Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Solar Classes on Taquile

Taquileño Solar Professionals -it's about time
We sometimes claim (without data) that Taquile is the most intense use of solar energy in the indigenous world, with their three community water pumping projects, some hot water systems, and almost every household with their small PV systems, adequate for lights and music.
240watts for the freezer at the tienda of Eufrasia and Delfin
Now, as Taquileños want to add more amenities to their lives, such as refrigeration or even blenders, and PV systems get bigger, it is time for a few local Maestros to be available for safer installations and troubleshooting.
We have an incredible opportunity in association with our Colorado professionals who visited last year (see their amazing story: http://taquilefriends.blogspot.com/2017/03/solar-installations-2017.html ) Brad and Danielle's son, Asa, is also a professional solar installer and speaks Spanish fluently to boot! We have launched a crowd-funding site to bring this talented young man to teach, first an advanced course for a few, and then more general maintenance classes for the general community. That site is https://www.youcaring.com/taquileisland-1030571   [UPDATE: We made our goal in 10 Days!!! Stay tuned for stories about the workshops when they happen in February.]

German already has a lot of experience
Sam and I are preparing to buy our tickets for a mid-January to early-April trip in 2018 so we will be present in advance of the Burritts' arrival to make sure all plans are in place. I will now quote, below, Brad's letter to his family, friends, and solar clients with their point of view of their experience in Peru, and excellent details about the plans for solar classes:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Peru solar classes

Friends and Family,


Danielle and I are working on a modest project to do solar electric classes on Taquile Island on Lake Titicaca in Peru, and we would appreciate your support.  Last February, we visited Taquile Island for a few days at the invitation of our friends Tara Miller and Sam Brown of Paonia, who have been visiting the island for over 30 years.  We were blown away.  The people are some of the friendliest we have ever met.  There are no roads and no dogs on the island.  The same families have owned and worked the land since before the Incas.  Everyone walks, and there aren't even many wheelbarrows, partly because the trails are so steep.  Most amazingly, there are no powerlines!  Many homes have small solar electric systems; some have none.

It's amazing how grateful folks are when they get set up with a small solar electric system.  While we were there last year for just 5 days, we helped Sam and Tara set up two different solar systems.  (Sam and Tara have been helping folks there get solar for decades, and they help the community in a myriad of other ways, too.)  One of the families we installed solar for includes a single mother, her parents and her daughter.  Sam focused on this family because it is very poor, and the school-age daughter needed light to study with at night.  (We also put LED lights in some other rooms, including the "Inca" kitchen which was tiny and dark as a cave.)  The other family we helped install solar for needs electricity because they are setting up a small hospedaje, or bed and breakfast, for income so the father can be home more since he now has to leave for weeks at a time to go away and work in others' fields.  (If a hospedaje qualifies, it gets government promotion, but it has to have a tiled kitchen, flush toilet and shower, and electricity for lights and cell phone charging for the visitors.  They had boot-strapped for years and had everything installed but the electricity!)

The work of Tara and Sam and some others have been incredibly beneficial, but we saw a big need for more focused education for the islanders on solar electric systems.  Almost all the systems are tiny or very small (20 watts to maybe 500 watts), and while the residents are of course intelligent and resourceful, they don't know much about the general theory or design principles of the systems they have or are getting.  (For instance, while I was there, I gave maybe a dozen lecture-ettes on having appropriate overcurrent protection for any circuits connected to a battery.  If you know what this is, you know how important it is; if you don't know, you are in the same boat as many of the islanders are!)  Also, the systems are gradually getting larger as prices come down.  And as system size increases, their complexity increases, and their danger, both regarding fire potential and shock hazard, increases even faster.

Our plan is to go back to Taquile Island this February and provide some classes so the islanders have a better handle on this technology.  One class will be small, for 3 to 5 locals who already have some knowledge of solar principles, installation, and troubleshooting.  (We worked with two such folks last year, and they have voracious desires to learn more.)  The second class would be bigger and would include folks who already have solar systems for are planning to get them.  Our plan is to have the participants of the first class help teach this second, more general class since they know the folks, and they will practice what they learned in their higher-level class, and finally, they would gain credibility as the knowledgeable go-to solar folks when we leave.

