Sunday, October 18, 2009

On the Farm, Uruguay

I had originally wanted to stay on an estancia in Uruguay (actually, in Argentina, but the two countries are very similar). I, like most other people, had romanticized about life on an estancia--riding horses, savoring parrilla (grilled meat) and sipping mate (tea) under the stars. However, since Cser Maria was able to connect me to a farmer friend of her’s (Alejandro), I decided to stay on a small farm instead.

Alejandro’s farm turned out to be very rustic. Not only was it in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by fields and hills, the farmhouse did not contain a shower. I was taken aback at having to use the traditional bucket and cup to bathe myself!

The farm is indeed very self-sufficient. Alejandro and his family owned 16 cows, 2 horses, 3 pigs and a bunch of dogs, cats and rabbits. Yes, I felt like I was living in a zoo! There was also a vegetable garden with lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, garlic, beans and corn. The only fruit grown on the farm were small peaches. And by the way, there were also peanut trees!

For a city boy like me, the tasks on the farm were indeed exotic. Daily tasks include milking the cows, herding the cows to the stream, feeding all the animals and making cheese. Other tasks include baking bread, making butter and tending the vegetable garden.

Here’s a 101 on how to make cheese, which is the only product that Alejandro’s family sells at the Sunday market. First, milk and curdling agent are added to a vat. I was told that it takes 11-12 L of milk to product 1 kg of cheese. Then, the mixture is stirred for about 1 hour. Next, the curd (to become cheese) is sifted from the vat and placed in a mold. All the “milk” is allowed to drained out, which takes 1 day. The next morning, the cheese is placed on a shelf for 15 days to mature.

Making cheese, in my opinion, is much easier than milking cows. I was excited at the latter activity, but when it came time to do it, I lost interest after a few minutes. This is because one can expend lots of energy in milking, yet out comes a trickle of milk. At the rate that I was milking, it would have taken me close to an hour to fill the 10-L bucket. Alejandro surprisingly preferred to milk by hand even though he has a milking machine. He milks at least 80 L of milk each day!

No comments:

Post a Comment