Farmlife Chile

27 of september to 23 of december 2015
Goat campo Mariposas, part 3

In Mendoza we make up our mind about two things. First, we will talk with Sergio that he needs to find a new employee so we can leave as soon as possible and second, that we will continue our travel right away from the campo to Argentina, there follow the famous Ruta 40 (Che Guevara) up north to Salta and then, passing by Paraguay and Bolivia a second time – via another road – head towards Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
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This one was not an easy decision to make. We have been in South America now for nearly two years and there are still many countries and places to visit which for sure are beautiful and interesting. But the world is big and so we were also thinking about taking a flight to Asia or Europe and continue cycling there, for a change of enviroment, language, culture and food.
At last the days in Mendoza convinced us to take it easy. All the time we have spent in Argentina, North or South, Misiones, Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego or now in Mendoza we have felt at ease and so why not spend some weeks more in this lovely country where the people are friendly, the meat is cheap and one can buy the best powder to prepare Mousse au chocolat?
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Relieved of having taken these decisions we get back to the campo where spring and then summer await us with sunny days and temperatures up to 30°C and more.
From now on life takes place mostly in the early morning hours when itˋs still cool and in the late afternoon when a little wind from the South blows away the heat.
During the hot hours every human and every animal alike seeks a quiet place in the shadow and tries to move as little as possible.
Isis the cat, by now pregnant because it took her only little time after arrival to attract all tomcats in the neighbourhood, has her favourite places in the grass among the trees.
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Pocho in his typical position of “dead man” prefers the cool stone ground of the terrace and both (who get along really well now and even share their food) donˋt care for Henna the chicken, the only one moving around all day and picking for food despite the heat.
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Weˋve found her running around the campo, apparently Judith forgot one of her hens, so we catch her and make her a little house with a nice straw nest, and after two weeks she gives us our first egg 🙂
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Slowly the bad memories of the winter fade away or are covered by new impressions and the relation between Sergio and us improves again.
A big role in this is for sure the company of his wife Pachy and the two kids Sofia and Ignacio who live in Santiago but now, in summer, come over quite regularly for visits.
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Happy times apart from one thing: from september to march is milking season and Sergio starts making cheese again, so we have to get up every morning to milk the goats.
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Milking itself is not so bad, working with the goats can even be quite funny and the additional work we do, which is cutting the nails, is rather rewarding because it wasnˋt done for years and so one can see the results instantly.
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But after a few weeks the getting up EVERY day, monday to sunday, starts to be exhausting and so we are more than happy when at the end of octobre Marcelo arrives. He is the new employee Sergio has found and that means, that our days on the campo are numbered…
But as life goes, the numbered days finally sum up to nearly two months more before we really leave the campo.
At first we introduce Marcelo to the goats and show him everything related to milking and the caretaking of them and the goats accept him as leading-goat without hesitation 😉
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Then we finish the project “Morera” which was to plant 1600 little stakes of this tree in small plastic bags so they can grow roots, to remove the bad weeds regularly, to water them and put them in a place where the goats donˋt find them – for now. In about 2 years the leaves of this Morera will start serving as goat-food or at least thatˋs the idea of the whole thing.
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Inbetween we remember (okay, a little bit late since we had seven months to do it) that we need a new camera and a new zipper for our tent and have to wait for the package from Germany for almost five weeks. When it arrives itˋs the first week of december and Sergio has to go to Santiago to organise some urgent stuff and asks if we canˋt stay for two weeks more.
Of course we say yes and this turns out to be a very good decision because during these two weeks Felix, a neighbour of Sergio, invites us to his campo and we get to know his wife Monica, his daughter Constanza, his stepmother Irma and Cristian, a close friend of the family.
And this is the best thing which happens to us in Chile: from the start we get along really well and feel like knowing them for all our lives. The second visit is already like coming home and being part of the family and we spend wonderful hours together.
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Itˋs a friendly and open atmosphere with a lot of talking and laughing and the only thing we regret, is that we didnˋt get to know the “Campo Allegria” earlier.
But better late then never and during our last visit we already talk about coming back one day and start some projects together which would allow us to settle down in Chile. Itˋs a talking that comes from the heart and we didnˋt doubt for a second the seriousness of this offer.
Another nice incident during the last two weeks is that Isis gives birth to three cute little kittens and she does it in Brams` bed – at 3AM – which we take as a sign of great confidence 🙂
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So when we will actually leave the campo tomorrow, on the 23rd of december there are some things we are sad to leave behind, there is the knowledge that we can come back any time and find open doors at the Campo Allegria, there are loads of memories (good and bad ones) and a lot of skills we have learnt related to having a campo and caretaking of goats.
And last but not least, for the first time in our travel we are up to date with the blog and can wish to everybody who reads this in time:
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🙂 🙂 🙂

