Monday, August 31, 2009

And how Did August Play out????

Coming up on two years in Patagonia. I read back through a few of old posts and it dawned on me that anyone reading them, then coming to Chile might think I was writing the blog from a mental institution in Arcadia, Florida. Certainly not the Chile that most people see and experience. Maybe unconsciously that's why I called the blog Futalandia, instead of "Fools in Chile", or "Pioneering in Patagonia". The fool part would fit, but still, here,'s no one else's experience but ours. Uniquely ours.

Writing on paper, by candlight again because the hydro tripped and Greg is in town this evening (I cannot climb down the hill with a cast on my foot - and more on that later) it occurs to me that there is still so much to do, learn and prepare for. Uncertainties and inevitable things.

The first cast...split to accomodate the swelling. That is Chilean Eucalyptus I cut and skeins of yarn in the background.

But how to strike a sensible balance between flapping in the wind, and spending all your waking moments fearing and preparing for every possible scenerio and disaster? Shelter. Heat. Water. Food, Medicine and First Aid. That would be Tier One preparadness.

So what is tier two, three, four? How far do you go? To what lengths? Is it possible we could both end up injured and some weeks or months later someone will find us crawling on the floor burning furniture to keep warm, eating raman noodles dry from the package, gaunt and dirty, laying on the couch cushions while the cat has gnawed off our toes????

The China Cabinet - Empty

Who will check the mail no one ever sends us? Or the electric bills we don't have, so no one will expect them to be paid and a meter reader will never come to shut off the electric and smell our rotting bodies?

Nono and Ismael! They are who will save us! As they did recently when one morning I was daintily slipping down the stairs and missed a good, firm step down, slid, left foot catching between the two stairs while the rest of my middle-age cellulose plunged forward and I broke all the bones on the top of my left foot. Once I was done screaming, I waited for Greg to quit screaming (he realized that his life would be substantially different for some time after this fall). Nono and Ismael had to help him, help me up the football-field lenght path that leads a hundred and fifty feet up to the road to the truck. Off to the hospital in Futa.

Minky waits for Greg to come in and clean her litter box.

With a temporary cast and xrays and excellent pain meds, we drove back home. But something was wrong. How to get me back down. And the short story is that the pouring the dark, with a @%$?@* flashlight that quit, Greg had to go down to the house and bring up the wheelbarrow, after which we had an argument about "face forward", or "face backward". Facing forward, I slumped painfully into the now pooling ice-rain in the wheel barrow, and holding a small pen-light on his key chain, we made the trip down to the house. Where the hydro had tripped again. And we had to grope around for candles, and dry matches. Then start the woodstove.


[Note: When having a cast put on, be sure that your blue jeans will be able to be pulled over the cast, or have a good pair of scissors to cut them off.)


Ok. To be honest, I wasn't that pissed off. I had too much pain medication in me, but it those thoughts did run in a loop in my brain. God bless him, he did cook for me, though I found myself craving dry macaroni instead. And he put up with me asking for this and that, and something else. He ran up and down the stairs, and on top of everything...the water tube for the hydro separated and we have been without electric from the second day after I broke my foot.

Patagonia will do this. Test you.

Patagonia says, "So! You think you want to do this?"

"What?" we say, starry-eyed at the screaming rivers and snow capped Andes and salmon the size of third-graders!

"This," Patagonia says. "With all of this beauty, pristine and stunning nature comes hardships. Keep that in mind."

"Ha!" We say!!!! What could Patagonia through at us. We survived the volcano. The winter with rains, and rains, and then it rained. But then it froze, and snowed and the volcano blew again."

But I never imagined the humiliation of being transported in a wheelbarrow (because I had to, not because I was drunk), or having to pee in a bucket during the night because I couldn't walk to the bathroom. Hardest of all has been teaching Greg to cook. When he honestly says, with humility, "Where's the ham?" I almost want to double dose my pain meds and wake up when he figures out we don't keep it in the bathroom.

NOW I know I can live and survive anything here. Ismael brought me this awesome walker he made from bamboo. I no longer have to pee in a bucket, and actually stumped over to the counter and made bread and pasta yesterday and we sat in front of a warm fire, with the sun turning the Monjas brilliant rose. And this Patagonia!

A dog we are sitting. He looks like a cross between a giant mole and a Panda. He's a huge sheepdog who didn't tolerate the leftovers he ate and added to Greg's domestic clenaup duties the day after I broke my foot.

Late Post on End of July

Post July 30, 2009 (This post wraps up July, and I am just now getting to somewhere with internet access, and have the time to post. I will follow it with another post tonight which updates, and explains why it's been so long since I've been here...until then....)

Inching along, wrapping up things at our rental cabin in town, we dragged our refrigerator and washer back home down the several hundred meter path to the house. Will the fridge be salvageable? Time, soap, bleach, vinegar? While we were in Temuco for a month and a half, the landlord shut off the electric, which was supporting the fridge, which held packages of frozen meat, fish and vegetables, etc.

Other fascinating news:

It's been wildly sunny the past week, yet has rarely gotten above freezing, even mid-day. The chainsaw is repaired and it's owner now has the correct gas-oil mix straightened out. Apparently it makes a difference. We've discovered that the cat enjoys shredding toilet paper, and totally unrelated...we are still dipping water from the river. Since the pipes don't appear to be frozen, possibly we have an air lock of the neighbors oxen have broken the line (anywhere from the house or along the 1500 meters to the source).

How I've been spending my time:

Ignoring the stacks of boxes we've dragged from the rental house, I've focused on more important tasks. I received a panicked email from friends in Temuco...they've run out of Furken, my Futaleufu version of the much-loved Chilean spice mix called Merken. It starts with copious amounts of chopped aji peppers and many heads of garlic, peeled and sliced, all of it dried, then cold-smoked, then finish-dried in the oven, ground by hand and funneled into spice jars. Nothing special but for the nutty, smokey garlic and the hot, but not brutal bite of the peppers. Merken has comino in it, which makes it less desirable for fish and some other dishes. I stuck with the simple garlic and pepper mix. So, I'm making Furken this week...drying screens on racks, piles of aji seeds littering the cowskin rug as I sit in front of the fire cleaning peppers. Gathering a pile of the right kind of wood for the smoke fire. With all the end pieces of aji and garlic, and a recipe from my homesteading book, I will attempt to simmer up some tangy hot sauce.

I also needed some celery for chicken pot pie, and the only celery available at the produce store was massive bulk packages. What I didn't use for the pot pie, I chopped and added to the drying racks. Cocho came down to paint the high ceiling in the living room and with his ladder, knocked an entire tray of drying celery off the wood stove. I couldn't save it from the cowskin rug, had to take the whole thing outside and beat the rug many times over to get it clean.

The snows on the mountains are still substantial, but the locals say it's not as much as earlier years and they are concerned about water levels for the coming summer season. The Azul and Espolon are both extremely low, yet the little Desague here is deep and wide. Barrels of chicha are showing some imbibing and getting a little vinegary. The Azul Valley is sparsely dotted with little wooden houses puffing smoke from wood stoves. Socks are being knitted, haylofts are emptying out, and there are some new lambs being born. I thought that only happened in the spring, but just saw four new babes on our way home yesterday.

So, that's about it from this neck of the woods. For my panicked friends in Temuco, the Furken is in the works and I will notify you when it's shipped.

post script...the Furken caught fire when I failed to monitor the smoker. All is lost.)