-drenched valley, trying to find some balance between old ways, and new ways.