From Ottawa to Orce - pt 4

This past week I have not done very much sketching. The weather has gotten “bad” and I’m also getting tired of driving. I knew going into the housesit the place was remote, I would need to drive for groceries, restaurants, etc. So it was nice to have an excuse to just stay in because of the rain. I do feel bad for the outside cats who are quite miserable. Many of them are huddled in a pile of leaves under shelter in the feeding area during rainstorms. 

The day after 24 hours of straight rain it clears up and is around 10 degrees but very windy. A bit cool for sketching but I go on a walk, intending to stay on the paved roads, which there are not many. I end up going onto down a dirt road I haven’t been on, then see a structure in the hills across the valley and decide to go see what it is (abandoned cave house chimney) and by this point mud is caked to my boots and I continue off roading it, over fields, through a small ravine (slightly anxious about causing a small landslide, there clearly has been some crumbling) and eventually onto a farmers path, and back home. At this point I kind of want to encounter a boar, or at least find a boar skull, but no luck. 

I’ve invited the Americans, Warren & Betsy, over on Friday night for a Can-Am Thanksgiving. To prepare I make what is I hope my final trip to Huescar where the good grocery store is. Little do I know on Thursday it is market day in Huescar, and the parking lot I normally use is overrun, the streets in general are busy, and there is even a policemen directing traffic. Every town has market day once a week, and the days all vary. I know Orce’s is Tuesday but I must have forgotten Huescar’s was Thursday. I realize it’s always good to know what day market day is in each place, in case you want to attend, or avoid it. I eventually find parking and do the shopping run. I return home and gather some kindling as the house is running low and now that it’s rained I want to get it inside to dry. 

Friday is nice enough to sketch and so I walk to one of the hills that I first walked to upon arriving and make a sketch of the mountains I look at every day, and another quick one of the village. Sheep are grazing on the hills behind me, bells ringing. I return home for chores, and to prep Thanksgiving dinner. 

Warren & Betsy come with wine, salad and desert. I roast chicken and veg and even make gravy, which they are most keen on. They have done a number of house-sits over their past eight years of travelling and tell stories of good and bad ones. Warren realizing he was quite allergic to cats after nine months with one. Another home owner requesting that part of their stay they do additional chores that she was not willing to do. They say it is all about trusting your gut with house sits, and we agree that I was quite fortunate with my first one. They own a house about two hours from here, but have been house sitting in a cave about 5 minutes up the road for friends of David & Simon. 

Betsy is quite good with the cats, Grace sits on her most of the night, and she also gives the other cat, Munchkin chicken right out of her hand. I asked Warren to bring a corkscrew because it’s one of the implements I was not able to find here, and I looked throughly. There is a wine rack here, so it’s not as if David & Simon don’t drink wine. Warren obliges and opens my bottle of white, but then proceeds to start looking for the corkscrew himself while Betsy and I put the finishes touches on salad and dinner. He looks for fifteen to twenty minutes, in all the obvious, and not obvious places, and agrees with me: there does not seem to be one. The consensus is they brought it with them to Maylasia. 

As dinner is served, it turns into a classic American Thanksgiving (not that I’ve attended any, but at least the stereotype of one.) We begin talking politics, Trump, our reaction to it, and so on. My position is that the American political system is the problem, with the Democrats & Republicans colluding on major issues. Obama was elected on “Change" and more or less carried on the same policies of GW Bush, particularly foreign policy. The fact that the war criminals of the Bush administration were not tried for war crimes by Obama sets up the precedent for Trump to torture. The fact that although Bush brought in drones, Obama used them in greater numbers, allows Trump to do the same. That Obama campaigned against foreign wars, removal of troops, closing Guantanamo, and did not deliver, suggests that same policy will continue. Trump is a villain, and it is better to have a villain in power than a friendly face, because people will actually get out on the streets and protest a villain. 

After dinner we are sitting in the living room, with the fire going, continuing chatting (we’ve moved on from politics) and I hear a rustling outside. I look out the front door and there are some bags out there. “There are some bags out there, the cats are looking at them” I say and Betsy says “Oh yes I put them out there because it was cool, and I thought the raw onions would smell.” She goes outside and returns saying the cats have stolen her rare cheese (Greek cheese, hard to find here, the kind that is nice when grilled and used in salad. It was delicious, but it is now gone). All in all it was a great night, it was nice to talk to people who had done a number of house-sits and travelled all around the world. It was very inspiring.

Saturday it rains again, for most of the day. The cats are again miserable but I make up for it by providing them with some of the leftover gravy and potatoes. Given that they regularly dig into the compost pile and eat dead animals around the area I’m sure their digestive system can handle it. They take extra care with dinner that night. 

Sunday and Monday I spend around the house as well, though I do walk nearby and make a few more sketches. The weather is still cool and cloudy, and I am also spending time around the house cleaning and organizing it in preparation for the return of David & Simon on Tuesday. It has been nice to not drive very much these past few days, and I am regularly going on walks down the dirt road away from the house at sunset. Every night on these walks I hear two things: a bird chorus from the nearby trees, and the jangling of bells from nearby sheep herds. Lately there have been at least 2-3 visible sheep herds grazing nearby. At sundown the herders start rounding them up and you can see them making their way back to the farm. 

This morning, one of my last mornings feeding the outside cats, I walk outside the garage doors, and and the cats perk up. In the evenings they are usually all waiting for me, but in the morning often they are sleeping in the sun and only come when they see me outside. In this case, there were about a dozen cats up on the bamboo shade over the patio. Most of these cats proceed around to the second floor balcony, then around the back where it meets the ground to proceed on the march for food. However, the smallest kitten, “Dumpy” who is my favourite, is so anxious and not at all risk adverse, has begun taking another method down. She scopes out the coniferous tree which rises higher than the bamboo shade, and she then jumps into it, tumbling down a few feet, bouncing from there into a hedge below, bouncing again out of the hedge to my feet unharmed (and soundly beating all the other cats down). It is truly comical. 

Tomorrow David & Simon return and I’m spending the day cleaning and cooking dinner for them. I’ll be picking them up in Orce on the same bus that originally brought me here. I’ll stay one more night in the house and then leave early the following day back to Madrid where I will spend a few days, hopefully sketching.