Contribution by Denise C., El Hoyo, Chubut, Argentina
In 2007, while living in the U.S. my husband was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. We sat down and took a hard look at what we wanted to do with whatever time we had left to spend together (prognosis at that time was less than 10 years). Bottom line, we wanted to live a simpler, more natural life, closer to the basics, with less stress, no schedules, good food, good wine, and more laughter. Our tremendous advantage was and continues to be that our children are self-sufficient and our parents are independent.
We were free to do whatever we wanted to do, since nobody else was going to be affected by any rash financial decisions we might make. First we eliminated all debt, and reduced our expenses as much as possible, so that we could manage to live on the most minimum income.
We decided our best bet was to return to Argentina where we could buy a small piece of land outright, cash, no mortgage. Here we can have affordable health care, which is a must – given my husband’s leukemia -and our expenses are very few because we live in a rural area.
We packed up our stuff in August 2009, took a few months to travel around the western states and southern Canada in an old pop-up camper, and said our goodbyes to our sons. They are grown teenagers (or young men… depending on which side you look at them from).
On our way back, just only maybe 50 miles away from home and during a strong thunderstorm, our pop-up trailer jack-knived and made us spin out of the road and hit a guard rail.
Needless to say, after catching our breath for a moment and thanking the Lord for not being hurt, we called the good people at www.towrockford.com who carefully straightened out the forks of the pop-up and towed both our truck and the trailer back home safely.
That had been our last signal: our near death experience had made up our minds: We packed the stuff we wanted to keep, lsold and gave away the rest.
Then we flew to Argentina –the country where my parents, my husband and my three sons were all born– traveling and camping in different areas during several months while trying to figure out where we wanted to live. We ended up in a small (pop. 3000) fruit-farming community about 1400 miles southwest of Buenos Aires.
In 2010 we bought a couple of acres at the foot of a 4000 ft. peak in a low lying valley that is practically at sea level. We’re at the 42nd parallel south, the Andes are to the west, and on the other side of the mountains is the Pacific Ocean and Chile. To the east of here it’s all mesas and flatlands to the Atlantic which is about 400 miles away as the crow flies.
The land is very similar to Wyoming, flat grasslands in the east and the Rockies on the west, lots of lakes and bubbling rivers full of trout. Beautiful forests, snow-capped peaks. Because we are not high up, we get no snow in winter although all the surrounding hills get a good amount. It rains a lot in fall and winter, soft and steady for several months. Summers are hot, sunny, and dry.
In January 2012 (summer) we started building a small one-bedroom cabin here, just 15 ft. x 35 ft. with a small covered front porch. We built it all ourselves except for the concrete slab! It would’ve been fun except for my grouchy husband, worried about cost overruns and the weather turning cold before we could get it finished.
Meanwhile, we lived in a tent, used an outhouse, cooked camp-style on a gas burner, and slept like angels. The stars! It is so quiet here, except when our neighbor’s pre-teens listen to their crazy music too loud and the whump-whump-whump of the bass echoes off the hills. Ugh! Anyway, that summer our youngest son was visiting and he was a tremendous help to us, especially when it came time to put the roof in. I learned to lay ceramic tile! We made our own kitchen countertops and cabinets, shelves, did all the electric and plumbing and gas installations (it’s good to have a handy and knowledgeable man!). We put up drywall inside, and have recently put up siding outside, and now there are flowers in the garden and we’re finally getting around to building closets inside, and getting the finishing touches done like baseboards and curtains and photos on the walls, and bookshelves, etc. Looks quite decent!
We have a large vegetable garden, a greenhouse where we plant warm-climate veggies like tomatoes and peppers and eggplant, some chickens and a rooster, and there were already plenty of fruit trees here (several varieties of apples, plums, peaches, sour cherries, elderberries). We’ve planted pear trees, nectarines, sweet cherries, more plum trees, a walnut and a couple of pecan trees. We have raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, blueberries, and currants. The only vegetables we’ve bought elsewhere this summer are onions, some garlic, some extra potatoes (what we planted just wasn’t enough!), we have been self-sufficient regarding peas, carrots, green beans, fava beans, Swiss chard, radishes, arugula, lettuce, pickling cucumbers, summer squash, corn, parsley and such. We have fresh eggs, eat local poultry and beef, and go to a nearby town (15 mi.) to shop at the supermarket only for oil, dairy products, bananas, sugar for making jam and vinegar for making pickles, coffee and tea. We buy whole wheat flour, brown rice and dry beans and seeds at a small store that specializes in natural products. We don’t eat processed foods or packaged goods, if we can avoid it. We have natural gas, running water, excellent cell phone service, internet, but the electric grid in this area is overwhelmed and we often have power outages. We have a good-sized freezer full of our own vegetables, and a pantry full of pickles, chutney, canned peaches, homemade cherry brandy, elderberry syrup, and canned sour cherries for pies. The only thing missing is a creek, but my husband says maybe we can build a pond. I told him I want a waterfall. Just a small one…
My husband’s last quarterly checkup was a few weeks ago in December 2015 and he’s in perfect health, the doctor’s amazed. We’ve built a second greenhouse, and are putting up a small detached guest bedroom, and continue to live in the tiny cabin. It’s so comfy now that we wonder whether it’s really necessary to have something bigger. My mom’s been heard to say that we have a hard life, mostly because all this planting and weeding and harvesting and picking and cooking takes up so much time, but honestly we are loving it, and we love that we can choose our daily activities according to our mood or the weather. We have no TV, we have no neighbors nearby, we don’t use an alarm clock, and we try to never hurry. We watch movies, read a lot, and we have plenty of company on weekends. We drink lots of wine, laugh whenever we can, and are learning to survive spending so much time together without killing each other. Needless to say, we are very happy, and manage to live with minimum stress.
Here is a video of the paradise we live in in today: