Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Valle Pintado Collage

Now it's harvest day again. The sun is breaking through the fog and it feels great to be in the greenhouse as it warms up after four days of rain and chill. The tomato plants are laden. It's a great way to wake up my body, stretching, bending, twisting between them to get at their fruits. There are way too many for the harvest boxes, at least for eating fresh. Should we process some into sauces to store? No, we have no time for that today; we have to prepare for tonight's triple birthday party: Patrick on Leap Day, Jeramy on the first, and Alex on the sixth. The rest of the week is also full. The members are just going to have to figure out what to do with all these tomatoes on their own.

A small portion of this week's harvest:
Now I'm over at the yurt with Spencer, visiting John, Hannah, and Julia. We sit at John's funky improvised picnic table and snack on polenta. All four of them were at the farm last year and they swap stories of some characters they all knew. The sun comes out, glinting off the blackberries. A good moment for cutting my hair, which Spencer and I have been meaning to do. This will be his first haircut and I'm unsure that it was a good idea to think that simply because he's dated multiple hairdressers, he'll have any idea what to do. But it comes out pretty well. Anything but conventional, but something I can sport for a little while. It draws comparisons to a mullet, a mohawk, a military cut, a businessman's cut, and an anarchist cut. I take the diversity of interpretations as a good thing--if I'm going to have a weird haircut I don't want it to be pigeonholed as anything in particular.
Now I'm sitting around the table with Alex and members of the El Bolsón Christian Community. Their priestess has come to visit from Neuquén to baptize Loretta's baby, and she wanted to see the farm. They've brought empanadas, facturas, and tartas for a sumptuous tea time snack. I'm serving mates--my first time taking on this important Argentine social function. I've learned how much to fill the mate with yerba, shake the dust out of it, test the water temperature in the kettle with my "fingermometer" (it should be around 82 degrees C), pour so that a portion of the yerba on top remains dry, cover the bombilla (metal straw) with my thumb as I insert it so that it doesn't get plugged up, drink the first mate myself, serve them the same way around the circle, remember who doesn't want any or says gracias to indicate they've drunk their last one, and judge when the yerba needs to be replaced. It's quite a task. I'm worried that my fingermometer hasn't had enough practice yet, but people seem to be enjoying their mates. The priestess is a warm, locquacious woman. Alex prompts her with a question about an astrological phenomenon, the Return of Saturn, and she takes the opportunity to give an impromptu sermon on guardian angels, life transitions, and faith.

Now I'm shucking Abenaki corn, a white corn good for polenta, on a rainy afternoon with Alex, Anna, Gustavo, and Andy. The pile of husks grows in a corner of the kitchen as we recount last night's adventure to the Festival of Hops, El Bolsón's biggest annual event. One lone ear of Abenaki comes out blood red, a genetic cross. It's beautiful.

Now I'm in my bed in the cabin at six in the morning, drifting into wakefulness. I have a clutch of eggs, carefully wrapped in towels, in bed with me. We started incubating them yesterday because the hen had left her nest with a couple of chicks. Last night one of the eggs was peeping. Taking them to bed with me seemed preferable to waking up every two hours to heat water to pour in the jars in our homemade incubator box. I'm a calm sleeper; sometimes I talk, but I don't move very much. I woke up once in the night to turn myself over and switch sides with the eggs. Now the one that was peeping is peeping again, and tic! a tiny beak snaps against my chest. This guy is ready to come out.

Now I'm on my motorcycle, towing Alex, on his motorcycle, into town. I never would have thought this setup would work, but when Alex's chain broke and he was trying to figure out how to get his moto into the shop in town, someone suggested it. So we took the calf's rope and tied our motos together and it seemed to work fine. The steep uphills were dicey, and we had to disconnect and walk his machine a couple of times, but overall, if I use a delicate hand on the accelerator and Alex is attentive with his braking, it works fine. We pull up in front of the shop in town, a little high on adrenaline from this ridiculous adventure, and give each other a congratulatory hug.


  1. GABRIEL! Will you just LOOK at that anarchist haircut! I have been contemplating just such a haircut for myself, hahahaha! All I need is scissors and a willing buddy who understands the subtleties of the shaved portion. Aaaaaaaahhhh this so great. Also, it looks like the ill-behaved motorcycle chain you encountered in Pucon wasn't your last!

  2. It's a fun haircut. Go for it!!

    Yeah, Alex's broken moto chain prevented us from singing mantras at the "hipeada" (my favorite Argentineanism derived from "hippie") we'd planned on attending, but sparked a spontaneous night of fun that we're still recounting to each other.