The great curupay cleanup

Over three years ago, I scored the better part of a deck’s worth of dense curupay boards. I did only one small project, then a picnic table which, despite complete sanding and refinishing with marine varnish after a couple years, quickly weathered again into a mottled mess. I lost interest in working with this curupay again, and have from time to time cut up some of the smaller lengths for firewood.

Today I got a load of “real” firewood delivered, which prompted me to clean up the garage where we store it, where also lived an unused bicycle,* seen below restored to its previous parking spot outside the casita.


Before today — and for three years — the space from its rear tire to the far wall has been a pile of curupay deck boards of various lengths, collecting dirt and spiders and generally being ugly.

Remembering that I have had no further woodworking interest in those boards in three years, I made an executive decision, cranked up the table saw, and rendered them.

I saved a few of the longer and nicer boards por las dudas (who knows what sudden woodworking inspiration might arise?).

curupay firewood

I put some pieces inside by the stove, and stacked the rest in the workshop. I was quite surprised how small the pile turned out. But in heat value, it’s probably the equivalent of pile four times as big of red eucalyptus (not cut into flat boards, of course).

Last winter was delightfully mild, which probably accounts for our bumper crop of avocados now, and I hope for the same this winter — so far very pleasant — but if it gets cold, we’re at least a little prepared!

*  a quality German women’s bike purchased from Syd and Gundy’s *interesting* tenant Herbert for a whopping USD 40 years ago. Interestingly, another purchase from Herbert, a hand-held circular saw, I mentioned on another post about curupay.

First fire this year

wood stove, dog

Temperature is in the mid-50s F (12-13° C) and it just felt right to crank up the wood stove. I had the door properly resealed a couple months ago. When I last got the door redone a couple years ago, the job was sloppy, and the stove hasn’t been really tight for a long time. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of heat coming from it – and of course forgot to dust the top before lighting. Eh, what’s a little temporary burning odor?

We don’t currently have enough doggie blankets for everywhere, but I did put some cardboard down after taking this photo, so Benji is now enjoying the warmth without vaguely thinking “something is wrong with this picture” as he lay on the cool tile floor.

The boxes above him contain a backlog of fire-starting material. I haven’t ordered firewood this year. We have a small amount of odds and ends, plus quite a bit of curupay from the deck of Tim and Loren, who left here over three years ago. I probably should think about that, since the weather’s been OK, and in the east of Uruguay, firewood is stupidly sold by weight. So, after a rain, if the wood is stored outside, you can end up spending 35% more – yep, that’s how much the wood can absorb temporarily.

So welcome winter, and we’re not quite prepared. I guess hoping it will be mild like last, resulting in an incredible harvest of avocados, starting March this year versus June the year before.

Ya veremos – we will see!



Electricity tends to be expensive in Uruguay, and most people where we live use gas, called “supergas,” for cooking. It’s not a good choice for heating, since it adds humidity, which, combined with temperature, is a fine recipe for unhealthy mold growth. For that reason, we chose to ignore the gas plumbing in the incomplete house we bought, and instead deal with the regular replenishment of garafas (carafes? um, thanks Google Translate).

Which replenishment has been an issue of late, because whoever delivers or refills or produces these things has apparently been on strike. I really don’t care which. Despite being pretty conversant in the language, one plus of living here (as when I lived in West Germany in the 1980s) is that a lot of (verbal/propaganda) nuance escapes me. I’m not big on “news.”

Anyway, turns out we have a lot of them, these steel pressurized containers.

The reason why is a little interesting. We bought a house with a casita (little house) for our 22-year-old son to occupy. We bought a gas heater, not trusting him (wisely) to restrain himself with electric heat which, given our “intelligent option” from UTE, the government electric company, basically triples the electric rate at peak times — 5PM-11PM, when residential heat is really nice in the winter — but makes it relatively cheap to operate an electric clothes dryer, which we really like, the other 19 hours of the day. So we needed another garafa. Then, some rather strange Americans — oy vey, whole other story — were selling shit, including several garafas for USD 50. At a time when a “new” (bear with me) garafa cost more like USD 75-80. No brainer. Why this idiot woman wouldn’t simply sell them back to the supplier baffled me. But hey.

OK (you’ve now borne), turns out you can “buy” these garafas, but you can’t sell them back. In other words, you can’t waltz into your local gas dealer, say, thanks, it’s been great, but I’m leaving and want my money back.

You’ve purchased the right to exchange gas tanks ad infinitum. You don’t actually own a specific tank, as we did in Mexico when my son got into glasswork. You own this right to exchange that which you cannot sell.

And now you barely have the ability to exchange. Hence, I feel great accomplishment that I went to Parque del Plata Norte and Marindia (opposite directions) this morning and came home with this: two exchanged 13 kg gas bottles..

bottled gas, uruguay
O frabjous day. Callooh. Callay.


Crazy gringo burns curupay as firewood

We inherited a piece of curupay lumber when we moved here. A meter long, perhaps 2″x3″, it weighs much more than any unsuspecting person would imagine. Curupay is used for beams, and though it has about the highest heat output of any wood here, its price is such that you’d be crazy to burn it. Unless, of course, you happen to have had incompetent local aluminum door installers destroy your floor and the frame of the wooden door they removed.

curupay wood

The pieces have sat, undisturbed, in our carport for a very long time. I tried cutting one with our crappy little German circular saw, which basically burned its way through the board, but my new table saw zipped right through them.

curupay board burning in wood stove

This is what just one of those pieces looks like burning. I’m scared to put in more than one piece. You can feel the heat across the room. Especially nice on a cold day like today, in a typically uninsulated Uruguay house.