Dirt under my fingernails and songs in my heart!

Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
Trip End Nov 09, 2010

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Where I stayed
Huerta de Vida Organic Farm

Flag of Argentina  , Mendoza,
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tamara here--9 days on the farm and I am now able to say with confidence that I am going to make it the whole 3 weeks!!  We are staying on a 2 acre piece of property that is a 2 mile walk from the nearest town of Tunuyan, Argentina.  The garden itself is 1 acre, the owners (mother and daughter) live in a small house and there is a large natural construction house that we are helping to build.  Currently there are 5 volunteers including us, plus the mother and daughter owners. We have a pretty regular routine now.  We wake up around 7am, eat breakfast (so far oatmeal most days), do our ¨morning chores¨- mine is taking the food compost and mixing it up so the worms can start working their magic.  Then we brush our teeth, use the ¨baño seco¨(dry toilet- more on that in a minute) and head out to the garden for ¨power hour¨ before the sun gets too hot.  Power hour includes continuing the war on crab grass (weeding with a steak knife), building tomato trellises with sticks and twine, hoeing around the trees and seeding. Everything is by hand--no gas powered lawn equipment here! Then we have a half hour stretch break, then change into our mud clothes to go work on the house.  Then around 1 we break for lunch and siesta (the best invention EVER).  Whoever is in charge of lunch for the day breaks a little earlier to go harvest fresh veggies for lunch (we are on squash overload at the moment)--there are tomatoes, cabbage, eggplant, fresh herbs, peppers, lettuces, edible flowers, beets (yes, I´m even eating BEETS!).  Then at 4:30 we go work on the house some more until dinner time, then have another power hour in the garden after dinner.  Then we clean up and pass out in the tent around 9:30 or 10! 

For the work on the house, we mix clay, sand and fermented straw (this stuff is so gross and stinky --eww!) in a cement mixer to make plaster and then use our hands to apply it to the walls, which have been created using bamboo cane.  The South side walls will be constructed of straw bales instead of cane, which we will hopefully begin putting up next week.  Then we´ll cover those with plaster as well.  I have small cuts all over my hands and my back is sore every night but the entire time I am working I am actually SINGING, yes, singing, because I feel so much joy I could burst!  It is so satisfying to feel a sense of community, seeing the results of hard work, and eating fresh, delicious food every day!  I am alive after so many years of slowly dying at jobs that sucked my time and energy away from things that truly matter, like family and friends and staying healthy.  The people I am working with are also giving me a whole new perspective (and are a ton of fun to hang out with!).  I have a laundry list of books to read and have already started one called Deep Economy by Bill McKibben that has facts and confirms things I´ve been thinking about for a long time but wasn´t really sure how to articulate them or take action.  I´m inspired.

Okay, now for some nitty gritty about the bathroom situation.  If you don´t want to know, stop reading, but I´m sure it is like loking at the sun--you know you shouldn´t but the curiousity is overwhelming ;)   The baño seco is a little room outside near the compost area. There are four tree trunks placed in the shape of a square and there is a giant piece of fabric fastened around it for privacy. Inside is like a camping toilet with a toilet seat on top of a trash can.  This is only for poop! After you do your business, you pour a can of dirt followed by a can of wood shavings.  This keeps it really dry in there, which keeps out the bugs and the smell.  We have biodegradable toilet paper.  There is no peeing in this toilet. For peeing, there is a cut off 1.5 liter bottle for the girls and then the pee is poured into a jug, which is later diluted and used for fertilizer.  The pee is kept out of the toilet, both to keep it dry, and to keep the ammonia content down.  The ¨humanure¨is then added to a separate compost area for the worms to break down and is used to fertilize the trees.  (Another book on my reading list is called ¨Humanure¨- pretty interesting!)  There are also rabbits and their poop is added to the food compost to fertilize the vegetables.  Okay, hopefully this has satisfied all curiousity, any questions left, just ask ;)

For the cleaning situation, everyone else goes to the ditch with their bar of soap, but I have to draw the line there--I put a pot of water out in the sun to warm it up, then go into another room fashioned the same way as the baño seco.  There are river rocks in there and a stump to sit on and a cup to pour the water over my head--all pretty zen really, especially at night when the stars are so bright and beautiful.  Very simple living and I am enjoying it, even though everything takes a little longer and the bugs are FIERCE!!
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Linda on


Nothing but big smiles here upon hearing about your new experiences and perspectives! Rock on, earthy babe!

