PAINTER ADVENTURES By Federico León de La Vega ● November 2013 (originally written in July 2008)
On this occasion I was unable to sit by my computer and type because I was out in the boonies, on a small acreage I bought from a farmer, which has no electricity –I don’t have a lap top; in addition to this computer I posses only an old Underwood (for those of you too young and unfamiliar: mechanical typewriter that was popular by the beginning of last century) which I inherited from my grandpa, which I used for my homework when I was a kid and which I will take to my remote cabin! Yes! I do have a cabin now, out in the hill country. It is only a small Studio where I take refuge from the heat and excessive “progress” that has lately invaded Vallarta. Out there, you can hear no other sound than birds, wind and your own whistle. You must please forgive my for not giving out much detail about the location of this, my idyllic place: should some irresponsible investor or maybe an avid developer read this article, they would no doubt endeavor in bringing “progress” to this area. They would then buy all this beautiful land at below present value to then entice buyers into enjoying the view from small lots sold at a 1000% gain. These buyers usually do not distinguish the same values that you, my dear sensible, peaceful, educated and civilized reader and I share. They would fill the country road leading to my refuge with spectacular bill boards that would obstruct every glimpse the landscape they advertise. They would build ever higher till it would resemble old town Vallarta. Arriving the country scene on Hummers, or on four wheel motorcycles they would play their deafening sound systems, forcing their presence obvious throughout the valley. Am I primitive? Do I sound like a hermit? backwards perhaps? It could be…still and all, some think this type of off-grid houses like mine are more in the future than in the past… but let me tell you about my little cabin. By using cutting edge materials and technology, mostly metal frame and concrete sheeting covered with synthetic stucko, I was able to complete construction in 16 days. Initially I thought of using real adobe and clay tile, mistakenly thinking this was ecological, but I changed my mind when I learned what happens to the fields where mud for adobe bricks and clay tile is extracted from: nothing will grow there for decades. Moreover, it would have taken months to finish my little house.
For electric supply I have a 400 watt windmill; its not much, but enough for a few light bulbs, a pump to bring water in from the creek nearby and a low volume sound system. In addition to the creek water, rain is collected by, pipes connected from the roof to a tank. A 65 liter solar water heater, made of stainless steel and polyurethane insulation thermo tank, with heating pipes covered by vacuum glass, keep water hot as you wish for over 24 hours. Sewage from the wash basin and the shower goes through a stone filter and into the garden. Kitchen scraps go into a composter, along with some grass and ashes. I try not to bring much inorganic packaging up to my country abode, and I promise myself that the little I do bring will be recyclable. Honestly speaking, I don’t have all aspects of this challenge taken care of yet. I am conscious of the fact that one single family in our consumer society outputs enough packaging to totally fill a good size lot in one year. Maybe I will compress my aluminum and plastic and crash my glass bottles and make sporadic trips to the recycling centre. Now as for the toilet, I am resolved to use an anaerobic digestor instead of a septic tank. This consists of a rubber chamber where sewage stays for 50 days to convert to nitrogen and phosphate rich fertilizer, harmless and odorless, with methane gas as a by-product; in theory I should be able to connect this gas to my stove, however this is still to be seen. Most devices in my studio, such as the wind mill generator and the solar water heater I was able to find in local stores and, to my surprise, they have been technologically optimized. Microchips and new specialized materials have gone a long way to make off grid living feasible. Since I was unable to find a ready made anaerobic digestor, I am making my own. While I work this out, I have a small cooking range which I feed with an lp gas bottle. I know there are some highly qualified visionaries among my readers, so advice from anyone with experience in this field will be much appreciated. Please hurry, I need use the toilet.
Federico León de la Vega
Please Visit: http://www.federicoleondelavega.com
This is a chapter of a book I am writing about my adventures as a painter artist.
The Federico León de la Vega Estudio – Café is open to the public and is located in Paseo de la Marina 31, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sundays from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m.