Monday, October 19, 2009

New Clothes

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 (So cold in the house this morning that my computer touch pad is having trouble recognizing my finger as something other than a cold piece of clay...I will start a fire before I start in...)

Have you ever stopped by someone's house and caught someone in their "ratty" clothes...the once white t-shirt now stained, torn and gray with "Bart's Air-Conditioning Service" screen-printed on the back? Tatty gray sweatpants cut off just below the knees and little balls of white fuzz all over them. And you wonder if this person either never throws away anything, or do they dig through the Goodwill Car Wash rag bag for things to wear? It's one thing to be frugal, and comfortable, but it's another thing to be a plain slob. But my neighbor Nono has never chastised me for my choice of clothes, and I love her for that. She did stop by last week with a message from town for us, wearing jeans and a t-shirt with paint on them. To her credit she had actually been doing some painting that day in town at her daughter's house. I looked down at my sweatpants (described above) and realized that my ensemble looked much worse than hers and all I had done all day was make bread and build a fire in the wood stove.

My husband was always a classy dresser. Tailored suits, button-down shirts, and silk ties for work. Even for home and in casual settings, and fishing off the beach, he always looked like he walked out of advertisement for an upscale men's clothing store. He wore clothes so well he actually did some modeling at one time. This was a guy who would put on his Tommy Bahama shorts, a nice shirt and deck shoes to take out the trash. After all these years of traveling, and two years now in Patagonia, I have corrupted him.

Yesterday, as I sat downstairs watching the sky lighten, drinking lukewarm instant coffee (using hot water from the tap because the gas tank for the stove ran out and I and still hobbling from the broken foot and can't drag in the other one from outside) I heard him stirring upstairs. A few minutes later, he comes down the stairs in long johns, tri-colored wool socks and a sweatshirt that looks like it came from the prop room of a horror movie. He slipped on his rubber boots and went out to get wood and change the propane tank. To dress for the day, he pulled on a pair of bluejeans now washed to a faded baby blue, splashed with old varnish and a color of paint I can't place, and went to the neighbors to get a tank of gasoline we have stored there.

We "refresh" our clothing supply every year when we go visit family but this year we are well past the one-year point and it shows. We do each have one set of "goin' to town" clothes but even those are showing signs of wear and tear. Gone are the days when my husband would dismiss a t-shirt because it had a small stain somewhere on the sleeve, or toss a shirt because he thought the cuff was frayed. Gone are the days when he would reject something even though I would point out that no one would know the bottom button on a shirt was missing because he would tuck in his shirt anyway..."I would know", he would say.

It is time, though, to retire some of our clothing. Things that are so hideously worn and stained from our days camping and building and painting and varnishing, torn from pushing through brush, caught on nail heads, or threadbare from volcanic ash that I wouldn't even cut them up to use as car wash rags. Then we will traipse into one of the Ropa Americana stores and start again. This time I will steer towards clothing in the black color scheme.

Mahjong stats: Games played- Games legally won- 200

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Backhoes and Toasters

(Written in September...)
In the US, you wait for the cable guy. Here in "el campo" we wait for the back-hoe guy. I am currently waiting for BH guy to come and scoop and level the parking area at the top of the ridge where we now carefully manuever our pickup truck in between boulders pushed there by previous BH guys doing road repair. It will cost us 28,000 Chileno Pesos for one-hour.

Ismael, the neighbor has tried to convince us to widen the path by a couple of meters so we can drive our truck down to the house. But we can see that with the topography of the land, specifically where the path would have to be widened, we would create serious problems next rainy season. Without intelligent engineering, the improved road would be washed out or buried in landslides. We choose not to go down that path.

Other tidbits:

I am posting a picture of something that everyone will be jealous to acquire. A wonderful new-age innovation. Below, behold, my toaster!

I have been thinking of doing an Infomercial with this wonderful device...Needs no electricity...Goes from gas (or electric) cooktop to campfire...Rinses clean with river water...Lasts a lifetime or we replace it for free!

I know what Mom is getting for Christmas!

I have many other innovative items that I use here in Patagonia on a regular basis. My bamboo and cuphook clothes dryer. My iron-ring fire-cooker which is adjustible by pounding it into the dirt over the campfire with a piece of left-over construction lumber. My in-river beer cooler made from chicken wire (adjustable in form for proper rock-wedging) and my ecologically sound mop (an old towel with a hole cut in the middle to fit over the broom handle).

I grew up with Hints from Heloise, so I completely appreciate Patagonia innovations. I appreciate not buying so many things that I can fabricate myself with things that most people discard or disregard. A few examples would be window cleaner (water, vinegar and a few drops of dish soap), pot scrubbers crocheted from net bags (my Aunt in Ohio actually does this) or using paper egg containers for sprouting seeds, bisquit cutters from tin cans. I have a wonderfully functional smoker which is simple but too complicated and boring to explain here. I use it to smoke meat, fish and dried aji and ajo for my famous, much sought-after merken mix.

That's all for now. Don't be jealous...but I'm working on my business and marketing plan, and soon you may see them on The Shopping Network.

Note: Being frugal and cheap is somewhat difficult in Patagonia as almost no one discards anything. There are no flea markets, second hand stores (except for the Ropa Americana shops which frankly are not cheap compared to Goodwill) and any broken machinery, building or contraption can, and is, taken apart and used to make something else. Scavengers have no future here.

End note: After noon, and still waiting for the backhoe guy.