Taking down a tree

This is time of year, the sound of chain saws is quite common. But a couple days ago, I hadn’t figured out that something more interesting might be going on until my wife spotted a guy with a chainsaw high in a tree. Only once have I topped a tree as part of felling it, but it was a pine, nowhere near this size, and swayed like crazy after the top fell. And I did it with a bow saw – no way was I climbing up a tree with a chain saw!

cutting down a eucalyptus tree, Uruguay

So here’s this guy up a 15-meter (I presume) ladder. All rather impressive. Listen for the guy on the ground yelling ahora! (now!).

I hired tree people a couple times when we lived in North Carolina. We had a lovely old spreading oak that needed thinning. The tree people – who worked at the Augusta National Golf Club – said they never use ladders, but only free climb, and also don’t wear spiked shoes, in order not to damage the trees. Quite spectacular to watch!

No worry about damaging the tree in this case. Also, being eucalyptus, it will regrow. And regrow.

Unlike the last time, this does not affect the sunshine we receive in our yard.



Well, duh.

Not long ago, we noticed our water bill beginning to skyrocket. We had plumbers here to install whole-house water filters outside. Checking their work, they pointed out a little spinning disk that I had never noticed in the middle of the water meter. It was going spin-spin stop-stop. We had a leak. After a bit of checking, it was clearly not their doing.

After digging a dozen holes along the length of the pipe going to the casita (little house behind), and finding no moisture, I called Enrique, a nice, mellow plumber from Peru. We determined there was a leak underneath the casita (i.e., impossible to fix), so he installed a cutoff valve. At length we discussed how to re-plumb outside, tap into the cold line on the exterior bathroom wall, all without breaking tile inside – we had a plan!

Alas, perhaps Enrique has been in Uruguay too long. I said I’d get back to him when the weather got a little more pleasant for outside work. This has been a mild winter, but it’s still winter. So, sun appears! And no response from Enrique to text messages; phone calls terminated before a chance to leave a message.

Well, we have other issues with the main house, so I sought the advice of Daniel, the guy who will be solving many of them. I had bought bricks, and was preparing to create a subterranean box around the valve.

water cutoff valve, Uruguay

This is how you do it, with mortar, and when you’ve built up to ground level there’s a nifty little concrete frame and cover that fir perfectly. But, I thought, if they need to re-route the tubes, maybe I shouldn’t do this first. I explained to Daniel the plan Enrique and I had come up with. He agreed with the overall plumbing plan, but hadn’t answered my question.

So I asked again. Well, he said, if we’re putting a new cutoff valve on the outside bathroom wall, we will simply remove this one.

(See title.)

Anyone need a few crappy Uruguayan bricks and a kilo of Portland cement?




On to the T

“Don’t laugh,” Burkhard said as he opened the container door.

It’s a Ford Model T he plans to restore. Notice the little round springs – those are aftermarket additions. Apparently the T had a rigid suspension. Ouch.

He confesses that the radiator has already been restored. And though the hood and fenders have been primed, there’s some serious fender rot which will require some TIG welding. He’ll get someone else to do that, since he doesn’t want to invest in a [Tungsten Inert Gas] welding rig. Since I’ve never learned even basic welding (even though my father’s company in the ’70’s made radio-frequency welding machines for similar sheet metal applications), it’s all rather magical to me.

Inside, make yourself comfortable on top of the gas tank.

But nah wurreez; you’re protected by the firewall, that separates the controlled-burn part of the operation (engine) from the potentially-uncontrolled (i.e., gas tank) part. You’ll note that the firewall is made of – drum roll, please! – wood! I’m feeling safer already.

Although it looks like a disaster to me, he says this engine – and car – is in good shape. Unlike the A, he doesn’t plan to rebuild the engine. Turns out that the Ts were such a bitch to drive that when the A came out, they were simply abandoned, so existing ones have much less wear.. As I pointed out a few months ago, Model As have turned out to be venerable beasties.

If you’re curious, do a Youtube search for “how to drive a Model T.” Three pedals: the right is the brake, the left the shift, and the middle, reverse – do I have that right? In any event, you could probably drive a Model A with minimal effort. A Model T, uh, no.

I don’t know what all this crap piled on the back of the vehicle is. I’m not sure I want to know.

This should make for a fun ride – stay tuned!


