Volunteering was one of our goals while backpacking through South America. We weren’t sure where or when this was going to happen, however, we knew when we were supposed to stop and volunteer it would be clear to us. When we went out to the Trankurra Farm for Alex and Jon’s birthday dinner, we didn’t expect it to turn into us staying there for over a week leading us to life on a farm.
Before heading out to the farm, Jason had been reading The Circle Maker and praying a ton that the Lord would challenge us in ways unknown to us. He didn’t know what the challenges were going to be, but he wanted a challenge. And when we ask, the Lord answers. When the opportunity came up for us to work on the farm, we knew this was the answer to Jason’s prayer. The Lord took this and challenged us with our Spanish, with our emotions, and with hard work.
We went out to the farm for the birthday festivities and had an absolutely amazing time. The scenery was gorgeous, the family was filled with love, and the dinner was full of laughter and smiles. After enjoying an amazing dinner and hanging out with everyone until the wee hours of the morning, we camped out in the yard for the night. We weren’t sure what to expect in the morning, as Jon was leaving early for work and the three of us didn’t really know what we were supposed to do. That uncertainty turned into us staying well into the afternoon, having breakfast and oyster ceviche with everyone.
During breakfast, we had the chance to talk with Senora Benita and got on the topic of volunteering. She said she would love to have us volunteer at her farm, but that we needed to talk with her son Pablo to see if they could find work for us to do. They already had six other people on the farm with them. We explained that we would love to stay for a week or two and help wherever necessary, but left the conversation a bit uncertain as to whether or not we were actually going to be working for them.
After our ceviche lunch, Pablo gave the three of us a ride back into town where we decided to help him and the boys work on the house he was constructing, while Alex decided to go back home and chill out. Working on the house was extremely fun. The three boys that were doing their internship wanted to practice their English and we wanted to practice our Spanish, so the communication was great! We spent the afternoon practicing Spanish and moving wood around, shoveling dirt, and building a trailer.
After work was done, we grabbed some food and made our way down to the lake to relax for a bit. We met up with the three girl interns at the lake and all had a great time together. At this point, we were still uncertain as to whether or not we were going to be heading back to the farm with everyone. Pablo finally told us that we would be going back with them, so while he was talking to some clients in Pucon, all us volunteers and interns walked around town and then grabbed our packs to head back to the farm. By the time we were heading back out to Curarrehue there were no buses heading that way, so we had to squeeze nine people into the Jeep Cherokee for an hour long ride!! Needless to say, all our legs were dead by the time we got back to the farm!
We got back to the farm and dinner was waiting for us all to enjoy. After dinner, we set our tent back up in the yard and got all our things organized before settling in for the night. Side note.. Camping here was amazing! It was out in the middle of nowhere, so the stars were so bright and just filled the sky. We were so glad we had our Nemo Galaxy tent for snuggling in bed with the sky surrounding us!
Day One of Farm Life: Work or Just Fun?!
Since it was Sunday, our first day of “work” was quite relaxed and easy. Heather spent most of the day in the kitchen helping Senora Benita cook for everyone and learning great recipes to bring back to the states to try, while Jason spent the day out in the yard with the boys. They unloaded the trailer of firewood and reloaded it with manure. Moving the manure from the pasture to the garden was more like work breaks driving the jeep like madmen around the farm. Our “work” day was so much fun and so easy, and like we said before, the people were great and it was in such a beautiful area, we just felt so blessed to have the opportunity to be there!
Day Two of Farm Life: Water Blockage and Manure
Monday was more work than Sunday, however, was still extremely fun and really relaxed. Again, Heather was in the kitchen for the morning with Señora Benita, while Jason was kept busy out in the yard. Jason began his morning helping Don Alejandro fix the water pipe that was broken. They had to hike out to the water supply area three times throughout the day to try and fix it! To get to the water source, which is at the base of a beautiful waterfall, you have to hike about 30 minutes. But to try and find the source of the problem, one needs to walk the entire length of the pipe looking for water leaking.
This is no easy task because the pipe is set in the shortest distance to the falls, so there is a lot of rough terrain to go under, around, and through. After not being able to find the leak, they had to try and siphon the water out. This proved to not work either, so they retraced their steps and found the leak right near the house! A horse or cow stepped on the pipe creating a small cut in the hose. That’s some farm life for ya! 😉 After repairing the pipe using an old bicycle tube and wire, we then had to hike back up to the waterfall in the pitch black of night to do the siphon process one more time. After this, we were officially done and had good water pressure back at the house.
