Saturday, March 20, 2010

Finca La Stalla

Wes and I are fresh off our latest WWOOF farm in Tunuyan, about an hour outside of Mendoza. Ah, Finca la Stalla. What can I say.

The area is beautiful (the brightest stars I've seen in my entire life-and I've seen a lot of stars) and surrounded by other farms with WWOOFers, except for a farm next door, a large-scale producer of tomatos which uses Bolivian migrant laborers to pick their harvest (they recieve AR$1,3 per 50-60 lb basket they pick each day- thats around US$.50).

It was great to be on a full working farm (turns out working with animals --they have pigs, chickens, cows, and rabbits, listed here in order of how bad they smell-- means scooping a whole lot of mierda), and it was lovely to get to know some of their family (their kids were great, and the owner's wife, Laura, was awesome, and also a fantastic cook who served us about a million different variations on two different vegetables. Very impressive). We had our regular morning duties of feeding the pigs and scooping the cow manure into the fields (Wes got to help some with the milking, too, which is both awesome). I was actually rather sad to say goodbye to the pigs and cows this morning.

On the whole, though, I honestly wasn't crazy about it, and I'll try to explain briefly why, though I should preface this with the news that I sprained my ankle, the 'good one', on the first night at the farm- the other one I sprained rockclimbing/trying to rockclimb with Wes last January (notice a trend here people?). So that being said, I spent about 9 hours a day for the first week weeding alone in the garden, which obviously doesn't lend itself to high spirits. Actually most of the work I did was in the garden or cornfield, either weeding, harvesting, or sorting out rotten vegetables from good ones. The inherent sexism of farm work became very apparent to me while I was here. Which is fine, and I suppose to be expected, just not something you take into account. And anyhow, it's great that Wes got to do as much cool stuff as he did. At least, it looked cool from the garden.

I also was pretty offended and put off by the way the owner treated us- he made it very clear that we were there to work for food, and that our relationship was an exchange relationship. The owner just wanted to benefit from the free labor. And this morning they decided we couldn't sleep there tonight, essentially kicking us out a day earlier than we arranged. If you're thinking about WWOOFing with FLS, let me know, and we'll give you a breakdown of our experience.

Wes and I are also getting major use out of the tent (sleeping in the tent, obviously) which proved to be a worthy match for the rain here on our last day (in which, by the way, we cleaned out the pig-sties. Worst smell ever.), as did my trusty raincoat from Mary L (thankyouthankyouthankyou!!!!). My boots are a little worse for wear (might need to look into a new pair when I come home) but my ankle is much better and feeling great, mostly because Wes made sure I hopped around everywhere for the first few days (I think possibly out of guilt from last time, when my time 'recovering' was spent trying to cross the frozen St Lawrence River in the middle of January). I was also reading Walden while I was here, which was a very pertinent accompaniment to staying on a working farm in the midst of their construction of a new part of the house (I felt particular warmth to his chapter on the bean field, as I spent many afternoons hiding in the cornfield eating springbeans and poking at ant farms).

We also had to have a hefty snack supply for the week, 1. because we eat tons of snacks, 2. because they gave us crackers for breakfast and there was 10.5 hours between lunch and dinner, and 3. because I seriously cannot stop eating chocolate. Now that Easter is around the corner, the supermercados are full of bon-a-bons of all shapes and sizes, like egg-shaped bon-a-bons, bunny-shaped bon-a-bons, eggs-filled-with-bunnies-made-of-bon-a-bons, and dozens other variants on the egg/bunny/bon-a-bon combo. It's the best. Every day after dinner (and lunch, and halfway between lunch and dinner, lunchdinner I call it) I sneak back to the tent for more treats. It was my way of fighting the system.

Also, unfortunately the earthquake(s) in Chile (also, dude, there have been so many tremors here. Apart from the 4 earthquakes, there have been three other tremors here, noticeable ones where you can feel the earth moving! so yeah) have immensely disrupted our summer plans to teach English in Santiago, so we're trying to sort out what we'll do after I get back in May. Speaking of which, I am already very excited to visit home and ask that any surprise parties be scheduled for the afternoon of the 30th, so I have time to rest after my flights.

On that note, ciao for now! Besos y abrazos a todos!


  1. Hello Kate! We were there a for several weeks before you guys. The first two weeks were fantastic and the last two were hellish. The kids and Laura are great . . .but as you say the owner, was a different story. Hey, I work 8 hours a day, six days a week for you, please don't give me nasty looks as I wash my work clothes in the outdoor sink on Sunday morning. Oh, and did you see him punch his sons? We did twice. If it was not for the fact the the farm depends on Wwoofers and that Laura and the kids depend on the farm, we would have left much before the agreed two weeks. No on likes squatting in the dirt weeding while listening to someone verbally abuse both their wife and sons. So no fear, you are not alone in your mixed emotions about La Stalla. Oh, I also too put up a defense mechanism like you, but instead of chocolate eggs, I ate everything possible at mealtimes. By the end it was the only thing I moderately enjoyed. I say moderately, because by the end the owner had stopped talking and only snarled at mealtimes! Ahh, what what an experience.

  2. Hi! I just contacted Laura about wwoofing there in a couple of weeks... I'm definitely glad I read this! How did the experience at the farm next door end up? Would it be better to contact them? Do you have any of their information? I'd really appreciate any info or suggestions you have! Could you e-mail me at please? I don't know how to get notices from your blog post. I'm leaving the country next week so if you have a chance to write something out quickly sooner rather than later I'd really appreciate it! Thanks!

  3. hi Celina, I would avoid this farm at all cost. Good luck and have fun!