NEAR EL BOLSON, Argentina
Less than 48 hours before we hopped a plane across Latin America, we received an e-mail saying that we could no longer volunteer at that southern Argentina farm.
A month’s worth of plans were ruined.
“Shit,” Pessa and I said. “Now what?”
A major piece of this nearly six-month journey is having places to volunteer. If we don’t, costs skyrocket and the experience isn’t as enriching, meaning we don’t meet as many people who live in the places we visit, and we don’t learn and help the environment.
Thankfully — and rightfully so — the woman who ditched us set us up with another farm near this same small Patagonian town we originally circled on the map.
The woman, who bailed because she had to return to the U.S., said the other farm would be a “better situation.”
After a week, Pessa and I are satisfied.
Suzie and Harold, an older and affable Austrian couple, have a stunningly beautiful 200-acre farm set between two Andes mountain ranges. A small stream runs through the middle and pastures are carved out of the dense pine forest.
The farm’s other residents include two dogs, three horses, about seven cows, 20 sheep, a few chickens, a few ducks and a few cats.
Most importantly, the farm is nearly self-sustaining. Some examples that will receive elaboration in later posts are wood for buildings, apples for juice, a garden for vegetables, cows for milk and beef, sheep for wool and so on. They have been very helpful in teaching us how they live.
A self-sustaining farm, of course, requires work. Our days start at 9:30 a.m. and finish after we bring the animals to their stables at dusk. They might be Austrian, but they adhere to the Latin American tradition of a long afternoon siesta.
My first task every day is shoveling this.
Afterward, we will collect apples, make fences, clear brush, put the garden to bed, make bread, weatherproof the greenhouse for the upcoming windy winter. And a variety of other tasks, especially when you shadow Harold, a man who suffers from a slight case of attention deficit disorder.
Our first task on the farm was casually collecting apples off freshly fallen leaves.
“I feel like I’m in a postcard,” Pessa said.
That feeling is routine. I’ll be helping Harold with the frame of the new cabana or digging the black soil for potatoes and forget about where I am. Then, I will look up and see this.