Archive for April, 2017

Water, such a luxury.

There probably aren’t too many people who would think of water as a luxury.  Most consider it vital but have such easy access to it they don’t give it much thought (except some Californians).  And  everyone knows there are parts of the world where access to clean water is an issue.  And, even though, I have lived in a country where clean water is not available to 15% of the population, I have been able to afford it.  My cistern, tanks and swimming pool have been replenished with a phone call to bring a truck to the house.

According to Wikipedia, in 2010, 85% of the population in Peru had access to water.  It was estimated 83% of urban dwellers had water piped into their home while only 46% of rural dwellers had such service.  Improvements in the delivery of water have improved since 2010, but most improvements have been in urban areas.  Water quality varies widely but is not generally potable throughout the country.  Water may not flow 24 hours a day either.  In Los Organos people may have to open valves in the middle of the night to fill their cisterns or tanks while water is flowing.  If they do not have cisterns, they fill whatever tanks, buckets, cans or containers they have when trucks come through neighborhoods.


In late February of this year, heavy rains made the road to our house impassable.  This meant we couldn’t call for a truck of water and had no way of getting water to the house. We were able to buy 21 liter bottles of drinking water, but had to use water from the pool for everything else: bathing, flushing, doing dishes, laundry and watering the garden.  We left for a trip to the states in mid-February and returned in late March.  Throughout this time, it continued to rain and conditions continued to deteriorate.  We did miss the worst of it.

Once home, we were able to access the situation.  There was minimal damage to the house; just a bit of water in the house which had seeped in through the walls and windows.  Part of our retaining wall out front had collapsed.  Fortunately the wall at the end of the pool held.  Another wall built to terrace the garden also collapsed.  For the most part, we fared rather well.  Except when it came to our driveway and road.


This was what our driveway looked like when we arrived home.  Doug was able to stand in the bottom and the “island” was chest high.  The lower part was pure mud which washed down from above.  You would sink up to your ankles trying to walk across it.  Much of the road between Ñuro and our house was similarly destroyed.

IMG_1133During the first week of returning home, we had to walk the 3 kilometers to the pier in Ñuro.  From there, we retrieved our truck and drove into town for supplies and groceries.  On the reverse trip, all supplies and groceries had to be packed home on foot.  For the first few days, this might have seemed like an adventure but the novelty wore off quickly.  We were able to locate an ATV for sale a week later and bought it.  Even though much of the road was impassable for a vehicle, the ATV could navigate it.  It wasn´t a cushy ride by any means, and we mostly traveled on the beach.  At least this allowed us to make the trip in less time and to carry more back.

Our primary concern remained getting access to clean water.

Doug approached various land owners along the road to see if they would share the cost of getting the road fixed.  None were interested.  We don’t have any neighbors that live here full time; they are here only for vacations.  Living elsewhere, they were in no hurry to get things done.  They could wait for the government or the oil companies, which use the road, to fix it.

After about ten days of sunshine and no rain, the road dried out.  With the 4-wheel drive pick-up we were able to drive to and from the property, but not up to the house.  Again, this was akin to a rodeo ride on a bucking bronc and required bobble head flexibility.

In mid-March, Doug hired a front loader machine to fix the driveway from the road to the house.  The operator was quite good but it still took him 4.5 hours to get the driveway workable.

Doug then rented the front loader and went down the road to fix some of the worst spots.  Unfortunately, he had only gone about 300 meters when the fuel pump quit and the U-joint broke apart.  So, there the machine sat; in the middle of the road.  It wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

Finally on the 20th of April, machinery and trucks began working on the road.  I suspect they were hired by the petroleum companies, but I’m not entirely sure.  I didn’t really care.  I was excited the work was being done.  Two days later, they had the road repaired.  Now, repaired is a relative term…think rough logging road and you can imagine what we ended up with.

Sunday, the 22nd of April, was a red banner day; one to celebrate!  We finally got a truck full of water to the house and now have a full cistern and water tanks.  I was able to shower with clean water coming out of the shower head; it was the first in what seemed like a very long time.  It was luxurious!  Five gallon buckets distributed throughout the house for flushing, dishes, etc. are now being put away.  The pool level is down about 18 inches, but filling it back up will have to wait for another time.

As with most luxuries, you pay for them.  Water has always been by far our most expensive monthly bill.  Unfortunately, with all the effects of the rains and mudslides, the cost is now 25% higher.  We are becoming champions on conserving water.

This year, Peru experienced heavy rains.  We average two to three inches of rain per year on the north coast; not surprising as it is a desert.  Since January 1, Piura province has had 25 inches of rain.  Most storms dumped 1-2 inches of rain per hour while the worst storms dumped 5 inches per hour.  (Global Precipitation Measurement mission of NASA)  Rains in the interior were equally strong and resulted in massive floods and numerous landslides down river.  In late January, landslides blocked the Pan-American highway, which is the supply route to the north of the country from Lima.  By March, the highway was cut off in Trujillo and Chiclayo.

Yes, it was bad!

We live outside of the village of El Ñuro, which is within jurisdiction of the town of Los Organos.  The paved road ends at the pier in Ñuro and our home is three kilometers further on via a dirt road.  The soil has a high clay content so when it rains it becomes a sloppy slippery mess, often impassable after even a half inch of rain.  It usually dries out sufficiently with a day of sunshine.  Normally we have one or two days during the rainy season (January-April) when we can’t drive into town.  This year was different.  Rains began in December and have continued into April.  In mid-February, the road to our house became impassable due to landslides and wash outs.


Quebrada Puerto Rico

On the 8th of February, heavy rains flooded the quebrada next to our property and threatened to flood buildings below.  The photo is taken from our home.  The  quebrada normally drained out to the beach through a 10 foot diameter drainage pipe under the road.  However, a year ago, the pipe collapsed and the resulting hole had been filled with rocks and dirt.


Yes, that’s Doug in the hole left after the pipe’s collapse.

The owners of the property below needed to reopen the drainage to prevent further flooding.  They did so, and thus left a gully across the road.  We were able to get our pick-up on the far side so we could still get in to town and back.   It meant we had to pack stuff up to the house on foot, but it was do-able.


We left for a trip to the states on the 18th of February and returned on the 26th of March.  We missed the majority of the storms, but certainly experienced the aftermath.

We were unable to drive home as the road between Ñuro and the road to the house was destroyed.


Even walking was problematic.



We had to walk home along the beach carrying our luggage from our trip.  Thank heavens for Juana and Sanchez who came to help….  Stormy too.  This walk was a bit surreal…. it was so quiet and amidst all the destruction, there were thousands of little red crabs scurrying along the beach.  In its own way, it was all very beautiful.  Certainly the usually brown hills surrounding this area looked more like a jungle without the forest.

IMG_1090Even through all of this, we felt fortunate.  Our home survived with minimal damage.  Many throughout Peru had lost their homes.  Our biggest issue was getting access to clean water.  We live completely off the grid.  Power is supplied by solar panels.  Water is delivered to us by trucks which fill our cistern.  With the road destroyed, trucks weren’t going to be able to get to us.  More on this next.

Birds all around!  As I headed into my studio today, I found a house wren perched on my loom.  I have no clue how he got inside but he looked quite content.  I had to walk through the studio to open the doors which frightened him up into the rafters.  I grabbed a broom and tried to gently nudge him toward the door but he had other ideas.  Stormy, our dalmatian, became curious and came to help.  I was finally able to get the bird out without Stormy taking it on as a toy.

So, now back to moving the hummingbird project into the studio.  Once I had the image finalized on the computer, I printed it out.  I had to “tile” the image in Photoshop Elements to print it using my home computer.  I ended up with 12 pages to tape together.  It’s in black and white as my printer doesn’t do colors.


I drew lines with a sharpie to delineate different colors.  I usually start with the lightest colors and proceed from there.  This can get tricky as some pieces are tiny.  I go ahead and mark them at this point, and decided if and how I will put them in with fabric later.  The grey scale is great at showing value, but colors having the same value won’t show up as being different from one another.  I keep a color copy of the posterized image close at hand so I can add lines delineating these colors as well.

I decided to focus on the hand first and the hummingbird later.

Now comes my favorite part; choosing the fabrics!  There is something so satisfying about handling batik fabrics.  And something therapeutic about playing with colors.

I figure out what color families I will be needing.  In this case:  greys, pinks, greens and tans/browns.  I have my fabrics sorted into bins; each bin contains a color family which contains varying values of the same color.   I will pull these bins out and pull out any fabric that I think might work color-wise with my design.  I will often end up with thirty or forty fabrics on the table.  Then I will finalize color selection according to the number of shades I need and how they complement each other.  In this case, I used the colored poster on my iPad to determine colors.  The posterizing can change the color a bit but, in this case, that was helpful as finding flesh colors wasn’t required.

This is what I ended up with for fabric for the hand.  Looking at these fabrics, I couldn’t quite see a “hand.”  This had been my problem with this project from the beginning.  I just wasn’t 100% convinced these would morph into a hand.  But I knew I had to take the leap or this quilt was not going to happen.


Each fabric was arranged according to value within it’s color family and each was assigned a number.  I went back to my pattern and located where each would go and labeled it by number.  (Remember painting by number?)  Finally, I covered the pattern with a sheet of mylar and traced the outlines and numbers.  This will help me with placing elements onto the foundation.


I dyed a piece of fabric for the background.  It is almost solid black, but has a bit of dark blue swirled into it.  (More on dyeing fabric in another post.)  I cut this into a rectangle several inches larger than I wanted the quilt to be before adding any borders.  I’ll use this as my foundation.