Sam and Tara are going back in February and will help us put the classes together and help with them on the island.  Danielle and I will do the same, on our own dime, like we did last year.  But for the classes, we hope to be able to bring our son, Asa, down to help teach the classes.  (He's very fluent in Spanish; he's taught numerous classes as a tutor and as a chemistry grad student at Cornell; and, he's super sharp with solar, having worked with us over the years, having worked as a lead installer for Namaste Solar in Denver and Boulder for a year and a half, and last year, getting his NABCEP certification in solar installation.)  We hope to raise $2500 so we can fly Asa down with us, and also take a couple of suitcases of solar charge controllers, LED lights, cell charger outlets, 230-volt inverters, and a couple more Spanish language SEI textbooks (to add to a couple we mailed down this year already!).

Will you help us??  We set up a fundraising site:
It's easy to donate there, but it costs us a bit to use them.

If you want, you can just send us a check in my or Danielle's name, and we will put it in our Taquile solar fund.  Here's our address:

Brad Burritt and Danielle Carre'
12125 Burritt Rd
Hotchkiss, CO 81419

I attached a great brochure Danielle put together for this project - check it out!

Thanks for taking a look, and for considering helping us out with this project!  Email or call with questions.


Brad Burritt
Empowered Energy Systems, LLC
12125 Burritt Rd
Hotchkiss, CO 81419

NABCEP Certified PV Installer #091308-5
NABCEP Certified PV Tech. Sales #PVTS01911-3


Checks can also be sent to
Tara Miller
41342 O Road
Paonia, CO 81428

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Holiday Shows 2017

Please join us at our holiday art shows, selling textiles that we fairly traded for solar gear with our family and community of Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca. Also a selection of pottery.
  Our home show in December:
Paonia Holiday Art Fair
Friday, December 1, 3-8pm
Saturday, December 2, 9am -5pm
Blue Sage Center for the Arts
228 Grand Avenue - Paonia, Colorado
We'll be showing TEXTILES plus our own Handmade Pottery

Did I tell you that the Taquile Island community has been deemed a 
UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site? 
~ ~ ~
November 4, 8am and 3pm
Holy Family School
786 26 1/2 Rd, 
just north of interstate 70 in Grand Junction, CO

Our booth will be located between the two buildings, outside. Weather promises to be partly cloudy and cold -- just the right weather to try on the exquisite knitted wool hats! 
We will bring a small sampling of our pottery to this show.

Sam all dressed up at the Holy Family School Holiday Show

~ ~ ~
  Our home show in December:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fun with Food

People ask us what we eat, so . . . 

Miqui, SOUP, Quechua noun;
     Miqui, EAT, Quechua verb.  

The most fundamental food the indigenous highlands of the Andes is a juicy vegetable soup based on potatoes. Together with herbal teas,  usually made from fresh local plants, such as the perennial mint, muña, provides liquid as well as nourishment. The soups are varied, with quinoa or pearled barley or crushed corn, usually thickened with squash known as sapaillo, sometimes containing freeze-dried potatoes known as chuño. The soup is always the first course, but often a secundo follows the soup. 

Enhanced by varied sources of ingredients which come from the Amazonian jungle, the oases in the coastal desert and the high altitude plains, Peru has become known for its creative cuisine. The traditions and creativity have spread throughout the country. This year we took pictures of especially yummy foods and attractive presentations. 
Market in Lima reveals the abundance.

On special occasions, such as with well-paying tourist guests, dinner is served on the fish-shaped platters. Ruperta is an excellent cook and this trout was poached in a mixture of ginger, onion and red bell peppers. Note the plate of coca leaves for the after-dinner tea on the upper left.
potatoes, trout, with rice in a fish-shaped platter 
Ruperta was always happy when Sam bought checking to bring home. Note the muña for after-dinner herbal tea in the upper right of the photo.
Chicken stew with rice, soup
fried trout and potatoes with beets, green beans, sweet potato
City treat is to take a group out for dinner at the broasted chicken restaurant. We can host eight to 10 people for the price of the two of us at a moderate restaurant in the U.S.
Yaquelin enjoys her first restaurant meal: Pollo a la Braza

