Sunday, March 26, 2017

Friendship, Muy Trabajo, Adventure and The Rest of the Story...

It has been a full two weeks. After enjoying a week of summer-like weather between visitors, the day that we picked up my high school roommate from the Malaga airport the weather changed. As we drove up the mountain in the thickest fog we have seen here, I know that Mary Jo wondered what she had signed up for. When we arrived at our cortijo, the snow began to fall. Fortunately I had laid a fire that morning and soon the house was warming to coziness. 

I've decided that weather reports are of little value as the forecast for Mary Jo's visit called for day after day of rain and/or snow; but after only one day of weather that kept us inside, we enjoyed sunny days and were able to do all the things we had planned. She had come from Ann Arbor, Michigan and told me before she arrived that she was leaving 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 Celsius) with wind, and that if I could improve upon that, it would be great! And it was great!

Showing Mary Jo around the area - Trevélez

A hike near the fire lookout

What a gift to have a visit from someone I've known for so long. Neither of us is where we imagined ourselves during late-night talks in our bunk beds at Boarding School, but we both feel fortunate to have ended up where we are.

Forty-one years of friendship

On the day that Mary Jo and I went to Granada, Sam joined about 25 others, a mixture of Spanish and ex-pats, men and women, and began to clean the acequia. This is an annual multi-day activity involving someone from each property that benefits from the water that flows down the mountain through the ancient water channels. During the autumn and winter, leaves, dirt, and other debris fill the channel, while wild boar do their part in collapsing rock and dirt walls. This all needs to be cleaned out and repaired before the snow melt begins and the water starts to flow. If the acequia remains clogged, then there will not be enough water to fill the albercas and cisterns for the cortijos and for irrigation.

Sam hiking in our leaf-filled acequia before the cleaning began

The acequia cleaning crew starts with the strimmers (weed-eaters) who clear anything that is growing in and along the channel, then come the "leafers," who scoop out the loose leaves and trimmings, next workers with hoes clean up the sides and loosen the compacted mud, and finally the shovelers toss it all out, heaving the piles of dirt and debris as far from the channel as possible. The Spaniards frequently bring a dog or two along and this can be a problem if a Retriever is in the group as there is a constant effort on the part of the dog to return what has been tossed out!

Acequia cleaning, day #2

The workers gather at 8:00 and work until 17:30.  This year it is expected to take 4 or 5 Saturdays to complete the 14 kilometer stretch for which our "neighborhood" is responsible. Yesterday was the second Saturday and the further they progress, the longer it takes to walk into the day's section, and then back out at the end of it all; it also seems that there are fewer participants each week. 

Last night our neighbor came over for dessert and he and Sam talked at length about "there has to be a better way." It was agreed that cleaning the acequia is muy trabajo, very hard work. Our neighbor is 38 years old, so even the younger men find it a physical challenge.  The Spaniards seem to accept this as something that just must be done, and there were some very old men doing their part. It is so important to understand all that is involved culturally for these men who have done this all of their lives, but it is hard to resist imposing a bit of other-culture strategy on it all. 

Yesterday while Sam worked like a "medieval slave," as our neighbor described it, I drove into town for some groceries. It was a beautiful day and much warmer down in the valley than here at home. After stopping at the necessary shops I decided to go on a short adventure.  

Just outside of Órgiva, across the Seven Eye Bridge (named for the seven arches), I turned right, went through the narrow tunnel and drove on for a couple minutes.  There is a pull-over on the right hand side next to some high rocks, and I've been curious about why the pull-over is there and have wondered what I have been missing each time we pass on our way to or from the coast. It seemed like a good day to explore. 

Who could resist climbing to the top?

There are paths all over the hillside, but it quickly became clear that the paths have been made by goats, and following goat paths is not always fruitful for a human. The animals care nothing of views, and their sure-footedness meant that I ended up in places where my lack of sure-footedness became alarmingly apparent. 

As I scrambled up a precipice, small rocks and dirt fell away from me, and I wondered if perhaps I should have told someone where I was going. But curiosity drove me on. I ended up high on the rocks with a stunning view towards home. The Rio Guadalfeo flowed far below in front of me while behind me, seemingly tiny cars enjoyed a Saturday drive along the twisting road that hugs the side of the Sierra de Lujar. Wildflowers are scattered across the rugged terrain and I breathed deeply taking in the scents of a warm spring day. 
Tiny cars far below

Towards home 


The Poppies are starting!

And now, the rest of the story....I have mentioned our fuente from time to time and in my last blog I shared some photos of the rusty barrel that has served as our first place of collection, amongst the ferns, about a kilometer from home. On Wednesday Sam and our neighbor Joseph decided to take on the task of replacing the barrel.

We were off early to Pitres to see what the building supply yard had in the way of small water tanks. Sam and Joseph teamed up to find the necessary Spanish to describe what they needed and then we discovered that the merchant, Antonio, has quite a bit of English. So our needs were spelled out in broken Spanish and then summarized back to us in English. 

Yes, it was understood what was needed, but something would have to be ordered. I think we were all relieved that the job could be delayed for another time. But then Antonio had a thought; he might have just the thing! Keys were uncovered and a door unlocked and there sat the perfect item. A small tank intended for making wine, but exactly the size that we needed. Having settled that issue, the three men sat down on the floor and sorted through a box of valves and parts until everything necessary was collected.

On the floor sorting through a box of parts

It took all afternoon to dig out the old tank, make a deeper hole, drill holes into the new tank, replace the intake pipe and hook it all up. I busied myself at home until Sam called. His first words were, "Don't panic." Does that ever help anyone NOT panic?  

Joseph had cut himself badly. Sam wrapped the cut tightly with teflon tape (the man is resourceful and calm in an emergency!) and now Joseph was on his way home to stitch it up himself. Sam thought I should walk up to see if I could help. Fortunately Joseph assured me that he could take care of it and he would be fine. I walked on to the fuente to check on the progress and before long Joseph returned, bandaged and back at the barrel replacement effort. 


By dusk the project was completed and the new system is working perfectly. 

Finished project!

Water is everything.

For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it. - Marcus Samuelson

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