Liz on

the joy of simplicity, so glad to hear the song in your voice again.

Mackie on

How old is the mom and daughter? How was their a ccommodatjons?

Bo on

Is there any wine involved in your zen/dry potty/ whorehouse bath/ pee bottle/ construction worker/ gardener/ new perspective life

bakpaknbizclass on

yes, there is wine involved--after every 3 days of work we get a day off. So we head down the road to a local kiosk (i.e. guy who we have to roust from his nap to come open the shop and he always walks up with no shirt zipping up his pants- HAHA) and get the wine- we get to choose DRY or SWEET. For $2.50, it ain´t bad ;)

Loran on

How inspiring and exciting! I am trying to picture the toilet situation and I just don't know about that. I guess after days of eating fresh veggies...it won't be that bad...lol :)

Bobby on

Do I see a Bedias "commune" coming on!!??

Eric Shamban on

Still amazed at how your lives are being effected!! Wow

Toi on

What an awesome experience for you two! That is great...thx for the details on the bathroom situation. You know I was totally curious.

Laura A. Colquitt on

So Glade that both of you are enjoying your new experiences. I would not be able to handle the life style, Thanks for sending updates. i look forward to the next writing.

Sarah from Chevron on

TAMARA! Oh how I love to read your postings! We have been thinking alot about you and talk about you and think hmmm " I wonder what Tamara is doing right now?" while we pop up and down from our cubes. Work is going along well, very very busy, things are ramping up....I will need to send you an update soon in a seperate email.
Sounds like yall are doing great! So jealous of your hippy ways! I expect to see you with long flowing hair and unshaved armpits!
Miss you! Keep on posting, your inspiring :)

Ai Pu Tu, Singapore on

Tam & Jeff - lost your travel email, so using this. Emailed with Cuneyt & he has some friends he can hook you up with in Istanbul (as long as you don't poo in their yard) - send me the dates you'll be there. Also, what cities are you going to in Brazil on the next leg? ... Kay can probably provide some contacts (as long as you don't pee on their vegetables). Sounds like you're having fun - keep up the good work! It's the Chinese New Year holiday here (Kung Hei Fa Choi!) ... in honor of that, a little travel joke for you:

A couple from Boston decide to go to Brazil to thaw out during the icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they had their honeymoon 20 years earlier.

Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate travel together. So the husband left Boston on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day. The husband checked into the hotel (it had indoor plumbing, by the way). There was also a computer in his room, so he decided to send an email to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realizing his error, sent the email.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Washington DC, a widow had just returned home from her husband's funeral. He was a minister who died following a heart attack.

The widow decided to check her email expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted. The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor and saw the computer screen which read:

To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I've Arrived
Date: February 10, 2010

I know you're surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones.

I've just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow.

Looking forward to seing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

PS - F***ing hot down here!

Lou on

Hi Tamara (and Jeff), got caught up reading all your blogs to date. Wow! Makes doing QuickSpec edits seem really life-changing... ;)

Lois on

"...singing, because I feel so much joy I could burst!". You can't imagine how happy I am for you, after observing your restlessness these past years. I know you needed to do this and Thx to Jeff for humoring you! - Live in the moment

Chris on

Happy Birthday. Glad you are having a wonderful experience. Its been fun following along on your blog. Do you ever check thorn tree for travelers' advice: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/index.jspa

Mom on

Happy Birthday! Hope it is one of your best!

Love, Mom and Dad

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