In Spain and Peru (in contrast to Mexico), a tortilla is an egg scrambled with onion and tomatoes or other vegetables:
Soup, egg tortilla, beet salad & french fries.
One day I travelled to Puno alone on the early boat and went out for a treat of a meal by myself: Ceviche served with camote sweet potatoes and toasted corn.
Ceviche in a restaurant in Puno
Celbia's sheep broke his foot, so we ate it. 
Delfin and Clever butcher the sheep.
The result was a meal of roasted mutton with camote (sweet potatoes, new potatoes and rice, with rocoto (fresh salsa) on the side.
Thanks, sheep, for giving your life for our nutrition
Sometimes food is too yummy to take the picture before it is half eaten. These baby new potatoes with a beet salad was one of these times.
 beet/carrot/onion/lime juice salad
In Lima, food is more summery, salads instead of soup.
Lentils with sea fish served with avocado salad
Stuffed Avocado--chicken salad
For really special occasions on Taquile, I mix up some banana cake and bake it in the solar cooker. This was Eufrasia's birthday, Feliz Cumpleaño! Definitely not Andean traditional, but becoming a Tara and Sam tradition.
birthday banana/chocolate cake in the solar cooker  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Excursion: Cutimbo

Family excursion to hot springs and more ruins
Carnaval ended with a blowout on Sunday night. Fredy's boat had come with cargo and was poised to return to Puno empty on Monday, so we decided to fill it up with passengers and begin a family excursion in spite of hangovers and exhaustion after a week of parties. We especially wanted to include the family of Francisco and Juana with their daughter and granddaughter, Olga and Rosie. School will not start for a week, so this was our last chance to include the kids.

First thing in the morning, we hiked up to Olga's family to talk them into coming.
Tara, Rossi, Juana and Francisco in their kitchen
 Olga's brother had sprained his ankle during Carnaval, and needed to return to Tacna for his work, so the offer of a free boat ride convinced them to come. Olga deferred, but we filled the boat and started the journey:
Rossi with Tara, Amantani and Taquile in the background
Sam with Lisbet
Kusi and Edith, girlfriend cousins on the boat
Esteban's son-in-law, Demian, lives in Puno and runs a bakery with a brick bread oven plus owns cars to distribute the bread. One of his vehicles is a big van (combi) that legally carries 15 passengers. We hired the combi, filled it with 18 passengers, including Demian's extended family and went first to the Loripongo hot springs about a hour drive from Puno. Simple place, where they empty and clean the tubs after each use and fill them with fresh and very hot water. It doesn't take too long to cool down enough for a luxurious healing soak.

Ruperta and Eufrasia got up early to roast chicken with sweet potatoes and potatoes in the bread oven to add to our lunch.  Good thing, because Sam and I only brought boiled eggs, cheese and bread for 12 people. Turned out we had a feast of a lunch after the hot springs.
Our driver waves; Eufrasia dishes out the chicken
Rossi and Juana enjoy their meal

Driving back toward Puno, we stopped at Cutimbo, Inca and Pre-Inca ruins about a 1/2 hour drive from Puno, but with no regular transportation, thus seldom visited. Rain had started, so part of our group waited in the bus while the rest of us wrapped ourselves in plastic and hiked to the top.
 With both round and square chulpas, this archeological site is of high quality rockwork, comparable to Sillustani and the Sacred Valley.
 The perfectly-fitted rounded rocks contain low-relief carvings of puma, monkeys:
bas-relief carvings on the rocks
We took shelter in front of this restored cave, buriel place with pictographs (behind a proctective fence and with a full time guard), to do our coca leaf ceremony. The guard (watchiman) did not join our ceremony but was extremely friendly and forthcoming with information. He said this was Pre-Inca, about 1100 a.d. and that there are many more such sites. This one has been fence-protected for 17 years and is reconstructed as far as the bones and pottery placement.

note pottery (far left) and bones

see the stick llamas?
Even in the rain, the site is beautiful, rich with vegetation, including this native tree that reminds me of manzanita.
native tree

We finish the day with everybody's favorite: pollo a la braza.