27 of june to 26 of september 2015
Goat campo Mariposas, part 2

On the ultimate day of our visa, we get up at 5AM, take a bus to Santiago and than to Mendoza. It takes us 15 hrs to arrive, with 5hrs delay at the Argentinian customs, but at the end all´s well, we leave Chile in time.
We stay only one night in Mendoza, buy a three months stock of Tabacco for me and Yerba Mate for Bram and then go back by bus to Santiago. Then to Talca. Then to San Clemente. Then to Mariposas. Then hitchhiking to Cruce San Alberto. And the last three km to the Campo by foot which right then felt like walking to the end of the world 😉
30hrs of travelling within two days, a bit too much to enjoy it, but we were left with no other option to get our new visa.
The consolation for this effort was the ride through a magnificent environment.
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We had to cross the Paso Bermejo, which counts some 30 hairpin turns, and pass by the waterwashed and coloured mountains of Puente del Inca, the access area to the Aconcagua National Park.
This one a nice memory for Bram, who once summited the Aconcagua, with 6963m the highest peak in the world outside the Himalayan range.
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Back at the campo, without the help of Daniel and Sten, we reduce working tasks to the goat routine and some maintenance stuff for the campo but itˋs still a good load:
The water channels have to be cleaned of mud and grass which is a quite dirty and exhausting work and an infinite one as well. The channels are used to bring water to every part of the campo for irrigation and there are miles and miles of them.
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We also have to bring in firewood for the winter for there is only a woodstove to heat the house, and where we put up the new fences we have to construct new entry gates as well.
A lot of manual labour with only little equipment and coming from Europe, where there is a machine to help for everything and where everybody just goes to buy the tools and parts when necessary, we have to get used to this basic kind of work.
The good side of it: one gets very, very creative in using the things which are around and as an example: We are now perfectly able to construct a sturdy 5-meter gate with just as little as a hand-axe, cutted branches, old wire and pliers…
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Mid-july another inhabitant arrives: Isis, a cute little cat 🙂
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And on her first day of being here she goes for a swim: she was walking around the edge of the pool, when suddenly Pocho (the dog) appeared, and out of sheer surprise she jumped in the pool. LOL for us, not so much for her, poor little thing.
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One of the few good moments in these times for in july winter breaks loose in Chile and with it the situation on the campo goes from good to bad.
A fair amount of days with hard rain and just above zero temperature – uncomfortable for us, because there are quite frequently cut-offs of electricity and water and we have to sit in the dark and collect rain water – and the worst combination for goats who don´t have any resistence against pneumonia.
The consequence is rather devastating: a lot of the goats die or, since most are pregnant, have natural abortion.
But it is not only due to the weather: the stables are not sufficiently big for the amount of goats, which means that after a few days the ground is coated with ankle-deep dirty humid soil and further more, this dirty soil produces natural ammoniak which affects the lungs of the goats. When we get to clean out the stables on a dry day, even for us the stench is almost unbearable, and we don´t have to stay and sleep in it for days.
Outdoors wet and cold, indoors wet and dirty, a catastrophe in the making and things get even worse in august, when the majority of the remaining goats start to give birth under these bad conditions.
Born into this environment the survival chances of the cabritos are low. Evidently, they can stand the wet, the cold and the dirt even less than the big goats, many are abandoned by their mothers because of the crowded space and there is little we can do besides watch out for the few surviving ones and try to raise them by baby-bottle. Itˋs a sad, sad time and there are no words to describe the feeling of helplessness when encountering such scenes.
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Such a situation of course leads to tensions between the people as well: Angel and Judith who want better conditions for the goats on one side, Sergio who is often away and doesnˋt really recognise the severity of it all and says the goats will have to do with what they have, and we are caught in between.
The turning point comes in september, but not to any efforts on Sergios´ part but by a mere change of weather. Less rain, more sun and higher t° – the goats can leave the stables and the lucky ones who give birth now can take care for their little ones like it is supposed to be.
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For us itˋs a joy to see them together, strolling around, playing and jumping like only little goats can jump 🙂
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From time to time we have to search and bring back a lost one, but thatˋs a minor task and now the mothers always recognize their small ones and let them drink their milk…
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Nonetheless, the passed weeks have left deep marks and at the end of the month Angel explodes about some smaller issues and he and Judith leave the campo, together with their goats.
That brings us right into a new dilemma: originally, we intended to leave the campo ourselves as soon as the situation got back to normal and there is once more a routine in handling the goats.
But now, without Judith and Angel there is nobody else to look after the goats if we should leave as well so it doesnˋt feel right to leave and it doesnˋt feel right to stay…
Coincidently, itˋs again time to go to Mendoza for a new visa and this gives us a few days away from the campo to think about what we are going to do.