Children’s toys at the feria

Yesterday was the weekly open-air market. It can be fun after you’ve been here a while. The “seed and nut ladies” who enjoyed my account of puppy Mocha’s first encounter with the wood stove some time ago (“Heat! Ooh, I like this!) immediately pointed out that they had unsalted cashews, which they hadn’t last week. I talked briefly with a girl I’ve never seen before selling loofahs (for bath sponges) that her grandfather grows. When I mentioned that my attempts to grow them had less than stellar results (wow, it’s been over five years!), she offered an explanation I didn’t really get, concluding with a smile that it’s “medio complicado.” Fair ’nuff. I bought some cheese from a young couple who are new to the feria, telling the customer in front of me whose dog had  just caused an uproar, that the owner of the (many) “uproar” dogs told me that her dogs never bark. Got a good laugh with that.

I’m reminded that before the feria, returning from a few small chores in the campo, I stopped at the carnicería (butcher). Only Javier, the proprietor, was there, busily getting things ready. He didn’t have what I needed for the dogs – will have all tomorrow! – but found a couple kilos of bones, cut them on the band saw to a size I asked, threw them in a bag and handed them to me – see you tomorrow! No charge.

This has happened before. Nice.

feria Atlántida Uruguay

On my return, I notice a large display of toys – haven’t seen this before. However, what really struck me was this:

toy guns, Atlántida, Uruguay

toy guns. Which reminded me of a photo-op I missed a few weeks ago. A couple of kids, maybe 10 years old, passed me twice in the feria with one of the more realistic imitation guns. The second time, the kid pointed it at me again. I smiled. The thought to take a photo pf them came slowly and by then the moment had passed.

In many (most?) parts of the Untied Snakes, it would be extremely dangerous to even be near this kid. There, overzealous cops don’t have to pay for their own ammunition (as they do here, apparently!), and think nothing of firing dozens and dozens of bullets in the direction of such a grave “threat.”

When I was his age, my best friend and I, saturated with World War II movies featuring glorious American soldiers saving the world, had a contest to see who could do the best “death” from atop a pile of dirt on a construction site. Neither mother was too pleased with the cleanup that episode required. So what is a 10-year-old boy with a toy gun thinking about now? Maybe movies, but more likely his mind is orders of magnitude more saturated with first-person shooter video games.





Plumbing in Uruguay

Resolving a little plumbing issue in the country yesterday set off a cascading series of Uruguayan plumbing memories.

Some involve sheer incompetence, some … well, let’s start with the incompetence. If you’ve been with me a while, you might remember this gem from jack-of-all-trades Nestor (because anyone in Uruguay who sort of knows one trade thinks he knows every trade). The lower patch fills the first hole he made for the horizontal vent pipe above.

Uruguayan plumbing

A few years ago, a newcomer trenchantly reflected on Uruguayan plumbing, “Didn’t we see this in Pompeii?”

Yes, sweetie, just minus the PVC. Let’s trace the wastewater route from our kitchen. 1) First it goes into the 20 liter grasera that we had to buy to replace an 18 liter, perfectly functional, grasera. 2) It goes into another box. 3) It goes to another box. 4) It goes to another box. All of which are prone to clogging, of course, from grease that escapes the grasera..

Uruguayan plumbing

Before we get to box #5, I should point out that boxes 3 and 4 should not exist, but this being an owner-built house, the line went from box #2 to the big unmarked concrete top, to a septic tank not in the original plans. We only discovered this when we had to “regularize” our plans three years ago (a process which maybe will be finalized this year?).

So from there the water goes to box 5, which should have been a right angle turn, to box 6, where the downspout from the upstairs bathroom and pipe from the downstairs one join the party, to box 7 …

Uruguayan plumbing

… where it makes another turn to box 8, and finally to (9) the septic tank.

Uruguayan plumbing

Wherein lie a couple more stories. You’ll notice a dark square in the top of box 8. That is where I filled the hole in it with concrete. When our erstwhile know-everything handyman Martín cleverly used leftover tiles to cover the septic tank, he somewhat less cleverly decided that all it needed was an opening big enough for the “barométrica” (tank pumping) truck’s hose.

Uruguayan plumbing

When we launched into the above-mentioned “regularization,” we had to pay someone else to undo his handiwork, because an inspector had to stick his head in there to confirm that the septic tank was actually connected to the vent pipe in the corner.

Uruguayan plumbing

That may seem ridiculous, but the same Martín cleverly solved friends’ hideously-out-of-code plumbing inspection problem by installing a couple of plumbing boxes in the yard that made sense to the inspector, but weren’t actually connected to each other. Or anything else.

But that’s not my story to tell.