Most of the family stayed on the mainland and helped Esteban work in his potato field between Puno and Juliaca. We stayed to write the previous blog and print pictures of the excursion to give away. We all rode the boat back to Taquile together on Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Carnaval 2017

A full week of celebration
Carnaval is Mardi Gras. Taquileños who are working in Tacna, or Lima, or anywhere in between, come home to dance, to be with their families, to support family members who are leaders of the groups. Nine different group leaders are authorities of the celebration, leading dancers and musicians from house to house.
Silvano, Sam, Tara
 Unlike New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro, and other Mardi Gras celebrations, Ash Wednesday is our BIGGEST party day, with all nine groups gathered in the central plaza in a grand dance competition, cacaphony of several bands playing different sections of the rhythm all at the same time.
Colorful, with paper streamers, all set for the big day on Wednesday.

Sam and Tara in the Plaza on (Ash) Wednesday

Twirling yarn "wiichi-wiichis" as we dance

Three (or four?) groups converge

Sam is invited to sit next to the group leader, an honor
 Sometimes it is a rock climb, in all our skirts and regalia, to dance to the next house:
large group, rock climbing
It all ends on Sunday night. This photo is too late in the day, but does show the change of clothes. The younger people shed layers, including to nearly day-glow skirts and run a VERY energetic dance all around the plaza until they go off to group or private disco-ish parties that go on most of the night.

Solar Installations 2017

Professional Solar Installer Comes to Lake Titicaca

Empowered Energy Systems, LCC, Brad Burrit and Danielle Carre, came to Peru for a visit and we put them to work, installing two PV systems.
Brad and Danielle arrive in Puno in time for a taste of Candelaria
Our first installation was one 65watt panel for a single mother who lives with her daughter and parents, Olga and Rossi with Francisco and Juana.

Next day was to the Capachica Penninsula to the home of Armando and Asunta in Llachon. This area has grid power, but they had been running their house on a 220volt extention cord from the neighbors and this was no longer viable (besides scarey dangerous). To have installed their own meter would have been much more expensive than Solar PV. Besides, they live on Taquile part time and the monthly grid fee was prohibitive. This will be the first solar electric in Llachon.

The community does not have a public water sysem and has considered installing a solar-powered system such as on Taquile. Their grid power is not strong enough to pump the water they would need.

We traveled across the lake in a smaller boat, usually an hour ride, but the motor failed and we ended up with a makeshift sail. Sailing across Lake Titicaca was a first for Sam and I. It took 6 hours (would have been faster in a REAL sailboat).
Silvano had to hold the pole of the makeshift sail
Of course, installation begins with a coca-leaf ceremony blessing the 100watt panel: may it always be safe from lightning, may the family thrive with this ecological power source.
The visit and the installation went really well. We had a good crew to help with the Solar.
Sam ties the light-weight LED light strip to a ceiling beam.
Brad prepares wires for the panel to battery connection.
We have the whole istallation done in time to get dressed up in typical Llachon clothing and get our picture taken--and even bring Brad and Danielle on an exploratory hike around Llachon!
Panel installed! Capachica typical clothing photo shoot.
 Asunta prepares and excellent lunch and catch a ride back on Fredy's boat, towing Lino's beside us.

Back on Taquile, a godparent ceremony:
Brad and Danielle have quickly found their hearts captured by our extended family on Taquile. When German (pronounced "Herman") and Natalia ask them to become godparents to their beautiful 4-month-old daughter, Leyda, they agree. The ceremony involves giving the child her first haircut as part of a sacred coca-leaf ceremony. Sam and I cut Natalia's hair when she was a baby, so this is especially sweet for us, our grand-goddaughter to be in this special relationship in our Colorado community.
Brad, Danielle, Leyda, Natalia and German, a new family.
It was a whirlwind week already for Brad and Danielle, but we weren't finished yet. They did get a full day, Monday, to explore Taquile, sort of a rest day, if you count hiking all over the place at an altitude of nearly 13,000 ft. a rest.
Bradley, Herman, and Daniella near the old ruins on Taquile
 Back to Puno to get ready for their flight to continue visiting in other parts of Peru, we take a group of young Taquileños to the archeological ruins of Sillustani:

Plus to the Mirador overlooking Puno, the Condor
Finally a fond and tearful farewell at the Juliaca Airport. This post covers exactly one week, February 9-16, 2017. Amazing to see what we packed into a short seven days, so full of heart and accomplishment. Sam and I know we have new teammates in our relationship with Taquile. Thank you, Brad Burritt and Danielle Carre.