Volunteering on the farm: Entremontes Organic Farm
Our first volunteer project in South America, we were very excited! After having a full month in Mendoza, we were looking forward to having a change of pace. Cecilia and Alvaro (our hosts) picked us up from the small town of Casablanca in a big white Hilux, with two massive Akita dogs in the back. Here’s one of them below, Hugh.
We immediately felt at home; Cecilia cooked us a delicious dinner and we shared a bottle of red wine together. We knew we had made the right choice, especially after quite a few people had damningly told us that volunteering at a poultry farm would only involve a lot of shovelling shit and not much else. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the shit shovelling was only going to be 1 day a week. (As it turned out we only did it once in 5 weeks).
Our first day of work involved cleaning the pens of the quails; we were given overalls, masks, a wheelbarrow, gloves, shovels and we were on our way. The work was hard and smelly, but only lasted 3 hours and it was satisfying to see the job finished and the pens clean afterwards.
There is only one permanent employee of the farm, Roxanna, who we named the chicken whisperer. Every day we could hear her shout chicken, duck, quail and goose language from all over the farm. This mainly consisted of high pitch squawking, that in reality comprised of incomprehensible Spanish, too difficult even for our native speaking hosts to understand!!!
We watered the garden daily and soon saw the farm as our responsibility, taking full care of it as much as we could in a day. The hours passed by rapidly.
Apart from caring for the birds we again were thrilled to find out that we were to be doing a lot of cooking, and I mean a lot of cooking.
After Argentina, where the diet mainly consists of white bread and meat, we were feeling a bit clogged up inside. So we proceeded to go on a carb free diet. After explaining this to our hosts they were excited to join us. This meant we prepared all the meals to ensure the diet was followed. The great thing about the diet was that we had 1 cheat day per week, El dia de trampa, where we were allowed to eat anything we wanted as long as we did 40 squats before and after eating! Our first Saturday was hilarious, for dinner we ate a delicious dinner of polenta, duck magret and home made preserves. Before and after dinner the 4 of us were seen to be squatting around the dining table, an excellent bonding experience and the start of a fantastic friendship.
Our second weekend we hosted a late lunch for 9, including ourselves. This was of course incredibly enjoyable for us, as the farm had the freshest gourmet ingredients from the land and local producers. We had cocktails, wine, starters, mains and 3 deserts! We were chuffed and stuffed!
During our stay I was given the task to make sourdough bread and after the 4th attempt I was making bread like a pro, even though I say it myself. We had 2 French volunteers with us on the last week who said that my bread was like the country bread you get in the south of France. Result!
While we were at the farm it was prime harvesting season. Apart from having a Kale forest, there were trees dropping thousands of peaches per day, which was a little too many for us to keep up with. A lot went to the chickens. We made Pear Butter – my favourite by far, and a mix of different preserves with quince, pears, peaches and kumquats. I am pretty sure in 5 weeks we made around 25kg of preserves. Those days were filled with washing, peeling, coring, boiling, mashing, sieving and jarring! I will forever have a new found respect for home made preserves and their respective price, as the amount of hours that go into them are exorbitant! We found out that the reason that so many preserves needed to be made, was not only to preserve the fruit, but to accompany the delicious duck from the farm! We enjoyed duck a few times in our stay and it was the best duck I have ever tried in my life… they are very well cared for and have a nice life.
The 7 Akita puppies were adorable and definitely helped us through our long days! One day we had to take them all in the car to get vaccinated which was hilarious. Our car broke down, the puppies were peeing all over the place and we attracted a lot of attention.
We made posters for them to be sold and one by one they went. By the time we left they were as big as normal, medium sized dogs, but they were only 3 months old! Akitas are huge.
The closest town with a beach was Algarrobo, we would go there to use the internet or swim at the “safe” beach. The Chilean coastline has dangerous rips that suck you straight out into the ocean, the nearest country would be Australia! So we only swum at this beach, even though the coast lines were magnificent, we didn’t want to risk it. We took long walks along the vast jagged coast line and enjoyed the glorious sunsets.
Our time at the farm was a very humbling experience that we will cherish forever. Our Chilean family will be in our hearts for years to come and we hope to see them again soon.
Thank you Cecilia and Alvaro!