Happy Days

Trip Start Oct 17, 2012
Trip End Mar 27, 2013

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Flag of Argentina  , Patagonia,
Monday, November 12, 2012

We didn't come to El Bolson just to eat, drink, and buy bracelets from hippies... We found some work exchange to do on a local farm about 18k from the city with a half Finish, half Argentine a bit older than us with a long blonde ponytail who spent half his life here on a small farmstead, and half in England being born there and growing up there till he was about 6, before he and his family moved to El Bolson and then going back to study at university and work as a bar bouncer.
When Simon met us at the bus the first day, he had been hiding behind a post checking us for nazi regalia before he came out to greet us and have a beer on the park lawn to get to know each other. To try to sum up Simon, he is a positive guy, noted by his favorite phrase to say throughout the day, "happy days", and he is very interested in permaculture. Part of why we chose Simon was to learn more about permaculture and how it is practiced in different places. We have both read the book, One Straw Revolution, about how doing less farm work can yield higher results and have found someone equally as lazy and excited about this as us in Simon.
However, we are coming to Simon, as it turns out, right between the planning and executing stages for his land. In the year he has been on his new plot of land he has cleared a bit of the dead trees, utilized a small greenhouse, bought a few chickens (which have since been eaten by neighboring dogs), and a pig. The pig is his plow and works everyday just tearing up the land and turning it over so it is ready for seeding. It is also the garbage disposal. While we are here Simon will be cutting down some more bamboo to reinforce the pig pen, planting a handful of potatoes, and cutting moscetto. Moscetto is a thorny vine (like the stuff in the Lion King that the hyenas get stuck in or the stuff that surrounds the castle where Sleeping Beauty rests waiting for Prince Charming to save her) that grows everywhere. It is invasive and each plant travels out across the land by sprouting up a new branch every few inches and then growing up and tangling itself in the tops of the trees. Our job is to cut this stuff down, untangle it a bit, cut it to size, and weave it through the fencing to keep out the dogs and hare. Once this is done Simon will be able to plant more and keep his chickens alive. But this is slow going. We each have a machete, a pair of ripped up gloves, and a fence line that surrounds I think six hectares of land. We averaged about 30 yards a day and didn't get half of it done in the week we were there.
But Simon didn't push us too hard. In keeping with the "do less" theme, he would take regular breaks to smoke weed, and would come find us as well to have us break for siesta (12-4) or just stop completely by mid afternoon even though we didn't start until 11. Happy days. Hard work, but plenty of time to relax, read, and talk more about permaculture and his plans. And he does have big plans... He is sort of modeling from an Austrian guy named Sepp Holzer who has an amazingly productive 45 hectare permaculture mountaintop complete with raise beds, thousands of fruit trees, and ponds that help to irrigate and raise trout and other fish (all self sustaining). Simon also hopes to have fish, a sauna, a pool, lots of veggies, fruit, and he is rebuilding the house to have straw bale walls instead of wood. Even though it's permaculture / self sustaining, building it is going to be a lot of work (and probably a lot more volunteers), but when it's done... Happy days.
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