While Jason wasn’t fixing the water, he was raking the front yard. This was a huge area to rake and became Jason’s job for the next three days! It was so interesting because it was so apparent that the yard work was the men’s job while the housework was the women’s job. Heather was done in the kitchen with Senora Benita and the other girls weren’t working either, but none of us were asked to go out to the yard to help Jason rake. For those of you who know Heather, you know she wasn’t going to let her husband just work all day while she sat inside relaxing, so she jumped on the chance to go work with him.
Jason raked while Heather took wheelbarrow runs to the burn pile of all the junk raked up. We had a great system going on. We took a break to have a delicious traditional Mapuche drink that consists of fried flour, sugar, and water. Yes, we know it sounds gross, but it’s really good and supposedly gives you great energy! After our break, Jason was given a new job of moving the manure out of the way so the garden gate could shut. Again, Heather wanted to jump in and help him, so the two of us had a great time shoveling manure!! We really could get used to this farm life stuff!!
Gaspar, one of the interns from Santiago, was leaving the next day, so we all stayed up and played cards and practiced our Spanish/English that night. We had an awesome night that ended with Gaspar losing a game so he had to go jump in the river. We all walked down there and he was such a good sport even staying in the water for a photo!
Day Three of Farm Life: Butchering a Lamb
Tuesday was the day we were getting up early to butcher a lamb!! We were excited to see how they catch and butcher the lamb. When we got up, they had already caught and killed it, but Jason was able to help with the butchering process. For everyone’s sake, we didn’t take picture of this to share! After the butchering took place, the entire family left to head into town for the morning/day so we had a day of relaxing. After breakfast, we took naps, then relaxed at the river for the afternoon.
After lunch, we went over to the bee farm to see how they make honey and all their supplies, then we got to work in the yard raking until the sun went down. Again, this didn’t seem like work at all. The two of us were out working and Florencia, the little 8-year-old granddaughter, wanted to help us. And she was great! We turned the work into so much fun having wheelbarrow races to and from the burn pile, and seeing who could load the wheelbarrow the fastest.
Once we were finished working, we had bread for dinner and talked about making cookies and apple pie. We called the boys to see if they could bring us chocolate chips from in town, and they came back with chocolate chip cookies and a bar of chocolate. I think the translation was a bit wrong!! However, we simply grated up the chocolate bar, and the cookies turned out great!
Once the cookies finished baking, we had a family meeting about an event that would be occurring on Friday night. We all sat around the table drinking a typical drink consisting of red wine, orange juice, sugar, and lots of fruit. It was quite different, but again pretty good! During the meeting we found out there would be a Mapuche event held at the house on Friday with around 100 women. We would need to work really hard, wear our nicest clothes, and be on our best behavior. Senora Benita and her daughter liked the cookies we made so much that they wanted us to make 200 cookies for the event, and they heard we can make apple pie too, so that asked that we also make apple pie for all 100 people. Whew.. This was going to be a chore, and we were somewhat hoping they were kidding. The next day we found out they were 100% serious!
Day Four of Farm Life: Bake, Bake, Bake!
We woke up and after breakfast Jason was back out in the yard finishing raking, while Heather and the girls went into town to get supplies for making cookies and pie. Karrin and Heather, both the Americans, were sent on a search to get canella (cinnamon) and were completely tricked by the store clerk. Our white skin was completely taken advantage of, and since we didn’t know how much the canella sticks would yield once ground up, we asked the clerk. She had us buy six more packs than what we actually needed to. Not to mention, she read the back of the pack and it clearly states how many teaspoons each pack yields, so she totally was just in it for the money. Then once we got back to the house, we realized on top of just completely tricking us in the store, she also gave us a fake receipt, so we couldn’t even return the extra canella she sold to us! We both were so upset, this was the first time someone had done that to either of us in all our time down here!!
From about 10:00 am till 11:30 pm Heather was in the kitchen. She spent the entire day making pies for 100 people while Karrin helped out by making the batter for the 200 cookies we would be baking the next day. Jason jumped in the kitchen as soon as he finished up the yard to help bake too. It was really fun in the beginning, but after being in the kitchen for over twelve hours, our patience was on its last strand and we were so ready to be done!
With the three of us working hard, we were able to get all the pies ready but only had one oven and so the last three hours while the pies were baking one at a time was spent with us cleaning up the huge mess from baking, and then going out in the yard to round up the chickens, turkeys, and geese. The three of us put on our headlamps and made our way outside to find the birds. Little did we know, they were actually all already in the coops, and we just needed to shut the doors to them all! Such a blessing to end the day with an easy task!!
Day Five of Farm Life: Scrubba Dub Dub and more Baking!!
On Thursday, we woke up and were expecting a busy day full of making food for the big event and lots of cleaning. Karrin and Heather went out and took care of the animals in the morning, then came back to the house and Heather got to work cleaning the windows, while Karrin cleaned the bathrooms, and Jason cleaned up around the yard again. Heather knew she was out of shape because her arms were getting tired from cleaning windows.. guess we should be working out while being down here!
