Around the barrio …

New street light that looks to be solar. But maybe not.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which means yesterday was Mardi Gras or, as we call it hereabouts, Carnaval. Normally, it’s one of the worst periods in our hardscrabble barrio because the locals go loco with up to four nights of blaring concerts on the neighborhood plaza just a block and a half away.

In recent years, we’ve made it a habit to skedaddle to somewhere that’s not here. Last year we went to Guanajuato. This year we went nowhere because it was nice and quiet even though a Gringa who lives not far away in our hardscrabble barrio was complaining about freelance festivities on her street. I heard nothing.

No official Carnaval this year thanks to the Kung Flu.

Yes, I am not the only norteamericano who lives in the neighborhood, but I have been here the longest. Actually, I have been on the mountaintop longer than almost all Gringos and Canucks who now reside here, too many for my taste, actually.

Most belong in San Miguel de Allende.

Just here in the barrio, there is a Gringa in one home and a Gringo couple in another, all of whom arrived here long after we built the Hacienda. The Gringa lived downtown before moving nearby, and the couple, who are in their 90s, bought a big, fancy home from another Gringo couple who had bought it from another sole Gringo even earlier. I watched all these goings and comings from right here.

The initial owner of that property was a gay bookseller who returned to the United States and shortly died at a fairly young age. The second owners fled to Uruguay due to some police problems, according to gossip. The current owners seem to be really fine folks.


We had been warned yesterday that our state and quite a few others likely would suffer rolling blackouts as Mexico tried to cope with an energy crisis in the north of the nation, which was a result of the problems above the Rio Bravo, the Texans and their hippie fans. But nothing happened here. The lights stayed lit. More importantly, Netflix stayed lit.

Speaking of lights, over the past few days, a crew has traveled around our barrio changing street lights. Before, we had the large bulbous variety — the one outside the Hacienda had been burned out for over a year — and now we have the sleek version you see in the photo. I’m thinking that little circular, blue thing on the top means it’s solar-powered. I hope so. It’s a good use of solar power.

We have a solar water heater on our roof that does next to nothing. I have disconnected and given up on it. If you want it, it’s yours for the taking. No joke. It’s our second solar heater. The first did not work at all. The current one simply works badly, at times sending scalding water to the shower via the cold tap. Yes, the cold faucet.

This morning dawned cold, but it did not freeze last night as it did the previous three nights. How do I know? I check the birdbath at 8 a.m. Solid or not? Low-tech information.


Storefront update

Photo taken just this morning.
The middle of last year to provide perspective. That’s the lone builder and his wife.

Here’s a photo update on the storefront construction that lumbers on across the street. As previously mentioned, it’s being built by one man with the occasional assist of his wife who totes things. He works most days, but he wasn’t at work this morning. I suspect that’s because it’s Ash Wednesday.


It’s a lovely day, and we’ll be dining on beans, rice and sausage (from San Antonio) this afternoon. Later I’ll drive to a carwash, and after that I’ll head downtown for a nice café Americano negro on the plaza with a chocolate-chip cookie.

Felipe goes green!

green

HAVING LOST ITS raison d’être, the gas-fueled water heater sits silent out back.

Even its pilot light has gone dark.

After four-plus years of wanting to go green (well, save cash, actually), we have a solar water heater that really works. Our first solar heater, some readers may recall, sat on the roof for about four years doing pretty much squat, occasionally squirting some tepid H2O.

But since that first set of panels was only connected to the gas heater — the theory being that it reduces the gas used to heat water — it did not have any practical effect on us personally.

We still enjoyed hot showers.

But I knew the solar panels were doing little because I’d climb the circular stairway to the roof now and then to open a valve to find tepid water coming out most every time.

That first heater, manufactured by Rotoplas, one of the biggest names in Mexican plumbing, had a 10-year warranty. Finally, I got off my lazy keister and returned to the hardware store where the Rotoplas had been purchased. I expected one of two responses:

1. Warranty? Ha!

2. Okay, but the warranty will be pro-rated. You’ll get 60 percent of your cash back.

Option No. 1 is common down here.

Imagine my shock when Rotoplas picked up the old heater and returned 100 percent of the purchase price, 10,000 pesos, about 665 American dollars these days. I used that money to buy another solar heater, a different brand, Solemex. Never heard of it. The Solemex cost 6,000 pesos, about 400 dollars, but I paid about 1,000 pesos to have it installed.

The Solemex did not work either.

The water it produced was blazing hot. It just did not deliver the water to the faucets in the Hacienda. Oh, it sputtered out some hot water now and then. On rare occasion, it even worked well. Sometimes no water at all came out of the showerhead. Nada.

You might imagine my irritation.

We even installed an inline pressure pump. The poor pressure remained the same.

But, to make a short story even shorter, the problem was not the solar heater. It was that the plumber who installed it was clueless. After returning twice, he finally figured it out, and now it works like gangbusters. We are hot and green!

The Solemex is connected directly into the house, not to the gas water heater.

A friend down the highway has installed a massive array of solar panels on his roof to generate electricity. He does not do solar water, but his electricity bill has mostly disappeared.

Maybe one day I’ll go green with electricity too. I feel like a hippie tree-hugger.

Heater
The new Solemex!