Archive | June, 2009

La Pulperia / Gauchito Gil

28 Jun

I was lucky enough while at the farm to take a trip to Mercedes, which ended up being one of my best nights there. We had been out drinking with Romina and Daniel the night before, and they had invited us to go out with them the next night too. We got the bus to Mercedes, and they were at the station waiting for us. First off, they took us to the park, then to the Motocross circuit (kind of interesting so far), then next we went to the shrine of Gauchito Gil.

Gauchito Gil is a legend in Argentina. He’s a bit of a Robin Hood figure. He was a gaucho who had been called into duty for the Argentinean army, and thought in a number of wars for them with a number of neighbouring countries. After these ended, he was called into duty again, but this time it was a civil war. He refused to fight against his own people and retired to the countryside. From here, he would steal cows from the rich farmers and give them to the poor people. Eventually, the police caught up with him and he was sentenced to be hung. They decided to walk him from Giles to Mercedes before hanging him. This way everyone could see what a villain he was on his last walk. However, on the way to Mercedes, Gil told the police chief that his daughter was really sick and would die if they killed him. The chief wouldn’t have any of it, and decided to kill him right there. They hung him on the side of the road. When the chief got home his daughter was in the corner of the room, shaking. He immediately ran back to the hanging pillar and tried to revive Gil but he was dead. His daughter later died. From this point on, Gil was regarded as a legend. If you ever see red scarfs hanging up on the roadside they are most likely for Gil.

Shrine for Gauchito Gil

Shrine for Gauchito Gil

Better things were to come though. Behind the shrine was a bar, La Pulperia. It was packed inside. On the far side was 3 men. One was singing, the other 2 were playing guitars. We ordered some drinks and sat down. After each song, the line-up would change, someone different would start singing, an extra guitarist would join, a drummer every now again would accompany. They seemed to be playing a mixture of sambas, tangos, merengues, all kinds of different traditional Argentinean music. These guys were really good though, far better than the average busker, and you could see the amount of emotion they were putting into each song, and how much everyone in the bar appreciated it.

Later we found out that La Pulperia is an Argentinean tradition. This particular one is the only one in the province of Buenos Aires, but there are a few others dotted around the country. La Pulpería translates as the grocery. It’s a place where people would go to buy their grocery’s as well as trade corn and cereals. It became a meeting place for the community, and as people would often go their and wait for deliveries and the such like, they would bring a guitar or a drum along and would sing a song while they waited. When the deliveries came in the drivers would join in. They would trade songs. This way songs would travel all around the country, from pulpería to pulpería as everyone learnt each other’s songs. It’s good that people are keeping this tradition alive, and with such gusto too!

La Pulpería, Mercedes

La Pulpería, Mercedes

After that, we went for a picada. A platter of dried meats and cheese for all to enjoy. The jamon crudo is pretty damn special! It wrapped up a pretty good day, a real lesson in traditional Argentina.

Dulce de Leche

28 Jun

I have gone on a little about how good Dulce de Leche is, and this is set to continue, especially as I now face time away from the farm, without an endless supply at hand. However it’s times like these where we have to search for solutions. Which is why the last thing I did before I left the farm was get the recipe for making this irresisitible condiment (it manages to taste amazing with everything, I don’t know how it does it! Try it in a cheese sandwich – delicious!) and the great thing is it’s one of the easiest recipes ever. All you need is:

  • 2 litres milk
  • 500g sugar
  • teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

Then all you do is boil up the milk. Strain the milk after or find another way of removing any sediment that might be on the top of the milk. Add the sugar and heat to just before boiling. When it’s almost boiling add the bicarbonate of soda and then turn down the heat so it’s just above a simmer and then keep stirring til all the sugar’s dissolved and it’s nice and thick.

In the cheese room at the farm, Romina would sometimes add vanilla to the mix (added at the same time as sugar) but I prefer the unadulterated taste of Dulce de Leche.

Unfortunately, there are no recipes for fresh milk, but can’t wait to try this receipe with any milk I can find.

Dulce de Leche

Dulce de Leche

Granja Las Ondinas

22 Jun

This is a great farm to come for anyone interested in the WWOOFing experience or volunteering on a farm. The twist with this farm is that it’s biodynamic. This is a philosophy (based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner) that’s application to farming puts it it on the next level up from organic farming.

In reality, this means treating everything as one organism; us, the cows, the grass, the flowers, we are all part of the same process. The better we treat every part of this process, the better the end product will be. Which, judging by the quality of the cheese and dulce de leche produced in the dairy, is on a pretty high standard indeed.

All of these dairy products are free for volunteers, as well as pasta, rice, beans and oats, and anything that you want from the garden. Ultimately then, summer is the time to stuff your face, but even in winter there are plenty of pumpkins, onions, chilies and herbs knocking around to have some good options.

Work involves a mixture of working in the dairy (learn to make cheese, yoghurt and dulce de leche!), in the orchard (which constantly needs much attention) and tending to the animals. They have cows, horses, sheep and chickens which need to be fed/cleaned/milked (delete as appropriate) each day. This last one was, for me, the most gratifying as after a couple of weeks I was given the responsibility of looking after the cows, which meant getting them fresh grass during dry spells in the weather, milking them, making sure they were grazing in the correct field, and for the little ones, making sure they got rid of their fungus infection!!

If you want to get involved in organic farming as well as really getting stuck into some work this is a great place to come! Days start at 8am and finish at 5pm but there is always plenty of breaks and plenty of different things to do. Plus, the lunch that is cooked for you, as well as the other food available to the volunteers will leave you surely with a few extra pounds by the time you leave.

The biodynamic aspect is also very interesting, especially in regards to seeing everything as a single process. However, delving deeper reveals a world with magic elves that live in caves, and stones with special powers, which can unfortunately put people off a philosophy that ultimately has a really good heart.

WWOOFing organic farm work in Argentina

Biodynamics in practice!

21 Jun

“Right here”
“Here somewhere, yeah, got it”
“Juice of cactus?”
“Yep, over there”
“Horse’s tail?”
“Got it”
“Yep, that too”

This was the conversation between Luis and myself just before we added all of these ingredients into a wheelbarrow full of fresh cow dung I had picked that morning. The next step; to mix it all together. Luis dove in without a moment’s hesitation, I followed a moment or too later, once he had broken the cow pats up a little bit so that they didn’t quite resemble poo anymore. The smell was a little over-whelming at first, but i flung a load of the herb-infusion in there and it started to lose it’s foul odour, and kind of just smell of nothing, which was a relief.

But what was this concoction for? For the trees of course. It was the Day of the Earth and those trees were ready for a little helping hand. We got the others and everyone went round the farm spreading it all over the tree trunks. I’ll have to remember to get the recipe before I leave.
Post-dung spreading jubilation!

The Day of the Cow

7 Jun

For some reason, Juan decided I was the best person to be in charge of the cows. He was off to plant wheat in some nearby farm all day and needed someone to take care of them. You would have thought he would have chosen someone who actually knew what the hell he was talking about. But no, he chose me.


Cheese Cheese Cheese Cheese Cheese!

3 Jun

I think I’ve had a glimpse into my future. It involves basing myself next to a dairy, with a constant supply of cheese pumping through the window. If anyone knows how this can happen please let me know.