El Bosque (Rancho Madroño)
One of our goals for this trip was to visit our close friend, Brian, an artist who had recently moved from Seattle to Mexico. In 2004 Brian bought Rancho Madroño (now known as "El Bosque"), 80 acres of high-altitude (7000+ feet elevation) wooded land in the hills of rural Michoacán. On this land, Brian is building a space to serve as an environmentally-friendly farm, art space, retreat, and community. When we visited, Brian was in the process of planting an extensive garden and building five cabañas (in addition to the two buildings already on the land).
The Rancho Madroño property is on a mountainside 5 bumpy miles northwest of
Erongarícuaro (or "Eronga" for short)
Rancho Madroño is "off the grid." Water is collected from rainwater, and periodically trucked in. Drinking water is bought in town, as are tanks of gas for cooking and hot showers. Electricity, when needed, is provided by tiny gasoline generators (and hopefully by solar power sometime in the future). For light, Brian burns through a lot of candles. Heat comes from the fireplace.
Of course Brian has high-speed internet access! One of his cabañas currently serves as an internet cafe of sorts. A parabolic dish mounted on the roof provides a link to Brian's service provider, miles away across Lake Pátzcuaro. Brian is his farthest customer. In the photos below, we are climbing in through the window because the building just had locks installed that day, and Brian forgot to bring the key with us.
Much of the wood used to build new structures comes from the trees on the property. The builders used a chainsaw to cut rough beams from the logs. Sap has been collected from the trees for turpentine.
While we were there, we helped out with painting of one of the houses a wonderful shade of magenta and other bright colors.
Brian has been turning his property into an extensive garden. Many of the plants are grown from cuttings made nearby.
Brian experimenting with new painting techniques.
Brian with favorite Mexican beer (Indio 40oz), puppy, bicycling, and a bit of a problem with bats.
At Rancho Madroño, as well as when at Brian's apartment in Morelia, we had several misadventures involving gas (for cooking and heating water). Even in cities, gas is not piped to houses. Instead each house has one or more gas tanks, which are usually refilled or swapped out by roving delivery trucks. In Eronga, these delivery trucks get customers' attention by dragging metal objects behind them (like a "just married" car) up and down each of the cobblestone streets, making horrible screeching and banging sounds. One day at Rancho Madroño we craved hot showers. After swapping around tanks, trying to figure out which one still had enough gas, and trying to ignite the pilot lights, I managed to singe off my arm hairs! In Morelia, we had other trouble trying to get hot showers, when the gas delivery people arbitrarily decided that day that the built-in gas tank in Brian's apartment was "too old" for them to refill. We had to scramble around town trying to find someone with a smaller tank which we could drive ourselves to the gas depot.
Hiring tradesmen to get specialty work done seems to involve different scheduling philosophies. Perhaps we were low on their priority list, but several times, we experienced the frustration of waiting around all day for people who were scheduled to come by and perform some work (such as welding window frames or installing locks), but would show up many hours late or not at all. Rarely was an apology proffered.