The crossing to Mendoza is rather different than three months ago: all is white, covered with snow and ice cold.
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The argentinian customs takes “only” three hours instead of five, and since itˋs not a holiday weekend like the first time we find a cheap Hostal and will stay for four days.
We explore the city and like it. Wide streets lined with huge trees, the climate is mild, the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and there is the Plaza de Armas with street musicians and lots of folks occuppying the benches and meadows and enjoying the warm spring sun.
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We visit the Mercado Central and find an italian tinted offer of food, the influence of the italian immigrants…delicious fish prepared with lemon and spices, all variations of cheese and dried salami, olives, dried fruits, nuts and heaps of herbs. A pleasure to walk around and a greater pleasure to savour 🙂
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21 april to 26 june 2015: 0km
Goat campo Mariposas, part 1

Good times, bad times – or eight months on the goat campo with Sergio

Coming back to a place we already know is a feeling we didn´t have for nearly two years – and it´s nice to be welcomed by Sergio a second time.
Although we know the Campo from our first stay in oct and nov 2014 there are some things different now.
New to us are Mr Scott and Pocho, two really lovely dogs. The first elderly and dignified (therefore “Mister”), the second lively, playful and young and both together a harmonic couple…
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Another new couple are Angel and Judith, new employees of Sergio who live on the campo and dragged along some 50 goats extra of their own. In total there are now 200 adult goats, around 50 cabritos (little goats) and four machos, quite a big herd.
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And last but not least there are Daniel (american) and Sten (german), two young men who will stay at the campo for some weeks through workaway like we do.
A bunch of new people, the place is far more lively than before and we are all in a good mood to get things done as there is always a lot of work on a campo of 30 hectares, not to mention the animals…
Bringing the goats to the pasture in the morning and back to the stables in the evening is a daily routine as well as giving them water, hay and corn – the later a quite funny task:
250 goats waiting impatiently behind the fence until all the food is laid out and then the great run to be the first in line as soon as we open the fence, you don´t know how fast a goat can run if you haven´t seen this 🙂
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Once a week we bring all the necessary fodder from a stockroom to the stables, what means to load and unload hay-bales of 30kg and corn-bags of 50kg each on a big trailer (strenous!) and pull it along with a tractor (funny!).
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And of course everything which goes in has to come out again so cleaning the stables is another regular work – 250 animals produce great amounts of dung of which we have to make compost. For this the dung first has to dry, than we have to grind it into pieces (by hand with a hammer, no joke!) and finally it’s mixed it with dried grass and can rest in great heaps until natures´ work is done and one can use the compost…
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Besides all these more or less regular tasks there is one extraordinary big job waiting:
Putting up new fences to divide the campo into smaller units, not so easy as it sounds as the ground is thick with stones of all sizes
For making the post-holes one cannot use a shovel but an iron bar that weighs the better part of 10kg and has a point at one end to smash the stones in the way.
800 holes later (one every two meter) we all know every muscle in our upper body 😉
When the holes are finally finished, we cut points on every one of the 800 poles with an axe and put them into the holes with help of the “martinetta”, a heavy iron tool to drive the poles into the ground.
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And than itˋs “only” span some 1.600m fence between them, topped off by two rows of barbed wire…
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All this physical work, all the time outdoors – no wonder that food plays an important role in the daily business and luckily, the freezer is well stuffed with the predecessor of “La Michelle” and “La Evelyn” so our barbecue isn’t in danger of being workless.
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But still, one is amazed about the amount of food which is consumed every day, un-be-lie-va-ble !!!
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Working and eating, from time to time a little nap in the sun (although just one in the picture has actually worked 😉 ) and if there is spare time and energy some sporting activity – our days are filled and time flies by.
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Two months pass by in an eyes´ blink, then it´s mid-june and Daniel leaves the campo first. Shortly after Sten leaves as well, heading back to Europe and we have to renew our visa because we intend to stay on the campo for the whole winter. Our plan is easy enough: take the car from Sergio, cross the nearby Paso Pehuenche to Argentina, have some nice days there, purchase a stock of Tabacco and Yerba Mate and come back over the pass. Tabacco is 10x cheaper in Argentina and Yerba Mate has a much better taste, so itˋs worth to carry them along.
At first, everything works out pretty fine. We have a beautiful ride up the mountains through a picturesque landscape of green valleys and vulcanic rocks.
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Coming close to the Pass temperature drops and everything around is covered with snow, still beautiful but bad luck for us: It´s impossible to cross the Paso without snow-chains which, of course, we donˋt have. And so it´s back to the campo without new visa but at least we did a nice day-trip 🙂
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