Friday, May 13, 2011

8 mayo, domingo

So much happening, and so little time to sit down to write a bit about it. Here it is the second week of May already, the rains have stopped and it looks like summer has finally come to Cahuasqui. Crisp cool mornings followed by brilliant blue skies and hot sun, and clear nights perfect for stargazing. Every tractor and every team of draft animals in town is busy with plowing and disking, irrigation ditches are being cleaned out, fields are being planted to beans and peas and tomatoes and peppers, and just about everyone in town seems to be happily occupied with the business of farming.

I am happily occupied, as well, slowly but surely coming closer to the morning when I can wake up in my “new” house on the hill, brew a cup of coffee and sit outside for a few moments enjoying the sun, the breeze, and the view. When people ask me (everyday) “are you done yet?”, my stock response is “falta un mez!” But the months come and go, Don Fernando and I are working hard just about every day, yet it always seems we are still about a month away from “finishing.” Good thing I´m not in a hurry, and as a matter of fact I sometimes find myself enjoying the process of building so much that I´m not sure I want it to end . . .

In addition to the construction, I have finally cleared a bit of land to start a little “huerto” where I´ll plant tomatos, zuchinni, spinach, lettuce, herbs and more. I have started about 500 tomato seedlings in flats, and they´ll be ready for transplanting out in about 2 weeks. I also decided to plant 15-20 more avocado trees, in addition to the 40 I planted last November - when they start producing in about 3 or 4 years they´ll provide a little bit of welcome income. Last week in Atuntaqui I bought a truckload of plants – the avocados, oranges, mandarinas y limon, and a whole mess of flowers and medicinales. Later on a couple of apple trees, and maybe peaches, and I think I´ll be set.

A truckload of plants – what a luxury. For the months of May and June I have the use of a Chevy LUV pickup – loaned to me (in exchange for new tires and some TLC) by my friend Jill Sare, (she writes a great blog at who has gone visiting in the US. After 10 days I am already completely spoiled, and I know that one way or another I am going to have to have my own truck. After 4 years of traveling by bus, I am more than ready. What freedom, what utility!


Now that summer has come I´ve decided that I should get out of my levi´s and put on a pair of shorts every now and again. In the early morning while it´s still cool I pull on long pants, but by about 8.30 the sun is hot enough to change into an old pair of Carhartt shorts that I keep up at the house. One day last week, shortly before the lunch break, I had to hike down the hill to pick up something at the ferreteria, so in shorts, tank top and ratty old cowboy hat went into town. The hardware store was empty, except for Fernanda the clerk and an old lady who had stopped by to visit. The old lady, with a great big smile showing off her one and only tooth, could not keep her eyes off my legs. I finally asked her, “so what do you think of my white gringo legs?” and she smiled even more broadly and said “que lindo, que lindo, your legs are the color of yucca!” This was not exactly a compliment in my book, although she certainly meant it as such, and Fernanda, behind the counter, could barely keep herself from bursting out loud in laughter. The old lady also commented on my various shades of whiteness - “que lindo, your legs are so white, your shoulders are so red (burnt) and your arms are the color of an Indian! Que hermoso!” Sigh . . . there are times I feel like a living and breathing entertainment center.


13 mayo, viernes

Rain! A much needed day off after a week of hauling and loading and digging and mixing and pouring. I hired 2 “officiales” (day laborers) Juan y Segundo, to help Fernando and I and it paid off. We poured concrete floors in 4 rooms, installed the water and drain lines, cleaned up the piles of dirt and block that had accumulated around the house and hauled up at least 100 wheelbarrows full of arena and another 50 of piedra to have ready for next week. What a difference 2 extra pairs of hands make, and Juan and Segundo have a smile on their faces every moment, no matter how hard the work. For that matter, so do Fernando and I – we are all having a pretty good time up there.

I´m happy for the break the rain provides, it gives me an excuse to drive into Ibarra today and it will help settle in the fruit trees I planted yesterday evening. But with the rain my thoughts return to my problematic roof, which I´ve been able to forget about during these past 2 weeks of dry weather. It´s a flat roof, with just enough slope to shed rainwater, and it´s planked with a very water resistant and very pretty reddish-yellow wood from the coast called “llano”. Turns out though that llano likes to shrink (a lot) when exposed to heat or sunlight, and my roof is opening up a little. I was assured that the wood was good and dry when I bought it in Ibarra, and I kept it stacked for a month before installing, but around here you never know. Kiln drying is virtually non-existent, and someone´s idea of air “dried” lumber might be cut the tree, leave the logs on the ground for a month, cut into planks – listo. Hecho y seco, but not really.

The learning curve in this little project has been daunting, and in the end very useful. How spoiled I was, and how easy it was, in the US, to run off to Requarth´s Lumber Yard or Home Depot, to buy good lumber with standard dimensions, to not have to negotiate every price (“well, how much do you want to pay?) And to know if I need more, it´s always there. Here, if I run short of anything by a few pieces, it may be weeks or months (if ever) before the aserradero has the same wood again. The upshot is, for my next Ecuadorean project, whenever and wherever, I am now far more prepared than I was 6 months ago. Not to say I don´t have a lot left to learn, and I´m still not sure how I´m going to fix my roof, but I reckon I´ll think of something.