Next step?  I’ll begin “painting” the hand with fabric.


The Hummingbird.

Every project starts with an idea.  That’s the easy part.  I have lots of ideas.  I keep a folder of photos, ideas and what-not that provide inspiration.  I see ideas everywhere.  The challenge is transforming the idea into a quilt.

Four years ago, this hummingbird was inside the building where my son, Blaine, was working.  The bird was trying to get out a window.  He managed to catch it and took it outside to release it.  It was at this point, his friend Bob grabbed his camera.  As Blaine opened his hand, the bird stayed there for a few seconds before flying away.

When Blaine sent me this picture, he suggested it would make a great quilt.  I put the photo into my ideas folder, not knowing what I would do with it.  Soon thereafter, he proposed to his girlfriend.  I then pulled the photo out as I thought it would make the perfect wedding gift.

I’ve thought about this project for over three years.  (And Blaine is still not married, but still engaged.)  It has percolated, kept me awake at night and been a challenge to meet.

First, and foremost, flesh colors are next to impossible to find in fabric.  When I couldn’t find the right colors in any fabric store, I resorted to trying to dye my own.  I used all sorts of materials; things from commercial dyes to coffee and tea.  Many yards of fabric later, I had some browns and pinks of various hues and values, but nothing fleshy.

I was introduced to Photoshop Elements about this time.  One feature of the program is “posterizing” your photos.  Basically, it takes your photos and converts it into an image with a limited number of different tones.

My sister, Do, suggested I do the hand in grey scale.  This was intriguing (and, honestly, out of my comfort zone) but I thought it might highlight the hummingbird. The bird’s bright colors would contrast with the monochromatic hand.  So I began to collect fabrics in all values of greys and black.  Months went by as this was percolating, but I never got to the point of commitment.  So there it stalled, yet again.


Not too long ago, Blaine reminded me he was still waiting for his quilt.  (My response?  I am still waiting for the wedding!)  So, I decided to get back to the hummingbird.  I went back to the original photo and posterized it in color.  I played around with cropping the photo trying to decide how much of the hand I was going to include (or get away with eliminating?).  Here is the final result:

hummingbird posterized 5

I felt like I could work with this image.  Since the colors weren’t strictly flesh coloured, I had better luck finding or dyeing fabrics to work.

This leads me into Part 2; Moving into the studio and preparing to quilt.  Stay tuned.

Blogging Anew


After a few years of hit or miss posts, I’ve decided to return to blogging.

Initially I started to blog to share my experiences as my husband and I moved to the north coast of Peru with family and friends we left in the U.S.   I can be a bit long-winded when telling a story, so felt Facebook wasn’t the right platform.  I also didn’t want to send out mass e-mails fearing not everyone I thought would be interested, would be.  With the blog, I can tell my stories and if people are interested, they can tune in.  If not, …  well, that’s ok too.

I quit blogging a few a years ago; mostly because I felt more burdened by the sense I should post than enjoying it.  By that time, we had been in Peru 5 years.  I continued experiencing new adventures, but the story telling became less important.  I posted a few things in the interim years:  when I was working on a project for a class on sustainability or when the local water reservoir collapsed and water became scarce or altogether unavailable in our area.  Those posts were important to me and yet I knew few people ever read them.  My postings had been so few and far in between, my readers had moved on to other things.

Lately, I’ve felt the urge to blog anew.  I have several things in mind:

Flooding in Piura

I continue to have stories to tell about Peru.  This past winter Peru suffered through torrential rains which caused mass flooding, mud slides and huge losses of property and life.  We live in the midst of this.  We feel lucky not to have suffered more damage than we have here at the house but we are having to deal with issues created by the rains….  the most pressing being water.


Over the last several years, I have immersed myself in quilting and other finer arts.  Most of my quilts have a story behind them.  Blogging will give me an opportunity to tell these stories.

Also, the process of quilting has been a journey of discovery for me.  Local resources are non-existent for this craft.  Patchwork is known here, but art quilts are not.  This is wonderful when people see my work and are amazed; and remark how they’ve never seen anything like it.  On the other hand, I’ve had to scour the internet and the US bookstores for methodology and ideas.  My sister, Do, an accomplished and immensely talented quilter has offered immense support and help.  I get 99% of my materials from the states and bring them here.  The bottom line is that I am self-taught; and maybe some of my “discoveries” along the way might be helpful or interesting to someone else.


I will also be offering some quilts for sale.  I’ve been asked to do an exhibition at a restaurant in Piura.  This has launched me into thinking about quilts for sale.

My focus in blogging then will be the quilting; the stories behind them and techniques I’ve discovered which enrich my work.  But also the telling of stories about my life on the north coast of Peru.  I’ll aim for one post a week.  I hope this will be interest to others and that this will be a good format for sharing.  I also hope readers will respond, add their thoughts and interact as they read and follow my continuing journey.