Monday, 14 January 2008

Moonshine in the Morning

It´s always all or nothing around here... or sol y sombra if you prefer. Today is one of those days when, after weeks of not a whole lot happening, all the stars align and everything and everyone descends at once.

First I met an Aussie pilgrim outside the Sahagun refuge this morning, a real ray of sunshine. I told him ´buen camino,´ and he said, ¨thanks, g´day to you!¨ He was alone all night in the huge hangar of a refuge, but he slept just fine, he said...he had spent his evening watching football in the Irish pub, drinking Guinness. He called it "Irish lullabye."

Here at the Peaceable, the Josés showed up and broke through the back wall to the yard, and discovered what we thought was going to be a step out onto the porch floor opens into earth, right about chest level. Our house is dug that deep into the ground! So our double doors to the back yard will now be a big window instead, still giving some light to the room while offering our chickens a panoramic view of our salon and kitchen. The men thought it was kinda funny, except they put so much work into it already. But no one could tell, really, where the ground was. This is what happens in a house built piece by piece over many years. It may turn out to be rather weird, the fruit of poor communication skills, mixed signals, and sheer bull-headedness. But it will be home. And it will have lots of sunlight!

The plumber arrived. His name? José Franco. We´re calling him just Franco. Jefe José Antonio asked us where we´d put the bath fittings: the showers, bathtubs, toilets, etc. We don´t have any yet. Get em here by tomorrow, he said. So this afternoon we´re off to the builders´ supplies places, measurements in hand, to see who can deliver the stuff promptly tomorrow morning at a do-able price. It´s all so on-the-fly, it makes me very nervous! We didn´t know. How could we have known? So I likely will not get the cool bathroom sink that looks like a deviled egg. Oh well.And we won´t have exposed beams in the kitchen area, because all the bathroom pipes from upstairs will have to be hidden in the ceiling.

Meantime, Just Franco´s getting down to work with a big pile of pipes, joining up the plumbing for the kitchen and upstairs bathroom, generally doing whatever it is plumbers do.

The hero of the day is José de Moratinos, our Milagro Boy, who wove himself quietly around the morning´s events, argued a little with José Antonio about where to put the gasoil tank, advised on water pressure and pipe circumferences (he´s the local water warden) and generally inspected the works and ran interference with all this fast-demand decision-making. (Jefe José suggested we call him ´Joselito,´or ´Little Joe.´ But our José told him, ¨Soy DON José.¨ ¨Call me SIR Joseph!")

(I hope that makes sense.)

He then took us over to the family compound on the other end of town to show us the project he and his dad have going, out in the garage: they´re making moonshine.

They have it all over there, inside one of the barns behind the combine: copper kettles, a butane gas ring, rubber gaskets, hoses for cold water and drainage, coffee filters, a specific-gravity meter, and big 5-liter demijons of last year´s red wine and this year´s rotgut. I won´t take you through the whole process, as it takes five hours or so, and about 25 kilos of grapes slogged out of a barrel. But now I know how to make aguardiente! (aka "fire water").

This stuff is the base for orujo de hierbas, another local specialty that´s colored golden yellow with saffron and is sweet enough to suck the fillings out of your teeth.

What a day! And it´s only 2:30 p.m.!


El Hombre Malo said...

I would have go with "Mr.Jose" to translate "Don Jose" since "Sir" before the name denotes some kind of "nobility" and "Don" is only a respectful term.

Discovered your blog last week, keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I put your blog on my bookmarks bar. I love it!

Beth said...

Hey, guess what, I have your blog (and Paddy's) on my bookmark bar too! Love, Beth

Deirdre said...

Hi Rebekah,
I love your blog... having walked through Moratinos, I can appreciate so much of what you talk about. On my next Camino I'll be sure to stop in. Meanwhile, if you're putting tile in the kithen, think about having radient heating put under the floor tiles (while Juan el electricista is there!) They are so cosy in winter and dampness and make the floor so lovely and warm! I've rennovated a few houses and am thinking of coming to Spain on a permanent basis... so your travails interest me greatly! Good luck... keep blogging!
Deirdre (from the forum!) said...

Just so you all know: We are having under-floor heating put in, the kind that runs on hot water. It´s expensive up front, but there are no radiators and it´s but supposedly is very easy on the environment and gas bills through the winter. When we have winter. When we´re not running the wood stove!

Thanks for all the nice comments, guys.