After finishing the windows, Heather got to work baking the cookies. She was baking cookies for just over four hours – literally non-stop until lunch was ready. At lunch, Heather noted that after lunch was done, she was passing the cookie job onto someone else. She was over being in the kitchen working while the other two girls just napped all morning. We passed the cookie job off to the two girls that were doing their internship there, and then we took a break down at the river with Karrin. When we got back from the river, the cookies were already completely baked. We were a bit concerned about how they finished them so fast since they had to do the same amount Heather baked, but in half the time, however, we didn’t want to make a scene, so we didn’t say anything.
Later that night when we were moving the baked goods into the other room, we figured out why they got done so much quicker. They didn’t bake the cookies all the way through. This was a huge source of frustration after having worked so long in the kitchen in the morning trying to make the cookies look perfect for the big event, and then having the girls do such a terrible job. It was the first time that we have been so upset about something this entire trip. And yes, you think it’s nothing to get so upset about, but after other things happening with the girls throughout the week and after being in the kitchen for nearly five hours doing your best work, and then the next people just don’t even care and just want to be done working, it’s hard to not get upset.
But with that said, it was good for us. It was good to see how we would deal with the frustration after growing so much in the Lord, it was a test to see if we really did grow or not. It was one of the challenges Jason had prayed for.
We headed to bed early that night knowing that we had to get up at 6:00 am the next day to start preparing for the big event.
Day Six of Farm Life: The Big Event
This was the big day of the event. One hundred women were supposed to be coming to the house for a full day of training and we were in charge of helping in the kitchen and keeping the house clean. There ended up only being 42 women instead of 100, which was such a relief! The day was so much fun hanging out with all the women in the kitchen and serving the people at this event. Everything ran really smoothly, everyone worked hard, and the time went by extremely fast!
Once everyone left, we all laid down for naps and Jason actually ended up sleeping until the next morning. He literally slept for 16.5 hours! The rest of us got up from our naps for some dinner and then Heather went right back to bed, while everyone stayed up and partied.
Day Seven of Farm Life: Takin’ It Easy
Saturday was an extremely relaxing day. Everyone slept in and woke up and had their own breakfast, and then just hung out. Everyone left the house except for Karrin and the two of us, so we spent the day reading, relaxing in the hammock, and watching a movie. We walked around the property for a bit soaking in the beautiful scenery knowing it was one of our last days there and again called it an early night.
Day Eight of Farm Life: Our Last Day on the Farm
Sunday was our last full day on the farm. While all the other interns slept until around noon from being out partying the night before Jason and I were blessed with having a quiet morning together with Senora Benita and Favie (their daughter). We spent the morning enjoying a great breakfast together, and then after breakfast sat outside and peeled peas for hours just sitting and chatting. Once everyone was awake, Gabi, Philipe, and the two of us walked up to enjoy the waterfall for a bit. The waterfall was absolutely gorgeous! We were so bummed to find out our GoPro was dead when we got up to it! Upon returning from the waterfall Heather relaxed in the hammock finishing her book, while Jason helped peel the last bit of peas.
We had an awesome goodbye dinner of salmon ceviche, and ended the night with the wine/orange juice/fruit drink before climbing in our hammock to sleep in it overnight for the first time!
The hammock was great! We both slept extremely well and were really pleased with how comfy and warm it actually was. The next morning we got up said our goodbyes and made our way back to Pucon to head down to Valdivia.
…Where We Are Now And Where We Are Heading (February 2015)…
After staying at the camp, we stayed one more night in Pucon to hang out with Alex a bit more and to try and do some internet work. From there, we had an amazing first experience with hitchhiking down to Valdivia. We have now been in Valdivia for five nights and we will be leaving tomorrow to head to Chiloe and then into Patagonia. With that said, we will probably not have much internet, if internet at all while we are hiking through Patagonia. We will try and update you all with quick Instagram posts, but aren’t even sure we will have internet for that! So if we don’t talk to you soon, we will talk to you at the end of February when we get out of Patagonia!!
*Jason’s health! He wasn’t doing so hot in Pucon, and then out on the farm was doing the best he has been since we have been traveling. And he is now not 100%, but isn’t horrible either.
*Praise the Lord for the safety He provided while we hitchhiked before, and pray that He provides safety again as we continue hitchhiking south.
*Pray that the Lord blesses all that picked us up hitchhiking and that we can be a blessing to those we ride with from here on out!
*Pray for safety, guidance, good weather, and strength as we begin hiking through Patagonia.
*Pray for blessings for Don Alejandro and his family as they opened their house up for us to crash at for the time we spent volunteering there.